December 1.--This morning again I was idle. But I must work, and so I will to-morrow whether the missing sheets arrive, ay or no, by goles! After Court I went with Lord Wriothesley Russell, to Dalkeith House, to see the pictures; Charles K. Sharpe alongst with us. We satisfied ourselves that they have actually frames, and that, I think, was all we could be sure of. Lord Wriothesley, who is a very pleasant young man, well-informed, and with some turn for humour, dined with us, and Mr. Davidoff met him. The Misses Kerr also dined and spent the evening with us in that sort of society which I like best. Charles Sharpe came in and we laughed over oysters and sherry,
"And a fig for your Sultan and Sophi."December 2.--Laboured to make lee-way, and finished nearly seven pages to eke on to the end of the missing sheets when returned. I have yoked Charles to Monsieur Surenne, an old soldier in Napoleon's Italian army, and I think a clever little fellow, with good general ideas of etymology. Signor Bugnie is a good Italian teacher; and for a German, why, I must look about. It is not the least useful language of the leash.
December 3.--A day of petty business, which killed a holiday. Finished my tale of the Mirror; went with Tom Allan to see his building at Lauriston, where he has displayed good taste--supporting instead of tearing down or destroying the old chateau, which once belonged to the famous Mississippi Law. The additions are in very good taste, and will make a most comfortable house. Mr. Burn, architect, would fain have had the old house pulled down, which I wonder at in him, though it would have been the practice of most of his brethren. When I came up to town I was just in time for the Bannatyne Club, where things are going on reasonably well. I hope we may get out some good historical documents in the course of the winter. Dined at the Royal Society Club. At the society had some essays upon the specific weight of the ore of manganese, which was caviare to the President, and I think most of the members. But it seemed extremely accurate, and I have little doubt was intelligible to those who had the requisite key. We supped at Mr. Russell's, where the conversation was as gay as usual. Lieut-Col. Ferguson was my guest at the dinner.
December 4.--Had the agreeable intelligence that Lord Newton had finally issued his decree in my favour, for all the money in the bank, amounting to £32,000. This will make a dividend of six shillings in the pound, which is presently to be paid. A meeting of the creditors was held to-day, at which they gave unanimous approbation of all that has been done, and seemed struck by the exertions which had produced £22,000 within so short a space. They all separated well pleased. So far so good. Heaven grant the talisman break not! I sent copy to Ballantyne this morning, having got back the missing sheets from John Lockhart last night. I feel a little puzzled about the character and style of the next tale. The world has had so much of chivalry. Well, I will dine merrily, and thank God, and bid care rest till to-morrow. How suddenly things are overcast, and how suddenly the sun can break out again! On the 31st October I was dreaming as little of such a thing as at present, when behold there came tidings which threatened a total interruption of the amicable settlement of my affairs, and menaced my own personal liberty. In less than a month we are enabled to turn chase on my persecutors, who seem in a fair way of losing their recourse upon us. _Non nobis, Domine_.
December 5.--I did a good deal in the way of preparing my new tale, and resolved to make something out of the story of Harry Wynd. The North Inch of Perth would be no bad name, and it may be possible to make a difference betwixt the old Highlander and him of modern date. The fellow that swam the Tay, and escaped, would be a good ludicrous character. But I have a mind to try him in the serious line of tragedy. Miss Baillie has made the Ethling a coward by temperament, and a hero when touched by filial affection. Suppose a man's nerves supported by feelings of honour, or say by the spur of jealousy supporting him against constitutional timidity to a certain point, then suddenly giving way,--I think something tragic might be produced. James Ballantyne's criticism is too much moulded upon the general taste of novels to admit, I fear, this species of reasoning. But what can one do? I am hard up as far as imagination is concerned, yet the world calls for novelty. Well, I'll try my brave coward or cowardly brave man. _Valeat quantum_. Being a teind day, remained at home, adjusting my ideas on this point until one o'clock, then walked as far as Mr. Cadell's. Finally, went to dine at Hawkhill with Lord and Lady Binning. Party were Lord Chief-Commissioner, Lord Chief-Baron, Solicitor, John Wilson, Lord Corehouse. The night was so dark and stormy that I was glad when we got upon the paved streets.
December 6.--Corrected proofs and went to Court. Bad news of Ahab's case. I hope he won't beat us after all. It would be mortifying to have them paid in full, as they must be while better men must lie by. _Spero meliora_.
I think that copy of Beard's _Judgments_ is the first book which I have voluntarily purchased for nearly two years. So I am cured of one folly at least.
December 7.--Being a blank day in the rolls, I stayed at home and wrote four leaves--not very freely or happily; I was not in the vein. Plague on it! Stayed at home the whole day. There is one thing I believe peculiar to me--I work, that is, meditate for the purpose of working, best, when I have a _quasi_ engagement with some other book for example. When I find myself doing ill, or like to come to a stand-still in writing, I take up some slight book, a novel or the like, and usually have not read far ere my difficulties are removed, and I am ready to write again. There must be two currents of ideas going on in my mind at the same time, or perhaps the slighter occupation serves like a woman's wheel or stocking to ballast the mind, as it were, by preventing the thoughts from wandering, and so give the deeper current the power to flow undisturbed. I always laugh when I hear people say, Do one thing at once. I have done a dozen things at once all my life. Dined with the family. After dinner Lockhart's proofs came in and occupied me for the evening. I wish I have not made that article too long, and Lockhart will not snip away.
December 8.--Went to Court and stayed there a good while. Made some consultations in the Advocates' Library, not furiously to the purpose.
Court in the morning. Sent off Lockhart's proof, which I hope will do him some good. A precatory letter from Gillies. I must do Molière for him, I suppose; but it is wonderful that knowing the situation I am in, the poor fellow presses so hard. Sure, I am pulling for life, and it is hard to ask me to pull another man's oar as well as my own. Yet, if I can give a little help,
"We'll get a blessing wi' the lave, And never miss 't."Went to John Murray's, where were Sir John Dalrymple and Lady, Sir John Cayley, Mr. Hope Vere, and Lady Elizabeth Vere, a sister of the Marquis of Tweeddale, and a pleasant sensible woman. Some turn for antiquity too she shows--and spoke a good deal of the pictures at Yester. Henderland was there too. Mrs. John Murray made some very agreeable music.
December 9.--I set hard to work, and had a long day with my new tale. I did about twelve leaves. Cadell came in, and we talked upon the great project of buying in the copyrights. He is disposed to _finesse_ a little about it, but I do not think it will do much good; all the fine arguments will fly off and people just bid or not bid as the report of the trade may represent the speculation as a good or bad one. I daresay they will reach £7000; but £8000 won't stop us, and that for books over-printed so lately and to such an extent is a pro-di-gi-ous price!
December 10.--I corrected proofs and forwarded copy. Went out for an hour to Lady J.S. Home and dozed a little, half stupefied with a cold in my head--made up this Journal, however. Settled I would go to Abbotsford on the 24th from Arniston. Before that time I trust the business of the copyrights will be finally settled. If they can be had on anything like fair terms, they will give the greatest chance I can see of extricating my affairs. Cadell seems to be quite confident in the advantage of making the purchase upon almost any terms, and truly I am of his opinion. If they get out of Scotland it will not be all I can do that will enable me to write myself a free man during the space I have to remain in this world.
I smoked a couple of cigars for the first time since I came from the country; and as Anne and Charles went to the play, I muddled away the evening over my Sheriff-Court processes, and despatched a hugeous parcel to Will Scott at Selkirk. It is always something off hand.
December 11.--Wrote a little, and seemed to myself to get on. I went also to Court. On return, had a formal communication from Ballantyne, enclosing a letter from Cadell of an unpleasant tenor. It seems Mr. Cadell is dissatisfied with the moderate success of the First Series of _Chronicles;_ and disapproves of about half the volume already written of the Second Series, obviously rueing his engagement. I have replied that I was not fool enough to suppose that my favour with the public could last for ever, and was neither shocked nor alarmed to find that it had ceased now, as cease it must one day soon; it might he inconvenient for me in some respects, but I would be quite contented to resign the bargain rather than that more loss should be incurred. I saw, I told them, no other receipt than lying lea for a little, while taking a fallow-break to relieve my imagination, which may be esteemed nearly cropped out. I can make shift for myself amid this failure of prospects; but I think both Cadell and J.B. will be probable sufferers. However, they are very right to speak their mind, and may be esteemed tolerably good representatives of the popular taste. So I really think their censure may be a good reason for laying aside this work, though I may preserve some part of it till another day.
December 12.--Reconsidered the probable downfall of my literary reputation. I am so constitutionally indifferent to the censure or praise of the world, that never having abandoned myself to the feelings of self-conceit which my great success was calculated to inspire, I can look with the most unshaken firmness upon the event as far as my own feelings are concerned. If there be any great advantage in literary reputation, I have had it, and I certainly do not care for losing it.
They cannot say but what I _had_ the _crown_. It is unhappily inconvenient for my affairs to lay by my [work] just now, and that is the only reason why I do not give up literary labour; but, at least, I will not push the losing game of novel-writing. I will take back the sheets now objected to, but it cannot be expected that I am to write upon return. I cannot but think that a little thought will open some plan of composition which may promise novelty at the least. I suppose I shall hear from or see these gentlemen to-day; if not, I must send for them to-morrow. How will this affect the plan of going shares with Cadell in the novels of earlier and happier date? Very-much, I doubt, seeing I cannot lay down the cash. But surely the trustees may find some mode of providing this, or else with cash to secure these copyrights. At any rate, I will gain a little time for thought and discussion.
Went to Court. At returning settled with Chief-Commissioner that I should receive him on 26th December at Abbotsford.
After all, may there not be, in this failure to please, some reliques of the very unfavourable matters in which I have been engaged of late,--the threat of imprisonment, the resolution to become insolvent? I cannot feel that there is. What I suffer by is the difficulty of not setting my foot upon such ground as I have trod before, and thus instead of attaining novelty I lose spirit and nature. On the other hand, who would 'thank me for "repented sheets"? Here is a good joke enough, lost to all who have not known the Clerk's table before the Jurisdiction Act.
My two learned Thebans are arrived, and departed after a long consultation. They deprecated a fallow-break as ruin. I set before them my own sense of the difficulties and risks in which I must be involved by perseverance, and showed them I could occupy my own time as well for six months or a twelvemonth, and let the public gather an appetite. They replied (and therein was some risk) that the expectation would in that case be so much augmented that it would be impossible for any mortal to gratify it. To this is to be added what they did not touch upon--the risk of being thrust aside altogether, which is the case with the horses that neglect keeping the lead when once they have got it. Finally, we resolved the present work should go on, leaving out some parts of the Introduction which they object to. They are good specimens of the public taste in general; and it is far best to indulge and yield to them, unless I was very, _very_ certain that I was right and they wrong. Besides, I am not afraid of their being hypercritical in the circumstances, being both sensible men, and not inclined to sacrifice chance of solid profit to the vagaries of critical taste. So the word is "as you were."
December 13.--A letter from Lockhart announcing that Murray of Albemarle Street would willingly give me my own terms for a volume on the subject of planting and landscape gardening. This will amuse me very much indeed. Another proposal invites me, on the part of Colburn, to take charge of the Garrick papers. The papers are to be edited by Colman, and then it is proposed to me to write a life of Garrick in quarto. Lockhart refused a thousand pounds which were offered, and _carte blanche_ was then sent. But I will not budge. My book and Colman's would run each other down. It is an attempt to get more from the public out of the subject than they will endure. Besides, my name would be only useful in the way of _puff_, for I really know nothing of the subject. So I will refuse; that's flat.
Having turned over my thoughts with some anxiety about the important subject of yesterday, I think we have done for the best. If I can rally this time, as I did in the Crusaders, why, there is the old trade open yet. If not, retirement will come gracefully after my failure. I must get the return of the sales of the three or four last novels so as to judge what style of composition has best answered. Add to this, giving up just now loses £4000 to the trustees, which they would not understand, whatever may be my nice authorial feelings. And moreover, it ensures the purchase of the copyrights--_i.e._ almost ensures them.
December 14.--Summoned to pay arrears of our unhappy Oil Gas concern--£140--which I performed by draft on Mr. Cadell. This will pinch a little close, but it is a debt of honour, and must be paid. The public will never bear a public man who shuns either to draw his purse or his sword when there is an open and honest demand on him.
December 15.--Worked in the morning on the sheets which are to be cancelled, and on the Tale of _St. Valentine's Eve_--a good title, by the way. Had the usual _quantum sufficit_ of the Court, which, if it did not dissipate one's attention so much, is rather an amusement than otherwise. But the plague is to fix one's attention to the sticking point, after it has been squandered about for two or three hours in such a way. It keeps one, however, in the course and stream of actual life, which is a great advantage to a literary man.
I missed an appointment, for which I am very sorry. It was about our Advocates' Library, which is to be rebuilt. During all my life we have mismanaged the large funds expended on the rooms of our library, totally mistaking the objects for which a library is built; and instead of taking a general and steady view of the subject, patching up disconnected and ill-sized rooms, totally unequal to answer the accommodation demanded, and bestowing an absurd degree of ornament and finery upon the internal finishing. All this should be reversed: the new library should be calculated upon a plan which ought to suffice for all the nineteenth century at least, and for that purpose should admit of being executed progressively; then there should be no ornament other than that of strict architectural proportion, and the rooms should be accessible one through another, but divided with so many partitions, as to give ample room for shelves. These small rooms would also facilitate the purposes of study. Something of a lounging room would not be amiss, which might serve for meetings of Faculty occasionally. I ought to take some interest in all this, and I do. So I will attend the next meeting of committee. Dined at Baron Hume's, and met General Campbell of Lochnell, and his lady.
December 16.--Worked hard to-day and only took a half hour's walk with Hector Macdonald! Colin Mackenzie unwell; his asthma seems rather to increase, notwithstanding his foreign trip! Alas! long-seated complaints defy Italian climate. We had a small party to dinner. Captain and Mrs. Hamilton, Davidoff, Frank Scott, Harden, and his chum Charles Baillie, second son of Mellerstain, who seems a clever young man. Two or three of the party stayed to take wine and water.
December 17.--Sent off the beginning of the _Chronicles_ to Ballantyne. I hate cancels; they are a double labour.
Mr. Cowan, Trustee for Constable's creditors, called in the morning by appointment, and we talked about the upset price of the copyrights of Waverley, etc. I frankly told him that I was so much concerned that they should remain more or less under my control, that I was willing, with the advice of my trustees, to offer a larger upset than that of £4750, which had been fixed, and that I proposed the price set up should be £250 for the poetry, Paul's letters, etc., and £5250 for the novels, in all £5500; but that I made this proposal under the condition, that in case no bidding should ensue, then the copyrights should be mine so soon as the sale was adjourned, without any one being permitted to bid after the sale. It is to be hoped this high upset price will
"Fright the fuds Of the pock-puds."This speculation may be for good or for evil, but it tends incalculably to increase the value of such copyrights as remain in my own person; and, if a handsome and cheap edition of the whole, with notes, can be instituted in conformity with Cadell's plan, it must prove a mine of wealth, three-fourths of which will belong to me or my creditors. It is possible, no doubt, that the works may lose their effect on the public mind; but this must be risked, and I think the chances are greatly in our favour. Death (my own I mean) would improve the property, since an edition with a Life would sell like wildfire. Perhaps those who read this prophecy may shake their heads and say, "Poor fellow, he little thought how he should see the public interest in him and his extinguished even during his natural existence." It may be so, but I will hope better. This I know, that no literary speculation ever succeeded with me but where my own works were concerned; and that, on the other hand, these have rarely failed. And so--_Vogue la galère!_
Dined with the Lord Chief-Commissioner, and met Lord and Lady Binning, Lord and Lady Abercromby, Sir Robert O'Callaghan, etc. These dinners put off time well enough, and I write so painfully by candle-light that they do not greatly interfere with business.
December 18.--Poor Huntly Gordon writes me in despair about £180 of debt which he has incurred. He wishes to publish two sermons which I wrote for him when he was taking orders; but he would get little money for them without my name, and that is at present out of the question. People would cry out against the undesired and unwelcome zeal of him who stretched out his hands to help the ark with the best intentions, and cry sacrilege. And yet they would do me gross injustice, for I would, if called upon, die a martyr for the Christian religion, so completely is (in my poor opinion) its divine origin proved by its beneficial effects on the state of society. Were we but to name the abolition of slavery and of polygamy, how much has in these two words been granted to mankind by the lessons of our Saviour!
December 19.--Wrought upon an introduction to the notices which have been recovered of George Bannatyne, author, or rather transcriber, of the famous Repository of Scottish Poetry, generally known by the Bannatyne MS. They are very _jejune_ these same notices--a mere record of matters of business, putting forth and calling in of sums of money, and such like. Yet it is a satisfaction to learn that this great benefactor to the literature of Scotland lived a prosperous life, and enjoyed the pleasures of domestic society, and, in a time peculiarly perilous, lived unmolested and died in quiet.
At eleven o'clock I had an appointment with a person unknown. A youth had written me, demanding an audience. I excused myself by alleging the want of leisure, and my dislike to communicate with a person perfectly unknown on unknown business. The application was renewed, and with an ardour which left me no alternative, so I named eleven this day. I am too much accustomed to the usual cant of the followers of the muses who endeavour by flattery to make their bad stale butter make amends for their stinking fish. I am pretty well acquainted with that sort of thing. I have had madmen on my hands too, and once nearly was Kotzebued by a lad of the name of Sharpe. All this gave me some curiosity, but it was lost in attending to the task I was engaged in; when the door opened and in walked a young woman of middling rank and rather good address, but something resembling our secretary David Laing, if dressed in female habiliments. There was the awkwardness of a moment in endeavouring to make me understand that she was the visitor to whom I had given the assignation. Then there were a few tears and sighs. "I fear, Madam, this relates to some tale of great distress." "By no means, sir;" and her countenance cleared up. Still there was a pause; at last she asked if it were possible for her to see the king. I apprehended then that she was a little mad, and proceeded to assure her that the king's secretary received all such applications as were made to his Majesty, and disposed of them. Then came the mystery. She wished to relieve herself from a state of bondage, and to be rendered capable of maintaining herself by acquiring knowledge. I inquired what were her immediate circumstances, and found she resided with an uncle and aunt. Not thinking the case without hope, I preached the old doctrine of patience and resignation, I suppose with the usual effect.
Went to the Bannatyne Club; and on the way met Cadell out of breath, coming to say he had bought the copyrights after a smart contention. Of this to-morrow. There was little to do at the club.
Afterwards dined with Lord and Lady Abercromby, where I met my old and kind friend, Major Buchanan of Cambusmore. His father was one of those from whom I gained much information about the old Highlanders, and at whose house I spent many merry days in my youth. The last time I saw old Cambusmore was in----. He sat up an hour later on the occasion, though then eighty-five. I shall never forget him, and was delighted to see the Major, who comes seldom to town.
December 20.--Anent the copyrights--the pock-puds were not frightened by our high price. They came on briskly, four or five bidders abreast, and went on till the lot was knocked down to Cadell at £8400; a very large sum certainly, yet he has been offered profit on it already. For my part I think the loss would have been very great had we suffered these copyrights to go from those which we possessed. They would have been instantly stereotyped and forced on the market to bring home the price, and by this means depreciated for ever, and all ours must have shared the same fate. Whereas, husbanded and brought out with care, they cannot fail to draw in the others in the same series, and thus to be a sure and respectable source of profit. Considered in this point of view, even if they were worth only the £8400 to others, they were £10,000 to us. The largeness of the price arising from the activity of the contest only serves to show the value of the property. Had at the same time the agreeable intelligence that the octavo sets, which were bought by Hurst and Company at a depreciated rate, are now rising in the market, and that instead of 1500 sold, they have sold upwards of 2000 copies. This mass will therefore in all probability be worn away in a few months and then our operations may commence. On the whole, I am greatly pleased with the acquisition. If this first series be worth £8400, the remaining books must be worth £10,000, and then there is _Napoleon_, which is gliding away daily, for which I would not take the same sum, which would come to £24,200 in all for copyrights; besides £20,000 payable by insurance. Add the value of my books and furniture, plate, etc., there would be £50,000. So this may be considered my present progress. There will still remain upwards of £35,000.
"Heaven's arm strike with us--'tis a fearful odds."Yet with health and continued popularity there are chances in my favour.
Dine at James Ballantyne's, and happy man is he at the result of the sale; indeed it must have been the making or marring of him. Sir Henry Steuart there, who "fooled me to the top of my bent."
December 21.--A very sweet pretty-looking young lady, the Prima Donna of the Italian Opera, now performing here, by name Miss Ayton, came to breakfast this morning, with her father, (a bore, after the manner of all fathers, mothers, aunts, and other chaperons of pretty actresses)! Miss Ayton talks very prettily, and, I dare say, sings beautifully, though too much in the Italian manner, I fear, to be a great favourite of mine. But I did not hear her, being called away by the Clerk's coach. I am like Jeremy in _Love for Love_--have a reasonable good ear for a jig, but your solos and sonatas give me the spleen.
Called at Cadell's, who is still enamoured of his bargain, and with good reason, as the London booksellers were offering him £1000 or £2000 to give it up to them. He also ascertained that all the copies with which Hurst and Robinson loaded the market would be off in a half year. Make us thankful! the weather is clearing to windward. Cadell is cautious, steady, and hears good counsel; and Gibson quite inclined, were I too confident, to keep a good look-out ahead.
December 22.--Public affairs look awkward. The present Ministry are neither Whig nor Tory, and, divested of the support of either of the great parties of the State, stand supported by the will of the sovereign alone. This is not constitutional, and though it may be a temporary augmentation of the sovereign's personal influence, yet it cannot but prove hurtful to the Crown upon the whole, by tending to throw that responsibility on the Sovereign of which the law has deprived him. I pray to God I may be wrong, but an attempt to govern _par bascule_--by trimming betwixt the opposite parties--is equally unsafe for the crown and detrimental to the country, and cannot do for a long time. The fact seems to be that Lord Goderich, a well-meaning and timid man, finds himself on a precipice--that his head is grown dizzy and he endeavours to cling to the person next him. This person is Lord Lansdowne, who he hopes may support him in the House of Lords against Lord Grey, so he proposes to bring Lord Lansdowne into the Cabinet. Lord G. resigns, and his resignation is accepted. Lord Harrowby is then asked to place himself at the head of a new Administration,--declines. The tried abilities of Marquis Wellesley are next applied to; it seems he also declines, and then Lord Goderich comes back, his point about Lord Lansdowne having failed, and his threatened resignation goes for nothing. This must lower the Premier in the eyes of every one. It is plain the K. will not accept the Whigs; it is equally plain that he has not made a move towards the Tories, and that with a neutral administration, this country, hard ruled at anytime, can he long governed, I, for one, cannot believe. God send the good King, to whom I owe so much, as safe and honourable extrication as the circumstances render possible.
After Court Anne set out for Abbotsford with the Miss Kerrs. I came off at three o'clock to Arniston, where I found Lord Register and lady, R. Dundas and lady, Robt. Adam Dundas, Durham of Calderwood and lady, old and young friends. Charles came with me.
December 23.--Went to church to Borthwick with the family, and heard a well-composed, well-delivered, sensible discourse from Mr. Wright, the clergyman--a different sort of person, I wot, from my old half-mad, half-drunken, little hump-back acquaintance Clunie, renowned for singing "The Auld Man's Mear's dead," and from the circumstance of his being once interrupted in his minstrelsy by the information that his own horse had died in the stable.
After sermon we looked at the old castle, which made me an old man. The castle was not a bit older for the twenty-five years which had passed away, but the ruins of the visitor were very apparent; to climb up round staircases, to creep through vaults and into dungeons, were not the easy labours but the positive sports of my younger years; but that time is gone by, and I thought it convenient to attempt no more than the access to the large and beautiful hall in which, as it is somewhere described, an armed horseman might brandish his lance. The feeling of growing and increasing inability is painful to one like me, who boasted, in spite of my infirmity, great boldness and dexterity in such feats; the boldness remains, but hand and foot, grip and accuracy of step, have altogether failed me; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and so I must retreat into the invalided corps and tell them of my former exploits, which may very likely pass for lies. We drove to Dalhousie Castle, where the gallant Earl, who had done so much to distinguish the British name in all and every quarter of the globe, is repairing the castle of his ancestors, which of yore stood a siege against John of Gaunt. I was Lord Dalhousie's companion at school, where he was as much beloved by his companions as he has been ever respected by his companions-in-arms, and the people over whom he has been deputed to exercise the authority of his sovereign. He was always steady, wise, and generous. The old Castle of Dalhousie--_potius Dalwolsey_--was mangled by a fellow called, I believe, Douglas, who destroyed, as far as in him lay, its military and baronial character, and roofed it after the fashion of a poor-house. The architect, Burn, is now restoring and repairing in the old taste, and I think creditably to his own feeling. God bless the roof-tree!
We returned home through the Temple banks by the side of the South Esk, where I had the pleasure to see that Robert Dundas is laying out his woods with taste, and managing them with care. His father and uncle took notice of me when I was a "fellow of no mark or likelihood," and I am always happy in finding myself in the old oak room at Arniston, where I have drunk many a merry bottle, and in the fields where I have seen many a hare killed.
December 24.--Left Arniston after breakfast and arrived to dinner at Abbotsford.
My reflections on entering my own gate were of a very different and more pleasing cast than those with which I left my house about six weeks ago. I was then in doubt whether I should fly my country or become avowedly bankrupt, and surrender my library and household furniture, with the liferent of my estate, to sale. A man of the world will say I had better done so. No doubt had I taken this course at once, I might have employed the £25,000 which I made since the insolvency of Constable and Robinson's houses in compounding my debts. But I could not have slept sound as I now can, under the comfortable impression of receiving the thanks of my creditors and the conscious feeling of discharging my duty like a man of honour and honesty. I see before me a long tedious and dark path, but it leads to true fame and stainless reputation. If I die in the harrows, as is very likely, I shall die with honour; if I achieve my task I shall have the thanks of all concerned, and the approbation of my own conscience. And so I think I can fairly face the return of Christmas Day.
December 25.--- I drove over to Huntly Burn, and saw the plantation which is to be called Janeswood, in honour of my daughter-in-law. All looking well and in order. Before dinner, arrived Mrs. George Ellis and her nephew and niece, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ellis, whom I was delighted to see, as there are a thousand kind recollections of old days. Mrs. George Ellis is less changed in manner and appearance than any one I know. The gay and light-hearted have in that respect superiority over those who are of a deeper mould and a heavier. There is something even in the slightness and elasticity of person which outlasts the ponderous strength which is borne down by its own weight. Colonel Ellis is an enthusiastic soldier: and, though young, served in Spain and at Waterloo.
"And so we held our Christmastide With mirth and burly cheer."December 26.--Colonel Ellis and I took a pretty long walk round by the glen, etc., where I had an extraordinary escape from the breaking down of a foot-bridge as I put my foot upon it. I luckily escaped either breaking my leg by its passing through the bridge in so awkward a manner, or tearing it by some one of the hundred rusty nails through which it fell. However, I was not, thanks to Heaven, hurt in the slightest degree. Tom Purdie, who had orders to repair the bridge long since, was so scandalised at the consequence of his negligence that the bridge is repaired by the time I am writing this. But how the noiseless step of Fate dogs us in our most seeming safe and innocent sports.
On returning home we were joined by the Lord Chief-Commissioner, the Lord Chief Baron, and William Clerk, of gentlemen; and of ladies, Miss Adam and young Miss Thomson of Charlton. Also the two Miss Kerrs, Lord Robert's daughters, and so behold us a gallant Christmas party, full of mirth and harmony. Moreover, Captain John Ferguson came over from Huntly Burn, so we spent the day jocundly. I intend to take a holiday or two while these friends are about us. I have worked hard enough to merit it, and
"... Maggie will not sleep For that, ere summer."December 27.--This morning we took a drive up the Yarrow in great force, and perambulated the Duchess's Walk with all the force of our company. The weather was delightful, the season being considered; and Newark Castle, amid its leafless trees, resembled a dear old man who smiles upon the ruins which time has spread around him. It is looking more venerable than formerly, for the repairs judiciously undertaken have now assumed colouring congenial with the old walls; formerly, they had a raw and patchy appearance. I have seldom seen the scene look better even when summer smiled upon it.
I have a letter from James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, asking me to intercede with the Duke of Buccleuch about his farm. He took this burthen upon himself without the advice of his best friends, and certainly contrary to mine. From the badness of the times it would have been a poor speculation in any hands, especially in those of a man of letters, whose occupation, as well as the society in which it involves him, [are so different]. But I hope this great family will be kind to him; if not, _cela ne vaudra pas à moi_. But I cannot and ought not to look for having the same interest with this gentleman which I exercised in the days of Duke Charles.
December 28.--A demand from Cadell to prepare a revised copy of the _Tales of my Grandfather_ for the press. I received it with great pleasure, for I always had private hopes of that work. If I have a knack for anything it is for selecting the striking and interesting points out of dull details, and hence, I myself receive so much pleasure and instruction from volumes which are generally reputed dull and uninteresting. Give me facts, I will find fancy for myself. The first two volumes of these little tales are shorter than the third by seventy or eighty pages. Cadell proposes to equalise them by adding part of vol. ii. to vol. i., and of vol. iii. to vol. ii. But then vol. i. ends with the reign of Robert Bruce, vol. ii. with the defeat of Flodden; happy points of pause which I cannot think of disturbing, the first in particular, for surely we ought to close one volume at least of Scottish history at a point which leaves the kingdom triumphant and happy; and, alas! where do her annals present us with such an era excepting after Bannockburn? So I will set about to fill up the volumes, which are too short, with some additional matter, and so diminish at least, if we cannot altogether remove, their unsightly inequality in size. The rest of the party went to Dryburgh--too painful a place of pilgrimage for me. I walked with the Lord Chief Commissioner through our grounds at Huntly Burn, and by taking the carriage now and then I succeeded in giving my excellent old friend enough of exercise without any fatigue. We made our visit at Huntly Burn.
December 29.--Lord Chief-Baron, Lord Chief-Commissioner, Miss Adam, Miss Anstruther Thomson, and William Clerk left us. We read prayers, and afterwards walked round the terrace.
I had also time to work hard on the additions to the _Tales of a Grandfather_, vols. 1 and 2. The day passed pleasantly over.
December 30.--The Fergusons came over, and we welcomed in the New Year with the usual forms of song and flagon.
Looking back to the conclusion of 1826, I observe that the last year ended in trouble and sickness, with pressures for the present and gloomy prospects for the future. The sense of a great privation so lately sustained, together with the very doubtful and clouded nature of my private affairs, pressed hard upon my mind. I am now perfectly well in constitution; and though I am still on troubled waters, yet I am rowing with the tide, and less than the continuation of my exertions of 1827 may, with God's blessing, carry me successfully through 1828, when we may gain a more open sea, if not exactly a safe port. Above all, my children are well. Sophia's situation excites some natural anxiety; but it is only the accomplishment of the burthen imposed on her sex. Walter is happy in the view of his majority, on which matter we have favourable hopes from the Duke of Wellington. Anne is well and happy. Charles's entry upon life under the highest patronage, and in a line for which I hope he is qualified, is about to take place presently.
For all these great blessings it becomes me well to be thankful to God, who in his good time and good pleasure sends us good as well as evil.
 The Duchess of Bedford's eldest son.
 _My Aunt Margaret's Mirror_.
 Sir Walter need have expressed no surprise at this architect's desire to pull down the old house of Lauriston! The present generation can judge of Mr. Burn's appreciation of ancient Architecture by looking at the outside of St. Giles, Edinburgh.--It was given over to his tender mercies in 1829, a picturesque old building, and it left his hands in 1834 a bit of solid well-jointed mason-work with all Andrew Fairservice's "whigmaleeries, curliewurlies, and open steek hems" most thoroughly removed!--_Rob Roy_, vol. viii. pp. 29-30. Fortunately the tower and crown were untouched, and the interior, which was injured in a less degree, has, through the liberality and good taste of the late William Chambers, been restored to its original stateliness.
 See Ethwald, _Plays on the Passions_, vol. ii., Lond. 1802.
 Alluding to an entry in the _Journal_, that he had expended 30s. in the purchase of the _Theatre of God's Judgment_, 1612, a book which is still in the Abbotsford Library.
 See note to May 30, 1827, vol. i. p. 398.
 Burns's lines _To a Mouse_.
 _Ante_, p. 60. The book had only been published two months. "The Second Series," when published in the following year, contained _St. Valentine's Eve, or the Fair Maid of Perth_; the two stories objected to, viz.: _My Aunt Margaret's Mirror_ and the _Laird's Jock_ appeared in the _Keepsake_ of 1828, and were afterwards included in vol. xli. of the _Magnum Opus_.
 The Garrick papers were published under the title _Private Correspondence, of David Garrick, illustrated with notes and Memoir_. 2 vols. 4to, London, 1831-32. [Edited by James Boaden.]
 Afterwards Judge in the Court of Session under the title of Lord Jerviswoode.
 A few days later, however, the following reply was sent:--"Dear Gordon,--As I have no money to spare at present, I find it necessary to make a sacrifice of my own scruples to relieve you from serious difficulties. The enclosed will entitle you to deal with any respectable bookseller. You must tell the history in your own way as shortly as possible. All that is necessary to say is that the discourses were written to oblige a young friend. It is understood my name is not to be put in the title-page, or blazed at full length in the preface. You may trust that to the newspapers.
"Pray do not think of returning any thanks about this; it is enough that I know it is likely to serve your purpose. But use the funds arising from this unexpected source with prudence, for such fountains do not spring up at every place of the desert. I am, in haste, ever yours most truly, Walter Scott"--_Life_, vol. ix. p. 205.
 Issued in 1829 as No. 33 of the Bannatyne Club Books. _Memorials of George Bannatyne_, 1545-1608, with Memoir by Sir Walter Scott.
 It was thus that the scenery of Loch Katrine came to be so associated with the recollection of many a dear friend and merry expedition of former days, that to compose the _Lady of the Lake_ was a labour of love, and no less so to recall the manners and incidents introduced.--_Life_, vol. i. p. 296.
 See note, Jan. 8, 1828, pp. 107-8.
 On his own life.
 See _Henry V._, Act IV. Sc. 3.
 The Edinburgh play-bills of the day intimate the "Second appearance of Miss Fanny Ayton, Prima Donna of the King's Theatre."
 By Congreve--Act II. Sc. 7.
 The dissolution of the Goderich Cabinet confirmed very soon these shrewd guesses; and Sir Walter anticipated nothing but good from the Premiership of the Duke of Wellington.--_Life_, vol. ix. p. 188.
 The Rev. Thomas Wright was minister of Borthwick from 1817 to 1841, when he was deposed on the ground of alleged heresy. His works, _The True Plan of a Living Temple_, _Morning and Evening Sacrifice_, _Farewell to Time_, _My Old House_, etc., were published anonymously. Mr. Wright lived in Edinburgh for fourteen years after his deposition, much beloved and respected; he died on 13th March 1855 in his seventy-first year.
 Rev. John Clunie, Mr. Wright's predecessor in the parish, of whom, many absurd stories were told, appears to have been an enthusiastic lover of Scottish songs, as Burns in 1794 says it was owing to his singing _Ca' the yowes to the knowes_ so charmingly that he took it down from his voice, and sent it to Mr. Thomson.--Currie's _Burns_, vol. iv. p. 100, and Chambers's _Scottish Songs_, 2 vols. Edin. 1829, p. 269.
 See Burns's "Auld Farmer's New-year Salutation."
 "Mount Benger," of which Hogg had taken a lease on his marriage, in 1820, and found that he could not make it pay.
 The first series had just been published under the following title: _Tales of a Grandfather, being stories taken from Scottish History_. Humbly inscribed to Hugh Littlejohn, Esq., in three volumes. Printed for Cadell and Co., Edinburgh, Simpkin and Marshall, London, and John Cumming, Dublin, 1828.
 During Sir Walter's illness in 1818-19 Mr. Skene was with him at Abbotsford, and he records a curious incident regarding Dryburgh which may be given here:--"For nearly two years he had to struggle for his life with that severe illness, which the natural strength of his constitution at length proved sufficient to throw off. With its disappearance, although restored to health, disappeared also much of his former vigour of body, activity, and power of undergoing fatigue, while in personal appearance he had advanced twenty years in the downward course of life; his hair had become bleached to pure white and scanty locks; the fire of his eye quenched; and his step, more uncertain, had lost the vigorous swinging gait with which he was used to proceed; in fact, old age had by many years anticipated its usual progress and marked how severely he had suffered. The complaint, that of gall-stones, was one of extreme bodily suffering. During his severest attack he had been alone at Abbotsford with his daughter Sophia, before her marriage to Mr. Lockhart, and had sent to say that he was desirous I should come to him, which I did, and remained for ten days till the attack had subsided. During its course the extreme violence of the pain end spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the stomach were such that I scarcely expected the powers of endurance could sustain him through the trial, and so much at times was he exhausted by it as to leave us in alarm as to what the result had actually been. One night I shall not soon forget: he had been frequently and severely ill during the day, and having been summoned to his room in the middle of the night, where his daughter was already standing, the picture of deep despair, at his bed-side, the attack seemed intense, and we followed the directions left by the physician to assuage it. At length it seemed to subside, and he fell back exhausted on the pillow, his eyes were closed, and his countenance wan and livid. Apparently with corresponding misgivings, his daughter at one side of the bed and I at the other gazed for some time intently and in silence on his countenance, and then glanced with anxious inquiring looks to each other, till, at length, having placed my finger on his pulse, to ascertain whether it had actually ceased to throb, I shall never forget the sudden beam which again brightened his daughter's countenance, and for a moment dispelled the intense expression of anxiety which had for some time overspread it, when Sir Walter, aware of my feeling his pulse, and the probable purpose, whispered, with a faint voice, but without opening his eyes, 'I am not _yet_ gone.' After some time he revived, and gave us a proof of the mastery of his mind over the sufferings of the body. 'Do you recollect,' he said to me, 'a small round turret near the gate of the Monastery of Aberbrothwick, and placed so as to overhang the street?' Upon answering that I did perfectly, and that a picturesque little morsel it was, he said, 'Well, I was over there when a mob had assembled, excited by some purpose, which I do not recollect, but failing of their original intention, they took umbrage at the little venerable emblem of aristocracy, which still bore its weather-stained head so conspicuously aloft, and, resolving to humble it with the dust, they got a stout hawser from a vessel in the adjoining harbour, which a sailor lad, climbing up, coiled round the body of the little turret, and the rabble seizing the rope by both ends tugged and pulled, and laboured long to strangle and overthrow the poor old turret, but in vain, for it withstood all their endeavours. Now that is exactly the condition of my poor stomach: there is a rope twisted round it, and the malicious devils are straining and tugging at it, and, faith, I could almost think that I sometimes hear them shouting and cheering each other to their task, and when they are at it I always have the little turret and its tormentors before my eyes.' He complained that particular ideas fixed themselves down upon his mind, which he had not the power of shaking off; but this was, in fact, the obvious consequence of the quantity of laudanum which it was necessary for him to swallow to allay the spasms.
"After he had got some repose, and had become rather better in the morning, he said, with a smile on his countenance, 'If you will promise not to laugh at me I have a favour to ask. Do you know I have taken a childish desire to see the place where I am to be laid when I go home, which there is some probability may not now be long delayed. Now, as I cannot go to Dryburgh Abbey--that is out of the question at present--it would give me much pleasure if you would take a ride down and bring me a drawing of that spot, which he minutely described the position of, and mentioned the exact point where he wished it drawn, that the site of his future grave might appear. His wish was accordingly complied with."--_Reminiscences_.
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