December 1st.--Colonel R[ussell] told me that the European Government had discovered an ingenious mode of diminishing the number of burnings of widows. It seems the Shaster positively enjoins that the pile shall be so constructed that, if the victim should repent even at the moment when it is set on fire, she may still have the means of saving herself. The Brahmins soon found it was necessary to assist the resolution of the sufferers, by means of a little pit into which they contrive to let the poor widow sink, so as to prevent her reaping any benefit from a late repentance. But the Government has brought them back to the regard of their law, and only permit the burning to go on when the pile is constructed with full opportunity of a _locus penitentiś_. Yet the widow is so degraded if she dare to survive, that the number of burnings is still great. The quantity of female children destroyed by the Rajput tribes Colonel R. describes as very great indeed. They are strangled by the mother. The principle is the aristocratic pride of these high castes, who breed up no more daughters than they can reasonably hope to find matches for in their own tribe. Singular how artificial systems of feeling can be made to overcome that love of offspring which seems instinctive in the females, not of the human race only, but of the lower animals. This is the reverse of our system of increasing game by shooting the old cock-birds. It is a system would aid Malthus rarely.
_Nota bene_, the day before yesterday I signed the bond for £5000, with Constable, for relief of Robinson's house. I am to be secured by good bills.
I think this journal will suit me well. If I can coax myself into an idea that it is purely voluntary, it may go on--_Nulla dies sine line‚_. But never a being, from my infancy upwards, hated task-work as I hate it; and yet I have done a great deal in my day. It is not that I am idle in my nature neither. But propose to me to do one thing, and it is inconceivable the desire I have to do something else--not that it is more easy or more pleasant, but just because it is escaping from an imposed task. I cannot trace this love of contradiction to any distinct source, but it has haunted me all my life. I could almost suppose it was mechanical, and that the imposition of a piece of duty-labour operated on me like the mace of a bad billiard-player, which gives an impulse to the ball indeed, but sends it off at a tangent different from the course designed by the player. Now, if I expend such eccentric movements on this journal, it will be turning this wretched propensity to some tolerable account. If I had thus employed the hours and half-hours which I have whiled away in putting off something that must needs be done at last, "My Conscience!" I should have had a journal with a witness. Sophia and Lockhart came to Edinburgh to-day and dined with us, meeting Hector Macdonald Buchanan, his lady, and Missie, James Skene and his lady, Lockhart's friend Cay, etc. They are lucky to be able to assemble so many real friends, whose good wishes, I am sure, will follow them in their new undertaking.
December 2.--Rather a blank day for the _Gurnal_. Correcting proofs in the morning. Court from half-past ten till two; poor dear Colin Mackenzie, one of the wisest, kindest, and best men of his time, in the country,--I fear with very indifferent health. From two till three transacting business with J.B.; all seems to go smoothly. Sophia dined with us alone, Lockhart being gone to the west to bid farewell to his father and brothers. Evening spent in talking with Sophia on their future prospects. God bless her, poor girl! she never gave me a moment's reason to complain of her. But, O my God! that poor delicate child, so clever, so animated, yet holding by this earth with so fearfully slight a tenure. Never out of his mother's thoughts, almost never out of his father's arms when he has but a single moment to give to anything. _Deus providebit._
December 3.--R.P.G. came to call last night to excuse himself from dining with Lockhart's friends to-day. I really fear he is near an actual standstill. He has been extremely improvident. When I first knew him he had an excellent estate, and now he is deprived, I fear, of the whole reversion of the price, and this from no vice or extreme, except a wasteful mode of buying pictures and other costly trifles at high prices, and selling them again for nothing, besides an extravagant housekeeping and profuse hospitality. An excellent disposition, with a considerable fund of acquired knowledge, would have rendered him an agreeable companion, had he not affected singularity, and rendered himself accordingly singularly affected. He was very near being a poet--but a miss is as good as a mile, and he always fell short of the mark. I knew him first, many years ago, when he was desirous of my acquaintance; but he was too poetical for me, or I was not poetical enough for him, so that we continued only ordinary acquaintance, with goodwill on either side, which R.P.G. really deserves, as a more friendly, generous creature never lived. Lockhart hopes to get something done for him, being sincerely attached to him, but says he has no hopes till he is utterly ruined. That point, I fear, is not far distant; but what Lockhart can do for him _then_ I cannot guess. His last effort failed, owing to a curious reason. He had made some translations from the German, which he does extremely [well]--for give him ideas and he never wants choice of good words--and Lockhart had got Constable to offer some sort of terms for them. R.P.G. has always, though possessing a beautiful power of handwriting, had some whim or other about imitating that of some other person, and has written for months in the imitation of one or other of his friends. At present he has renounced this amusement, and chooses to write with a brush upon large cartridge paper, somewhat in the Chinese fashion,--so when his work, which was only to extend to one or two volumes, arrived on the shoulders of two porters, in immense bales, our jolly bibliopolist backed out of the treaty, and would have nothing more to do with R.P. He is a creature that is, or would be thought, of imagination all compact, and is influenced by strange whims. But he is a kind, harmless, friendly soul, and I fear has been cruelly plundered of money, which he now wants sadly.
Dined with Lockhart's friends, about fifty in number, who gave him a parting entertainment. John Hope, Solicitor-General, in the chair, and Robert Dundas [of Arniston], croupier. The company most highly respectable, and any man might be proud of such an indication of the interest they take in his progress in life. Tory principles rather too violently upheld by some speakers. I came home about ten; the party sat late.
December 4.--Lockhart and Sophia, with his brother William, dined with us, and talked over our separation, and the mode of their settling in London, and other family topics.
December 5.--This morning Lockhart and Sophia left us early, and without leave-taking; when I rose at eight o'clock they were _gone_. This was very right. I hate red eyes and blowing of noses. _Agere et pati Romanum est_. Of all schools commend me to the Stoics. We cannot indeed overcome our affections, nor ought we if we could, but we may repress them within due bounds, and avoid coaxing them to make fools of those who should be their masters. I have lost some of the comforts to which I chiefly looked for enjoyment. Well, I must make the more of such as remain--God bless them. And so "I will unto my holy work again," which at present is the description of that _heilige Kleeblatt_, that worshipful triumvirate, Danton, Robespierre, and Marat.
I cannot conceive what possesses me, over every person besides, to mislay papers. I received a letter Saturday at _e'en,_ enclosing a bill for £750; _no deaf nuts_. Well, I read it, and note the contents; and this day, as if it had been a wind-bill in the literal sense of the words, I search everywhere, and lose three hours of my morning--turn over all my confusion in the writing-desk--break open one or two letters, lest I should have enclosed the sweet and quickly convertible document in them,--send for a joiner, and disorganise my scrutoire, lest it should have fallen aside by mistake. I find it at last--the place where is of little consequence; but this trick must be amended.
Dined at the Royal Society Club, where, as usual, was a pleasant meeting of from twenty to twenty-five. It is a very good institution; we pay two guineas only for six dinners in the year, present or absent. Dine at five, or rather half-past five, at the Royal Hotel, where we have an excellent dinner, with soups, fish, etc., and all in good order; port and sherry till half-past seven, then coffee, and we go to the Society. This has great influence in keeping up the attendance, it being found that this preface of a good dinner, to be paid for whether you partake or not, brings out many a philosopher who might not otherwise have attended the Society. Harry Mackenzie, now in his eighty-second or third year, read part of an Essay on Dreams. Supped at Dr. Russell's usual party, which shall serve for one while.
December 6.--A rare thing this literature, or love of fame or notoriety which accompanies it. Here is Mr. H[enry] M[ackenzie] on the very brink of human dissolution, as actively anxious about it as if the curtain must not soon be closed on that and everything else. He calls me his literary confessor; and I am sure I am glad to return the kindnesses which he showed me long since in George Square. 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.
There is a maxim almost universal in Scotland, which I should like much to see controlled. Every youth, of every temper and almost every description of character, is sent either to study for the bar, or to a writer's office as an apprentice. The Scottish seem to conceive Themis the most powerful of goddesses. Is a lad stupid, the law will sharpen him;--is he too mercurial, the law will make him sedate;--has he an estate, he may get a sheriffdom;--is he poor, the richest lawyers have emerged from poverty;--is he a Tory, he may become a depute-advocate;--is he a Whig, he may with far better hope expect to become, in reputation at least, that rising counsel Mr.----, when in fact he only rises at tavern dinners. Upon some such wild views lawyers and writers multiply till there is no life for them, and men give up the chase, hopeless and exhausted, and go into the army at five-and-twenty, instead of eighteen, with a turn for expense perhaps--almost certainly for profligacy, and with a heart embittered against the loving parents or friends who compelled them to lose six or seven years in dusting the rails of the stair with their black gowns, or scribbling nonsense for twopence a page all day, and laying out twice their earnings at night in whisky-punch. Here is R.L. now. Four or five years ago, from certain indications, I assured his friends he would never be a writer. Good-natured lad, too, when Bacchus is out of the question; but at other times so pugnacious, that it was wished he could only be properly placed where fighting was to be a part of his duty, regulated by time and place, and paid for accordingly. Well, time, money, and instruction have been thrown away, and now, after fighting two regular boxing matches and a duel with pistols in the course of one week, he tells them roundly he will be no writer, which common-sense might have told them before. He has now perhaps acquired habits of insubordination, unfitting him for the army, where he might have been tamed at an earlier period. He is too old for the navy, and so he must go to India, a guinea-pig on board a Chinaman, with what hope or view it is melancholy to guess. His elder brother did all man could to get his friends to consent to his going into the army in time. The lad has good-humour, courage, and most gentlemanlike feelings, but he is incurably dissipated, I hear; so goes to die in youth in a foreign land. Thank God, I let Walter take his own way; and I trust he will be a useful, honoured soldier, being, for his time, high in the service; whereas at home he would probably have been a wine-bibbing, moorfowl-shooting, fox-hunting Fife squire--living at Lochore without either aim or end--and well if he were no worse. Dined at home with Lady S. and Anne. Wrote in the evening.
December 7.--Teind day;--at home of course. Wrote answers to one or two letters which have been lying on my desk like snakes, hissing at me for my dilatoriness. Bespoke a tun of palm-oil for Sir John Forbes. Received a letter from Sir W. Knighton, mentioning that the King acquiesced in my proposal that Constable's Miscellany should be dedicated to him. Enjoined, however, not to make this public, till the draft of dedication shall be approved. This letter tarried so long, I thought some one had insinuated the proposal was _infra dig_. I don't think so. The purpose is to bring all the standard works, both in sciences and the liberal arts, within the reach of the lower classes, and enable them thus to use with advantage the education which is given them at every hand. To make boys learn to read, and then place no good books within their reach, is to give men an appetite, and leave nothing in the pantry save unwholesome and poisonous food, which, depend upon it, they will eat rather than starve. Sir William, it seems, has been in Germany.
Mighty dark this morning; it is past ten, and I am using my lamp. The vast number of houses built beneath us to the north certainly render our street darker during the days when frost or haze prevents the smoke from rising. After all, it may be my older eyes. I remember two years ago, when Lord H. began to fail somewhat in his limbs, he observed that Lord S. came to Court at a more early hour than usual, whereas it was he himself who took longer time to walk the usual distance betwixt his house and the Parliament Square. I suspect old gentlemen often make such mistakes. A letter from Southey in a very pleasant strain as to Lockhart and myself. Of Murray he has perhaps ground to complain as well for consulting him late in the business, as for the manner in which he intimated to young Coleridge, who had no reason to think himself handsomely treated, though he has acquiesced in the arrangement in a very gentlemanlike tone. With these matters we, of course, have nothing to do; having no doubt that the situation was vacant when M. offered it as such. Southey says, in alteration of Byron's phrase, that M. is the most timorous, not of God's, but of the devil's, booksellers. The truth I take to be that Murray was pushed in the change of Editor (which was really become necessary) probably by Gifford, Canning, Ellis, etc.; and when he had fixed with Lockhart by their advice his constitutional nervousness made him delay entering upon a full explanation with Coleridge. But it is all settled now--I hope Lockhart will be able to mitigate their High Church bigotry. It is not for the present day, savouring too much of _jure divino_.
Dined quiet with Lady S. and Anne. Anne is practising Scots songs, which I take as a kind compliment to my own taste, as hers leads her chiefly to foreign music. I think the good girl sees that I want and must miss her sister's peculiar talent in singing the airs of our native country, which, imperfect as my musical ear is, make, and always have made, the most pleasing impression on me. And so if she puts a constraint on herself for my sake, I can only say, in requital, God bless her.
I have much to comfort me in the present aspect of my family. My eldest son, independent in fortune, united to an affectionate wife--and of good hopes in his profession; my second, with a good deal of talent, and in the way, I trust, of cultivating it to good purpose; Anne, an honest, downright, good Scots lass, in whom I would only wish to correct a spirit of satire; and Lockhart is Lockhart, to whom I can most willingly confide the happiness of the daughter who chose him, and whom he has chosen. My dear wife, the partner of early cares and successes, is, I fear, frail in health--though I trust and pray she may see me out. Indeed, if this troublesome complaint goes on--it bodes no long existence. My brother was affected with the same weakness, which, before he was fifty, brought on mortal symptoms. The poor Major had been rather a free liver. But my father, the most abstemious of men, save when the duties of hospitality required him to be very moderately free with his bottle, and that was very seldom, had the same weakness which now annoys me, and he, I think, was not above seventy when cut off. Square the odds, and good-night Sir Walter about sixty. I care not, if I leave my name unstained, and my family properly settled. _Sat est vixisse_.
December 8.--Talking of the _vixisse_, it may not be impertinent to notice that Knox, a young poet of considerable talent, died here a week or two since. His father was a respectable yeoman, and he himself, succeeding to good farms under the Duke of Buccleuch, became too soon his own master, and plunged into dissipation and ruin. His poetical talent, a very fine one, then showed itself in a fine strain of pensive poetry, called, I think, _The Lonely Hearth_, far superior to those of Michael Bruce, whose consumption, by the way, has been the _life_ of his verses. But poetry, nay, good poetry, is a drug in the present day. I am a wretched patron. I cannot go with a subscription-paper, like a pocket-pistol about me, and draw unawares on some honest country-gentleman, who has as much alarm as if I had used the phrase "stand and deliver," and parts with his money with a grimace, indicating some suspicion that the crown-piece thus levied goes ultimately into the collector's own pocket. This I see daily done; and I have seen such collectors, when they have exhausted Papa and Mamma, continue their trade among the misses, and conjure out of their pockets those little funds which should carry them to a play or an assembly. It is well people will go through this--it does some good, I suppose, and they have great merit who can sacrifice their pride so far as to attempt it in this way. For my part I am a bad promoter of subscriptions; but I wished to do what I could for this lad, whose talent I really admired; and I am not addicted to admire heaven-born poets, or poetry that is reckoned very good _considering_. I had him, Knox, at Abbotsford, about ten years ago, but found him unfit for that sort of society. I tried to help him, but there were temptations he could never resist. He scrambled on, writing for the booksellers and magazines, and living like the Otways, and Savages, and Chattertons of former days, though I do not know that he was in actual want. His connection with me terminated in begging a subscription or a guinea now and then. His last works were spiritual hymns, and which he wrote very well. In his own line of society he was said to exhibit infinite humour; but all his works are grave and pensive, a style perhaps, like Master Stephen's melancholy, affected for the nonce.
Mrs. G[rant] of L. intimates that she will take her pudding--her pension, I mean (see 30th November), and is contrite, as H[enry] M[ackenzie] vouches. I am glad the stout old girl is not foreclosed; faith, cabbing a pension in these times is like hunting a pig with a soap'd tail, monstrous apt to slip through your fingers. Dined at home with Lady S. and Anne.
December 9.--Yesterday I read and wrote the whole day and evening. To-day I shall not be so happy. Having Gas-Light Company to attend at two, I must be brief in journalising.
The gay world has been kept in hot water lately by the impudent publication of the celebrated Harriet Wilson, ---- from earliest possibility, I suppose, who lived with half the gay world at hack and manger, and now obliges such as will not pay hush-money with a history of whatever she knows or can invent about them. She must have been assisted in the style, spelling, and diction, though the attempt at wit is very poor, that at pathos sickening. But there is some good retailing of conversations, in which the style of the speakers, so far as known to me, is exactly imitated, and some things told, as said by individuals of each other, which will sound unpleasantly in each other's ears. I admire the address of Lord A----y, himself very severely handled from time to time. Some one asked him if H.W. had been pretty correct on the whole. "Why, faith," he replied, "I believe so"--when, raising his eyes, he saw Quentin Dick, whom the little jilt had treated atrociously--"what concerns the present company always excepted, you know," added Lord A----y, with infinite presence of mind. As he was _in pari casu_ with Q.D. no more could be said. After all, H.W. beats Con Philips, Anne Bellamy, and all former demireps out and out. I think I supped once in her company, more than twenty years since, at Mat Lewis's in Argyle Street, where the company, as the Duke says to Lucio, chanced to be "fairer than honest." She was far from beautiful, if it be the same _chiffonne_, but a smart saucy girl, with good eyes and dark hair, and the manners of a wild schoolboy. I am glad this accidental meeting has escaped her memory--or, perhaps, is not accurately recorded in mine--for, being a sort of French falconer, who hawk at all they see, I might have had a distinction which I am far from desiring.
Dined at Sir John Hay's--a large party; Skenes there, the Newenhams and others, strangers. In the morning a meeting of Oil Gas Committee. The concern lingers a little;
"It may do weel, for ought it's done yet, But only--it's no just begun yet."December 10.--A stormy and rainy day. Walked from the Court through the rain. I don't dislike this. Egad, I rather like it; for no man that ever stepped on heather has less dread than I of catch-cold; and I seem to regain, in buffeting with the wind, a little of the high spirit with which, in younger days, I used to enjoy a Tam-o'-Shanter ride through darkness, wind, and rain,--the boughs groaning and cracking over my head, the good horse free to the road and impatient for home, and feeling the weather as little as I did.
"The storm around might roar and rustle, We didna mind the storm a whistle."Answered two letters--one, answer to a schoolboy, who writes himself Captain of Giggleswick School (a most imposing title), entreating the youngster not to commence editor of a magazine to be entitled the "Yorkshire Muffin," I think, at seventeen years old; second, to a soldier of the 79th, showing why I cannot oblige him by getting his discharge, and exhorting him rather to bear with the wickedness and profanity of the service, than take the very precarious step of desertion. This is the old receipt of Durandarte--_Patience, cousin, and shuffle the cards_; and I suppose the correspondents will think I have been too busy in offering my counsel where I was asked for assistance.
A third rogue writes to tell me--rather of the latest, if the matter was of consequence--that he approves of the first three volumes of the _H[eart] of Midlothian_, but totally condemns the fourth. Doubtless he thinks his opinion worth the sevenpence sterling which his letter costs. However, authors should be reasonably well pleased when three-fourths of their work are acceptable to the reader. The knave demands of me in a postscript, to get back the sword of Sir W[illiam] Wallace from England, where it was carried from Dumbarton Castle. I am not Master-General of the Ordnance, that I know. It was wrong, however, to take away that and Mons Meg. If I go to town this spring, I will renew my negotiation with the Great Duke for recovery of Mons Meg.
There is no theme more awful than to attempt to cast a glance among the clouds and mists which hide the broken extremity of the celebrated bridge of Mirza. Yet, when every day brings us nearer that termination, one would almost think that our views should become clearer, as the regions we are approaching are brought nigher. Alas! it is not so: there is a curtain to be withdrawn, a veil to be rent, before we shall see things as they really are. There are few, I trust, who disbelieve the existence of a God; nay, I doubt if at all times, and in all moods, any single individual ever adopted that hideous creed, though some have professed it. With the belief of a Deity, that of the immortality of the soul and of the state of future rewards and punishments is indissolubly linked. More we are not to know; but neither are we prohibited from our attempts, however vain, to pierce the solemn sacred gloom. The expressions used in Scripture are doubtless metaphorical, for penal fires and heavenly melody are only applicable to bodies endowed with senses; and, at least till the period of the resurrection of the body, the spirits of men, whether entering into the perfection of the just, or committed to the regions of punishment, are incorporeal. Neither is it to be supposed that the glorified bodies which shall arise in the last day will be capable of the same gross indulgences with which they are now solaced. That the idea of Mahomet's paradise is inconsistent with the purity of our heavenly religion will be readily granted; and see Mark xii. 25. Harmony is obviously chosen as the least corporeal of all gratifications of the sense, and as the type of love, unity, and a state of peace and perfect happiness. But they have a poor idea of the Deity, and the rewards which are destined for the just made perfect, who can only adopt the literal sense of an eternal concert--a never-ending Birthday Ode. I rather suppose there should be understood some commission from the Highest, some duty to discharge with the applause of a satisfied conscience. That the Deity, who himself must be supposed to feel love and affection for the beings he has called into existence, should delegate a portion of those powers, I for one cannot conceive altogether so wrong a conjecture. We would then find reality in Milton's sublime machinery of the guardian saints or genii of kingdoms. Nay, we would approach to the Catholic idea of the employment of saints, though without approaching the absurdity of saint-worship, which degrades their religion. There would be, we must suppose, in these employments difficulties to be overcome, and exertions to be made, for all which the celestial beings employed would have certain appropriate powers. I cannot help thinking that a life of active benevolence is more consistent with my ideas than an eternity of music. But it is all speculation, and it is impossible even to guess what we shall [do], unless we could ascertain the equally difficult previous question, what we are to be. But there is a God, and a just God--a judgment and a future life--and all who own so much let them act according to the faith that is in them. I would [not], of course, limit the range of my genii to this confined earth. There is the universe, with all its endless extent of worlds.
Company at home--Sir Adam Ferguson and his Lady; Colonel and Miss Russell; Count Davidoff, and Mr. Collyer. By the by, I observe that all men whose names are obviously derived from some mechanical trade, endeavour to disguise and antiquate, as it were, their names, by spelling them after some quaint manner or other. Thus we have Collyer, Smythe, Tailleure; as much as to say, My ancestor was indeed a mechanic, but it was a world of time ago, when the word was spelled very [differently]. Then we had young Whytbank and Will Allan the artist, a very agreeable, simple-mannered, and pleasant man.
December 11.--A touch of the _morbus eruditorum_, to which I am as little subject as most folks, and have it less now than when young. It is a tremor of the heart, the pulsation of which becomes painfully sensible--a disposition to causeless alarm--much lassitude--and decay of vigour of mind and activity of intellect. The reins feel weary and painful, and the mind is apt to receive and encourage gloomy apprehensions and causeless fears. Fighting with this fiend is not always the best way to conquer him. I have always found exercise and the open air better than reasoning. But such weather as is now without doors does not encourage _la petite guerre_, so we must give him battle in form, by letting both mind and body know that, supposing one the House of Commons and the other the House of Peers, my will is sovereign over both. There is a good description of this species of mental weakness in the fine play of Beaumont and Fletcher called _The Lover's Progress_, where the man, warned that his death is approaching, works himself into an agony of fear, and calls for assistance, though there is no apparent danger. The apparition of the innkeeper's ghost, in the same play, hovers between the ludicrous and [the terrible]. To me the touches of the former quality which it contains seem to augment the effect of the latter--- they seem to give reality to the supernatural, as being circumstances with which an inventor would hardly have garnished his story.
Will Clerk says he has a theory on the vitrified forts. I wonder if he and I agree. I think accidental conflagration is the cause.
December 12.--Hogg came to breakfast this morning, having taken and brought for his companion the Galashiels bard, David Thomson, as to a meeting of "huzz Tividale poets." The honest grunter opines with a delightful _naÔvetť_ that Moore's verses are far owre sweet--answered by Thomson that Moore's ear or notes, I forget which, were finely strung. "They are far owre finely strung," replied he of the Forest, "for mine are just reeght." It reminded me of Queen Bess, when questioning Melville sharply and closely whether Queen [Mary] was taller than her, and, extracting an answer in the affirmative, she replied, "Then your Queen is too tall, for I am just the proper height."
Was engaged the whole day with Sheriff Court processes. There is something sickening in seeing poor devils drawn into great expense about trifles by interested attorneys. But too cheap access to litigation has its evils on the other hand, for the proneness of the lower class to gratify spite and revenge in this way would be a dreadful evil were they able to endure the expense. Very few cases come before the Sheriff-court of Selkirkshire that ought to come anywhere. Wretched wranglings about a few pounds, begun in spleen, and carried on from obstinacy, and at length from fear of the conclusion to the banquet of ill-humour, "D--n--n of expenses." I try to check it as well as I can; "but so 'twill be when I am gone."
December 12.--Dined at home, and spent the evening in writing--Anne and Lady Scott at the theatre to see Mathews; a very clever man my friend Mathews; but it is tiresome to be funny for a whole evening, so I was content and stupid at home.
An odd optical delusion has amused me these two last nights. I have been of late, for the first time, condemned to the constant use of spectacles. Now, when I have laid them aside to step into a room dimly lighted, out of the strong light which I use for writing, I have seen, or seemed to see, through the rims of the same spectacles which I have left behind me. At first the impression was so lively that I put my hand to my eyes believing I had the actual spectacles on at the moment. But what I saw was only the eidolon or image of said useful servants. This fortifies some of Dr. Hibbert's positions about spectral appearances.
December 13.--Letter from Lady Stafford--kind and friendly after the wont of Banzu-Mohr-ar-chat. This is wrong spelled, I know. Her countenance is something for Sophia, whose company should be--as ladies are said to choose their liquor--little and good. To be acquainted with persons of mere _ton_ is a nuisance and a scrape--to be known to persons of real fashion and fortune is in London a very great advantage. She is besides sure of the hereditary and constant friendship of the Buccleuch ladies, as well as those of Montagu and of the Harden family, of the Marchioness of Northampton, Lady Melville, and others, also the Miss Ardens, upon whose kind offices I have some claim, and would count upon them whether such claim existed or no. So she is well enough established among the Right-hand file, which is very necessary in London where second-rate fashion is like false jewels.
Went to the yearly court of the Edinburgh Assurance Company, to which I am one of those graceful and useless appendages, called Directors Extraordinary--an extraordinary director I should prove had they elected me an ordinary one. There were there moneyers and great oneyers, men of metal--discounters and counters--sharp, grave, prudential faces--eyes weak with ciphering by lamplight--men who say to gold, Be thou paper, and to paper, Be thou turned into fine gold. Many a bustling, sharp-faced, keen-eyed writer too--some perhaps speculating with their clients' property. My reverend seigniors had expected a motion for printing their contract, which I, as a piece of light artillery, was brought down and got into battery to oppose. I should certainly have done this on the general ground, that while each partner could at any time obtain sight of the contract at a call on the directors or managers, it would be absurd to print it for the use of the Company--and that exposing it to the world at large was in all respects unnecessary, and might teach novel companies to avail themselves of our rules and calculations--if false, for the purpose of exposing our errors--if correct, for the purpose of improving their own schemes on our model. But my eloquence was not required, no one renewing the motion under question; so off I came, my ears still ringing with the sounds of thousands and tens of thousands, and my eyes dazzled with the golden gleam offered by so many capitalists.
Walked home with the Solicitor--decidedly the most hopeful young man of his time; high connection, great talent, spirited ambition, a ready and prompt elocution, with a good voice and dignified manner, prompt and steady courage, vigilant and constant assiduity, popularity with the young men, and the good opinion of the old, will, if I mistake not, carry him as [high as] any man who has been since the days of old Hal Dundas. He is hot though, and rather hasty: this should be amended. They who would play at single-stick must bear with patience a rap over the knuckles. Dined quietly with Lady Scott and Anne.
December 14.--Affairs very bad in the money-market in London. It must come here, and I have far too many engagements not to feel it. To end the matter at once, I intend to borrow £10,000, with which my son's marriage-contract allows me to charge my estate. At Whitsunday and Martinmas I will have enough to pay up the incumbrance of £3000 due to old Moss's daughter, and £5000 to Misses Ferguson, in whole or part. This will enable us to dispense in a great measure with bank assistance, and sleep in spite of thunder. I do not know whether it is this business which makes me a little bilious, or rather the want of exercise during the season of late, and change of the weather to too much heat. Thank God, my circumstances are good,--upon a fair balance which I have made, certainly not less than £40,000 or nearly £50,000 above the world. But the sun and moon shall dance on the green ere carelessness, or hope of gain, or facility of getting cash, shall make me go too deep again, were it but for the disquiet of the thing. Dined: Lady Scott and Anne quietly.
December 15.--R.P. G[illies] came _sicut mos est_ at five o'clock to make me confidant of the extremities of his distress. It is clear all he has to do is to make the best agreement he can with his creditors. I remember many years since the poor fellow told me he thought there was something interesting in having difficulties. Poor lad, he will have enough of them now. He talks about writing translations for the booksellers from the German to the amount of five or six hundred pounds, but this is like a man proposing to run a whole day at top speed. Yet, if he had good subjects, R.P.G. is one of the best translators I know, and something must be done for him certainly, though, I fear, it will be necessary to go to the bottom of the ulcer; palliatives won't do. He is terribly imprudent, yet a worthy and benevolent creature--a great bore withal. Dined alone with family. I am determined not to stand mine host to all Scotland and England as I have done. This shall be a saving, since it must be a borrowing, year. We heard from Sophia; they are got safe to town; but as Johnnie had a little bag of meal with him, to make his porridge on the road, the whole inn-yard assembled to see the operation. Junor, his maid, was of opinion that England was an "awfu' country to make parritch in." God bless the poor baby, and restore his perfect health!
December 16.--R.P.G. and his friend Robert Wilson came--the former at five, as usual--the latter at three, as appointed. R[obert] W[ilson] frankly said that R.P.G.'s case was quite desperate, that he was insolvent, and that any attempt to save him at present would be just so much cash thrown away. God knows, at this moment I have none to throw away uselessly. For poor Gillies there was a melancholy mixture of pathos and affectation in his statement, which really affected me; while it told me that it would be useless to help him to money on such very empty plans. I endeavoured to persuade him to make a virtue of necessity, resign all to his creditors, and begin the world on a new leaf. I offered him Chiefswood for a temporary retirement. Lady Scott thinks I was wrong, and nobody could less desire such a neighbour, all his affectations being caviare to me. But then the wife and children! Went again to the Solicitor on a wrong night, being asked for to-morrow. Lady Scott undertakes to keep my engagements recorded in future. _Sed quis custodiet ipsam custodem_?
December 17.--Dined with the Solicitor--Lord Chief-Baron--Sir William Boothby, nephew of old Sir Brooke, the dandy poet, etc. Annoyed with anxious presentiments, which the night's post must dispel or confirm--all in London as bad as possible.
December 18.--Ballantyne called on me this morning. _Venit illa suprema dies_. My extremity is come. Cadell has received letters from London which all but positively announce the failure of Hurst and Robinson, so that Constable & Co. must follow, and I must go with poor James Ballantyne for company. I suppose it will involve my all. But if they leave me £500, I can still make it £1000 or £1200 a year. And if they take my salaries of £1300 and £300, they cannot but give me something out of them. I have been rash in anticipating funds to buy land, but then I made from £5000 to £10,000 a year, and land was my temptation. I think nobody can lose a penny--that is one comfort. Men will think pride has had a fall. Let them indulge their own pride in thinking that my fall makes them higher, or seems so at least. I have the satisfaction to recollect that my prosperity has been of advantage to many, and that some at least will forgive my transient wealth on account of the innocence of my intentions, and my real wish to do good to the poor. This news will make sad hearts at Darnick, and in the cottages of Abbotsford, which I do not nourish the least hope of preserving. It has been my Delilah, and so I have often termed it; and now the recollection of the extensive woods I planted, and the walks I have formed, from which strangers must derive both the pleasure and profit, will excite feelings likely to sober my gayest moments. I have half resolved never to see the place again. How could I tread my hall with such a diminished crest? How live a poor indebted man where I was once the wealthy, the honoured? My children are provided; thank God for that. I was to have gone there on Saturday in joy and prosperity to receive my friends. My dogs will wait for me in vain. It is foolish--but the thoughts of parting from these dumb creatures have moved me more than any of the painful reflections I have put down. Poor things, I must get them kind masters; there may be yet those who loving me may love my dog because it has been mine. I must end this, or I shall lose the tone of mind with which men should meet distress.
I find my dogs' feet on my knees. I hear them whining and seeking me everywhere--this is nonsense, but it is what they would do could they know how things are. Poor Will Laidlaw! poor Tom Purdie! this will be news to wring your heart, and many a poor fellow's besides to whom my prosperity was daily bread.
Ballantyne behaves like himself, and sinks his own ruin in contemplating mine. I tried to enrich him indeed, and now all--all is gone. He will have the "Journal" still, that is a comfort, for sure they cannot find a better Editor. _They_--alas! who will _they_ be--the _unbekannten Obern_ who are to dispose of my all as they will? Some hard-eyed banker; some of those men of millions whom I described. Cadell showed more kind and personal feeling to me than I thought he had possessed. He says there are some properties of works that will revert to me, the copy-money not being paid, but it cannot be any very great matter, I should think.
Another person did not afford me all the sympathy I expected, perhaps because I seemed to need little support, yet that is not her nature, which is generous and kind. She thinks I have been imprudent, trusting men so far. Perhaps so--but what could I do? I must sell my books to some one, and these folks gave me the largest price; if they had kept their ground I could have brought myself round fast enough by the plan of 14th December. I now view matters at the very worst, and suppose that my all must go to supply the deficiencies of Constable. I fear it must be so. His connections with Hurst and Robinson have been so intimate that they must be largely involved. This is the worst of the concern; our own is comparatively plain sailing.
Poor Gillies called yesterday to tell me he was in extremity. God knows I had every cause to have returned him the same answer. I must think his situation worse than mine, as through his incoherent, miserable tale, I could see that he had exhausted each access to credit, and yet fondly imagines that, bereft of all his accustomed indulgences, he can work with a literary zeal unknown to his happier days. I hope he may labour enough to gain the mere support of his family. For myself, the magic wand of the Unknown is shivered in his grasp. He must henceforth be termed the Too-well-known. The feast of fancy is over with the feeling of independence. I can no longer have the delight of waking in the morning with bright ideas in my mind, haste to commit them to paper, and count them monthly, as the means of planting such groves, and purchasing such wastes; replacing my dreams of fiction by other prospective visions of walks by
"Fountain heads, and pathless groves Places which pale passion loves."[Sidenote: Footnote to page 44 in the original MS.:--"Turn back to page 41 and 42. I turned the page accidentally, and the partner of a bankrupt concern ought not to waste two leaves of paper."]
This cannot be; but I may work substantial husbandry, work history, and such concerns. They will not be received with the same enthusiasm; at least I much doubt the general knowledge that an author must write for his bread, at least for improving his pittance, degrades him and his productions in the public eye. He falls into the second-rate rank of estimation:
"While the harness sore galls, and the spurs his sides goad, The high-mettled racer's a hack on the road."It is a bitter thought; but if tears start at it, let them flow. I am so much of this mind, that if any one would now offer to relieve all my embarrassments on condition I would continue the exertions which brought it there, dear as the place is to me, I hardly think I could undertake the labour on which I entered with my usual alacrity only this morning, though not without a boding feeling of my exertions proving useless. Yet to save Abbotsford I would attempt all that was possible. My heart clings to the place I have created. There is scarce a tree on it that does not owe its being to me, and the pain of leaving it is greater than I can tell. I have about £10,000 of Constable's, for which I am bound to give literary value, but if I am obliged to pay other debts for him, I will take leave to retain this sum at his credit. We shall have made some _kittle_ questions of literary property amongst us. Once more, "Patience, cousin, and shuffle the cards."
I have endeavoured at times to give vent to thoughts naturally so painful, by writing these notices, partly to keep them at bay by busying myself with the history of the French Convention. I thank God I can do both with reasonable composure. I wonder how Anne will bear this affliction? She is passionate, but stout-hearted and courageous in important matters, though irritable in trifles. I am glad Lockhart and his wife are gone. Why? I cannot tell; but I _am_ pleased to be left to my own regrets without being melted by condolences, though of the most sincere and affectionate kind.
Anne bears her misfortune gallantly and well, with a natural feeling, no doubt, of the rank and consideration she is about to lose. Lady Scott is incredulous, and persists in cherishing hope where there is no ground for hope. I wish it may not bring on the gloom of spirits which has given me such distress. If she were the active person she once was that would not be. Now I fear it more than what Constable or Cadell will tell me this evening, so that my mind is made up.
Oddly enough, it happened. Mine honest friend Hector came in before dinner to ask a copy of my seal of Arms, with a sly kindliness of intimation that it was for some agreeable purpose.
Half-past Eight.--I closed this book under the consciousness of impending ruin, I open it an hour after, thanks be to God, with the strong hope that matters may be got over safely and honourably, in a mercantile sense. Cadell came at eight to communicate a letter from Hurst and Robinson, intimating they had stood the storm, and though clamorous for assistance from Scotland, saying they had prepared their strongholds without need of the banks.
[Sidenote: This was a mistake.]
This is all so far well, but I will not borrow any money on my estate till I see things reasonably safe. Stocks have risen from ---- to ----, a strong proof that confidence is restored. But I will yield to no delusive hopes, and fall back fall edge, my resolutions hold.
I shall always think the better of Cadell for this, not merely because his feet are beautiful on the mountains who brings good tidings, but because he showed feeling--deep feeling, poor fellow--he who I thought had no more than his numeration table, and who, if he had had his whole counting-house full of sensibility, had yet his wife and children to bestow it upon--I will not forget this if I get through. I love the virtues of rough and round men; the others are apt to escape in salt rheum, sal-volatile, and a white pocket-handkerchief. An odd thought strikes me: when I die will the Journal of these days be taken out of the ebony cabinet at Abbotsford, and read as the transient pout of a man worth £60,000, with wonder that the well-seeming Baronet should ever have experienced such a hitch? Or will it be found in some obscure lodging-house, where the decayed son of chivalry has hung up his scutcheon for some 20s. a week, and where one or two old friends will look grave and whisper to each other, "Poor gentleman," "A well-meaning man," "Nobody's enemy but his own," "Thought his parts could never wear out," "Family poorly left," "Pity he took that foolish title"? Who can answer this question?
What a life mine has been!--half educated, almost wholly neglected or left to myself, stuffing my head with most nonsensical trash, and undervalued in society for a time by most of my companions, 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 to my dying day. Rich and poor four or five times, once on the verge of ruin, yet opened new sources of wealth almost overflowing. Now taken in my pitch of pride, and nearly winged (unless the good news hold), because London chooses to be in an uproar, and in the tumult of bulls and bears, a poor inoffensive lion like myself is pushed to the wall. And what is to be the end of it? God knows. And so ends the catechism.
December 19.--Ballantyne here before breakfast. He looks on Cadell's last night's news with more confidence than I do; but I must go to work be my thoughts sober or lively. Constable came in and sat an hour. The old gentleman is firm as a rock, and scorns the idea of Hurst and Robinson's stopping. He talks of going up to London next week and making sales of our interest in W[oodstock] and _Boney_, which would put a hedge round his finances. He is a very clever fellow, and will, I think, bear us through.
Dined at Lord Chief-Baron's. Lord Justice-Clerk; Lord President; Captain Scarlett, a gentlemanlike young man, the son of the great Counsel, and a friend of my son Walter; Lady Charlotte Hope, and other woman-kind; R. Dundas of Arniston, and his pleasant and good-humoured little wife, whose quick intelligent look pleases me more, though her face be plain, than a hundred mechanical beauties.
December 20.--I like Ch. Ba. Shepherd very much--- as much, I think, as any man I have learned to know of late years. There is a neatness and precision, a closeness and truth, in the tone of his conversation, which shows what a lawyer he must have been. Perfect good-humour and suavity of manner, with a little warmth of temper on suitable occasions. His great deafness alone prevented him from being Lord Chief-Justice. I never saw a man so patient under such a malady. He loves society, and converses excellently; yet is often obliged, in a mixed company particularly, to lay aside his trumpet, retire into himself, and withdraw from the talk. He does this with an expression of patience on his countenance which touches one much. He has occasion for patience otherwise, I should think, for Lady S. is fine and fidgety, and too anxious to have everything _pointe devise_.
Constable's licence for the Dedication is come, which will make him happy.
Dined with James Ballantyne, and met my old friend Mathews, the comedian, with his son, now grown up a clever, rather forward lad, who makes songs in the style of James Smith or Colman, and sings them with spirit; rather lengthy though.
December 21.--There have been odd associations attending my two last meetings with Mathews. The last time I saw him, before yesterday evening, he dined with me in company with poor Sir Alexander Boswell, who was killed within two or three months. I never saw Sir Alexander more. The time before was in 1815, when John Scott of Gala and I were returning from France, and passed through London, when we brought Mathews down as far as Leamington. Poor Byron lunched, or rather made an early dinner, with us at Long's, and a most brilliant day we had of it. I never saw Byron so full of fun, frolic, wit, and whim: he was as playful as a kitten. Well, I never saw him again. So this man of mirth, with his merry meetings, has brought me no luck. I like better that he should throw in his talent of mimicry and humour into the present current tone of the company, than that he should be required to give this, that, and t'other _bit_ selected from his public recitations. They are good certainly--excellent; but then you _must_ laugh, and that is always severe to me. When I do laugh in sincerity, the joke must be or seem unpremeditated. I could not help thinking, in the midst of the glee, what gloom had lately been over the minds of three of the company, Cadell, J.B., and the Journalist. What a strange scene if the surge of conversation could suddenly ebb like the tide, and [show] us the state of people's real minds! Savary might have been gay in such a party with all his forgeries in his heart.
"No eyes the rooks discover Which lurk beneath the deep."Life could not be endured were it seen in reality.
Things are mending in town, and H[urst] and R[obinson] write with confidence, and are, it would seem, strongly supported by wealthy friends. Cadell and Constable are confident of their making their way through the storm, and the impression of their stability is general in London. I hear the same from Lockhart. Indeed, I now believe that they wrote gloomy letters to Constable, chiefly to get as much money out of them as they possibly could. But they had well-nigh overdone it. This being Teind Wednesday must be a day of leisure and labour. Sophia has got a house, 25 Pall Mall. Dined at home with Lady Scott and Anne.
December 22.--I wrote six of my close pages yesterday, which is about twenty-four pages in print. What is more, I think it comes off twangingly. The story is so very interesting in itself, that there is no fear of the book answering. Superficial it must be, but I do not disown the charge. Better a superficial book, which brings well and strikingly together the known and acknowledged facts, than a dull boring narrative, pausing to see further into a mill-stone at every moment than the nature of the mill-stone admits. Nothing is so tiresome as walking through some beautiful scene with a _minute philosopher_, a botanist, or pebble-gatherer, who is eternally calling your attention from the grand features of the natural scenery to look at grasses and chucky-stones. Yet, in their way, they give useful information; and so does the minute historian. Gad, I think that will look well in the preface. My bile is quite gone. I really believe it arose from mere anxiety. What a wonderful connection between the mind and body!
The air of "Bonnie Dundee" running in my head to-day, I [wrote] a few verses to it before dinner, taking the key-note from the story of Clavers leaving the Scottish Convention of Estates in 1688-9. I wonder if they are good. Ah! poor Will Erskine! thou couldst and wouldst have told me. I must consult J.B., who is as honest as was W.E. But then, though he has good taste too, there is a little of Big Bow-wow about it. Can't say what made me take a frisk so uncommon of late years, as to write verses of freewill. I suppose the same impulse which makes birds sing when the storm seems blown over.
Dined at Lord Minto's. There were Lord and Lady Ruthven, Will Clerk, and Thomas Thomson,--a right choice party. There was also my very old friend Mrs. Brydone, the relict of the traveller, and daughter of Principal Robertson, and really worthy of such a connection--Lady Minto, who is also peculiarly agreeable--and her sister, Mrs. Admiral Adam, in the evening.
December 23.--The present Lord Minto is a very agreeable, well-informed, and sensible man, but he possesses neither the high breeding, ease of manner, nor eloquence of his father, the first Earl. That Sir Gilbert was indeed a man among a thousand. I knew him very intimately in the beginning of the century, and, which was very agreeable, was much at his house on very easy terms. He loved the Muses, and worshipped them in secret, and used to read some of his poetry, which was but middling.
Tom Campbell lived at Minto, but it was in a state of dependence which he brooked very ill. He was kindly treated, but would not see it in the right view, and suspected slights, and so on, where no such thing was meant. There was a turn of Savage about Tom though without his blackguardism--a kind of waywardness of mind and irritability that must have made a man of his genius truly unhappy. Lord Minto, with the mildest manners, was very tenacious of his opinions, although he changed them twice in the crisis of politics. He was the early friend of Fox, and made a figure towards the end of the American war, or during the struggles betwixt Fox and Pitt. Then came the Revolution, and he joined the Anti-Gallican party so keenly, that he declared against Addington's peace with France, and was for a time, I believe, a Wyndhamite. He was reconciled to the Whigs on the Fox and Grenville coalition; but I have heard that Fox, contrary to his wont, retained such personal feelings as made him object to Sir Gilbert Elliot's having a seat in the Cabinet; so he was sent as Governor-General to India--a better thing, I take it, for his fortune. He died shortly after his return, at Hatfield or Barnet, on his way down to his native country. He was a most pleasing and amiable man. I was very sorry for his death, though I do not know how we should have met, for the contested election in 1805 [in Roxburghshire] had placed some coldness betwixt the present Lord and me. I was certainly anxious for Sir Alexander Don, both as friend of my most kind friend Charles, Duke of Buccleuch, and on political accounts; and those thwartings are what men in public life do not like to endure. After a cessation of friendship for some years, we have come about again. We never had the slightest personal dispute or disagreement. But politics are the blowpipe beneath whose influence the best cemented friendships too often dissever; and ours, after all, was only a very familiar acquaintance.
It is very odd that the common people at Minto and the neighbourhood will not believe to this hour that the first Earl is dead. They think he had done something in India which he could not answer for--that the house was rebuilt on a scale unusually large to give him a suite of secret apartments, and that he often walks about the woods and crags of Minto at night, with a white nightcap, and long white beard. The circumstance of his having died on the road down to Scotland is the sole foundation of this absurd legend, which shows how willing the vulgar are to gull themselves when they can find no one else to take the trouble. I have seen people who could read, write, and cipher, shrug their shoulders and look mysterious when this subject was mentioned. One very absurd addition was made on occasion of a great ball at Minto House, which it was said was given to draw all people away from the grounds, that the concealed Earl might have leisure for his exercise. This was on the principle in the German play, where, to hide their conspiracy, the associates join in a chorus song.
We dined at home; Mr. Davidoff and his tutor kept an engagement with us to dinner notwithstanding the death of the Emperor Alexander. They went to the play with the womankind; I stayed at home to write.
December 24.--Wrote Walter and Jane, and gave the former an account of how things had been in the money market, and the loan of £10,000. Constable has a scheme of publishing the works of the Author of W[averley] in a superior style, at £1, 1s. volume. He says he will answer for making £20,000 of this, and liberally offered me any share of the profit. I have no great claim to any, as I have only to contribute the notes, which are light work; yet a few thousands coming in will be a good thing--besides the P[rinting] Office. Constable, though valetudinary, and cross with his partner, is certainly as good a pilot in these rough seas as ever man put faith in. His rally has put me in mind of the old song:--
"The tailor raise and shook his duds, He gar'd the BILLS flee aff in cluds, And they that stayed gat fearfu' thuds-- The tailor proved a man, O."We are for Abbotsford to-day, with a light heart.
Abbotsford, December 25.--Arrived here last night at seven. Our halls are silent compared to last year, but let us be thankful--when we think how near the chance appeared but a week since that these halls would have been ours no longer. _Barbarus has segetes? Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia_. There shall be no lack of wisdom. But come--_il faut cultiver notre jardin_. Let us see: I will write out the "Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee"; I will sketch a preface to _La Rochejacquelin_ for _Constable's Miscellany,_ and try about a specimen of notes for the W[averley Novels]. Together with letters and by-business, it will be a good day's work.
"I make a vow, And keep it true."I will accept no invitation for dinner, save one to Newton-Don, and Mertoun to-morrow, instead of Christmas Day. On this day of general devotion I have a particular call for gratitude!!
My God! what poor creatures we are! After all my fair proposals yesterday, I was seized with a most violent pain in the right kidney and parts adjacent, which, joined to deadly sickness which it brought on, forced me instantly to go to bed and send for Clarkson. He came and inquired, pronouncing the complaint to be gravel augmented by bile. I was in great agony till about two o'clock, but awoke with the pain gone. I got up, had a fire in my dressing-closet, and had Dalgleish to shave me--two trifles, which I only mention, because they are contrary to my hardy and independent personal habits. But although a man cannot be a hero to his valet, his valet in sickness becomes of great use to him. I cannot expect that this first will be the last visit of this cruel complaint; but shall we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive evil?
December 27th.--Slept twelve hours at a stretch, being much exhausted. Totally without pain to-day, but uncomfortable from the effects of calomel, which, with me at least, is like the assistance of an auxiliary army, just one degree more tolerable than the enemy it chases away. Calomel contemplations are not worth recording. I wrote an introduction and a few notes to the _Memoirs of Madame La Rochejacquelin_, being all that I was equal to.
Sir Adam Ferguson came over and tried to marry my verses to the tune of "Bonnie Dundee." They seem well adapted to each other. Dined with Lady Scott and Anne.
Worked at Pepys in the evening, with the purpose of review for Lockhart. Notwithstanding the depressing effects of the calomel, I feel the pleasure of being alone and uninterrupted. Few men, leading a quiet life, and without any strong or highly varied change of circumstances, have seen more variety of society than I--few have enjoyed it more, or been _bored_, as it is called, less by the company of tiresome people. I have rarely, if ever, found any one, out of whom I could not extract amusement or edification; and were I obliged to account for hints afforded on such occasions, I should make an ample deduction from my inventive powers. Still, however, from the earliest time I can remember, I preferred the pleasure of being alone to waiting for visitors, and have often taken a bannock and a bit of cheese to the wood or hill, to avoid dining with company. As I grew from boyhood to manhood I saw this would not do; and that to gain a place in men's esteem I must mix and bustle with them. Pride and an excitation of spirits supplied the real pleasure which others seem to feel in society, and certainly upon many occasions it was real. Still, if the question was, eternal company, without the power of retiring within yourself, or solitary confinement for life, I should say, "Turnkey, lock the cell!" My life, though not without its fits of waking and strong exertion, has been a sort of dream, spent in
"Chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancy."I have worn a wishing-cap, the power of which has been to divert present griefs by a touch of the wand of imagination, and gild over the future prospect by prospects more fair than can ever be realised. Somewhere it is said that this castle-building--this wielding of the aŽrial trowel--is fatal to exertions in actual life. I cannot tell, I have not found it so. I cannot, indeed, say like Madame Genlis, that in the imaginary scenes in which I have acted a part I ever prepared myself for anything which actually befell me; but I have certainly fashioned out much that made the present hour pass pleasantly away, and much that has enabled me to contribute to the amusement of the public. Since I was five years old I cannot remember the time when I had not some ideal part to play for my own solitary amusement.
December 28.--Somehow I think the attack on Christmas Day has been of a critical kind, and, having gone off so well, may be productive rather of health than continued indisposition. If one is to get a renewal of health in his fifty-fourth year, he must look to pay fine for it. Last night George Thomson came to see how I was, poor fellow. He has talent, is well informed, and has an excellent heart; but there is an eccentricity about him that defies description. I wish to God I saw him provided in a country kirk. That, with a rational wife--that is, if there is such a thing to be gotten for him,--would, I think, bring him to a steady temper. At present he is between the tyning and the winning. If I could get him to set to any hard study, he would do something clever.
How to make a critic.--A sly rogue, sheltering himself under the generic name of Mr. Campbell, requested of me, through the penny-post, the loan of £50 for two years, having an impulse, as he said, to make this demand. As I felt no corresponding impulse, I begged to decline a demand which might have been as reasonably made by any Campbell on earth; and another impulse has determined the man of fifty pounds to send me anonymous abuse of my works and temper and selfish disposition. The severity of the joke lies in 14d. for postage, to avoid which his next epistle shall go back to the clerks of the Post Office, as not for S.W.S. How the severe rogue would be disappointed, if he knew I never looked at more than the first and last lines of his satirical effusion!
When I first saw that a literary profession was to be my fate, I endeavoured by all efforts of stoicism to divest myself of that irritable degree of sensibility--or, to speak plainly, of vanity--which makes the poetical race miserable and ridiculous. The anxiety of a poet for praise and for compliments I have always endeavoured [to keep down].
December 29.--Base feelings this same calomel gives one--mean, poor, and abject--a wretch, as Will Rose says:--
"Fie, fie, on silly coward man, That he should be the slave o't."Then it makes one "wofully dogged and snappish," as Dr. Rutty, the Quaker, says in his _Gurnal._
Sent Lockhart four pages on Sheridan's plays; not very good, I think, but the demand came sudden. Must go to W----k! yet am vexed by that humour of contradiction which makes me incline to do anything else in preference. Commenced preface for new edition of my Novels. The city of Cork send my freedom in a silver box. I thought I was out of their grace for going to see Blarney rather than the Cove, for which I was attacked and defended in the papers when in Ireland. I am sure they are so civil that I would have gone wherever they wished me to go if I had had any one to have told me what I ought to be most inquisitive about.
"For if I should as lion come in strife Into such place, 't were pity of my life."December 30.--Spent at home and in labour--with the weight of unpleasant news from Edinburgh. J.B. is like to be pinched next week unless the loan can be brought forward. I must and have endeavoured to supply him. At present the result of my attempts is uncertain. I am even more anxious about C[onstable] & Co., unless they can get assistance from their London friends to whom they gave much. All is in God's hands. The worst can only be what I have before anticipated. But I must, I think, renounce the cigars. They brought back (using two this evening) the irritation of which I had no feelings while abstaining from them. Dined alone with Gordon, Lady S., and Anne. James Curle, Melrose, has handsomely lent me £600; he has done kindly. I have served him before and will again if in my power.
December 31.--Took a good sharp walk the first time since my illness, and found myself the better in health and spirits. Being Hogmanay, there dined with us Colonel Russell and his sisters, Sir Adam Ferguson and Lady, Colonel Ferguson, with Mary and Margaret; an auld-warld party, who made themselves happy in the auld fashion. I felt so tired about eleven that I was forced to steal to bed.
 See _ante_, p. 12. Mr. James Ballantyne and Mr. Cadell concurred with Mr. Constable and Sir Walter in the propriety of assisting Robinson.
 Robert Pierce Gillies, once proprietor of a good estate in Kincardineshire, and member of the Scotch Bar. It is pleasant to find Mr. Gillies expressing his gratitude for what Sir Walter had done for him more than twenty-five years after this paragraph was written. "He was," says R.P.G., "not only among the earliest but most persevering of my friends--persevering in spite of my waywardness."--_Memoirs of a Literary Veteran_, including Sketches and Anecdotes of the most distinguished Literary Characters from 1794 to 1849 (3 vols., London, 1851), vol. i. p. 321. Mr. Gillies died in 1861.
 Mr. Gillies was, however, warmly welcomed by another publisher in Edinburgh, who paid him £100 for his bulky MSS., and issued the book in 1825 under the title of _The Magic Ring_, 3 vols. Its failure with the public prevented a repetition of the experiment!
 _King Richard III._, Act III. Sc. 7.--J.G.L.
 Of the many Edinburgh suppers of this period, commemorated by Lord Cockburn, not the least pleasant were the friendly gatherings in 30 Abercromby Place, the town house of Dr. James Russell, Professor of Clinical Surgery. They were given fortnightly after the meetings of the Royal Society during the Session, and are occasionally mentioned in the Journal. Dr. Russell died in 1836.
 Mr. Mackenzie had been consulting Sir Walter about collecting his own juvenile poetry.--J.G.L. Though the venerable author of _The Man of Feeling_ did not die till 1831, he does not appear to have carried out his intention.
 Every alternate Wednesday during the Winter and Summer sessions, the Lords Commissioners of Teinds (Tithes), consisting of a certain number of the judges, held a "Teind Court"--for hearing cases relating to the secular affairs of the Church of Scotland. As the Teind Court has a separate establishment of clerks and officers, Sir Walter was freed from duty at the Parliament House on these days. The Court now sits on alternate Mondays only.
 Mr. Lockhart suggests Lords Hermand and Succoth, the former living at 124 George Street, and the latter at 1 Park Place.
 William Knox died 12th November. He had published _Songs of Israel_, 1824, _A Visit to Dublin_, 1824, _The Harp of Zion_, 1825, etc., besides _The Lonely Hearth_. His publisher (Mr. Anderson, junior, of Edinburgh) remembers that Sir Walter occasionally wrote to Knox and sent him money--£10 at a time.--J.G.L.
 In Ben Jonson's _Every Man in his Humour_.
 Providence was kinder to the venerable lady than the Government, as at this juncture a handsome legacy came to her from an unexpected quarter. _Memoir and Correspondence_, Lond. 1845, vol. iii. p. 71.
 _Measure for Measure_, Act iv. Sc. 3.--J.G.L.
 Burns's _Dedication to Gavin Hamilton_.--J.G.L.
 _Don Quixote_, Pt. II. ch. 23.
 _Spectator_, No. 159.--J.G.L.
 Sir William Allan, President of the Royal Scottish Academy from 1838: he died at Edinburgh in 1850.
 _Beaumont and Fletcher_, 8vo, Lond. 1788, vol. v. pp. 410-413,419-426.
 For notices of David Thomson, see _Life_, October 1822, and T. Craig Brown's _History of Selkirkshire_, 2 vols. 4to, Edin. 1886, vol. i. pp. 505, 507, and 519.
 Burns's _Address to the Unco Guid_.--J.G.L.
 Banamhorar-Chat, _i.e._ the Great Lady of the Cat, is the Gaelic title of the Countess-Duchess of Sutherland. The county of Sutherland itself is in that dialect _Cattey_, and in the English name of the neighbouring one, _Caithness_, we have another trace of the early settlement of the _Clan Chattan_, whose chiefs bear the cognisance of a Wild Cat. The Duchess-Countess died in 1838.--J.G.L.
 See 1 _King Henry IV_., Act II. Sc. 1.
 John Hope, Esq., was at this time Solicitor-General for Scotland, afterwards Lord Justice-Clerk from 1841 until his death in 1858.
 Henry Dundas, the first Viscount Melville, first appeared in Parliament as Lord Advocate of Scotland.--J.G.L.
 Robert Sym Wilson, Esq., W.S., Secretary to the Royal Bank of Scotland.--J.G.L.
 The Right Hon. Sir Samuel Shepherd, who had been at the head of the Court of Exchequer since 1819, was then living at 16 Coates Crescent; he retired in 1830, and resided afterwards in England, where he died, aged 80, on the 30th November 1840. Before coming to Scotland, Sir Samuel had been Solicitor-General in 1814, and Attorney-General in 1817.
 See _Nice Valour_, by John Fletcher; Beaumont and Fletcher's _Works_.
 From Charles Dibdin's song, _The Racehorse_.
 Sir Samuel Shepherd.
 The Right Hon. Charles Hope, who held the office of Lord President of the Court of Session for thirty years; he died in 1851 aged eighty-nine.
 Afterwards Sir James Yorke Scarlett, G.C.B.
 Sir James Scarlett, first Lord Abinger.
 The Dedication of _Constable's Miscellany_ was penned by Sir Walter--"To His Majesty King George IV., the most generous Patron even of the most humble attempts towards the advantage of his subjects, this _Miscellany_, designed to extend useful knowledge and elegant literature, by placing works of standard merit within the attainment of every class of readers, is most humbly inscribed by His Majesty's dutiful and devoted subject--Archibald Constable."--J.G.L.
 Probably a slip of the pen for "weeks," as Mathews was in London in March (1822), and we know that he dined with Scott in Castle Street on the 10th of February. _Memoirs_, vol. iii. p. 262. Mr. Lockhart says, "within a week," and at p. 33 vol. vii. gives an account of a dinner party. Writing so many years after the event he may have mistaken the date. James Boswell died in London 24th February 1822; his brother, Sir Alexander, was at the funeral, and did not return to Edinburgh till Saturday 23d March. James Stuart of Dunearn challenged him on Monday; they fought on Tuesday, and Boswell died on the following day, March 27. Mr. Lockhart says that "several circumstances of Sir Alexander's death are exactly reproduced in the duel scene in _St. Ronan's Well_."
 In a letter to Skene written late in 1821, Scott, in expressing his regret at not being able to meet Boswell, adds, "I hope J. Boz comes to make some stay, but I shall scarce forgive him for not coming at the fine season." The brothers Boswell had been Mr. Skene's schoolfellows and intimate friends; and he had lived much with them both in England and Scotland.
Mr. Skene says, in a note to Letter 28, that "they were men of remarkable talents, and James of great learning, both evincing a dash of their father's eccentricity, but joined to greater talent. Sir Walter took great pleasure in their society, but James being resident in London, the opportunity of enjoying his company had of late been rare. Upon the present occasion he had dined with me in the greatest health and spirits the evening before his departure for London, and in a week we had accounts of his having been seized by a sudden illness which carried him off. In a few weeks more his brother, Sir Alexander, was killed in a duel occasioned by a foolish political lampoon which he had written, and in a thoughtless manner suffered to find its way to a newspaper."--_Reminiscences_.
 See _Life_, vol. v. p. 87.
 Henry Savary, son of a banker in Bristol, had been tried for forgery a few months before.
 From _What d'ye call it?_ by John Gay.
 _Life of Napoleon_.--J.G.L.
 See Scott's _Poetical Works_, vol. xii. pp. 194-97.--J.G.L.
 William Erskine of Kinnedder was Scott's senior by two years at the bar, having passed Advocate in 1790. He became Sheriff of Orkney in 1809, and took his seat on the Bench as Lord Kinnedder, 29 January 1822; he died on the 14th of August following. Scott and he met first in 1792, and, as is well known, he afterwards "became the nearest and most confidential of all his Edinburgh associates." In 1796 he arranged with the publishers for Scott's earliest literary venture, a thin 4to of some 48 pages entitled _The Chase_, etc. See _Life_ throughout, more particularly vol. i. pp. 279-80, 333-4, 338-9; ii. pp. 103-4; iv. pp. 12, 166, 369; v. p. 174; vi. p. 393; vii. pp. 1, 5, 6, 70-74. See Appendix for Mr. Skene's account of the destruction of the letters from Scott to Erskine.
 Patrick Brydone, author of _A Tour through Sicily and Malta_, 2 vols. 8vo, 1773.
 Gilbert, Earl of Minto, died in June 1814.--J.G.L.
 See Canning's _German Play_, in the _Anti-Jacobin_.--J.G.L.
 See Johnson's _Musical Museum_, No. 490, slightly altered.
 See _Candide_.--J.G.L.
 James Clarkson, Esq., surgeon, Melrose, son to Scott's old friend, Dr. Clarkson of Selkirk.--J.G.L.
 See _Constable's Miscellany_, vol. v.--J.G.L.
 See the _Quarterly Review_ for January 1820--or Scott's _Miscellaneous Prose Works_.--J.G.L.
 _As You Like it_, Act IV. Sc. 3.--J.G.L.
 Formerly tutor at Abbotsford. Mr. Lockhart says: "I observe, as the sheet is passing through the press, the death of the Rev. George Thomson--the happy 'Dominie Thomson' of the happy days of Abbotsford: he died at Edinburgh on the 8th of January 1838."
 Burns's "O poortith cauld and restless love."
 John Rutty, M.D., a physician of some eminence in Dublin, died in 1775, and his executors published his very curious and absurd "Spiritual Diary and Soliloquies." Boswell describes Johnson as being much amused with the Quaker doctor's minute confessions. See the Life of Johnson _sub anno_ 1777.--J.G.L.
 _Woodstock_--contracted for in 1823.
 _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, Act III. Sc. 1.
 George Huntly Gordon, amanuensis to Scott.
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