Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

August 1827

August 1.--My guests left me and I thought of turning to work again seriously. Finished five pages. Dined alone, excepting Huntly Gordon, who is come on a visit, poor lad. I hope he is well fixed under Mr. Planta's[17] patronage. Smoked a cigar after dinner. Laughed with my daughters, and read them the review of Hoffmann's production out of Gillies's new _Foreign Review_.

The undertaking would do, I am convinced, in any other person's hands than those of the improvident editor; but I hear he is living as thoughtlessly as ever in London, has hired a large house, and gives Burgundy to his guests. This will hardly suit £500 a year.

August 2.--Got off my proofs. Went over to breakfast at Huntly Burn; the great object was to see my cascade in the Glen suitably repaired. I have had it put to rights by puddling and damming. What says the frog in the Fairy Tale?--

    "Stuff with moss, and clog with clay,
    And that will weize the water away."
Having seen the job pretty tightly done, walked deliciously home through the woods. But no work all this while. Then for up and at it. But in spite of good resolutions I trifled with my children after dinner, and read to them in the evening, and did just nothing at all.

August 3.--Wrote five pages and upwards--scarce amends for past laziness. Huntly Gordon lent me a volume of his father's manuscript memoirs.[18] They are not without interest, for Pryse Gordon, though a bit of a _roué_, is a clever fellow in his way. One thing struck me, being the story of an Irish swindler, who called himself Henry King Edgeworth, an impudent gawsey fellow, who deserted from Gordon's recruiting party, enlisted again, and became so great a favourite with the Colonel of the regiment which he joined, that he was made pay-sergeant. Here he deserted to purpose with £200 or £300, escaped to France, got a commission in the Corps sent to invade Ireland, was taken, recognised, and hanged. What would Mr. Theobald Wolfe Tone have said to such an associate in his regenerating expedition? These are thy gods, O Israel! The other was the displeasure of the present Cameron of Lochiel, on finding that the forty Camerons, with whom he joined the Duke of Gordon's Northern Fencible regiment, were to be dispersed. He had wellnigh mutinied and marched back with them. This would be a good anecdote for Garth.[19]

August 4.--Spent the morning at Selkirk, examining people about an assault. When I returned I found Charlotte Kerr here with a clever little boy, Charles Scott, grandson of Charles of the Woll, and son of William, and grand-nephew of John of Midgehope. He seems a smart boy, and, considering that he is an only son with expectations, not _too_ much spoiled. General Yermoloff called with a letter from a Dr. Knox, whom I do not know. If it be Vicesimus, we met nearly twenty-five years ago and did not agree. But General Yermoloff's name was luckily known to me. He is a man in the flower of life, about thirty, handsome, bold, and enthusiastic; a great admirer of poetry, and all that. He had been in the Moscow campaign, and those which followed, but must have been very young. He made not the least doubt that Moscow was burned by Rostopchin, and said that there was a general rumour before the French entered the town, and while the inhabitants were leaving it, that persons were left to destroy it. I asked him why the magazine of gunpowder had not been set fire to in the first instance. He answered that he believed the explosion of that magazine would have endangered the retreating Russians. This seemed unsatisfactory. The march of the Russians was too distant from Moscow to be annoyed by the circumstance. I pressed him as well as I could about the slowness of Koutousoff's operations; and he frankly owned that the Russians were so much rejoiced and surprised to see the French in retreat, that it was long ere they could credit the extent of the advantage which they had acquired. This has been but an idle day, so far as composition is concerned, but I was detained late at Selkirk.

August 5.--Wrote near six pages. General Yermoloff left me with many expressions of enthusiastic regard, as foreigners use to do. He is a kinsman of Princess Galitzin, whom I saw at Paris. I walked with Tom after one o'clock. Dined _en famille_ with Miss Todd, a pretty girl, and wrote after dinner.

August 6.--This morning finished proofs and was _bang up_ with everything. When I was about to sit down to write, I have the agreeable tidings that Henderson, the fellow who committed the assault at Selkirk, and who made his escape from the officers on Saturday, was retaken, and that it became necessary that I should go up to examine him. Returned at four, and found Mrs. George Swinton from Calcutta, to whose husband I have been much obliged, with Archie and cousin Peggie Swinton, arrived. So the evening was done up.

August 7.--Cousins still continuing, we went to Melrose. I finished, however, in the first place, a pretty smart task, which is so far well, as we expect the Skenes to-morrow. Lockhart arrived from London. The news are that Canning is dangerously ill. This is the bowl being broken at the cistern with a vengeance. If he dies now, it will be pity it was not five months ago. The time has been enough to do much evil, but not to do any-permanent good.

August 8.--Huntly Gordon proposed to me that I should give him my correspondence, which we had begun to arrange last year. I resolved not to lose the opportunity, and began to look out and arrange the letters from about 1810, throwing out letters of business and such as are private. They are of little consequence, generally speaking, yet will be one day curious. I propose to have them bound up, to save trouble. It is a sad task; how many dead, absent, estranged, and altered! I wrought till the Skenes came at four o'clock. I love them well; yet I wish their visit had been made last week, when other people were here. It kills time, or rather murders it, this company-keeping. Yet what remains on earth that I like so well as a little society? I wrote not a line to-day.

August 9.--I finished the arrangement of the letters so as to put them into Mr. Gordon's hands. It will be a great job done. But, in the meanwhile, it interrupts my work sadly, for I kept busy till one o'clock to-day with this idle man's labour. Still, however, it might have been long enough ere I got a confidential person like Gordon to arrange these confidential papers. They are all in his hands now. Walked after one.

August 10.--This is a morning of fidgety, nervous confusion. I sought successively my box of Bramah pens, my proof-sheets, and last, not least anxiously, my spectacles. I am convinced I lost a full hour in these various chases. I collected all my insubordinate movables at once, but had scarce corrected the proof and written half-a-score of lines, than enter Dalgleish, declaring the Blucher hour is come. The weather, however, is rainy, and fitted for a day of pure work, but I was able only to finish my task of three pages.

The death of the Premier is announced. Late George Canning, the witty, the accomplished, the ambitious; he who had toiled thirty years, and involved himself in the most harassing discussions to attain this dizzy height; he who had held it for three months of intrigue and obloquy--and now a heap of dust, and that is all. He was an early and familiar friend of mine, through my intimacy with George Ellis. No man possessed a gayer and more playful wit in society; no one, since Pitt's time, had more commanding sarcasm in debate; in the House of Commons he was the terror of that species of orators called the Yelpers. His lash fetched away both skin and flesh, and would have penetrated the hide of a rhinoceros. In his conduct as a statesman he had a great fault: he lent himself too willingly to intrigue. Thus he got into his quarrel with Lord Castlereagh,[20] and lost credit with the country for want of openness. Thus too, he got involved with the Queen's party to such an extent that it fettered him upon that memorable quarrel, and obliged him to butter Sir Robert Wilson with dear friend, and gallant general, and so forth. The last composition with the Whigs was a sacrifice of principle on both sides. I have some reason to think they counted on getting rid of him in two or three years. To me Canning was always personally most kind. I saw, with pain, a great change in his health when I met him at Colonel Bolton's at Stors in 1825. In London I thought him looking better.

August 11.--Wrote nearly five pages; then walked. A visit from Henry Scott;[21] nothing known as yet about politics. A high Tory Administration would be a great evil at this time. There are repairs in the structure of our constitution which ought to be made at this season, and without which the people will not long be silent. A pure Whig Administration would probably play the devil by attempting a thorough repair. As to a compound, or melo-dramatic, Ministry, the parts out of which such a one could be organised just now are at a terrible discount in public estimation, nor will they be at par in a hurry again. The public were generally shocked at the complete lack of principle testified by public men on the late occasion, and by some who till then had some credit with the public. The Duke of W. has risen by his firmness on the one side, Earl Grey on the other.

August 12.--Wrote my task and no more. Walked with Lockhart from one o'clock to four. Took in our way the Glen, which looks beautiful. I walked with extreme pain and feebleness until we began to turn homewards, when the relaxation of the ankle sinews seemed to be removed, and I trode merrily home. This is strange; that exercise should restore the nerves from the chill or numbness which is allied to palsy, I am well aware, but how it should restore elasticity to sinews that are too much relaxed, I for one cannot comprehend. Colonel Russell came to dinner with us, and to consult me about some family matters. He has the spirit of a gentleman; that is certain.

August 13.--A letter from booksellers at Brussels informs me of the pleasant tidings that _Napoleon_ is a total failure; that they have lost much money on a version which they were at great expense in preparing, and modestly propose that I should write a novel to make them amends for loss on a speculation which I knew nothing about. "Have you nothing else to ask?" as Sancho says to the farmer, who asks him to stock a farm for his son, portion off his daughters, etc. etc. They state themselves to be young booksellers; certes, they must hold me to be a _very_ young author! Napoleon, however, has failed on the Continent--and perhaps in England also; for, from the mumbling, half-grumbling tone of Longman and Co., dissatisfaction may be apprehended. Well, I can set my face to it boldly. I live not in the public opinion, not I; but egad! I live _by_ it, and that is worse. _Tu ne cede malis, sed contra_, etc.

I corrected and transmitted sheets before breakfast; afterwards went and cut wood with Tom, but returned about twelve in rather a melancholy humour. I fear this failure may be followed by others; and then what chance of extricating my affairs. But they that look to freits, freits will follow them. _Hussards en avant_,--care killed a cat. I finished three pages--that is, a full task of the _Chronicles_--after I returned. Mr. and Mrs. Philips of Manchester came to dinner.

August 14.--Finished my task before breakfast. A bad rainy day, for which I should not have cared but for my guests. However, being good-humoured persons and gifted with taste, we got on very well, by dint of showing prints, curiosities; finally the house up stairs and down; and at length by undertaking a pilgrimage to Melrose in the rain, which pilgrimage we accomplished, but never entered the Abbey Church, having just had wetting enough to induce us, when we arrived at the gate, to "Turn again, Whittington."

August 15.--Wrote in the morning. After breakfast walked with Mr. Philips, who is about to build and plan himself, and therefore seemed to enter _con amore_ into all I had been doing, asked questions, and seemed really interested to learn what I thought myself not ill-qualified to teach. The little feeling of superior information in such cases is extremely agreeable. On the contrary, it is a great scrape to find you have been boring some one who did not care a d---- about the matter, so to speak; and that you might have been as well employed in buttering a whin-stone. Mr. and Mrs. Philips left us about twelve--day bad. I wrote nearly five pages of _Chronicles_.

August 16.--A wet, disagreeable, sulky day, but such things may be carried to account. I wrote upwards of seven pages, and placed myself _rectus in curia_ with Madam Duty, who was beginning to lift up her throat against me. Nothing remarkable except that Huntly Gordon left us.

August 17.--Wrote my task in the morning. After breakfast went out and cut wood with Tom and John Swanston, and hewed away with my own hand; remained on foot from eleven o'clock till past three, doing, in my opinion, a great deal of good in plantations above the house, where the firs had been permitted to predominate too much over the oak and hardwood. The day was rough and stormy--not the worst for working, and I could do it with a good conscience, all being well forward in the duty line. After tea I worked a little longer. On the whole finished four leaves and upwards--about a printed sheet--which is enough for one day.

August 18.--Finished about five leaves, and then out to the wood, where I chopped away among the trees, laying the foundation for future scenery. These woods will one day occupy a great number of hands. Four years hence they will employ ten stout woodsmen almost every day of the year. Henry and William Scott (Harden) came to dinner.

August 19.--Wrote till about one, then walked for an hour or two by myself entirely; finished five pages before dinner, when we had Captain and Mrs. Hamilton and young Davidoff, who is their guest. They remained with us all night.

August 20.--I corrected proofs and wrote one leaf before breakfast; then went up to Selkirk to try a fellow for an assault. The people there get rather riotous. This is a turbulent fierce fellow. Some of his attitudes were good during the trial. This dissipated my attention for the day, although I was back by half-past two. I did not work any more, so am behind in my reckoning.

August 21.--Wrote four pages, then set out to make a call at Sunderland Hall and Yair, but the old sociable broke down before we had got past the thicket, so we trudged all back on foot, and I wrote another page. This makes up the deficiency of yesterday.

August 22.--I wrote four or five leaves, but begin to get aground for want of Indian localities. Colonel Ferguson's absence is unlucky, and half-a-dozen Qui Hi's besides, willing to write chits,[22] eat tiffin, and vent all their Pagan jargon when one does not want to hear it; and now that I want a touch of their slang, lo! there is not one near me. Mr. Adolphus, son of the celebrated counsel, and author of a work on the _Waverley Novels_,[23] came to make me a visit. 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. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton asked us to breakfast to-morrow.

August 23.--Went to breakfast at Chiefswood, which, with a circuitous walk, have consumed the day. Found, in the first place, my friend Allan, the painter, busy about a picture, into which he intends introducing living characters--a kind of revel at Abbotsford. Second, a whimsical party, consisting of John Stevenson, the bookseller, Peter Buchan from Peterhead, a quiz of a poetical creature, and a bookbinder, a friend of theirs. The plan was to consult me about publishing a great quantity of ballads which this Mr. Buchan has collected. I glanced them over. He has been very successful, for they are obviously genuine, and many of them very curious. Others are various editions of well-known ballads. I could not make the man comprehend that these last were of little value, being generally worse readings of what was already published. A small edition published by subscription may possibly succeed. It is a great pity that few of these ballads are historical, almost all being of the romantic cast. They certainly ought to be preserved, after striking out one or two which have been sophisticated, I suppose by Mr. Buchan himself, which are easily distinguishable from the genuine ballads.[24] No one but Burns ever succeeded in patching up old Scottish songs with any good effect.

August 24.--Corrected proofs and wrote letters in the morning. Began a review upon Monteath's Planter for Lockhart.[25] Other matters at a stand. A drive down to Mertoun, and engaged to dine there on Sunday first. This consumed the day.

August 25.--Mr. Adolphus left us this morning after a very agreeable visit. We all dined at Dr. Brewster's. Met Sir John Wright, Miss Haig, etc. Slandered our neighbours, and were good company. Major John Scott there. I did a little more at the review to-day. But I cannot go on with the tale without I could speak a little Hindostanee--a small seasoning of curry-powder. Ferguson will do it if I can screw it out of him.

August 26.--Encore review. Walked from twelve till three, then drove to Mertoun with Lockhart and Allan. Dined _en famille_, and home by half-past ten. We thought of adding a third volume to the _Chronicles_, but Gibson is afraid it would give grounds for a pretext to seize this work on the part of Constable's creditors, who seem determined to take any advantage of me, but they can only show their teeth I trust; though I wish the arbitration was ended.

August 27.--Sent off proofs in morning, revised in afternoon. Walked from one till four. What a life of uniformity! Yet I never wish to change it. I even regret I must go to town to meet Lady Compton[26] next week.

A singular letter from a lady, requesting I would father a novel of hers. That won't pass.[27]

Cadell writes me, transmitting a notice from the French papers that Gourgaud has gone, or is going, to London to verify the facts alleged in my history of Napoleon, and the bibliopolist is in a great funk. I lack some part of his instinct. I have done Gourgaud no wrong: every word imputed to him exists in the papers submitted to me as historical documents[28], and I should have been a shameful coward if I had shunned using them. At my years it is somewhat late for an affair of honour, and as a reasonable man I would avoid such an arbitrament, but will not plead privilege of literature. The country shall not be disgraced in my person, and having stated why I think I owe him no satisfaction, I will at the same time most willingly give it to him.

    "Il sera reçu,
      Biribi,
    A la façon de Barbaru,
      Mon ami."
I have written to Will Clerk to stand my friend if necessary. He has mettle in him, and thinks of my honour as well as my safety.

August 28.--I am still bothering with the review, but gave Lockhart fifteen leaves, which is something. Learned with regret that Williams leaves his situation of Rector of the New Academy. It is a shot in the wing of the institution; for he is a heaven-born teacher. Walked at two till four along the thicket, and by the river-side, where I go seldom; I can't say why, unless that the walk is less private than those more distant. Lockhart, Allan, and I, talk of an excursion to Kelso to-morrow. I have no friends there now. Yet once how many!

August 29.--Went on our little expedition, breakfasting at Mertoun. Called at Fleurs, where we found Sir John S. and his whole family. The great lady received us well, though we had been very remiss in our duty. From that we went to Kelso, where I saw not a soul to acknowledge former acquaintance. How should I, when my residence there was before 1783, I fancy?[29] The little cottage in which I lived with poor Aunt Jenny is still standing, but the great garden is divided betwixt three proprietors. Its huge platanus tree withered, I was told, in the same season which was fatal to so many of the species. It was cut down. The yew-hedges, labyrinths, wildernesses, and other marks that it had once been the abode of one of the Millers connected with the author of the _Gardener's Dictionary_ (they were a Quaker family), are all obliterated, and the place is as common and vulgar as may be. The lady the cottage belongs to was very civil. Allan, as a man of taste, was much delighted with what he saw. When we returned, we found our party at home increased by Lady Anna Maria Elliot, who had been showing Melrose to two friends, Miss Drinkwaters. Lady M.'s wit and good-humour made the evening go pleasantly off. There were also two friends of Charles's, by name Paley (a nephew of the archdeacon) and Ashworth. They seem nice young men, with modesty and good-breeding. I am glad, as my mother used to say, that his friends are so presentable. Moreover, there came my old, right trusty, and well-beloved friend, John Richardson, so we were a full party. Lady Anna Maria returned in the evening. Francis Scott also dined with us.

August 30.--Disposed of my party as I best might, and worked at my review. Walked out at one, and remained till near five. Mr. Scott of Harden and David Thomson, W.S., dined with us. Walked with Mr. Allan through Haxel Cleugh.

August 31.--Went on with my review; but I have got Sir Henry's original pamphlet,[30] which is very cleverly written. I find I cannot touch on his mode of transplantation at all in this article. It involves many questions, and some of importance, so I will make another article for January. Walked up the Rhymer's Glen with John Richardson.[31]

-

FOOTNOTES:

[17] Right Hon. Joseph Planta (son of Joseph Planta, Principal Librarian of the British Museum from 1799) was at this time one of the Secretaries to the Treasury. He died in 1847.

[18] _Personal Memoirs_ by P.L. Gordon, 2 vols. 8vo, Lond. 1830.

[19] General David Stewart of Garth, author of _Sketches of the Highlanders_. 2 vols. 8vo, Edin. 1822. General Stewart died in St. Lucia in 1829. Sir Walter said of him that no man was "more regretted, or perhaps by a wider circle of friends and acquaintance."

[20] Resulting in the duel of 21st September 1809.--See Croker's _Correspondence_, vol. i. p. 20; and _Life_, vol. iii. ch. xix.

[21] Afterwards Lord Polwarth.

[22] Persian _chitty_ = a short note.

[23] _Letters to Richard Heber, Esq., containing Critical Remarks on the Series of Novels beginning with_ "Waverley," _and an Attempt to ascertain their Author_. 8vo, London, 1821.

[24] They were published under the title _Ancient Ballads and Songs_, 2 vols. 8vo, 1828.

[25] _The Forester's Guide and Profitable Planter_, reviewed in the _Quarterly_, Oct. 1827. See also "On Planting Waste Lands," in _Misc. Prose Works_, vol. xxi. pp. 1-76.

[26] Daughter of Mrs. Maclean Clephane, and afterwards Marchioness of Northampton.

[27] Scott's indorsation of this letter is characteristic--"Prodigious, bold request, Tom Thumb."

[28] Among the documents laid before Scott in the Colonial Office, when he was in London at the close of 1826, "were some which represented one of Bonaparte's attendants at St. Helena, General Gourgaud, as having been guilty of gross unfairness, giving the English Government private information that the Emperor's complaints of ill-usage were utterly unfounded, and yet then and afterwards aiding and assisting the delusion in France as to the harshness of Sir Hudson Lowe's conduct towards his captive. Sir Walter, when using these remarkable documents, guessed that Gourgaud might be inclined to fix a personal quarrel on himself; and there now appeared in the newspapers a succession of hints that the General was seriously bent on this purpose. He applied as _Colonel Grogg_ would have done forty years before to _The Baronet_" [W. Clerk].--_Life_, vol. ix. pp. 142-3.

A short time previously Gourgaud had had a quarrel with Count Ségur regarding the latter's _History of the Russian Campaign_, to which he wrote a reply in 1825, and then fought a duel with the author in support of his allegations. In Scott's case, however, it came to nothing beyond a paper war, which Sir Walter declined to prolong, leaving the question to be decided by the general public. It is due to Gourgaud to state that on two occasions he saved Napoleon's life, though his subsequent information to the British Government did not tend to increase his popularity with the Bonapartists. He died at Paris in his sixty-ninth year on July 25th, 1852.

[29] _Life_, vol. i. pp. 47, 155-156.

[30] _The Planters' Guide_, by Sir Henry Seton Steuart.

[31] In the _North British Review_, No. 82, there is an extremely interesting sketch of this learned Peerage lawyer. He died in his 85th year, in 1864, at his country seat, Kirklands in Roxburghshire, which he had purchased by Sir Walter's advice.

The following amusing narrative of what took place on Tweedside when these two old friends were in their prime is given in Mr. Richardson's own words:--

"On a beautiful morning in September 1810 I started with Sir Walter from Ashiestiel. We began nearly under the ruins of Elibank, and in sight of the 'Hanging Tree.' I only had a rod, but Sir Walter walked by my side, now quoting Izaak Walton, as, 'Fish me this stream by inches,' and now delighting me with a profusion of Border stories. After the capture of numerous fine trout, I hooked something greater and unseen, which powerfully ran out my line. Sir Walter got into a state of great excitement, exclaiming, 'It's a fish! It's a fish! Hold up your rod! Give him line!' and so on. The rod, which belonged to one of his boys, broke, and put us both into great alarm; but I contrived, by ascending the steep bank and holding down the rod, still to give play to the reel, till, after a good quarter of an hour's struggle, a trout, for so it turned out to be, was conducted round a little peninsula. 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, exclaiming, 'To be ta'en by the like o' him frae Lunnon!'"

Sir Walter Scott