SCOTT'S LETTERS TO ERSKINE.--P. 61.
Sir Walter was in the habit of consulting him in those matters more than any of his other friends, having great reliance upon his critical skill. The manuscripts of all his poems, and also of the earlier of his prose works, were submitted to Kinnedder's judgment, and a considerable correspondence on these subjects had taken place betwixt them, which would, no doubt, have constituted one of the most interesting series of letters Sir Walter had left.
Lord Kinnedder was a man of retired habits, but little known except to those with whom he lived on terms of intimacy, and by whom he was much esteemed, and being naturally of a remarkably sensitive mind, he was altogether overthrown by the circumstance of a report having got abroad of some alleged indiscretions on his part in which a lady was also implicated. Whether the report had any foundation in truth or not, I am altogether ignorant, but such an allegation affecting a person in his situation in life as a judge, and doing such violence to the susceptibility of his feelings, had the effect of bringing a severe illness which in a few days terminated his life. I never saw Sir Walter so much affected by any event, and at the funeral, which he attended, he was quite unable to suppress his feelings, but wept like a child. The family, suddenly bereft of their protector, were young, orphans, their mother, daughter of Professor John Robertson, having previously died, found also that they had to struggle against embarrassed circumstances; neither had they any near relative in Scotland to take charge of their affairs. But a lady, a friend of the family, Miss M----, was active in their service, and it so happened, in the course of arranging their affairs, the packet of letters from Sir Walter Scott, containing the whole of his correspondence with Lord Kinnedder, came into her hands. She very soon discovered that the correspondence laid open the secret of the authorship of the Waverley Novels, at that period the subject of general and intense interest, and as yet unacknowledged by Sir Walter.
Considering what under these circumstances it was her duty to do, whether to replace the letters and suffer any accident to bring to light what the author seemed anxious might remain unknown, or to seal them up, and keep them in her own custody undivulged--or finally to destroy them in order to preserve the secret,--with, no doubt, the best and most upright motives, so far as her own judgment enabled her to decide in the matter, in which she was unable to take advice, without betraying what it was her object to respect, she came to the resolution, most unfortunately for the world, of destroying the letters. And, accordingly, the whole of them were committed to the flames; depriving the descendants of Lord Kinnedder of a possession which could not fail to be much valued by them, and which, in connection with Lord Kinnedder's letters to Sir Walter, which are doubtless preserved, would have been equally valuable to the public, as containing the contemporary opinions, prospects, views, and sentiments under which these works were sent forth into the world. It would also have been curious to learn the unbiased impression which the different works created on the mind of such a man as Lord Kinnedder, before the collision of public opinion had suffused its influence over the opinions of people in general in this matter.--Skene's Reminiscences.
END OF VOLUME I.
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