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Title: Edinburgh Under Sir Walter Scott
Author: Fyfe, W. T.
Language: English
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                         UNDER SIR WALTER SCOTT


                               W. T. FYFE

                        WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

                               R. S. RAIT

                          ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE
                           AND COMPANY, LTD.

        Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty


In the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the
nineteenth—from, approximately, the death of Samuel Johnson in 1784 to
that of Walter Scott in 1832—Edinburgh, rather than London, was the
intellectual centre of the kingdom.  It would, of course, be easy to
show that London has never lacked illustrious men of letters among her
citizens, and, in this very period, the names of Sheridan, Bentham,
Blake, Lamb, and Keats at once occur to memory as evidence against our
thesis. It must also be admitted that Edinburgh shares some of her great
names with London, and that many of the writers of the time are
associated with neither capital. The name of William Cowper recalls the
village of Olney; the English Lakes claim their great poets; and Byron
and Shelley call to mind Greece and Italy, as, in the earlier part of
our period, Gibbon is identified with Lausanne.  But the Edinburgh
society which Scott remembered in his youth or met in his prime included
a long series of remarkable men.  Some of them, like Robertson the
historian; Hugh Blair; John Home, the author of _Douglas_; Henry
Mackenzie, ’The Man of Feeling’; John Leyden; Dugald Stewart; and John
Wilson, ’Christopher North,’ were more or less permanent residents.
Others, like Adam Smith, Thomas Campbell, Lady Nairne, Thomas De
Quincey, Sir James Mackintosh, and Sydney Smith, spent a smaller portion
of their lives in Edinburgh.  Not only was the city full of great
writers; it produced also a series of great publishers—the Constables
and the Blackwoods.  The influence of the _Edinburgh Review_ can
scarcely be realised in these days of numberless periodicals, and it was
from Edinburgh that its great rival, the _Quarterly_, drew much of its
early support, and one of its great editors, John Gibson Lockhart.
Edinburgh, moreover, was still a national metropolis, for the railway
systems had not yet brought about the real union of England and
Scotland, and it possessed a society not less distinctively Scots than
the Established Church or the code of law.  The judges who administered
that law add still further to the interest of the scene.  Some were men
of great intellectual force, whose names still live in the history of
English thought. Lord Hailes, the antagonist of Gibbon, and Lord
Monboddo, who, in some sense, anticipated a discovery of Mr. Darwin,
lived on to the close of the eighteenth century, and, in the early
nineteenth, their reputation was sustained by Lord Woodhouselee, Lord
Jeffrey, and Lord Cockburn.  Others of the judges were notable for force
of character, like Lord Braxfield, now familiar as ’Weir of Hermiston,’
or for mere eccentricity, like Lord Eskgrove, one of the strangest
beings who ever added to the gaiety of mankind.

The natural centre of this remarkable society is the great figure of Sir
Walter Scott, who dominated Edinburgh during a large portion of the
period, and the story of whose life has made so many Edinburgh names
household words for all time.  Lockhart’s _Life of Scott_ gives an
interesting, though by no means a complete, picture of this society.
There are many other sources of information: the _Scots Magazine_, the
_Annual Register_, and so forth.  Most important of all are the
autobiographies of Alexander Carlyle and Lord Cockburn, two books which
it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain.  ’Jupiter’ Carlyle of
Inveresk was born in 1722, and lived until 1805.  He could thus
recollect the Porteous Mob; he had seen Prince Charlie in Edinburgh,
and, from the garden of his father’s manse at Prestonpans, he had
watched the flight of General Cope’s defeated troops.  He had been the
friend of David Hume, who died just before our period begins, of
Smollett, and of Robertson and Adam Smith. Such a man had much to tell,
and, fortunately for posterity, he chose to tell it.  Not less
interesting or important is the volume known as _Memorials of his Time_,
by Henry Cockburn, who, from 1834 to his death in 1854, was a Scottish
judge.  He was born in 1779, and had been a member of a famous Edinburgh
debating society—the ’Spec’—along with Henry Brougham, Francis Horner,
Walter Scott, and Francis Jeffrey. He shared Jeffrey’s politics, aided
him in defending Radicals charged with sedition, and wrote his
biography. His _Memorials_ are by far the best source of our knowledge
of social life in Scotland in the early years of the nineteenth century.
Carlyle and Cockburn both wrote freely and without reserve, and each
possessed an accurate memory and an appreciation of the picturesque.
From these and similar materials Mr. W. T. Fyfe, an Edinburgh citizen,
who possesses a wide and affectionate knowledge of his home and its
history, has skilfully drawn his picture of Edinburgh under Sir Walter
Scott.  His book is no mere addition to the numerous lives of Sir
Walter.  It takes the well-known incidents of his career as affording
some guiding lines for the grouping of the varied details, and the
reader of Lockhart will find here fresh light upon some familiar names.
The personality of the best-loved Scotsman who ever lived dominates this
book as it dominated the real life of which it tells.  The cords of a
man and the bands of love still bind us to the Shirra o’ the Forest, and
even to the Laird of Abbotsford; there is none other among the mighty
dead whose ways and whose home we know so well as those of the Great
Unknown. He is not to be envied who can resist the personal spell of the

    ’O great and gallant Scott,
    True Gentleman, heart, blood, and bone,
    I would it had been my lot
    To have seen thee, and heard thee, and known.’

Even those who are wise enough to read their Lockhart and the _Letters_
and the _Journals_ once a year will learn something about Scott from
this book, and much about the friends whom he has immortalised in some
of the sweetest strains that friendship ever inspired.


_September_ 1906.

                       *DESCRIPTION OF EDINBURGH*

                   (From _The Abbot_, Chapter XVII.)

’The principal street of Edinburgh was then, as now, one of the most
spacious in Europe.  The extreme height of the houses, and the variety
of Gothic gables and battlements, and balconies, by which the skyline on
each side was crowned and terminated, together with the width of the
street itself, might have struck with surprise a more practised eye than
that of young Graeme.  The population, close packed within the walls of
the city, and at this time increased by the number of the lords of the
King’s party who had thronged to Edinburgh to wait upon the Regent
Murray, absolutely swarmed like bees on the wide and stately street.
Instead of the shop-windows, which are now calculated for the display of
goods, the traders had their open booths projecting on the street, in
which, as in the fashion of the modern bazaars, all was exposed which
they had upon sale.  And though the commodities were not of the richest
kinds, yet Graeme thought he beheld the wealth of the whole world in the
various bales of Flanders cloths, and the specimens of tapestry; and, at
other places, the display of domestic utensils, and pieces of plate,
struck him with wonder. The sight of cutlers’ booths, furnished with
swords and poniards, which were manufactured in Scotland, and with
pieces of defensive armour, imported from Flanders, added to his
surprise; and at every step, he found so much to admire and to gaze
upon, that Adam Woodcock had no little difficulty in prevailing on him
to advance through such a scene of enchantment.

’The sight of the crowds which filled the streets was equally a subject
of wonder.  Here a gay lady, in her muffler, or silken veil, traced her
way delicately, a gentleman-usher making way for her, a page bearing up
her train, and a waiting gentlewoman carrying her Bible, thus intimating
that her purpose was towards the church.  There he might see a group of
citizens bending the same way, with their short Flemish cloaks, wide
trowsers, and high-caped doublets, a fashion to which, as well as to
their bonnet and feather, the Scots were long faithful.  Then, again,
came the clergyman himself, in his black Geneva cloak and band, lending
a grave and attentive ear to the discourse of several persons who
accompanied him, and who were doubtless holding serious converse on the
religious subject he was about to treat of.’

                       *DESCRIPTION OF EDINBURGH*

                      (From _Marmion_, Canto IV.)

    ’Still on the spot Lord Marmion stay’d,
    For fairer scene he ne’er surveyed.
      When sated with the martial show
      That peopled all the plain below,
      The wandering eye could o’er it go,
      And mark the distant city glow
        With gloomy splendour red;
      For on the smoke-wreaths, huge and slow,
      That round her sable turrets flow,
        The morning beams were shed,
      And tinged them with a lustre proud,
      Like that which streaks a thunder-cloud.
    Such dusky grandeur clothed the height
    Where the huge Castle holds its state,
      And all the steep slope down,
    Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
    Piled deep and massy, close and high,
      Mine own romantic town!’


                               CHAPTER I

Edinburgh in 1773—General Features of the Old City—Its Site and
Plan—Flodden Wall—Nor’ Loch—’Meadows’—Old
Suburbs—Canongate—Portsburgh—’Mine own romantic Town’—College Wynd,
Birthplace of Scott—Improvements in the Old Town

                               CHAPTER II

The Scotts in George Square—Walter’s
Lameness—Sandyknowe—Bath—Edinburgh—Changes in the City,
1763-1783—Migrations to the New Town—The Mound—New Manufactures and
Trades—The first Umbrella

                              CHAPTER III

School-days—The High School—Old Methods of Teaching—Luke Fraser—Tone of
the School—Brutal Masters—Schoolboy’s Dress—Boyish Ideas—Scott’s Pride
of Birth—The ’Harden’ Family—’Beardie’—The Dryburgh Lands

                               CHAPTER IV

Dr. Adam, Rector of High School—Walter Scott’s first Lines—Influence of
Adam—Persecution by Nicol—Death-scene of the Rector—Home Life in George
Square—Walter Scott the ’Writer’—Anecdotes of his Character

                               CHAPTER V

At Edinburgh University—Holidays at Kelso—Home—First University
Class—Professor Hill—Professor Dalzell—The ’Greek Blockhead’—Anecdotes
of Dalzell—His History of Edinburgh University

                               CHAPTER VI

Scott’s University Studies—The old Latin Chronicles—Dugald Stewart, His
Success described—His elegant Essays—Popular Subjects—Picture of Stewart
by Lord Cockburn—His Lectures—Anecdote of Macvey Napier—Meets Robert
Burns—The Poet’s ’Pocket Milton’

                              CHAPTER VII

Old Edinburgh Society—Manners of the older Generation—St. Cecilia’s
Hall—Buccleuch Place Rooms—Rules of the Assemblies—-Drinking
Customs—Recollections of Lord Cockburn

                              CHAPTER VIII

Description of St. Cecilia’s Hall—Concerts—Old-fashioned Contempt for
’Stars’—Former Assembly Rooms—The George Street Rooms—Scott and the old
Social Ways—Simplicity and Friendliness—His Picture of the Beginnings of
Fashion in the New Town

                               CHAPTER IX

Manners and Social Customs—Cockburn’s Sketches—The Dinner-hour—The
Procession—The Viands—Drinking—Claret—Healths and Toasts—Anecdote of
Duke of Buccleuch—’Rounds’ of Toasts—’Sentiments’—The Dominie of
Arndilly—Scott’s Views of the old Customs—Decline of ’friendly’ Feeling

                               CHAPTER X

Religious Observances—Sunday Attendance at Church—Sunday Books—Breakdown
of the System—Alleged Infidelity among Professors—Low State of
Morality—Increase of mixed Population—Provincialism

                               CHAPTER XI

Scott apprenticed to the Law—Copying Money and _menus
plaisirs_—Novels—Romances—Early Attempts—John Irving—Sibbald’s
Library—Sees Robert Burns—The Parliament House—The ’Krames’

                              CHAPTER XII

Topics of Talk—Religion—Scott’s Freedom from Fanaticism—Dilettantism of
the ’liberal young Men’—Politics—Basis of Scott’s Toryism—Cockburn’s
Anecdote of Table-talk—Men of the Old School—Robertson the Historian—His
_History of Charles V._—His noble Generosity—Closing Years—Anecdotes

                              CHAPTER XIII

More Men of the Old School—Dr. Erskine—Scott on Church Disputes—His
Admiration of Erskine’s Character—Anecdote of Erskine’s Walk to
Fife—Professor Ferguson—His _History of Rome_—Abstainer and
Vegetarian—Picture of Ferguson’s Appearance—Odd Habits—Travels to Italy

                              CHAPTER XIV

’Jupiter’ Carlyle—Noble Looks—Friend of Robertson and John Home—The Play
of Douglas—Anecdote of Dr. Carlyle—Dr. Joseph Black—Latent Heat—His
personal Appearance—Anecdote of last Illness—His _History of Great
Britain_—Forerunner of the Modern School

                               CHAPTER XV

The ’Meadows’ one Hundred Years ago—A Resort of great Men—_Vixerunt
fortes_—Their Intimacy and Quarrels—Hume and Ferguson—Home, the
happy—His boundless Generosity—Sympathy with Misfortune—Home and
Edinburgh Society—Sketch by Scott—’The Close of an Era’

                              CHAPTER XVI

Ladies of the Old School—Anecdotes told by Scott, Dr. Carlyle, and Lord
Cockburn—Their Speech—’Suphy’ Johnston—Anecdote of Suphy and Dr.
Gregory—Miss Menie Trotter—Her Dream—Views of Religion

                              CHAPTER XVII

Scott’s Contemporaries in Edinburgh—Local ’Societies’—The
Speculative—Scott’s Explosion—Visit of Francis Jeffrey to the
’Den’—Anecdote of Murray of Broughton—General View of the youthful

                             CHAPTER XVIII

The Scottish Bar—Two Careers open—Walter’s Choice—Studies with William
Clerk—The Law Professors—Hume’s Lectures—Hard Study—Beginnings of social
Distinction—Influence of Clerk—Early Love-story—Description of Walter
Scott at Twenty

                              CHAPTER XIX

The Advocate’s ’Trials’—Scott and Clerk admitted to the Bar—Walter’s
first Fee—Connection of the Scotts with Lord Braxfield—Scottish
Judges—Stories of Braxfield

                               CHAPTER XX

Stories of the Judges—Lord Eskgrove—His Appearance—The Trials for
Sedition—Anecdotes of Circuit Dinners—’Esky’ and _the Harangue_—The
Soldier’s Breeches—Esky and the Veiled Witness—Henderson and the
Fine—The Luss Robbers—Death of Eskgrove

                              CHAPTER XXI

Scott’s Anecdote of Lord Kames—Judicial Cruelty—Lord Meadowbank’s
Marriage—’Declaim, Sir’—Judges and Drinking—Hermand and the Pope—Bacchus
on the Bench—Hermand and the Middy

                              CHAPTER XXII

Political Lawyers—Politics an ’accident’ in Scott’s History—Early Days
at the Bar—Peter Peebles—_The Mountain_—Anecdote of Scott and Clerk—The
German Class—Friendship with William Erskine—German Romance—Seniors of
the Bar—Robert Blair—Greatest of Scottish Judges—Anecdote of Hermand and
Henry Erskine

                             CHAPTER XXIII

Seniors (_continued_)—Charles Hope—His Voice—Tribute by Cockburn—Robert
Dundas, Nephew of Henry, Lord Melville—His Manner and
Moderation—Anecdote of Lords Blair and Melville—Lord Melville’s
Son—Scott’s Project of Emigration

                              CHAPTER XXIV

Henry Erskine—His Ability and Wit—Tributes to his Character—Dismissal as
Dean of Faculty—John Clerk—Reputation at the Bar—His Private Tastes—Art
and Literature—Odd Habits—Anecdotes of Clerk and his Father

                              CHAPTER XXV

Scott’s Border ’Raids’—Shortreed—Scott’s Circuit Work—Jedburgh
Anecdotes—Edinburgh Days—Fortune’s—The Theatre Royal—Oyster
Parties—Social Functions—General Reading

                              CHAPTER XXVI

The Edinburgh Environment—Talk of French Revolution—The ’Jacobins’—The
Volunteers—Irish Row in the Theatre—-Mrs. Barbauld’s Visit—Taylor’s
Lenore—Scott’s Version—Anecdote of the Skull—End of Love
Affair—Reference in _Peveril of the Peak_

                             CHAPTER XXVII

Friendship with Skene of Rubislaw—Skene’s Account of the Edinburgh Light
Horse—’Earl Walter’—Marriage of Walter Scott and Charlotte Carpenter—The
Edinburgh Home—Edinburgh Friends—The Cottage at Lasswade

                             CHAPTER XXVIII

The Mercantile Class in Edinburgh—The Town Council—Political
Corruption—Petty Tyranny—The Town Clerk—James Laing, Head of the
Police—His Methods with Disturbers of the Peace—Anecdotes of Laing and
Dugald Stewart

                              CHAPTER XXIX

Public Condition of Edinburgh in 1800—Ostracism of Dugald Stewart—The
Whigs—Their Struggle for Power—The Infirmary Incident—Dr. Gregory—His
Pamphlets—Characteristics—Family Connection with Rob Roy

                              CHAPTER XXX

Strongest ’Impressions’ from the Waverley Novels—Special Charm of Death
of the old Lawyer in Chrystal Croftangry’s Recollections—Death of Walter
Scott the Elder—The ’very scene’ described—Scott appointed
Sheriff—Independence from Court Work

                              CHAPTER XXXI

Scott settled in Edinburgh—Defacement of City—Wrytte’s House—Gillespie
the Snuff-seller—Erskine’s Joke—The Woods of Bellevue—Scott’s ideal _rus
in Urbe_

                             CHAPTER XXXII

Richard Heber in Edinburgh—Friendship with Scott—’Discovers’ John
Leyden—Leyden’s Education—His Appearance, Oddities—Love of Country—His
Help in _Border Minstrelsy_—Anecdote told by Scott—Leyden a Man of

                             CHAPTER XXXIII

The ’Young Men of Edinburgh’—Their Whiggery—Anecdote of Jeffrey and
Bell—James Graham, Author of _The Sabbath_—Sydney Smith—His Liking for
Scotland—Whig Dread of Wit—Lord Webb Seymour—Horner’s Analysis of
him—Friendship with Playfair—His Anecdote of Horner

                             CHAPTER XXXIV

M. G. Lewis—Seeks out Scott—_The Monk_—Translation by Scott of
_Goetz_—Anecdote of Lewis—James Ballantyne—Prints _Apology for Tales of
Terror_—William Laidlaw—James Hogg—Character and Talents

                              CHAPTER XXXV

Failure of Lewis’s _Tales_—Scott’s _Border Minstrelsy_—Ballantyne’s
Printing—His Conceit—Removal of Chief Baron from Queensberry House—His
odd Benevolence—Anecdote of Charles Hope—The Schoolmasters Act

                             CHAPTER XXXVI

Anecdotes of R. P. Gillies—His Picture of Scott—’Border Press’ at
Abbeyhill—Britain armed for Defence—Scenes in Edinburgh—’Captain’

                             CHAPTER XXXVII

Enthusiasm of Volunteers—Drill and Sham Fights—Scott’s
Letters—Quartermaster—Anecdote by Cockburn—Recruiting for the
Army—Indifference to Fear of Invasion—Greatness of the Danger—War Song
of 1802

                            CHAPTER XXXVIII

Ashestiel—39 Castle Street—’Honest Tom Purdie’—Associations of Scott’s
Work with Edinburgh Home—First Lines of the _Lay_—Abandons the Bar for
Literature—Story of Gilpin Horner—Progress of the Poem

                             CHAPTER XXXIX

Edinburgh Literary Society—The Men of 1800-1820—Revelation of Scott’s
Poetical Genius—Effect in Edinburgh—Local Pride in his
Greatness—Anecdote of Pitt—Success of _Lay of the Last
Minstrel_—Connection with Ballantyne—Secrecy of the Partnership

                               CHAPTER XL

Scott and Jeffrey—Founding of _Edinburgh Review_—Impression in
Edinburgh—Its Political and Literary Pretences—Review of _Lay_ by
Jeffrey—Strange Mistake—Beautiful Appreciation by Mr. Gladstone
quoted—The _Dies Irae_

                              CHAPTER XLI

Town and Country—Scott’s Ideal—Reversion of Clerkship—Impeachment of
Lord Melville—Acquittal—The Edinburgh Dinner—Scott’s Song of
Triumph—Nature of his Professional Duties—Social Claims and Literary

                              CHAPTER XLII

Colleagues at the Clerks’ Table—Morritt on Scott’s Conversation—His Home
Life—Treatment of his Children—Ideas on Education—Knowledge of the
Bible—Horsemanship, Courage, Veracity—Success of the Training

                             CHAPTER XLIII

_Marmion_—Published by Constable—Misfortunes of Thomas Scott—George
Ellis on _Marmion_—Hostile Review by Jeffrey—Charge of Want of
Patriotism—Mrs. Scott and Jeffrey—Extraordinary Success of the Poem

                              CHAPTER XLIV

John Murray—Share in _Marmion_—Reverence for Scott—_The Quarterly
Review_—The ’Cevallos’ Article—Jeffrey’s Pessimism—Contemplated Flight
to America—Anecdotes of Earl of Buchan

                              CHAPTER XLV

The Gallon Jail—Opening of Waterloo Place—Removal of Old Tolbooth—Scott
purchases Land at Abbotsford—Professional Income—Correspondence with
Byron—Anecdote of the ’Flitting’ from Ashestiel

                              CHAPTER XLVI

Scott and the Actors—Kemble, Siddons, Terry—Terry’s Imitation of ’the
Shirra’—Anecdote of Terry and C. Mathews—Mathews in Edinburgh—’The Reign
of Scott’—Anecdotes of his Children—Excursion to the Western Isles

                             CHAPTER XLVII

_Waverley_ laid aside—_Rokeby_—Excitement at Oxford—Ballanyne’s
Dinner—Scott’s Idea of Byron as a Poet—Ballantyne’s Mismanagement—Aid
from Constable—Loan from the Duke—Scott decides to finish _Waverley_

                             CHAPTER XLVIII

Success of the Allies—Address to the King—Freedom of Edinburgh—Edition
of Swift—Printing of _Waverley_—Mystery of Authorship—Edinburgh
Guesses—Excellent Review by Jeffrey—Scott’s ’gallant composure’—Success
of the Novel

                              CHAPTER XLIX

_The Lord of the Isles_—_Guy Mannering_—Universal Delight—Effects of
Peace in Scotland—Awakening of Public Opinion in Edinburgh—’Civic
War’—Professor Duncan—Sketch by Lord Cockburn

                               CHAPTER L

The New Town of Edinburgh in 1815—Effects of the ’Plan’—The Earthen
Mound—Criticisms by Citizens after the War—The New
Approaches—Destruction of City Trees—Lord Cockburn’s Lament

                               CHAPTER LI

The ’Jury Court’—Chief-Commissioner Adam—His Work and Success—Friendship
with Scott—Character of Adam by Scott—The Blairadam Club—Anecdotes—Death
of Lord Adam

                              CHAPTER LII

1816—The _Antiquary_—Death of Major John Scott—The Aged Mother—Buying
Land—The Ballantynes—The _Black Dwarf_ and Blackwood—Scott and a
Judgeship—Anecdote of Authorship of _Waverley_

                              CHAPTER LIII

1817—Overwork and Illness—Kemble’s ’Farewell Address’—The Kemble
Dinner—_Blackwood’s Magazine_ and the Reign of Terror in Edinburgh

                              CHAPTER LIV

Personal Anecdotes of Scott—Washington Irving—The Minister’s Daughter—J.
G. Lockhart—His Introduction to Scott—_Annual Register_—39 Castle
Street—Scott’s ’Den’—Animal Favourites

                               CHAPTER LV

Scott and Edinburgh Society—Lockhart’s Opinion—Scott’s Drives in
Edinburgh—Love of Antiquities—The Sunday Dinners at 39 Castle Street—The
Maclean Clephanes—Erskine, Clerk, C. K. Sharpe, Sir A. Boswell, W.
Allan,—Favourite Dishes

                              CHAPTER LVI

The National Monument—Still incomplete—The Salisbury Crags—-Danger of
their Destruction—The Path impassable—Construction of the Radical
Road—National Distress—Trials for Sedition—Anecdote of John Clerk—The
City Guard

                              CHAPTER LVII

Scott and the Ballantynes—James in the Canongate—Ceremonies at the
’Waverley’ Dinners—Reading of Scenes from the New Volume—John at
Trinity—His ’Bower of Bliss’—Anecdote by C. Mathews

                             CHAPTER LVIII

Anecdotes of Constable—’The Czar’—Plans the _Magnum Opus_—Anecdote of
Longmans and Co.—Constable’s House and Equipage—John Ballantyne’s
Habits—Horses and Dogs—Anecdote by Scott of his Liberality—Scott’s
Sorrow at his Death

                              CHAPTER LIX

The Baronetcy—Reasons for accepting—Marriage of Sophia Scott to John
Gibson Lockhart—Charles Scott and Archdeacon Williams—Improvements in
Edinburgh—The ’Water Caddies’—Drama of _Rob Roy_—The Burns Dinner—Henry

                               CHAPTER LX

The Commercial Disaster—Ruin of Ballantyne (Scott) and Constable—Scott’s
Feeling—Universal Sympathy—Offer of Help—Brave Reply—Cheerful
Spirit—Constable—The Agreement—Removal from Castle Street—Death of Lady
Scott—The Visit to Paris

                              CHAPTER LXI

House in Walker Street—Ill-health—Extraordinary Labours—Article on
Hoffman—Kindness to Literary People—Murray’s Party—Theatrical Fund
Dinner—_Life of Napoleon_—Payment of £28,000 to Creditors—The Lockharts
at Portobello—Grandfather’s Tales—Domestic Happiness—Visit of Adolphus

                              CHAPTER LXII

Incident of Gourgaud—-Expected Duel—Scott’s Preparations—Tired of
Edinburgh—Changing Aspect of New Town—The ’Markets’ superseded by
Shops—The Female Poisoner—Scott’s Opinion of ’Not Proven’—Points in its

                             CHAPTER LXIII

Visit of Richardson and Cockburn to Abbotsford—Sir Walter at
Home—Anecdote of Cranstoun—Patterson’s Anecdotes—The Burke and Hare
Murders—Anecdote of Cockburn—Dr. Knox—Catholic Emancipation Bill—Meeting
in Edinburgh—Death of Terry and Shortreed—Severe Illness of Scott—Death
of Tom Purdie

                              CHAPTER LXIV

Last Winter in Edinburgh—The _Ayrshire Tragedy_—Apoplectic
Stroke—Retirement from the Clerkship—Visit to Edinburgh—Refusal to stop
Literary Work—John Nicolson—Scott at Cadell’s House—His Will

                              CHAPTER LXV

The Paralytic Stroke—The Last Novels—Election Meetings—Disgraceful
Conduct of Radical Gangs—Scott’s Journey for Health—The Return—Collapse
and Stupor—The Last Stay in Edinburgh—Death of Sir Walter Scott

                        UNDER SIR WALTER SCOTT*

                              *CHAPTER I*

Edinburgh in 1773—General Features of the Old City—Its Site and
Plan—Flodden Wall—Nor’ Loch—’Meadows’—Old
Suburbs—Canongate—Portsburgh—’Mine own romantic Town’—College Wynd,
Birthplace of Scott—Improvements in the Old Town.

The Edinburgh of Walter Scott’s infancy was still the old, romantic,
medieval city.  It was almost wholly confined within the city wall, a
result of the adherence to customs sanctioned by tradition, long after
the causes which first established them have ceased to operate. The
constantly recurring danger from English invasions was, in early times,
a full and sufficient reason for dwelling inside the fortification.  Of
course, from the earliest times there was a tendency, especially among
the leading and wealthy families, to build dwelling-houses and lay out
gardens among the fields. Yet, on the whole, the increasing population
sought its accommodation within the limits of the town.  This is why
Edinburgh citizens, following the old fashion of Paris, built their
houses of an enormous height, some of them as high as twelve stories or
more. The ground space available was, of course, limited by the extent
of the wall, and on one side by the water of the Nor’ Loch.  Hence the
necessity for making good use of every possible site.  Social
arrangements of a singular and quaint simplicity were the not unnatural
result.  In each gigantic barrack might be found ever so many different
families, each occupying its own independent dwelling, sometimes
consisting of only two or three rooms.  The social dignity of the tenant
increased with the height of his quarters.  In the cellars and on the
street floor were the humble members of the business and manual-working
classes; professional persons went a story higher; and the nobility and
gentry overlooked the whole from the upper half of the mansion.  In
modern times these houses, so far as they still exist, have been handed
over almost entirely to the lower orders: they are, in fact, the slums
of Edinburgh.  But the quaint old arrangements had hardly been impaired
even up to the year of _Marmion_ and ’mine own romantic town.’

The site of the old city is as singular a site as could have been
chosen, but it was selected with the one view of enjoying the very
necessary protection of its citadel, the Castle.  Its main street
extends over the long backbone of the famous ridge which slopes from the
Castle to Holyrood.  The steep northern side of the ridge was bounded by
the long sheet of water called the Nor’ Loch, which formed a natural
defence from the Castle Hill to a point called Halkerston’s Wynd.  The
contour of the city has been compared to the figure of a turtle, the
Castle being taken for the head, the High Street for the ridge of the
back, and the numerous wynds and closes for the ribs: the analogy being
completed by adding Canongate and Holyrood Palace for the tail.  In
similar figure, Carlyle graphically presents the sloping street and its
wynds as ’covering like some rhinoceros skin, with many a gnarled
embossment, church steeple, chimney head, Tolbooth and other ornament or
indispensability, back and ribs of the slope.’  The old city wall, built
by James II., had fallen into ruin and disrepair by the year of Flodden,
1513.  On that disastrous occasion there was built in hot haste and
panic, of which even the surviving fragments give proof, the famous
’Flodden Wall,’ which formed the city boundary till the time of Scott.
The north side being almost entirely defended by the Nor’ Loch, the wall
extended from the Castle round the south and east sides of the city.
Beside the Castle rock the first entrance to the city was the West Port,
a gate which stood at the foot of the Grassmarket. We may judge how
greatly the presence of the walls affected the life of the citizens from
the fact that a small wicket-gate had to be constructed in the wall some
distance from this Port in the year 1744.  Twenty-two years before this,
Thomas Hope of Rankeillor had drained the Borough Loch, and planted
trees, made a walk, and laid down turf on its side, thus forming the
park known as ’The Meadows.’  It was to afford ’a more commodious egress
to the elegant walks in the meadows’ that the wicket was eventually
opened. From the West Port the wall ran half-way along the east side of
the steep lane called the Vennel, where a portion of it is still
existent, thence turning south-east to Bristo Port.  The next gate
eastward was the Potterrow Port, originally Kirk-of-Field Port, at the
head of the Horse Wynd, a lane leading down into the Cowgate.  The Horse
Wynd was, in fact, the principal access to the town in this quarter, and
got its name from being, unlike the others, safe for horses.  By the
line of Drummond Street the wall proceeded to the Pleasance and the foot
of St. Mary Wynd, which the Nether Bow joined to Leith Wynd.  The Nether
Bow, which was not built till 1616, was the chief entrance of the city,
separating it from the Burgh of Canongate. The part of the wall which
ran from the Nether Bow to the point at which Leith Wynd crossed the
Nor’ Loch was added in the year 1540.

Such were the walled boundaries of Edinburgh, within which the city made
shift to contain its increasing population during a period of about two
hundred and fifty years.  Practically the Edinburgh of these centuries
lay between the Castle and Holyrood lengthwise, and in breadth between
the Nor’ Loch and some distance beyond the Cowgate on the south. There
was no lack, however, at any period of persons who preferred to live
outside the city walls.  In fact, old writers are continually remarking
on such a strange and perverse disposition, for which they cannot
account, especially in those old days when the danger from England was a
very grim reality.  The propensity led to the gradual growth of a few
suburban hamlets, and the only wonder is that they were not larger and
more numerous.  Of these outside regions the Canongate was the largest,
but it was really at first an independent ecclesiastical burgh,
established by David I. in 1128 under the Abbey of Holyrood.  It did not
come under the jurisdiction of the city till the year 1636, when the
Town Council bought it from the Earl of Roxburgh.  Another ’burgh’ of
ancient fame was ’Portsburgh’ at the other end of the city, extending
from the West Port to Toll Cross.  Straggling houses belonging to
citizens were also to be found farther afield on the Glasgow Road, and
in the district now named Dairy.  The suburb of Bristo Street, as we
have seen, adjoined one of the city gates, and beyond it were the
grounds of Ross House, which about 1764 supplied a site for George
Square, named after the reigning monarch, George III.

Within these bounds, then, is all that Scott meant when he wrote the
words, ’mine own romantic town.’  And indeed it was full of romance in
every quarter. To him the New Town was but an appendage, a fast-growing
appendage of the city itself—a fringe which set off the beauty of the
general view.  From his Castle Street mansion he looked across to the
city of his imagination, and had he lived to see the beginning of the
twentieth century, he might have gone farther afield. The city
improvements of a large and important provincial centre could hardly
have consoled his outraged spirit for the ruthless and needless
destruction of priceless relics of the past in which he lived.

Edinburgh University, that is, the old University building, stands in a
busy street, without any ’grounds’ to remove it from the outside noise
and distinguish it from the line of shops and shabby houses.  The city
of Edinburgh has always been celebrated for its unhappiness in the
matter of selecting ’sites.’  Why, therefore, the University was put in
this unfortunate corner, need not be discussed.  The Town Council, it
seems, was responsible for the building, and the architect employed was
Robert Adam.  This edifice, according to a contemporary, was considered
by many ’as the masterpiece of Mr. Adam,’ but for lack of money the
original plans were modified by W. H. Playfair. To make way for this
great city improvement, one of the most characteristic ’bits’ of old
Edinburgh was cleared away.  This was College Wynd, now known as Guthrie
Street.  The picturesque medieval lane, with its jutting balconies,
battlemented roofs and charming old windows, had for nearly two
centuries been a kind of University, or College, ’Close,’ practically
reserved for the residence of the learned Regents or Professors from
generation to generation.  One of the houses at the top of the Wynd
demolished on this occasion belonged to Mr. Walter Scott, W.S., who
resided in it with his family. Here happened the greatest event in the
history of Edinburgh, the birth of _our_ Walter Scott, on the 15th of
August 1771.

The locality was not even at that time considered quite a desirable one,
but socially it was regarded as satisfactory, even for a family of
gentle birth.  The fact is that about this time certain new ideas
regarding health and fresh air were beginning to excite attention among
the inhabitants of the old city.  The rate of infant mortality was
frightfully high, and the doctors began to ascribe it to the closeness
and damp of the nurseries.  In the lofty old mansions these were
frequently located, for obvious reasons of convenience, in the ’laigh
rooms’ or sunk floors below the level of the street.  The time was ripe
for a great change. Building had already been begun on the site of
Princes Street and George Street.  Plans for a New Town had been
approved in 1761, the architect being Mr. James Craig, who was a nephew
of Thomson the poet.  The North Bridge, which was to connect the New
Town with the Old, was finished in 1772.  At the same time a more
conservative policy led others to try to confine the desired improvement
to the Old Town.  Brown’s Square, part of which still may be seen at the
top of Chambers Street, was built, and this was for the time the
exclusively fashionable quarter of the city.  It was to Brown’s Square,
as we read in _Redgauntlet_ (_Letter_ II.), that the Fairfords removed,
when, as Alan relates to his friend Darsie Latimer, ’the leaving his old
apartments in the Luckenbooths was to him’ (the elder Fairford) ’like
divorcing the soul from the body; yet Dr. R—— did but hint that the
better air of this new district was more favourable to my health, as I
was then suffering under the penalties of too rapid a growth, when he
exchanged his old and beloved quarters, adjacent to the very Heart of
Midlothian, for one of those new tenements [entire within themselves]
which modern taste has so lately introduced.’

                              *CHAPTER II*

The Scotts in George Square—Walter’s
Lameness—Sandyknowe—Bath—Edinburgh—Changes in the City,
1763-1783—Migrations to the New Town—The Mound—New Manufactures and
Trades—The first Umbrella.

To the good people of Edinburgh who had for many years the privilege of
seeing Walter Scott daily in their streets, his robust and manly form
must have emphasised his unfortunate lameness.  It is a defect very
painful to a man of bold and active spirit.  But Scott had to bear with
it all his life through.  It began when he was an infant of eighteen

The touching little family tradition was often repeated to him
afterwards, how one night he was racing about the room in an access of
childish high spirits, refusing to go to bed.  With difficulty he was
caught at last and conveyed to his crib.  Next morning he was found to
be suffering from fever, and on the fourth day it was discovered that he
had lost the use of the right leg.  There appeared to be no dislocation
or sprain; but the remedies devised by Dr. Rutherford and the other
specialists from the University were of no avail. Walter was, in fact,
doomed to be lame for life.  He tells with a touch of melancholy humour
how his parents in their anxiety eagerly made trial of every remedy
offered by the sympathy of old friends or by the self-interest of
empirics, and some of them were eccentric enough.  On Dr. Rutherford’s
advice, however, the very sensible plan was adopted of sending the child
to the country, where, with perfect freedom for open air life, he might
have the chance of all the benefit that might gradually be obtained from
the natural exertion of his limbs.

He was sent immediately to his grandfather Scott’s residence at
Sandyknowe, and here, to use his own words, ’I, who in a city had
probably been condemned to hopeless and helpless decrepitude, was now a
healthy, high-spirited, and, my lameness apart, a sturdy child—_non sine
diis animosus infans_.’  This gratifying improvement was quite confirmed
by the time he was four years of age, but his parents were only the more
anxious in their efforts after a complete cure.  At this time it was
suggested to his father that the waters at Bath might have some effect
on the child’s lameness.  He was sent to Bath, going first by sea to
London.  Here he was taken to see the Tower, Westminster Abbey, etc., of
which he took with him an impression so strong, complete, and accurate,
that, on visiting the same scenes twenty-five years afterwards, he found
nothing to correct in the mental pictures which his powerful memory had
so long retained.  The residence at Bath had no effect on his lameness,
but it was here he learned to read, partly at a dame school, and partly
at his aunt’s knee.  ’But I never’ (he says) ’acquired a just
pronunciation, nor could I read with much propriety.’  After a year of
Bath, he returned to Edinburgh. A short interval at home was followed by
another season at beloved Sandyknowe.  Sea-bathing was next recommended
for his lameness, and after a few weeks of this at Prestonpans, he was
finally taken home to George Square, which continued to be his
dwelling-place till his marriage in 1797.  He was, of course, too young
to appreciate the changes which were going on in the city, but in later
years no one realised more keenly than he the revolutionary effects,
both concrete and social, of those same years of his childhood.  His
unfortunate lameness no doubt debarred Walter from seeing as much of the
great extensions then proceeding as his brothers may have examined, but
they must have been the one unfailing and constant topic of conversation
everywhere, and were no doubt of special interest to one who could not
even then have been unduly impressed by the vast cost and supposed
magnificence of all that was new. The description just given of the city
as contained within the old ’Flodden Wall’ will help the reader at once
to understand how the Edinburgh of Scott’s single life differed from the
Modern City, and how very considerable were the additions already to the
ancient town. Some curious facts have been preserved in an old annual
publication called the _Picture of Edinburgh_. In it we find a quaint
’comparative view’ of Edinburgh as it was in 1763 and Edinburgh in the
year 1783.  In this period there were added on the south side Nicolson
Street and Square, most of Bristo Street, George Square, and other
streets: all of which took the place of gardens and open fields.  The
New Town had risen as if by magic.  Progressive shopkeepers and bailies
were already boasting of George Street as the most splendid street in
Europe,[1] and Princes Street as the most elegant terrace.  It was
computed that over two millions sterling had been spent in these
extensions.  Wholesale migrations followed from the Old Town to the New,
and many grand old mansions passed into unexpected hands.  Oliver
Cromwell’s former lodgings were occupied by a mere sheriff-clerk.  The
house that at the time of the Union was inhabited by the Duke of Douglas
fell to a wheelwright, and Lord President Craigie’s mansion was
transferred to a seller of old furniture.  So great, in fact, was the
change of habits and ideas, that we are told a common chairman, or
porter, who had got into the apartments once used by Lord Drummore,
complained of defective accommodation! The year 1783 also saw a new
passage opened between the Old Town and the New.  This was effected by
means of the huge heap of earth collected from the excavations made in
digging so many foundations. By agreement with the contractors, all this
earth was conveyed, free of charge, to the space between the foot of
Hanover Street and the Old Town ridge.  It is also stated that in this
period the number of four-wheeled carriages in Edinburgh increased from
396 to 1268.  Coach-building became one of the most important
industries, if it be true that about 1783 an Edinburgh coachmaker
received an order from Paris for one thousand coaches.  It seems that
before this time the operation of trade was exactly the reverse, Paris
being reputed to make carriages superior to any in Europe.  Other
trades, which had been wholly unknown to the old city, now sprang into
existence, indicating great change of manners as well as increase of
wealth.  Amongst those, drapers’ shops became the most numerous in the
city, and hairdressers vastly increased in number.  Oyster-cellars also
became numerous, and are noted as being frequented by people of fashion,
who sometimes held their private dancing-parties in these places.  It
was now that umbrellas came into general use.  Before 1763, it would
appear that an umbrella was regarded in Edinburgh as a rare phenomenon.

[1] But to Scott, of course, the old High Street always was ’the
principal street of Edinburgh.’  It is to it he refers with pride in
_The Abbot_ as being ’then, as now, the most spacious street in Europe.’

                             *CHAPTER III*

School-days—The High School—Old Methods of Teaching—Luke Fraser—Tone of
the School—Brutal Masters—Schoolboy’s Dress—Boyish Ideas—Scott’s Pride
of Birth—The ’Harden’ Family—’Beardie’—The Dryburgh Lands.

It was in 1778 that Walter Scott began to attend the Grammar School, or
High School of Edinburgh.  The High School building stood at the foot of
Infirmary Street, in what was called the High School Wynd. The name
’High School Yards’ is still attached to a neighbouring lane.  The
’Yards’ would be the boys’ playground.  Like other Grammar Schools in
Scotland the High School was managed by the Town Council,[1] by whose
authority, at a date so early as 1519, the citizens were charged to send
their boys to it and to no other school.  In 1777 the Town Council
erected a new schoolhouse, as the rapidly increasing numbers required
more extensive accommodation.  It seems that in the eighteenth century
the reputation of the school stood very high, and, of course, it had
then no rivals in the city.  The number of pupils about this time is
stated to have been six hundred.  The teaching staff consisted of the
Rector and four masters.

[1] The school was transferred in 1873 to the School Board of Edinburgh.

The classes were, of course, very large, and the method of teaching was
necessarily very simple.  Short tasks in Latin, set purely for
repetition, were rhymed over by each boy in the same words and the same
way.  One Henry Cockburn, who joined the school in 1787, says it drove
him stupid.  ’Oh! the bodily and mental wearisomeness of sitting six
hours a day, staring idly at a page, without motion and without
thought.’  He says the school was notorious for its severity and
riotousness, and recalls his feelings of trembling and dizziness when he
sat down amidst above a hundred new faces.  His master he characterises
as being as bad a schoolmaster as it is possible to fancy.  Walter Scott
was more fortunate. His class was taught by Mr. Luke Fraser, a good
Latin scholar and a very worthy man.  Walter seems to have enjoyed his
school life.  In Mr. Fraser’s class he was not distinguished as one of
the brilliant pupils.  To the latter, especially the dux, James Buchan,
he pays a warm tribute, and of himself he says: ’I glanced like a meteor
from one end of the class to the other, and commonly disgusted my kind
master as much by negligence and frivolity as I occasionally pleased him
by flashes of intellect and talent.  Among my companions, my good-nature
and a flow of ready imagination rendered me very popular....  In the
winter play-hours, when hard exercise was impossible, my tales used to
assemble an admiring audience round Lucky Brown’s fireside, and happy
was he that could sit next to the inexhaustible narrator.  I was also,
though often negligent of my own task, always ready to assist my
friends; and hence I had a little party of staunch adherents and
partisans, stout of hand and heart, though somewhat dull of head—the
very tools for raising a hero to eminence.  So, on the whole, I made a
brighter figure in the yards than in the class.’  In speaking of his
education, it must be remembered that he always underrates his
attainments.  There is no doubt that he had a gift for acquiring
languages and was a remarkable pupil in every class.  But because he was
a little behind the others at the start, he seems to have fancied
himself somewhat in that position all through.  As to the manners and
morals of the boys, Scott has left no criticism.  Of their outside fun
and adventures he has given a lively sketch in the episode of
Green-Breeks in the third Appendix to the General Preface of his novels.
We learn from Lord Cockburn that in his time and in his opinion, the
tone of the school was vulgar and harsh.  Among the boys (he states)
coarseness of language and manners was the only fashion.  An English boy
was so rare, that his language was openly laughed at.  No lady could be
seen within the walls. Nothing evidently civilised was safe.  Two of the
masters, in particular, were so savage, that any master doing now what
they did every hour, would certainly be transported.

The same writer mentions that the boys had to be at school during summer
at seven in the morning. Here is his interesting description of his
dress as a schoolboy: ’I often think I see myself in my usual High
School apparel, which was the common dress of other boys.  It consisted
of a round black hat; a shirt fastened at the neck by a black ribbon,
and except on dress days, unruffled; a cloth waistcoat, rather large,
with two rows of buttons and of button-holes, so that it could be
buttoned on either side, which, when one side got dirty, was convenient;
a single-breasted jacket, which in due time got a tail and became a
coat; brown corduroy breeks, tied at the knees by a showy knot of brown
cotton tape; worsted stockings in winter, blue cotton stockings in
summer, and white cotton for dress; clumsy shoes made to be used on
either foot, and each requiring to be used on alternate feet daily;
brass or copper buckles.  The coat and waistcoat were always of glaring
colours, such as bright blue, grass green, and scarlet.  I remember well
the pride with which I was once rigged out in a scarlet waistcoat and a
bright green coat.  No such machinery as what are now termed braces or
suspenders had then been imagined.’

There was plenty of pride among the High School boys.  The roughness of
manners and coarseness of speech which they shared with the lower orders
never impaired the strong feeling of caste which they imbibed at home.
Among the baser spirits it was, of course, selfish and conceited, but it
had a better and healthier effect on the finer natures of the few.  Even
as a boy, Walter Scott, as we have seen, lived much in an ideal world of
his own creation.  It was largely peopled with the romantic figures of
the adventurous past, and the boy must have delighted greatly in the
knowledge that many of his heroes of the past were ancestors of his own.
Pride of birth was certainly one of his earliest ideals, and it
continued to influence him, in a manly and noble spirit, all through
life.  It colours, as we know, every page of his romantic writings, both
verse and prose.  It is united always with the ideas of truth, honour,
and courage, and strongly allied with a beautiful sentiment of chivalry
and grace.

Though he never boasted of his own lineage—vulgarity being alien to his
nature—he was always conscious of it, and always lived up to the ideal
standard it created in his mind.  His pedigree was one in which a
romantic antiquary could not but rejoice. On the mother’s side he was a
lineal descendant of the Swintons of that ilk, a family which (as he
records) produced many distinguished warriors in the Middle Ages, and
which, for antiquity and honourable alliances, may rank with any in
Britain.  His father’s family, the Scotts of Harden, were still more
after his poetical heart.  ’Wat of Harden, who came with speed,’ was a
typical Border chief, the sturdy hero of many a minstrel’s lay.  For
among these rude Borderers not only had every dale its battle, but every
river its song.  And this attachment to music and song, together with
the ’rude species of chivalry in constant use’ among the Border clans,
raises them to a level amply sufficient for romance.  The grandson of
Wat of Harden was another Walter Scott, who, not being his father’s
eldest son, was employed as Factor on the estate of Makerston.  It is
strange to think of Wat of Harden’s grandson in a quasi-legal post and
noted as a gentleman of literary leanings.  Such he was, however, and a
favourite friend of that great physician and elegant Latinist, Archibald
Pitcairn.  The two used to meet together in Edinburgh, and talked
treasonable sentences in majestic Latin.  This Walter, indeed, had
proved his Jacobite loyalty in a manner worthy of his name.  He had
fought, ’with conquering Graham,’ at Killiecrankie, and now testified
his sorrow for the exile of the Stuarts by letting his beard grow,
untouched by razor or scissors, as a symbol of mourning, and a visible

This eccentricity gained for him the nickname of ’Beardie,’ and it would
have been well (says Sir Walter) that his zeal had stopped there.  But
he took arms, and intrigued in their cause, until he lost all he had in
the world.  His second son, Robert, was intended for the sea, but a
shipwreck, which unfortunately occurred in his first voyage, gave him
such a dislike for the salt water, that he refused to go back for a
second trial.  His father, displeased with his son’s perversity, now
left him to his own resources.  It was the best thing that could have
happened, for the youth had grit and character, as his grandson’s
amusing account of his proceedings sufficiently shows.  ’He turned Whig
upon the spot, and fairly abjured his father’s politics and his learned
poverty.  His chief and relative, Mr. Scott of Harden, gave him a lease
of the farm of Sandyknowe, comprehending the rocks in the centre of
which Smailholm or Sandyknowe Tower is situated.  He took for his
shepherd an old man called Hogg, who willingly lent him, out of respect
to his family, his whole savings, about thirty pounds, to stock the new
farm.  With this sum, which it seems was at that time sufficient for the
purpose, the master and the servant set off to purchase a stock of sheep
at Whitsun-Tryste, a fair held on a hill near Wooler in Northumberland.
The old shepherd went carefully from drove to drove, till he found a
_hirsel_ likely to answer their purpose, and then returned to tell his
master to come and conclude the bargain.  But what was his surprise to
see him galloping a mettled hunter about the racecourse, and to find he
had expended the whole stock in this extraordinary purchase!—Moses’
bargain of green spectacles did not strike more dismay into the Vicar of
Wakefield’s family, than my grandfather’s rashness into the poor old
shepherd.  The thing, however, was irretrievable, and they returned
without the sheep.  In the course of a few days, however, my
grandfather, who was one of the best horsemen of his time, attended John
Scott of Harden’s hounds on this same horse, and displayed him to such
advantage that he sold him for double the original price.  The farm was
now stocked in earnest, and the rest of my grandfather’s career was that
of successful industry.’

The wife of this Robert Scott was Barbara Haliburton, daughter of a
Berwickshire laird, whose brother was proprietor of part of the lands of
Dryburgh, including the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey.  Thus this rare
old-world relic, unequalled in its beauty and its hallowed associations,
was likely to fall into the hands of the father of Sir Walter Scott.  It
happened, however, that the old laird, Robert Haliburton, had a weakness
for dabbling in trade, and so came to ruin himself.  His Dryburgh
possessions were sold, and passed for ever out of the hands of the
novelist’s relations.  Scott seems to have felt considerable regret over
this incident in his family history.  There is a touching note of pathos
in the remarks with which he sums it up in his Autobiography: ’And thus
we have nothing left of Dryburgh, although my father’s maternal
inheritance, but the right of stretching our bones where mine may
perhaps be laid ere any eye but my own glances over these pages.’

                              *CHAPTER IV*

Dr. Adam, Rector of High School—Walter Scott’s first Lines—Influence of
Adam—Persecution by Nicol—Death-scene of the Rector—Home Life in George
Square—Walter Scott the ’Writer’—Anecdotes of his Character.

Very special honour, on the part of all lovers of Scott, is due to
Alexander Adam, the Rector of the High School.  Adam, whose text-book of
_Roman Antiquities_ continued for over a century to be used in the
Scottish Grammar Schools and Universities, was not only a scholar, but a
man of literary tastes and sympathies. He was ever ready to detect and
encourage any sign of talent or character among the boys.  It was his
custom to encourage them to attempt poetical versions of Horace and
Vergil.  These were purely voluntary efforts, never set as tasks.  Of
course, such attempts had a strong attraction for Scott.  Though he
might not understand the Latin so well as some of his comrades, the
Rector himself declared that _Gualterus Scott_ was behind few in
following and enjoying the author’s meaning.  His versions therefore
often gained discriminating praise, and Adam ever after took much notice
of the boy.  It is a pleasure to find in the pages of Lockhart one of
these juvenile efforts.  No wonder that Adam had faith in the boy of
twelve who could turn Vergil in language like this:

    ’In awful ruins Ætna thunders nigh,
    And sends in pitchy whirlwinds to the sky
    Black clouds of smoke, which, still as they aspire,
    From their dark sides there bursts the glowing fire;
    At other times huge balls of fire are toss’d,
    That lick the stars, and in the smoke are lost;
    Sometimes the mount, with vast convulsions torn,
    Emits huge rocks, which instantly are borne
    With loud explosions to the starry skies,
    The stones made liquid as the huge mass flies,
    Then back again with greater weight recoils,
    While Ætna thundering from the bottom boils.’

This little piece, it seems, written in a weak, boyish scrawl, within
pencilled marks still visible, had been carefully preserved by his
mother; it was folded up in a cover inscribed by the old lady—’_My
Walter’s first lines_, 1782.’

Scott does full justice to the excellent influence of Dr. Adam on his
character.  ’I saw I was expected to do well, and I was piqued in honour
to vindicate my master’s favourable opinion.  I climbed, therefore, to
the first form; and, though I never made a first-rate Latinist, my
school-fellows, and, what was of more consequence, I myself, considered
that I had a character for learning to maintain.  Dr. Adam, to whom I
owed so much, never failed to remind me of my obligations when I had
made some figure in the literary world....  He remembered the fate of
every boy at his school during the fifty years he had superintended it,
and always traced their success or misfortunes entirely to their
attention or negligence when under his care.  His "noisy mansion," which
to others would have been a melancholy bedlam, was the pride of his
heart; and the only fatigues he felt, amidst din and tumult, and the
necessity of reading themes, hearing lessons, and maintaining some
degree of order at the same time, were relieved by comparing himself to
Cæsar, who could dictate to three secretaries at once:—so ready is
vanity to lighten the labours of duty.’  Another great man who testified
the same kindly feeling towards Adam was Francis Jeffrey, who passed
through his hands a few years later than Scott.

An incident in Adam’s career must now be mentioned which throws a strong
light on a rather seamy side of Edinburgh character at the time.  Very
naturally, though he had no sympathy or even acquaintance with the party
politics then current, the Rector would occasionally make comparisons
between the French Revolution and the events of ancient history.  This
led to some hostility on the part of the pupils.  Then the parents took
offence, and the Town Council, as patrons of the school, persecuted the
good man by encouraging Nicol, one of the masters, to insult and defy
him.  This is the ’Willie’ who was a friend of Burns, and who sorely
tried the poet’s patience during their tour in the Highlands.  He seems
to have been a good classical scholar, an ’admirable convivial
humorist,’ but in other respects a downright blackguard.  The savage
brute, taking advantage of his influence with the Council, went so far
as actually to attempt the life of his chief, waylaying and attacking
the poor man after dark.  Nicol is one of the two masters whom Lord
Cockburn mentions as the curse of the school, ’whose atrocities young
men cannot be made to believe, but old men cannot forget.’

We pass from the High School and its memories with the beautiful and
touching picture drawn by Scott of the death of his old master and
friend: ’This (unpleasant incident) passed away with other heats of the
period, and the Doctor continued his labours till about a year since,
when he was struck with palsy while teaching his class.  He survived a
few days, but becoming delirious before his dissolution, conceived he
was still in school, and after some expressions of applause or censure,
he said, "But it grows dark—the boys may dismiss,"—and instantly

The home life during these school-days was very strict, but tempered by
the natural outbreaks of youthful vitality.  In later years it is clear
that Walter regretted two things—the unnecessary gloom of Sunday at
home, and the want of sympathy on the part of his father—more correctly
the failure of giving expression to the feelings which were certainly
there, and very deep and strong.  But all the same he loved his father,
and recognised to the full his splendid character.  Walter Scott, the
eldest son of Robert of Sandyknowe, was born in 1729.  He was bred to
the law, and in due time became a Writer to the Signet.  Though not
perhaps well fitted by nature for such a profession, he was a hard,
conscientious worker, and took a special interest ’in analysing the
abstruse feudal doctrines connected with conveyancing.’  In fact, his
high principles and earnest attachment to religion made it impossible
for him to devote his whole mind to mere bargain-driving, whether for
himself or others. Anything like sharpness in employing the necessities,
wants, and follies of men for his own pecuniary advantage was entirely
foreign to his nature.  Of fighting the knaves and dastards with the
petty weapons of an ignoble warfare he was as little capable as ever was
his magnanimous son.  In all such affairs, in that son’s opinion, ’Uncle
Toby himself could not have conducted himself with more simplicity than
my father.’  No quainter proof of this admirable simplicity could be
imagined than the fact that he made a personal matter of the honour of
his clients, and often embarrassed by his zeal for their credit persons
whose sense of honour and duty was anything but keen. However, in those
days character and honesty were still appreciated by men who did not
imitate them. Mr. Scott rose to eminence in his profession, and enjoyed
at one time an extensive practice.  Somewhat formal in manner and a
rigid Calvinist in religion, he had many little peculiarities of the
rural rather than the city Scot.  Thus, though very abstemious in his
habits, he was fond of sociability and grew very merry over his sober
glass of wine.  Moderate in politics, he had a natural leaning to
constitutional principles, and was jealous of modern encroachments on
the royal prerogative.  His weakness for established forms made him a
stickler for points of etiquette at marriages, christenings, and
funerals.  The sweetness of his temper, the dignity and purity of his
life, and the charm of his distinguished personality inspired those who
knew him with singular affection for this Scottish Thomas Newcome.  The
best of all this might stand for the picture of the younger Walter
Scott, but it is interesting to know that in features there was no
resemblance between the father and the son.  By a striking but not
unusual freak of heredity, the latter’s face was an almost perfect
replica of that of his ancestor ’Beardie.’

                              *CHAPTER V*

At Edinburgh University—Holidays at Kelso—Home—First University
Class—Professor Hill—Professor Dalzell—The ’Greek Blockhead’—Anecdotes
of Dalzell—His History of Edinburgh University.

Walter Scott was a boy of thirteen when he entered the University.
After leaving the High School he had been sent to spend half a year with
his aunt, Miss Janet Scott, at Kelso.  Here, while keeping up his Latin
with a tutor, he was free to indulge in miscellaneous reading.  Amongst
other treasures he came upon Percy’s _Reliques_, about which he declared
he had never read a book half so frequently or with half the enthusiasm.
It confirmed him in the love for legendary lore, which had begun in
infancy.  To this period also he traces the awaking of his feeling for
the beauties of nature, ’more especially when combined with ancient
ruins.’  It became, as he says, an insatiable passion, and indeed goes
far to account for his eager pursuit of territory at Abbotsford.
Returning to Edinburgh in October, he joined the class of Humanity,
under Mr. Hill, and the first Greek class, under Mr. Dalzell.
Unfortunately for his Latin, Hill’s class seems for the time to have
been the rowdiest in the University.  No work was done in it.  Lord
Cockburn, speaking of 1793, bitterly complains that the class was a
scene of unchecked idleness and disrespectful mirth.  Scott says that
Hill was beloved by his students, but that he held the reins of
discipline very loosely.  In fact, the boy, as might have been expected
of his lively nature, took his part in the fun and forgot much of the
Latin he had learned under Adam and Whale (the Selkirk tutor). But his
loss in the Greek class was greater still.  The first class, in those
days, was engaged on the mere elements, but Walter had not even the
smattering which was necessary to keep up with this humble attempt.  He
therefore resolved not to learn Greek at all, and professed a contempt
for the language, as a method of braving things out.  He was known in
the class as the _Greek Blockhead_, and at the end of the session he
wrote an essay to prove the inferiority of Homer to Ariosto.  This
whimsical idea he defended with such force as to rouse Professor
Dalzell’s indignation, but while reproving the foolish presumption of
the young critic, he honestly expressed his surprise at the quantity of
out-of-the-way knowledge which the boy had displayed.  It was like
Samuel Johnson quoting Macrobius to the Oxford dons.  But Dalzell,
instead of complimenting and flattering the genius, denounced him,
saying that dunce he was and dunce he would remain.  The good judge,
however, handsomely reversed and recalled this verdict in after-years
’over a bottle of Burgundy, at our literary club at Fortune’s, of which
he was a distinguished member.’  Cockburn, like Scott, entered Dalzell’s
class without any knowledge of Greek.  He has left a charming picture of
the Professor, with whose ways and ideas he seems to have been in full
sympathy.  ’At the mere teaching of a language to boys, he was
ineffective.  How is it possible for the elements, including the very
letters, of a language to be taught to one hundred boys at once, by a
single lecturing professor?  To the lads who, like me, to whom the very
alphabet was new, required positive _teaching_, the class was utterly
useless. Nevertheless, though not a good schoolmaster, it is a duty, and
delightful to record Dalzell’s value as a general exciter of boys’
minds.  Dugald Stewart alone excepted, he did me more good than all the
other instructors I had.  Mild, affectionate, simple, an absolute
enthusiast about learning—particularly classical, and especially
Greek—with an innocence of soul and of manner which imparted an air of
honest kindliness to whatever he said or did, and a slow, soft, formal
voice, he was a great favourite with all boys, and with all good men.
Never was a voyager, out in quest of new islands, more delighted in
finding one, than he was in discovering any good quality in any humble
youth.... He could never make us actively laborious.  But when we sat
passive and listened to him, he inspired us with a vague but sincere
ambition of literature, and with delicious dreams of virtue and poetry.
He must have been a hard boy whom these discourses, spoken by Dalzell’s
low, soft, artless voice, did not melt.’

Dalzell was clerk to the General Assembly, and was long one of the
curiosities of that strange place, for which Cockburn quaintly says he
was too innocent. The last time he saw Dalzell was just before his
death, of the near approach of which the old man was quite aware.  He
was busy amusing his children by trying to discharge a twopenny cannon;
but his alarm and awkwardness only terrified the little ones.  At last
he got behind a washing-tub, and then, fastening the match to the end of
a long stick, set the piece of ordnance off gloriously.  He seems to
have held the opinion strongly that the seventeenth century was
responsible for the defects of classical learning in Scotland.  Sydney
Smith declared that one dark night he had overheard the Professor
muttering to himself on the street, ’If it had not been for that
confounded Solemn League and Covenant, we would have made as good longs
and shorts as they’ (the English Episcopalians).

Professor Dalzell compiled a History of the University of Edinburgh from
its foundation to his own time. His own election to the Greek chair took
place in 1772, and he was at the time acting as tutor to the sons of the
Earl of Lauderdale.  From 1785 he appears to have acted as joint
Secretary and Librarian, thus obtaining access to all the materials
necessary for his elaborate History.

                              *CHAPTER VI*

Scott’s University Studies—The old Latin Chronicles—Dugald Stewart, His
Success described—His elegant Essays—Popular Subjects—Picture of Stewart
by Lord Cockburn—His Lectures—Anecdote of Macvey Napier—Meets Robert
Burns—The Poet’s ’Pocket Milton.’

Certainly Edinburgh University cannot claim to have contributed much, if
anything at all, to the training of the future poet, novelist, and man
of letters.  In his second session he fell ill, and was sent again to
Kelso to recruit.  He had now lost all taste for the Latin classics, and
his reading at this time was almost entirely without aim or system,
except that his taste led him to make a special point of history.  He
read George Buchanan’s Latin History of Scotland, Matthew Paris, and
various monkish chronicles in Latin, but Greek he now gave up for ever.
He had forgotten the very letters of the Greek alphabet; a loss, as he
says, never to be repaired, considering what that language is, and who
they were who employed it in their compositions. His knowledge of
mathematics was, by his own account, never more than a superficial
smattering.  He seems, however, to have won some distinction in the
study of ethics, having been one of the students selected in this class
for the distinction of reading an essay before the Principal.  The great
ornament of the Arts Faculty was at this time Dugald Stewart, of whom
some account must now be given as representing in its best and typical
aspects the characteristic Edinburgh culture of the period.  Stewart had
succeeded his father as Professor of Mathematics in 1775, and had
obtained the chair of Moral Philosophy in 1785 by exchanging with a
colleague.  He occupied this chair for twenty-five years, during which
time, by his lectures and writings, he gained the very highest
distinction, not only for the importance of his philosophical
speculations, but on account of the high literary merits of his style.
There is no doubt that his reputation was greatly exaggerated, for his
technical work was really of no value; but in his own time he maintained
a foremost place, and his celebrity shed honour alike on his University
and his native country.  In fact, Dugald Stewart is the most remarkable
example we know of the great possibilities that lie open to men of
ordinary or even meagre capacities, who know how to make effective use
of the commonplace.  His merits were such as may belong to any man: he
mastered the details of his subject with thorough care, he read much and
drew upon literature for illustrative quotations, he supported moral
theories by an elaborate sentimental rhetoric, he was most careful in
his personal conduct, and, above all, he studiously maintained great
formal dignity of both speech and manners.  In short, he cultivated all
the prudential and external methods of success, and he obtained it full
and overflowing.  He might have reversed the lines of Cato, and said:

    ’’Tis not in mortals to deserve success:
    But I’ll do more, my subjects, I’ll command it.’

In his college lectures his method was to expatiate on the popular
aspects of moral themes, studiously avoiding repulsive technicalities
and brain-taxing discussions. Thus, by judiciously limiting his topics
to those in which it was possible to exercise the embellishments of
rhetoric, he succeeded in his aim of always preserving the appearance of
dignity and greatness.  He never deviated from the great style in
language or manner, and it is not surprising that his matter temporarily
passed for great.  The man who is never seen other than faultlessly
attired in the height of fashion is bound to be considered a well-to-do
gentleman.  Walter Scott, however, does not seem to have been carried
away by the prevailing current of enthusiasm.  He merely mentions that
he was further instructed in Moral Philosophy by Mr. Dugald Stewart,
whose striking and impressive eloquence riveted the attention even of
the most volatile students.

To Lord Cockburn’s essentially different nature Stewart was the ideal of
academic greatness, the correctness of Stewart’s taste striking him with
a certain awe.  Stewart’s elegant essays, ’embellished by the happiest
introduction of exquisite quotations,’ on such subjects as the
obligations of patriotism and affection, the cultivation and the value
of taste, the charms of literature and science, etc., appeared to him
not only fascinating, which they were, but always great, which certainly
they were not.

Lord Cockburn describes Dugald Stewart as ’about the middle size, weakly
limbed, and with an appearance of feebleness which gave an air of
delicacy to his gait and structure.  His forehead was large and bald,
his eyebrows bushy, his eyes grey, and intelligent, and capable of
conveying any emotion, from indignation to pity, from serene sense to
hearty humour: in which they were powerfully aided by his lips, which,
though rather large perhaps, were flexible and expressive.  The voice
was singularly pleasing; and, as he managed it, a slight burr only made
its tones softer.  His ear, both for music and for speech, was
exquisite; and he was the finest reader I have ever heard.  His gesture
was simple and elegant, though not free from a tinge of professional
formality; and his whole manner that of an academical gentleman....

’He lectured, standing, from notes which, with their successive
additions, must, I suppose, at last have been nearly as full as his
spoken words.  His lecturing manner was professorial, but gentlemanlike;
calm and expository, but rising into greatness, or softening into
tenderness, whenever his subject required it.  A slight asthmatic
tendency made him often clear his throat; and such was my admiration of
the whole exhibition, that Macvey Napier told him, not long ago, that I
had said there was eloquence in his very spitting.  "Then," said he, "I
am glad there was at least one thing in which I had no competitor...."
To me his lectures were like the opening of the heavens.  I felt that I
had a soul.  His noble views, unfolded in glorious sentences, elevated
me into a higher world.  I was as much excited and charmed as any man of
cultivated senses would be, who, after being ignorant of their
existence, was admitted to all the glories of Milton, Cicero, and
Shakespeare.  They changed my whole nature.  In short, Dugald Stewart
was one of the greatest of didactic orators.  Had he lived in ancient
time, his memory would have descended to us as that of one of the finest
of the old eloquent sages.  But his lot was better cast.  Flourishing in
an age which requires all the dignity of morals to counteract the
tendencies of physical pursuits and political convulsion, he has exalted
the character of his country and his generation. No intelligent pupil of
his ever ceased to respect philosophy or was ever false to his
principles, without feeling the crime aggravated by the recollection of
the morality that Stewart had taught him.’

This last tribute to Stewart is a very fine idea.  It recalls Persius’
noble line:

    ’Virtutem videant, intabescantque relicta.’

Stewart had the great honour and felicity of meeting Burns on his first
visit to Edinburgh in 1786.  A more singularly contrasted pair could
hardly have been brought together from any corners of the earth.  Burns
looked up to the celebrated professor with genuine admiration, for
rhetoric was the great poet’s besetting weakness.  He speaks of Stewart
personally always with respect and esteem, but the stateliness of the
patricians in Edinburgh almost disgusted him with life.  He was obliged
to buy a pocket Milton, so that he might be able, whenever he recalled
it, to study the sentiments of courage, independence, and noble
defiance, ’in that great personage, SATAN,’ as an antidote to the
poisoned feeling of disgust.

                             *CHAPTER VII*

Old Edinburgh Society—Manners of the older Generation—St. Cecilia’s
Hall—Buccleuch Place Rooms—Rules of the Assemblies—Drinking
Customs—Recollections of Lord Cockburn.

The great transformation process of Edinburgh life and society was a
striking feature of the years during which Walter Scott grew from
boyhood to manhood. The rise of the New Town, with the consequent rapid
migration of the much greater part of the well-to-do population, was
naturally the most active factor in the change.  There was a general
alteration of habits. Families changed their style of living.  Old
arrangements, necessitated by the lofty old houses, disappeared. Old
peculiarities, which gave character and Scottish individuality to the
city, were obliterated as if by magic. As might be expected, such
sweeping changes were disliked and denounced by many who looked upon the
whole movement as a vulgarising of the old gentilities. The social
habits of the older generation were a strange mixture of coarseness and
extreme decorum, based upon artificial rules.  The latter side is seen
in the delightful sketches which Lord Cockburn has left us of the old
concert-rooms and assembly-rooms which were maintained by the
fashionable class for their own exclusive use.

’Saint Cecilia’s Hall was the only public resort of the musical, and
besides being our most selectly fashionable place of amusement, was the
best and the most beautiful concert-room I have ever yet seen.  And
there have I myself seen most of our literary and fashionable gentlemen,
predominating with their side curls and frills, and ruffles, and silver
buckles; and our stately matrons stiffened in hoops and gorgeous satin;
and our beauties with high-heeled shoes, powdered and pomatumed hair,
and lofty and composite head-dresses. All this was in the Cowgate! the
last retreat nowadays of destitution and disease.  The building still
stands, though raised and changed, and is looked down upon from South
Bridge, over the eastern side of the Cowgate Arch.  When I last saw it,
it seemed to be partly an old clothesman’s shop, and partly a
brazier’s.[1]  The abolition of this Cecilian temple, and the necessity
of finding accommodation where they could, and of depending for
patronage on the common boisterous public, of course, extinguished the
delicacies of the old artificial parterre.

[1] It is now part of the bookbinding premises of George Cooper and Co.,
Niddry Street. The Hall itself is now used as a store for paper.

’Our balls, and their manners, fared no better.  The ancient dancing
establishments in the Bow and the Assembly Close I know nothing about.
Everything of the kind was meant to be annihilated by the erection
(about 1784) of the handsome apartments in George Street.  Yet even
against these, the new part of the old town made a gallant struggle, and
in my youth the whole fashionable dancing, as indeed the fashionable
everything, clung to George Square; where (in Buccleuch Place, close by
the south-eastern corner of the square) most beautiful rooms were
erected, which, for several years, threw the New Town piece of
presumption entirely into the shade.  And here were the last remains of
the ballroom discipline of the preceding age.  Martinet dowagers and
venerable beaux acted as masters and mistresses of ceremonies, and made
all the preliminary arrangements.  No couple could dance unless each
party was provided with a ticket prescribing the precise place in the
precise dance.  If there was no ticket, the gentleman, or the lady, was
dealt with as an intruder, and turned out of the dance.  If the ticket
had marked upon it—say, for a country dance, the figures 3, 5, this
meant that the holder was to place himself in the third dance, and fifth
from the top; and if he was anywhere else, he was set right or excluded.
And the partner’s tickets must correspond. Woe to the poor girl who,
with ticket 2, 7, was found opposite a youth marked 5, 9!  It was
flirting without a licence, and looked very ill, and would probably be
reported by the ticket director of that dance to the mother.  Of course,
parties, or parents, who wished to secure dancing for themselves or
those they had charge of, provided themselves with correct and
corresponding vouchers before the ball day arrived.  This could only be
accomplished through a director: and the election of a pope sometimes
requires less jobbing.  When parties chose to take their chance, they
might do so; but still, though only obtained in the room, the written
permission was necessary; and such a thing as a compact to dance, by a
couple, without official authority, would have been an outrage that
could scarcely be contemplated.  Tea was sipped in side-rooms, and he
was a careless beau who did not present his partner with an orange at
the end of each dance; and the orange and the tea, like everything else,
were under exact and positive regulations.  All this disappeared, and
the very rooms were obliterated, as soon as the lately raised community
secured its inevitable supremacy to the New Town.  The aristocracy of a
few predominating individuals and families came to an end; and the
unreasonable old had nothing for it but to sigh over the recollection of
the select and elegant parties of their youth, where indiscriminate
public right was rejected, and its coarseness awed.

’Yet in some respects there was far more coarseness in the formal age
than in the free one.  Two vices especially, which have been long
banished from all respectable society, were very prevalent, if not
universal, among the whole upper ranks—swearing and drunkenness. Nothing
was more common than for gentlemen who had dined with ladies, and meant
to rejoin them, to get drunk.  To get drunk in a tavern seemed to be
considered as a natural, if not an intended consequence of going to one.
Swearing was thought the right, and the mark, of a gentleman.  And,
tried by this test, nobody, who had not seen them, could now be made to
believe how many gentlemen there were. Not that people were worse
tempered then than now. They were only coarser in their manners, and had
got into a bad style of admonition and dissent.  And the evil provoked
its own continuance, because nobody who was blamed cared for the
censure, or understood that it was serious, unless it was clothed in
execration; and any intensity even of kindness or of logic, that was not
embodied in solid commination, evaporated, and was supposed to have been
meant to evaporate, in the very uttering.  The naval chaplain justified
his cursing the sailors, because it made them listen to him; and
Braxfield apologised to a lady whom he damned at whist for bad play, by
declaring that he had mistaken her for his wife.  This odious practice
was applied with particular offensiveness by those in authority towards
their inferiors.  In the army it was universal by officers towards
soldiers; and far more frequent than is now credible by masters towards

                             *CHAPTER VIII*

Description of St. Cecilia’s Hall—Concerts—Old-fashioned Contempt for
’Stars’—Former Assembly Rooms—The George Street Rooms—Scott and the old
Social Ways—Simplicity and Friendliness—His Picture of the Beginnings of
Fashion in the New Town.

A few additional details can still be given of the places thus described
by Lord Cockburn.  St. Cecilia’s Hall was seated, in the manner of an
amphitheatre, for five hundred persons, with a large open space in the
centre. The orchestra was at the upper end of the room, where there was
also ’an elegant organ.’  It was managed by a great society of musical
gentlemen, a society which, it seems, originated from a weekly
club-meeting, as was then usual, in a tavern.  The landlord, Steil, was
extremely fond of music, and was regarded as an excellent singer of
Scottish songs.  The concerts given in St. Cecilia’s Hall, besides their
fashionable aspect, seem to have been of high musical merit.  One
writing about the beginning of last century laments most feelingly its
neglect and decay.  He describes the great doings of its palmy days,
when the best compositions of the old school took the lead in the plans
of the concerts; when the sublime compositions of Handel, and the
enchanting strains of Corelli, were ably conducted under the direction
of a Pinto, a Puppo, a Penducci, and a Kelly.  He declares that genuine
taste for music has decayed in Edinburgh; that the rage of the present
day is only to be captivated by those intricate capriccios in execution
which excite no passion but surprise; and that the sweet sounds which
enchanted the ears of our forefathers are now laid aside for those which
amaze rather than delight.  It is true (he continues) we may be
_occasionally_ honoured with a visit by a Braham or a Catalani; but,
like birds of passage, scarcely have they _feathered their nests_, when
they wing their way to milder climes.  How different and how
disagreeable, in fact, must modern arrangements have appeared to
old-fashioned worthies.  The ’stars’ of the old time were paid only by
results, that is, by benefit nights whose success was, of course, in
proportion to the singer’s merits.

The first Assembly Rooms were at the West Bow, opened in 1760.  The
Assemblies were removed to new rooms in the High Street (Assembly Close)
some ten years later.  They were weekly meetings for dancing and
card-playing, kept up by a charge of five shillings for admission.  At
first the Assemblies were managed entirely by private individuals, but a
change was made in 1746, when they were transferred to the charge of
seven persons connected with the Royal Infirmary and the Charity
Workhouse.  A lady of fashion was always associated with this committee,
to look after points of etiquette and decorum.  The surplus funds were
always given to the two institutions named. The George Street Rooms were
erected to supply defects of accommodation and to shift the centre of
fashion into the New Town.  Sir Walter pictures the veterans of his
generation as recollecting with a sigh the Old Assembly Rooms, or Dun’s
Rooms, or the George Street Rooms, when first opened, as a place of
public amusement, where all persons, of rank and fashion entitling them
to frequent such places, met upon easy and upon equal terms, and without
any attempt at intrusion on the part of others; where the pretensions of
every one were known and judged of by their birth and manners, and not
by assumed airs of extravagance, or a lavish display of wealth.  His
conclusion was that, upon the whole, the society of the higher classes
in Edinburgh was formerly select, the members better known to each
other, and therefore more easy in intercourse than at a later day (say
after the beginning of the nineteenth century).  Evidently what charmed
Scott was the family charm of the old system, and the mild assertion of
the aristocratic caste which was doomed to give way before the claims of
mere wealth.  The Scottish aristocracy were not rich. The old Edinburgh
therefore suited at once their purses and their prejudices.  The ladies
were content to entertain their friends at tea.  Then after some
wine-drinking by the gentlemen, the carpets would be lifted, and a
homely and happy evening spent in dancing.  Thus there was abundance of
sociability at little expense; and friendships were warmer because of
this admission to the intimacies of the ordinary daily life.  Families
met more frequently, when the only preparation necessary was ’a social
and domestic meal of plain cookery, with a glass of good port-wine or
claret.’  Scott is never severe on the drinking customs, of which the
purely social aspect appealed so strongly to his warm heart and kindly
nature.  He admits that the claret was sometimes allowed to circulate
too often and too long, but the tea-table and the card-party claimed
their rights sooner or later, and perhaps the young ladies might thank
the claret for the frequent proposal of rolling aside the carpet and
dancing to the music of the pianoforte.

Contrast with these happy and home-like revels the beginnings of the
modern system as pictured by Scott. ’Certainly he who has witnessed and
partaken of pleasures attainable on such easy terms, may be allowed to
murmur at modern parties, where, with much more formality and more
expense, the same cheerful results are not equally secured.  When, after
a month’s invitation, he meets a large party of twenty or thirty people,
probably little known to him and to each other, who are entertained with
French cookery and a variety of expensive wines offered in succession,
while circumstances often betray that the landlord is making an effort
beyond his usual habits; when the company protract a dull effort at
conversation under the reserve imposed by their being strangers to each
other, and reunite with the ladies, sober enough, it is true, but dull
enough also, to drink cold coffee, he expects at least to finish the
evening with dance and song, or the lively talk around the fire, or the
comfortable, old-fashioned rubber.  But these are no part of modern
manners.  No sooner is the dinner-party ended, than each guest sets
forth on a nocturnal cruise from one crowded party to another; and ends
by elbowing, it may be, in King Street, about three o’clock in the
morning, the very same folks whom he elbowed at ten o’clock at night in
Charlotte Square, and who, like him, have spent the whole night in the
streets, and in going in or out of lighted apartments.’

                              *CHAPTER IX*

Manners and Social Customs—Cockburn’s Sketches—The Dinner-hour—The
Procession—The Viands—Drinking—Claret—Healths and Toasts—Anecdote of
Duke of Buccleuch—’Rounds’ of Toasts—’Sentiments’—The Dominie of
Arndilly—Scott’s Views of the old Customs—Decline of ’friendly’ Feeling.

We shall now give Lord Cockburn’s very interesting picture of the
evenings which Scott dwelt upon with such sympathetic regret:—

’The prevailing dinner-hour was about three o’clock. Two o’clock was
quite common, if there was no company.  Hence it was no great deviation
from their usual custom for a family to dine on Sundays "between
sermons"—that is, between one and two.  The hour, in time, but not
without groans and predictions, became four, at which it stuck for
several years.  Then it got to five, which, however, was thought
positively revolutionary; and four was long and gallantly adhered to by
the haters of change as "the good old hour."  At last even they were
obliged to give in.  But they only yielded inch by inch, and made a
desperate stand at half-past four.  Even five, however, triumphed, and
continued the average polite hour from (I think) about 1806, or 1807,
till about 1820.  Six has at last prevailed, and half an hour later is
not unusual.  As yet this is the furthest stretch of London
imitation.... Thus, within my memory, the hour has ranged from two to
half-past six o’clock; and a stand has been regularly made at the end of
every half-hour against each encroachment; and always on the same
grounds—dislike of change and jealousy of finery.’

Mr. Oldbuck of Monkbarns, it will be remembered, who flourished _circa_
1804, invited his guests to the famous ’coenobitical symposion’ _at four
o’clock precisely_.  It may be presumed that the Antiquary in this
matter, however, lingered a little in the rear of the fashion.  The
dishes at the symposion comprehended ’many savoury specimens of Scottish
viands now disused at the tables of those who affect
elegance’—hotch-potch, ’the relishing Solan goose,’ fish and sauce,
crappit-heads, and chicken-pie.  The Antiquary’s beverage was port, a
wine highly approved of by the clerical friend who so ably disposed of
the relics of the feast intended for the worthy host’s supper.

’The procession from the drawing-room to the dining-room was formerly
arranged on a different principle from what it is now.  There was no
such alarming proceeding as that of each gentleman approaching a lady,
and the two hooking together.  This would have excited as much horror as
the waltz at first did, which never showed itself without denunciations
of continental manners by correct gentlemen and worthy mothers and
aunts.  All the ladies first went off by themselves, in a regular row,
according to the ordinary rules of precedence.  Then the gentlemen moved
off in a single file; so that when they reached the dining-room, the
ladies were all there, lingering about the backs of the chairs, till
they could see what their fate was to be.  Then began the selection of
partners, the leaders of the male line having the advantage of priority;
and of course the magnates had an affinity for each other.

’The dinners themselves were much the same as at present.  Any
difference is in a more liberal adoption of the cookery of France.  Ice,
either for cooling or eating, was utterly unknown, except in a few
houses of the highest class.  There was far less drinking during dinner
than now, and far more after it.  The staple wines, even at ceremonious
parties, were in general only port and sherry.  Champagne was never
seen.  It only began to appear after France was opened by the peace of
1815.  The exemption of Scotch claret from duty, which continued (I
believe) till about 1780, made it till then the ordinary beverage.  I
have heard Henry Mackenzie and other old people say that, when a cargo
of claret came to Leith, the common way of proclaiming its arrival was
by sending a hogshead of it through the town on a cart, with a horn; and
that anybody who wanted a sample, or a drink under pretence of a sample,
had only to go to the cart with a jug, which, without much nicety about
its size, was filled for a sixpence.  The tax ended this mode of
advertising; and, aided by the horror of everything French, drove claret
from all tables below the richest.

’Healths and toasts were special torments; oppressions which cannot now
be conceived.  Every glass during dinner required to be dedicated to the
health of some one.  It was thought sottish and rude to take wine
without this—as if forsooth there was nobody present worth drinking
with.  I was present about 1803, when the late Duke of Buccleuch took a
glass of sherry by himself at the table of Charles Hope, then Lord
Advocate; and this was noticed afterwards as a piece of ducal contempt.
And the person asked to take wine was not invited by anything so
slovenly as a look combined with a putting of the hand upon the bottle,
as is practised by near neighbours now.  It was a much more serious
affair.  For one thing, the wine was very rarely on the table.  It had
to be called for; and in order to let the servant know to whom he was to
carry it, the caller was obliged to specify his partner aloud.  All this
required some premeditation and courage.  Hence timid men never ventured
on so bold a step at all, but were glad to escape by only drinking when
they were invited.  As this ceremony was a mark of respect, the
landlord, or any other person who thought himself the great man, was
generally graciously pleased to perform it to every one present.  But he
and others were always at liberty to abridge the severity of the duty by
performing it by platoons.  They took a brace, or two brace, of ladies
or of gentlemen, or of both, and got them all engaged at once, and
proclaiming to the sideboard—"A glass of sherry for Miss Dundas, Mrs.
Murray, and Miss Hope, and a glass of port for Mr. Hume, and one for
me," he slew them by coveys. And all the parties to the contract were
bound to acknowledge each other distinctly.  No nods or grins or
indifference, but a direct look at the object, the audible uttering of
the very words—"Your good health," accompanied by a respectful
inclination of the head, a gentle attraction of the right hand towards
the heart, and a gratified smile.  And after all these detached pieces
of attention during the feast were over, no sooner was the table
cleared, and the after-dinner glasses set down, than it became necessary
for each person, following the landlord, to drink the health of every
other person present, individually.  Thus, where there were ten people,
there were ninety healths drunk. This ceremony was often slurred over by
the bashful, who were allowed merely to look the benediction; but usage
compelled them to look it distinctly, and to each individual.  To do
this well required some grace, and consequently it was best done by the
polite ruffled and frilled gentlemen of the olden time.

’This prandial nuisance was horrible.  But it was nothing to what
followed.  For after dinner, and before the ladies retired, there
generally began what were called "_Rounds_" of toasts; when each
gentleman named an absent lady, and another person was required to match
a gentleman with that lady, and the pair named were toasted, generally
with allusions and jokes about the fitness of the union.  And, worst of
all, there were "sentiments."  These were short epigrammatic sentences,
expressive of moral feelings and virtues, and were thought refined and
elegant productions.  A faint conception of their nauseousness may be
formed from the following examples, every one of which I have heard
given a thousand times, and which indeed I only recollect from their
being favourites. The glasses being filled, a person was asked for his,
or her, sentiment, when this, or something similar, was committed—"May
the pleasures of the evening bear the reflections of the morning," Or,
"May the friends of our youth be the companions of our old age."  Or,
"Delicate pleasures to susceptible minds."  "May the honest heart never
feel distress."  "May the hand of charity wipe the tear from the eye of
sorrow."  "May never worse be among us."  There were stores of similar
reflections; and for all kinds of parties, from the elegant and romantic
to the political, the municipal, the ecclesiastic, and the drunken.
Many of the thoughts and sayings survive still, and may occasionally be
heard at a club or a tavern.  But even there they are out of vogue as
established parts of the entertainment; and in some scenes nothing can
be very offensive.  But the proper _sentiment_ was a high and pure
production; a moral motto; and was meant to dignify and grace private
society.  Hence, even after an easier age began to sneer at the display,
the correct thing was to receive the sentiment, if not with real
admiration, at least with decorous respect.  Mercifully, there was a
large known public stock of the odious commodity, so that nobody who
could screw up his nerves to pronounce the words, had any occasion to
strain his invention.  The conceited, the ready, or the reckless,
hackneyed in the art, had a knack of making new sentiments applicable to
the passing accidents, with great ease.  But it was a dreadful
oppression on the timid or the awkward.  They used to shudder, ladies
particularly—for nobody was spared when their turn in the _round_
approached.  Many a struggle and blush did it cost; but this seemed only
to excite the tyranny of the masters of the craft; and compliance could
never be avoided except by more torture than yielding.  There can
scarcely be a better example of the emetical nature of the stuff that
was swallowed than the sentiment elaborated by the poor dominie of
Arndilly. He was called upon, in his turn, before a large party, and
having nothing to guide him in an exercise to which he was new, except
what he saw was liked, after much writhing and groaning, he came out
with—"The reflection of the moon in the cawm bosom of the lake."  It is
difficult for those who have been born under a more natural system, to
comprehend how a sensible man, a respectable matron, a worthy old maid,
and especially a girl, could be expected to go into company only on such

Different men, different minds.  Even from this picture, which is taken
from the point of view of one who was by nature critical and prone to
dissent, one can see how jolly and amusing such parties must often have
been made.  Scott liked them; enjoyed them thoroughly.  What would one
not give to have seen him presiding at one of those ’grave annual
dinners of the Bannatyne Club,’ where he always insisted on rounds of
ladies and gentlemen, and of authors and printers, poets and kings, in
regular pairs.  The custom, in spite of its drawbacks, fulfilled the
great end and aim of sociability: it brought every individual guest into
active participation in the evening’s proceedings. Nowadays, ’annual’
banquets almost always fail in this; being only, as a rule, occasions
for more or less falsetto speechifying by a temporary clique of
self-regarded notables and their complacent secretary.  The toast-system
was also favourable to loyalty and patriotism, the health of the King
never being neglected at the family dinner-table, even when no guests
were present.  That custom, we fear, has now fallen away, along with
that other and nobler one immortalised in ’The Cotter’s Saturday Night.’

                              *CHAPTER X*

Religious Observances—Sunday Attendance at Church—Sunday Books—Breakdown
of the System—Alleged Infidelity among Professors—Low State of
Morality—Increase of mixed Population—Provincialism.

The externals of religion in Edinburgh underwent a radical change during
the boyhood of Walter Scott. The generation that was then retiring from
the scene was a generation devoted, in all externals at least, to the
cultivation of the religious duties.  Rich and poor, old and young, they
attended church with unfailing regularity.  They held to the strict
Puritanic idea of the Sabbath Day.  That is, they thought devotion the
only proper employment of that day, and considered even a casual
appearance on the street during the hours of worship as a disgrace.
With them family worship was a general and honoured practice.  The
reading of any but definitely religious books on Sunday was forbidden in
every respectable family.  In fact, the Sunday at home in such a family
as Scott’s was a day of discipline, of which even his good-nature was
inclined to complain.  What vexed his young soul was ’the gloom of one
dull sermon succeeding to another.’  The Sunday books were to him a
relief and a delight.  He retained all his life a favour for Bunyan’s
Pilgrim, Gesner’s Death of Abel, Rowe’s Letters, and a few others.
Still, in his opinion, the tedium of the day did the young people no
good.  The scene soon changed.  Even in the early eighties we find it
noted as ’ungenteel’ to go to church in a family capacity.  Amusements
and idle recreation began to be common.  The streets were now crowded
during the hours of service.  On Sunday evenings they became scenes of
noise and disorder. Family worship was abandoned, even, as was
whispered, by the clergy themselves.  And, as a striking evidence of
this rapid declension, it is recorded that church collections had fallen
from £1500 to £1000 a year. Critical seniors loudly wailed, but their
outcry was as useless as it was earnest.  Old times were changed, old
manners gone, never to return.  The decent, staid, and dignified
generation was being hustled from the scene by a flippant, noisy crowd
of loose and licentious innovators.  Conduct which the elders would have
regarded and punished as criminal was no longer atoned for even by the
blush of shame.

Such a view of Edinburgh’s religious state at the end of the eighteenth
century was at all events maintained by certain praisers of the past.
It has also been stoutly asserted that infidelity was rampant, under the
ægis of the redoubtable David Hume.  The University especially was
accused of being tainted with infidelity, but the charge is denounced by
Lord Cockburn as utterly false. ’I am not aware (he says) of a single
professor to whom it was ever applied, or could be applied, justly.
Freedom of discussion was not in the least combined with scepticism
among the students, or in their societies.  I never knew nor heard of a
single student, tutor, or professor, by whom infidelity was disclosed,
or in whose thoughts I believed it to be harboured, with perhaps only
two obscure and doubtful exceptions.  I consider the imputation as
chiefly an invention to justify modern intolerance.’

As to the comparative religiousness of the present and the preceding
generation, any such comparison is very difficult to be made.  Religion
is certainly more the fashion than it used to be.  There is more said
about it; there has been a great rise, and consequently a great
competition, of sects; and the general mass of the religious public has
been enlarged.  On the other hand, if we are to believe one-half of what
some religious persons themselves assure us, religion is now almost
extinct.  My opinion is that the balance is in favour of the present
time.  And I am certain that it would be much more so, if the modern
dictators would only accept of that as religion, which was considered to
be so by their devout fathers.’

On the whole, with due heed paid to possible qualifications, it is clear
that the standard of life and conduct must have been low between, say,
1780 and 1820.  We have Scott’s express statement that domestic purity
was in general maintained in Edinburgh society, but scandalous
exceptions were by no means unknown.  Among the lower classes the
freedom from wholesome, if irksome, restraints was, of course, marked by
greater lapses.  Among them a generation grew up, practically ignorant
of the elementary ideas of religion.  As a contemporary quaintly puts
it, they were as ignorant as Hottentots, and as little acquainted with
the decalogue as with repealed Acts of Parliament.  The streets, which
formerly a lady might have traversed in perfect safety at any hour, now
became notoriously unsafe.  Doubtless all this was increased, and to
some extent occasioned, by the constant influx of a new and shifting
population, attracted by the rapid extension of the city.  The vices and
easy manners of a modern city soon concealed what remained of the old
Scottish habits and character.  In short, Edinburgh in those years
passed from the state of a national capital to that of a big provincial
centre, such as Colonel Mannering beheld it, ’with its noise and
clamour, its sounds of trade, of revelry and licence, and the eternally
changing bustle of its hundred groups.’

                              *CHAPTER XI*

Scott apprenticed to the Law—Copying Money and _menus
plaisirs_—Novels—Romances—Early Attempts—John Irving—Sibbald’s
Library—Sees Robert Burns—The Parliament House—The ’Krames.’

About 1785-86, Walter Scott, acceding to his father’s wish, was
indentured in his father’s office, and ’entered upon the dry and barren
wilderness of forms and conveyances.’  Boy as he was, he felt even then
that he was not cut out for this career, but family circumstances and
the necessary intimacy with so many representatives of the profession no
doubt prevented him from making any very serious objection, though he
felt in a general way that his ’parts ill-suited law’s dry, musty arts.’
His warm affection and respect for his father was also a determining
motive.  For this reason, and indeed with the honest desire to excel, he
made up his mind to work hard.  But he was never enthusiastic over deeds
and quills.  He mentions as no trifling incentive to labour, the copying
money, an allowance which supplied him with funds for going to the
theatre and subscribing to a library.[1]  One of his feats was to copy
one hundred and twenty folio pages with no interval either for food or
rest.  But when there was no call for toil, he would spend his time in
reading.  His desk was filled with books of every kind, except manuals
of law.  His supreme delight was in works of fiction, of which he must
have read an enormous number.  He was not, however, entirely uncritical
in his choice.  Only the ’art of Burney, or the feeling of Mackenzie,’
could make him read a domestic tale.  He therefore realised early enough
that the field of novel-writing was unoccupied.  His fondness for
adventure led him to devour every romance he came across without much
discrimination.  ’I really believe (he says) I have read as much
nonsense of this class as any man now living.’  Of the exploits of
knight-errantry he never tired, and he soon began to make attempts at
imitating the stories he loved.  These early efforts were not in verse.

[1] See General Preface to Waverley Novels.

A quaintly interesting glimpse into the life of this most notable of law
apprentices is given in the General Preface of 1829, where he describes
himself and a chosen friend as delighting, on a holiday, to escape from
the town and in some solitary spot to recite alternately such adventures
as each had been able to invent. ’These legends, in which the material
and the miraculous always predominated, we rehearsed to each other
during our walks, which were usually directed to the most solitary spots
about Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags....  Whole holidays were spent
in this singular pastime, which continued for two or three years, and
had, I believe, no small effect in directing the turn of my imagination
to the chivalrous and romantic in poetry and prose.’  This companion of
Scott’s was Mr. John Irving, W.S., whose mother seems also to have been
very sympathetic with the boy.  She would recite ballads to him, which
he easily learned by heart, and which helped him in making the
collection in six volumes which he had thus early begun.

Such being his tastes, he was naturally more interested in literary
characters than in the notable men of the legal profession.  In the
course of frequenting Sibbald’s circulating library in Parliament
Square, where he must have spent a good deal of time in rummaging the
dusty shelves for rare old songs and romances, he had occasionally ’a
distant view’ of some of the literary celebrities of the time.  Among
them was the unfortunate Andrew Macdonald, author of _Vimonda_, and also
from this library vantage-ground he saw, at a distance, ’the boast of
Scotland, Robert Burns.’[2]  The Parliament House itself was less
interesting to Scott than his beloved library, but he must by this time
have been very familiar with it, and often have seen the ’Lords’ of the
old generation, whose pictures have been so quaintly sketched by Lord
Cockburn.  Edinburgh, like any other collection of three hundred
thousand people, has amongst its numbers persons possessed of some
æsthetic conscience, persons who lament the past orgies of Vandalism,
and who do not admire the present triumphs of commercial architecture.
But such men are naturally not as a rule to be found in Town or Parish
Councils, and seldom indeed in public posts of any kind.  Thus the
population has always seemed wholly given over to the worship of the
æsthetic Baal, and as a consequence the name of Lord Cockburn shines in
almost solitary splendour as that of a dignitary who protested against
the incredible doings of ignorance and avarice dressed in the authority
of municipal rank.  Cockburn bitterly regretted the destruction of the
old Parliament House, which, he says, was, both outside and in, a
curious and interesting place.  ’The old building exhibited some
respectable turrets, some ornamented windows and doors, and a handsome
balustrade.  But the charm that ought to have saved it was its colour
and its age, which, however, were the very things that caused its
destruction. About one hundred and seventy years had breathed over it a
grave grey hue.  The whole aspect was venerable and appropriate;
becoming the air and character of a sanctuary of Justice.  But a mason
pronounced it to be all _Dead Wall_.[3]  The officials to whom, at a
period when there was no public taste in Edinburgh,[4] this was
addressed, believed him; and the two fronts were removed in order to
make way for the bright free-stone and contemptible decorations that now
disgrace us....  I cannot doubt that King Charles tried to spur his
horse against the Vandals when he saw the profanation begin.  But there
was such an utter absence of public spirit in Edinburgh then, that the
building might have been painted scarlet without anybody objecting.’

[2] ’I saw him one day at the late venerable Professor Ferguson’s, where
there were several gentlemen of literary reputation, among whom I
remember the celebrated Mr. Dugald Stewart. Of course, we youngsters sat
silent, looked and listened.  The only thing I remember which was
remarkable in Burns’s manner was the effect produced upon him by a print
of Bunbury’s, representing a soldier lying dead on the snow, his dog
sitting in misery on the one side, on the other his widow, with a child
in her arms.  These lines were written beneath:

"Cold on Canadian hills, or Minden’s plain,
Perhaps that parent wept her soldier slain;
Bent o’er her babe, her eye dissolved in dew,
The big drops mingling with the milk he drew,
Gave the sad presage of his future years,
The child of misery baptized in tears."

Burns seemed much affected by the print, or rather by the ideas which it
suggested to his mind.  He actually shed tears. He asked whose the lines
were, and it chanced that nobody but myself remembered that they occur
in a half-forgotten poem of Langhorne’s, called by the unpromising title
of "The Justice of the Peace."  I whispered my information to a friend
present, who mentioned it to Burns, who rewarded me with a look and a
word, which, though of mere civility, I then received and still
recollect with very great pleasure.’—_Letter to_ J. G. LOCKHART.

[3] This means, when translated, that it was plain wall, without any
architectural or æsthetic value.

[4] Observe the delightful ambiguity.

Among the most vivid childish memories of Scott and his contemporaries
was that of the Krames.  It is described in the _Heart of Midlothian_ as
a narrow, crooked lane, winding between the Old Tolbooth and the
Luckenbooths on the one side, and the buttresses and projections of St.
Giles’s Cathedral on the other. At one time, as Scott mentions, the
narrow court, with its booths plastered against the sides of the
Cathedral, was occupied by the hosiers, hatters, glovers, mercers,
milliners, and drapers, who removed, however, to the South Bridge as
soon as it was opened.  The Krames then fell into the hands of the
toy-merchants, and became the paradise of childhood.  Its glories were
maintained all the year round, but at New Year time especially it was
the enchanted ground of the city youngsters.  To the youthful Cockburn
it was like one of the Arabian Nights’ bazaars in Bagdad, and there is a
touch of personal recollection, too, in Scott’s picture (_Heart of
Midlothian_, chap. vi.) of the little loiterers in the Krames,
’enchanted by the rich display of hobby-horses, babies, and Dutch toys,
yet half-scared by the cross looks of the withered pantaloon, or
spectacled old lady, by whom those tempting wares were watched and
superintended.’  The Krames disappeared, on the demolition of the
adjacent Tolbooth, in 1817.

                             *CHAPTER XII*

Topics of Talk—Religion—Scott’s Freedom from Fanaticism—Dilettantism of
the ’liberal young Men’—Politics—Basis of Scott’s Toryism—Cockburn’s
Anecdote of Table-talk—Men of the Old School—Robertson the Historian—His
_History of Charles V._—His noble Generosity—Closing Years—Anecdotes.

In all probability Walter Scott was not very greatly interested or
influenced by the general conversation. Neither by nature nor by
circumstances was he ever in danger of being seduced into fanaticism of
any kind. As regards religion, his was the simple faith of one who
reverenced God as the Omnipotent whose power meant justice, goodness,
truth and love, and who loved his fellow-men, content to be happy
himself and to try to pour out happiness on all around him.  His mind
did not hanker after theories on the mystery of existence.  In fact, he
was a ’moderate’ of the best kind, whose only anxiety was that his life
should be in the right.  They seek in vain who search his volumes for
philosophical wisdom or prophetic gleams.  He never posed as preacher or
as sage.  He accepted the religion of his time, and felt himself at home
in the Episcopal Church of Scotland rather than in the Calvinistic
temples, whose services always repelled him by their gloom and dryness.
Still less was he attracted by anything intellectually fanatical.  His
mind naturally rejected humbug.  He was not one of the dilettante young
gentlemen whose talk was of chemistry because Lavoisier had made it
fashionable.  Nor was he one of Cockburn’s ’liberal young men of
Edinburgh,’ who lived upon Adam Smith, a sound enough, but for them apt
to be windy, diet.  I have no doubt he appreciated the greatness and
good sense of the author of the _Wealth of Nations_, and the value of
the brilliant work of Lavoisier, but the direction of his intellectual
interests was determined by his heart. And his heart was in the story of
the Past, glowing over the old ballads, songs, and romances of the age
of chivalry and glory.  He was not a party politician any more than he
was a chemist or an economist. He was a Tory only because his sympathies
were with the kind of people who composed that party.  He identified the
party with the gallantry and loyalty of the Cavalier, with the free,
wholesome life of the country as opposed to the grasping selfishness and
coarse materialism of the town, and with the generous sense of honour
which made himself the truest and sweetest of gentlemen.  His Toryism
was a sentiment as far above the actual existing politics of his party
as Milton’s ideal republicanism was above the practice of his Puritan
contemporaries, whom he styles ’owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and
dogs.’  Scott’s saving gift of humour saved him from sharing the painful
impression of which Lord Cockburn speaks.  He was not so easily pained.
When worthy people talk nonsense in the bosom of the family, they should
not be taken too seriously even by boys.  ’My father’s house (Lord
Cockburn says) was one of the places where the leaders and the ardent
followers of the party in power were in the constant habit of
assembling.  I can sit yet, in imagination, at the small side-table, and
overhear the conversation, a few feet off, at the established Wednesday
dinner.  How they raved!  What sentiments!  What principles!  Not that I
differed from them.  I thought them quite right, and hated liberty and
the people as much as they did.  But this drove me into an opposite
horror; for I was terrified out of such wits as they left me at the idea
of bloodshed, and it never occurred to me that it could be avoided.  My
reason no sooner began to open, and to get some fair-play, than the
distressing wisdom of my ancestors began to fade, and the more
attractive sense that I met with among the young men into whose company
our debating societies threw me, gradually hardened me into what I
became—whatever this was.’  Fortunately Cockburn, though he became a
Whig and a political lawyer, did not let his mind become narrowed
against the larger human interests.  His sketches of some of the
representative men of the older generation are as warm and appreciative
as could be wished.  He speaks of the pleasure he felt in having seen
them, though it was at a time when he could only judge of their
qualities from the respect which they commanded even among the young.
One of these was Dr. William Robertson, described in _Guy Mannering_ by
Mr. Pleydell, with some pride, as ’our historian of Scotland, of the
Continent, and of America.’  Robertson’s long and illustrious career was
almost wholly connected with Edinburgh.  He was educated at the
University there, and about 1760 became minister of Old Greyfriars,
which had been his father’s charge before, and where Pleydell conducts
Colonel Mannering to hear him preach.  He was greater as a church leader
and a man of letters than as a preacher.  Lord Brougham, who was his
grand-nephew, says that he preferred moral to gospel subjects, in order
to discountenance the fanaticism of the evangelicals.  As a church
leader, he may be called the Lord North of the Church of Scotland.  The
’moderatism’ of Robertson led, after other secessions, eventually to the
Disruption of 1843.  But in spite of his professional activities,
Robertson was essentially a literary artist. Conscientious and prolonged
research gave a value to his historical works, which largely atoned for
the monotony of his somewhat too ornate and dignified style.  He has the
glory—and that too, when Samuel Johnson was at his zenith—of having
established a record in literary remuneration.  For his history of
Charles V. he received £4500, the largest sum which had till then been
paid for a single work.  No one will grudge the reward to the man who,
at the age of twenty-two, with a country clergyman’s income of less than
£100 a year, took into his charge his orphaned brother and six sisters,
and postponed his marriage for several years that he might give them
education. In the last two years of his life, 1791-93, he was taken to
reside at Grange House, a rare old mansion, the seat of the family of
Dick Lauder, of Grange and Fountainhall.  Here the enfeebled old man,
quite broken down by disease of the liver, spent his time as much as
possible in the garden.  The Cockburn family, who lived close by at Hope
Park, were intimate friends, and thus young Henry came to see a great
deal of the Principal in the last summer of his life. He describes the
historian as ’a pleasant-looking old man, with an eye of great vivacity
and intelligence, a large projecting chin, small hearing-trumpet
fastened by a black ribbon to a button-hole of his coat, and a rather
large wig, powdered and curled.’  For all his feebleness, with deafness
superadded, he seems up to the last to have been able to take an
animated part in conversation, whenever a favourite subject happened to
be started at his table.

                             *CHAPTER XIII*

More Men of the Old School—Dr. Erskine—Scott on Church Disputes—His
Admiration of Erskine’s Character—Anecdote of Erskine’s Walk to
Fife—Professor Ferguson—His History of Rome—Abstainer and
Vegetarian—Picture of Ferguson’s Appearance—Odd Habits—Travels to Italy.

When Colonel Mannering and Mr. Pleydell went to Greyfriars Church to
hear Dr. Robertson, they found, somewhat to their disappointment, that
the great historian was not to be the preacher that morning. ’Never
mind,’said the counsellor, ’have a moment’s patience, and we shall do
very well.’  The preacher they actually did hear was that distinguished
and excellent man, Dr. John Erskine, who was Robertson’s colleague in
the pastoral charge of Greyfriars.  Scott describes his external
appearance as not prepossessing: ’A remarkably fair complexion,
strangely contrasted with a black wig without a grain of powder; a
narrow chest and a stooping posture; hands which, placed like props on
either side of the pulpit, seemed necessary rather to support the person
than to assist the gesticulation of the preacher—no gown, not even that
of Geneva, and a gesture which seemed scarce voluntary.  "The preacher
seems a very ungainly person," said Mannering.  "Never fear, he’s the
son of an excellent Scottish lawyer—he’ll show blood, I’ll warrant him."
The learned counsellor predicted truly.’  They listen, in fact, to a
typical specimen of Scottish pulpit eloquence, and Mannering is fain to
admit that he had seldom heard so much learning, metaphysical acuteness,
and energy of argument, brought into the service of Christianity.  There
is no doubt that in this most delightful chapter (xxxvii.) of _Guy
Mannering_ we have Scott himself in the person of Mr. Paulus Pleydell.
And in the remarks of the witty counsellor we get some light here and
there on how Scott regarded some of those questions which by our Whigs
and philosophical Radicals and suchlike are regarded as so much more
important and dignified than old ballads and mere human questions of
noble courage, love, kindness, fun, and truth.  Speaking of Robertson
and Erskine’s notorious difference in regard to church government,
Mannering asks the advocate what he thinks of these points of
difference: ’Why, I hope, Colonel, a plain man may go to heaven without
thinking about them at all.’  That was Walter Scott, God bless his
memory!  He was too much a living soul to waste his time or his brain
power on the pitiful, dry, deadening rubbish of polemics in religion or
in affairs of state.  He had warm blood in his veins and a warm heart in
his breast, and therefore could not waste his manhood on the marvellous
speculations of the ’liberal young men of Edinburgh.’  Therefore, to
pervert a sentence of Carlyle, he became Walter Scott of the Universe,
instead of drying up into a fossil Chancellor or Judge.  What interested
Scott in Erskine and Robertson, as it did in all such human beings whom
he ever knew, was the beautiful, simple goodness of heart, which was so
much finer a thing than the fleeting glory of eloquence or power.  He
tells with gusto how, in spite of differences of opinion the greatest
possible in their sphere, the two good men never for a moment lost
personal regard or esteem for each other, or suffered malignity to
interfere with their opposition. Erskine was indeed very generally
esteemed even by his opponents for his candour and kindliness, and his
personal qualities went more to make his high reputation than the marked
ability displayed in his works on Divinity.  Cockburn, who, like Scott,
used to attend his church, says he was all soul and no body; and
compares the stooping figure of the old man, as he walked along, with
his hands in his sides, and his elbows turned outwards, to a piece of
old china with two handles.  He also mentions the interesting fact that
Erskine, as well as Robertson, habitually spoke ’good honest natural
Scotch.’  To illustrate his assertion that there was nothing this good
man would not do for truth or a friend, Cockburn relates a
characteristic anecdote: ’His friend Henry Erskine had once some
interest in a Fife election, but whether as a candidate or not I can’t
say, in which the Doctor had a vote.  Being too old and feeble to bear
the motion of a carriage or of a boat, he was neither asked nor expected
to attend; but loving Henry Erskine, and knowing that victories depended
on single votes, he determined to walk the whole way round by Stirling
Bridge, which would have taken him at least a fortnight; and he was only
prevented from doing so, after having arranged all his stages, by the
contest having been unexpectedly given up.  Similar sacrifices were
familiar to the heroic and affectionate old gentleman.’  Dr. Erskine
died at Edinburgh in 1803. His father was the famous lawyer, John
Erskine, whose great work the _Institutes of the Law of Scotland_ is
understood to be still the leading authority on its subject.

In the list of the young friends with whom Walter Scott chiefly
associated about 1788-89 occurs the name of Adam Ferguson, who continued
to be a cherished intimate, and became, in 1818, Scott’s tenant and
neighbour at Huntley Burn on the lands of Abbotsford. His father was the
venerable and famous Professor Adam Ferguson, who, taken all round, was
probably the ablest of the many remarkable men who signalised Edinburgh
in this period.  From about 1745 to 1757 he had been chaplain to the
42nd Highlanders, or Black Watch, and it is mentioned that no orders
could keep him in the rear during an action.  He was next appointed
Keeper of the Advocates’ Library in succession to David Hume.  He
remained in this post for less than a year, and soon after began his
connection with Edinburgh University, first as Professor of Natural
Philosophy, and then, in 1764, as Professor of Moral Philosophy.  The
latter subject was his favourite study, and he filled the chair for
twenty years.  During this time he wrote his great work, the _History of
the Roman Republic_.  He was a man of original mind, and had a rare
faculty of extempore lecturing, for which his practical experience in
the world and his extensive travels in Europe and America must have
supplied him with a rich and varied fund of striking illustrations.  In
his personal habits he was an exception to his generation, being a
strict abstainer from both wine and animal food.  In consequence of this
peculiarity he seems to have refrained from dining out, except with his
relative Dr. Joseph Black, a kindred spirit; and his son used to say it
was delightful to see the two philosophers rioting over a boiled turnip!
’When I first knew him (says Lord Cockburn), he was a spectacle well
worth beholding.  His hair was silky and white; his eyes animated and
light blue; his cheeks sprinkled with broken red, like autumnal apples,
but fresh and healthy; his lips thin, and the under one curled.  A
severe paralytic attack had reduced his animal vitality, though it left
no external appearance, and he required considerable artificial heat.
His raiment, therefore, consisted of half-boots lined with fur, cloth
breeches, a long cloth waistcoat with capacious pockets, a
single-breasted coat, a cloth greatcoat also lined with fur, and a felt
hat commonly tied by a ribbon below the chin.  His boots were black; but
with this exception the whole coverings, including the hat, were of a
Quaker grey colour, or of a whitish brown; and he generally wore the fur
greatcoat within doors.  When he walked forth, he used a tall staff,
which he commonly held at arm’s-length out towards the right side; and
his two coats, each buttoned by only the upper button, flowed open
below, and exposed the whole of his curious and venerable figure.  His
gait and air were noble; his gesture slow; his look full of dignity and
composed fire.  He looked like a philosopher from Lapland. Domestically
he was kind, but anxious and peppery. His temperature was regulated by
Fahrenheit; and often, when sitting quite comfortably, he would start up
and put his wife and daughters into commotion, because his eye had
fallen on the instrument, and discovered that he was a degree too hot or
too cold.  He always locked the door of his study when he left it, and
took the key in his pocket; and no housemaid got in till the
accumulation of dust and rubbish made it impossible to put the evil day
off any longer; and then woe on the family.  He shook hands with us boys
one day in summer 1793, on setting off, in a strange sort of carriage,
and with no companion except his servant, James, to visit Italy for a
new edition of his history. He was then about seventy-two, and had to
pass through a good deal of war; but returned in about a year, younger
than ever.’

From this time, however, his remarkable figure ceased to be seen in
Edinburgh.  His last years were spent mostly in rural retirement, and he
died at St. Andrews in 1816.

                             *CHAPTER XIV*

’Jupiter’ Carlyle—Noble Looks—Friend of Robertson and John Home—The Play
of Douglas—Anecdote of Dr. Carlyle—Dr. Joseph Black—Latent Heat—His
personal Appearance—Anecdote of last Illness—His _History of Great
Britain_—Forerunner of the Modern School.

Of the other eighteenth-century Edinburgh worthies in Cockburn’s little
gallery, the best-known name is that of ’Jupiter’ Carlyle, the minister
of Inveresk.  Carlyle’s fame, or notoriety, what you will, came from his
intimate relations with the eminent characters of his time, such as
Hume, Blair, Home, and Adam Smith. If he was not great himself, his wise
counsels aided his friends to achieve greatness.  The charm of his
manners was extraordinary, and his countenance and bearing so nobly
imposing as to suggest the classical eke-name of Jupiter.  While he
lived, Carlyle and culture were synonymous.  Cockburn, who scarcely
appreciated his value, admits the grace and kindness of his manner, and
says that he was one of the noblest-looking old gentlemen he almost ever
beheld.  Carlyle was a conspicuous figure in the General Assembly.  He
was a firm ally of Principal Robertson, whose moderate policy was
exactly to the mind of the extremely ’Broad’ minister of Inveresk.
Great excitement was aroused by his open support of his friend Home in
producing the play of Douglas.  It is said that he took part in the
private rehearsal of the play, and made a distinct hit as Old Norval.
At the third public representation he was present in the theatre, and
witnessed the extraordinary success of Home’s piece.  The play was
received by crowded audiences for many successive nights with universal
and vociferous applause.  ’Where’s your Shakespeare _noo_?’ was the
triumphant shout of a patriotic but uncritical admirer.  The play of
_Douglas_, though rejected by the keen judgment of Garrick as ’totally
unfit for the stage,’ has passages of fine rhetoric, and shows at least
an easy mastery of elegant language.  The author Home was suspended by
the General Assembly for his audacity in writing a play while he was a
minister of the Church of Scotland.  A few years after, he received a
pension of £300 a year, which enabled him to spend the remainder of his
life in happiness and peace.  Carlyle, his neighbour and constant
friend, has done full justice to the amiable qualities of Home, who was
the liberal friend of struggling merit in the hour of need.  Carlyle
died in 1805 at the age of eighty-four, and Home in 1808, aged

Dr. Carlyle was a famous _bon vivant_.  His physical powers were
fortunately adequate to carry him through in any company.  It is strange
and amusing in these days to think of a man like him sitting through the
prolonged convivialities of his clubs and parties.  For Carlyle, both as
a divine and an aristocrat, was the very pink of propriety.  He would
have deplored excess in himself as he did in others.  He was, in fact, a
very temperate gentleman, and his conduct was admirable and exemplary.
The respect that was paid to his merits was only increased by the fact
that he could drink his four or five bottles of wine with impunity—nay,
with advantage.  He was often the better, never the worse, of his wine.
One evening he was leaving Pinkieburn House, where he had dined, and
wending his way home with all his usual Olympian dignity.  An old
woman-servant stood at the side-door, beholding the minister with
reverent admiration.  ’Ay,’ she was heard to say, ’there goes Dr.
Carlyle, the good man—as steady as a wall, and he’s had his ain share o’
four bottles o’ port.’

Dr. Joseph Black, the eminent chemist, lived in Edinburgh from 1766 to
his death in 1799.  He was Professor of Chemistry in the University, but
his delicate health seems to have disabled him from continuing the
researches so fruitfully pursued in Glasgow (1756-66).  His fame rests
on the discovery of Latent Heat, and he seems to have been the first to
apply hydrogen gas in raising balloons.  Looking at his portrait, one
realises the remarkable truth and felicity of Cockburn’s word-picture:
’A striking and beautiful person; tall, very thin, and cadaverously
pale; his hair carefully powdered, though there was little of it except
what was collected into a long thin queue; his eyes dark, clear, and
large, like deep pools of pure water.  He wore black speckless clothes,
silk stockings, silver buckles, and either a slim green silk umbrella,
or a genteel brown cane.  The general frame and air were feeble and
slender.  The wildest boy respected Black. No lad could be irreverent
towards a man so pale, so gentle, so elegant, and so illustrious.  So he
glided like a spirit through our rather mischievous sportiveness
unharmed.  He died seated with a bowl of milk on his knee, of which his
ceasing to live did not spill a drop; a departure which it seemed, after
the event happened, might have been foretold of this attenuated
philosophical gentleman.’  We shall not omit the companion picture to
this touching scene, the even more tranquil death of Dr. Robert Henry,
the historian.  Four days before his death, he wrote to Sir Harry
Moncrieff the strange message: ’Come out here directly.  I have got
something to do this week, I have got to die.’  Moncrieff obeyed the
summons, and sat with him alone for what turned out to be the last three
days of his life.  During this time, as he sat in his easy-chair, now
dozing, now conversing, a neighbouring minister, who was a notorious and
much-dreaded bore, came to call.  ’Keep him out,’ cried the doctor,
’don’t let the cratur in here.’  It was too late, the cratur entered,
but when he came in, behold the doctor to all appearance fast asleep.
Moncrieff at once taking in the situation, signed to the intruder to be
silent.  The visitor sat down, apparently to wait till Dr. Henry might
awake.  Every time he offered to speak, he was checked by solemn
gestures from Moncrieff or Mrs. Henry.  ’So he sat on, all in perfect
silence, for above a quarter of an hour; during which Sir Harry
occasionally detected the dying man peeping cautiously through the
fringes of his eyelids to see how his visitor was coming on.  At last
Sir Harry tired, and he and Mrs. Henry pointing to the poor doctor,
fairly waved the visitor out of the room; on which the doctor opened his
eyes wide, and had a tolerably hearty laugh; which was renewed when the
sound of the horse’s feet made them certain that their friend was
actually off the premises.  Dr. Henry died that night.’  His one work, a
remarkable pioneer production, was the _History of Great Britain_.
Though severely criticised at the time of its publication, the work
certainly deserves Cockburn’s praise of ’considerable merit in the
execution.’  Its author, however, has the credit, apart from the
intrinsic value of his own attempt, of having discovered the new and
fruitful idea of making history display the internal growth of the
nation as well as its political development.  In short, Henry was the
forerunner of Macaulay and Green.

                              *CHAPTER XV*

The ’Meadows’ one Hundred Years ago—A Resort of great Men—Vixerunt
fortes—Their Intimacy and Quarrels—Hume and Ferguson—Home, the happy—His
boundless Generosity—Sympathy with Misfortune—Home and Edinburgh
Society—Sketch by Scott—’The Close of an Era.’

Time’s changes have altered the state of the ’Meadows.’  This park is
now surrounded by houses, a tramway line passes half-way down its south
side, and a constant stream of passengers between north and south makes
its Middle Walk a busy thoroughfare.  The privacy is gone for ever that
made it in the eighteenth century ’so distinctly the resort of our
philosophy and our fashion.’  It is now a noisy playground for the
flannelled fools at the wicket and the muddied oafs at the goal. In the
corners are swings, parallel bars, etc., for the use of little children.
But in the days of Scott’s boyhood, it was possible to enjoy a quiet,
meditative stroll in these still suburban fields.  And the great learned
and legal luminaries made the Meadows their resort for talk or for quiet
meditation.  The lofty yet simple character of the men of this great
generation, but still more their strong nationality, combined with their
graceful manners and extraordinary benevolence, made a strong impression
on the imagination of Scott.  The brilliance of the succeeding era,
which he himself created, never quite made up to his mind for what was
lost.  The change was inevitable, but to him the men whom as a boy he
had seen in the Meadows or on the streets of Edinburgh, the geniuses
whose works and reputation had then only been known to him by name,
remained always the ideal figures of Scotland’s literary and scientific
greatness. He was struck also by the breadth of mind which they had,
almost without exception, and which he, almost alone, carried over into
the next century: for those great men were like a family of amiable
brothers, free from jealousy and eagerly ready to make common cause of
each individual’s fame.  In reviewing Mackenzie’s Life of Home for the
_Quarterly_ in 1827, he speaks of them in this touching strain: ’There
were men of literature in Edinburgh before she was renowned for
romances, reviews, and magazines:

    "Vixerunt fortes ante Agamemnona";

and a single glance at the authors and men of science who dignified the
last generation will serve to show that, in those days, there were
giants in the North.  The names of Hume, Robertson, and Ferguson stand
high in the list of British historians.  Adam Smith was the father of
the economical system in Britain, and his standard work will long
continue the text-book of that science. Dr. Black as a chemist opened
the path of discovery which has since been prosecuted with such splendid
success.  Of metaphysicians Scotland boasted perhaps but too many; to
Hume and Ferguson we must add Reid, and, though younger, still of the
same school, Dugald Stewart.  In natural philosophy Scotland could
present Professor Robison, James Watt, and Clerk of Eldin, who taught
the British seamen the road to assured conquest.  Others we could
mention, but these form a phalanx whose reputation was neither confined
to their narrow, poor, and rugged native country, nor to England and the
British dominions, but known and respected wherever learning,
philosophy, and science were honoured.’  In regard to the personal
friendship of these great men, be it remembered, to the honour of the
excellent ’Jupiter’ Carlyle, that he was a great peacemaker among them.
So was John Home, the happy.  Ferguson, it would seem, had the defects
of his virtues.  Sir Walter, indeed, who never minimised the merits of
any man except himself, says he kept his passions and feelings in strong
subjection to his reason, but there were occasions when the ’passions
and feelings’ refused to be controlled.  In fact, he was a constant
thorn in the patient side of Carlyle; being jealous of his rivals and
indignant against any assumption of superiority.  However, Home and
Carlyle kept Adam Smith, Ferguson, and Hume on very good terms; while
Robertson’s good-nature was so great, that it disarmed Ferguson’s
weakness without the aid of the peacemakers.  Thus they all dwelt in
unity, and ’held their being on the terms—each aid the ithers.’  And so
Carlyle remarks, as if the assumption were the only possible one, ’David
Hume did not live to see Ferguson’s History, otherwise his candid praise
would have prevented all the subtle remarks of the jealous or
resentful.’  Very probably, after all, for Hume always regarded Ferguson
as the master spirit of the group.  He was certainly the most masterful,
for, as Cockburn records, though a most kind and excellent man, he was
as fiery as gunpowder.  The darling of the fraternity was of course John
Home.  Famed in his youth for sprightliness and wit, he simply charmed
every company in which he mingled.  He was joyous himself, and the cause
of joy in others.  ’Such was the charm of his fine spirits in those days
(says Carlyle, who knew and loved him like a very brother), that when he
left the room prematurely, which was but seldom the case, the company
grew dull, and soon dissolved.’  To praise his works was a sure passport
to his favour, and after once conferring his esteem there was nothing he
would not do or say to attest it.  For the sake of the poor he made
himself a beggar, and was thus able to dispense constantly, not in
charity but in friendly kindness to the struggling and unfortunate, many
times the amount of his modest pension.  For this his name should stand
above all Greek, above all Roman fame, save that of Cimon or of
Donatello. After all, the cultured and refined poor are the greatest
sufferers in our modern civilisation.  They suffer, without betraying
it, the same privations of want and cold as the more favoured
inhabitants of the slums, and they suffer in addition unspeakable
agonies of mind, beholding themselves daily sinking in the struggle to
climb up the slippery side of the pit of poverty.  Their very work is
spoiled and depreciated by the ceaseless haunting of the spectre of
ruin, and the absolute certainty that the struggle is hopeless.  Such
persons were happy to be near John Home.  He was their Providence.  He
sought them out, made their acquaintance, gained their confidence,
guessed the needs they would not tell, and never failed to put the poor
wretches in the way of hope. When shall we see his like again?  Probably
when another Donatello ruins himself for his friends, and when another
youthful de Medici bestows a second fortune on the ruined old artist, to
maintain the credit of his father’s name.  No wonder that Scott saw Home
as the object of general respect and veneration.  The kindly old man
mingled in society to the very last.  He died in 1808.  ’There was a
general feeling (Scott adds) that his death closed an era in the
literary history of Scotland, and dissolved a link, which, though worn
and frail, seemed to connect the present generation with that of their

                             *CHAPTER XVI*

Ladies of the Old School—Anecdotes told by Scott, Dr. Carlyle, and Lord
Cockburn—Their Speech—’Suphy’ Johnston—Anecdote of Suphy and Dr.
Gregory—Miss Menie Trotter—Her Dream—Views of Religion.

Speaking of the society manners of the old generation, Scott more than
hints that the upper classes in Scotland had only just emerged from a
very rough and socially ignorant condition.  He tells an anecdote of ’a
dame of no small quality, the worshipful Lady Pumphraston, who buttered
a pound of green tea, sent her as an exquisite delicacy, dressed it as a
condiment to a rump of salt beef, and complained that no degree of
boiling would render those foreign greens tender.’  One of the most
extraordinary passages in Carlyle’s book is a description of a tour he
made in his boyhood—it was in the summer of 1733—with his father and
another clergyman, Jardine, minister of Lochmaben.  They visited
Bridekirk, the family seat of the Carlyles.  The laird was from home,
but the lady came to the door, and with boisterous hospitality ordered
the party to alight and come in.  She is described as a very large and
powerful virago, about forty years of age.  Her appearance naturally
startled the boy.  A gentlewoman like this he had never seen, and the
picture fixed itself in his memory for life.  ’Lady Bridekirk (he says)
was like a sergeant of foot in women’s clothes; or rather like an
over-grown coachman of a Quaker persuasion.  On our peremptory refusal
to alight, she darted into the house, like a hogshead down a slope, and
returned instantly with a pint bottle of brandy—a Scots pint, I mean—and
a stray beer-glass, into which she filled almost a bumper.  After a long
grace said by Mr. Jardine—for it was his turn now, being the third
brandy-bottle we had seen since we left Lochmaben—she emptied it to our
healths, and made the gentlemen follow her example: she said she would
spare me as I was so young, but ordered a maid to bring a ginger-bread
cake from the cupboard, a luncheon of which she put in my pocket.  This
lady was famous, even in the Annandale border, both at the bowl and in
battle: she could drink a Scots pint of brandy with ease; and when the
men grew obstreperous in their cups, she could either put them out of
doors, or to bed, as she found most convenient.’  In the latter half of
the century, however, the typical lady of rank was a very great
improvement on Lady Bridekirk.  Like that hospitable virago, she was
distinctly Scottish in speech and in dress.  ’They all dressed (says
Cockburn), and spoke, and did, exactly as they chose; but without any
other vulgarity than what perfect naturalness is sometimes mistaken for.
They were a delightful set; strong-headed, warm-hearted, and
high-spirited; the fire of their tempers not always latent; merry even
in solitude; very resolute; indifferent about the modes and habits of
the modern world; and adhering to their own ways, so as to stand out,
like primitive rocks, above ordinary society.’

There is no doubt they had an individuality and distinction, which the
universal adoption of Southern customs and speech has since made
impossible.  They were, like Scott’s Mrs. Bethune Baliol, of ’real
old-fashioned Scottish growth,’ and their dialect was the same.  ’It was
Scottish, decidedly Scottish, often containing phrases and words little
used in the present day.  But the tone and mode of pronunciation were as
different from the usual accent of the ordinary Scotch _patois_, as the
accent of St. James’s is from that of Billingsgate.  The vowels were not
pronounced much broader than in the Italian language, and there was none
of the disagreeable drawl which is so offensive to modern ears.  In
short, it seemed to be the Scottish as spoken by the ancient court of
Scotland, to which no idea of vulgarity could be attached.’  The
Countess of Eglinton, to whom Allan Ramsay dedicated his _Gentle
Shepherd_, was the ideal type of this generation in Scott’s estimation
(see Note G to _Highland Widow_).

Miss Sophia, or ’Suphy,’ Johnston, of the family of Hilton, was perhaps
even more deserving of the choice.  Her picture has been drawn by Lady
Anne Barnard and by Lord Cockburn, who as a boy knew ’Suphy’ in her old
age.  Her character was just as independent as is possible.  She had
’her own proper den’ in Windmill Street.  One female servant was all the
attendance she required.  This privileged person generally left her
alone all the Sunday, when by Miss Suphy’s orders she locked the door
upon her mistress and carried away the key.  Thus the old lady was saved
the trouble of rising to admit visitors, but she had a hole through
which she could easily see who was at the door and even have a little
talk when she felt inclined; with this very considerable advantage that,
whenever she had had enough, she could tell the caller to go away.  This
remarkable woman, owing to her father’s eccentricity, had been brought
up without education and passed her youth ’in utter rusticity.’  She
made herself a good carpenter and smith, and even when past middle age
she would still occasionally shoe a horse.  Lady Anne calls her a droll,
ingenious fellow, and says she was by many people suspected of being a
man.  She was a great reader, having taught herself to read and write
after she came to woman’s age.  Cockburn, who saw her first at Niddrie,
the house of the Wauchopes, near Edinburgh, when she was about sixty,
did not think her ’Amazonian,’ but his description of her appearance
seems to suit the epithet.  ’Her dress was always the same—a man’s hat
when out of doors and generally when within them, a cloth covering
exactly like a man’s greatcoat, buttoned closely from the chin to the
ground, worsted stockings, strong shoes with large brass clasps.’  Such
peculiarities, in those simpler and more natural times, did not affect
her welcome in society.  She was prized by the most fashionable and
aristocratic persons for her excellent disposition and her rare
intellectual powers, for her racy talk, spiced with anecdote and shrewd,
often sarcastic observation; and for the originality of her views, which
she never hesitated to express with refreshing pith and freedom of
speech.  Her natural cheerfulness was never impaired either by the
loneliness of her life or by the narrowness of her fortune. When shall
we find again in a noble lady’s drawing-room so picturesque a figure
’sitting, with her back to the light, in the usual arm-chair by the side
of the fire, in the Niddrie drawing-room, with her greatcoat and her
hat, her dark wrinkled face, and firmly pursed mouth, the two feet set
flat on the floor and close together, so that the public had a full view
of the substantial shoes, the book held by the two hands very near the

Suphy and her contemporaries were all as stout of heart as some of them
were strong of arm.  They had no fear of death, and, though they enjoyed
life and took a deep interest in affairs around them, they had no
hankering concern to ward off the inevitable. When Suphy’s strength was
giving way, the famous Dr. Gregory cautioned her to leave off animal
food, saying she must be content with ’spoon meat’ unless she wished to
die.  ’Dee, Doctor; odd!  I’m thinking they’ve forgotten an auld wife
like me up yonder.’  Next day the doctor called, and found her at the
spoon meat—supping a haggis!

Of a little later date was Miss Menie Trotter, of the Mortonhall family,
with whom Lord Cockburn’s sketches end:—

’She was of the agrestic order.  Her pleasures lay in the fields and
long country walks.  Ten miles at a stretch, within a few years of her
death, was nothing to her....  One of her friends asking her, not long
before her death, how she was, she said, "Very weel—quite weel.  But,
eh, I had a dismal dream last nicht; a fearful dream!"  "Ay, I’m sorry
for that; what was it?"  "Ou, what d’ye think?  Of a’ places i’ the
world, I dreamed I was in heaven!  And what d’ye think I saw there?
Deil hae ’t but thoosands upon thoosands, and ten thoosands upon ten
thoosands, o’ stark naked weans!  That wad be a dreadfu’ thing, for ye
ken I ne’er could bide bairns a’ my days."’

The great memoirist concludes his sketches of the old Scottish ladies
with a criticism on their religion which has an interest now as
revealing the religiosity that characterised his own time.  He declares
that from the freedom of their remarks and their free use of religious
terms, they would all have been deemed irreligious in his day.  We are
happily far removed now from the time when cheerfulness and freedom of
expression on sacred subjects would excite the horror of the pious.

                             *CHAPTER XVII*

Scott’s Contemporaries in Edinburgh—Local ’Societies’—The
Speculative—Scott’s Explosion—Visit of Francis Jeffrey to the
’Den’—Anecdote of Murray of Broughton—General View of the youthful

How deeply Scott’s imagination was affected, how richly his memory
filled, how strongly his inestimable natural qualities confirmed and
developed by his long and intimate association with such pricelessly
rare and noble specimens of the old Scottish national character as have
flitted through the last few chapters, it requires no help of ours to
convince any reader of the Scotch Novels.  There is more danger perhaps
of exaggerating any influence that may have been exercised upon him by
his equals in age and juniors with whom he came in contact in general
society, and particularly in the ’literary societies’ of the city.
There have been at all periods, we believe, many societies of this kind
for the young aspirants at Edinburgh University.  Naturally the young
bloods of the law are the most anxious to shine in such arenas.
Naturally also the prize of reputation usually falls to the glib and
fluent speaker, especially if he has some real ability and learning to
second his tongue.  The better the society is attended, the more genuine
is the mettle required in its leaders.  It is, however, perhaps safe to
assert the general principle that success in these meetings implies
talent rather than genius, forensic skill rather than learning or
intellect.  Thus we can quite believe, as stated in his _Life_, that for
Francis Jeffrey his entrance into the Speculative Society did more than
any other event in the whole course of his education, though such a
statement about Scott would be ludicrous.  We can quite agree with
Cockburn that the same society has trained more young men to public
speaking, talent, and liberal thought than all the other private
institutions in Scotland.  At the same time we do not in the least
regret that it did not effect all this for Walter Scott. He says with
his usual unconscious self-depreciation that he never made any great
figure in these societies. He was a member, however, of several in
succession, and took some part in their proceedings.  He would have
preferred to be silent, but the rules of the societies compelled him at
times to contribute an essay.  In his own opinion his essays were but
very poor work.  This they may have been from a critic’s point of view.
But they had the quality of genius.  They were at least utterly
different and distinct from all others.  They astonished and delighted
the fortunate hearers.  We can gather some idea of this even from his
own statement: ’I was like the Lord of Castle Rack-rent, who was obliged
to cut down a tree to get a few faggots to boil the kettle; for the
quantity of ponderous and miscellaneous knowledge which I really
possessed on many subjects, was not easily condensed, or brought to bear
upon the object I wished particularly to become master of.  Yet there
occurred opportunities when this odd lumber of my brain, especially that
which was connected with the recondite parts of history, did me, as
Hamlet says, "yeoman’s service."  My memory of events was like one of
the large, old-fashioned stone cannons of the Turks—-very difficult to
load well and discharge, but making a powerful effect when by good
chance any object did come within range of its shot. Such fortunate
opportunities of exploding with effect maintained my literary character
among my companions, with whom I soon met with great indulgence and
regard.’  It was in January, 1791, that Scott became a member of the
Speculative, the most ambitious of the literary societies.  On the 11th
of December, 1792, Francis Jeffrey was admitted.  On that evening one of
Scott’s happy explosions occurred. He delivered an essay on Ballads,
which so interested the future critic that he sought and obtained
Scott’s acquaintance, a circumstance which pleasantly revives the memory
of Jeffrey now that his works, once so formidable, have fallen into the
wallet where Time stores alms for Oblivion.  Jeffrey called on Scott the
very next evening, and found him ’in a small den, on the sunk floor of
his father’s house in George’s Square surrounded with dingy books,’ from
which, Lockhart records, they went to a tavern and supped together.  In
this snug den of Walter’s his character and interests were visibly and
quaintly to be traced.  It was full to overflowing of books, and a small
painted cabinet contained old Scottish and Roman coins.  A little print
of Bonnie Prince Charlie was guarded by a claymore and a Lochaber axe,
which had been given him by old Stewart of Invernahyle, a Jacobite
client of his father’s, who had been ’out’ in both the ’Fifteen’ and the
’Forty-five.’  Below the picture a china saucer was hooked up against
the wall.  This was ’Broughton’s saucer,’ the memorial of a very
striking incident in the domestic life of the Scotts.  One autumn Mr.
Scott senior had a client who came regularly every evening at a certain
hour to the house, and remained in the Writer’s private room usually
till long after the family had gone to bed.  The little mystery of the
unknown visitor excited Mrs. Scott’s curiosity, and her husband’s vague
statements increased it.  One night, therefore, though she knew it was
against her husband’s desire, she entered the room with a salver in her
hand, and offered the gentlemen a dish of tea.  Mr. Scott very coldly
refused it, but the stranger bowed and accepted a cup. Presently he took
his leave, and Mr. Scott, lifting the empty cup he had used, threw it
out on the pavement. His wife was astonished at first, but not when she
heard the explanation: ’I may admit into my house, on business, persons
wholly unworthy to be treated as guests by my wife.  Neither lip of me
nor of mine comes after Mr. Murray of Broughton’s.’  It was actually the
traitor Secretary Murray, who bought off his life and fortune by giving
evidence against his gallant associates.  The saucer belonging to the
traitor’s cup was appropriated by Walter for his collection.  Lockhart
gives an additional anecdote which equally brings out the disgust felt
by the loyal-hearted Scots towards the traitor.  ’When Murray was
confronted with Sir John Douglas of Kelhead (ancestor of the Marquis of
Queensberry), before the Privy Council in St. James’s, the prisoner was
asked, "Do you know this witness?"  "Not I," answered Douglas; "I once
knew a person who bore the designation of Murray of Broughton—but that
was a gentleman and a man of honour, and one that could hold up his
head!"’  A great deal of pardonable nonsense has been spoken and written
by distinguished persons regarding the literary societies of their
youth.  We shall conclude with Scott’s own general remarks, which are
much more sensible and only exaggerated in depreciating himself.
’Looking back on those times, I cannot applaud in all respects the way
in which our days were spent.  There was too much idleness, and
sometimes too much conviviality; but our hearts were warm, our minds
honourably bent on knowledge and literary distinction; and if I,
certainly the least informed of the party, may be permitted to bear
witness, we were not without the fair and creditable means of obtaining
the distinction to which we aspired.’

                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

The Scottish Bar—Two Careers open—Walter’s Choice—Studies with William
Clerk—The Law Professors—Hume’s Lectures—Hard Study—Beginnings of social
Distinction—Influence of Clerk—Early Love-story—Description of Walter
Scott at Twenty.

Of the two branches of the legal profession, the bar offered the
greatest attractions to young men ambitious of distinction.  For mere
financial success Walter Scott might have been tempted to take to the
Writer’s career. His father offered to take him at once into
partnership, which would have meant ’an immediate prospect of a handsome
independence.’  But Walter was never very fond of money, and had then no
expensive plans in view to make the acquisition of it a necessity.  In
all other respects he preferred the Advocate’s life.  It was the line of
ambition and liberty.  When he saw that his father also would prefer it,
he hesitated no longer. Four arduous years of preparation (1789 to 1792)
were devoted to the necessary legal studies.  This period was utterly
different from his Arts course.  He studied with the greatest zeal and
perseverance, giving his whole heart to the one aim.  The companion of
his studies was his cherished friend, William Clerk, whom he describes
as ’a man of the most acute intellects and powerful apprehension, and
who, should he ever shake loose the fetters of indolence by which he has
been trammelled, cannot fail to be distinguished in the highest degree.’
At this time the Civil Law chair might be considered ’as in _abeyance_,’
the Professor being almost in a state of dotage.  It was different with
the class of Scots Law.  Under Professor David Hume, an enormous amount
of legal learning had to be got up.  Jeffrey, who attended the class in
1792, ’groaned over Hume’s elaborate dulness,’ but on Scott the subject
seemed to exercise a charm.  He considered Hume’s prelections an honour
to himself and an advantage to his country.  He copied them over twice,
which would mean the writing of four or five hundred closely packed
pages.  He speaks of Hume as having imported plan and order to the
ancient and constantly altered structure of Scots Law by ’combining the
past state of our legal enactments with the present, and tracing clearly
and judiciously the changes which took place, and the causes which led
to them.’

Upon these years of legal study Scott could always look back with
satisfaction.  ’A little parlour (he tells in his fragment of
Autobiography, referring to the ’den’ where Jeffrey found him) was
assigned me in my father’s house, which was spacious and convenient (for
a modest student), and I took possession of my new realms with all the
feelings of novelty and liberty. Let me do justice to the only years of
my life in which I applied to learning with stern, steady, and
undeviating industry.  The rule of my friend Clerk and myself was, that
we should mutually qualify ourselves for undergoing an examination upon
certain points of law every morning in the week, Sundays excepted....
His house being at the extremity of Princes Street, New Town, was a walk
of two miles.  With great punctuality, however, I beat him up to his
task every morning before seven o’clock, and in the course of two
summers, we went, by way of question and answer, through the whole of
Heineccius’s _Analysis of the Institutes and Pandects_, as well as
through the smaller copy of Erskine’s _Institutes of the Law of

At this time, as a natural consequence of advancing years, his parents
had given over entertaining company, unless in the case of near
relations.  Walter, however, though he was thus left in a great measure
to form connections for himself, found no difficulty in making his way
into good society.  He scarcely ever refers to his social triumphs, but
from other sources we can gather that he soon became a notable and a
favourite figure.  Before he had achieved any literary reputation, he
had conquered local fame by the charm of his personality and the
freshness of his conversation. Cockburn, speaking of the year 1811, has
recorded that ’people used to be divided at this time as to the
superiority of Scott’s poetry or his talk.  His novels had not yet begun
to suggest another alternative. Scarcely, however, even in his novels
was he more striking or delightful than in society, where the halting
limb, the bur in the throat, the heavy cheeks, the high
Goldsmith-forehead, the unkempt locks, and general plainness of
appearance, with the Scotch accent and stories and sayings, all graced
by gaiety, simplicity, and kindness, made a combination most worthy of
being enjoyed.’

His early cultivation of society, which was of course a wholesome thing
for a youth of twenty, was greatly favoured by his friendship with
William Clerk.  We have Lockhart’s authority for the opinion that ’of
all the connections he formed in life there was no one to whom he owed
more.’  Clerk’s influence helped to decide him to take to the bar, the
line of ambition and liberty.  He then, as we have seen, by his very
physical inertia, supplied Scott with a stimulating object during their
legal studies.  His influence on Scott’s personal habits even was good
and great. Walter’s modesty and kind good-nature had perhaps made him a
trifle more free and easy with his father’s apprentices than was quite
desirable for either him or them.  They were, of course, his
professional equals and the sharers in his daily pursuits, but their
ideas and manners were not calculated to promote ambition so much as
liberty.  Walter, during his apprenticeship, was intentionally careless
of appearances, and apt to be slovenly in his dress.  He condescended to
the clubs and festive resorts of the apprentices, a most dangerous thing
for a genius, as Ferguson’s blasted career had just proved.  It was a
fortunate enough and useful episode for the future author of _Guy
Mannering_, but it was not a good school of manners or academy of habits
for Walter Scott.  Fortunately William Clerk, with his West-end
prejudices, came just at the right time, to chaff his friend out of his
slovenliness and to show him the way to a more wholesome and not less
interesting society.  Finally, of course, it was his own sound sense
that made this amiable change in his habits so easy.  To this period,
that is, about 1790, belongs the most romantic episode of Walter Scott’s
life, his unrequited love for Margaret Stuart.[1]  He had made her
acquaintance in the Greyfriars churchyard on a wet Sunday afternoon,
when she accepted his offered umbrella and his escort home, for ’young
Walter Scott,’ a Duchess of Sutherland at this time said, ’was a comely
creature.’  And here we may give Lockhart’s description of Scott as seen
by Clerk and Margaret and the rest of his Edinburgh friends:—

’His personal appearance at this time was not unengaging....  He had
outgrown the sallowness of early ill-health, and had a fresh, brilliant
complexion. His eyes were clear, open, and well-set, with a changeful
radiance, to which teeth of the most perfect regularity and whiteness
lent their assistance, while the noble expanse and elevation of the brow
gave to the whole aspect a dignity far above the charm of mere features.
His smile was always delightful; and I can easily fancy the peculiar
intermixture of tenderness and gravity with playful, innocent hilarity
and humour in the expression, as being well calculated to fix a fair
lady’s eye.  His figure, excepting the blemish in one limb, must in
those days have been eminently handsome; tall, much above the usual
standard, it was cast in the very mould of a young Hercules; the head
set on with singular grace, the throat and chest after the truest model
of the antique, the hands delicately finished; the whole outline that of
extraordinary vigour, without as yet a touch of clumsiness.... I have
heard him, in talking of this part of his life, say, with an arch
simplicity of look and tone, which those who were familiar with him can
fill in for themselves—"It was a proud night with me when I first found
that a pretty young woman could think it worth her while to sit and talk
with me, hour after hour, in a corner of the ballroom, while all the
world were capering in our view."’

[1] Scott’s youthful love-dream lasted through several years.  The lady
eventually married Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, who was a banker in
Edinburgh.  Sir William acted a very friendly part during Scott’s
financial disaster of 1826-27.

                             *CHAPTER XIX*

The Advocate’s ’Trials’—Scott and Clerk admitted to the Bar—Walter’s
first Fee—Connection of the Scotts with Lord Braxfield—Scottish
Judges—Stories of Braxfield.

The trials set to candidates for admission into the Faculty of Advocates
were duly passed by Scott and his friend Clerk on the same days.  They
were formally admitted to the fraternity on the 11th of July, 1792.

There is always some story of the young Advocate’s first fee.  When the
ceremony of ’putting on the gown’ was completed, Scott said to Clerk,
putting on the air and tone of some Highland lassie waiting at the Cross
to be ’fee’d’ for the harvest, ’We’ve stood here an hour by the Tron,
hinny, an’ deil a ane has speir’d our price.’  The friends were about to
leave the Outer Court, when a friend, a solicitor, came up and gave
Scott his first guinea fee.  As he and Clerk went down the High Street,
they passed a hosier’s shop, and Scott remarked, ’This is a sort of
wedding-day, Willie; I think I must go in and buy me a new nightcap.’
Thus he ’wared’ his guinea, but it is pleasing to know that his first
big fee was spent on a silver taper-stand for his mother, which
(Lockhart tells) the old lady used to point to with great satisfaction,
as it stood on her chimney-piece five-and-twenty years afterwards.

Scott’s ’thesis’—no doubt, like Alan Fairford’s, a very pretty piece of
Latinity—was dedicated to the terrible Lord Braxfield, ’the giant of the
bench,’ as Cockburn calls him, ’whose very name makes people start yet.’
Braxfield was a friend and near neighbour of the Scotts, his house being
No. 28 George Square.  It is said that he was rather kind to nervous
young advocates at their first appearance in a case, so long as they
were not ’Bar flunkies’—his term for brainless fops.  Braxfield lives in
popular tradition as a monster of rough and savage cruelty, and the
sketch of the man by Cockburn bears out the character only too well.
The sketch may be quoted in full, for its intrinsic interest, and for
the vivid light it throws on the character and manners of Scottish
judges in the century following the Union.

’Strong-built and dark, with rough eyebrows, powerful eyes, threatening
lips, and a low growling voice, he was like a formidable blacksmith.
His accent and his dialect were exaggerated Scotch; his language, like
his thoughts, short, strong, and conclusive.... Within the range of the
Feudal and the Civil branches, and in every matter depending on natural
ability and practical sense, he was very great; and his power arose more
from the force of his reasoning and his vigorous application of
principle, than from either the extent or the accuracy of his
learning....  He had a colloquial way of arguing, in the form of
question and answer, which, done in his clear, abrupt style, imparted a
dramatic directness and vivacity to the scene.

’With this intellectual force, as applied to law, his merits, I fear,
cease.  Illiterate, and without any taste for refined enjoyment,
strength of understanding, which gave him power without cultivation,
only encouraged him to a more contemptuous disdain of all natures less
coarse than his own.  Despising the growing improvement of manners, he
shocked the feelings even of an age which, with more of the formality,
had far less of the substance of decorum than our own.  Thousands of his
sayings have been preserved, and the substance of them is indecency;
which he succeeded in making many people enjoy, or at least endure, by
hearty laughter, energy of manner, and rough humour. Almost the only
story I ever heard of him that had some fun in it without immodesty, was
when a butler gave up his place because his lordship’s wife was always
scolding him.  "Lord!" he exclaimed, "ye ’ve little to complain o’; ye
may be thankfu’ ye ’re no married to her."

’It is impossible to blame his conduct as a criminal judge too gravely,
or too severely.  It was a disgrace to the age.  A dexterous and
practical trier of ordinary cases, he was harsh to prisoners even in his
jocularity, and to every counsel whom he chose to dislike....  It may be
doubted if he was ever so much in his element as when tauntingly
repelling the last despairing claim of a wretched culprit, and sending
him to Botany Bay or the gallows with an insulting jest; over which he
would chuckle the more from observing that correct people were
shocked.[1]  Yet this was not from cruelty, for which he was too strong
and too jovial, but from cherished coarseness....

[1] His remark to Margaret, one of the ’Friends of the People,’ who made
a speech in his own defence, was, ’Ye’re a very clever chiel, man, but
ye wad be nane the war o’ a hanging.’

’In the political trials of 1793 and 1794 he was the Jeffreys of
Scotland.  He, as the head of the court, and the only very powerful man
it contained, was the real director of its proceedings.  The reports
make his abuse of the judgment seat bad enough: but his misconduct was
not so fully disclosed in formal decisions and charges, as it transpired
in casual remarks and general manner.  "Let them bring me prisoners and
I’ll find them law" used to be openly stated as his suggestion, when an
intended political prosecution was marred by anticipated difficulties.
Mr. Horner (father of Francis), who was one of the juniors in Muir’s
case, told me that when he was passing, as was often done then, behind
the bench to get into the box, Braxfield, who knew him, whispered—"Come
awa’, Mr. Horner, come awa’, and help to hang[2] ane o’ thae damned
scoondrels."  The reporter of Gerald’s case could not venture to make
the prisoner say more than that "Christianity was an innovation."  But
the full truth is, that in stating this view he added that all great men
had been reformers, "even our Saviour himself."  "Muckle he made o’
that," chuckled Braxfield in an under voice; "he was hanget."  Before
Hume’s _Commentaries_ had made our criminal record intelligible, the
form and precedents were a mystery understood by the initiated alone,
and by nobody so much as by Mr. Joseph Norris, the ancient clerk.
Braxfield used to quash anticipated doubts by saying—"Hoot! just gie me
Josie Norrie and a gude jury, an’ I’ll doo for the fallow."  He died in
1799, in his seventy-eighth year.’

[2] _Hang_ was his phrase for all kinds of punishment.

                              *CHAPTER XX*

Stories of the Judges—Lord Eskgrove—His Appearance—The Trials for
Sedition—Anecdotes of Circuit Dinners—’Esky’ and _the Harangue_—The
Soldier’s Breeches—Esky and the Veiled Witness—Henderson and the
Fine—The Luss Robbers—Death of Eskgrove.

Stories about one or other of the judges were apparently the leading
feature of conversation in Edinburgh society at the end of the
eighteenth century. Lord Eskgrove, who, almost in his dotage at the age
of seventy-six, was appointed to succeed Braxfield as head of the
Criminal Court, was about the most ludicrous and childishly eccentric of
the race.  For a time it seemed the whole occupation of the wits to
relate anecdotes about old Eskgrove.  To give these anecdotes with a
recognisable mimicry of his voice and manner was, in Cockburn’s phrase,
’a sort of fortune in society.’  And Scott, he adds, in those days was
famous for this particularly.  It was not the wit or the humour of
Eskgrove which amused.  He seems to have had neither.  It was simply his
personal oddity, and the utter incongruity of such an incredible
creature elevated to a position such as his. His face is described as
varying from a scurfy red to a scurfy blue.  His nose was prodigious:
the under lip enormous, and supported on a huge clumsy chin, which moved
like the jaw of a Dutch toy.  He walked with a slow, stealthy
step—something between a walk and a hirple, and helped himself on by
short movements of his elbows, backwards and forwards, like fins.  His
voice was low and mumbling.  His pronunciation seems to have been
fantastic in the extreme, especially in the way of cutting even short
words into two.  The following anecdotes from Cockburn, who knew him,
’when he was in the zenith of his absurdity,’ bring ’Esky’ very vividly
before us.

At the trial of Fysche Palmer for sedition, he made one of the very few
remarks he ever made which had some little merit of their own.  It was a
retort to Mr. John Haggart, one of the prisoner’s counsel, who, in
defending his client against the charge of disrespect to the king,
quoted Burke’s statement that kings are naturally lovers of low company.
"Then, sir, that says very little for you or your client! for if kinggs
be lovers of low company, low company ought to be lovers of kinggs!"

’Nothing disturbed him so much as the expense of the public dinner for
which the judge on the circuit has a fixed allowance, and out of which
the less he spends the more he gains.  His devices for economy were
often very diverting.  His servant had strict orders to check the
bottles of wine by laying aside the corks.  Once at Stirling his
lordship went behind a screen, while the company was still at table, and
seeing an alarming row of corks, got into a warm altercation, which
everybody heard, with John; maintaining it to be "impossibill" that they
could have drunk so much. On being assured that they had, and were still
going on—"Well, then, John, I must just protect myself!"  On which he
put a handful of the corks into his pocket, and resumed his seat.

’Like the poor man in the story, Lord Eskgrove was "sair hauden doon by
yon turkey cock."  The plague of his life for more than a year was Henry
Brougham. In revenge the judge used to sneer at Brougham’s eloquence by
styling it or him _the Harangue_.  "Well, gentle-men, what did the
Harangue say next?  Why, it said this" (mis-stating it); "but here,
gentle-men, the Harangue was most plainly wrong, and not intelligibill."

’Everything was connected by his terror with republican horrors.  I
heard him, in condemning a tailor to death for murdering a soldier by
stabbing him, aggravate the offence thus: "And not only did you murder
him, whereby he was bereaved of his life, but you did thrust, or push,
or pierce, or project, or propell, the le-thall weapon through the
belly-band of his regimen-tal breeches, which were his Majes-ty’s!"

’In the trial of Glengarry for murder in a duel, a lady of great beauty
was called as a witness.  She came into court veiled.  But before
administering the oath Eskgrove gave her this exposition of her
duty—"Young woman! you will now consider yourself as in the presence of
Almighty God and of this High Court. Lift up your veil; throw off all
modesty, and look me in the face."

’Sir John Henderson of Fordell, a zealous Whig, once came before the
court, their lordships having to fix the amount of some discretionary
penalty which he had incurred.  Eskgrove began to give his opinion in a
very low voice, but loud enough to be heard by those next him, to the
effect that the fine ought to be £50; when Sir John, with his usual
imprudence, interrupted him and begged him to raise his voice, adding
that if judges did not speak so as to be heard, they might as well not
speak at all.  Eskgrove, who never could endure any imputation of bodily
infirmity, asked his neighbour, "What does the fellow say?" "He says
that, if you don’t speak out, you may as well hold your tongue."  "Oh,
is that what he says?  My lords, what I was sayingg was very simpell.  I
was only sayingg that in my humbell opinyon, this fine could not be less
than two hundred and fifty pounds sterlingg"—this sum being roared out
as loudly as his old angry voice could launch it.

’His tediousness in charging juries was most dreadful, and he was the
only judge who insisted on the old custom of making juries stand during
the judge’s address.  Often have I gone back to the court at midnight,
and found him, whom I had left mumbling hours before, still going on,
with the smoky unsnuffed tallow candles in greasy tin candlesticks, and
the poor despairing jurymen, most of the audience having retired or
being asleep; the wagging of his lordship’s nose and chin being the
chief signs that he was still _char-ging_.

’A very common arrangement of his logic to juries was this:—"And so,
gentle-men, having shown you that the pannell’s argument is utterly
impossibill, I shall now proceed for to show you that it is extremely

’He rarely failed to signalise himself in pronouncing sentences of
death.  It was almost a matter of style with him to console the prisoner
by assuring him that, "whatever your religi-ous persua-shon may be, or
even if, as I suppose, you be of no persua-shon at all, there are plenty
of rever-end gentle-men who will be most happy for to show you the way
to yeternal life."

’He had to condemn two or three persons to die who had broken into a
house at Luss, and assaulted Sir James Colquhoun and others, and robbed
them of a large sum of money.  He first, as was his almost constant
practice, explained the nature of the various crimes, assault, robbery,
and hamesucken—of which last he gave them the etymology; and he then
reminded them that they attacked the house and the persons within it,
and robbed them, and then came to this climax—"All this you did; and God
preserve us! joost when they were sitten doon to their denner!’"

In concluding his reminiscences of Eskgrove Lord Cockburn says: ’He was
the staple of the public conversation; and so long as his old age
lasted, he nearly drove Napoleon out of the Edinburgh world.... A story
of Eskgrove is still preferred to all other stories.  Only, the things
that he did and said every day are beginning to be incredible to this
correct and fiat age.’  Lord Eskgrove died in 1804, at the age of

                             *CHAPTER XXI*

Scott’s Anecdote of Lord Kames—Judicial Cruelty—Lord Meadowbank’s
Marriage—’Declaim, Sir’—Judges and Drinking—Hermand and the Pope—Bacchus
on the Bench—Hermand and the Middy.

When Scott dined at Carlton House in 1815, the Prince Regent is said to
have been particularly delighted with his guest’s anecdotes of the old
Scottish judges and lawyers.  The following story was considered among
the best, and it is one which Scott was fond of telling: ’Lord Kames’
(described by Cockburn as ’an indefatigable and speculative but coarse
man’), ’whenever he went on the Ayr circuit, was in the habit of
visiting Matthew Hay, a gentleman of good fortune in the neighbourhood,
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 concluded at daybreak, so the judge
said—"Well, Matthew, 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 September,
but not to his old friend’s hospitable house; for that gentleman had in
the meantime been apprehended on a capital charge, 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 are dead; and may the Lord have mercy
upon your unhappy soul!"  Having concluded this awful formula in his
most sonorous cadence, Kames, dismounting his formidable beaver, gave a
familiar nod to his unfortunate acquaintance, and said to him in a sort
of chuckling whisper—"And now, Matthew, my man, that’s checkmate to
you."  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_"?’

This gruesome story, incredible as it appears and repulsive in its bare
and uncalled-for cruelty, is an attested fact.  Lord Cockburn, in
referring to the above incident, says: ’Besides general and
uncontradicted notoriety, I had the fact from Lord Hermand, who was one
of the counsel at the trial, and never forgot a piece of judicial
cruelty which excited his horror and anger.’

To pass to a more agreeable subject, there was Lord Meadowbank, who
disappeared from the festive party an hour or two after his marriage.
Search was made, and the oblivious Benedick was found busily engaged in
writing a profound thesis on the subject of ’Pains and Penalties.’

He was a most versatile man, and his fondness for discussion made him
often highly diverting.  Referring to his power of discovering
principles and tracking out their consequences, Jeffrey said that while
the other judges gave the tree a tug, Meadowbank not only tore it up by
the roots, but gave it a shake which dispersed the earth and exposed all
the fibres.

One day Mr. Thomas Walker Baird was, in a dull technical way, stating a
dry case to Lord Meadowbank, who was sitting single.  This did not
please the judge, who thought that his dignity required a grander tone.
So he dismayed poor Baird, than whom no man could have less turn for
burning in the Forum, by throwing himself back in his chair and saying,
’Declaim, sir, why don’t you declaim?  Speak to me as if I were a
popular assembly.’

In the lively story of Mr. Pleydell and his clerk Driver, Scott has
immortalised the convivial habits of the Scottish Bar.  The actual
incident, as stated in the note, occurred to Dundas of Arniston at the
time he was Lord Advocate.  How ably the judges comported themselves at
the table is well proved in Cockburn’s description of Lord Hermand, who,
he says, ’had acted in more of the severest scenes of old Scotch
drinking than any man at least living.  Commonplace topers think
drinking a pleasure; with Hermand it was a virtue.  It inspired the
excitement by which he was elevated, and the discursive jollity which he
loved to promote.  But beyond these ordinary attractions, he had a
sincere respect for drinking, indeed a high moral approbation, and a
serious compassion for the poor wretches who could not indulge in it;
with due contempt for those who could, but did not.  He groaned over the
gradual disappearance of the _Feriat_ days of periodical festivity, and
prolonged the observance, like a hero fighting amidst his fallen
friends, as long as he could.  The worship of Bacchus, which softened
his own heart, and seemed to him to soften the hearts of his companions,
was a secondary duty.  But in its performance there was no violence, no
coarseness, no impropriety, and no more noise than what belongs to
well-bred jollity unrestrained.  It was merely a sublimation of his
peculiarities and excellences; the realisation of what poetry ascribes
to the grape.  No carouse ever injured his health, for he was never ill,
or impaired his taste for home and quiet, or muddled his head: he slept
the sounder for it, and rose the earlier and the cooler. The cordiality
inspired by claret and punch was felt by him as so congenial to all
right thinking, that he was confident that he could convert the Pope if
he could only get him to sup with him.  And certainly his Holiness would
have been hard to persuade if he could have withstood Hermand about the
middle of his second tumbler.’

The Bacchic religion of Lord Hermand sometimes found expression even on
the Bench.  On one occasion a young man was convicted of culpable
homicide.  In a wrangle with a friend, with whom he had been drinking
all night, he had stabbed him and caused his death. The case being
little more than a sad accident, the youth was sentenced to only a short
imprisonment.  At this Lord Hermand, who regarded the case as a
discredit to the cause of drinking, was highly indignant at his
colleagues’ softness.  He would have transported the homicide: ’We are
told that there was no malice, and that the prisoner must have been in
liquor.  In liquor! Why, he was drunk!  And yet he murdered the very man
who had been drinking with him!  They had been carousing the whole
night; and yet he stabbed him! after drinking a whole bottle of rum with
him!  Good God, my Laards, if he will do this when he’s drunk, what will
he not do when he’s sober?’

A somewhat similar case shows Lord Hermand in a different light.  His
love for children was a great feature in his character.  A little
English midshipman, being attacked by a much bigger lad in Greenock,
defended himself with his dirk, and somehow killed his assailant.  ’He
was tried for this in Glasgow, and had the good luck to have Hermand for
his judge; for no judge ever fought a more gallant battle for a
prisoner.  The boy appeared at the bar in his uniform. Hermand first
refused "to try a child."  After this was driven out of him, the
indictment, which described the occurrence, and said that the prisoner
had slain the deceased "wickedly and feloniously," was read; and Hermand
then said, "Well, my young friend, this is not true, is it?  Are you
guilty or not guilty?"  "Not guilty, my Lord."  "I’ll be sworn you’re
not!"  In spite of all his exertions, his young friend was convicted of
culpable homicide; for which he was sentenced to a few days’

With his mind filled with the sayings and doings of the Braxfields and
the Eskgroves, Walter Scott could scarcely nourish many illusions
regarding his chosen profession.  Fortunately he went ’where his own
nature would be leading.’

                             *CHAPTER XXII*

Political Lawyers—Politics an ’accident’ in Scott’s History—Early Days
at the Bar—Peter Peebles—_The Mountain_—Anecdote of Scott and Clerk—The
German Class—Friendship with William Erskine—German Romance—Seniors of
the Bar—Robert Blair—Greatest of Scottish Judges—Anecdote of Hermand and
Henry Erskine.

In speaking of Scottish politics in 1792—it was in 1792, November, that
Scott and Clerk began their regular attendance at the Parliament
House—it is desirable to repeat that Scott is not to be regarded as ever
having been in any circumstances a politician.  It is absurd even to
mention his name among the crowd of Tory juniors seeking to push their
way to preferment by party services and loud-mouthed partisan zeal.
This crowd, of which Lord Cockburn speaks, ’produced several most
excellent men and very respectable lawyers, but not one person, except
Walter Scott, who rose to distinction in literature.’  Scott was in no
sense a ’product’ of so ignoble a school.  There is perhaps nothing in
creation so utterly mean and odious as the person who deliberately
engineers his course to legal office by excessive partisanship.
Meanness and narrowness of mind must be born in the creature who does
it.  Who would expect literary distinction from such? If there be any
instances on record—and there is most unfortunately that of Francis
Bacon—of genius united with such a career, they are distinguished by
their singularity, and operate as exceptions.  Walter Scott was one of
the junior bar, but he was never one of these political aspirants.  His
conscience, not the main chance, was the ruling principle with him.
Party was a small thing to Scott: not the be-all and the end-all of
existence as it was to many others of his contemporaries.  It was
natural for Cockburn and the Whigs, who were struggling for existence
against very real oppression and injustice, to exaggerate to themselves
the importance of the whole wretched business.

    ’They took the rustic murmur of their bourg
    For the great wave that circles round the world.’

Scott’s good sense and utter lack of conceit preserved him from falling
into their mistake.  Like most other men of culture and honour, both
then and now, he frankly took a side in politics rather than be always
posing as an independent and as if he were the only conscientious man in
a neighbourhood.  Historical sentiment, the glamour of romance and the
tradition of great names, made him prefer the Tory side.  That was all.
But he retained his independence complete and unsullied.  Whenever at
any time he took an active part in militant politics, it was not to
curry favour and gain the spoils, but because his whole heart and soul
were with the cause.

Scott certainly started life with the idea of making his career in the
law.  Work gradually came to him. Friendly solicitors were pleased to
put certain kinds of business in the young man’s hands, chiefly at
first, as was natural, for his father’s sake.  ’By and by,’ says Clerk,
’he crept into a tolerable share of such business as may be expected
from a Writer’s connexion.’  That is, of course, from his father’s
connection, and the business would consist of long written
_informations_ and other papers for the Court, on which young
counsellors of the Scottish Bar were expected to bestow a great deal of
trouble for very scanty pecuniary remuneration, and with scarcely any
chance of displaying their ability or making a name.  Another part of
every young advocate’s work, even less important in fees or in fame, was
that of acting for pauper litigants, as Alan Fairford did in the famous
case of Poor Peter Peebles.  In the note Scott says that he himself had
at one time the honour to be counsel for the actual Peter.

On the whole, Scott in these early days had probably plenty of leisure
time on his hands.  He spent some of it at all events among the
’unemployed’ of the Bar.  They were in the habit of congregating at a
particular spot at the north end of the Outer House, which, according to
Lockhart, was called by a name which easily recalls the date—_the
Mountain_.  From Cockburn’s account it would appear that the loungers of
the Mountain were all Whigs, separated into a sect of their own and all
branded with the same mark.  As he mentions among them Thomas Thomson,
who we know was at this time one of Scott’s most intimate daily
associates, we must infer that the separation was not quite absolute.
The following story of Clerk’s shows that he also was one of the group.
One morning finding them all convulsed with laughter, he complained that
_Duns Scotus_ had been forestalling him in a good story which he had
told him privately the day before—adding, moreover, that his friend had
not only stolen it, but disguised it.  ’Why,’ answered Scott, skilfully
waiving the main charge, ’this is always the way with the _Baronet_.  He
is continually saying that I change his stories, whereas in fact I only
put a cocked hat on their heads, and stick a cane into their hands—to
make them fit for going into company.’  About Christmas of this eventful
year, Scott, Clerk, Thomson, and William Erskine (afterwards Lord
Kinedder) joined a German class; and all the four soon qualified
themselves to read Schiller and Goethe.  Erskine was a Tory: Scott’s
other young advocate friends were by descent and connection Whigs. From
the time of the German class Erskine and Scott drew closer together, and
Erskine became by and by, as we learn from Lockhart, ’the nearest and
most confidential’ of all Scott’s Edinburgh associates.  We also know
that, though politics never shook the mutual regard of the others, ’the
events and controversies of the immediately ensuing years could not but
disturb, more or less, the social habits of young barristers who adopted
opposite views on the French Revolution and the policy of Pitt.  His
friendship exercised an influence which Lockhart rates very high, on
Scott’s literary tastes.  Along with a sincere love of the classics,
Erskine had cherished from boyhood a strong passion for Old English
literature, especially the Elizabethan dramatists.  He sympathised with,
and understood the real value of, Scott’s taste for antiquity and
national lore.  He delighted in the bold and picturesque style, the
strength and originality, of the native English school, but he warned
Scott of the necessity of paying some deference to modern taste.  In
short, he knew how to "sift and sunder," and understood that the
absurdities and extravagances of great works form no part of their
greatness, though they are exactly the parts most likely to be selected
for imitation.’  Lockhart, in pointing out that Scott was mainly
influenced in his first literary attempts by the founders of German
drama and romance, states the opinion that he ran at first no trivial
risk of adopting some of their extravagances both of idea and
expression.  Erskine’s vigorous condemnation of the mingled absurdities
and vulgarities of German detail, coming from one who so
enthusiastically admired their great qualities, and who approved of
their new departure in choosing romantic subjects, had no doubt full
weight in guiding the judgment of so sane and sound a genius as Scott.

The seniors of the Bar about this time were, on the Government or Tory
side, Robert Blair, Charles Hope, and Robert Dundas.  Of Blair it has
been said by Cockburn that he was a species of man not very common in
Scotland: he might have said in any country, if his own description is
correct.  ’He had a fine manly countenance, a gentleman-like, portly
figure, a slow dignified gait, and a general air of thought and power.
Too solid for ingenuity, and too plain for fancy, soundness of
understanding was his peculiar intellectual quality.  Within his range
nobody doubted, or could doubt, Blair’s wisdom.  Nor did it ever occur
to any one to doubt his probity.  He was all honesty. The sudden opening
of the whole secrets of his heart would not have disclosed a single
speck of dishonour. And all his affections, personal and domestic, were
excellent and steady.’

If not indolent, Blair seems to have been strongly averse to letting
himself be bothered with mean details or drudgery.  He maintained, as
few can do, a noble independence of small and mean interests.  But with
his great love of rest, repose, and ease he combined a fiery and
excitable disposition.  The combination is said to be rare.  It is
always noble.

Blair is a splendid example of this truth.  He was absolutely
indifferent to preferment.  Lord Melville says that George III. used to
speak of him as ’the man who would not go up.’  Literally as well as
morally he kept his own way.  There was a line, it is said, in the Outer
House, which was kept clear for him whenever he was present.  Even his
official superiors, and the judges themselves, stood in awe of him.  He
was, by preference and practice, a silent man.  He was one who could
play a long game with a dozen people, and yet not speak.  In politics he
was a loyal party man, but as void of malignity as he was free from
self-seeking.  He was one of the few who ’have greatness thrust upon
them,’ having been made Lord President of the Court of Session a few
years before his death.  His memory is still revered as that of the
greatest of Scottish judges.  His character and the marvellous clearness
of his judicial ’opinions’ made him the pride of Edinburgh during his
all too short reign, which closed in 1811. His death was very sudden,
and affected the whole population like the unexpected loss of a dear
personal friend.  Lord Cockburn has described the scene: ’It overwhelmed
us all.  Party made no division about Blair.  All pleasure and all
business were suspended. I saw Hermand that night.  He despised Blair’s
abstinence from the pollution of small politics.  He did not know that
he could love a man who neither cared for claret nor for whist; but, at
near seventy years of age, he was crying like a child.  Next day the
Court was silent, and adjourned.  The Faculty of Advocates, hastily
called together, resolved to attend him to his grave.  Henry Erskine
tried to say something, and because he could only try it, it was as good
a speech as he ever made.’  From his grave in Greyfriars Churchyard to
the edge of the Castlehill, the vast concourse of spectators stood
silent and uncovered when the sod was laid.

                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

Seniors (_continued_)—Charles Hope—His Voice—Tribute by Cockburn—Robert
Dundas, Nephew of Henry, Lord Melville—His Manner and
Moderation—Anecdote of Lords Blair and Melville—Lord Melville’s
Son—Scott’s Project of Emigration.

Charles Hope may be considered one of the very best representatives of
his profession.  He had an extensive practice as an advocate, and
afterwards filled successively, with great distinction, the offices of
Lord Advocate, Lord Justice-Clerk, and Lord President.  But his great
forte was public speaking.  For this his qualifications were great: a
tall figure, commanding presence, natural manner, great command of
language, and a magnificent voice, which Cockburn describes as
’surpassed by that of the great Mrs. Siddons alone, which, drawn direct
from heaven and worthy to be heard there, was the noblest that ever
struck the human ear.’

Few men, surely, have ever received or deserved such an encomium from a
political opponent as Cockburn has left us of Lord President Hope:—’It
is a pleasure to me to think of him.  He was my first—I might almost say
my only, professional patron, and used to take me with him on his
circuits; and in spite of my obstinate and active Whiggery has been kind
to me through life.  When his son, who was Solicitor-General in 1830,
lost that office by the elevation of the Reform Ministry, and I
succeeded him, his father shook me warmly by the hand, and said, "Well,
Harry, I wish you joy.  Since my son was to lose it, I am glad that your
father’s son has got it."  It was always so with him.  Less enlightened
than confident in his public opinions, his feelings towards his
adversaries, even when ardently denouncing their principles, were
liberalised by the native humanity and fairness of his dispositions.’

Perhaps the most interesting public character in Scotland at the
beginning of the nineteenth century was Robert Dundas of Arniston.  He
was the son of a Lord President Dundas, whose father had also occupied
that high position.  His uncle was Henry Dundas, Lord Melville, the
famous friend of Pitt.  The uncle, it is supposed, greatly influenced
the policy of the nephew, whose power in Scotland was for a time almost
unlimited.  At all events, in a position almost certain to provoke
jealousy and enmity on all hands, he was able to maintain a character
for moderation and fairness even in the cases of political prosecution
which his office of Lord Advocate required him to conduct.  In those
troublous times the powers given to the Lord Advocate were extravagant
and arbitrary.  Dundas seems to have been a man of moderate abilities
and ordinary acquirements, but Cockburn’s lively picture sufficiently
explains his remarkable success in his trying and difficult duties.  ’He
had two qualifications which suited his position, and made him not only
the best Lord Advocate that his party could have supplied, but really a
most excellent one.  These consisted in his manner, and in his
moderation.  He was a little, alert, handsome, gentleman-like man, with
a countenance and air beaming with sprightliness and gaiety, and
dignified by considerable fire; altogether inexpressibly pleasing.  It
was impossible not to like the owner of that look.  No one could
contemplate his animated and elegant briskness, or his lively benignity,
without feeling that these were the reflections of an ardent and amiable
heart.  His want of intellectual depth and force seemed to make people
like him the better.  And his manner was worthy of his appearance. It
was kind, polite, and gay; and if the fire did happen to break out, it
was but a passing flash, and left nothing painful after it was gone.’

Dundas had his town residence at No. 57 George Square.  His uncle, Lord
Melville, had come here on the 26th of May 1811, with the intention of
attending the funeral of Lord Blair next day.  He retired to rest
apparently in his usual health, but was found next morning dead in bed.
Thus, strange to say, the two friends, who had both been alive and
active a week before, were lying dead with but a wall between them, for
Blair’s house was No. 56, next door to that of Dundas. A strange
incident is related by Lord Cockburn, which he says he was inclined to
regard as true: viz., that a letter written by Lord Melville was found
on his table, or in a writing-case after his death, in which he drew a
moving picture of his feelings at the funeral of Lord Blair.  Little had
he imagined that he himself would be dead before that funeral took
place.  The letter was addressed to a member of the government, with a
view to obtain some public provision for Blair’s family. ’Such things,’
adds Lord Cockburn, ’are always awkward when detected; especially when
done by a skilful politician.  Nevertheless an honest and a true man
might do this.  It is easy to anticipate one’s feelings at a friend’s
burial; and putting the description into the form of having returned
from it is mere rhetoric.’

Scott enjoyed the personal friendship of Viscount Melville, and still
more of the younger members of the Dundas family.  Robert Dundas was
Lord Advocate at the time of Scott’s appointment to the sheriffship of
Selkirk.  Another Robert Dundas, Lord Melville’s son, had been one of
Scott’s admirers in the story-telling days of the High School, and their
intimacy continued later on.  In fact Arniston and Melville supplied
Walter Scott with quite a troop of warm friends.  An anecdote which
connects Lord Melville and Scott may be given here, though it belongs to
the end of the next decade (1810).  Great changes had at that time been
proposed in the Scottish law and judicature.  They did not commend
themselves to Scott’s judgment.  In fact, he wrote a remarkable essay in
the _Edinburgh Annual Register_ against the rash attempt at a general
innovation.  He was at the same time uneasy in regard to the affairs of
his Ballantyne publishing business, and fretting a little at the
drudgery of his clerkship, which as yet yielded him no income.  It was a
crisis very like that in the life of Burns when he proposed to emigrate
to Jamaica.  Scott indeed seriously entertained the idea of going to
India, as is clear from his letter to his brother Thomas in November
1810.  ’I have no objection to tell you in confidence, that, were Dundas
to go out Governor-General to India, and were he willing to take me with
him in a good situation, I would not hesitate to pitch the Court of
Session and the booksellers to the Devil, and try my fortune in another
climate. But this is strictly _entre nous_.’  Dundas, it seems, had on
several occasions been spoken of as likely to be appointed
Governor-General of India, and he had hinted at taking Scott with him.
Fortunately the opportunity never occurred, the genius was not driven
into exile, and the Court of Session and the booksellers obtained a
temporary reprieve.

                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

Henry Erskine—His Ability and Wit—Tributes to his Character—Dismissal as
Dean of Faculty—John Clerk—Reputation at the Bar—His Private Tastes—Art
and Literature—Odd Habits—Anecdotes of Clerk and his Father.

The Hon. Henry Erskine, the acknowledged leader of the Scottish Bar, and
one of the ablest and wittiest of men, was a son of the fifth Earl of
Buchan, who died in 1767, and was succeeded in the title by his eldest
son David.  A younger brother of Henry’s was equally illustrious at the
English Bar as the undaunted defender first of Captain Baillie, who was
indicted for libel at the instigation of Lord Sandwich in 1778: next in
1792 of Tom Paine, ’victorious needleman,’ indicted for publishing the
_Rights of Man_: and then in 1794 of Hardy, Horne Tooke, and Thelwall,
accused of high treason.  This was Thomas Erskine, who became Lord
Chancellor of England and was raised to the peerage as Baron Erskine of
Restormel in 1806.  All the brothers were strongly attached to the Whig
party. Under the coalition government of North and Fox in 1783 Henry
Erskine was for a short time Lord Advocate, an office which he held
again in 1806.  His fame was spread throughout Scotland as the constant
and disinterested defender of the helpless in distress.

    ’And all the oppress’d who wanted strength
    Had his at their command.’

Like his brother, he was absolutely fearless in the exposure of wrong,
and his name became the terror of every high-handed ’petty tyrant’ in
the land.  It is said that a poor man in a remote part of the country,
who was threatened with the law by his landlord for the purpose of
compelling him to submit to some injustice, at once turned upon him with
bold indignation and said, ’Ye dinna ken what ye’re sayin’, maister;
there’s no a man in a’ Scotland need want a friend or fear an enemy sae
lang as Harry Erskine is to the fore.’  In his _Life of Jeffrey_ Lord
Cockburn says of Erskine: ’His name can no sooner be mentioned than it
suggests ideas of wit, with which, in many memories, the recollection of
him is chiefly associated.  A tall and rather slender figure, a face
sparkling with vivacity, a clear sweet voice, and a general suffusion of
elegance, gave him a striking and pleasing appearance....  He was the
only one of the marked Edinburgh Whigs who was not received coldly in
the private society of their opponents.  Nothing was so sour as not to
be sweetened by the glance, the voice, the gaiety, the beauty, of Henry
Erskine.’  Scott speaks of him in the same affectionate strain—’Henry
Erskine was the best-natured man I ever knew: thoroughly a gentleman,
and with but one fault—he could not say No.  His wit was of the very
kindest, best-humoured, and gayest sort that ever cheered society.’  It
is a matter for deep regret that the public career of so rare and
eminent a man should have been dependent upon the ups and downs of
politics.  Even the post of Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, to which
he had been elected for eight years in succession, was taken from him in
1796.  He had presided at a public meeting to protest against the war
with France.  Such a defiance could not at such a time be overlooked,
and the more powerful party employed their large majority to displace
him.  But even this was done without malevolence: the motion for
dismissal—moved by Charles Hope—in no way disturbed the personal
friendship between the two men.

John Clerk, raised to the Bench as Lord Eldin in his old age, was a
worthy compeer of Erskine in his steadfast adherence to Whiggery at the
cost of professional advancement.  He was Solicitor-General in 1806,
when Erskine was Lord Advocate.  His fame was, therefore, won while he
was at the Bar, of which, after his friend’s retirement, he became the
acknowledged leader.  But his powerful sarcasm and his great gift of
humour, combined with his remarkable appearance and popular principles,
laid hold of the imagination of men and gained him quite a national
reputation.  It is of him that Cockburn says that the conditions of his
private and his professional life almost amounted to the possession of
two natures.

’A contracted limb, which made him pitch when he walked, and only
admitted of his standing erect when he poised it in the air, added to
the peculiarity of a figure with which so many other ideas of oddity
were connected.  Blue eyes, very bushy eyebrows, coarse grizzly hair,
always in disorder, and firm, projecting features, made his face and
head not unlike that of a thorough-bred shaggy terrier.  It was a
countenance of great thought and great decision.’

He was fond of literature, and his love of the fine arts grew to be a
passion.  He had great knowledge of painting, drew and etched cleverly,
and occasionally modelled.  His consulting-room was an extraordinary
scene: ’Walls covered with books and pictures, of both of which he had a
large collection; the floor encumbered by little ill-placed tables, each
with a piece of old china on it; strange boxes, bits of sculpture,
curious screens and chairs, cats and dogs (his special favourites), and
all manner of trash, dead and living, and all in confusion;—John himself
sitting in the midst of this museum,—in a red worsted nightcap, his
crippled limb resting horizontally on a tripod stool,—and many pairs of
spectacles and antique snuffboxes on a small table at his right hand;
and there he sits,—perhaps dreaming awake,—probably descanting on some
of his crotchets, and certainly abusing his friends the judges,—when
recalled to the business in hand; but generally giving acute and
vigorous advice.’

The peculiarities which made him a ’character’ in the court are analysed
at some length by Lord Cockburn.  One was a habit of discussing,
enforcing, and lauding his own virtues, quite without vanity or
ostentation, but with quiet assurance, as if it were something he had no
concern in.  In the end he became fiercely resentful of opposition and
suspicious of all who contradicted him.  But what most of all made Clerk
unique was his extraordinary zeal for his client.  The public hugely
enjoyed his passionate displays, when he defied and insulted not only
his opponent in the case, but even the judges themselves when he found
them adverse.  Of course in this respect he was a privileged person: his
fiery onslaughts being regarded as part of the show, and invariably
relieved by some quaint bit of humour.

When he heard a lady on the street behind him point him out as the lame
lawyer, he wheeled round and said, ’Nay, nay, madam, lame man if ye
like, but not a lame lawyer, as the Fifteen (_i.e._ the Judges) know to
their cost.’  This ready retort happily illustrates all his

His father, John Clerk of Eldin, was the author of a celebrated work on
Naval Tactics.  In his old age he is reported to have said of himself
and his son: ’I remember the time when people, seeing John limping on
the street, used to ask, "what lame lad that was?" and the answer would
be, "that’s the son of Clerk of Eldin."  But now, when I myself am
passing, I hear them saying, "what auld, grey-headed man is that?"  And
the answer is, "that’s the father o’ John Clerk."’

                             *CHAPTER XXV*

Scott’s Border ’Raids’—Shortreed—Scott’s Circuit Work—Jedburgh
Anecdotes—Edinburgh Days—Fortune’s—The Theatre Royal—Oyster
Parties—Social Functions—General Reading.

For many years after his first donning of the gown, Scott made use of
every holiday for those ’raids’ into Liddesdale and rambles through
various parts of Scotland which long caused his father anxiety and
vexation.  It was not given to the old man, eager to see his son
immersed in what he considered far more important pursuits, to foresee
the marvellous results of these erratic tours.  There were some,
however, who could, and one of these was Robert Shortreed,
Sheriff-Substitute of Roxburghshire, who was his guide and companion in
all his Border raids.  His remark will serve very well to sum up our
reference to these expeditions, which are ’outwith’ the limits of his
Edinburgh life.  ’He was _makin’ himsell_ a’ the time,’ was Shortreed’s
emphatic comment; ’but he didna ken maybe what he was aboot till years
had passed.  At first he thought o’ little, I daresay, but the queerness
and the fun.’

Of his circuit work one or two anecdotes will suffice. He made his first
appearance as counsel in a criminal case at the Jedburgh assizes, where
he successfully defended a veteran poacher.  When the verdict was
pronounced, Scott whispered to his client, ’You’re a lucky scoundrel.’
’I’m just o’ your mind,’ quoth the desperado, ’and I’ll send ye a maukin
(a hare) the morn, man.’  Shortly after he defended a certain notorious
housebreaker, who, however, in spite of counsel’s strenuous efforts, was
found guilty.  The man, knowing that he could not escape, the evidence
of his guilt being clear, yet felt grateful, in his way, to the young
lawyer who had stood by him manfully and seen fair play.  He requested
the advocate to visit him in his cell, and Scott complied.  When they
were alone together in the _condemned cell_, the poor outcast said, ’I
am very sorry, sir, that I have no fee to offer you—so let me beg your
acceptance of two bits of advice which may be useful, perhaps, when you
come to have a house of your own.  I am done with practice, you see, and
here is my legacy.  Never keep a large watch-dog out of doors—we can
always silence them cheaply—indeed if it be a _dog_, ’tis easier than
whistling—but tie a little tight yelping terrier within; and secondly,
put no trust in nice, clever, gimcrack locks—the only thing that bothers
us is a huge old heavy one, no matter how simple the construction,—and
the ruder and rustier the key, so much the better for the housekeeper.’
Lockhart heard Scott tell the story some thirty years after at a Judge’s
dinner at Jedburgh, and he summed it up with a rhyme—’Ay, ay, my Lord,’
(addressing Lord Meadowbank)—

    ’Yelping terrier, rusty key,
    Was Walter Scott’s best Jeddart fee.’

If his life in Edinburgh was not quite as enjoyable as the summer
wanderings or the spring and autumn circuits, it certainly had its
compensations.  There was a good deal, no doubt, of what he describes in
_Redgauntlet_ as ’sweeping the boards of the Parliament House with the
skirts of his gown.’  But then there was the consolation of the merry
men of the Mountain, with mirth and youthful jollity, to which he could
always contribute more than his share.  There was plenty of
claret-drinking at Bayle’s, Fortune’s, Walker’s, the favourite resorts
of the Bar.  Claret was still the only drink, in spite of the growing
enmity to France. It is a curious fact, however, that this feeling
caused the Edinburgh Town Council in 1798 to pass a resolution that
claret should not be drunk either at the King’s Birthday orgy or any
other civic feast.  This ’self-denying ordinance’ was not observed.  In
spite of conviviality and amusements a young man’s expenses in Edinburgh
in those days did not require to be great, when a good dinner at
Fortune’s would cost half-a-crown, and a bottle of claret a shilling.
Fifty years before, in the days when a man brought his own fork and
knife, and glass if he wanted one for his own separate use, one dined at
an ’ordinary’ in Edinburgh for fourpence, which even included all the
small beer that was called for till the cloth was removed.  Scott was a
frequent visitor at the old Theatre Royal—’his dressing-table with old
play-bills, etc.’  This building stood in Shakespeare Square, a site now
occupied by the General Post Office.  It was eventually purchased by Mr.
Henry Siddons, and there, under his management, the admirers of the
drama ’had the satisfaction to witness the exertion of the unparalleled
talents of Mrs. Siddons, Mrs. Jordan, Mr. Braham, Mr. John Kemble, and
others.’  Oyster-parties were now very fashionable.  They were quite
decorous affairs, though not over-formal, and were attended and enjoyed
by ladies as well as gentlemen.

One of these oyster-parties is described from a stranger’s point of view
by Topham in his _Letters from Edinburgh_: ’The shrine of festivity is
nothing more than an oyster-cellar, and its votaries the first people in
Edinburgh....  I was ushered into a large and brilliant company of both
sexes, most of whom I had the honour of being acquainted with.  The
table was covered with dishes full of oysters, and pots of porter.  By
and by the table was cleared, and glass introduced.  The ladies were now
asked whether they would choose brandy or rum punch.  I thought this
question an odd one, but I was soon informed that no wine was sold here.
The ladies, who always love what is best, fixed upon brandy punch, and a
large bowl was immediately introduced.  The conversation now became
general and lively.  A thousand things were hazarded and met with
applause, to which the oddity of the scene gave propriety and which
could have been produced in no other place....  In this little assembly
there was more real happiness and mirth than in all the ceremonies and
splendid meetings at Soho.  When the company were tired of conversation,
they began to dance reels, their favourite dance, which they perform
with great agility and perseverance. One of the gentlemen, however, fell
down in the most active part of it, and lamed himself.  The dance was at
an end.  The ladies retired, and with them went all the mirth.’

Such scenes as these, along with attendance at ’assemblies,’ concerts,
and the general round of social engagements, filled up, without great
fear of dulness, the leisure part of Scott’s existence when in town.
His duties were but light, and so was his income.[1]  There is ample
proof too that he found time to continue his literary studies, and kept
himself, as the phrase is, ’abreast of current literature.’  ’On his
desk the new novel most in repute lay snugly intrenched beneath Stair’s
_Institutes_, or an open volume of _Decisions_.’

[1] The particulars given by Lockhart are: first year’s practice, £24,
3s.; second year’s, £57, 15s.; third, £84, 4s.; fourth, £90; and in his
fifth year, that is from November 1796 to July 1797, he made £144, 10s.;
of which £50 were fees from his father’s chamber.

                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

The Edinburgh Environment—Talk of French Revolution—The ’Jacobins’—The
Volunteers—Irish Row in the Theatre—Mrs. Barbauld’s Visit—Taylor’s
_Lenore_—Scott’s Version—Anecdote of the Skull—End of Love
Affair—Reference in _Peveril of the Peak_.

To understand the environment of Scott about 1794, it is necessary to
remember that people’s minds and conversation were almost wholly
occupied with the French Revolution.  It affected every one, and met one
everywhere.  Of real sympathy with the French Republic there never was
much anywhere in Britain. In Edinburgh, as in several other towns, there
were a few persons who affected an admiration for the Republic and for
everything French.  These were called _Jacobins_, but they soon
disappeared from public view.  The name, however, continued to be used
as a political nickname, and was applied freely to all who showed
sympathy with the idea of reform.  There was a belief, more or less
vague, among the Tories and the wealthier class generally, that the
working men were hostile to the Constitution.  Altogether the feelings
of loyal men, young and old, were strongly excited.  In spring of 1794
Scott wrote to friends in Roxburghshire exulting in the ’good spirit’
shown by the upper classes in Edinburgh.  He was much excited over the
enrolment of a regiment of volunteers, in which his brother Thomas was a
grenadier, and from which he himself was excluded by his lameness.  We
can imagine him chafing in soul to be ’a mere spectator of the drills.’
It was more than his hot, impulsive nature could endure.  At last the
happy inspiration came to him to propose the formation of a corps of
volunteer light horse.  The idea was popular, but some time was required
to get it carried out.

Meantime an incident happened which vividly illustrates the
highly-charged atmosphere of the time and Scott’s romantic excess of
loyalty.  Some Irish medical students had set themselves to annoy the
loyal people in the theatre by calling for seditious tunes and howling
down the National Anthem.  This foolish conduct was, of course, strongly
resented by the audience, and especially by the young Tory lawyers.  It
was determined to give the Irishmen a lesson, and put a stop to the
scandal.  ’Scott’ (says Lockhart) ’was conspicuous among the juvenile
advocates and solicitors who on this grand night assembled in front of
the pit, armed with stout cudgels, and determined to have _God save the
King_ not only played without interruption but sung in full chorus by
both company and audience. The Irishmen were ready at the first note of
the anthem.  They rose, clapped on their hats, and brandished their
shillelaghs; a stern battle ensued, and after many heads had been
cracked, the lawyers at length found themselves in possession of the
field.’  From a letter of Scott’s written a few days after, it appears
that five of the loyal youths had been bound over to keep the peace, and
that he personally had knocked down three of the Democrats.  His friends
said he had ’signalised himself splendidly in this desperate fray.’  On
the occasion of the riots which took place in the course of this
troubled year he was active among the special constables sworn in to
guard the town.

In the autumn of 1795 Mrs. Barbauld was on a visit to Edinburgh.  One
evening this distinguished writer read to a party in the house of Dugald
Stewart an unpublished poem by William Taylor, a translation of Burger’s
ballad of _Lenore_.  Scott was not one of the company.  He seems to have
been away on one of his usual tours, but on his return in the course of
a few weeks, a friend gave him, as best he could, an account of the
performance.  Scott was deeply interested, and never rested till he had
procured a copy of the original German.  After reading the poem, he told
his friend, Miss Cranstoun, that he was going to write a translation of
it himself.  He was greatly excited over the matter, and finished his
task at one sitting the same night.  In the morning, before breakfast,
he took his production to Miss Cranstoun, who was not only delighted but
astonished.  Lockhart quotes from one of her letters, ’Upon my word,
Walter Scott is going to turn out a poet—something of a cross, I think,
between Burns and Gray.’  Sir Alexander Wood, to whom also he showed the
poem the same day, retained a vivid recollection of the high-strung
enthusiasm to which he had worked himself up by dwelling on the wild,
unearthly imagery of the ballad.  He tells how Scott must needs provide
himself with symbols, a skull and cross-bones, which they procured from
Dr. John Bell, and which Scott set up as trophies on the top of his
little book-case.  When Wood visited him, after many years of absence
from this country, he saw them again similarly placed in his
dressing-room at Abbotsford.

Miss Cranstoun, afterwards Countess of Purgstall, told Captain Basil
Hall on her deathbed that she and William Erskine got a few copies of
the _Lenore_ printed.  She was doing her best for Scott in his courtship
of Miss Stuart, and thought the verses might work in his favour.  She
sent a copy, ’richly bound and blazoned,’ to Scott, who was in the
country at a house where Miss Stuart was also a visitor.  This was
really Scott’s first publication.  The verses were much admired by his
friends, but this was all.  His pursuit of Miss Stuart presently came to
an end, on the announcement of her engagement to Forbes.  A most
interesting glimpse into the real inwardness of this affair is afforded
in _Peveril of the Peak_, written twenty-six years after.  The poet thus
soberly moralises, _non sine desiderio_:—’The period at which love is
formed for the first time, and felt most strongly, is seldom that at
which there is much prospect of its being brought to a happy issue.  The
state of artificial society opposes many complicated obstructions to
early marriages; and the chance is very great that such obstacles prove
insurmountable.  In fine, there are few men who do not look back in
secret to some period of their youth, at which a sincere and early
affection was repulsed, or betrayed, or became abortive from opposing
circumstances.  It is these little passages of secret history which
leave a tinge of romance in every bosom, scarce permitting us, even in
the most busy or the most advanced period of life, to listen with total
indifference to a tale of true love.’

                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

Friendship with Skene of Rubislaw—Skene’s Account of the Edinburgh Light
Horse—’Earl Walter’—Marriage of Walter Scott and Charlotte Carpenter—The
Edinburgh Home—Edinburgh Friends—The Cottage at Lasswade.

Scott’s German studies brought him at this time one of the most valued
friendships of his life.  Mr. Skene of Rubislaw, having resided several
years in Saxony, and having a similar fondness for the fresh and natural
literature of Germany, entered into Scott’s ideas with zest, and
assisted him in his struggles with the language. The two soon drew
together, and became intimate friends.  Skene wrote afterwards with
pride of this friendship, which during nearly forty years ’never
sustained even a casual chill,’ and he testified, like all others who
knew him, that ’never in the whole progress of his varied life, could I
perceive the slightest shade of variance from that simplicity of
character with which he impressed me on the first hour of our meeting.’
Skene was one of those who joined heartily in promoting the volunteer
cavalry movement, and of this affair he has given some interesting
particulars. ’The London Light Horse had set the example, but in truth
it was to Scott’s ardour that this force in the North owed its origin.
Unable, by reason of his lameness, to serve amongst his friends on foot,
he had nothing for it but to rouse the spirit of the moss-trooper with
which he readily inspired all who possessed the means of substituting
the sabre for the musket.’  In February 1797 a meeting was held, and an
offer was sent to the Government which was at once accepted. The
organisation of the corps was then begun.  The Major-Commandant was
Maitland of Rankeillor. Skene was a cornet: Scott was quartermaster.
’The part of quartermaster was purposely selected for him, that he might
be spared the rough usage of the ranks; but, notwithstanding his
infirmity, he had a remarkably firm seat on horseback, and in all
situations a fearless one: no fatigue ever seemed too much for him, and
his zeal and animation served to sustain the enthusiasm of the whole
corps, while his ready _mot à rire_ kept up, in all, a degree of
good-humour and relish for the service, without which the toil and
privations of long _daily_ drills would not easily have been submitted
to by such a body of gentlemen. At every interval of exercise, the order
_sit at ease_ was the signal for the quartermaster to lead the squadron
to merriment; every eye was intuitively turned on "Earl Walter," as he
was familiarly called by his associates of that date, and his ready joke
seldom failed to raise the ready laugh....  His habitual humour was the
great charm, and at the daily mess that reigned supreme.’  The gallant
squadron continued its daily drills all the spring and summer of 1797,
and even spent some weeks under canvas at Musselburgh.  Most of the
troopers being professional men, they had their drill at five in the
morning,—an act of heroic self-denial which speaks volumes for the
spirit evoked by ’haughty Gaul’s’ threats of invasion.  By the end of
the year England had established her supremacy on sea, all fear of an
invasion was dissipated, and the volunteers’ occupation for the time was

[1] See, in connection with the volunteer episode, Scott’s ’War Song of
the Royal Edinburgh Light Dragoons,’ written in 1802: also Introduction
to Canto v. of _Marmion_.

On the 24th of December of this year Scott was married in St. Mary’s
Church, Carlisle, to Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, whom he had met for
the first time when on a tour during that autumn among the English
Lakes.  She was the daughter of Jean Charpentier, a French royalist, who
had died about the beginning of the Revolution.  The widow and her
daughter took refuge in England, where Charpentier had, in his first
alarm at the outbreak of the revolution, invested a sum of £4000.  In a
letter to his mother Scott speaks of his wife’s fortune as then £500 a
year, but precarious as to the amount, being partly dependent on her
brother, who held a high office in Madras.  With this added to his own
earnings, he says, ’I have little doubt we will be enabled to hold the
rank in society which my family and situation entitle me to fill.’
Their married life in Edinburgh began in a lodging in George Street,
from which they removed, as soon as it was ready for their reception, to
a house in South Castle Street.  Mrs. Scott, who was lively and fond of
society, soon found herself the centre of a most interesting social
life. Indeed ’those humble days’ were perhaps the happiest of all.
’Mrs. Scott’s arrival’ (says Lockhart) ’was welcomed with unmingled
delight by the brothers of _the Mountain_.  The officers of the Light
Horse, too, established a club among themselves, supping once a week at
each other’s houses in rotation.  The lady thus found two somewhat
different, but both highly agreeable circles ready to receive her with
cordial kindness; and the evening hours passed in a round of innocent
gaiety, all the arrangements being conducted in a simple and inexpensive
fashion, suitable to young people whose days were mostly laborious, and
very few of their purses heavy. Scott and Erskine had always been fond
of the theatre; the pretty bride was passionately so—and I doubt if they
ever spent a week in Edinburgh without indulging themselves in this
amusement. But regular dinners and crowded assemblies were in those
years quite unthought of.’

In the summer of 1798 began the series of summer sojourns at Lasswade,
on the Esk, which brought to Scott important additions to his list of
friends. Among his neighbours in this romantic district, which had been
his favourite haunt in boyish rambles, were Henry Mackenzie, the ’Man of
Feeling,’ the Clerks of Pennycuick, and Lord Woodhouselee, with all of
whom he was already familiar. But it was at Lasswade that he first
’formed intimacies, even more important in their results, with the noble
families of Melville and Buccleuch, both of whom have castles in the
same valley.’

    ’Who knows not Melville’s beechy grove,
      And Roslin’s rocky glen;
    Dalkeith, which all the virtues love,
      And classic Hawthornden?’

It is of the Esk that he says in the same poem, _The Grey Brother_,

    ’Thro’ woods more fair no stream more sweet
      Rolls to the eastern main.’

An interesting notice appeared recently in a local paper regarding Scott
and his family’s connection with St. George’s Episcopal Church in York
Place, Edinburgh.  He seems to have become a member of what he (in the
person of Paulus Pleydell) calls ’the suffering and Episcopal Church of
Scotland—the shadow of a shade now’ after his marriage had set him free
from the customs of George Square. The Scott family pew in St. George’s
was No. 81, afterwards No. 85, and the article states that this fact is
attested on a brass plate fixed on the pew, as well as by a written
statement contained in a closed glass case hung inside the church porch.
It was the incumbent of St. George’s that officiated at the marriage of
Sophia Scott to John Gibson Lockhart.  The worshippers in the quaint old
church to this day, it is said, take great pride in the memory of the
most illustrious member of their historic flock.

                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

The Mercantile Class in Edinburgh—The Town Council—Political
Corruption—Petty Tyranny—The Town Clerk—James Laing, Head of the
Police—His Methods with Disturbers of the Peace—Anecdotes of Laing and
Dugald Stewart.

At the end of the eighteenth century there was no social intercourse
between the aristocratic, which was, generally speaking, the educated,
class and the mercantile portion of the community.  Wealth had not yet
become a passport into ’society.’  Birth and ancestry, on the contrary,
were so, however poor the possessor of an old name might be.  The
professions, especially that of law, were still mainly recruited from
noble or gentle families.  As yet also, no traders in Edinburgh had made
great fortunes or could afford social display.  As individuals,
therefore, business people were of no account.  Politically, having no
votes they had no direct power, and in all public matters their general
attitude was one of complete subserviency to their betters.  This, of
course, was looked upon by both classes as the natural state of things,
and explains the humble place occupied by the shopkeeping characters in
the Waverley Novels.  Lord Cockburn, speaking of the city government,
records that everything of that kind was managed by the town council:
light, water, education, trade, the Port of Leith, the streets, the
poor, the police.  He describes the Council Chamber as a low, dark,
blackguard-looking room, entering from a covered passage, on the site of
the present Signet Library.  The chamber was a low-roofed room, very
dark and very dirty, with some small dens off it for clerks.  ’Within
this Pandemonium sat the town council, omnipotent, corrupt,
impenetrable. Nothing was beyond its grasp; no variety of opinion
disturbed its unanimity, for the pleasure of Dundas was the sole rule
for every one of them.  Silent, powerful, submissive, mysterious, and
irresponsible, they might have been sitting in Venice.’  Speaking of
Scottish town councils in general, our authority uses even stronger
language.  ’Many of the small ones were in the lowest possible condition
of public and private morality.  In general, they were sinks of
political and municipal iniquity, steeped in the baseness which they
propagated, and types and causes of the corruption that surrounded
them.’  This is just the picture that one would draw, if inclined to be
censorious and not yielding to any sense of humour, from the very
interesting series of facts recorded in John Galt’s book, _The Provost_.
Depend upon it, there was a good deal of human nature even in an
’unreformed’ town council. Of their corrupt subservience to the powers
in place there can be no doubt, but they had at least as much of the
great quality of efficiency as their reformed successors.  Such as they
were, they were generally the best men of the best class in each
community, and few men of the same type could now be got to enter the
popularly elected body.  And what would we not give now for the old
peace and quietness?  The silence would indeed be cheaply bought at the
price of the mystery and irresponsibility.  Conscience is the only
guarantee against corruption, which may flourish like a green bay-tree
under popular election.  In 1799, it seems, Mr. Smith, a councillor of
Edinburgh, electrified the city by a pamphlet in which he showed that
the burgh was bankrupt.  What subjects would Mr. Smith not have found
for his financial genius if he had lived in 1899?  What pamphlets might
Mr. Smith have printed on ’the Edinburgh Cable Tramways and their cost,’
or on ’the Usher Hall Sinking Fund.’  Verily, life in a city might be
tolerable but for our town councils.

The old town council had a very simple method of getting their work
done.  They just left everything to the town clerk and the manager of
police.  This seems to be the modern method, _minus_ the vulgar talk and
reports in the newspapers.  The town-clerk was Mr. John Gray.  Would he
were here to-day: a man who could hold his tongue and do jobs quietly!
Peace to the ashes of the good Gray: a judicious man, with a belly,
white hair, and decorous black clothes; famous for drinking punch; a
respectable and useful officer, devoted to his superiors, and chock-full
of municipal wisdom.  The manager of police was James Laing, about whom
we have anecdotes which endear him to the heart of every lover of quiet.
James was a hater of noise at untimely hours.  He may have been
prevented from writing his reminiscences by the rowdy din and uproar
which seems to have been then, as it is now, at all hours of the night
(constant up to midnight, in the small hours sporadic) as remarkable a
feature of residential Edinburgh as its deadly east wind.  Fortunately,
James had the power, now defunct and obsolete, of making the police
operate.  One evening the usual demoniac orgy of noise was proceeding,
driving peaceful citizens to profanity and despair.  The whole devil’s
tattoo was caused by a mere handful of tipsy hooligans—six or eight
baker lads, it seems, of respectable though humble parentage.  James set
the police in motion, the lads were promptly arrested, and next morning,
when the master baker growled ’Ubi est ille apprentice?’ echo answered
promptly, ’Non est inventus.’  A lawyer, however, who took an interest
in the family of one of them, went that morning, greatly daring, to
James Laing to inquire, when he was told he need give himself no
trouble; ’they are all beyond Inchkeith by this time.’  With a
promptness of device only equalled by his firmness of purpose, this
benefactor of suffering humanity had sent the disciples of Din to exert
their demoniac disturbances on the high seas!  They had, in fact, been
shipped on board a tender in Leith Roads, which James knew was to sail
that very morning.  After this, one is not astonished to learn that the
great Laing was a philosopher and entertained an immense reverence for
Dugald Stewart. Stewart used to tell an anecdote which proves that
Laing, besides discovering the best means of preserving quiet in the
streets, had also solved the problem of finding healthy employment for
the police in their ’hours of idleness.’  The Professor was walking very
early one morning in the Meadows, when he saw a band of men within the
enclosure busily engaged apparently in turning up the turf.  Upon going
up to them, he found his friend Laing commanding the operations, who
explained that in these short light nights there was nothing going on
with the blackguards, ’and so, ye see, Mr. Professor, I’ve just brought
oot the constables to try our hands at the moudieworts.’  They were
catching moles.

                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

Public Condition of Edinburgh in 1800—Ostracism of Dugald Stewart—The
Whigs—Their Struggle for Power—The Infirmary Incident—Dr. Gregory—His
Pamphlets—Characteristics—Family Connection with Rob Roy.

Youthful friendship and their simple, kindly way of life counteracted
the effects of political feeling as concerned Scott and his Whig
friends.  Under his humble roof the happiness of the little household
was never apparently marred by the intrusion of the soul-poisoning virus
of party spite.  Had the conditions been reversed, had his political
friends been out of power, the difference would not have been great—to
him or his.  His saving gift of humour would always have prevented him
from exaggerating the miseries of the losing side into horrors and
persecution.  Occupied intellectually with the fascinating vistas of
romantic literature and blessed with the sympathy of a charming,
brave-hearted wife, and too diffident of his merits to resent the slow
advent of professional success, he could never have been chilled and
narrowed into a political prig wailing over the injustice of the times.
For all that, it was a bad time for many of his professional compeers.
From their (that is, the Whig) point of view, the public condition in
1800, and for the preceding ten years, was at once painful and
humiliating.  Their very political creed subjected them to the suspicion
of disloyalty.  Their cry of Reform was ill-timed, for who will trouble
with repairs to his house when his next-door neighbour’s house is being
plundered and set on fire?  Distrust begot dislike, and dislike grew to
detestation.  ’The frightful thing,’ says one who lived through it, ’was
the personal bitterness.  The decent appearance of mutual toleration,
which often produces the virtue itself, was despised, and extermination
seemed a duty.  This was bad enough in the capital; but far more
dreadful in small places, which were more helplessly exposed to
persecution.  If Dugald Stewart was for several years not cordially
received in the city he adorned, what must have been the position of an
ordinary man who held Liberal opinions in the country or in a small
town, open to all the contumely and obstruction that local insolence
could practise, and unsupported probably by any associate cherishing
kindred thoughts?  Such persons existed everywhere; but they were always
below the salt.’  One may admire the pertinacity of such men, the
forerunners of Reform, while regretting the bitterness of feeling
engendered on both sides.  The great mistake of the Tory party lay in
blindly confounding these theoretical politicians with the great mass of
the people.  In snubbing their opponents they insulted the people, and
created a store of hatred against themselves which a century has not
exhausted.  To this day the ’practical’ Liberal politician knows that a
hundred clever speeches will have less effect in a Scottish constituency
than simply getting his opponent well saddled with the epithet of
’Tory.’  The ’regeneration’ for which the Whigs of 1800 waited, and
which their successors of 1832 thought they had accomplished, turned out
to be the institution of a plutocracy. The twentieth century will
perhaps experiment in pure democracy, now that the manual workers have
begun to _feel_ the power which they owe to the tireless efforts of the

That public opinion was not altogether powerless even in 1800, is proved
by the ’Infirmary’ incident. At that time a wellnigh incredible
arrangement prevailed in the hospital.  Dr. Sangrado held sway for one
month, and then Dr. Cuchillo got his turn.  The members of the Colleges
of Physicians and of Surgeons were the medical officers, and they
attended the hospital by a monthly rotation, so that the treatment of
the patients was liable to be totally altered every thirty days.  A
proposal was now made to put an end to the absurdity.  The change was
advocated by Dr. James Gregory, the celebrated professor, who was then
the acknowledged head of his profession in Scotland. He wrote a
pamphlet, strongly worded and personal, as was his nature, but
convincing.  In spite of the opposition of the colleges and the majority
of the doctors, Gregory prevailed.  The public was unanimous, the
managers were convinced, and a resolution was passed that there should
henceforth be permanent medical officers.

Dr. Gregory was a great fighter.  He came of a remarkable family, the
Gregories of Aberdeen, originally an offshoot of the MacGregor clan, and
proprietors of Kinardie in Banffshire.  His great-grandfather was James
Gregory, inventor of the ’Gregorian’ reflecting telescope.  His
grandfather and his father were both distinguished medical professors.
It was his father Dr. John Gregory, who counted kin with Rob Roy and
entertained the bold outlaw more than once at Aberdeen.  On one occasion
MacGregor proposed to carry James, then a boy of eight or nine, to the
Highlands and ’make a man of him.’  The story is told in the
Introduction to _Rob Roy_ of 1829.  Scott there describes James Gregory
as ’rather of an irritable and pertinacious disposition’; and says that
his friends were wont to remark, when he showed symptoms of temper, ’Ah!
this comes of not having been educated by Rob Roy.’  Lord Cockburn calls
Gregory ’a curious and excellent man, a great physician, a great
lecturer, a great Latin scholar, and a great talker; vigorous and
generous; large of stature, and with a strikingly powerful countenance.
The popularity due to these qualities was increased by his professional
controversies, and the diverting publications by which he used to
maintain and enliven them.  The controversies were rather too numerous;
but they were never for any selfish end, and he was never entirely
wrong.  Still, a disposition towards personal attack was his besetting

                             *CHAPTER XXX*

Strongest ’Impressions’ from the Waverley Novels—Special Charm of Death
of the old Lawyer in Chrystal Croftangry’s Recollections—Death of Walter
Scott the Elder—The ’very scene’ described—Scott appointed
Sheriff—Independence from Court Work.

A boy of ten in a quiet country parish forty years ago took a pride in
being able to say—’I have read _all_ Shakespeare, _all_ Byron, _all_ the
Waverley Novels,’ and so on.  The pursuit of this hobby was not entirely
fortunate.  It tended to omnivorous rather than critical reading—to the
pursuit of enjoyment in reading rather than anything else.  It had,
however, its obvious advantages, and gained him at the University some
first prizes, and a certain kindly consideration among his fellows as
one whose literary opinions were founded on first-hand knowledge.  His
experience confirms a well-known opinion of Sir Walter Scott’s that
children prefer, and on the whole understand quite sufficiently, if they
are encouraged to read it, the same literature which fascinates their
fathers.  ’I am persuaded both children and the lower class of readers
hate books which are written _down_ to their capacity, and love those
that are composed more for their elders and betters.  The grand and
interesting consists in ideas not in words.’[1]  At all events our
’impressionist’ testifies that, having read _all_ the Waverley Novels in
the summer of his tenth year, he now recalls forty years after, from
that first reading, chiefly one general impression and three special
souvenirs which lived with him and have haunted his imagination ever
since.  The general impression is an intense interest in History
(chiefly, of course, Scottish History) and Antiquities, imbibed from the
charming Introductions and Notes to the Novels.  These were read again
and again, and always laid aside with a vivid sense of regret that the
Notes were so short.  The special recollections are of Henry Bertram
returning to Ellangowan and recalling the old ballad of ’the bonnie
woods o’ Warroch Head’: of Count Robert of Paris in the dungeon: and,
above all, of the death of Chrystal Croftangry’s friend in the
’Chronicles of the Canongate.’  He still considers Bertram’s return the
finest touch of romance since Homer pictured the old hound recognising
his long-lost master, Ulysses, in the beggar man.  Count Robert scarcely
affects the man so strongly as he did the boy. But Chrystal Croftangry
has still the old charm—a charm trebled by the associations which a
knowledge of Scott’s life attaches to these inimitable chapters.
Lockhart has revealed that ’in the portraiture of Mrs. Murray Keith,
under the name of Mrs. Bethune Baliol, he has mixed up various features
of his own beloved mother, and in the latter a good deal was taken from
nobody but himself.’  The pathetic picture of the death of Chrystal’s
old friend and legal counsellor, drawn with such vigour and intense
realism, is without doubt the death-scene of the old ’writer,’ Walter
Scott, the original of that ’one true friend, who knew the laws of his
country well, and, tracing them up to the spirit of equity and justice
in which they originate, had repeatedly prevented, by his benevolent and
manly exertions, the triumphs of selfish cunning over simplicity and

[1] _Diary_, June 5, 1827.

The worthy and good old man died in 1799.  He had suffered a succession
of paralytic attacks, under which mind as well as body had been laid
quite prostrate.  From the lips of a near relation of the family
Lockhart gives the following touching statement made to himself on the
publication of the first ’Chronicles of the Canongate’—’I had been out
of Scotland for some time, and did not know of my good friend’s illness,
until I reached Edinburgh, a few months before his death.  I saw the
very scene that is here painted[2] of the elder Croftangry’s
sickroom—not a feature different—poor Anne Scott, the gentlest of
creatures, was treated by the fretful patient exactly like this niece.’
And the biographer adds—’I have lived to see the curtain rise and fall
once more on a like scene.’

[2] ’Chronicles of the Canongate,’ chap. I. Note that the house is in
Brown’s Square, where old Fairford dwelt.

The old man’s business was continued by his son Thomas, and the property
he left, though less than had been expected, was sufficient to make
ample provision for his widow, and a not inconsiderable addition to the
resources of those among whom the remainder was divided.

On the 16th December 1799, Walter Scott was made Sheriff-Depute of
Selkirkshire, with a salary of £300. Probably, had Scott been an avowed
Whig, he would never have been offered the post, but beyond the mere
fact that he was _not_ a Whig, politics had no part in the appointment.
Personal friendship no doubt aided his other claims.  The strongest
efforts were made on his behalf by both Robert and William Dundas,
nephews of Henry Dundas (Lord Melville), in whose hands was the general
control of all Crown patronage. The same was done by his (Henry
Dundas’s) son Robert, and Lord Dalkeith and Lord Montague, sons of the
Duke of Buccleuch—all ardent volunteers.  The result was that the Duke
and Dundas, both of whom knew and liked Scott, though neither was at all
’addicted to literature,’ had no choice.  Neither imagined that in
appointing the young advocate to be a sheriff-depute, he was making his
best bid for immortality.  This very innocent ’job’ was most happily
timed.  It crowned the modest fortune of the young poet’s little
household.  The duties were light, and though the income was small, it
was sufficient to make him independent of the precarious prospects of a
profession for which he had never acquired any real liking. He spoke of
it himself in the words of Slender about Anne Page—’There was no great
love between us at the beginning; and it pleased Heaven to decrease it
on further acquaintance.’  The end of the century, therefore, saw Scott
placed by fortune in the position which was his own ideal—free to devote
his best energies to literature, without depending on its results for
his own and his family’s daily bread.

                             *CHAPTER XXXI*

Scott settled in Edinburgh—Defacement of City—Wrytte’s House—Gillespie
the Snuff-seller—Erskine’s Joke—The Woods of Bellevue—Scott’s ideal _rus
in urbe_.

Scott’s public career in literature practically began with the new
century.  His new duties did not require a change of dwelling-place.
Edinburgh continued to be his home, and the centre of his deepest
personal interests.  The defacement of the city was proceeding merrily,
and we cannot doubt that Scott was one of the few who disapproved.  An
anonymous writer in the _Scots Magazine_ for July 1800 refers to the
neglect of the Chapel Royal at Holyrood and the destruction of the
Nunnery at Sciennes, and protests against the demolition of the old
building Wrytte’s House, which had just been begun.  It consisted of a
keep presiding over a group of inferior buildings, most of it as old as
the middle of the fourteenth century, and all delightfully picturesque.
The writer gives some details which are worth quoting: ’This magnificent
building is adorned with a profusion of sculptured figures, especially
above the windows.  Above the main door, in beautiful workmanship, are
blazoned the arms of Great Britain, with the inscription, J. 6. M. B. F.
E. H. R. etc., ... there is a rough but curious piece of sculpture,
reminding Nobility of her origin;—Adam digging the ground and Eve
twirling the distaff, with the old rhyme beneath:

    When Adam delv’d and Eva span,
    Quhar war a’ the gentiles than?’

Other figures represented the Virtues and the Five Senses.  There was a
head in bas relief of Julius Cæsar.  This, says the writer, is going to
be preserved because it has been thought to bear some resemblance to the
visage of the celebrated tobacconist whose pious bequest has eventually
produced so woful a revolution!

The execrable Vandals who did it were the Trustees of Gillespie’s

    ’Duke Luke did this:
    God’s ban be his!’

But lest we should be tempted to imprecate upon these long-departed
Dogberries the curses thundered by Dr. Slop upon the head of poor
Obadiah, listen now to Lord Cockburn: ’If I recollect right, this was
the first of the public charities of this century by which Edinburgh has
been blessed, or cursed.  The founder was a snuff-seller, who brought up
an excellent young man as his heir, and then left death to disclose
that, for the vanity of being remembered by a thing called after
himself, he had all the while had a deed executed by which this, his
nearest, relation was disinherited.’

One of Henry Erskine’s jokes was at the expense of this double-minded
old snuff-seller.  He suggested for Gillespie’s carriage panels the
motto, ’Quid rides,’ and beneath it:

    ’Wha wad hae thocht it,
    That noses wad hae bocht it?’

After briefly describing the old castle, Cockburn goes on: ’Nothing
could be more striking when seen against the evening sky.  Many a feudal
gathering did that tower see on the Borough Moor; and many a time did
the inventor of logarithms, whose castle of Merchiston was near, enter
it.  Yet it was brutishly obliterated, without one public murmur....
The idiot public looked on in silence.  How severely has Edinburgh
suffered by similar proceedings, adventured upon by barbarians, knowing
the apathetic nature, in these matters, of the people they have had to
deal with. All our beauty might have been preserved, without the
extinction of innumerable antiquities, conferring interest and dignity.
But reverence for mere antiquity, and even for modern beauty _on their
own account_, is scarcely a Scotch passion.’

Another case.  In the _Scots Magazine_ for May appeared, among the odd
scraps of news, this paragraph—’The elegant villa of Bellevue, the
property of the late Mrs. General Scott, in the neighbourhood of this
city, has been purchased by the Town Council; the terms, we understand,
are a feu-duty of £1050 per annum, with the privilege of buying it up,
within seven years, for £20,200.  The pleasure ground is to be laid out
for building conformable to a plan.’

The grounds of Bellevue were practically the whole space between the
east end of Queen Street and Canonmills, now fully covered with streets
and houses.  The site of the villa was about the centre of the Drummond
Place enclosure, and on it was erected a custom-house which the old
guide-book calls ’another splendid appendage to this flourishing city,
which is now so rapidly enlarging its dimensions.’  Such was the idea of
the unspeakable Philistines who destroyed this unmatched scene of
beauty, and transformed it into a commonplace urban corner.  The
desecration does seem, however, to have been lamented, if not more
actively resented.  Lord Cockburn speaks of people ’shuddering when they
heard the axes busy in the woods of Bellevue, and furious when they saw
the bare ground.  But the axes, as usual, triumphed.’  The old woodcut,
stiff and hard in its lines, showing the three-storied barracks of Queen
Street, commanding a free view west, north, and east, upon an open
sylvan scene, is enough to make one weep; and pathetic, too, in the same
way is Cockburn’s story: ’No part of the home scenery of Edinburgh was
more beautiful than Bellevue....  The whole place waved with wood, and
was diversified by undulations of surface, and adorned by seats and
bowers and summer-houses.  Queen Street, from which there was then an
open prospect over the Firth to the north-western mountains, was the
favourite Mall.  Nothing certainly, within a town, could be more
delightful than the sea of the Bellevue foliage, gilded by the evening
sun, or the tumult of blackbirds and thrushes sending their notes into
all the adjoining houses in the blue of a summer morning.  We clung long
to the hope that, though the city might in time surround them, Bellevue
at the east, and Drumsheugh (Lord Moray’s place) at the west, end of
Queen Street, might be spared....  But the mere beauty of the town was
no more thought of at that time by anybody than electric telegraphs and
railways; and perpendicular trees, with leaves and branches, never find
favour in the sight of any Scotch mason.  Indeed in Scotland almost
every one seems to be a "foe to the Dryads of the borough groves."  It
is partly owing to our climate, which rarely needs shade; but more to
hereditary bad taste.  So that at last the whole spot was made as dull
and bare as if the designer of the New Town himself had presided over
the operation.’

There are many allusions in the works of Scott to ’the rage of
indiscriminate destruction which has removed or ruined so many monuments
of antiquity.’  With special reference to Edinburgh, showing how little
the barbarous ’improvements’ of the new commercial generation were to
his mind, Chrystal Croftangry, coming back to his native city after long
absence, decides to choose his dwelling-place not in George Square—nor
in Charlotte Square—nor in the old New Town—nor in the new New Town—but
in the Canongate—’Perhaps expecting to find some little old-fashioned
house, having somewhat of the _rus in urbe_, which he was ambitious of

                            *CHAPTER XXXII*

Richard Heber in Edinburgh—Friendship with Scott—’Discovers’ John
Leyden—Leyden’s Education—His Appearance, Oddities—Love of Country—His
Help in _Border Minstrelsy_—Anecdote told by Scott—Leyden a Man of

    Scenes sung by him who sings no more!
    His bright and brief career is o’er,
      And mute his tuneful strains;
    Quench’d is his lamp of varied lore,
    That loved the light of song to pour;
    A distant and a deadly shore
      Has LEYDEN’S cold remains!’

Richard Heber, king of bibliomaniacs, being in Edinburgh in the winter
of 1799-1800, was warmly welcomed by the cultured society of the city,
and finding in Scott a kindred spirit, was soon drawn ’into habits of
close alliance’ with the young antiquary whom he found at that time so
absorbed in a congenial task.  Scott was busy in research for his
edition of the Border ballads, and Heber was delighted to enter into his
plans, assisting him with advice and with free access to the vast stores
of rare books which he had already collected.  Their pleasant friendship
is celebrated in that delicious Christmas piece which introduces the
sixth canto of _Marmion_:—

    ’How just that, at this time of glee,
    My thoughts should, Heber, turn to thee!
    For many a merry hour we ’ve known,
    And heard the chimes of midnight’s tone.

    Cease, then, my friend! a moment cease,
    And leave these classic tomes in peace!
    Of Roman and of Grecian lore,
    Sure mortal brain can hold no more.

Heber used to prowl about among the old book-shops, wherever he might
come upon MSS. or books that might be of use for the _Minstrelsy_.  One
day he was searching in the small shop kept by a young bookseller named
Archibald Constable, when his attention was attracted ’by the
countenance and gestures of another daily visitant, who came not to
purchase, evidently, but to pore over the more recondite articles—often
balanced for hours on a ladder with a folio in his hand like Dominie
Sampson.’  Some casual talk led Heber to the discovery that his
odd-looking acquaintance was ’a master of legend and traditions—an
enthusiastic collector and skilful expounder of these very Border
ballads.’  He introduced the young man to Scott, who soon learned that
this was the ’J.L.’ whose verses in the _Edinburgh Magazine_ had often
much excited his curiosity, as showing that their author was a native of
the Scottish Borders.  Thus commenced the friendship between Scott and
Leyden, two poets who were at least equal in that intense love of
Scotland which is expressed with natural charm in the verses of both.

John Leyden, then twenty-five years of age, was a man who rivalled, in
his extraordinary powers of acquiring knowledge, the almost fabulous
records of the Admirable Crichton and Pico di Mirandola.  The son of a
shepherd, he was born at Denholm, a village of Roxburghshire, in 1775.
After learning what he could at a small country school and getting some
help in Latin from a neighbouring minister, the boy set to work to
educate himself, making even then a special study of old Scottish works,
such as the rhyming chronicles of Wallace and Bruce, Sir David Lyndsay’s
poems, and the ballads of Teviotdale. When he came to Edinburgh
University in 1790, it is said he astonished all by his odd manners and
speech, and confounded his teachers ’by the portentous mass of his
acquisitions in almost every department of learning.’  ’He was’—this is
Cockburn’s description—’a wild-looking, thin, Roxburghshire man, with
sandy hair, a screech voice, and staring eyes—exactly as he came from
his native village of Denholm; and not one of these not very attractive
personal qualities would he have exchanged for all the graces of Apollo.
By the time I knew him he had made himself one of our social shows, and
could and did say whatever he chose.  His delight lay in arguments ...
always conducted on his part in a high shrill voice, with great
intensity, and an utter unconsciousness of the amazement, or even the
aversion, of strangers. His daily extravagances, especially mixed up, as
they always were, with exhibitions of his own ambition and confidence,
made him be much laughed at even by his friends.  Notwithstanding these
ridiculous or offensive habits, he had considerable talent and great
excellences.  There is no walk in life, depending on ability, where
Leyden could not have shone. Unwearying industry was sustained and
inspired by burning enthusiasm.  Whatever he did, his whole soul was in
it.  His heart was warm and true.  No distance, or interest, or novelty
could make him forget an absent friend or his poor relations.  His
physical energy was as vigorous as his mental; so that it would not be
easy to say whether he would have engaged with a new-found eastern
manuscript, or in battle, with the more cordial alacrity.  His love of
Scotland was delightful.  It breathes through all his writings and all
his proceedings, and imparts to his poetry its most attractive charm.
The affection borne him by many distinguished friends, and their deep
sorrow for his early extinction, is the best evidence of his talent and
worth. Indeed, his premature death was deplored by all who delight to
observe the elevation of merit, by its own force and through personal
defects, from obscurity to fame.  He died in Batavia at the age of
thirty-six. Had he been spared, he would have been a star in the East of
the first magnitude.’

Leyden’s work on the _Border Minstrelsy_ deserves more than casual
notice, and was most warmly and amply acknowledged by Scott.  The
Dissertation on Fairies, which introduces the second volume, ’although
arranged and digested by the editor, abounds with instances of such
curious reading as Leyden only had read, and was originally compiled by
him.’  Leyden was equally enthusiastic in collecting the ballads, and
was determined from the first to make the collection a big thing—to turn
out three or four volumes at least. ’In this labour,’ says Scott, ’he
was equally interested by friendship for the editor, and by his own
patriotic zeal for the honour of the Scottish borders; and both may be
judged of from the following circumstance. An interesting fragment had
been obtained of an ancient historical ballad; but the remainder, to the
great disturbance of the editor and his coadjutor, was not to be
recovered.  Two days afterwards, while the editor was sitting with some
company after dinner, a sound was heard at a distance like that of the
whistling of a tempest through the torn rigging of the vessel which
scuds before it.  The sounds increased as they approached more near; and
Leyden (to the great astonishment of such of the guests as did not know
him) burst into the room, chanting the desiderated ballad with the most
enthusiastic gesture, and all the energy of what he used to call the
saw-tones of his voice.  It turned out that he had walked between forty
and fifty miles and back again, for the sole purpose of visiting an old
person who possessed this precious remnant of antiquity.’

Only men of the warm-blooded species could thoroughly appreciate John
Leyden.  His absurdities had nothing akin to foolishness.  They were the
inevitable accompaniments of genius operating, Alexander-like, towards
what appeared impossible.

                            *CHAPTER XXXIII*

The ’Young Men of Edinburgh’—Their Whiggery—Anecdote of Jeffrey and
Bell—James Grahame, Author of _The Sabbath_—Sydney Smith—His Liking for
Scotland—Whig Dread of Wit—Lord Webb Seymour—Horner’s Analysis of
him—Friendship with Playfair—His Anecdote of Horner.

The name of Leyden suggests the remarkable ’concentration of conspicuous
young men’ of which Lord Cockburn speaks so often with pride.  They were
mostly Whigs, drawn together by political sympathy and speculative
tastes.  Most of them attained the high distinction to which their
talents well entitled them to aspire, and several of them achieved high
literary fame.  Jeffrey, Cockburn, and Brougham were at the centre of
this group, which also for a time included Leyden, Sydney Smith, Thomas
Campbell, Francis Horner, and John Allen.  Scott, as we know, was on
terms of warm intimacy with some of these, but he was not one of their
society, though he used to say he seemed never to enjoy an evening so
much as when spent among his Whig friends.  To the same set belonged
George Joseph Bell, author of the _Commentaries on the Law of
Bankruptcy_, and afterwards Professor of Law in Edinburgh University.
From the _Life of Jeffrey_ it is evident that Bell’s influence on the
future Reviewer was great and invaluable. The sight of Bell’s tireless
assiduity at his great work made Jeffrey exclaim—’Since I have seen you
engaged in that great work of yours, and witnessed the confinement and
perspiration it has occasioned you, I have oftener considered you as an
object of envy and reproachful comparison than ever before....  I have
wished myself hanged for a puppy.’  He was constantly exhorting Jeffrey
to exertion, and really inspired him with the hope and confidence that
led to success.

Another estimable Whig (’but with him Whig principles meant only the
general principles of liberty’) was James Grahame, best known from his
poem _The Sabbath_.  Professor Wilson greatly esteemed Grahame, and
wrote an elegy to his memory, which Cockburn says owes its charm to its
expressing the gentle kindness and simple piety of his departed friend.
’His delight was in religion and poetry, and he was perfectly contented
with his humble curacy.  With the softest of human hearts, his
indignation knew no bounds when it was roused by what he held to be
oppression, especially of animals or the poor, both of whom he took
under his special protection.  He and a beggar seemed always to be old

A happy accident brought the Rev. Sydney Smith to Edinburgh.  He had
abandoned the dreary solitude of Nether Avon, where he was ’the first
and purest pauper of the hamlet,’ in order to accompany, as bear-leader,
the son of Squire Beach to the University of Weimar in 1797, but the
disturbed state of affairs at that time in Germany made their plans
impracticable. So, as Smith put it, they were driven ’by stress of
politics’ into Edinburgh.  Here he found a very congenial society, and
soon became a leader among the younger Whigs.  It was part of his humour
to gird at Scotland as the garret of the world, or the knuckle-end of
England, and at Scotsmen for requiring a surgical operation to
appreciate a joke, but there was no part of Britain where his wit and
jokes were more appreciated, and his daughter, Lady Holland, testifies
to his strong liking for both the country and the people.  It is said
that he and his companions gained for Edinburgh the title of the Modern

Unfortunately Cockburn’s reference to Sydney Smith is very brief.  He
only says—’Smith’s reputation here then was the same as it has been
throughout his life, that of a wise wit.  Was there ever more sense
combined with more hilarious jocularity?  But he has been lost by being
placed within the pale of holy orders. He has done his duty there
decently well, and is an admirable preacher.  But he ought to have been
in some freer sphere; especially since wit and independence do not make
bishops.’  One feels tempted to add ’under a Whig Government.’  It is
only justice to the memory of the wittiest of men to say that ’decently
well’ as applied to his parochial work is faint praise.’  It was from
beginning to end of his career brilliantly conducted, and it was only
’the timidity of the Whigs’ that prevented his being made a bishop.  The
Tory minister, Lord Lyndhurst, in 1829 promoted him to a prebendal stall
at Bristol. It was only stupid people who doubted Smith’s orthodoxy, and
the doubt originated solely in the popularity of his jokes.

Another Englishman, who was one of the distinguished company and who
lived in Edinburgh from 1797 to his death in 1819, was Lord Webb
Seymour, brother of the Duke of Somerset.  His purpose in retiring to
Edinburgh was to devote himself wholly to the study of science and
philosophy, a purpose which he carried out without swerving for a
moment. Such a man could not fail to be universally respected and
beloved.  It can be seen from Horner’s _Memoirs_ how excellent was the
effect which the truly philosophic views and practice of this rare man
had upon the minds and characters of his friends.  Horner in his
_Journal_ analyses his friend’s character very acutely: ’He possesses
several of the most essential constituents to the character of a true
philosopher—an ardent passion for knowledge and improvement, with
apparently as few preconceived prejudices as most people can have.  A
habit of study intense almost to plodding—a mild, timid, reserved
disposition....  He can subject himself to general rules, which perhaps
he carries too far in matters of diet, etc.  His knowledge of character
quite astonishes me at times—his proficiency in the science of
physiognomy.’  Horner must have been charmed to meet so much of himself
in the personality of another.  Seymour, being such a man, disapproved
of Horner’s entry into political life.  His friendship with Playfair,
the great mathematician and geologist, was famous.  Geology was the
favourite pursuit of both, and they were continually together in
scientific walks and excursions.  Cockburn says: ’They used to be called
man and wife.  Before I got acquainted with them, I used to envy their
walks in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, and their scientific excursions
to the recesses of the Highland glens, and to the summits of the
Highland mountains.  Two men more amiable, more philosophical and more
agreeable there could not be.’

Francis Horner, the youngest of the band, became prominent at an early
age for his strong and very independent views on politics.  Sydney Smith
was ’cautioned against him’ by some excellent and feeble people to whom
he had brought letters of introduction. This led to their friendship.
It was of Horner that Smith said: ’The commandments were written on his
face.  I have often told him there was not a crime he might not commit
with impunity, as no judge or jury who saw him could give the smallest
degree of credit to anything that was said against him.’  The following
anecdote related by Smith is a happy illustration of the character of
Horner and of his friend who tells it: ’He loved truth so much, that he
never could bear any jesting upon important subjects.  I remember one
evening the late Lord Dudley and myself pretended to justify the conduct
of the government in stealing the Danish fleet; we carried on the
argument with some wickedness against our graver friend; he could not
stand it, but bolted indignantly out of the room; we flung up the sash,
and, with loud peals of laughter, professed ourselves decided
Scandinavians; we offered him not only the ships, but all the shot,
powder, cordage, and even the biscuit, if he would come back; but
nothing could turn him; he went home, and it took us a fortnight of
serious behaviour before we were forgiven.’

                            *CHAPTER XXXIV*

M. G. Lewis—Seeks out Scott—_The Monk_—Translation by Scott of
Goetz—Anecdote of Lewis—James Ballantyne—Prints _Apology for Tales of
Terror_—William Laidlaw—James Hogg—Character and Talents.

Scott’s connection with M. G. Lewis, author of _The Monk_, was brought
about through William Erskine’s having shown him Scott’s translations
from the German. Lewis was eager to get Scott enlisted as a contributor
to his projected _Tales of Wonder_.  He came to Edinburgh in the autumn
of 1798, and Scott long afterwards told Allan Cunningham that he had
never felt such elation as when the ’Monk’ invited him to dine with him
for the first time at his hotel.  Lewis indeed was _the_ literary lion
of the time.  Charles Fox had crossed the floor of the House of Commons
to congratulate him on his book.  The London literary world was for the
time classified into the adherents and the detractors of _The Monk_.
Scott and he now met frequently, and it should not be forgotten, in
justice to the small man, that the great one, roused by the ringing
lines of ’Alonzo the Brave’ and such resounding ware, was by him first
set upon trying his hand at original verse, ’for’ (Scott adds) ’I had
passed the early part of my life with a set of clever, rattling,
drinking fellows, whose thoughts and talents lay wholly out of the
region of poetry.’  Lewis was very small in person, and looked always
like a schoolboy.  Moreover, for all his cleverness, he was a decided
bore in society; but all the same he was, as Scott always maintained, a
good and generous man, who did good by stealth.  Soon after this, he
took the trouble to arrange for Scott the publication of his translation
of Goethe’s _Goetz von Berlichingen_, bargaining with Bell the publisher
for twenty-five guineas for the copyright, and another twenty-five
guineas in case of a second edition, which, however, was not called for
till long after the copyright had expired.  The _Goetz_ came out in
February 1799. Lewis also did his best to get another half-translated,
half-original dramatic piece of Scott’s, _The House of Aspen_, produced
on the stage, but without success. Scott has an anecdote of Lewis in his
_Journal_ which is rather amusing:—’I remember a picture of him being
handed about at Dalkeith House.  It was a miniature, I think by
Saunders, who had contrived to muffle Lewis’s person in a cloak, and
placed some poignard or dark lanthorn appurtenance (I think) in his
hand, so as to give the picture the cast of a bravo. It passed from hand
to hand into that of Henry, Duke of Buccleuch, who, hearing the general
voice affirm that it was very like, said aloud, "That like Matt Lewis?
Why, that picture’s like a _Man_!"  Imagine the effect!  Lewis was at
his elbow.’

Towards the end of the year 1799 occurred an incident, trifling enough
in itself, which was destined by the sport of Fate to bring disaster and
sorrow upon the life of Scott.  He had paid a short visit to Rosebank,
his uncle’s house at Kelso, and was preparing to return to Edinburgh for
the winter, when an old acquaintance, James Ballantyne, the eldest son
of a Kelso shopkeeper, called to see him.  James, having failed to
establish himself as a solicitor, was now the printer and editor of a
weekly newspaper in Kelso. The writing of a short legal article by Scott
for the _Kelso Mail_ led to Ballantyne’s printing twelve copies of a few
of Scott’s ballads under the title of _Apology for Tales of
Terror_—1799.  Very soon after this Scott appears to have been planning
that fatal scheme of partnership which brought Ballantyne to town and
all his woe.

In Edinburgh Scott still continued his attendance at the Bar.  But all
the time he could spare beyond this and his sheriff’s duties, was
devoted during the years 1800 and 1801 to his labours on the
_Minstrelsy_.  In fact, he combined to some extent his double aims, and
the sheriff’s visits to Ettrick Forest often resulted in large additions
to the ballad-editor’s stores.  In one of these excursions he was
hospitably entertained at the farm of Blackhouse, on the Douglas burn.
There he found another zealous assistant in ballad-hunting, William
Laidlaw, the son of his kindly host.  Of this ever-memorable and most
faithful friend of Scott, Lockhart says: ’He was then a very young man,
but the extent of his acquirements was already as noticeable as the
vigour and originality of his mind: and their correspondence, where
"Sir" passes at a few bounds, through "Dear Sir" and "Dear Mr. Laidlaw,"
to "Dear Willie," shows how speedily this new acquaintance had warmed
into a very tender affection. Laidlaw’s zeal about the ballads was
repaid by Scott’s anxious endeavours to get him removed from a sphere
for which, he writes, "it is no flattery to say that you are much too
good."  It was then, and always continued to be, his opinion, that his
friend was particularly qualified for entering with advantage on the
study of the medical profession; but such designs, if Laidlaw himself
ever took them up seriously, were not ultimately persevered in; and I
question whether any worldly success could, after all, have overbalanced
the retrospect of an honourable life spent happily in the open air of
nature, amidst scenes the most captivating to the eye of genius, and in
the intimate confidence of, perhaps, the greatest of contemporary

James Hogg, the ’Ettrick Shepherd,’ was at this time working in a
neighbouring valley.  Laidlaw told Scott of the humble shepherd who was
so fond of the local songs and ballads, and whose aged mother was
celebrated in the Ettrick dales for having by heart several notable
ballads in a perfect form.  ’The personal history of James Hogg’ (says
Lockhart) ’must have interested Scott even more than any acquisition of
that sort which he owed to this acquaintance with, perhaps, the most
remarkable man that ever wore the _maud_ of a shepherd.  Under the garb,
aspect, and bearing of a rude peasant—and rude enough he was in most of
these things, even after no inconsiderable experience of society—Scott
found a brother poet, a true son of nature and genius, hardly conscious
of his powers.  He had taught himself to write by copying the letters of
a printed book as he lay watching his flock on the hillside, and had
probably reached the utmost pitch of his ambition, when he first found
that his artless rhymes could touch the heart of the ewe-milker who
partook the shelter of his mantle during the passing storm.  As yet his
naturally kind and simple character had not been exposed to any of the
dangerous flatteries of the world; his heart was pure, his enthusiasm
buoyant as that of a happy child; and well as Scott knew that
reflection, sagacity, wit and wisdom, were scattered abundantly among
the humblest rangers of these pastoral solitudes, there was here a depth
and a brightness that filled him with wonder, combined with a quaintness
of humour, and a thousand little touches of absurdity, which afforded
him more entertainment, as I have often heard him say, than the best
comedy that ever set the pit in a roar.’

Hogg, it should be mentioned, had been in the service of Mr. Laidlaw at
Blackhouse from 1790 to 1799, and during that time had been treated with
great sympathy and kindness.  He enjoyed the run of all the books in the
house, and was prompted and encouraged with his rhymes.  Hogg was born
in 1772, being thus a year younger than Scott.

                             *CHAPTER XXXV*

Failure of Lewis’s _Tales_—Scott’s _Border Minstrelsy_—Ballantyne’s
Printing—His Conceit—Removal of Chief Baron from Queensberry House—His
odd Benevolence—Anecdote of Charles Hope—The Schoolmasters Act.

The long-deferred _Tales of Wonder_ at length appeared in 1801.  For
various reasons the book was a failure.  A vigorous parody held up the
author’s style and person to ridicule.  On the whole, however, Scott’s
share in the unlucky venture did him no harm.  His contributions, he
says, were dismissed without much censure, and in some cases received
praise from the critics.  ’Like Lord Home at the battle of Flodden, I
did so far well, that I was able to stand and save myself.’

The episode seems to have made him all the more eager to come forward on
his own account with the _Minstrelsy_.  Volumes I. and II. were
published in January 1802 by Cadell and Davies, of the Strand. The
edition was specially remarkable as being the first work printed by
James Ballantyne from his press at Kelso.  ’When the book came out, the
imprint, Kelso, was read with wonder by amateurs of typography, who had
never heard of such a place, and were astonished at the example of
handsome printing which so obscure a town had produced.’  (See ’Essay on
Imitations of the Ancient Ballad.’)  We know from Lockhart that the
editor’s most sanguine expectations were exceeded by its success.  The
edition was exhausted in the course of the year, and Scott received £78,
10s., being half the net profits of the venture. Longman, it seems, came
in person to Edinburgh, to make ’a very liberal offer’ for the
copyright, including the third volume, which was accepted.  There is a
letter to Scott from James Ballantyne, who had been in London,
’cultivating acquaintance with publishers,’ in which he says, ’I shall
ever think the printing the _Scottish Minstrelsy_ one of the most
fortunate circumstances of my life.  I have gained, not lost by it, in a
pecuniary light; and the prospects it has been the means of opening to
me, may advantageously influence my future destiny.  I can never be
sufficiently grateful for the interest you unceasingly take in my
welfare. One thing is clear—that Kelso cannot be my abiding place for

Soaring ambition of the ’stickit solicitor,’ and melancholy blindness of
the great man who took the conceited ’cratur’ on his own valuation!  But
the ill-omened ’Bulmer of Kelso’ had not yet descended on the Canongate,
when an event happened which may be regarded as summing up and crowning
the transformation of old Edinburgh.  It was a sort of postscript to the
change which the last generation had seen effected with such startling
and tragic rapidity.  This was the removal (in 1801) of the family of
Lord Chief Baron Sir James Montgomery from their famous residence,
Queensberry House in the Canongate.  Queensberry House was acquired by
the first Duke of Queensberry from Lord Halton, afterwards Earl of
Lauderdale. The Duke is said to have practically rebuilt it and made it,
both inside and out, one of the finest mansions in the country.  To-day
there is nothing suggestive of former grandeur about the building,
except its size and the massive wall which fronts it.  The name
’Queensberry House’ is painted on the gate and is also on a brass plate
at the bell-handle.  The building looks like a modern barrack, the
windows having been pointed and freshened up for the visit of King
Edward: very proper treatment for a ’House of Refuge,’ if not for
Queensberry House.  In this mansion, ’Kitty, beautiful and young,’ the
wife of Charles, third Duke, used to lead the aristocratic society of
Edinburgh in the days of the first and second Georges.  She was the
friend of Prior, who celebrated her as ’the Female Phaeton,’ and half a
century later Horace Walpole added two lines to the poem:—

    ’To many a Kitty Love his car will for a day engage,
    But Prior’s Kitty, ever fair, obtained it for an age.’

Under ’Old Q.’ the mansion in the Canongate was dismantled.  Sir James
Montgomery resided in it till 1801, when he resigned his seat as Chief
Baron, and retired to the country.  ’I believe’ (says Cockburn) ’he was
the last gentleman who resided in that historical mansion, which, though
now one of the asylums of destitution, was once the brilliant abode of
rank and fashion and political intrigue.  I wish the Canongate could be
refreshed again by the habitual sight of the Lord Chief Baron’s family
and company, and the gorgeous carriage, and the tall and well-dressed
figure, in the old style, of his Lordship himself.  He was much in our
house, my father being one of his Puisnes.  Though a remarkably kind
landlord, he thought it his duty to proceed sometimes with apparent
severity against poachers, smugglers, and other rural corrupters; but as
it generally ended in his paying the fine himself, in order to save the
family, his benevolence was supposed to do more harm than his justice
did good.  He died in 1803.’

On the occasion of Montgomery’s retirement Robert Dundas was appointed
Lord Chief Baron, and Charles Hope became Lord Advocate.  His short
career was signalised by a somewhat rash and high-handed proceeding
against Morison, a Banffshire farmer, who had dismissed a ploughman for
absenting himself without leave in order to attend a volunteer drill.
The matter led to a motion of censure in the House of Commons, which was
not carried, but considerable odium was stirred.  Hope in his defence
had spoken of the Lord Advocate as vested with the whole powers of the
state, both military and civil.  An English newspaper reported Hope’s
return to Scotland in this satirical paragraph:—’Arrived at Edinburgh,
the Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, the Lord Justice-General, the Lord
Privy Seal, the Privy Council, and the Lord Advocate, all in one
post-chaise, containing only a single person.’

Lord Cockburn has very properly defended the memory of Hope from all
imputation of injustice.  This act, he says, was entirely owing to a hot
temperament not cooled by a sound head.  ’In spite of all his talent and
all his worth, had he continued in the very delicate position of Lord
Advocate, his infirmity might have again brought him into some similar
trouble.  It was fortunate therefore that the gods, envying mortals the
longer possession of Eskgrove, took him to themselves; and Hope reigned
in his stead.  He was made Lord Justice-Clerk in December 1804.’

It was Hope that carried through the Schoolmasters Act of 1803, by which
the heritors were compelled to build houses for the schoolmasters.  The
Act prescribed that the houses (!) need not contain more than two rooms
_including the kitchen_.  The provision was considered shabby even in
those days, but it was all that could be got out of Parliament then.
Hope told Lord Cockburn that he had considerable difficulty in getting
even the two rooms, and that a great majority of the lairds and Scottish
members were indignant at being obliged to ’erect palaces for dominies.’

                            *CHAPTER XXXVI*

Anecdotes of R. P. Gillies—His Picture of Scott—’Border Press’ at
Abbeyhill—Britain armed for Defence—Scenes in Edinburgh—’Captain’

The eccentric R. P. Gillies seems to have made Scott’s acquaintance
about this time.  This gentleman, of whom Scott, with his usual
tenderness to the unfortunate, says ’a more friendly, generous creature
never lived,’ seems to have been in sore distress about 1825-26. He is
frequently mentioned in Scott’s _Journal_, sending numerous ’precatory
letters’ while Scott’s own troubles were at the worst.  Both Lockhart
and Scott made efforts to assist him.  Gillies about the year 1851
brought out his _Memoirs of a Literary Veteran_, in which he says that
Scott was ’not only among the earliest but most persevering of my
friends—persevering in spite of my waywardness.’  One of R. P. G.’s
whims, being a rather clever calligraphist, was to imitate some other
person’s handwriting, and he used to continue for months writing in
imitation of some one or other of his friends.  A fresh idea, however,
had struck him at the time he was engaged on certain translations from
the German which Lockhart had got Constable to undertake to publish for
him.  He wrote the whole with a brush upon large cartridge paper, and
when it was finished, two stout porters were required to carry the huge
bales to the publisher’s office.  The result was, as might have been
expected, that Constable drew back from so tremendous an undertaking.
It is amusing to find that the monstrous MS. was welcomed by another
Edinburgh publisher, who paid £100 for it and issued the book under the
title of _The Magic Ring_.

We are indebted to the same R. P. G. for some interesting remarks on
Scott’s appearance in 1802: ’At this early period, Scott was more like
the portrait by Saxon, engraved for the _Lady of the Lake_, than any
subsequent picture.  He retained in features and form an impress of that
elasticity and youthful vivacity, which he used to complain wore off
after he was forty, and by his own account was exchanged for the
plodding heaviness of an operose student.  He had now, indeed, somewhat
of a boyish gaiety of look, and in person was tall, slim, and extremely

About the end of this year James Ballantyne came to Edinburgh and
established his ’Border Press’ at Abbeyhill, in the neighbourhood of
Holyrood House. He at this time received ’a liberal loan’ from Scott,
who thus became implicated in this unfortunate concern.

The condition of public affairs was now beginning to relieve somewhat
the tension of bitter feeling.  Cockburn remarks that, ’upon the whole
events were bringing people into better humour.  Somewhat less was said
about Jacobinism, though still too much; and sedition had gone out.
Napoleon’s obvious progress towards military despotism opened the eyes
of those who used to see nothing but liberty in the French revolution;
and the threat of invasion, while it combined all parties in defence of
the country, raised the confidence of the people in those who trusted
them with arms, and gave them the pleasure of playing at soldiers.
Instead of Jacobinism, Invasion became the word.’

Francis Horner writes from London: ’I understand the spirit of the
people in London is, in general, almost as good as can be wished, and
better than could have been expected.  The police magistrates can form a
tolerably good guess from their spies in the alehouses. In the country,
particularly along the coast, the spirit of the people is said to be
very high.  Indeed no other country of such extent ever exhibited so
grand a spectacle as the unanimity in which all political differences
are at present lost.’  In this letter to John Archibald Murray,
referring to the _Beacon_, a weekly paper of ’incitements to
patriotism,’ he says, ’Pray have you engaged Walter Scott in these
patriotic labours?  His Border spirit of chivalry must be inflamed at
present and might produce something.  I wish he would try a song.  I
joined Mackintosh in exhorting Campbell to court the Tyrtaean muse: as
yet he has produced nothing; not that I looked upon the success of his
efforts with certainty, being not quite in his line; but a miracle
produced "Hohenlinden," and this is now the age of miracles of every
kind.’  Later on this idea also occurred to Warren Hastings.

The war which broke out in 1803 and continued till Napoleon’s fearful
power was shattered for ever on the field of Waterloo, was a struggle
altogether different in aims and spirit from that which began in 1792.
Conquest, warlike fame, and personal aggrandisement were now Napoleon’s
aims, and the inspiring watchword of Liberty was now transferred from
his banners to those of his enemies.  In checking the great Frenchman’s
ambition the Allies were guarding the freedom of Europe.  In Britain
every man was roused to defence, and felt, like Horner, that ’the people
of England were about to gain for civilisation and democracy a very
splendid triumph over military despotism.’  The threatened invasion was
in every man’s mind at every moment and in every place.  The scene
Cockburn now witnessed in Edinburgh had its counterpart in every city of
the kingdom:—

’Edinburgh became a camp.  We were all soldiers, one way or other.
Professors wheeled in the college area; the side arms and the uniform
peeped from behind the gown at the bar, and even on the bench; and the
parade and the review formed the staple of men’s talk and thoughts.
Hope, who had kept his Lieutenant-Colonelcy when he was Lord Advocate,
adhered to it, and did all its duties after he became Lord
Justice-Clerk. This was thought unconstitutional by some; but the spirit
of the day applauded it.  Brougham served the same gun in a company of
artillery with Playfair. James Moncrieff, John Richardson, James Grahame
(_The Sabbath_), Thomas Thomson, and Charles Bell were all in one
company of riflemen.  Francis Horner walked about the streets with a
musket, being a private in the Gentlemen Regiment.  Dr. Gregory was a
soldier, and Thomas Brown the moralist, Jeffrey, and many another since
famous in more intellectual warfare.  I, a gallant captain, commanded
ninety-two of my fellow-creatures from 1804 to 1814—the whole course of
that war.’

                            *CHAPTER XXXVII*

Enthusiasm of Volunteers—Drill and Sham Fights—Scott’s
Letters—Quartermaster—Anecdote by Cockburn—Recruiting for the
Army—Indifference to Fear of Invasion—Greatness of the Danger—War Song
of 1802.

Captain Coburn’s company was the left flank company of the ’Western
Battalion of Midlothian Volunteers.’  The right flank company was
commanded by John Archibald Murray (afterwards Lord Murray), so that
both these companies had embryo judges at their head.  So ardent was
their zeal that, besides the general day performance in Heriot’s Green
and Bruntsfield Links, the two companies used to drill almost every
night of the four winter months of 1804 and 1805, by torch-light, in the
ground flat of the George Street Assembly Rooms, which was then all one
earthen-floored apartment.  Then there was drilling with the whole
regiment, besides parades, reviews, and four to six inspections in the
course of the year.  Sometimes they were ordered on ’permanent duty’ to
Leith or Haddington, and billeted on the long-suffering citizens. Then
there were the sham fights, the marches, and the continual serio-comedy
of the officers’ mess.  Such was the state of affairs for years in every
corner of Great Britain.  All who enrolled as volunteers were exempt
from the militia ballot and from the risk of having to serve in the
field as long as the war lasted.  Thus the volunteer ranks were easily
filled; and the sense of duty, or the contagious excitement of the time,
supplied plenty of officers.  The whole population, in fact, became
military.  Any able-bodied man, of whatever rank, who was _not_ a
volunteer, or a local militiaman, had to explain or apologise for his

Scott’s letters of this time are full of the camp scenes at Musselburgh.
Writing in July, he says to Miss Seward, ’We are assuming a very
military appearance. Three regiments of militia, with a formidable park
of artillery, are encamped just by us.  The Edinburgh Troop, to which I
have the honour to be quarter-master, consists entirely of young
gentlemen of family, and is, of course, admirably well mounted and
armed.  For myself, I must own that to one who has, like me, _la tête un
peu exaltée_, "the pomp and circumstance of war" gives, for a time, a
very poignant and pleasing sensation.  The imposing appearance of
cavalry, in particular, and the rush which marks their onset, appear to
me to partake highly of the sublime.’

But the sublime was occasionally varied by a touch of the ludicrous.
This is brought very vividly before us in the anecdote related by
Cockburn, who, like the rest, records Scott’s extraordinary zeal in the
patriotic cause.  ’It was,’ he says, ’with him an absolute passion,
indulgence in which gratified his feudal taste for war, and his jovial
sociableness.  He drilled, and drank, and made songs, with a hearty
conscientious earnestness which inspired or shamed everybody within the
attraction.  I do not know if it is usual, but his troop used to
practise, individually, with the sabre at a turnip,[1] which was stuck
on the top of a staff, to represent a Frenchman, in front of the line.
Every other trooper, when he set forward in his turn, was far less
concerned about the success of his aim at the turnip, than about how he
was to tumble.  But Walter pricked forward gallantly, saying to himself,
"cut them down, the villains, cut them down!" and made his blow, which
from his lameness was often an awkward one, cordially muttering curses
all the while at the detested enemy.’

[1] One thinks of Oliver Proudfute and his sternpost of a dromond, fixed
up in his yard for practice. ’That must make you familiar with the use
of your weapon,’ said the Smith. ’Ay, marry does it.’—_Fair Maid of
Perth_, chap. viii.

Looking at the patriotic movement in the cold light of reason, one can
see that its real use was a much humbler one than those enthusiastic and
gallant fellows intended.  Young artisans and ploughmen who had once
joined the volunteers, falling in love with the liveliness and display
of the military career, and becoming unsettled in mind for the dull
routine of their daily work, drifted readily into the paid militia.
Thus the volunteer system was indirectly a splendid means of recruiting
for the army.  But there can be no doubt that for immediate service in
the field—and it was for this that they were preparing—the volunteers
would not have been found qualified.  Their existence, however, gave the
nation confidence, and prevented all danger of panic.  It is marvellous
to find, on the best evidence of those who lived and acted important
parts in those critical years, that the general feeling about invasion
was one of complete indifference.  Most people went about their own
business, and trusted to the country’s luck.  Although justified by
events, it was an ill-founded security.  Men of speculative minds, the
Cockburns and the Horners, were in a great and genuine fright.  Romantic
and active spirits, like Scott, anticipated the turning of their sport
into earnest at any moment.  And how easily it might have happened so.
’Questions are mooted’ (said Horner), ’and possibilities supposed, that
make one shudder for the fate of the world.’  Certainly there were
reasons enough for constant fear and dread: the brilliant and unbroken
success of Napoleon’s arms: Ireland, a ready and willing basis for his
first attack: and then the fearful loss and suffering to a country so
thickly peopled and utterly unprepared for internal defence, should the
war actually be brought within our bounds.

    ’If ever breath of British gale
      Shall fan the tri-color,
    Or footstep of invader rude,
    With rapine foul, and red with blood,
      Pollute our happy shore—
    Then, farewell home, and farewell friends!
      Adieu each tender tie!
    Resolved we mingle in the tide,
    Where charging squadrons furious ride,
      To conquer or to die.’—

    From ’War-Song of Royal Edinburgh
      Light Dragoons,’ 1802.

                           *CHAPTER XXXVIII*

Ashestiel—39 Castle Street—’Honest Tom Purdie’—Associations of Scott’s
Work with Edinburgh Home—First Lines of the Lay—Abandons the Bar for
Literature—Story of Gilpin Horner—Progress of the Poem.

In the summer of 1803, when Scott was engaged in the military functions
in which his heart delighted, he received a gentle hint from the
Lord-Lieutenant of Selkirkshire with regard to the less exciting claims
of his sheriffship.  He had not yet complied strictly with the law which
required that every sheriff should reside at least four months in the
year within his own jurisdiction.  In order to comply with the law, the
Lasswade cottage was now given up, and in the summer of 1804 the family
took up their residence for that season at Ashestiel, a farmhouse very
romantically situated on the banks of the Tweed, a few miles from
Selkirk.  Their town residence, since 1802, was 39 Castle Street, and
continued so to be till the black days of 1826.  By the death of his
uncle Robert in June 1804, Scott inherited Rosebank, ’a beautiful little
villa on the banks of the Tweed, and about thirty acres of the finest
land in Scotland.’  The estate was sold in the course of the year for
£5000.  Scott’s fixed income, from all sources, at this time seems to
have been about £1000 a year.  During the first week at Ashestiel the
Sheriff acquired his famous retainer ’honest Tom Purdie’; the ideal
companion that the Sheriff got so much good of, ’Tom Purdie, kneaded up
between the friend and servant, as well as Uncle Toby’s bowling-green
between sand and clay.’  This is Lockhart’s account of their meeting:
’Tom was first brought before him, in his capacity of Sheriff, on a
charge of poaching, when the poor fellow gave such a touching account of
his circumstances—a wife, and I know not how many children, depending on
his exertions—work scarce and grouse abundant—and all this with a
mixture of odd sly humour,—that the Sheriff’s heart was moved.  Tom
escaped the penalty of the law—was taken into employment as shepherd,
and showed such zeal, activity, and shrewdness in that capacity, that
Scott never had any occasion to repent of the step he soon afterwards
took, in promoting him to the position’ (of farm grieve) ’which had been
originally offered to James Hogg.’

To return to Edinburgh, and 39 Castle Street. ’Poor No. 39’ was from
1802 Scott’s home and headquarters, his workshop, where he had all his
books and manuscripts stored, the tools he delighted to employ in
planning and perfecting the wondrous works of his tireless pen and
teeming fancy.  The house had its connection therefore with the far
greater part of Scott’s literary work, a connection starting from the
_Lay of the Last Minstrel_, which Scott himself regarded as ’the first
work in which he laid his claim to be considered as an original author,’
and continuing as far as _Woodstock_, on which he was engaged in the
fatal January of 1826.  Even more than Abbotsford, No. 39 Castle Street
deserves to be called the shrine of Scott’s memory, having been the
scene of his labours, the home of his children’s infancy, the place
where his friends and professional colleagues were feasted at his genial
board, and the scene where the dauntless old hero took up his lance for
his last romantic encounter, the fight with the fiery dragon of debt
which Ballantyne had raised to torture his latest years.  The _Lay_ was
not actually commenced here, but at the Lasswade cottage.  Here, in the
autumn of 1802, he read the opening stanzas to his friends William
Erskine and George Cranstoun.[1]  They were naturally so much impressed
as hardly to venture a remark, and the ardent poet concluded that ’their
disgust had been greater than their good-nature chose to express.’  He
threw the MS. in the fire, but on finding that he had so strangely
mistaken their feelings, he decided to begin again.  The first canto was
completed during a few days’ confinement to his room in Musselburgh
during the ’autumn manoeuvres,’ and he thereafter proceeded with it at
the rate of a canto a week.  In his letter to George Ellis introducing
Leyden, he mentions his intention of including in the third volume of
the _Minstrelsy_ ’a long poem, a kind of romance of Border chivalry, in
a light-horseman sort of stanza.’

[1] Cranstoun, a great favourite of Scott’s, was one of his legal
advisers in his troubles.  He became a lord of session in 1826, as Lord

As we know from the Introduction to the _Lay_, it was now, while the
first draft of the poem was finished on his desk, that Scott finally
resolved to abandon the Bar for literature.  His last year’s earnings,
1802-3, were £228, 18s.  It is probable that his professional friends
expected this, which would be sure to decrease their patronage.
’Certain it is,’ he says, ’that the Scottish Themis was at this time
peculiarly jealous of any flirtation with the Muses.’  It showed, all
the same, great confidence in his literary resources, for he was well
aware that anything like a firm reputation with the public was a thing
he had still to acquire.

Every one now knows that the story of the goblin page, Gilpin Horner,
was really the occasion which started the poem.  The beautiful young
Countess of Dalkeith, having heard the old legend, suggested half in
jest that Scott should make a ballad of it.  ’A single scene of feudal
festivity in the hall of Branksome, disturbed by some pranks of a
nondescript goblin, was probably all that he contemplated; but suddenly,
as he meditates his theme to the sound of the bugle, there flashes on
him the idea of extending his simple outline so as to embrace a vivid
panorama of that old Border life of war and tumult.  Erskine, or
Cranstoun, suggests that he would do well to divide the poem into
cantos, and prefix to each of them a motto explanatory of the action,
after the fashion of Spenser in the _Faery Queen_.  He pauses for a
moment—and the happiest conception of the framework of a picturesque
narrative that ever occurred to any poet—one that Homer might have
envied—the creation of the ancient harper, starts to life.  By such
steps did the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_ grow out of the _Minstrelsy of
the Scottish Border_.’

Lockhart has also drawn attention to the fact that Scott seems to have
been quite willing to communicate this poem, in its progress, to all and
sundry of his acquaintances.  ’We shall find him’ (he adds) ’following
the same course with his _Marmion_—but not, I think, with any of his
subsequent works.  His determination to consult the movements of his own
mind alone in the conduct of his pieces, was probably taken before he
began the _Lay_; and he soon resolved to trust for the detection of
minor inaccuracies to two persons only—James Ballantyne and William

                            *CHAPTER XXXIX*

Edinburgh Literary Society—The Men of 1800-1820—Revelation of Scott’s
Poetical Genius—Effect in Edinburgh—Local Pride in his
Greatness—Anecdote of Pitt—Success of _Lay of the Last
Minstrel_—Connection with Ballantyne—Secrecy of the Partnership.

Enough has been said of individuals, of both the old and the new
generation, to show the kind of society which looked on when Walter
Scott made his first great attempt upon the public favour.  The days of
Hume and Home and Robertson were past, but a few of their
contemporaries, such as Fergusson and Henry Mackenzie, still adorned the
scene.  Then there were Jeffrey, Cockburn, Brougham, and the rest of the
young Mountaineers whom Cockburn has so fondly sketched.  Well may
Cockburn sing the praises of the unforgotten time—the first two decades
of the nineteenth century.  He explains its brilliancy by ’a variety of
peculiar circumstances which operated only during this period.’  There
was, of course, the excitement of the war, with the stir and enthusiasm
of the military preparations, all promoting cordiality in social
intercourse. The closing of the Continent to the English, and the
celebrity of Edinburgh’s scientists and philosophers, brought many
southerners there for pleasure or for education.  But above all, the
Edinburgh of those days realised what can seldom be attained more than
partially in great centres—the ideal of ’literature and society
embellishing each other, without rivalry, and without pedantry.’  After
the Peace there began a process of decay.  Southern visitors turned to
Italy and France, as in former years.  And our philosophic Memorialist
quaintly admits that ’a new race of peaceformed native youths came on
the stage, but with little literature, and a comfortless intensity of
political zeal.’

To all the best of this interesting society Scott was already known, to
many among both the old and the young he was an intimate friend, but
they could hardly have foreseen, any more than he himself could have
anticipated, the marvellous possibilities of the career of which they
now beheld the auspicious start.  Fortunately we have, in Cockburn’s
_Memorials_, a brief and sober, but genuine and interesting picture of
contemporary feeling in Edinburgh: ’Walter Scott’s vivacity and force
had been felt since his boyhood by his comrades, and he had disclosed
his literary inclinations by some translations of German ballads, and a
few slight pieces in the _Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_; but his
power of great original conception and execution was unknown both to his
friends and himself.  In 1805 he revealed his true self by the
publication of the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_.  The subject, from the
principle of which he rarely afterwards deviated, was, for the period
singularly happy.  It recalled scenes and times and characters so near
as almost to linger in the memories of the old, and yet so remote that
their revival, under poetical embellishments, imparted the double
pleasure of invention and of history.  The instant completeness of his
success showed him his region.  The _Lay_ was followed by a more
impressive pause of wonder and then by a louder shout of admiration,
than even our previous Edinburgh poem—_The Pleasures of Hope_. But
nobody, not even Scott, anticipated what was to follow.  Nobody imagined
the career that was before him; that the fertility of his genius was to
be its most wonderful distinction; that there was to be an unceasing
recurrence of fresh delight, enhanced by surprise at his rapidity and
richness.  His advances were like the conquests of Napoleon; each new
achievement overshadowing the last; till people half wearied of his very
profusion.  The quick succession of his original works, interspersed as
they were with (for him rather unworthy) productions of a lower kind,
threw a literary splendour over his native city, which had now the glory
of being at once the seat of the most popular poetry, and the most
powerful criticism of the age.’

An interesting anecdote is recorded by an early friend, William Dundas,
which pleasantly connects with Scott the name of the great premier Pitt,
then drawing, in solitary grandeur, near to the end of his extraordinary
career.  Dundas writes: ’I remember at Mr. Pitt’s table in 1805, the
Chancellor asked me about you and your then situation, and after I had
answered him, Mr. Pitt observed—"He can’t remain as he is," and desired
me to "look to it."  He then repeated some lines from the _Lay_
describing the old harper’s embarrassment when asked to play, and
said—"This is a sort of thing which I might have expected in painting,
but could never have fancied capable of being given in poetry."

As regards the sale of the poem, the figures established a record in the
history of popular poetry in Britain.  ’The first edition of the _Lay_
was a magnificent quarto, seven hundred and fifty copies; but this was
soon exhausted, and there followed one octavo impression after another
in close succession to the number of fourteen.  In fact, some forty-four
thousand copies had been disposed of in this country, and by the
legitimate trade alone, before he superintended the edition of 1830, to
which his biographical introductions were prefixed.  The author’s whole
share in the profits of the _Lay_ came to £769, 6s.’

Very shortly after this Scott’s unworldly faith and simple confidence in
his friend led him to hoist on his shoulders the odious Succubus
Ballantyne.  This personage, pleading increasing expenses and need of
’more capital,’ applied for a second ’liberal loan.’  We have the man’s
own story, which to those who know what business is, needs no comment.
We see the confident, smirking tradesman gaily holding up the bottomless
sack, and Scott, with the sublime folly of a generous and sanguine
nature, pouring his hard-won treasures into it.  ’Now,’ says James,
’being compelled, maugre all delicacy’ (how well he understood Scott!)
’to renew my application, he candidly answered that he was not quite
sure that it would be prudent for him to comply, but in order to evince
his entire confidence in me, he was willing to make a suitable advance
to be admitted as a third-sharer in my business.’  Lockhart observes on
this, that no trace has been discovered of any examination into the
state of the business on the part of Scott, at this time.  This is the
sort of remark one would expect from Lockhart, a gentleman: but the
implied acceptance of a portion of the blame for Scott is quite
unnecessary.  The question is, ’What did the Succubus say, and what did
he show, to Scott at this time?  Enough, I have no doubt, to convince
Scott, and on quite good and sufficient grounds, that he was being
favoured in being permitted to have a share in the concern.  The
fallacy, and the weakness, were in the man, not in the business.
Scott’s one mistake was this transcendental confidence in Ballantyne,
who was a man formed by nature to _fail_!  The partnership was very
wisely kept a strict secret, and seems for years not even to have been
suspected by any of his daily companions, except Erskine.  Lockhart has
remarked that ’its influence on his literary exertions and his worldly
fortunes was productive of much good and not a little evil.  I at this
moment doubt whether it ought, on the whole, to be considered with more
of satisfaction or of regret.’

                              *CHAPTER XL*

Scott and Jeffrey—Founding of _Edinburgh Review_—Impression in
Edinburgh—Its Political and Literary Pretences—Review of _Lay_ by
Jeffrey—Strange Mistake—Beautiful Appreciation by Mr. Gladstone
quoted—The _Dies Irae_.

In his Introduction to the _Lay_ Scott mentions, _inter alia_, that the
poem had ’received the imprimatur of Mr. Francis Jeffrey, who had been
already for some time distinguished by his critical talent.’  The
_Edinburgh Review *had been founded on the 10th of October 1802.  Sydney
Smith, Jeffrey, Brougham, and Horner were the most conspicuous among the
founders. Sydney Smith was the first editor.  He mentions the fact in
the Preface to his Works: ’I proposed that we should set up a review;
this was acceded to with acclamation.  I was appointed editor, and
remained long enough in Edinburgh to edit the first number of the
*Edinburgh Review_.’  Cockburn confirms the statement, but points out
that the projectors, though he was not at first their formal editor,
leant mainly on Jeffrey’s experience and wisdom.  Though Smith actually
edited the first number, it appears from Jeffrey’s well-known statement
that there was no official editor at first.  After three numbers had
appeared, it was seen that a responsible editor was indispensable.
Jeffrey then became editor, under a fixed arrangement with the
publisher, Archibald Constable.

Like every other successful literary enterprise, the _Edinburgh Review_
was well fitted to the circumstances and to the time.  Historically its
importance was far greater than we can now well realise.  But we can,
from Cockburn’s glowing account of it, to some extent conceive how to
the literary youth of the time it appeared a phenomenon as remarkable as
the original works of Scott.  In his _Life_ of Jeffrey he gives a long
and complete account of the founding and the founders of the _Review_,
and says of its first appearance: ’The effect was electrical.  And,
instead of expiring, as many wished, in their first effort, the force of
the shock was increased on each subsequent discharge.  It is impossible
for those who did not live at the time, and in the heart of the scene,
to feel, or almost to understand the impression made by the new
luminary, or the anxieties with which its motions were observed.  It was
an entire and instant change of everything that the public had been
accustomed to in that sort of composition. The old periodical opiates
were extinguished at once.  The learning of the new Journal, its talent,
its spirit, its writing, its independence, were all new; and the
surprise was increased by a work so full of public life springing up,
suddenly, in a remote part of the kingdom.’

The _Review_ was, of course, obnoxious to the opponents of reform.  It
was assailed with the usual amount of ridicule and personal abuse, and
with prophecies of the speedy demise of so scandalous a publication.
Few, indeed, anticipated that it had come to stay.  None foresaw the
services it was destined to perform.  But all watched its progress with
intense curiosity and interest.  In Edinburgh, naturally, the interest
was of the greatest.  Men soon perceived that it was creating a new
literary reputation for the city. It was something gained when the voice
of Edinburgh counted for a power in political affairs.  And, of course,
with continued success, the voice became stronger, and the importance of
Scottish opinion in both politics and literature was more and more
widely acknowledged.  ’All were the better for a journal to which every
one with an object of due importance had access, which it was vain
either to bully or to despise, and of the fame of which even its
reasonable haters were inwardly proud.’

Jeffrey’s review of the _Lay_ is, on the whole, creditable to his
critical sagacity and taste, though its praise fell far short of the
impression made by the poem on the public mind.  He made one strange
enough blunder.  He found fault with the goblin story, which he regarded
as an excrescence, not knowing that it was actually the origin and
occasion of the whole.  He was wrong also in doubting the power of the
poet’s genius to inspire an interest in the exploits of the stark
moss-troopers, and in the rugged names of the Border heroes and the
Border scenes.  All these uncouth names are now familiar in our mouths
as household words.

To sum up with the _Lay_, Mr. Gladstone, in that delightful _causerie_
on Scott given to his friends at Hawarden in 1868, said two excellent
things about Scott’s poetry.  The first is, that Scott’s reputation
rests not less on his verse than on his prose.  The second is, that his
most extraordinary power, his highest genius, is shown at times in his
poetry.  ’I know nothing more sublime in the writings of Sir Walter
Scott—certainly I know nothing so sublime in any portion of the sacred
poetry of modern times—I mean of the present century—as the "Hymn for
the Dead," extending only to twelve lines, which he embodied in the _Lay
of the Last Minstrel_.  It is in these words, and they perhaps may be

    "That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
    When heaven and earth shall pass away!
    What power shall be the sinner’s stay?
    How shall he meet that dreadful day?
    When shrivelling like a parched scroll,
    The flaming heavens together roll;
    When louder yet, and yet more dread,
    Swells the high trump that wakes the dead!
    Oh! on that day, that wrathful day,
    When man to judgment wakes from clay,
    Be THOU the trembling sinner’s stay,
    Though heaven and earth shall pass away!"

Simple as these words, and few as these lines are, they are enough to
stamp with greatness the name of the man who wrote them.’

                             *CHAPTER XLI*

Town and Country—Scott’s Ideal—Reversion of Clerkship—Impeachment of
Lord Melville—Acquittal—The Edinburgh Dinner—Scott’s Song of
Triumph—Nature of his Professional Duties—Social Claims and Literary

When Scott decided to abandon the Bar, he had no intention of quitting
Edinburgh.  Notwithstanding his delight in natural scenery and his real
fondness for rural pursuits and his passion for sport, he had an equally
strong attachment to the city and its old routine. ’Here is the
advantage of Edinburgh’ (he says in his _Journal_).  ’In the country, if
a sense of inability once seizes me, it haunts me from morning to night;
but in Edinburgh the time is so occupied and frittered away by official
duties and chance occupation, that you have not time to play Master
Stephen and be gentlemanlike and melancholy.  On the other hand, you
never feel in town those spirit-stirring influences—those glances of
sunshine that make amends for clouds and mist.  The country is said to
be quieter life; not to me, I am sure.  In the town the business I have
to do hardly costs me more thought than just occupies my mind, and I
have as much of gossip and ladylike chat as consumes the time pleasantly
enough.  In the country I am thrown entirely on my own resources, and
there is no medium betwixt happiness and the reverse.’  To carry out his
ideal, therefore, of a life alternating between town and country, and
enjoying the best of both, and to keep his mind easy about the
provision—generous, of course—which he should make for his increasing
family, Scott was not satisfied with an income of £1000 a year.  He
accordingly set about obtaining another post—such a post (he frankly
puts it) as an author might hope to retreat upon, without any
perceptible alteration of circumstances, whenever the time came that the
public grew weary of him, or he himself tired of his pen.  He hoped, in
fact, to obtain a clerkship in the Court of Session, and his friends
began to work for it just after the _Lay_ was published. These friends
were the Duke of Buccleuch and Lord Melville, and, as we have seen, Pitt
himself had given orders that something should be done.  Near the end of
1805 it was arranged that Scott should have the succession to the
clerkship held by Mr. Home of Wedderburn.  The old gentleman was to
retain the whole salary during his life, while Scott was to do the work
and fall into the salary at Home’s death.  The matter was arranged just
before Lord Melville’s retirement, but a mistake having been made in the
patent, Scott’s commission had to be made out by the Home Secretary of
the Whig Government of 1806.  Thus it appeared as if he had owed his
appointment to the Whigs, and some of the meaner sort among the local
people grumbled loudly and complained of the preference. Scott resented
this doubly, since he really owed nothing to the Whig Ministry and would
never have accepted a favour at their hands.  Lockhart says that this
incident was the occasion of his making himself prominent for a time as
a decided Tory partisan.

The Coalition Government signalised its accession to power by impeaching
Lord Melville.  The charges, it is now well known, were groundless and
absurd. At the same time ’the investigation brought out many
circumstances by no means creditable to his discretion.’  But on the one
side there was a savage whoop of triumph when the autocrat was himself
brought to trial; on the other, loud and scornful jubilation when the
great pro-consul was acquitted.  Less noise might well have served.  In
Edinburgh a public dinner was held to celebrate the event, on the 27th
of June 1806, and for this occasion Scott wrote a jolly piece of
rattling doggerel, ’Health to Lord Melville,’ which was sung by James
Ballantyne, and received with shouts of applause. A line in this song
’Tally-ho to the Fox,’ was fastened upon by political spite as a shout
of triumph over Fox, because he was then on his death-bed.  Never was
any effort of malignity more idiotic.  If it had been so intended, even
a fool might have seen that it would have been irrelevant.  It was, of
course, merely one note of the triumphal cock-crowing at the defeat of
the impeachment.  Any one who could seriously think that Scott would for
a moment rejoice at the illness or death of Fox is outside the pale of

Surprise has often been expressed at the enormous output of Scott’s
literary labours during the twenty most active years of his life.  But,
vast as it is, the literary output represents only half of his industry
and exertion.  Neither his sheriffship nor his clerkship was a sinecure.
The latter required actual attendance in the court, on the average, for
from four to six hours daily during rather less than six months out of
the twelve.  The work, though partly mechanical, constantly entailed
extra toil in the way of consulting law papers and authorities at home.
It is well known, too, that Scott performed these duties with the most
conscientious regularity and care.  He never employed inferior
assistants to relieve himself of drudgery.  He took a just pride, as did
also the best of his colleagues, in maintaining a high reputation for
legal science. There can, indeed, be no question of the justness of his
biographer’s view, that it forms one of the most remarkable features in
his history, that during his great period of literary production, he
must have devoted a large proportion of his hours, during half at least
of every year, to the conscientious discharge of professional duties.

Thus Scott, while in Edinburgh, led a life of very exacting labour, and
strictly governed by official routine.  His habit of early rising
enabled him to get through the larger portion of his literary task
before breakfast.  He was always ready to play his part cheerfully in
the duties of the family circle, as well as to implement the round of
social engagements.  The latter were always great, owing to his own and
his wife’s popularity in society.  Of course, as time went on and his
fame became world-wide, these social calls upon his leisure became
greater and greater.  Still, he would often contrive to rescue some of
the evening hours as well, in order to complete the minimum of his daily
literary task.  But for occasional drives with his family or friends,
his time in town was mainly spent indoors, and later on he confessed
that this want of activity and open-air life proved highly injurious to
his bodily health.

                             *CHAPTER XLII*

Colleagues at the Clerks’ Table-Morritt on Scott’s Conversation—His Home
Life—Treatment of his Children—Ideas on Education—Knowledge of the
Bible—Horsemanship, Courage, Veracity—Success of the Training.

The kindly affections of friendship were always to Scott ’the dearest
part of human intercourse.’  Even in ’that sand-cart of a place, the
Parliament House’ he found them in abundance.  Among his colleagues were
Colin Mackenzie of Portmore, the friend of his boyhood, ’one of the
wisest, kindest, and best men of his time’: Hector Macdonald Buchanan of
Drummakiln: Sir Robert Dundas of Beechwood: and David Hume, nephew of
the great David and Professor of Scots Law, afterwards a Baron of the
Exchequer. Mentioning a dinner at Dundas’s house, Scott says, ’My little
_nieces_ (_ex officio_) gave us some pretty music.’  The explanation of
this is that all these families were so intimate and friendly that the
children all called their fathers’ colleagues _uncles_, and the mothers
of their little friends _aunts_.  ’In truth’ (says Lockhart) ’the
establishment was a brotherhood.’

We may here quote his friend Morritt’s description, which, referring to
the year 1808, gives so lifelike a notion of what Scott was to the
friends of his prime: ’At this period his conversation was more equal
and animated than any man’s that I ever knew.  It was most characterised
by the extreme felicity and fun of his illustrations, drawn from the
whole encyclopedia of life and nature, in a style sometimes too
exuberant for written narrative, but which to him was natural and
spontaneous.  A hundred stories, always apposite, and often interesting
the mind by strong pathos, or eminently ludicrous, were daily told,
which, with many more, have since been transplanted, almost in the same
language, into the Waverley Novels and his other writings.  These, and
his recitations of poetry, which can never be forgotten by those who
knew him, made up the charm that his boundless memory enabled him to
exert to the wonder of the gaping lovers of wonders. But equally
impressive and powerful was the language of his warm heart, and equally
wonderful were the conclusions of his vigorous understanding, to those
who could return or appreciate either.  Among a number of such
recollections, I have seen many of the thoughts which then passed
through his mind embodied in the delightful prefaces annexed late in
life to his poetry and novels.  Keenly enjoying literature as he did,
and indulging his own love of it in perpetual composition, he always
maintained the same estimate of it as subordinate and auxiliary to the
purposes of life, and rather talked of men and events than of books and

The happiness he made at home for his children in their early years has
been revealed by his son-in-law in a charming passage.  Though familiar
to many, it can hardly be out of place here: ’He had now two boys and
two girls:—and he never had more.  (They were Charlotte Sophia, born
1799; Walter, 1801; Anne, 1803; and Charles, 1805).  He was not one of
those who take much delight in a mere infant; but no father ever devoted
more time and tender care to his offspring than he did to each of his,
as they reached the age when they could listen to him, and understand
his talk.  Like their playmates, Camp and the greyhounds, they had at
all times free access to his study; he never considered their prattle as
any disturbance; they went and came as pleased their fancy; he was
always ready to answer their questions; and when they, unconscious how
he was engaged, entreated him to lay down his pen and tell them a story,
he would take them on his knee, repeat a ballad or legend, kiss them,
and set them down again to their marbles or ninepins, and resume his
labour, as if refreshed by the interruption.  From a very early age he
made them dine at table, and "to sit up to supper" was the great reward
when they had been "very good bairns."  In short, he considered it as
the highest duty as well as the sweetest pleasure of a parent to be the
companion of his children; he partook all their little joys and sorrows,
and made his kind unformal instructions to blend so easily and playfully
with the current of their own sayings and doings, that so far from
regarding him with any distant awe, it was never thought that any sport
or diversion could get on in the right way, unless _papa_ were of the
party, or that the rainiest day could be dull, so he were at home.’

Scott was no elaborate theorist in regard to education. His sound
practical sense laid hold instinctively of a few invaluable principles,
and these he carried out with his children with the most beneficial
results.  He would have nothing to do with the great specific of the
period, those fearful ’children’s books’ filled with endless facts of
science precisely worded for the purpose of committing to memory.  He
was quite pleased, however, with the older-fashioned books, in which
stories appealing to the imagination were employed as a means of
exciting curiosity in graver matters. He took pains to select for their
tasks in recitation such passages of poetry as might be expected to
please their fancy.  His own stories and legends with which he amused
them were the beginnings of an intelligent interest in Scottish History,
and on Sundays the Bible stories were in the same way made at once
delightful and familiar.  ’He had his Bible’ (says Lockhart), ’the Old
Testament especially, by heart; and on these days inwove the simple
pathos or sublime enthusiasm of Scripture, in whatever story he was
telling, with the same picturesque richness as in his week-day tales the
quaint Scotch of Pitscottie, or some rude romantic old rhyme from
Barbour’s _Bruce_ or Blind Harry’s _Wallace_:

It was characteristic of the man to combine, like Xenophon’s ancient
Persians, the love of truth and the love of horsemanship as the two
greatest aims in education.  Each of his children, both girls and boys,
became, as soon as old and strong enough for the exercise, the companion
of his own rides over moor and stream and hill.  He taught them to laugh
at tumbles and slight misadventures, and they soon caught his own
spirit, and came to delight in adventurous feats like his own.  ’Without
courage,’ he used to say, ’there cannot be truth; and without truth
there can be no other virtue.’  With such a teacher, we may be sure the
two fundamental virtues were imbibed in full perfection.

                            *CHAPTER XLIII*

_Marmion_—Published by Constable—Misfortunes of Thomas Scott—George
Ellis on _Marmion_—Hostile Review by Jeffrey—Charge of Want of
Patriotism—Mrs. Scott and Jeffrey—Extraordinary Success of the Poem.

_Marmion_ was begun in November 1806, and continued at intervals during
the following year.  He had made up his mind—so he tells us in the
Introduction—not to be in a hurry with his new poem, but to bestow upon
it more than his usual care.  Particular passages accordingly were
’laboured with a good deal of care’ and the progress of the work seems
to have given him much pleasure.  ’The period of its composition was a
very happy one in my life.’  _Marmion_ was the first of Scott’s original
works published by Archibald Constable.  This enterprising gentleman
offered a thousand guineas for the poem shortly after it was begun, a
fact which speaks volumes at once for the sagacity of the publisher and
the impression already made by the poet.  The offer was accepted, and
the price paid long before the book was published.  Scott seems to have
had occasion for the use of the money in connection with the final
withdrawal of his brother Thomas at this time from practice as a Writer
to the Signet.  Thomas had been unfortunate in certain speculations
outside his proper business.  He afterwards became paymaster of the 70th
Regiment and died in Canada.

The appearance of _Marmion_ was expected with intense interest in
literary circles.  It was published in the February of 1808.  The
general feeling was that expressed after an interval of two months by
Scott’s friend George Ellis, that ’dear old friend, who had more wit,
learning, and knowledge of the world than would fit out twenty
_literati_.’  Ellis writes, ’All the world are agreed that you are like
the elephant mentioned in the _Spectator_, who was the greatest elephant
in the world except himself, and consequently, that the only question at
issue is, whether the _Lay_ or _Marmion_ shall be reputed the most
pleasing poem in our language.’  He goes on to say that most people
consider the Introductory Epistles—that to Canto V. is addressed to
himself—as merely interruptions to the narrative.  He expresses his own
opinion that _Marmion_ is preferable to the _Lay_, because its species
of excellence is of much more difficult attainment.  He thinks that
_Marmion_, from the nature of the plot, and from the quality and variety
of the characters, might with advantage have been largely extended, and
elevated to the rank and dignity of an Epic in twelve books.  Such seems
to have been, in brief, the spontaneous verdict on _Marmion_ of London
literary circles when the poem was fresh from the press.  The _Edinburgh
Review_, all-powerful as the critical oracle of the time, had not yet
recorded its verdict.

Jeffrey’s _Review_ had now been in existence for six years.  Its pages
were constantly illuminated by the brilliant productions of its army of
able and talented young contributors.  So far, also, it was without any
rival worth considering at all.  Its circulation was unprecedented, and
its power to make or mar the fortunes of literary aspirants was esteemed
absolute. Scott himself says, ’Of this work nine thousand copies are
printed quarterly, and no genteel family can pretend to be without it,
because, independent of its politics, it gives the only valuable
literary criticism which can be met with.’  On reading over Jeffrey’s
review of _Marmion_, one feels even yet aggrieved: but as it did not
hurt the actual victim, we need only say, with Lockhart, ’it is highly
creditable to Jeffrey’s courageous sense of duty.’  Certainly, it
requires a good deal of that quality, and of coolness as well, to
accumulate such a wealth of depreciation and petty fault-finding on the
head of a private friend and honoured colleague. Jeffrey fully
anticipated that Scott would take offence, for he wrote him a
half-apologetic letter, which was sent along with Scott’s copy of the
magazine.  The article begins with Jeffrey’s favourite sweep of the
arm—the writer of a successful poem must expect sterner criticism when
he ventures to issue a second of the same kind.  This paves the way to
enumerating previous objections—broken narrative, redundancy of minute
description, inequality of merit in the composition, and the general
spirit and animation ’unchastised by any great delicacy of taste, or
elegance of fancy.’  All these faults are common to both the poems, but
_Marmion_ is crowded with additional defects. Compared with the _Lay_,
he thinks it more clear that _Marmion_ has greater faults than that it
has greater beauties, though he is _inclined_ to believe in both
propositions.  While he admits greater richness and variety both of
character and incident, he finds in it more tedious and flat passages.
He refers with supercilious contempt to the ’epistolary dissertations,’
in which, poor man, he finds little to his taste.  He seems to be
savagely angry that the poem is a romantic narrative—presumably it ought
to have been something else.  He regrets that the author should consume
his talent in ’imitations of obsolete extravagance,’ in which he is sure
no human being can take any interest. He sums up his indictment in
numbered paragraphs: the plan bad, the incidents improbable, the
characters morally worthless, and the book too long.  Though he does
give warm and unstinted praise to ’Flodden Field,’ he finds, strange to
say, that the interspersed ballads have less finish and poetical beauty.
Stranger still, the author has wilfully neglected Scottish feelings and
Scottish characters.  Think of this charge against Walter
Scott—’scarcely one trait of Scottish nationality or patriotism has been
introduced into the book’!  A good deal is said about ’bad taste’ and
culpable haste. Then the merciful critic adds that he passes over many
other blemishes of taste and diction.  It happened that Jeffrey was
invited to dine at 39 Castle Street on the very day this article
appeared.  In reply to Jeffrey’s note Scott assured him that the article
had not disturbed his digestion, though he hoped neither his booksellers
nor the public would agree with the opinions it expressed: and begged he
would come to dinner at the hour appointed.  Lockhart tells how he was
received by his host with the frankest cordiality, but Mrs. Scott,
though perfectly polite, was not quite so easy with him as usual.  She
said as he took his leave, ’Well, good night, Mr. Jeffrey—they tell me
that you have abused Scott in the _Review_, and I hope Mr. Constable has
paid you very well for writing it.’  Scott could indeed afford to be
complacent.  There was, if anything, some danger of the popularity of
_Marmion_ giving even him ’a heeze.’

The success of _Marmion_ as a publication was as remarkable as that of
the _Lay_.  The first edition, as usual a splendid quarto, of two
thousand copies was sold out in less than a month.  More than thirty
thousand copies had been sold before the collected edition of the poems
appeared in 1830.

                             *CHAPTER XLIV*

John Murray—Share in _Marmion_—Reverence for Scott—_The Quarterly
Review_—The ’Cevallos’ Article—Jeffrey’s Pessimism—Contemplated Flight
to America—Anecdotes of Earl of Buchan.

When Constable had concluded his arrangement with Scott, he followed a
usual and prudent practice in offering fourth shares of the adventure to
two other booksellers.  They agreed, and their reply added, ’We both
view it as honourable, profitable, and glorious to be concerned in the
publication of a new poem by Walter Scott.’  The writer of these words
was John Murray, of Fleet Street, a young bookseller already of some
note.  Murray, as a keen business man, had evidently an eye to see and a
mind that could grasp the future.  He was aware that the _Edinburgh
Review_ was the great source and support of Constable’s fortunes.
Knowing also that Scott, though a Tory, was an important contributor to
the _Review_, ne seems to have been on the watch for the time when, as
he acutely anticipated, some occasion of rupture would emerge.  He told
Lockhart long after that when he read the review of _Marmion_ and the
political article in the same number, he said to himself—’Walter Scott
has feelings both as a gentleman and a Tory, which these people must now
have wounded; the alliance between him and the whole clique of the
_Review_, its proprietor included, is now shaken.’  With the same
sagacity, he pushed his advances towards Scott by the medium of James
Ballantyne. Murray came north in person, visited Scott at Ashestiel, and
learned that, as he had expected, the disruption had begun.  Scott had,
in fact, been so disgusted with an article in the twenty-sixth number
entitled ’Don Cevallos on the Usurpation of Spain,’ that he had written
to Constable withdrawing his subscription and saying, ’The _Edinburgh
Review_ had become such as to render it impossible for me to continue a
contributor to it.—_Now_, it is such as I can no longer continue to
receive or read it.’  Mr. Cadell, one of Constable’s partners, mentions
that the list of the then subscribers exhibits, in an indignant dash of
Constable’s pen opposite Scott’s name, the word ’STOPT!!!’  The
opportunity was a good one for advancing Murray’s views.  Before the end
of the year some unguarded words of Mr. Hunter, Constable’s junior
partner, made the breach complete.  We find Scott writing about ’folks
who learn to undervalue the means by which they have risen,’ and
Constable stamping his foot and saying, ’Ay, there is such a thing as
rearing the oak until it can support itself.’  The result of all this,
as concerns Scott, was that he eagerly entered into Murray’s plans for
establishing a rival _Review_, and that he carried out a scheme, ’begun’
(Lockhart admits) ’in the short-sighted heat of pique,’ of starting a
new bookselling house in Edinburgh, another rival to Constable.

Murray’s new _Review_ was the _Quarterly_.  The first number came out in
February 1809, and was quite sufficient to prove that the _Edinburgh_
was now to have a powerful competitor, and Jeffrey to find in Gifford a
’foeman worthy of his steel.’  The idea of the _Quarterly_ was precisely
that which had guided the projectors of its rival, ’to be conducted
totally independent of bookselling influence, on a plan as liberal as
that of the _Edinburgh_, its literature as well supported, and its
principles English and constitutional.’  A great deal was, naturally
enough, said at the time about the political excesses of the _Edinburgh
Review_ as having caused the introduction of the _Quarterly_.  But there
was no need to justify it on such grounds.  Lord Cockburn in his _Life_
of Jeffrey sums up the argument with equal fairness and good sense when
he says, ’It was not this solitary article’ (the ’Cevallos’) ’that
produced the rival journal.  Unless the public tone and doctrines (of
the _Edinburgh Review_) had been positively reversed, or party politics
altogether excluded, a periodical work in defence of Church, Tory, and
War principles, must have arisen; simply because the defence of these
principles required it.  The defence was a consequence of the attack.
And it is fortunate that it was so. For besides getting these opinions
fairly discussed, the party excesses natural to any unchecked
publication were diminished; and a work arose which, in many respects,
is an honour to British literature, and has called out, and indirectly
reared, a great variety of the highest order of talent.’

Jeffrey himself, in writing to Horner for opinions of the new
_Quarterly_, disavows with creditable spirit any unworthy jealousy or
fear.  He recognises the merit of the work, ’inspired, compared with the
poor prattle of Cumberland,’ and admits that his ’natural indolence
would have been better pleased not to be always in sight of an alert and
keen antagonist.’  But at the same time he rejoices in the idea of
seeing magazine literature improved, and congratulates himself on having
set the example.

Lord Cockburn expressly states that Jeffrey was himself the writer of
the unfortunate Cevallos article. It is curious and interesting, but not
so very surprising, to find an earnest and far-seeing man like Jeffrey
taking so despondent a view of British prospects in the Peninsula.  It
must be remembered that the great burst of enthusiasm in this country
over the national rising of Spain against Napoleon was really, as every
one now knows, founded upon ignorance and exaggeration.  It was
Jeffrey’s chief crime that he ventured to doubt the patriotism and
efficiency of the Spaniards.  He could not, of course, foresee what the
genius of Wellington was to effect, and he undoubtedly expected that
Napoleon would enter Ireland soon; ’and then’ (he asks) ’how is England
to be kept?’  Looking upon the conquest of the whole continent by France
as a practical certainty, he was for peace at any price, and
non-interference whatever happened elsewhere.  It was his intention when
the catastrophe came, to try to go to America.  ’I hate despotism and
insolence so much, that I could bear a great deal rather than live here
under Frenchmen and such wretches as will at first be employed by them.’

Such cold fears and calculations were apt to make his writings
distasteful in those excited times.  The Cevallos article, in which he
flatly expressed despair of the vaunted ’regeneration’ of Spain, capped
the whole. About twenty-five ’persons of consideration’ in Edinburgh
forbade the _Review_ to enter their doors.  The Earl of Buchan, a rather
vain and foolish character at the best, did more.  He ordered the door
of his house in George Street to be set wide open, and the offending
number to be laid down on the lobby floor.  Then, when all was ready,
his lordship solemnly kicked the volume out into the street.

In Scott’s _Journal_, April 20, 1829, the death of this eccentric person
is noticed: ’Lord Buchan is dead, a person whose immense vanity,
bordering upon insanity, obscured, or rather eclipsed, very considerable
talents.... I felt something at parting with this old man, though but a
trumpery body.  He gave me the first approbation I ever obtained from a
stranger.  His caprice had led him to examine Dr. Adam’s class when I, a
boy twelve years old, and then in disgrace for some aggravated case of
negligence, was called up from a low bench, and recited my lesson with
some spirit and appearance of feeling the poetry (it was the apparition
of Hector’s ghost in the _Aeneid_) amid the noble Earl’s applause.  I
was very proud of this at the time.’

                             *CHAPTER XLV*

The Calton Jail—Opening of Waterloo Place—Removal of Old Tolbooth—Scott
purchases Land at Abbotsford—Professional Income—Correspondence with
Byron—Anecdote of the ’Flitting’ from Ashestiel.

In 1808-10 the new prison on the Calton Hill was built. It stands on a
magnificent site, the old ’Doo Craig.’  All will agree with Lord
Cockburn’s remark on the ’undoubted bad taste’ of devoting that glorious
eminence, which ought to have had one of our noblest buildings, to a
jail.  The east end of Princes Street was at that time closed in by a
line of mean houses running north and south.  Beyond this all to the
east was occupied by the burying-ground, of which the south portion is
still maintained.  The only access to the hill on this side was to go
down to the foot of Leith Street, and then climb ’the steep, narrow,
stinking, spiral street still to be seen there.’  The necessity for an
easy access to the jail led to the construction of Waterloo Bridge.  The
blocking houses were, of course, removed, and a level road carried along
to the Calton Hill.  ’The effect,’ says the author of the _Memorials_,
’was like the drawing up of the curtain in a theatre. But the bridge
would never have been where it is except for the jail.  The lieges were
taxed for the prison; and luckily few of them were aware that they were
also taxed for the bridge as the prison’s access.  In all this
magnificent improvement, which in truth gave us the hill and all its
decoration, there was scarcely one particle of prospective taste.  The
houses alongside the bridge were made handsome by the speculators for
their own interest; but the general effect of the new level opening into
Princes Street, and its consequences, were planned or foreseen by

In a few years after the erection of the Calton Jail, the Old Tolbooth,
the ’Heart of Midlothian,’ was removed. Had it been preserved, it would
have been the prize relic of historical antiquity in Scotland.  ’Was it
not for many years the place in which the Scottish parliament met?  Was
it not James’s place of refuge, when the mob, inflamed by a seditious
preacher, broke forth on him with the cries of "The sword of the Lord
and of Gideon—bring forth the wicked Haman"?’  It stood, ’as is well
known to all men,’ near the Cathedral, in the very middle of the High
Street, and the purpose of widening the street and opening up the
Cathedral was the excuse for its demolition.  Scott describes it as
’antique in form, gloomy and haggard in aspect, its black stanchioned
windows opening through its dingy walls like the apertures of a hearse.’
Cockburn speaks of it as a most atrocious jail, the very breath of which
almost struck down any stranger who entered its dismal door; and as
ill-placed as possible, without one inch of ground beyond its black and
horrid walls.  And these walls were very small; the entire hole being
filled with little dark cells; heavy manacles the only security;
airless, waterless, drainless; a living grave.  But yet I wish the
building had been spared.’  The only memorial of it now is a heart in
the street formed of particoloured stones, showing where the door of the
prison stood.  At Abbotsford may be seen, decorating the entrance of the
kitchen court, the stones of the old gateway, and also the door itself
with its ponderous fastenings.

In the summer of 1811 Scott made his first purchase of land at
Abbotsford.  The name was taken from a ford in the Tweed just above the
influx of Gala Water. The whole of the lands round there had at one time
belonged to the Abbey of Melrose.  The property had sunk into a state of
great neglect under an absentee owner.  The land was neither drained,
properly enclosed, nor even fully reclaimed.  The house was small, with
a kailyard at one end and a barn at the other.  But Scott in his mind’s
eye already saw it all as he intended it to be.  With boyish delight in
the prospect of realising his one innocent ambition, he writes to his
brother-in-law: ’I have bought a property extending along the banks of
the River Tweed for about half a mile.  This is the greatest incident
which has lately taken place in our domestic concerns, and I assure you
we are not a little proud of being greeted as _laird_ and _lady of
Abbotsford_.  We will give a grand gala when we take possession of it,
and as we are very clannish in this corner, all the Scotts in the
country, from the Duke to the peasant, shall dance on the green to the
bagpipes, and drink whisky punch.’

At the beginning of the next year, January 1812, Scott came into his
salary as Clerk of Session.  He had now a professional income of £1600 a
year.  Why, then, was he not to buy land and become a laird?

In this year began that correspondence with Byron which connects so
pleasantly the names of the two most popular poets of the day.  In one
letter he mentions that he was staying in the gardener’s hut at
Abbotsford.  Alterations were going on apace, and besides raising the
roof and projecting some of the lower windows, a rustic porch, a
supplemental cottage at one end, and a fountain to the south, soon made
their appearance.  Here is the ’laird’s’ amusing account of his
’flitting’ from Ashestiel: ’The neighbours have been much delighted with
the procession of my furniture, in which old swords, bows, targets, and
lances made a very conspicuous show.  A family of turkeys was
accommodated within the helmet of some _preux_ chevalier of ancient
border fame; and the very cows, for aught I know, were bearing banners
and muskets.  I assure your ladyship that this caravan, attended by a
dozen of ragged rosy peasant children, carrying fishing-rods and spears,
and leading ponies, greyhounds, and spaniels, would, as it crossed the
Tweed, have furnished no bad subject for the pencil, and really reminded
me of the gypsey groups of Callot upon their march.’

                             *CHAPTER XLVI*

Scott and the Actors—Kemble, Siddons, Terry—Terry’s Imitation of ’the
Shirra’—Anecdote of Terry and C. Mathews—Mathews in Edinburgh—’The Reign
of Scott’—Anecdotes of his Children—Excursion to the Western Isles.

A very remarkable feature of Edinburgh society at this period was the
free admittance to the best houses of the chief actors of the time.
Scott was particularly fond of their company.  Charles Young, in 1803,
seems to have been the first of these theatrical friends.  Later came
John Philip Kemble and his incomparable sister, Mrs. Siddons.  Scott
used to say that Kemble was the only man who ever seduced him into very
deep potations in his middle life.  Through his intimacy with Kemble,
Scott was led to take an interest in getting Henry Siddons, Kemble’s
nephew, to take on the lease and management of the Edinburgh Theatre.
He purchased a share, became a trustee, and continued to take much
interest in the affairs of the company. Daniel Terry also was a friend
of Scott’s.  Both Terry and Kemble were highly educated men, and were
well read in the old literature of the drama.  Terry was also, like
Scott, an enthusiast in the antiquities of _vertu_. Terry was remarkable
for his apparently involuntary imitation of Scott, whom he almost
worshipped.  In particular, he acquired the power of imitating his
handwriting so closely that Lockhart says their letters, lying before
him, appeared as if they had all been written by one person.  Scott
himself used to say that, if he were called on to swear to any document,
the utmost he could venture to attest would be, that it was either in
his own hand or in Terry’s.  Their common friends were much amused at
the approximation of Terry to a replica of Scott in facial tricks and
gravity of expression, and even in tone and accent.  It is this that
gives point to an anecdote of Terry and Charles Mathews.  They happened
to be thrown out of a gig together, and Mathews received an injury which
made him lame for life, while Terry escaped unhurt.  ’Dooms, _Dauniel_,’
said Mathews when they next met, ’what a pity that it wasna your luck to
get the game leg, mon!  Your Shirra would hae been the very thing, ye
ken, an’ ye wad hae been croose till ye war coffined.’

Mathews was in Edinburgh in the spring of 1812, when he seems to have
been greatly delighted with his success.  On April 13th he wrote to his
wife: ’Edinburgh turned out as delightful as Glasgow was horrible.
Beautiful weather—good society—had the luck to see the superfine
patterns of the Scotch; and the warmest reception I ever yet met with,
because I have considered an Edinburgh audience so difficult to please.
Hundreds turned away at my benefit.  I reckon Edinburgh an annuity to me
for the future.’

Scott’s popularity as a poet was about this time at its highest.  This
period (1811) was, as Byron said, ’the reign of Scott.’  He had reached
his poetical apogee with the publication of the _Lady of the Lake_, the
most successful of all his poems.  In Edinburgh, by James Ballantyne’s
habit of reading portions to select friends while the work was printing,
the highest expectations had been excited.  Cadell, the publisher,
testifies that, when it appeared, the country rang with the praises of
the poet.  ’Crowds’ (he says) ’set off to view the scenery of Loch
Katrine, till then comparatively unknown: and as the book came out just
before the season for excursions, every house and inn in that
neighbourhood was crammed with a constant succession of visitors.  It is
a well-ascertained fact, that from the date of the publication of the
_Lady of the Lake_, the post-horse duty in Scotland rose in an
extraordinary degree, and indeed it continued to do so regularly for a
number of years, the author’s succeeding works keeping up the enthusiasm
for our scenery which he had thus originally created.’  Within a year no
fewer than 20,000 copies of the poem were sold.

Scott, as is well known, was always too modest and sensible to be, even
at the height of success, ’a partisan of his own poetry.’  John
Ballantyne is the authority for a very surprising instance of this.  ’I
remember,’ he says, ’going into his library shortly after the
publication of the _Lady of the Lake_, and finding Miss Scott (who was
then a very young girl) there by herself.  I asked her—"Well, Miss
Sophia, how do you like the _Lady of the Lake_?"  Her answer was given
with perfect simplicity—"Oh, I have not read it: papa says there’s
nothing so bad for young people as reading bad poetry."’

Lockhart adds that the children in those days of childhood really did
not know that their father was in any way distinguished above the other
gentlemen of his profession who were their visitors and friends. He caps
Ballantyne’s story with another: ’The eldest boy, Walter, came home one
afternoon from the High School, with tears and blood hardened together
upon his cheeks.—"Well, Wat," said his father, "what have you been
fighting about to-day?"  The boy blushed and hung his head, and at last
stammered out—that he had been called a _lassie_.  "Indeed!" said Mrs.
Scott, "this was a terrible mischief, to be sure."  "You may say what
you please, mamma," Wat answered roughly, ’but I dinna think there’s a
waufer (shabbier) thing in the world than to be a lassie, to sit boring
at a clout.’  Upon further inquiry it turned out that one or two of his
companions had dubbed him the _Lady of the Lake_, and the phrase was to
him incomprehensible, save as conveying some imputation on his prowess,
which he accordingly vindicated in the usual style of the Yards.  Of the
poem he had never before heard.  Shortly after, this story having got
wind, one of Scott’s colleagues of the Clerks’ Table said to the boy—who
was in the home circle called _Gilnockie_, from his admiration of Johnny
Armstrong—"Gilnockie, my man, you cannot surely help seeing that great
people make more work about your papa than they do about me or any other
of your _uncles_—what is it do you suppose that occasions this?"  The
little fellow pondered for a minute or two, and then answered very
gravely—"It’s commonly _him_ that sees the hare sitting."  And yet this
was the man who had his children all along so very much with him.’

It was at this time, while his heart was in a glow with happiness, that
he made his famous excursion to the Western Isles.  The Laird of Staffa,
whose hospitality he celebrates, was the elder brother of his colleague
Macdonald Buchanan.  The Laird was an ideal specimen of the old Highland
chief, ’living among a people distractedly fond of him.’

                            *CHAPTER XLVII*

_Waverley_ laid aside—_Rokeby_—Excitement at Oxford—Ballantyne’s
Dinner—Scott’s Idea of Byron as a Poet—Ballantyne’s Mismanagement—Aid
from Constable—Loan from the Duke—Scott decides to finish _Waverley_.

On his return from the Hebrides, while rummaging one morning for flies
in an old desk, Scott came upon a manuscript, long since laid aside,
containing the first two or three chapters of _Waverley_.  It was now
taken out, and shown to James Ballantyne.  But he was only faintly
confident of success, and the packet containing Cæsar’s fortunes was
again laid by.

The poem of _Rokeby_ occupied Scott in 1812.  In Edinburgh we see James
Ballantyne again reading from the sheets to his select circle of
critics.  The effect is not quite satisfactory.  The _Lady of the Lake_
has spoiled Edinburgh.  Enthusiasm is gone.  But not so in England.
Look at this picture of Lockhart’s: ’I well remember, being in those
days a young student at Oxford, how the booksellers’ shops there were
beleaguered for the earliest copies, and how he that had been so
fortunate as to secure one was followed to his chambers by a tribe of
friends, all as eager to hear it read as ever horse-jockeys were to see
the conclusion of a race at Newmarket; and indeed not a few of those
enthusiastic academics had bets depending on the issue of the struggle,
which they considered the elder favourite as making to keep his own
ground against the fiery rivalry of _Childe Harold_.’

All anxiety as to the sale of _Rokeby_ was soon allayed. The three
thousand quartos of the first edition were exhausted on the day of
publication, the 13th of January 1813.  Scott’s letter to his friend
Morritt, the proprietor of Rokeby, shows relief.  He mentions
Ballantyne’s ’christening dinner,’ and gaily wishes ’we could whistle
you here to-day.’  These dinners were great events, ’at which the Duke
of Buccleuch and a great many of my friends are formally feasted.  He
has always the best singing that can be heard in Edinburgh, and we have
usually a very pleasant party, at which your health as patron and
proprietor of Rokeby will be faithfully and honourably remembered.’  By
Morritt at least _Rokeby_ was considered a masterpiece.

The comparison of Scott and Byron, and the popular pitting of the one
against the other, was inevitable. The first two cantos of _Childe
Harold_, published in March 1812, had obtained a marvellous success.  It
was of this that Byron said, ’I awoke one morning, and found myself
famous.’  In such popularity Scott alone was his rival.  But the two
poets equally disapproved the talk of competition.  Speaking of a debate
of this kind between Murray and Ellis, Byron said, ’If they want to
depose Scott, I only wish they would not set me up as a competitor.  I
like the man, and all such stuff can only vex him, and do me no good.’
In this manly spirit he might have spoken for both.

No one appreciated more fully than did Scott the genius of the author of
_Childe Harold_.  He seems from the first sight of that poem to have
been satisfied in his own mind of Byron’s pre-eminent powers in poetry.
He had no desire, as he says, ’to measure his force with so formidable
an antagonist,’ but he determined to go on with the work he had planned,
and already it is evident that his thoughts were turning vaguely towards
some other literary form, in which the youthful ardour which he thought
was cooling might be less essential to success.

In this year of commercial panic, 1813, Scott began to experience the
worries and discomforts which flow from a speculative commercial
adventure shamelessly neglected by a reckless and incompetent ’manager.’
The crisis was already bringing the less substantial publishing houses
into danger, and the firm of John Ballantyne and Co. was soon reduced to
extremity. Two features are mentioned by Lockhart which sufficiently
show how well fitted John Ballantyne was to organise disaster: his blind
recklessness in regard to bills—he never looked beyond the passing
day—and his absolute neglect to keep the moneyed partner informed of his
obligations and of the state of the firm’s resources.  In Lockhart’s
opinion the concern must have gone to pieces at this time but for the
reconciliation with Constable.  He relieved Ballantyne of part of his
stock, on the understanding that the firm should, as soon as possible,
be finally wound up. In these distressing affairs it is too sadly easy
to understand the whole drama.  From his beautiful and now unspeakably
touching letters we can picture the good soft-hearted gentleman
crediting the adventurer with all his own unselfishness and fine
sensitiveness, pointing out with an apology errors of conduct which
deserved immediate dismissal with disgrace, and lamenting possible
consequences to _him_, to the needy ruined adventurer who had found a
haven of refuge in a business to which he had actually brought no
capital at all.  To make a phrase out of Spencerian jargon, Scott was
the dupe of automorphism.  His sense of duty to the imaginary
Ballantynes made him the victim of the actual ones.  He ought at this
time to have kicked both of them out, put the affairs of both concerns
into the hands of professional accountants, and considered the
situation.  But there was the secrecy as well as the automorphic
delusion.  Then he went on, of course, buying land.  He was making
money, and he _ought_ to have been able to spend.  But if a genius can
make one fortune, a reckless trifler can waste ten.  It is dreadful even
yet to think of Walter Scott, of all our great ones the _best_, slaving
and dreaming innocent Alnaschar dreams, while a Ballantyne, without any
toil at all, is piling up mountains of debt to overwhelm him.  By the
end of the year, John’s calls upon Scott necessitated more help from
Constable and a loan to Scott from the Duke of Buccleuch of £4000.  The
publishing business was to be given up at once, and the amateur
publisher was to start as an auctioneer of books and curios. During this
time of vexation and worry, Scott was constantly engaged in toilsome and
taxing labour on an edition and life of Swift, and also made a beginning
with the _Lord of the Isles_.  Just then, too, the fragment of
_Waverley_ turned up once more.  He read it, judged it this time for
himself without advice, and decided to finish it.

                            *CHAPTER XLVIII*

Success of the Allies—Address to the King—Freedom of Edinburgh—Edition
of Swift—Printing of _Waverley_—Mystery of Authorship—Edinburgh
Guesses—Excellent Review by Jeffrey—Scott’s ’gallant composure’—Success
of the Novel.

    ’O, dread was the time, and more dreadful the omen,
      When the brave on Marengo lay slaughtered in vain,
    And beholding broad Europe bow’d down by her foemen,
      Pitt closed in his anguish the map of her reign.’

The song which begins thus was written by Scott about the close of 1813,
inspired by the great successes of the Allies.  On the magistrates of
Edinburgh presenting an address to the King, Scott indited one for them
which was privately acknowledged to himself as ’the most elegant
congratulation a sovereign ever received or a subject offered.’  It is
gratifying to know that the magistrates were duly grateful for the
service, which secured for them an extremely cordial reception at
Carlton House.  At Christmas 1813 Scott was presented with the freedom
of the city and a very handsome piece of plate.

He had now been working for five or six years on the great edition of
Swift in nineteen volumes, which came out in the summer of 1814.  It was
reviewed in the _Edinburgh_ by Jeffrey at Constable’s special request.
The review contained an attack on the character of Swift so able and
incisive as, in Constable’s opinion, to have greatly retarded the sale
of the work.  But Jeffrey’s appreciation of the editor and his work was
admirable: giving him the frankest praise for ’minute knowledge and
patient research, vigour of judgment and vivacity of style.’  Of the
_Life_ he said most justly: ’It is not much like the production of a
mere man of letters, but exhibits the good sense and large toleration of
a man of the world, with much of that generous allowance for the

    "Fears of the brave and follies of the wise,"

which genius too often requires, and should therefore be always most
forward to show.’  Meantime the latter ’genius’ was preparing the great
new stroke for fame which was now to extinguish all lesser lights in a
blaze of unexpected glory.  Early in the year Ballantyne had printed the
first volume of _Waverley_.  With the precaution regularly exercised all
through, the MS. was copied by John Ballantyne before being sent to
press.  The printed volume was taken by John to Constable, who made the
very liberal offer of £700 for the copyright.  Scott’s remark was that
£700 was too much if the novel should not be successful, and too little
if it should.  But he added, ’If our fat friend had said £1000, I should
have been staggered.’  Fortunately Constable doubted, and lost the
opportunity, an agreement being ultimately made for an equal division of
profits between him and the author.  The authorship was, of course, not
hidden from ’our fat friend.’  He published, therefore, on the 7th of
July, what Scott, writing two days after to Morritt, called ’a small
anonymous sort of a novel.’  Even then, it seems, ’it had made a very
strong impression here, and the good people of Edinburgh are busy in
tracing the author....  Jeffrey has offered to make oath that it is
mine.’  Later on, replying to Morritt’s protests, he says, ’I shall not
own _Waverley_; my chief reason is, that it would prevent me the
pleasure of writing again.  David Hume, the nephew of the historian,
says the author must be of a Jacobite family and predilections, a
yeoman-cavalry man, and a Scottish lawyer, and desires me to guess in
whom these happy attributes are united.  I shall not plead guilty,
however....  The Edinburgh faith is, that _Waverley_ was written by
Jeffrey....  The second edition is, I believe, nearly through the press.
It will hardly be printed faster than it was written; for though the
first volume was begun long ago, and actually lost for a time, yet the
other two were begun and finished between the 4th June and the 1st July,
during all which I attended my duty in court, and proceeded without loss
of time or hinderance of business.’

We have an admirable picture from Lord Cockburn of the impression made
in Edinburgh by this memorable event, and the sensations, as he puts it,
produced by the first year of these Edinburgh works.  ’It is curious,’
he says, ’to remember the instant and universal impression in Edinburgh.
The unexpected newness of the thing, the profusion of original
characters, the Scotch language, Scotch scenery, Scotch men and women,
the simplicity of the writing, and the graphic force of the
descriptions, all struck us with an electric shock of delight.  If the
concealment of the authorship of the novels was intended to make mystery
heighten their effect, it completely succeeded.  The speculations and
conjectures, and nods and winks and predictions and assertions were
endless, and occupied every company, and almost every two men who met
and spoke in the street.  It was proved by a thousand indications, each
refuting the other, and all equally true in fact, that they were written
by old Henry Mackenzie, and by George Cranstoun, and William Erskine,
and Jeffrey, and above all by Thomas Scott, Walter’s brother, a
regimental paymaster, then in Canada.  But "the great unknown," as the
true author was then called, always took good care, with all his
concealment, to supply evidence amply sufficient for the protection of
his property and his fame; in so much that the suppression of the name
was laughed at as a good joke not merely by his select friends in his
presence, but by himself.  The change of line, at his age, was a
striking proof of intellectual power and richness.  But the truth is,
that these novels were rather the outpourings of old thoughts than new

From the very first the secret of the authorship was known to quite a
number of persons, indeed to all Scott’s intimates, and, in Lockhart’s
own opinion, the mystification never answered much purpose among other
literary men of eminence.  He thinks that all Scott wished was ’to set
the mob of readers at gaze, and, above all, to escape the annoyance of
having productions, actually known to be his, made the daily and hourly
topics of discussion in his presence.  All the critics, with the
exception of the savage _Quarterly_, were able to see that _Waverley_
was a great, an uncommon work.  The author was at once acknowledged to
be a genius.  Foremost and frankest was Jeffrey, who began, ’It is a
wonder what genius and adherence to nature will do.’  The reviewer has,
of course, many small and petty things to say, he has not yet
surrendered himself fully to the great enchanter, but he clearly sees
and heartily enjoys the points of real greatness—the creation of living
characters and the marvellous resurrection of the period and its social
state.  He says what is a thing most true of Scott, that the work by the
mere force of truth and vivacity of its colouring takes its place rather
with the most popular of our modern poems than with the rubbish of
provincial romances.  This point, that the book was founded upon actual
experience and observation, he strongly emphasises.  This was what Scott
of all possible authors possessed in the highest degree, and Jeffrey was
quite certain that _Waverley_ was Scott’s. He concludes by saying that
it is hard to see why the book should have been anonymous: if the author
really was an ’unknown’ personage, then Mr. Scott would have to look to
his laurels against a sturdier competitor than any he had as yet

Such was the reception of _Waverley_: a reception not unworthy of a
masterpiece.  And it is worth while to remark once again the ’gallant
composure’ of the writer who had staked his fame and fortune on an
experiment so new, uncertain, and dangerous.  Before he had heard of its
fate in England, he set out on a voyage to the Hebrides, Orkney and
Shetland, so that he was practically cut off from letters and news for
nearly two months.  When he returned, he found that two editions of
_Waverley_ had been sold.

                             *CHAPTER XLIX*

The _Lord of the Isles_—_Guy Mannering_—Universal Delight—Effects of
Peace in Scotland—Awakening of Public Opinion in Edinburgh—’Civic
War’—Professor Duncan—Sketch by Lord Cockburn.

The month of January 1815 saw the publication of Scott’s _Lord of the
Isles_.  On the 24th of February a second novel—_Guy Mannering_—was
issued, by the Author of _Waverley_.  Detailed dates given by Lockhart
show that the novel was literally written, as Scott himself said, ’in
six weeks at a Christmas.’  Writing to Morritt on January 15, he says,
’I want to shake myself free of _Waverley_, and accordingly 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.’
The biographer adds that this excess of labour was the result of
difficulties about the discount of John Ballantyne’s bills.  The _Lord
of the Isles_, though amply successful from the point of view of sale,
was in point of reputation disappointing. On James acknowledging this,
Scott, we are told by James Ballantyne, ’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.’  The reviews of the _Lord of the Isles_, though
rather severe on the structure of the poem and the imperfections of the
hero, did ample justice to the majestic power and unfailing vigour of
the story as well as to its rare descriptive beauties.  But most will
now agree with Lockhart that the best achievements in the book are the
magnificent character of the heroic King, and the Homeric battle-piece
of Bannockburn.

The reception of _Guy Mannering_ in the following month amply made up
for this partial disappointment. In two days the first edition of 2000
copies was sold out.  Within two or three months 5000 copies more were
called for.  Curiosity doubtless stimulated the first demand.  The
mystery was further deepened by the prefixing to the novel of a motto
from the _Lay_:

    ’’Tis said that words and signs have power
    O’er sprites in planetary hour;
    But scarce I praise their venturous part,
    Who tamper with such dangerous art’—

a device, as Scott said in 1829, for evading the guesses of certain
persons who had observed that the Author of _Waverley_ never quoted from
the poetry of Walter Scott.  The verdict of readers went by acclamation.
There was no dissent as to the splendid qualities of the new novel.  It
was simply a chorus of delight.  Happy generation to have the _first_
enjoyment of the Shakespearian gallery of characters containing Dominie
Sampson, the Laird of Ellangowan, Pleydell, Dandie Dinmont, and Meg

In this frame of mind, then, and in this blaze of glory, Walter Scott
passed on, with the rest, into the new generation and the changing
Edinburgh scene that followed and were products of the great European
peace of 1815.  The effects of the peace were the same in Edinburgh as
elsewhere in the country.  Cockburn has summarised them in these words:
’We got new things to speak about; and the entire disappearance of
drums, uniforms, and parades, changed our habits and appearance.  We
were charmed at the moment by a striking sermon by Alison, and a
beautiful review by Jeffrey, on the cessation of the long struggle; the
chief charm of each being in the expression of the cordial and universal
burst of joy that hailed the supposed restoration of liberty to Europe,
and the downfall of the great soldier who was believed to be its only
tyrant. Old men, but especially those in whose memories the American war
ran into the French one, had only a dim recollection of what peace was;
and middle-aged men knew it now for the first time.  The change in all
things, in all ideas, and conversation, and objects, was as complete as
it is in a town that has at last been liberated from a strict and
tedious siege.’

With the peace there began in Edinburgh some stirring of popular
interest in public questions.  One of the first signs of it was the
great public meeting, held in July 1814, to protest against West Indian
Slavery.  The meeting was non-political, being attended by sympathetic
persons of both parties.  Yet it seems to have excited alarm, as an
indication of dangerous and unsettled feelings.  A monster petition
resulted from this meeting, signed by ten or twelve thousand persons.
Some of the promoters of the petition had an amusing experience.  They
found that many of the old Calvinistic Whigs would not sign any petition
to the _Lords Spiritual_.  This was the real spirit of true-blue

Over the New Town Dispensary, which was established in 1815, there raged
what Cockburn remembered as ’a civic war.’  The vested interests and old
prejudices were up in arms against treating patients at their homes and
the election of office-bearers by subscribers.  ’However, common sense
prevailed.  The hated institution rose and flourished, and has had all
its defects imitated by its opponents.’  Prominent in this incident was
Professor Andrew Duncan, an odd specimen of the curious old Edinburgh
characters.  He is described as a kind-hearted and excellent man, but
’one of a class which seems to live and be happy, and get liked, by its
mere absurdities.’  He figured as promoter and president of all sorts of
innocent crack-brained clubs and societies, and wrote pamphlets, poems,
epitaphs and jokes without end.  His writings were all amiable, all
dull, and most of them very foolish, but they made the author happy.
The general respect and toleration for an eccentric like this throws a
strong light on the simplicity and broad-minded philosophy of the
’unreformed’ city population of a hundred years ago.  The following are
Lord Cockburn’s recollections of Duncan:—

’He was even the president of a bathing club; and once at least every
year did this grave medical professor conduct as many of the members as
he could collect to Leith, where the rule was that their respect for
their chief was to be shown by always letting him plunge first from the
machine into the water.  He continued, till he was past eighty, a
practice of mounting to the summit of Arthur’s Seat on the 1st of May,
and celebrating the feat by what he called a poem. He was very fond of
gardening, and rather a good botanist.  This made him president of the
Horticultural Society, which he oppressed annually by a dull discourse.
But in the last, or nearly the last, of them he relieved the members by
his best epitaph, being one upon himself.  After mentioning his great
age, he intimated that the time must soon arrive when, in the words of
our inimitable Shakespeare, they would all be saying "Duncan is in his

                              *CHAPTER L*

The New Town of Edinburgh in 1815—Effects of the ’Plan’—The Earthen
Mound—Criticisms by Citizens after the War—The New
Approaches—Destruction of City Trees—Lord Cockburn’s Lament.

The New Town of Edinburgh, as seen by Scott and his contemporaries, was
simply a product of the mason. The houses were plain three-story
buildings, without ornament and without variety.  They stood end-on in
long barrack-like blocks.  ’Our jealousy of variety,’ says Cockburn,
’and our association of magnificence with sameness, was really curious.
If a builder ever attempted (which, however, to do them justice, they
very seldom did) to deviate so far from the established paltriness as to
carry up the front wall so as to hide the projecting slates, or to break
the roof by a Flemish storm window, or to turn his gable to the street,
there was an immediate outcry; and if the law allowed our burgh Edile,
the Dean of Guild, to interfere, he was sure to do so.’  Mere
convenience was the only guiding principle, and it was the same with the
famous ’Plan’ for laying out the streets.  Instead of taking a hint from
the strikingly picturesque irregularity of the romantic ’Old Town,’ the
projectors studiously endeavoured to make everything as unlike it as
possible. The ’Plan’ laid down the streets in long straight lines,
divided to an inch, and all to the same number of inches, by
intersecting straight lines at right angles.

Well might a few men of taste hold up protesting hands and exclaim, What
a site did nature give us for our New Town!  Yet what insignificance in
its Plan!  What poverty in all its details!  But the most of the
citizens were quite contented with the Plan and the buildings.  They
thought the idea of three main streets intersected by six cross streets
at right angles and at regular distances, a perfect inspiration of
genius.  They talked of its beauty and elegance, and fondly believed
that the New Town had few equals in Europe.  Certainly in one point the
contrast with the Old Town was in favour of the New.  The streets were
made spacious and broad, giving the inestimable boon of free air.  Along
with the New Town there gradually grew another monument, gigantic in
every sense, of the taste of Edinburgh citizens—’the Mound,’ as it is
still called, a monument which justifies the city’s love and pride in
being at least unique.  It took fifty years to collect, it is eight
hundred feet long, its height at the north end is sixty feet, and at the
south end one hundred.  Like every other great work, the Mound has had
its detractors.  Lord Cockburn said of it, ’The creation of that
abominable incumbrance, the "Earthen Mound," by which the valley it
abridges and deforms was sacrificed for a deposit of rubbish, was not
only permitted without a murmur to be slowly raised, but throughout all
its progress was applauded as a noble accumulation.’  It was originally
suggested by a Lawnmarket shopkeeper.  Even at the present day there are
some who have their doubts about its beauty and elegance, but they are
easily silenced by recalling its vastness and its original cheapness.
The Mound, in fact, is here to stay.

After the peace, when Europe was immediately covered with travellers, it
became known to some Edinburgh natives that there were better things in
city architecture than the ’regular, elegant, and commodious’ houses of
New Edinburgh.  ’Not one of them, whether from taste, or conceit, or
mere chattering—but it all did good—failed to contrast the littleness of
almost all that the people of Edinburgh had yet done, with the general
picturesque grandeur and the unrivalled sites of their city.  It was
about this time that the foolish phrase, "The Modern Athens," began to
be applied to the capital of Scotland; a sarcasm, or a piece of affected
flattery, when used in a moral sense; but just enough if meant only as a
comparison of the physical features of the two places.’

The existence of a New Town soon forced on the opening up of the city by
adequate routes of access. The narrow, steep, and crooked ’wynds’ of the
Old Town had been constructed in the days when to keep enemies out was
the first, indeed the only consideration. Now it became a primary
necessity to provide broad, open, and convenient approaches from all
sides.  The citizens soon enjoyed the privilege of issuing by wide and
pleasant highways, conducting to the open fields. And fortunately the
buildings now erected beside these spacious approaches were not
dominated by the ’Plan.’  Cockburn himself considered the buildings
’very respectable; the owners being always tempted to allure the
spreading population by laying out their land attractively.  Hence
Newington, Leith Walk, the grounds of Inverleith, the road to
Corstorphine, and to Queensferry, and indeed all the modern approaches,
which lead in every direction through most comfortable suburbs.’

It is clear from Lord Cockburn’s invaluable testimony that the idea of
the more free and daring attempts in architecture, which have now given
the New Town a character so different from its ’planned’ uniformity and
elegance, originated immediately after the peace. ’The influence of
these circumstances can only be appreciated by those who knew Edinburgh
during the war.  It is they alone who can see the beauty of the bravery
which the Queen of the North has since been putting on.  There were more
schemes, and pamphlets, and discussions, and anxiety about the
improvement of our edifices and prospects within ten years after the war
ceased, than throughout the whole of the preceding one hundred and fifty

Suburban Edinburgh of to-day rejoices in a profusion of trees.  Had the
same taste been predominant at this period, how different even the
centre of the city might have been.  It is tantalising to imagine the
pictures left us of what existed in those bygone days.  ’There was no
Scotch city more strikingly graced by individual trees and by groups of
them than Edinburgh, since I knew it, used to be.  How well the ridge of
the Old Town was set off by a bank of elms that ran along the front of
James’ Court, and stretched eastward over the ground now partly occupied
by the Bank of Scotland.  Some very respectable trees might have been
spared to grace the Episcopal Chapel of St. Paul in York Place.  There
was one large tree near its east end which was so well placed that some
people conjectured it was on its account that the Chapel was set down
there.  I was at a consultation in John Clerk’s house, hard by, when
that tree was cut.  On hearing that it was actually down we ran out, and
well did John curse the Huns.  The old aristocratic gardens of the
Canongate were crowded with trees, and with good ones.  There were
several on the Calton Hill; seven, not ill-grown, on its very summit.
And all Leith Walk and Lauriston, including the ground round Heriot’s
Hospital, was fully set with wood.  A group was felled about the year
1826 which stood to the west of St. John’s Chapel, on the opposite side
of the Lothian Road, and formed a beautiful termination of all the
streets which join near that point. Moray Place, in the same way, might
have been richly decorated with old and respectable trees.  But they
were all murdered....  I tried to save a very picturesque group, some of
which waved over the wall at the west end of the jail on the Calton
Hill.  I succeeded with two trees; but in about four years they also
disappeared.  The sad truth is that the extinction of foliage, and the
unbroken display of their bright freestone, is of itself a first object
with both our masons and their employers.  The wooded gardens that we
have recently acquired are not inconsistent with this statement.  There
was no competition between them and building.  It is our horror of the
direct combination of trees with masonry, and our incapacity to effect
it, that I complain of.  No apology is thought necessary for murdering a
tree; many for preserving it.’

                              *CHAPTER LI*

The ’Jury Court’—Chief-Commissioner Adam—His Work and Success—Friendship
with Scott—Character of Adam by Scott—The Blairadam Club—Anecdotes—Death
of Lord Adam.

Trial by jury in civil cases was introduced into Scotland by an
enactment of the year 1815.  The first case was tried on 22nd January
1816.  The change thus inaugurated was considered by reformers ’one of
the most important events in the progress of our law.’  Though meeting
with strong opposition, headed by the old judges, the introduction of
the new system was managed successfully.  It implied the arrangement of
a separate court, and the appointment of a special presiding judge
trained to English practice. The Lord Chief-Commissioner was the Right
Hon. William Adam, of Blairadam, and he was assisted by two other
judges, Lords Pitmilly and Meadowbank. Adam was then sixty-five years of
age.  Cockburn says that he was handicapped by extravagant expectations
of what he was to do.  He describes him as ’the person who had first
fought Fox, and then been his friend; who had spoken in debate with
Pitt; managed the affairs of Royal Dukes; been the standing counsel of
such clients as the East India Company and the Bank of England, and in
great practice in Parliamentary Committees.’  His appearance was that of
a farming gentleman.  He had a clear distinct voice, and an admirable
manner, but his great defect is said to have been ’obscurity of judicial
speech.’  Lord Glenlee, listening for a long time, without getting any
definite idea, to his well-sounding sentences full of confusion, made
the epigram, ’He speaks as if he were an Act of Parliament.’

We have the testimony of Lord Cockburn to the success of his work.  ’No
other man could have done his work.  He had to guide a vessel over
shoals and among rocks.  This was his special duty, and he did it
admirably.  He protected his court from prejudices which, if not subdued
by his patience and dexterity, would have crushed it any week.  So far
as we are to retain civil trial by jury in this country, we shall owe it
to him personally.  When in 1830 the Jury Court ceased to exist as a
separate court his vocation was at an end; and he retired with the
respect and the affection of the whole legal profession and of the

Such was the task of the man with whom Scott was now to be connected
during the rest of his life in a constant interchange of hospitality,
and whom he so frequently mentions in his _Journal_ with epithets of
esteem and respect.  Their acquaintance practically dated from Adam’s
appointment, but soon grew into the closest friendship.  The account of
their connection in the _Journal_ (January 1826) must be quoted for the
vivid, almost startling light it throws on Scott’s own peculiarities.

’I have taken kindly to him as one of the most pleasant, kind-hearted,
benevolent, and pleasing men I have ever known.  It is high treason
among the Tories to express regard for him, or respect for the Jury
Court in which he presides.  I was against that experiment as much as
any one.  But it is an experiment, and the establishment (which the
fools will not perceive) is the only thing which I see likely to give
some prospects of ambition to our Bar.  As for the Chief-Commissioner, I
dare say he jobs, as all other people of consequence do, in elections,
and so forth.  But he is the personal friend of the King, and the
decided enemy of whatever strikes at the constitutional rights of the
monarch.  Besides, I love him for the various changes which he has
endured through life, and which have been so great as to make him
entitled to be regarded in one point of view as the most fortunate—in
the other, the most unfortunate—man in the world.  He has gained and
lost two fortunes by the same good luck, and the same rash confidence,
which raised, and now threatens, my _peculium_.  And his quiet,
honourable, and generous submission under circumstances more painful
than mine,—for the loss of world’s wealth was to him aggravated by the
death of his youngest and darling son in the West Indies—furnished me at
the time and now with a noble example.  So the Tories and Whigs may go
be d—d together, as names that have disturbed old Scotland, and torn
asunder the most kindly feelings since the first day they were
invented.... I cannot permit that strife to "mix its waters with my
daily meal," those waters of bitterness which poison all mutual love and
confidence betwixt the well-disposed on either side.’

Adam was fond of society, in which ’nothing could exceed his
delightfulness.’  The Blairadam Club was for many years (from 1818
onwards) an institution. It was an annual gathering at midsummer of a
few bosom friends, among them Scott, William Clerk, and Sir Adam
Ferguson.  The friends spent a day or two together, and generally made
it a gay and happy occasion.  ’We hire a light coach-and-four, and scour
the country in every direction in quest of objects of curiosity.’  The
last meeting attended by Scott was in 1830, when he says: ’Our meeting
was cordial, but our numbers diminished.  Will Clerk has a bad cold,
Thomas Thomson is detained, but the Chief-Commissioner, Admiral Adam
(son of the host), Sir Adam, John Thomson and I, make an excellent
concert.  The day was execrable (wet).  But Sir Adam was in high
fooling, and we had an amazing deal of laughing.’  It is pathetic, in
the midst of this, to see how he fretted to be at home, in order to be
at work again.  In the _Journal_ we come across some remarks or
anecdotes of Adam’s, of which one or two may be given.  ’I came home
with Lord Chief-Commissioner Adam.  He told me a dictum of old Sir
Gilbert Elliot, speaking of his uncles.  "No chance of opulence," he
said, "is worth the risk of a competence."  It was not the thought of a
great man, but perhaps that of a wise one.’

Again, ’Dined with Chief-Commissioner,—Admiral Adam, W. Clerk, Thomson
and I.  The excellent old man was cheerful at intervals—at times sad, as
was natural.  A good blunder he told us, occurred in the Annandale case,
which was a question partly of domicile.  It was proved that leaving
Lochwood, the Earl had given up his _kain_ and _carriages_; this an
English counsel contended was the best of all possible proofs that the
noble Earl designed an absolute change of residence, since he laid aside
his _walking-stick_ and his _coach_.’[1]

[1] _Kain_ in Scots Law means ’payment in kind’: carriages, ’services in
driving with horse and cart.’

Lockhart has recorded that ’this most amiable and venerable gentleman,
my dear and kind friend, died at Edinburgh, on the 17th February 1839,
in the eighty-ninth year of his age.  He retained his strong mental
faculties in their perfect vigour to the last days of his long life, and
with them all the warmth of social feelings which had endeared him to
all who were so happy as to have any opportunity of knowing him.’

                             *CHAPTER LII*

1816—The _Antiquary_—Death of Major John Scott—The Aged Mother—Buying
Land—The Ballantynes—The _Black Dwarf_ and Blackwood—Scott and a
Judgeship—Anecdote of Authorship of _Waverley_.

The year 1816, says Lockhart, ’has almost its only traces in the
successive appearance of nine volumes, which attest the prodigal genius
and hardly less astonishing industry’ of Walter Scott.  Among these were
the _Antiquary_ and _Old Mortality_.  The former appeared in the
beginning of May, and about the same time occurred the death of the
author’s brother, Major John Scott, who had long been in weak health.
Writing to Morritt on this occasion Scott says, ’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 mother, now
upwards of eighty, has now only one child left to her out of thirteen
whom she had 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.’

In the same letter he speaks of the _Antiquary_ as being ’not so
interesting’ as its predecessors, but more fortunate than any of them in
the sale, six thousand copies having gone off in a week.  Meantime he
was fast purchasing land to add to his estate.  By this time it had
grown from 150 acres to nearly a thousand.  There were signs that might
have warned him to be careful. At the time of James Ballantyne’s fall he
appears to have been owing over £3000 to Scott of personal debt.  But
Scott was sanguine by nature, and it was the interest of the Ballantynes
to keep their businesses going. ’Therefore, in a word’ (this is
Lockhart’s deliberate charge), ’John 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
1814, 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 in this way that the Tales of my Landlord (that is, the _Black
Dwarf_ and _Old Mortality_) came to be published by Murray and
Blackwood.  The latter, alarmed by Gifford’s disapprobation of the
_Black Dwarf_, proposed that if the author would recast the later
chapters, he would gladly take upon himself the expense of cancelling
the sheets.  Scott’s reply, in a letter to Ballantyne, was emphatic:
’Tell him and his coadjutor 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.’

An interesting fact in Scott’s personal history which had previously
been unknown even to Lockhart, was discovered by the latter when Scott’s
letters to the Duke of Buccleuch came into his hands after the death of
the Duke.  During the winter of 1816-1817, it appears, Scott made an
attempt to exchange his Clerkship for a seat on the Bench of the Court
of Exchequer.  The Duke was naturally most anxious to second the
proposal, but private reasons prevented him from exercising his
influence at that juncture. This seems to have set the matter at rest.
In later years, when such a step was suggested, Scott seems to have
become convinced that the less conspicuous position was more fit and
desirable for a literary man, and more especially a poet and novelist.
At all events the Tory party lost the opportunity of making Walter Scott
’Lord Abbotsford.’

After the publication of Tales of my Landlord by Murray, Scott, in
conjunction with his friend Erskine, contributed to the _Quarterly_ a
general review of the Waverley Novels and a reply to Dr. M’Crie’s
strictures on the treatment of the Covenanters in _Old Mortality_. The
criticisms were the work of Erskine, though Scott was severely censured
after, as if he had been puffing his own works unfairly.  The paper
closed with an allusion to the report of Thomas Scott’s being the author
of _Waverley_.  ’A better joke,’ says Lockhart, ’was never penned, and I
think it includes a confession over which a misanthrope might have
chuckled.’  This is the conclusion: ’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

At this point we shall cease to attempt any detailed account of the
various novels and their publication. Our plan calls now only for a few
striking scenes in the closing years of the life whose outward
surroundings and personal environment in Edinburgh it is our main aim to
illustrate.  We may, however, conclude this chapter with the admirable
summary by Lockhart of the qualities of _Old Mortality_, a work which
was the product of Scott’s greatest intellectual effort, and which is
usually, and justly, ranked with _Guy Mannering_ as one of the best of
the Scotch Novels.  ’The story,’ he says, ’is framed with a deeper skill
than any of the preceding novels; the canvas 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 reanimation
of their stern and solemn enthusiasm.  The work has always appeared to
me the _Marmion_ of his novels.’

                             *CHAPTER LIII*

1817—Overwork and Illness—Kemble’s ’Farewell Address’—The Kemble
Dinner—_Blackwood’s Magazine_ and the Reign of Terror in Edinburgh.

During the times of trouble with the Ballantyne affairs, Scott, as has
been seen, taxed his strength to an extraordinary and dangerous extent.
The effects were presently felt in that which was the permanently weak
point of his physical constitution—the family tendency to paralysis.
His first serious illness was in March 1817.  From his letters to
Morritt it appears that he had suffered all through the winter—while
working as usual in Edinburgh—with cramps in the stomach.  He had got
temporary relief by means of drinking scalding water, but as the pains
continued to recur more frequently he had been obliged reluctantly to
have recourse to Dr. Baillie.  ’But’ (he says) ’before his answer
arrived, on the 5th, I had a most violent attack, which broke up a small
party at my house, and sent me to bed roaring like a bull-calf.  All
sorts of remedies were applied, as in the case of Gil Blas’ pretended
colic, but such was the pain of the real disorder, that it out-deviled
the Doctor hollow.  Even heated salt, which was applied in such a state
that it burned my shirt to rags, I hardly felt when clapped to my
stomach.  At length the symptoms became inflammatory, and dangerously
so, the seat being the diaphragm. They only gave way to very profuse
bleeding and blistering, which, under higher assistance, saved my life.
My recovery was slow and tedious from the state of exhaustion.  I could
neither stir for weakness and giddiness, nor read for dazzling in my
eyes, nor listen for a whizzing sound in my ears, nor even think for
lack of the power of arranging my ideas.  So I had a comfortless time of
it for about a week.’  Lockhart adds that his friends in Edinburgh were
in great anxiety about him all the spring, the attacks being more than
once repeated.  But he resumed work almost immediately, planning out, in
intervals of pain, the drama called _The Doom of Devorgoil_.  Now also
he wrote the magnificent ’Farewell Address,’ instinct with heart-felt
pathos, with which his friend John Philip Kemble took his leave of the
Edinburgh stage, on the evening of Saturday the 29th March 1817.  The
character in which Kemble had appeared was Macbeth, and he wore the
dress of the character while he spoke the lines. ’Mr. Kemble’ (says
James Ballantyne) ’delivered these lines with exquisite beauty, and with
an effect that was evidenced by the tears and sobs of many of the
audience. His own emotions were very conspicuous.  When his farewell was
closed, he lingered long on the stage, as if unable to retire.  The
house again stood up, and cheered him with the waving of hats and long
shouts of applause.  At length he finally retired, and, in so far as
regards Scotland, the curtain dropped upon his professional life for

    ’My last part is played, my knell is rung,
    When e’en your praise falls faltering from my tongue;
    And all that you can hear, or I can tell,
    Is Friends and patrons, hail, and _Fare you well_!’

A few days after, the great tragedian was entertained to dinner by his
Edinburgh admirers.  There was a company of about seventy notable
persons—among them Lockhart, who says, ’I was never present at any
public dinner in all its circumstances more impressive.’  Jeffrey was
chairman, and the croupiers were Walter Scott and John Wilson.  From the
_Life_ of Jeffrey we extract a curious anecdote of this interesting
scene.  That evening Jeffrey ’did what he never did before or since.  He
stuck a speech.  He had to make the address and present a snuff-box to
Kemble.  He began very promisingly, but got confused, and amazed both
himself and everybody else, by actually sitting down and leaving the
speech unfinished; and, until reminded of that part of his duty, not
even thrusting the box into the hand of the intended receiver.  He
afterwards told me the reason of this.  He had not premeditated the
scene, and thought he had nothing to do, except in the name of the
company to give the box.  But as soon as he rose to do this, Kemble, who
was beside him, rose also, and with most formidable dignity.  This
forced Jeffrey to look up to his man; when he found himself annihilated
by the tall tragic god; who sank him to the earth at every compliment,
by obeisances of overwhelming grace and stateliness.’  The incident must
have been awkward for Kemble, but it was a genuine and involuntary
tribute to the majestic bearing of the great actor.

Shortly after this, in April 1817, there occurred an event which greatly
stirred the peaceful waters of Edinburgh social and literary life, and
with which Scott’s future son-in-law and biographer, John Gibson
Lockhart, was to be very prominently associated.  This was the founding
of the _Edinburgh Monthly Magazine_. The publisher was John Blackwood.
Wishing to develop the magazine on lines of his own, this far-seeing and
able gentleman, first shaking himself clear from the two editorial
personages who were hampering his energies, started the periodical
afresh at the seventh number under the title of _Blackwood’s Edinburgh
Magazine_.  The famous No. VII. came like a thunderbolt. All the world
wondered.  From what sources had Blackwood evoked the wit, the
tremendous energy, the boundless audacity of personal attack which at
once shocked and delighted the public mind?  The Whigs were both
tortured and alarmed.  The days of their sole literary domination were
seen straightway to be over.  For them especially a Reign of Terror had
begun.  They were now to be subjected to the lash of an incomparable,
though often excessive, power of ridicule: a form of punishment which
always hurts most sorely those to whom the saving grace of humour has
been denied.  Necessarily _Blackwood’s Magazine_ was a political engine,
the organ of high Toryism.  As such, it was liable to the sneer of
Cockburn (a sneer which tells with equal justness against all
theoretical defenders of current politics): ’In this department it has
adhered with respectable constancy to all the follies it was meant to
defend.  It is a great depository of exploded principles; and indeed it
will soon be valuable as a museum of old errors.’  But every device of
mystification, an example set by Scott, was employed to keep the secret
of who were really ’Blackwood’s young Tory wags,’ and this was further
secured by the entirely unsuspected fact, that the editor was actually
Blackwood himself.  The marvellous thing, now that the facts are known,
is the enormous share performed by the two chiefs, Lockhart and Wilson.
In their buoyant eagerness to break up the monopoly of Whig literary and
political influence, they doubtless went too far, and sometimes knew it.
Later on, these early defects were acknowledged and analysed, in
_Peter’s Letters_, by the authors themselves.  Even they, it may be,
hardly realised how much pain they had given, but the almost solemn
words of Lord Cockburn indicate very clearly how intense it must have
been.  ’Posterity,’ he says, ’can never be made to feel the surprise and
just offence with which, till we were hardened to it, this work was
received.  The minute circumstances which impart freshness to slander
soon evaporate; and the arrows that fester in living reputations and in
beating hearts are pointless, or invisible to the eyes of those who
search for them afterwards as curiosities.’  It was, in fact, the work
of young and inexperienced men brimful of genius and spirit, but
untaught to discern the dangers in the use of the weapons with which
they played.

                             *CHAPTER LIV*

Personal Anecdotes of Scott—Washington Irving—The Minister’s Daughter—J.
G. Lockhart—His Introduction to Scott—_Annual Register_—39 Castle
Street—Scott’s ’Den’—Animal Favourites.

In the autumn of 1817 Washington Irving, with whose _History of New
York_ by Knickerbocker Scott had been greatly charmed, paid a visit to
Abbotsford, and received a hearty welcome.  One of the anecdotes told by
Irving of this visit may be given here, as illustrating the beautiful
courtesy and fine sympathetic feeling with which it was Scott’s nature
to treat sterling worth and generosity of mind in whatever rank he
discovered it.  Irving tells how William Laidlaw and his wife came to
dinner one day, accompanied by a lady friend.  He observed with some
curiosity that this by no means extraordinary person, who was
middle-aged and only remarkable for her intellectual qualities, was
treated by their host with particular attention and courtesy.  The
occasion was in fact a specially pleasant one, and the company were made
to feel that they were cherished guests.  On their leaving, Scott, to
Irving’s great delight, launched into hearty praise of the lady visitor.
The daughter of a Scottish minister, who died in debt, she had been left
an orphan and destitute. She had at once faced the situation with a
brave heart, and though her education was not great, she set up a school
for young children, which soon proved in its way a success.  But she
made her own concerns a secondary object.  By submitting to all sorts of
privation, she managed to pay off all her father’s debts, determined
that no slighting word or evil feeling might humble his memory.  And
this was not all.  To the martyr’s self-sacrifice she added a divine
benevolence. To some who once had been kind to her father and were now
fallen on evil days, she did all the service she could by teaching their
little ones without reward or fee.  Happily her memory is green in the
eulogy of the great neighbour to whom she was a kindred spirit: ’She’s a
fine old Scotch girl, and I delight in her more than in many a fine lady
I have known, and I have known many of the finest.’

It was in the following year, in May 1818, that John Gibson Lockhart,
then a young barrister with pronounced literary leanings, was first
introduced to Scott. It was the moment when, as the great biographer
himself has eloquently put it, ’Scott’s position was, take it for all in
all, what no other man had ever won for himself by the pen alone.  His
works were the daily food, not only of his countrymen, but of all
educated Europe.  His society was courted by whatever England could show
of eminence.  Station, power, wealth, beauty, and genius, strove with
each other in every demonstration of respect and worship, and—a few
political fanatics and envious poetasters apart—wherever he appeared in
town or country, whoever had Scotch blood in him, "gentle or simple,"
felt it move more rapidly through his veins when he was in the presence
of Scott.’  But in the midst of this blaze of glory, and while he was
dreaming dreams of fortune and family pride, what was it that struck the
most keen-eyed of critics when he first saw his hero?  Only the plain
easy modesty, the kindness of heart which _pervaded_ every word, tone,
and gesture, the simple qualities which made him ’loved more and more’
by his earliest friends.  It was at the house of Mr. Home Drummond, a
grandson of Lord Kames, that the meeting took place.  Like every other
literary aspirant, Lockhart was astonished and gratified by the
cordiality and kindly appreciation of the elder writer.  ’When the
ladies’ (he says) ’retired from the dinner-table, I happened to sit next
him; and he, having heard that I had lately returned from a tour in
Germany, made that country and its recent literature the subject of some
conversation.  In the course of it, I told him that when, on reaching
the inn at Weimar, I asked the waiter whether Goethe was then in the
town, the man stared as if he had not heard the name before; and that,
on my repeating the question, adding _Goethe der grosse Dichter_, he
shook his head as doubtfully as before—until the landlord solved our
difficulties, by suggesting that perhaps the traveller might mean "_Herr
Geheimer-Rath_ (Privy Councillor) _von Goethe_."—Scott seemed amused
with this and said, "I hope you will come one of these days and see me
at Abbotsford; and when you reach Selkirk or Melrose, be sure you ask
even the landlady for nobody but _the Sheriff_."  I mentioned how much
any one must be struck with the majestic beauty of Goethe’s
countenance—the noblest certainly by far that I have ever yet
seen—"Well," said he, "the grandest demi-god I ever saw was Dr. Carlyle,
minister of Musselburgh, commonly called _Jupiter Carlyle_, from having
sat more than once for the king of gods and men to Gavin Hamilton—and a
shrewd, clever old carle was he, no doubt, but no more a poet than his
precentor.  As for poets, I have seen, I believe, all the best of our
own time and country—and though Burns had the most glorious eyes
imaginable, I never thought any of them would come up to an artist’s
notion of the character, except Byron."’

Soon after this Lockhart was, on Scott’s recommendation, invited by the
Ballantynes to take Scott’s place in working up the historical part of
their _Annual Register_.  Thus they met pretty frequently during the
ensuing summer session, a circumstance to which we owe Lockhart’s very
complete and first-hand description of Scott’s working ’den’ at 39
Castle Street and of his social life at this period.  The den was a
small square back-room behind the dining parlour.  It looked out upon a
dull back-yard with a small square of turf. The walls of the room were
lined with books, mostly stately folios and quartos beautifully kept, as
befitted a lover of books.  There was one massive table, on which was
his own desk, and one opposite for an occasional amanuensis.  On the top
lay his law papers, while his MSS., letters, and proof-sheets were under
his hand on the desk below.  Before the desk stood his large
elbow-chair, and there were only two other chairs in the room.  Beside
the window was a pile of green tin boxes, on the top of which was a
fox’s tail mounted on a handle of old silver and used for dusting the
top of a book as occasion required.  He had a ladder for scaling the
high shelves, which is described as ’low, broad, well carpeted, and
strongly guarded with oaken rails.’  His living companions in his den
were usually a venerable tom-cat called Hinse, which had a liking for
the top of the ladder, and the noble stag-hound Maida, whose lair was on
the hearth-rug.  ’I venture to say’ (Lockhart remarks) ’that Scott was
never five minutes in any room before the little pets of the family,
whether dumb or lisping, had found out his kindness for all their

In conversation among his friends, Scott was always natural, sensible,
and good-humoured.  His ideal society, as we have seen, was the simple
but high-toned friendliness, with courtly attention to old manners and
customs of the social board—the ways of the old-fashioned generation
before 1800, when Edinburgh society still took its tone from the
Scottish aristocracy and gentry.  After this period Edinburgh table-talk
and manners were led by the lawyers.  Men shone in society by contests
of dialectics, brilliant disquisitions, ’such as might be transferred
without alteration to the pages of a critical review.’  Scott was of
another world from this.  He admired the dexterity and skill displayed,
but he was not tempted to take part.  It lacked the touch of nature
which would have made him acknowledge kin.  So everybody else was
satisfied, and Scott was not displeased.  The great poet, the writer of
conversations which had heightened the gaiety of millions, was perfectly
content to be considered inferior as a table-companion to ’this or that
master of luminous dissertation or quick rejoinder, who now sleeps as
forgotten as his grandmother.’  To appreciate, it is necessary to know
something and to sympathise. The persons who called Scott’s conversation
’common-place’ were practically comparing the Waverley Novels to Dugald
Stewart’s lectures, and would have denounced Shakespeare for making up
his _Hamlet_ out of popular quotations.  It was ’ignorance, madam, pure
ignorance,’ without the wit to acknowledge, and in many cases political
prejudice was also present.  To one of the latter Lockhart heard Lord
Cockburn nobly reply: ’I have the misfortune to think differently from
you; in my humble opinion, Walter Scott’s _sense_ is a still more
wonderful thing than his _genius_.’  Nothing could be better: a noble
and excellent saying.  And to similar effect in his _Memorials_ he
testifies that scarcely even in his novels was Scott more striking or
delightful than in society; where his halting limb, the bur in the
throat, the heavy cheeks, the high Goldsmith-forehead, the unkempt
locks, and general plainness of appearance, with the Scotch accent and
stories and sayings, all graced by gaiety, simplicity, and kindness,
made a combination most worthy of being enjoyed.

                              *CHAPTER LV*

Scotland Edinburgh Society—Lockhart’s Opinion—Scott’s Drives in
Edinburgh—Love of Antiquities—The Sunday Dinners at 39 Castle Street—The
Maclean Clephanes—Erskine, Clerk, C. K. Sharpe, Sir A. Boswell, W.
Allan,—Favourite Dishes.

Ignorant prejudice gradually disappeared.  The charm of Scott’s
conversation was found to be as great, in fact the same, as that of his
writings. Mingling with and wishing to emulate London society, Edinburgh
great folks came to understand that social intercourse ought to aim at
enjoyment and relaxation, not at the display of alleged wit and amateur
disquisitions on speculative themes.  Then they discovered that Scott’s
easy, natural humour, his ever-ready and picturesque descriptions, his
quaint old-world sayings and diverting sketches and anecdotes, nay, his
very prejudices, always honest and so very lovable when understood to
their foundation, were unique treasures even from the narrowest point of
view.  This was what all, long before 1818, recognised whose opinion was
worth considering.  But Lockhart, who had the best means of knowing, as
being himself ’one of them,’ says that even then the old theory, that
Scott’s conversation was ’commonplace,’ lingered on in the general
opinion of the city, especially among the smart praters of the _Outer
House_.  Of course it was the cue of these praters to differ from their
elders, and few of them, after all, had perhaps enjoyed what they made a
boast of affecting to depreciate.  Lockhart, who was certainly in the
Whig sense the strongest _intellect_ that ever adorned Edinburgh, both
enjoyed and appreciated. And fortunately for us _minores_, he has told
what he saw and rejoiced in.  He says: ’It was impossible to listen to
Scott’s oral narrations, whether gay or serious, or to the felicitous
fun with which he parried absurdities of all sorts, without discovering
better qualities in his talk than _wit_—and of a higher order; I mean
especially a power of _vivid painting_—the true and primary sense of
what is called _Imagination_.  He was like Jacques—though not a
"Melancholy Jacques"; and "moralised" a common topic into a "thousand
similitudes."  Shakespeare and the banished Duke would have found him
"full of matter."  He disliked mere disquisitions in Edinburgh, and
prepared _impromptus_ in London; and puzzled the promoters of such
things sometimes by placid silence, sometimes by broad merriment.  To
such men he seemed _common-place_—not so to the most dexterous masters
in what was to some of them almost a science; not so to Rose, Hallam,
Moore, or Rogers,—to Ellis, Mackintosh, Croker, or Canning.’

When in Edinburgh, Scott’s only formal outing was an afternoon drive in
an open carriage, sometimes to Blackford Hill, or Ravelston, and so home
by Corstorphine, sometimes to Portobello, keeping as close as possible
to the sea.  An old man who died last year (1905) used to tell how, when
he was a boy, he remembered Scott alighting and coming some distance
across a field to speak a few kind words to him and ask after his
parents, in whom he took an interest.  When he went home, his mother
told him about the great man and bade her son remember that day, for if
he lived to be an old man, he would be proud to talk of it to his
children’s children.  As he drove through the city, it was Scott’s
greatest enjoyment to gaze and muse upon its natural beauties, and
especially its remaining antiquities.  He would often make a long
circuit in order, as Lockhart observed, ’to spend a few minutes on the
vacant esplanade of Holyrood, or under the darkest shadows of the Castle
rock, where it overhangs the Grassmarket, and the huge slab that still
marks where the gibbet of Porteous and the Covenanters had its station.
His coachman knew him too well to move at a Jehu’s pace amidst such
scenes as these.  No funeral hearse crept more leisurely than did his
landau up the Canongate or the Cowgate; and not a queer tottering gable
but recalled to him some long-buried memory of splendour or bloodshed,
which, by a few words, he set before the hearer in the reality of life.
His image is so associated in my mind with the antiquities of his native
place, that I cannot now revisit them without feeling as if I were
treading on his gravestone.’

But of all pleasant memories of the Master well-beloved, the most
delightful to conjure up is that of the good Clerk as host at the Sunday
’dinner without the silver dishes,’ as he was wont to call it.  It was
always a gathering of dear and long-cherished friends.  All were
delighted to meet, and all were prepared to be happy.  Gladdest of all
was their host, who came into the room ’rubbing his hands, his face
bright and gleesome, like a boy arriving at home for the holidays, his
Peppers and Mustards gambolling about his heels, and even the stately
Maida grinning and wagging his tail in sympathy.’  Most of the intimates
who came to these parties have already been mentioned.  There was Mrs.
Maclean Clephane, with whom Scott would playfully dispute on the subject
of Ossian.  Her daughters would accompany her, to delight all,
especially Scott, with the poetry and music of their native isles.  They
had made him their guardian by their own choice, and were loved for
their own sakes.  The eldest was that Lady Crompton with whom, as he
tells in the _Journal_, he travelled to Glasgow in September 1827, and
had ’as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishments of
my companion could make it.’  When they reached Glasgow, they met, at
the Buck’s Head, Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters.  He
mentions that after dinner the ladies sang, ’particularly Aunt Jane, who
has more taste and talent than half the people going with great
reputations on their backs.’  Then there were the Skenes, the Macdonald
Buchanans, and all the _nieces_ and _nephews_ of the Clerks’ table
alliance.  ’The well-beloved Erskine,’ says Lockhart, ’was seldom
absent; and very often Terry or James Ballantyne came with
him—sometimes, though less frequently, Constable.  To say nothing of
such old cronies as Clerk, Thomson, and Kirkpatrick Sharpe.’  It was of
his boyhood’s friend and mentor, Clerk, that Scott said he feared he
would leave the world little more than the report of his fame.  It was
his opinion, as well as that of other competent judges, that he had
never met a man of greater powers than Clerk. Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe
was also regarded by Scott very highly, and is sketched in a lively page
in the _Journal_, 1825.  His effeminacy of voice, his clever and
fanciful drawings—which he was too aristocratic to use for increasing
his small income—his odd curiosity for scandal centuries old, made
Sharpe a very remarkable figure.  ’My idea is’ (says Scott) ’that C. K.
S. with his oddities, tastes, satire, and high aristocratic feelings,
resembles Horace Walpole—perhaps in his person also, in a general way.’

Lockhart mentions also Sir Alexander Boswell, author of the humorous
song, _Jeannie dang the Weaver_, and a great bibliomaniac, Sir Alexander
Don of Newton, ’the model of a cavalier,’ and William Allan, R.A., whom
Scott calls a very agreeable, simple-mannered, and pleasant man.  Allan
became Sir William, President of the Royal Scottish Academy from 1838 to
1850.  In July 1826 Scott mentions his having been to see Allan’s
picture of ’the Landing of Queen Mary.’  Three or four of these friends,
with Scott and his family, took their places every Sunday at the ’plain
dinner’ in No. 39 Castle Street.

Scott kept a bounteously loaded table.  He was himself a hearty eater,
preferring plain substantial fare.  He was not a gourmand, still less a
glutton. His one good meal was breakfast.  At dinner his appetite was
neither keen nor nice.  ’The only dishes he was at all fond of were the
old-fashioned ones to which he had been accustomed in the days of
Saunders Fairford.’  Readers of the Novels have heard of them all, and
few will forget the conclusion of the _Fortunes of Nigel_: ’My lords and
lieges, let us all to our dinner, for the _cock-a-leekie_ is cooling.’

                             *CHAPTER LVI*

The National Monument—Still incomplete—The Salisbury Crags—Danger of
their Destruction—The Path impassable—Construction of the Radical
Road—National Distress—Trials for Sedition—Anecdote of John Clerk—The
City Guard.

As a landmark of modern Edinburgh, the National Monument must now be
noticed.  Its twelve massy columns of white Craigleith stone are
familiar to all who have spent an hour in the city.  The idea of it
dates from 1816, for it was intended to commemorate Scotland’s share in
the triumphs of the great war. During the following years it was often
discussed. The original proposal was to erect a lofty pillar. Then, as
we learn from Lord Cockburn, ’there were some who thought that the
prevailing effervescence of military patriotism created a good
opportunity for improving the public taste by the erection of a great
architectural model.  The Temple of Minerva, placed on the Calton Hill,
struck their imaginations, and though they had no expectation of being
able to realise the magnificent conception, they resolved, by beginning,
to bring it within the vision of a distant practicability.  What, if
any, age would finish it, they could not tell; but having got a site, a
statute, and about £20,000, they had the honour of commencing it.’  The
hour of its completion has not arrived yet. Nearly a century has elapsed
since George IV. laid the foundation stone in 1822.  Perhaps on the
occurrence of the centenary the project may once more lay hold of the
public imagination.  At least the ’distant practicability’ remains.
Imposing and sublime possibility!  Perhaps, in an era of colossal
fortunes, some INDIVIDUAL may anticipate the city—engrossed with its
Usher Hall and water-fleas—and capture the national glory to crown with
immortality his own proud name.

One noble feature of our scenery was completed about this time by the
walk round the Salisbury Crags.  When Henry Cockburn as a boy of nine
scrambled, as he tells us, for the first time to the top of that
romantic cliff, the path at its base was not six feet wide, while at
places there was no path at all.  Between that time and the year 1816
certain persons quarried the rock to such an extent that what was
formerly a narrow footpath became, in many places, one hundred feet
wide.  This impudent theft of public property would shortly have
destroyed the whole face of the rock.  Fortunately the depredators were
stopped in time, and Edinburgh preserved at once a remarkable piece of
geological ’testimony,’ and one of its finest natural features.
Cockburn records that Henry Brougham, ’who as a boy had often clambered
among these glorious rocks,’ then, in the capacity of Lord Chancellor,
pronounced the judgment which finally saved a remnant of the Crags.  The
old path is mentioned by Scott in the _Heart of Midlothian_ (Chap.
VIII.) as having been his favourite evening and morning resort, when
engaged with a favourite author or new subject of study.  And he added
to his enthusiastic description of the view from the Salisbury Crags a
brief and mildly expressed reproach. ’It is, I am informed, now (1818)
become totally impassable; a circumstance which, if true, reflects
little credit on the taste of the Good Town or its leaders.’  In a note,
added in a later addition, he says, ’A beautiful and solid pathway has,
within a few years, been formed around these romantic rocks; and the
author has the pleasure to think that the passage in the text gave rise
to the undertaking.’  This was indeed the case; but, strange to say, the
path thus due to Sir Walter Scott got the name of the _Radical Road_.
In 1820, it appears, the ’unemployed’ question was flagrant.  The men,
stimulated by Radicals, were becoming dangerous, when Scott’s happy
suggestion solved the problem by providing them with a substantial piece
of work.  The discontent was allayed, and the road was constructed by
these vigorous Radicals.  The name of the _Salisbury Crags_ commemorates
the English invasion of 1336.  King Edward III.’s forces were commanded
by the famous Earl of Salisbury, who encamped on the Crags, and thus
gave the spot its foreign name.[1]

[1] James Grant, however, gives a Gaelic derivation of the name.

The distress which followed as a natural consequence of the prolonged
strain of the war, was in those years very severe.  Outbreaks of
seditious talk were common in England, and led to many serious
disturbances. In Scotland they were fewer, because the law still made
transportation the penalty for this offence.  There were, however, some
prosecutions for sedition, and in connection with the first of these, in
1817, Cockburn, who was, with Jeffrey, counsel for one of the
defendants, tells a characteristic anecdote of John Clerk, who was
counsel for another of the accused, along with James Campbell of
Craigie.  ’Campbell called on Clerk on the morning of the trial.  He
found him dressing, and in a frenzy at the anticipated iniquities of the
judges; against whom, collectively and individually, there was much slow
dogged vituperation throughout the process of shaving.  He had on a
rather dingy-looking nightshirt: but a nice pure shirt was airing before
the fire.  When the toilet reached the point at which it was necessary
to decide upon the shirt, instead of at once taking up the clean one, he
stopped and grumphed, and looked at the one and then at the other,
always turning with aversion from the dirty one; and then he approached
the other resolutely, as if his mind was made up; but at last he turned
away from it, saying fiercely, "No, I’ll be d—d if I put on a clean sark
_for them_."  Accordingly he insulted their Lordships by going to Court
with the foul one.  Not like Falkland.’

About the end of the year 1817 Edinburgh streets finally lost the most
picturesque of their official figures. The City Guard, a body first
enrolled in 1696, now retired from view, their functions being better
fulfilled by the new police, and Robert Fergusson’s well-known lines
became superfluous:

    ’Gude folk, as ye come frae the fair,
      Bide yont frae this black squad;
    There’s nae sic savages elsewhere
      Allowed to wear cockad.’

Scott gives a capital description of them in the _Heart of Midlothian_
(Chap. III.), where he says, ’The venerable corps may now be considered
as totally extinct.’  From Cockburn we learn that one of these
stern-looking but half-dotard warriors used to sit as guard with the
prisoners at the bar of the Court of Justiciary. ’They sat so immovably,
and looked so severe, with their rugged weather-beaten visages, and hard
muscular trunks, that they were no unfit emblems of the janitors of the
region to which those they guarded were so often consigned.  The
disappearance of these picturesque old fellows was a great loss.’  He
wished they had been perpetuated, if only as curiosities.  They were
probably the last of our soldiers who carried as their special weapon
the old genuine Lochaber axe, which Lord Cockburn styles ’a delightful
implement.’  Fergusson, who saw its virtues in a more practical way,
speaks of the ’deadly paiks,’ or blows, freely dealt by the hot-tempered

    ’Gie not her bairns sic deadly paiks,
      Nor be sae rude,
    Wi’ firelock or Lochaber axe,
      As spill their bluid.’

Their last march (as mentioned in Scott’s note) to do duty at
Hallow-fair, had something affecting in it. Their drums and fifes had
been wont on better days to play, on this joyous occasion, the lively
tune of _Jockey to the Fair_; but on this final occasion the afflicted
veterans moved slowly to the dirge of _The last time I came ower the
muir_.  They were always greatly disliked by the commons of Edinburgh,
who never spoke of them by any better name than the loathsome
appellation ’the Toon Rottens’ (Rats).

                             *CHAPTER LVII*

Scott and the Ballantynes—James in the Canongate—Ceremonies at the
’Waverley’ Dinners—Reading of Scenes from the New Volume—John at
Trinity—His ’Bower of Bliss’—Anecdote by C. Mathews.

At this distance of time it is difficult either to understand or to
condone the wilful delusion in which Scott persisted to regard the two
reckless adventurers, James and John Ballantyne.  They were lowborn and
vulgar: his deep-seated aristocratic feelings should have kept them at a
distance.  They were utterly devoid of business capacity: his natural
shrewdness ought to have seen through them.  They were neglectful of
duty: his own tireless devotion to work ought to have made him despise
them.  But they were friends of his boyhood, and he loved them.  James
was a shrewd critic and an excellent amanuensis, and Scott trusted his
judgment and enjoyed his services.  John was a humorist, his social
clowning was inimitable, and in these capacities he was emphatically a
man after Scott’s own heart.  Both of them knew Scott down to the
minutest foible of his simple honest nature. They knew exactly what it
was in themselves which pleased him.  All they had to do was to be
themselves—just as he conceived them.  And this was what they did, each
in his own way, regardless of expense and consequences.  Thus they
maintained a hold over their illustrious dupe, which no studied system
of flattery could have equalled in the case of the weakest and most
foolish of patrons.  These two penniless and ruined adventurers lived
lives of splendour and luxury, and neither they nor Scott seemed to
realise or remember that every penny which supported them had come or
would have to come from Scott’s estate. The house of James, the elder
brother, was not far from his printing works, No. 10 St. John Street,
Canongate, which had not long ceased to be the most fashionable street
in Edinburgh.  Here, in the first house on the west side, was the
meeting-place of the ever-memorable Freemason Lodge, the Canongate
Kilwinning, whose ’poet-laureate’ was no less a genius than Scotland’s
second glory, Robert Burns. Here, in the town house of the Telfers of
Scotstoun, overlooking the Canongate, resided the greatest of Scottish
novelists after Scott himself, Tobias Smollett, on his last visit to the
capital.  No. 13 was the house of Lord Monboddo, and at No. 15 lived the
famous Professor Gregory, already mentioned.  The Kelso adventurer lived
here in grand style, a mighty city magnate, highly decorous and
respectable.  It was his rôle, and his playing of it was admirable,
because it was simply his nature and bent: that he was at any moment
entirely ignorant of his real insolvency, or entirely unconscious of the
horror that he was accumulating for the most unselfish of friends, one
may be excused for doubting.  Every one has heard of James Ballantyne’s
famous dinners—a not uninteresting part of the story of the Waverley
Novels.  He assembled all his own particular literary friends, and Scott
was among the company.  It was James’s delight to mention the author of
_Waverley_ always in mystic tones as ’the Great Unknown,’ and the whole
affair must have been intensely amusing to the real author, who sat and
took part in the proceedings with smiles of good humour.  After what the
host himself justly called a _gorgeous_ dinner, and after toasting the
company, the King, and Mr. Walter Scott, the ladies who might be present
retired, and the great ’business’ of the little comedy began.  Lockhart,
as an eyewitness, quaintly describes the scene: ’Then James rose once
more, every vein on his brow distended, his eyes solemnly fixed upon
vacancy, to propose, not as before in his stentorian key, but "with
bated breath," in the sort of whisper by which a stage conspirator
thrills the gallery—"_Gentlemen, a bumper to the immortal Author of_
Waverley!"—The uproar of cheering, in which Scott made a fashion of
joining, was succeeded by deep silence, and then Ballantyne proceeded—

    "In his Lord Burleigh look, serene and serious,
    A something of imposing and mysterious"—

to lament the obscurity in which his illustrious but too modest
correspondent still chose to conceal himself from the plaudits of the
world—to thank the company for the manner in which the _nominis umbra_
had been received, and to assure them that the Author of _Waverley_
would, when informed of the circumstance, feel highly delighted—"the
proudest hour of his life," etc. etc.  The cool demure fun of Scott’s
features during all this mummery was perfect; and Erskine’s attempt at a
gay _nonchalance_ was still more ludicrously meritorious.’  Upon this
Ballantyne would announce the name of the coming novel, a bumper would
be drained to its success, and that was all.  The night ’drove on wi’
sangs and clatter,’ till the senior and graver members, including Scott,
had withdrawn. ’Then,’ says Lockhart, ’the scene was changed.  The
claret and olives made way for broiled bones and a mighty bowl of punch;
and when a few glasses of the hot beverage had restored his powers,
James opened _ore rotunda_ on the merits of the forthcoming romance.
"One chapter—one chapter only,"—was the cry.  After "_Nay, by ’r Lady,
nay_," and a few more coy shifts, the proof-sheets were at length
produced, and James, with many a prefatory hem, read aloud what he
considered as the most striking dialogue they contained.’  Lockhart was
one of the fortunate company who listened to James, in these
circumstances, reading, from the _Heart of Midlothian_, the interview of
Jeanie Deans with the Queen in Richmond Park.  James’s declamation,
though marked, of course, by some of his ’pompous tricks,’ seems to have
been really effective.  The sitting ended with the ’Death of Marmion,’
delivered in imitation of the great Braham.  Later on, James removed his
household gods to the New Town, No. 3 Heriot Row.  The younger brother,
John, was much more original in his ways and doings, and equally
reckless of consequences and expense.  He had a little villa in the
French style at Trinity, on the shore of the Firth.  The gardens alone
of the ex-needleman must have cost a pretty penny, being laid out with
great art so as to seem of considerable extent, ’with many a shady tuft,
trellised alley, and mysterious alcove, interspersed among their bright
parterres.’  His house, as became an auctioneer of curiosities, was
crowded with objects of _vertu_, numberless costly mirrors, and pictures
of a certain class, mostly, in fact, theatrical portraits, especially of
actresses, which were afterwards bought by Charles Mathews for his
gallery at Highgate.  The house was furnished like a suburban ’Bower of
Bliss’ in London or Paris, and had a private wing which his wife was
most effectively debarred from entering.  If Bluebeard, the clumsy
villain, had only enjoyed the services of this clever, resourceful
voluptuary, he would have been able to shun the society of his
successive ’cleaving michiefs’ without having recourse to tragic
methods.  Johnnie, in fact, could have taught Milton a trick of
’defensive armour,’ within which not even a wife could penetrate.  This
was his ingenious plan: he made every door of entrance into the sacred
wing just so narrow as to render it absolutely impossible for Mrs.
Ballantyne to squeeze her body through.  One can fancy the arrangement
giving rise to awkward difficulties, but its efficiency for the main
purpose was admirable. It was worthy of a Duc de Richelieu rather than
an ex-tailor.  Johnnie’s festive parties at Trinity were the great
social attraction of Edinburgh to the theatrical people of his day.
Mathews, Braham, Kean, and Kemble were all frequent guests when acting
in Edinburgh.  In Mathews’ _Memoirs_ there is an anecdote of John
Ballantyne which is of interest in itself, while happily illustrative of
the character of _Wee Johnny_.  Ballantyne, Constable, and Terry were
dining with the Mathews family, when John, who had a certain indiscreet
vivacity when the wine began to affect him, was talking to Mathews about
some books, and concluded by saying, ’I shall soon send you _Scott’s new
novel_.’  The effect may be imagined, especially on Constable.  ’He,’
says Mrs. Mathews, ’looked daggers—and Terry used some—for with a stern
brow and a correcting tone, he cried out _John!_ adding with a growl,
like one reproving a mischievous dog,—"Ah, what are you about?" which
made us droop our eyes for the indiscreet tatler; while wee Johnny
looked like an impersonation of _fear_—startled at the "sound himself
had made."  Not another word was said: but our little good-natured
friend’s lapse was sacred with us, and the secret was never divulged
while it was important to preserve it.’

                            *CHAPTER LVIII*

Anecdotes of Constable—’The Czar’—Plans the _Magnum Opus_—Anecdote of
Longmans and Co.—Constable’s House and Equipage—John Ballantyne’s
Habits—Horses and Dogs—Anecdote by Scott of his Liberality—Scott’s
Sorrow at his Death.

At John Ballantyne’s house in Trinity, his great co-adjutor Constable
was often to be seen.  There Lockhart first met him.  Struck by the
majestic appearance of the publisher, he made a remark to Scott on
Constable’s ’gentlemanlike’ (publishers were only ’booksellers’ in those
days) ’and distinguished appearance.’  ’Ay,’ replied Scott, ’Constable
is indeed a grand-looking chield.  He puts me in mind of Fielding’s
apology for Lady Booby—to wit, that Joseph Andrews had an air which, to
those who had not seen many noblemen, would give an idea of nobility.’
He is said to have been a large feeder and deep drinker: of a violent
temper, but ’easily overawed by people of consequence.’  He was, on the
whole, not one of Scott’s favourites—a circumstance, however, which was
more owing to the great man’s blind partiality for the Ballantynes, with
whom Constable necessarily came into frequent contact. Scott, however,
praises Constable as ’generous and far from bad-hearted.’  Among his
brothers of ’the trade’ Constable was nicknamed ’the Czar,’and also ’the
Crafty.’  Scott declared that Constable was ’the prince of
book-sellers.’  He considered that the Crafty knew more of the business
of a bookseller in planning and executing popular works than any man of
his time.  His imperious style was natural to the man, and his unaided
rise to eminence in his important calling largely justified his pride.
His share in the blame for the disaster of 1826 was at the time
exaggerated, unfortunately also in the mind of Scott himself.  It was
the Ballantyne co-partnery that led to the unfortunate bill
transactions, and the great pity was that both Constable and Scott took
these tragic jokers on their own fictitious valuation. Constable I
believe to have been truly a great man and in all respects a gentleman:
as different in mental qualities as he was in physical dignity from the
bounding brothers of Kelso.  Who can fail to admit the genius of the man
who _foresaw_ the value of the Waverley Novels, and who provided Scott
with the greatest consolation of his last sad years—the _magnum opus_ of
the collected edition, and thus enabled him to carry out his romantic
resolve to pay the so-called _debts_ to the full?  John Ballantyne told
Lockhart a good story of Constable’s fondness for bestowing nicknames.
’One day a partner of the house of Longman was dining with him in the
country, to settle an important piece of business, about which there
occurred a good deal of difficulty.  "What fine swans you have in your
pond there!" said the Londoner, by way of parenthesis.—"Swans!" cried
Constable; "they are only geese, man.  There are just five of them, if
you please to observe, and their names are Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme,
and Brown."  This skit cost the Crafty a good bargain.’  Lockhart soon
became a frequent visitor at Constable’s country seat of Craigcrook
Castle (afterwards tenanted by Francis Jeffrey), and says that he did
the honours of the ancient home of noble Grahams with all the ease that
might have been looked for had he been the long-descended owner of the
place.  He greatly admired Constable’s ’manly and vigorous’
conversation, full of old Scotch anecdotes, which he told with a spirit
and humour only second to his great author’s.  ’His very equipage,’
Lockhart adds, ’kept up the series of contrasts between him and the two
Ballantynes.  Constable went back and forward between the town and
Polton in a deep-hung and capacious green barouche, without any pretence
at heraldic blazonry, drawn by a pair of sleek, black, long-tailed
horses, and conducted by a grave old coachman in plain blue livery.  The
Printer of the Canongate drove himself and his wife about the streets
and suburbs in a snug machine, which did not overburthen one powerful
and steady cob:—while the gay Auctioneer, whenever he left the saddle
for the box, mounted a bright blue dogcart, and rattled down the
Newhaven Road with two high-mettled steeds prancing tandem before him.’
Johnnie, indeed, kept up a good stable, hunted the fox at times, and had
the pleasant whim of naming his numerous steeds after various characters
in Scott’s works.  His daily mount was a milk-white hunter, y-clept Old
Mortality, and he was always attended by a leash or two of greyhounds,
which he named Die Vernon, Jenny Dennison, and so on.  At business he
appeared in sporting half-dress,—’a light-grey frock, with emblems of
the chase on its silver buttons, white cord breeches, and jockey-boots
in Meltonian order.’  Scott was a constant frequenter of his auction
rooms in Hanover Street, at the door of which his favourite Maida was to
be seen waiting his arrival from the Court, couched among Johnnie’s
greyhounds.  Such was the frivolous, but astute, underminer, who
succeeded to the end in maintaining a fatal hold on the great genius,
and finally left him to toil as a slave, often at a loss for money for
mere current expenses, during the last years of what might have been one
of the happiest of lives.  It is a melancholy fact, and perhaps, after
all, his own favourite saying fits it best—that often the wisest of men
keep, as it were, the average stock of folly only in reserve, to be
_all_ expended on some one flagrant absurdity.  One can at least
understand Scott’s affection for John Ballantyne, when one thinks of
such an incident as this, related by Scott himself: ’A poor divinity
student was attending his sale one day, and Johnnie remarked to him that
he looked as if he were in bad health.  The young man assented with a
sigh. "Come," said Ballantyne, "I think I ken the secret of a sort of
draft that would relieve you—particularly," he added, handing him a
cheque for £$ or £10—"particularly, my dear, if taken upon an empty

John Ballantyne died at Edinburgh in the summer of 1821.  Scott and
Lockhart attended his funeral in the Canongate churchyard.  ’As we stood
together’ (the latter relates), ’while they were smoothing the turf over
John’s remains, the heavens, which had been dark and slaty, cleared
suddenly, and the midsummer sun shone forth in his strength.  Scott,
ever awake to the "skiey influences," cast his eye along the overhanging
line of the Calton Hill, with its gleaming walls and towers, and then
turning to the grave again, "I feel," he whispered in my ear, "as if
there would be less sunshine for me from this day forth."’

John Ballantyne was thus taken away from the evil to come, but James
lived till 1833.  Archibald Constable died on the 21st of July 1827.
His proud spirit could not survive the tremendous downfall of his
splendid fortunes.  All his great undertakings, except the _Miscellany_,
had passed from his control.  He was reduced to ’an obscure closet of a
shop,’ and found himself without either capital or credit to start a new
career.  Of all with whom Scott had to do in the business of life, he is
the only man in whose case Scott’s natural generosity did not at once
overcome every shadow of well or ill founded resentment or grudge.

                             *CHAPTER LIX*

The Baronetcy—Reasons for accepting—Marriage of Sophia Scott to John
Gibson Lockhart—Charles Scott and Archdeacon Williams—Improvements in
Edinburgh—The ’Water Caddies’—Drama of _Rob Roy_—The Burns Dinner—Henry

It was in the end of the year 1818 that Scott received, through Lord
Sidmouth, intimation of the Prince Regent’s desire to confer on him a
baronetcy.  When informed of it privately, a few months before this, by
Chief-Commissioner Adam, he had hesitated about accepting such an
honour, feeling that it might dangerously affect the style of living and
the ideas and aspirations of a contented family.  However, the sudden
death of Charles Charpentier altered all this.  He left, as was
believed, a large fortune, and had settled the reversion on his sister’s
family.  The inheritance in the end came to nothing, but the expectation
removed Scott’s doubts as to accepting the title.  His eldest son having
by this time settled to enter the Army, it was obvious that the title
would be of real advantage to him in his profession.  We have
fortunately Scott’s views expressed in the frankest manner in a letter
to Morritt, and they certainly require no comment.  ’It would be easy,’
he says, ’saying a parcel of fine things about my contempt of rank, and
so forth; but although I would not have gone a step out of my way to
have asked, or bought, or begged, or borrowed a distinction, which to me
personally will rather be inconvenient than otherwise, yet coming as it
does directly from the source of feudal honours, and as an honour, I am
really gratified with it;—especially as it is intimated that it is His
Royal Highness’s pleasure to heat the oven for me expressly, without
waiting till he has some new _batch_ of Baronets ready in dough....
After all, if one must speak for themselves, I have my quarters and
emblazonments, free of all stain but Border theft and High Treason,
which I hope are gentlemanlike crimes; and I hope Sir Walter Scott will
not sound worse than Sir Humphry Davy, though my merits are as much
under his, in point of utility, as can well be imagined.  But a name is
something, and mine is the better of the two.’  It was not till March
1820 that he was able to go to London, having been prevented by illness
at one time, and on a second proposed occasion by family afflictions.
When he did go to London, his admirer was King George the Fourth.  To
him, at all events, the event was an honour and a credit, for it
proceeded entirely from himself.  His greeting to the new Baronet was,
’I shall always reflect with pleasure on Sir Walter Scott’s having been
the first creation of my reign.’  Shortly after this the two English
Universities offered him the honorary degree of D.C.L.  He was never
able to avail himself of either offer.

On the 29th of April in this year, his daughter Sophia was married to
John Gibson Lockhart.  The son-in-law mentions that Sir Walter hastened
his return from London—he had been sitting to Lawrence at the King’s
request—in order to get the marriage over before the unlucky month of
May.  Lockhart says too little of his own affairs, but he mentions that
the wedding took place, _more Scotico_, in the evening, and that Sir
Walter, adhering on all such occasions to ancient modes of observance
with the same punctiliousness which he mentions as distinguishing his
worthy father, gave a jolly supper afterwards to all the friends and
connections of the young couple.

Towards the end of the year the second son, Charles, also left the
family circle.  He went to Lampeter to be under the celebrated scholar
John Williams, afterwards Archdeacon of Cardigan.  Mr. Williams, who
became Rector of the Edinburgh Academy in 1824, was much appreciated by
Scott, not only for his erudition, but as being ’always pleasant
company.’  At another time he calls him ’a heaven-born teacher.’

We may mention here another item in the constant process of modernising
the city.  About this time a strong feeling was growing, and even
obtaining vent in public, against the sway of the Town Council. The
position of Edinburgh, ’always thirsty and unwashed,’ was then, by Lord
Cockburn’s account, in reference to water positively frightful.  The
wretched shallow tank on the north side of the Pentlands, the only
source of supply, was often and for long periods empty.  But the Town
Council would do nothing. A private company was therefore formed, and
the supply began to be regular.  Then water-pipes were put into private
houses, and the ancient fraternity of water-carriers found their
occupation gone.  ’In a very few years,’ says Cockburn, ’there was not
one extant.  They were a very curious tribe, consisting of both men and
women, but the former were perhaps the more numerous.  Their days were
passed in climbing up lofty stairs to the "flats."  The little casks of
water, when filled from the street wells, were slung upon their backs,
suspended by a leather strap, which was held in front by the hand.  They
acquired a stopping attitude, by which they were easily recognised even
when off duty.  They were all rather old, and seemed little; but this
last might be owing to their stooping.  The men very generally had old
red jackets, probably the remnants of the Highland Watch, or of the City
Guard; and the women were always covered with thick duffle greatcoats,
and wore black hats like the men.  Every house had its favourite "Water
Caddie."  The fee (I believe) was a penny per barrel. In spite of their
splashy lives and public-well discussions, they were rather civil, and
very cracky creatures.  What fretted them most was being obstructed in
going up a stair; and their occasionally tottering legs testified that
they had no bigotry against qualifying the water with a little whisky.
They never plied between Saturday night and Monday morning; that is,
their employers had bad hot water all Sunday. These bodies were such
favourites, that the extinction of their trade was urged seriously as a
reason against water being allowed to get into our houses in its own

In February 1819 a dramatised version of _Rob Roy_ was played in the
Edinburgh Theatre.  The Bailie was played by the famous actor Charles
Mackay, who, being a native of Glasgow, was able to do full justice to
the dialect and all the little amusing peculiarities of the character.
Scott is said to have been greatly interested in this representation of
his story, and Lockhart says ’it was extremely diverting to watch the
play of his features during Mackay’s admirable realisation of his
conception.’  On his benefit night ’the Bailie’ received an epistle of
kind congratulation from no less a personage than Jedediah Cleishbotham.
It is worth mentioning that, though his fellow-citizens greeted him on
entering his box with ’some mark of general respect and admiration,’
there was never anything said or done to embarrass him as hinting at his
authorship of the play.

While _Rob Roy_ was enjoying its successful run, a party of two or three
hundred Edinburgh gentlemen met, on February 22nd, at what has since
become the national cult—a Burns dinner.  This function was
distinguished by a short speech from the veteran ’Man of Feeling,’ who
had welcomed Burns and praised his genius more than thirty years before.
Scott’s feeling towards Burns was one of constantly increasing
admiration.  ’Long life to thy fame’ (he says in his _Journal_) ’and
peace to thy soul, Rob Burns!  When I want to express a sentiment which
I feel strongly, I find the phrase in Shakespeare—or thee.’  For Henry
Mackenzie he had a strong regard.  The old man surprised him by
unfolding literary schemes in his old age.  He loved to unbosom himself
to Scott, and called him his ’literary confessor,’ and ’I am sure’ (said
the patient victim) ’I am glad to return the kindnesses which he showed
me long since in George Square.’  Scott’s description of the veteran in
1825 is as follows: ’No man is less known from his writings. We would
suppose a retired, modest, somewhat affected man, with a white
handkerchief and a sigh ready for every sentiment.  No such thing: H. M.
is alert as a contracting tailor’s needle in every sort of business—a
politician and a sportsman—shoots and fishes in a sort even to this
day—and is the life of the company with anecdote and fun.  Sometimes,
his daughter tells me, he is in low spirits at home, but really I never
see anything of it in society.

In January 1831 Scott got the news of Henry Mackenzie’s death.  By this
time Scott was contemplating the near approach of his own end, but he
can still spare a regret for the old man, ’gayest of the gay, though
most sensitive of the sentimental,’ who had so long filled a niche in
Scottish literature.

                              *CHAPTER LX*

The Commercial Disaster—Ruin of Ballantyne (Scott) and Constable—Scott’s
Feeling—Universal Sympathy—Offer of Help—Brave Reply—Cheerful
Spirit—Constable—The Agreement—Removal from Castle Street—Death of Lady
Scott—The Visit to Paris.

James Ballantyne on his deathbed declared that all the appearances of
his prosperity were merely shadows. But Scott up to the end of 1825 had
no idea of the magnitude of the crisis that had been so long preparing.
On the 18th of December in that year he penned in his _Journal_ that
melancholy summary of his career: ’What a life mine has been!
Half-educated, almost wholly neglected or left to myself; stuffing my
head with most nonsensical trash, and undervalued by most of my
companions for a time; getting forward, and held a bold and clever
fellow, contrary to the opinion of all who thought me a mere dreamer;
broken-hearted for two years; my heart handsomely pieced again—but the
crack will remain till my dying day.  Rich and poor four or five times;
once on the verge of ruin, yet opened a new source of wealth almost
overflowing. Now to be broken in my pitch of pride....  Nobody in the
end can lose a penny by me—that is one comfort.’  Following entries
prove that Ballantyne professed confidence.  Even on 14th January, when
Scott had received ’an odd mysterious letter’ from Constable, hinting
calamity, James had no doubts!  On Tuesday the 17th the blow fell.
Ballantyne came in the morning to say that he had arranged to stop.  His
own account of the interview is: ’It was between eight and nine in the
morning that I made the final communication. No doubt he was greatly
stunned—but, upon the whole, he bore it with wonderful fortitude.  He
asked—"Well, what is the actual step we must first take?  I suppose we
must do something?"  I reminded him that two or three thousand pounds
were due that day, so that we had only to do what we must do—refuse
payment—to bring the disclosure sufficiently before the world.  He took
leave of me with these striking words—"Well, James, depend upon that, I
will never forsake you."’

In the _Journal_ of that day—’I felt rather sneaking as I came home from
the Parliament House—felt as if I were liable _monstrari digito_ in no
very pleasant way. But this must be borne _cum caeteris_.’  On which
Lord Cockburn remarks: ’very natural for him to feel so; but it was the
feeling of nobody else.’

From Cockburn’s pages we can realise the astounding effect of the news
of Scott’s implication in the disaster upon his friends and
fellow-citizens.  The ’black Tuesday’ became a recollection of sadness
and pain to all who personally knew him.  The destruction of half the
city could not have caused greater astonishment and sorrow.  His
professional brethren now for the first time learned that Scott had
’dabbled in trade.’  ’How humbled,’ says Cockburn, ’we felt when we saw
him—the pride of us all—dashed from his lofty and honourable station,
and all the fruits of his well-worked talents gone.  He had not then
even a political enemy. There was not one of those whom his
thoughtlessness had so sorely provoked, who would not have given every
spare farthing he possessed to retrieve Sir Walter. Well do I remember
his first appearance after this calamity was divulged, when he walked
into Court one day in January 1826.  There was no affectation, and no
reality, of _facing it_; no look of indifference or defiance; but the
manly and modest air of a gentleman conscious of some folly, but of
perfect rectitude, and of most heroic and honourable resolutions.  It
was on that very day, I believe, that he said a very fine thing.  Some
of his friends offered him, or rather proposed to offer him, enough of
money, as was supposed, to enable him to arrange with his creditors.  He
paused for a moment; and then, recollecting his powers, said
proudly—"No! this right hand shall work it all off."  His friend William
Clerk supped with him one night after his ruin was declared.  They
discussed the whole affair openly and playfully; till at last they
laughed over their noggins at the change, and Sir Walter observed that
he felt something like Lambert and the other Regicides, who, Pepys says,
when he saw them going to be hanged and quartered, were as cheerful and
comfortable as any gentlemen could be in that situation.’

This probably refers to the evening, mentioned in Scott’s _Journal_,
when his daughter was very greatly surprised by the loud hilarity of
Clerk and his host. ’But do people suppose,’ adds Scott, ’that he was
less sorry for his poor sister,[1] or I for my lost fortune?’  He
declares that pride was his strongest passion—a passion which never
hinged upon world’s gear, which was always with him—light come, light

[1] Miss Elizabeth Clerk’s sudden death had also occurred on the 17th of

Constable had stood like a hero in the breach to the last moment.  His
last device, a good one if he could have by magic imparted his own
knowledge, foresight, and sublime faith to a board of directors, was to
take Lockhart (in the capacity of a confidential friend of the author of
_Waverley_) with him to the Bank of England, and to apply for a loan of
from £100,000 to £200,000 on the security of the copyrights.  These, it
must be remembered, were the _Encyclopedia Britannica_, half of the
_Edinburgh Review_, nearly all Scott’s poetry, the Waverley Novels, and
the _Life of Napoleon_, on which Scott was at the time working.
Lockhart refused to interfere without direct instructions from Sir
Walter. Poor Constable, he says, became livid with rage.

The claims against Scott were found in the end to amount to £130,000.
All the world knows the course Scott elected to take; how he at once put
his affairs in the hands of trustees, and became, by his own offer, the
vassal of his creditors for life, toiling henceforward to pay their
claims, not to enrich himself.  From his side it was a noble sacrifice,
as noble as any ever offered on the altar of honour.  If the debts had
been real, if he had actually had in possession the sum and used it, no
other course would have been possible _salvo honore_. But commercial
debts, the largely fictitious product of stamps and paper, should have
been paid commercially. Such a course, he himself said, he might have
advised a client to take, and it would have saved him much sorrow, pain,
and trouble, without harming any man. However, he preferred it
otherwise, and received the news of the acceptance of his offer as if it
had been a mighty favour.  He wrote in his _Journal_: ’This is handsome
and confidential, and must warm my best efforts to get them out of the

The agreement was finally, not of course without harassment and
difficulty, passed.  He was left in possession of Abbotsford, his
official salary was left him to support his family, everything else was
sold for behoof of the creditors, and all his future literary gains were
assigned to them in advance.  On March 15th he left his house in Castle
Street, and on that night he wrote in his _Journal_: ’I never reckoned
upon a change in this particular so long as I held an office in the
Court of Session.  In all my former changes of residence it was from
good to better—this is retrograding.  I leave this house for sale, and I
cease to be an Edinburgh citizen, in the sense of being a proprietor,
which my father and I have been for sixty years at least.  So farewell,
poor 39, and may you never harbour worse people than those who now leave

Very soon after the departure from Castle Street a second calamity,
probably hastened by the former, overtook the family.  Lady Scott died
at Abbotsford on the 14th of May.  Scott, who was engaged in his Court
duties at Edinburgh, and staying now in Mrs. Brown’s lodgings, North St.
David Street, reached Abbotsford late in the evening of the 15th.  His
weakly daughter Anne, worn out with attendance, was hysterical when he
arrived.  The entries in his _Journal_ are sadly touching: ’When I
contrast what this place now is with what it has been not long since, I
think my heart will break.  Lonely, aged, deprived of my family—all but
poor Anne; an impoverished, an embarrassed man, deprived of the sharer
of my thoughts, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous
apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone.’

The funeral took place on the 22nd at Dryburgh. Scott mentions very
kindly the Rev. E. B. Ramsay, who performed the funeral service.  This
gentleman afterwards became famous, when Dean of Edinburgh, by his
well-known book _Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life_.

And now Scott found the task he had imposed upon himself bracing him
against despondency.  He returned to Edinburgh and his old ’task,’
thankful that it was of a graver nature (the _Life of Napoleon_), and
determined to fight on ’for the sake of the children and of my own

A visit to London and Paris was necessitated in October by his work on
Napoleon.  The change did him good, and Lockhart mentions that his
behaviour under misfortunes so terrible had gained for him ’a deep and
respectful sympathy, which was brought home to him in a way not to be
mistaken.’  This expedition for information had cost him £200—a matter
for serious consideration in his changed circumstances.

                             *CHAPTER LXI*

House in Walker Street—Ill-health—Extraordinary Labours—Article on
Hoffman—Kindness to Literary People—Murray’s Party—Theatrical Fund
Dinner—_Life of Napoleon_—Payment of £28,000 to Creditors—The Lockharts
at Portobello—Grandfather’s Tales—Domestic Happiness—Visit of Adolphus.

On resuming his duties in Edinburgh at the end of November (1826), Scott
went to reside in a furnished house in Walker Street, which he had taken
for the winter.  In his _Journal_, 27th November, he says: ’Walter came
and supped with us, which diverted some heavy thoughts.  It is
impossible not to compare this return to Edinburgh with others in more
happy times.  But we should rather recollect under what distress of mind
I took up my lodgings in Mrs. Brown’s last summer, and then the balance
weighs deeply on the favourable side.  This house is comfortable and
convenient.’  It was for the sake of his daughter’s company that he had
taken this house.  The winter, however, proved a weary time. His
incessant toil at his _Napoleon_ was hampered by continual
ill-health—successive attacks of rheumatism, which might well have
excused him from work of any kind.  But his watchword was, ’I am now at
my oar, and I must row hard.’  To crown all his troubles, the weather
was exceptionally cold and trying.  He could not but think often of the
days when rain and cold and long night journeys did him no harm, and he
was painfully conscious of a speedy break-up of the hard-wrought
machine.  Bad nights were the rule, and he was sometimes sick with mere
pain.  Sometimes he notes his work, proof-sheets and the like, as
’finished mechanically.’  ’All well,’ he ends up on 21st December, ’if
the machine would but keep in order, but "The spinning-wheel is auld and
stiff."  I shall never see the threescore and ten, and shall be summed
up at a discount.  No help for it, and no matter either.’  Yet, even in
these circumstances, he wrote more than his task.  One of these minor
pieces was an article on Hoffman for the _Foreign Quarterly_, a review
edited by R. P. Gillies.  It was done purely as a kindness to Gillies,
giving, as Lockhart says, a poor brother author £100 at the expense of
considerable time and drudgery to himself.  He had done the same in
numberless instances, often for persons whose only claim on him was that
of the common vocation. At this time he naturally went but little into
society, but his enjoyment of good company could still be keen. On
spending an evening with John A. Murray, he says: ’When I am out with a
party of my Opposition friends, the day is often merrier than when with
our own set.  Is it because they are cleverer?  Jeffrey and Harry
Cockburn are, to be sure, very extraordinary men; yet it is not owing to
that entirely.  I believe both parties meet with the feeling of
something like novelty—we have not worn out our jests in daily contact.’

On the 23rd of February 1827 he presided at the famous Theatrical Fund
Dinner, at which he publicly admitted his authorship of the Waverley
Novels.  All he says of the incident is, ’Meadowbank taxed me with the
novels, and to end that farce at once I pleaded guilty, so that splore
is ended.’  Of course, as a matter of fact, the secret had been an open
one from the day of the first meeting of Ballantyne’s creditors.  When
Scott was thinking of himself as liable _monstrari digito_ as the
partner of an insolvent firm, every one else was thinking of him as the
now-revealed ’author of _Waverley_.’  ’Scott ruined,’ Earl Dudley
exclaimed on hearing the news, ’the author of _Waverley_ ruined! Good
God! let every man to whom he has given months of delight give him a
sixpence, and he will rise to-morrow morning richer than Rothschild!’
That was probably what was in the mind of every man who gazed on Scott’s
calm, honest face in the first days of trouble.

On the 7th of June he finished _Napoleon_, which had grown on his hands,
much beyond the original estimate, to nine closely-printed volumes.  The
work produced £18,000 for his creditors, so that in eighteen months he
had actually diminished his obligations by £28,000.

One of the most touching episodes of Scott’s life was his loving anxiety
for his invalid grandson, the child of Lockhart and Sophia.  Knowing the
fearful strain that Sir Walter was now keeping up in working double
tides for his bondholding masters, Lockhart and his wife did what they
could to induce him to moderate his zeal.  ’But nothing,’ says Lockhart,
’was so useful as the presence of his invalid grandson. The poor child
was at this time so far restored as to be able to sit on his pony again;
and Sir Walter, who had conceived, the very day he finished _Napoleon_,
the notion of putting together a series of _Tales on the History of
Scotland_, somewhat in the manner of Mr. Croker’s on that of England,
rode daily among the woods with his "Hugh Littlejohn," and told the
story, and ascertained that it suited the comprehension of boyhood,
before he reduced it to writing.’  During the rest of this year he wrote
new matter which filled five to six volumes in the uniform edition of
his works, but this Lockhart thinks was light and easy compared with
’the perilous drudgery’ of the preceding eighteen months.

Ill-health and the perpetual consciousness of his bondage had
marvellously little effect as yet on the quality of his work.  To
friends who visited him casually he seems to have rarely alluded to any
of his troubles.  Adolphus, however, mentions that once, when speaking
of his _Life of Napoleon_, he said in a quiet but touching tone, ’I
could have done it better, if I had written at more leisure, and with a
mind more at ease.’  Adolphus was deeply impressed by the sight of his
quiet cheerfulness among his family and their young friends.  He has
preserved one of Scott’s remarks on the subject of happiness which is
both characteristic and, considering the time, strikingly suggestive.
Scott having said something about an accident which had spoiled the
promised pleasure of a visit to his daughter in London, then observed,
’I have had as much happiness in my time as most men, and I must not
complain now.’  Adolphus replied that, whatever had been his share of
happiness, no one could have laboured better for it.  Scott’s answer
was, ’I consider the capacity to labour as part of the happiness I have
enjoyed.’  In mentioning Adolphus (who had written a book on the
authorship of the Waverley Novels) and his visit, Scott wrote in his
_Journal_, ’He is a modest as well as an able man, and I am obliged to
him for the delicacy with which he treated a matter in which I was
personally so much concerned.’

                             *CHAPTER LXII*

Incident of Gourgaud—Expected Duel—Scott’s Preparations—Tired of
Edinburgh—Changing Aspect of New Town—The ’Markets’ superseded by
Shops—The Female Poisoner—Scott’s opinion of ’Not Proven’—Points in its

In the _Life of Napoleon_ Scott had made use of certain documents which
had been put at his disposal in the British Colonial Office.  Founding
on these unimpeachable authorities, he had told how General Gourgaud,
one of Napoleon’s aides-de-camp at St. Helena, though he had given the
British Government private information that Bonaparte’s complaints of
ill-usage were utterly unfounded, had afterwards supported and
encouraged in France the idea that Sir Hudson Lowe’s conduct towards his
illustrious prisoner had been cruel and tyrannical.  About the end of
August Cadell sent extracts from French newspapers to Scott, stating
that Gourgaud was going to London to _verify_ the statements in the
history.  This Cadell took to mean that the fire-eater intended to
fasten a quarrel on Scott and challenge him to a duel.  The good
bookseller was alarmed, but Scott took it all very coolly.  He had
really dealt very moderately and delicately with Gourgaud’s shaky
reputation, and when the latter at last wrote his attack in the French
newspapers, Scott retorted by simply publishing in full the extracts he
had made from the records of the Colonial Office.  The General, though
he continued to load Scott with abuse, did not dare to pen a direct
negative, and so the affair ’fizzled out.’  Scott had expected a
challenge, and had quite made up his mind to fight, Clerk promising to
act as his second.  ’He shall not dishonour the country through my
sides, I can assure him.’  In the end he writes, ’I wonder he did not
come over and try his manhood otherwise.  I would not have shunned him
nor any Frenchman who ever kissed Bonaparte’s breech.’

At this period Scott’s heart became more and more fixed upon Abbotsford,
his interest in Edinburgh proportionately less.  Edinburgh was now only
the workshop, in which he must toil with fettered limbs, and without the
buoyancy of health and strength which used to make his labours a portion
of his happiness. ’Fagged by the Court’—’no time for _work_’—fagged by
the good company of Edinburgh, he is tempted to run off to
Abbotsford—’but it will not do; and, sooth to speak, it ought not to do;
though it would do me much pleasure if it would do.’  Such was his state
of mind, and his interest in local affairs and changes of the city was
naturally diminished.  About the time of the Ballantyne disaster, the
opening of the New Town markets at Stockbridge might perhaps have drawn
his attention to the great change going on in the city, which has made
it internally so modern, and so commonplace.  The New Town was now fast
becoming a town of shops.  The old ’market’ system, so characteristic of
Edinburgh, was dying out.  Formerly the dealers in any one commodity
were all grouped together in a certain fixed and limited locality.  This
was what was meant by a ’market’: a congregation of shops or rather
booths.  For example, the Flesh Market was at the Tron: the Cattle
Market at King’s Stables end of the Grassmarket, and so on.  Cockburn
remembered when, about 1810, the only supply of fish for the citizens
was in the Fish Market Close, which he justly calls a steep, narrow,
stinking ravine.  ’The fish’ (he says) ’were generally thrown out on the
street at the head of the close, whence they were dragged down by dirty
boys or dirtier women; and then sold unwashed—for there was not a drop
of water in the place—from old, rickety, scaly wooden tables, exposed to
all the rain, dust and filth....  I doubt if there was a single
fish-shop in Edinburgh so early as the year 1822.’  The fruit and
vegetable market was quite as bad, managed by ’a college of old
gin-drinking women, who congregated with stools and tables round the
Tron Church.’  The fruit was put on the tables, but the vegetables were
thrown on the ground.  ’I doubt, Cockburn adds, ’if there was a
fruit-shop in Edinburgh in 1815.  All shops indeed meant for the sale of
any article on which there was a local tax or market-custom, were
discouraged by the magistrates or their tacksman as interfering with the
collection of the dues.  The growth of shops of all kinds in the New
Town is remarkable.  I believe there were not half a dozen of them in
the whole New Town, west of St. Andrew Street, in 1810.  The dislike to
them was so great, that any proprietor who allowed one was abused as an
unneighbourly fellow.’

In February 1827 a poisoning case came up for trial which excited great
interest in the city.  Scott has given a life-like sketch of the scene
in his _Journal_.  ’In Court, and waited to see the poisoning woman.
She is clearly guilty, but as one or two witnesses said the poor wench
hinted an intention to poison herself, the jury gave that bastard
verdict, _Not Proven_.  I hate that Caledonian _medium quid_.  One who
is not _proven guilty_ is innocent in the eye of the law.  It was a face
to do or die, or perhaps to do to die.  Thin features, which have been
handsome, a flashing eye, an acute and aquiline nose, lips much marked,
as arguing decision, and, I think, bad temper—they were thin, and
habitually compressed, rather turned down at the corners, as one of a
rather melancholy disposition. There was an awful crowd; but, sitting
within the bar, I had the pleasure of seeing much at my ease; the
constables knocking the other folks about, which was of course very

Referring to the same incident, Lord Cockburn says that Scott’s
description of the woman is very correct; ’she was like a vindictive
masculine witch.  I remember him sitting within the bar looking at her.
As we were moving out, Sir Walter Scott’s remark upon the acquittal was,
"Well, sirs, all I can say is that if that woman was my wife I should
take good care to be my own cook."’

It is somewhat startling to find Scott so strongly denouncing our
Caledonian verdict of _Not Proven_. _Pace tanti viri_, his opinion is
not ours.  A jury may be convinced of the guilt of a person, and yet
quite satisfied that the prosecution has failed to prove it. _Experto
crede_; in a criminal case in the Sheriff Court I have been on a jury
that was absolutely unanimous on both points, the police evidence having
been got up in a most perfunctory style.  It was very satisfactory to us
to be able to say ’Not Proven,’ which was absolutely accurate, and yet
not to be obliged to give the prisoner a certificate of innocence.
Probably this verdict, while at times favouring the guilty, has saved
the life of many an innocent victim of circumstantial fatality.  It is
entirely in favour of the innocent ’suspect,’ to whom every day of
respite is an additional chance of clearing his name: to the guilty it
is an effective punishment, since any day may bring to light the
defective links in the proof of his guilt.

                            *CHAPTER LXIII*

Visit of Richardson and Cockburn to Abbotsford—Sir Walter at
Home—Anecdote of Cranstoun—Patterson’s Anecdotes—The Burke and Hare
Murders—Anecdote of Cockburn—Dr. Knox—Catholic Emancipation Bill—Meeting
in Edinburgh—Death of Terry and Shortreed—Severe Illness of Scott—Death
of Tom Purdie.

John Richardson, ’the learned Peerage lawyer,’ was the intimate of Henry
Cockburn, and the favoured and highly prized friend of Sir Walter Scott.
He tells a good fishing story of earlier days when he visited Sir Walter
at Ashestiel.  Richardson was fishing in the Tweed, Scott walking by his
side, when, after the capture of numerous fine trout, he hooked
something greater and unseen.  Scott became greatly excited: to their
common alarm the rod broke; but climbing the bank and holding the rod
down, the angler at last managed to bring his mysterious prize round a
small peninsula towards the bank.  Then ’Sir Walter jumped into the
water, seized him, and threw him out on the grass.  Tom Purdie came up a
little time after, and was certainly rather discomposed at my success.
"It will be some sea brute," he observed; but he became satisfied that
it was a fine river-trout, and such as, he afterwards admitted, had not
been killed in Tweed for twenty years; and when I moved down the water,
he went, as Sir Walter afterwards observed, and gave it a kick on the
head, observing, "To be ta’en by the like o’ him frae Lunnon!"’

The two friends met again in very different form in 1828, when Cockburn
accompanied Richardson to visit Scott at Abbotsford.  Apropos of this
visit we have happily a very fine description by Cockburn of Scott and
his talk at this time.  He describes his appearance thus: ’When fitted
up for dinner, he was like any other comfortably ill-dressed gentleman.
But in the morning, with the large coarse jacket, great stick, and
leathern cap, he was Dandy Dinmont or Dirk Hatteraick—a poacher or a
smuggler.’  Scott gave them an anecdote of an early anticipation
regarding the professional prospects of their friend George Cranstoun,
who had been recently raised to the bench. Just after being called to
the Bar, Cranstoun, William Erskine, and Scott went to dine with an old
Selkirk writer, a devoted drinker of the old school.  Cranstoun, who was
never anything at a debauch, was driven off the field, with a squeamish
stomach and a woful countenance, shamefully early.  Erskine, always
ambitious, adhered to the bowl somewhat longer; but Scott who, as he
told us, ’was at home with the hills and the whisky punch,’ not only
triumphed over these two, but very nearly over the landlord.  As they
were mounting their horses to ride home, the entertainer let the other
two go without speaking to them; but he embraced Scott, assuring him
that he would rise high.  ’And I’ll tell ye what, Maister Walter, that
lad Cranstoun may get to the tap o’ the bar if he can; but tak my word
for’t—it’s no be by drinking.’

In his _Journal_, 4th April 1829, it is mentioned that one David
Patterson wrote to Sir Walter to suggest that he should write on the
subject of the Burke and Hare murders, and to offer him for materials
his ’invaluable collection of anecdotes.’  ’Did ever one hear of the
like?’ adds Scott.  ’The scoundrel has been the companion and patron of
such atrocious murderers and kidnappers, and he has the impudence to
write to any decent man!’

Burke and Hare were two desperadoes who, for about two years, had
carried on a regular trade of murder in Edinburgh, the scene being a
gloomy back house, recently demolished, in a close near the north corner
of the West Port and Lady Lawson Street. Here they had disposed of
sixteen victims, selling all the bodies to the doctors for dissection.
The popular excitement when the discovery was made, and when Burke,
Hare, and Helen Macdougal were brought to trial, was something
unexampled in the city.  ’No case,’ says Lord Cockburn, ’ever struck the
public heart or imagination with greater horror. And no wonder.  The
regular demand for anatomical subjects, and the high prices given, held
out a constant premium to murder; and when it was shown to what danger
this exposed the unprotected, every one felt himself living among
persons to whom murder was a trade.’  At this time Dr. Robert Knox, a
very clever surgeon, was the most popular lecturer in the medical
school, and into his hands most of the bodies had come.  The populace
fully believed that he had known that the bodies were those of murdered
persons.  Few could believe him entirely innocent—a supposition, of
course, inconsistent with his anatomical skill.  He was, however,
acquitted of all blame by the report of an independent and influential
committee, and remained in Edinburgh till 1841.  Lord Cockburn states
that all the Edinburgh anatomists incurred great odium, which he
considered most unjust.  Tried in view of the invariable, and at that
time necessary practice of the profession, the anatomists were, in his
opinion, ’spotlessly correct, and Knox the most correct of them all.’
It was Cockburn who, as counsel for the defence, secured the acquittal
of Helen Macdougal.  A story went round that, on finishing his address
to the jury and observing its effect, he whispered, ’Infernal hag! the
gudgeons swallow it!’  This was utterly untrue.  The evidence was really
insufficient to warrant a conviction, and the defence was, of course,
entirely honest.  Of the two assassins, Hare escaped by turning King’s
Evidence, and Burke, the less revolting of the two, was hanged. On the
evening of the execution Scott wrote, ’The mob, which was immense,
demanded Knox and Hare, but though greedy for more victims, received
with shouts the solitary wretch who found his way to the gallows out of
five or six who seem not less guilty than he.’  Knox’s brilliant career
was ruined by the incident. He passed the last twenty years of his life
in London, in a precarious struggle for a poor existence, and died in

In March 1829 Edinburgh had a great meeting in favour of Wellington and
Peel’s measure of Catholic Emancipation.  Scott and a number of Tories
supported it.  His opinion was that the measure ought to satisfy all
lovers of peace.  But he had his doubts about _Pat_, ’who with all his
virtues, is certainly not the most sensible person in the world.’  The
petition got up by the meeting was signed by eight thousand persons, but
the two opposing petitions were much more numerously signed.  When the
first petition was read in the House of Commons, the name of Sir Walter
Scott was received with a great shout of applause, which led Sir Robert
Peel to send him a special and very cordial letter of thanks.  Of this
petition Cockburn, who was prominent in the whole affair, declares that
the eight thousand who signed were of a higher and more varied class
than ever concurred in any political measure in Edinburgh.

About the middle of May appeared _Anne of Geierstein_, which, as
Lockhart has put it, may almost be called the last work of Scott’s
imaginative genius.  To the reader who peruses this story, keeping in
mind the time and the circumstances in which it was written, it is full
of passages which touchingly depict the past and present emotions of the
writer’s own career.

The next two months deprived him of two old friends—Terry and
Shortreed—with whom, he writes, ’many recollections die.’  Meanwhile
there was great comfort in the success of his _Magnum Opus_—the
collected works.

At the end of this year, 1829, eight volumes had appeared, and the
monthly sale was thirty-five thousand.  The effect on his spirits was
gratifying to his friends, for he had been almost prostrated by fears
and anxiety about the health of his eldest son.  Then came the first
warning of the end.  ’Good news of Walter’ was succeeded by a serious
and alarming attack of illness—in fact a threatening of apoplexy.  He
obtained relief by cupping, but he had apparently no delusions as to the
meaning of the stroke.  Writing to tell Walter of his recovery, he talks
of coming death, and in view of ’the pro-di-gi-ous sale’ of the Novels,
he says, ’I should be happy to die a free man; and I am sure you will
all be kind to poor Anne, who will miss me most. I don’t intend to die a
minute sooner than I can help for all this; but when a man takes to
making blood instead of water, he is tempted to think on the possibility
of his soon making earth.’

Another warning was the loss of his ’old and faithful servant,’ the
never-failing Tom Purdie.  He died suddenly, and on his grave, close to
the Abbey at Melrose, may be seen the monument placed there by Sir
Walter ’in sorrow for the loss of a humble but sincere friend.’  This
bereavement was felt so keenly that, for once in his life, Scott was
impatient to leave Abbotsford and resume the engrossing cares of the
city.  ’I am so much shocked, that I really wish to be quit of the
country and safe in the town.’

                             *CHAPTER LXIV*

Last Winter in Edinburgh—The _Ayrshire Tragedy_—Apoplectic
Stroke—Retirement from the Clerkship—Visit to Edinburgh—Refusal to stop
Literary Work—John Nicolson—Scott at Cadell’s House—His Will.

On reaching ’the safety of the town’ he began work without delay.  The
_Ayrshire Tragedy_, his most ambitious attempt in drama, was finished
before the close of the year.  It is founded on the horrible story of
Mure of Auchindrane.  The ’tragedy’ is, however, really less interesting
and dramatic than the simple prose version of the story which forms the

So was Scott’s life going on—the regular daily routine of his Court
duties and then the daily portion of ’work,’ of which, in spite of all
that happened, he seems to have done as much in 1830 as in the previous
year.  There was no immediate warning of the terrible collapse.  On the
15th of February he returned from the Court as usual about two o’clock.
An old lady was waiting to show him some papers.  He sat with her for
half an hour, seeming to be occupied with the MS.  When he rose from his
chair to usher out his visitor, he sank back again.  His features were
slightly convulsed.  After a few minutes he rose and staggered to the
drawing-room.  His daughter Anne and Miss Lockhart ran to him, but they
were not in time—he fell at full length on the floor.  A surgeon was
fetched without delay, and bleeding proved effective.  So fully did he
recover his faculties, that he was able shortly to go out as usual, and
few noticed any serious change.  For a time he and his friends tried to
believe that ’the attack had proceeded merely from the stomach.’  The
symptoms, however, too clearly indicated the more serious danger.  ’When
we recollect,’ says the biographer, ’that both his father and his elder
brother died of paralysis, and consider the violences of agitation and
exertion to which Sir Walter had been subjected during the four
preceding years, the only wonder is that this blow (which had, I
suspect, several indistinct harbingers) was deferred so long; there can
be none that it was soon followed by others of the same description.’

His health continued to improve till the autumn of this year.  He was
now preparing to bid farewell to Edinburgh.  In July he retired from the
Clerkship of Session, receiving an allowance of £800 a year, and
refusing (with consent of his masters) a pension of £500, which would
have made up the loss of income. The idea of leaving Edinburgh was, all
the same, very painful.  ’I can hardly’ (he wrote at this time) ’form a
notion of the possibility that I am not to return to Edinburgh.’  The
breaking up of a routine which had lasted for twenty-six years, was in
itself a serious change.  It meant also the loss, during the winter, of
the society which helped so much to cheer him.  And then, as Lockhart
says, ’he had a love for the very stones of Edinburgh, and the thought
that he was never again to sleep under a roof of his own in his native
city, cost him many a pang.’

His return to Edinburgh in November was for the purpose of consulting
his physicians there after another slight attack of apoplexy.  One of
these was the famous Abercrombie.  They prescribed a severe regimen of
spare diet, and strongly urged him to cease from brain-work.  Lockhart
and his relatives did the same.  His reply was: ’I am not sure that I am
quite myself in all things; but I am sure that in one point there is no
change.  I mean, that I foresee distinctly that if I were to be idle, I
should go mad.  In comparison to this, death is no risk to shrink from.’
It can be seen from his diary what this ’work’ meant; he speaks of being
’fogged with frozen vigils’—of working ’without intermission’—and
grudges an afternoon’s chat with visitors, ’though well employed and
pleasantly.’  And all this time the symptoms of physical collapse were
growing daily more plain and more painful.  ’I speak with an
impediment—the constant increase of my lameness—the thigh-joint,
knee-joint, and ancle-joint. I should not care for all this, if I were
sure of dying handsomely....  But the fear is, lest the blow be not
sufficient to destroy life, and that I should linger on, "a driveller
and a show."’

In January 1831 he became convinced that it was now a pressing duty to
make his will.  A heavy fall of snow began on the 30th, but next morning
he set out on horseback, attended only by his ’confidential attendant,’
John Nicolson, whose services in these last years were of extraordinary
value to the disabled man. Lockhart’s praise of him was doubtless
well-deserved: ’He had been in the household from his boyhood, and was
about this time advanced to the chief place in it. Early and continued
kindness had made a very deep impression on this fine handsome young
man’s warm heart; he possessed intelligence, good sense, and a calm
temper; and the courage and dexterity which Sir Walter had delighted to
see him display in sports and pastimes, proved henceforth of inestimable
service to the master whom he regarded, I verily believe, with the love
and reverence of a son.’  On reaching Edinburgh, Sir Walter took up his
quarters for the night in a hotel.  It was the first time he had done so
in his native city.  He could not sleep, lay listening to the endless
noises of the street, and next day he yielded to Cadell’s kindly
pressure and accepted the publisher’s hospitality at his house in Atholl
Crescent. ’Here,’ he mentions in a letter to Mrs. Lockhart, ’I saw
various things that belonged to poor No. 39.  I had many sad thoughts on
seeing and handling them—but they are in kind keeping, and I was glad
they had not gone to strangers.’  These were some articles which had
been bought in at the sale by a friend and returned to Scott, who
himself had presented them to Mrs. Cadell.  With the Cadells the
snowstorm prolonged his stay for a week.  He was cheered by the sight of
one or two old intimates, such as Clerk and Skene, but they could not
look on him without feeling pain at the great change.  Even now he kept
on writing, working for some hours daily on _Count Robert of Paris_.
The will was duly completed, signed, and left in the safe keeping of
Cadell.  The account of the visit in the _Journal_ concludes: ’I
executed my last will, leaving Walter burdened, by his own choice, with
£1000 to Sophia, and another received at her marriage, and £2000 to
Anne, and the same to Charles.  I have made provisions for clearing my
estate by my publications, should it be possible....  My bequests must,
many of them, seem hypothetical.

’Besides during the unexpected stay in town, I employed Mr. Fortune, an
ingenious artist, to make a machine to assist my lame leg....

’The appearance of the streets was most desolate; the hackney coaches,
with four horses, strolling about like ghosts, and foot-passengers few
but the lowest of the people.

’I wrote a good deal of _Count Robert_, yet I cannot tell why my pen
stammers egregiously and I write horridly incorrect.  I long to have
friend Laidlaw’s assistance.’

                             *CHAPTER LXV*

The Paralytic Stroke—The Last Novels—Election Meetings—Disgraceful
Conduct of Radical Gangs—Scott’s Journey for Health—The Return—Collapse
and Stupor—The Last Stay in Edinburgh—Death of Sir Walter Scott.

Very soon after this came what Sir Walter himself could not fail to
recognise as ’a distinct stroke of paralysis affecting both nerves and
speech.’  Lockhart describes the occasion on which it occurred as
follows: ’Sir Walter’s friend Lord Meadowbank had come to Abbotsford, as
usual when on the Jedburgh circuit; and he would make an effort to
receive the Judge in something of the old style of the place; he
collected several of the neighbouring gentry to dinner, and tried to
bear his wonted part in the conversation.  Feeling his strength and
spirits flagging, he was tempted to violate his physician’s directions,
and took two or three glasses of champagne, not having tasted wine for
several months before.  On retiring to his dressing-room he had this
severe shock of apoplectic paralysis, and kept his bed under the
surgeon’s hands for several days.’

A fortnight after, when Lockhart came to see him, Sir Walter, having
been lifted on his pony, came about half a mile on the Selkirk road to
meet him, with one of his grand-children before him on a pillion.
Lockhart was sadly moved by the terrible change in his appearance, which
he describes thus: ’All his garments hung loose about him; his
countenance was thin and haggard, and there was an obvious distortion in
the muscles of one cheek.  His look, however, was placid—his eye as
bright as ever—perhaps brighter than it ever was in health; he smiled
with the same affectionate gentleness, and though at first it was not
easy to understand everything he said, he spoke cheerfully and

Under such conditions, Sir Walter still continued to work, seldom
speaking even in the family circle about his illness at all, and only
then in a hopeful way.  His one desire was to use his faculties, while
they remained responsive, for the benefit of those to whom he considered
himself a debtor.  _Count Robert_ and _Castle Dangerous_ were both
finished at this time, the latter being perhaps the only permanent
evidence of the final decay of his powers.

Scott’s strong sense of duty, combined with the calls of his official
position as Sheriff, obliged him to take part during the month of May in
several election meetings. He was from deep conviction opposed to the
great movement for reforming our political machinery by which the
country was then convulsed.  At Jedburgh the mob, largely recruited from
Hawick, showed their political fanaticism by mobbing Sir Walter Scott
and putting his life in danger.  At Selkirk, however, though it also was
invaded by a Radical contingent, no disrespect was shown to the great
man who was there personally known to all and ’all but universally
beloved as well as feared.’  ’I am well pleased,’ Lockhart remarks,
’that (Selkirk) the ancient capital of the _Forest_ did not stain its
fair name upon this miserable occasion; and I am sorry for Jedburgh and
Hawick.  This last town stands almost within sight of Branksome Hall,
overhanging also _sweet Teviot’s silver tide_.  The civilised American
or Australian will curse these places, of which he would never have
heard but for Scott, as he passes through them in some distant century,
when perhaps all that remains of our national glories may be the high
literature adopted and extended in new lands planted from our blood.’
It is a bitter reflection that Sir Walter Scott’s last hours were
haunted by the mob’s brutal cry of ’Burke Sir Walter.’

But we must not dwell on the events of 1831.  The European journey, the
last slender hope for the great novelist’s recovery, was begun in
October, the Government putting at Sir Walter’s disposal the _Barham_,
’a beautiful ship, a 74 cut down to a 50, and well deserving all the
commendations bestowed on her.’

There remains now only one more Edinburgh scene to notice—a sadder scene
than that of the death-bed.  He had reached London on the 13th of June
1832, being then in a state of extreme feebleness and exhaustion.  There
he lay ’in the second-floor back-room’ of a Jermyn Street hotel, for
some three weeks, in a state of almost unbroken stupor.  When conscious,
he was for ever wishing to return to Abbotsford.  At last it was decided
to gratify his desire, and on the 7th of July he was lifted into his
carriage and conveyed to the steamboat. On this journey he had with him
his two daughters, Cadell, Lockhart, and Dr. Thomas Watson, his medical
adviser.  On board the steamer he seemed, after being laid in bed,
unconscious of the removal that had taken place.  At Newhaven, which the
vessel reached late on the 9th, he was taken on shore, lying prostrate
in his carriage.  Then he was conveyed, still apparently unconscious, to
Douglas’s hotel in St. Andrew Square. This was his last visit to

Lockhart mentions that Mr. and Mrs. Douglas had made all preparations
that could have been desired for his accommodation, but he does not seem
even to have known that he was once more in ’his own romantic town.’
The old charm of Edinburgh had long resigned its power in favour of that
of Abbotsford.  The tie of home was no longer connected with the city,
and the rousing of his memory only came when the carriage had made two
stages towards the Tweed.

And so he went on his way to Abbotsford, where he died, and to Dryburgh,
where he was laid in his grave. And the great city which he had loved,
died too, to him—on that summer morning when the sad little party drove
away from its gates.  Some of the last lines he penned—the motto of
Chapter XIV. of _Castle Dangerous_—are fraught with the spirit of his
noble life—courage, truth, and steadfastness to endure—

    ’The way is long, my children, long and rough—
    The moors are dreary, and the woods are dark;
    But he that creeps from cradle on to grave
    Unskilled save in the velvet course of fortune,
    Hath miss’d the discipline of noble hearts.’

        Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
                   at the Edinburgh University Press

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