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

January 1828

    "As I walked by myself,
    I talked to myself,
    And thus myself said to me."

January 1.--Since the 20th November 1825, for two months that is, and two years, I have kept this custom of a diary. That it has made me wiser or better I dare not say, but it shows by its progress that I am capable of keeping a resolution. Perhaps I should not congratulate myself on this; perhaps it only serves to show I am more a man of method and less a man of originality, and have no longer that vivacity of fancy that is inconsistent with regular labour. Still, should this be the case, I should, having lost the one, be happy to find myself still possessed of the other.

January 2.--_Cæcæ mentes hominum_.--My last entry records my punctuality in keeping up my diary hitherto; my present labour, commenced notwithstanding the date, upon the 9th January, is to make up my little record betwixt the second and that latter date. In a word, I have been several days in arrear without rhyme or reason,--days too when there was so little to write down that the least jotting would have done it. This must not be in future.

January 3.--Our friends begin to disperse. Mrs. Ellis, who has been indisposed for the last two days, will I hope bear her journey to London well. She is the relict of my dear old friend George Ellis,[109] who had more wit, learning, and knowledge of the world than would fit out twenty _literati_. The Hardens remained to-day, and I had a long walk with the laird up the Glen, and so forth. He seemed a little tired, and, with all due devotion to my Chief, I was not sorry to triumph over some one in point of activity at my time of day.

January 4.--Visited by Mr. Stewart of Dalguise, who came to collect materials for a description of Abbotsford, to be given with a drawing in a large work, _Views of Gentlemen's Seats._ Mr. Stewart is a well-informed gentleman-like young man, grave and quiet, yet possessed of a sense of humour. I must take care he does not in civility over-puff my little assemblage of curiosities. Scarce anything can be meaner than the vanity which details the contents of China closets,--basins, ewers, and chamberpots. Horace Walpole, with all his talents, makes a silly figure when he gives an upholsterer's catalogue of his goods and chattels at Strawberry Hill.

January 5.--This day I began to review Taschereau's _Life of Molière_ for Mr. Gillies, who is crying help for God's sake. Messrs. Treuttel and Wurtz offer guerdon. I shall accept, because it is doing Gillies no good to let him have my labour for nothing, and an article is about £100. In my pocket it may form a fund to help this poor gentleman or others at a pinch; in his, I fear it would only encourage a neglect of sober economy. When in his prosperity he asked me whether there was not, in my opinion, something interesting in a man of genius being in embarrassed circumstances. God knows he has had enough of them since, poor fellow; and it should be remembered that if he thus dallied with his good fortune, his benevolence to others was boundless.

We had the agreeable intelligence of Sophia being safely delivered of a girl; the mother and child doing well. Praised be God!

January 6.--I have a letter from the Duke of Wellington, making no promises, but assuring me of a favourable consideration of Walter's case, should an opening occur for the majority. This same _step_ is represented as the most important, but so in their time were the lieutenancy and the troop. Each in its turn was _the_ step _par excellence_. It appears that these same steps are those of a treadmill, where the party is always ascending and never gains the top. But the same simile would suit most pursuits in life.

The Misses Kerr left us on Friday--two charming young persons, well-looked, well-mannered, and well-born; above all, well-principled. They sing together in a very delightful manner, and our evenings are the duller without them.

I am annoyed beyond measure with the idle intrusion of voluntary correspondents; each man who has a pen, ink, and sheet of foolscap to spare, flies a letter at me. I believe the postage costs me £100 [a year], besides innumerable franks; and all the letters regard the writer's own hopes or projects, or are filled with unasked advice or extravagant requests. I think this evil increases rather than diminishes. On the other hand, I must fairly own that I have received many communications in this way worth all the trouble and expense that the others cost me, so I must "lay the head of the sow to the tail of the grice," as the proverb elegantly expresses itself.

News again of Sophia and baby. Mrs. Hughes thinks the infant a beauty. Johnnie opines that it is not _very_ pretty, and grandpapa supposes it to be like other new-born children, which are as like as a basket of oranges.

January 7.--Wrought at the review, and finished a good lot of it. Mr. Stewart left us, amply provided with the history of Abbotsford and its contents. It is a kind of Conundrum Castle to be sure, and I have great pleasure in it, for while it pleases a fantastic person in the style and manner of its architecture and decoration, it has all the comforts of a commodious habitation.

Besides the review, I have been for this week busily employed in revising for the press the _Tales of a Grandfather_. Cadell rather wished to rush it out by employing three different presses, but this _I repressed_ (smoke the pun!). I will not have poor James Ballantyne driven off the plank to which we are all three clinging.[110] I have made great additions to volume first, and several of these _Tales_; and I care not who knows it, I think well of them. Nay, I will hash history with anybody, be he who he will.[111] I do not know but it would be wise to let romantic composition rest, and turn my mind to the history of England, France, and Ireland, to be _da capo rota'd,_ as well as that of Scotland. Men would laugh at me as an author for Mr. Newbery's shop in Paul's Churchyard. I should care little for that. _Virginibus puerisque._ I would as soon compose histories for boys and girls, which may be useful, as fictions for children of a larger growth, which can at best be only idle folk's entertainment. But write what I will, or to whom I will, I am doggedly determined to write myself out of the present scrape by any labour that is fair and honest.

January 8.--Despatched my review (in part), and in the morning walked from Chiefswood, all about the shearing flats, and home by the new walk, which I have called the Bride's Walk, because Jane was nearly stuck fast in the bog there, just after her marriage, in the beginning of 1825.

My post brings serious intelligence to-day, and of a very pleasing description. Longman and Company, with a reserve which marks all their proceedings, suddenly inform Mr. Gibson that they desire 1000 of the 8vo edition of _St. Ronan's Well,_ and the subsequent series of Novels thereunto belonging, for that they have only _seven_ remaining, and wish it to be sent to their printers, and pushed out in three months. Thus this great house, without giving any previous notice of the state of the sale, expect all to be boot and saddle, horse and away, whenever they give the signal. In the present case this may do, because I will make neither alteration nor addition till our grand _opus_, the Improved Edition, goes to press. But ought we to go to press with this 1000 copies knowing that our project will supersede and render equivalent to waste paper such of them as may not reach the public before our plan is publicly known and begins to operate? I have, I acknowledge, doubt as to this. No doubt I feel perfectly justified in letting Longman and Co. look to their own interest, since they have neither consulted me nor attended to mine. But the loss might extend to the retail booksellers; and to hurt the men through whom my works are ultimately to find their way to the public would be both unjust and impolitic. On the contrary, if the _St. Ronan_ Series be hurried out immediately, there is time enough perhaps to sell it off before the Improved Edition appears. In the meantime it appears that the popularity of these works is increasing rather than diminishing, that the measure of securing the copyrights was most judicious, and that, with proper management, things will work themselves round. Successful first editions are good, but they require exertion and imply fresh risk of reputation. But repeated editions tell only to the agreeable part of literature.[112]

Longman and Company have also at length opened their oracular jaws on the subject of _Bonaparte_, and acknowledged its rapid sale, and the probable exhaustion of the present edition.

These tidings, with the success of the _Tales_, "speak of Africa and golden joys."[113] But the tidings arriving after dinner rather discomposed me. In the evening I wrote to Cadell and Ballantyne at length, proposing a meeting at my house on Tuesday first, to hold a privy council.

January 9.--My first reflection was on Napoleon. I will not be hurried in my corrections of that work; and that I may not be so, I will begin them the instant that I have finished the review. It makes me tremble to think of the mass of letters I have to look through in order to select all those which affect the subject of _Napoleon_, and which, in spite of numerous excellent resolutions, I have never separated from the common file from which they are now to be selected. Confound them! but they _are_ confounded already. Indolence is a delightful indulgence, but at what a rate we purchase it! To-day we go to Mertoun, and having spent some time in making up my Journal to this length, and in a chat with Captain John, who dropped in, I will presently set to the review--knock it off, if possible, before we start at five o'clock. To-morrow, when I return, we will begin the disagreeable task of a thorough rummage of papers, books, and documents. My character as a man of letters, and as a man of honour, depends on my making that work as correct as possible. It has succeeded, notwithstanding every effort here and in France[114] to put it down, and it shall not lose ground for want of backing. We went to dine and pass the night at Mertoun, where we met Sir John Pringle, Mr. and Mrs. Baillie Mellerstain, and their daughters.

January 10.--When I rose this morning the weather was changed and the ground covered with snow. I am sure it's winter fairly. We returned from Mertoun after breakfast through an incipient snowstorm, coming on partially, and in great flakes, the sun bursting at intervals through the clouds. At last _Die Wolken laufen zusammen_. We made a slow journey of it through the swollen river and heavy roads, but here we are at last.

I am rather sorry we expect friends to-day, though these friends be the good Fergusons. I have a humour for work, to which the sober, sad uniformity of a snowy day always particularly disposes me, and I am sure I will get poor Gillies off my hand, at least if I had morning and evening. Then I would set to work with arranging everything for these second editions of _Napoleon, The Romances_, etc., which must be soon got afloat. I must say "the wark gangs bonnily on."[115] Well, I will ring for coals, mend my pen, and try what can be done.

I wrought accordingly on Gillies's review for the _Life of Molière_, a gallant subject. I am only sorry I have not time to do it justice. It would have required a complete re-perusal of his works, for which, alas! I have no leisure. Which is too literally my own case.

January 11.--Renewed my labour, finished the review, _talis qualis_, and sent it off. Commenced then my infernal work of putting to rights. Much cry and little woo', as the deil said when he shore the sow. But I have detected one or two things that had escaped me, and may do more to-morrow. I observe by a letter from Mr. Cadell that I had somewhat misunderstood his last. It is he, not Longman, that wishes to publish the thousand copies of _St. Ronan's_ Series, and there is no immediate call for _Napoleon_. This makes little difference in my computation. The pressing necessity of correction is put off for two or three months probably, and I have time to turn myself to the _Chronicles_. I do not much like the task, but when did I ever like labour of any kind? My hands were fully occupied to-day with writing letters and adjusting papers--both a great bore.

The news from London assure a change of Ministry. The old Tories come in play. But I hope they will compromise nothing. There is little danger since Wellington takes the lead.

January 12.--My expenses have been considerably more than I expected; but I think that, having done so much, I need not undergo the mortification of giving up Abbotsford and parting with my old habits and servants.[116]

January 13, [Edinburgh].--We had a slow and tiresome retreat from Abbotsford through the worst of weather, half-sleet, half-snow. Dined with the Royal Society Club, and, being an anniversary, sat till nine o'clock, instead of half-past seven.

January 14.--I read Cooper's new novel, _The Red Rover_; the current of it rolls entirely upon the ocean. Something there is too much of nautical language; in fact, it overpowers everything else. But, so people once take an interest in a description, they will swallow a great deal which they do not understand. The sweet word "Mesopotamia" has its charm in other compositions as well as in sermons. He has much genius, a powerful conception of character, and force of execution. The same ideas, I see, recur upon him that haunt other folks. The graceful form of the spars, and the tracery of the ropes and cordage against the sky, is too often dwelt upon.

January 15.--This day the Court sat down. I missed my good friend Colin Mackenzie, who proposes to retire, from indifferent health. A better man never lived--eager to serve every one--a safeguard over all public business which came through his hands. As Deputy-Keeper of the Signet he will be much missed. He had a patience in listening to every one which is of the [highest consequence] in the management of a public body; for many men care less to gain their point than they do to play the orator, and be listened to for a certain time. This done, and due quantity of personal consideration being gained, the individual orator is usually satisfied with the reasons of the civil listener, who has suffered him to enjoy his hour of consequence. I attended the Court, but there was very little for me to do. The snowy weather has annoyed my fingers with chilblains, and I have a threatening of rheumatism--which Heaven avert!

James Ballantyne and Mr. Cadell dined with me to-day and talked me into a good humour with my present task, which I had laid aside in disgust. It must, however, be done, though I am loth to begin to it again.

January 16.--Again returned early, and found my way home with some difficulty. The weather--a black frost powdered with snow, my fingers suffering much and my knee very stiff. When I came home, I set to work, but not to the _Chronicles_. I found a less harassing occupation in correcting a volume or two of _Napoleon_ in a rough way. My indolence, if I can call it so, is of a capricious kind. It never makes me absolutely idle, but very often inclines me--as it were from mere contradiction's sake--to exchange the task of the day for something which I am not obliged to do at the moment, or perhaps not at all.

January 17.--My knee so swelled and the weather so cold that I stayed from Court. I nibbled for an hour or two at _Napoleon_, then took handsomely to my gear, and wrote with great ease and fluency six pages of the _Chronicles_. If they are but tolerable I shall be satisfied. In fact, such as they are, they must do, for I shall get warm as I work, as has happened on former occasions. The fact is, I scarce know what is to succeed or not; but this is the consequence of writing too much and too often. I must get some breathing space. But how is that to be managed? There is the rub.

January 18-19.--Remained still at home, and wrought hard. The fountain trickles free enough, but God knows whether the waters will be worth drinking. However, I have finished a good deal of hard work,--that's the humour of it.

January 20.--Wrought hard in the forenoon. At dinner we had Helen Erskine,--whom circumstances lead to go to India in search of the domestic affection which she cannot find here,--Mrs. George Swinton, and two young strangers: one, a son of my old friend Dr. Stoddart of the _Times_, a well-mannered and intelligent youth, the other that unnatural character, a tame Irishman, resembling a formal Englishman.

January 21.--This morning I sent J.B. as far as page forty-three, being fully two-thirds of the volume. The rest I will drive on, trusting that, contrary to the liberated posthorse in John Gilpin, the lumber of the wheels rattling behind me may put spirit in the poor brute who has to drag it.

Mr. and Mrs. Moscheles were here at breakfast. She is a very pretty little Jewess; he one of the greatest performers on the pianoforte of the day,--certainly most surprising and, what I rather did not expect, pleasing.

I have this day the melancholy news of Glengarry's death, and was greatly shocked. The eccentric parts of his character, the pretensions which he supported with violence and assumption of rank and authority, were obvious subjects of censure and ridicule, which in some points were not undeserved. He played the part of a chieftain too nigh the life to be popular among an altered race, with whom he thought, felt, and acted, I may say in right and wrong, as a chieftain of a hundred years since would have done, while his conduct was viewed entirely by modern eyes, and tried by modern rules.[117]

January 22.--I am, I find, in serious danger of losing the habit of my Journal; and, having carried it on so long, that would be pity. But I am now, on the 1st February, fishing for the lost recollections of the days since the 21st January. Luckily there is not very much to remember or forget, and perhaps the best way would be to skip and go on.

January 23.--Being a Teind day, I had a good opportunity of work. I should have said I had given breakfast on the 21st to Mr. and Mrs. Moscheles; she a beautiful young creature, "and one that adores me," as Sir Toby says,[118]--that is, in my poetical capacity;--in fact, a frank and amiable young person. I liked Mr. Moscheles' playing better than I could have expected, considering my own bad ear. But perhaps I flatter myself, and think I understood it better than I did. Perhaps I have not done myself justice, and know more of music than I thought I did. But it seems to me that his variations have a more decided style of originality than those I have commonly heard, which have all the signs of a _da capo rota_.

Dined at Sir Archibald Campbell's,[119] and drank rather more wine than usual in a sober way. To be sure, it was excellent, and some old acquaintances proved a good excuse for the glass.

January 24.--I took a perverse fit to-day, and went off to write notes, et cetera, on _Guy Mannering_. This was perverse enough; but it was a composition between humour and duty; and as such, let it pass.

January 25.--I went on working, sometimes at my legitimate labours, sometimes at my jobs of Notes, but still working faithfully, in good spirits, and contented.

Huntly Gordon has disposed of the two sermons[120] to the bookseller Colburn for £250--well sold, I think--and is to go forth immediately. The man is a puffing quack; but though I would rather the thing had not gone there, and far rather that it had gone nowhere, yet, hang it! if it makes the poor lad easy, what needs I fret about it? After all, there would be little gain in doing a kind thing, if you did not suffer pain or inconvenience upon the score.

January 26.--Being Saturday, attended Mr. Moscheles' concert, and was amused; the more so that I had Mrs. M. herself to flirt a little with. To have so much beauty as she really possesses, and to be accomplished and well-read, she is an unaffected and pleasant person. Mr. Moscheles gives lessons at two guineas by the hour, and he has actually found scholars in this poor country. One of them at least (Mrs. John Murray) may derive advantage from his instructions; for I observe his mode of fingering is very peculiar, as he seems to me to employ the fingers of the same hand in playing the melody and managing the bass at the same time, which is surely most uncommon.

I presided at the Celtic Society's dinner to-day, and proposed Glengarry's memory, which, although there had been a rough dispute with the Celts and the poor Chief, was very well received. I like to see men think and bear themselves like men. There were fewer in the tartan than usual--which was wrong.

January 27.--Wrought manfully at the _Chronicles_ all this day and have nothing to jot down; only I forgot that I lost my lawsuit some day last week or the week before. The fellow therefore gets his money, plack and bawbee, but it's always a troublesome claim settled,[121] and there can be no other of the same kind, as every other creditor has accepted the composition of _7s._ in the £, which my exertions have enabled me to pay them. About £20,000 of the fund had been created by my own exertions since the bankruptcy took place, and I had a letter from Donald Horne, by commission of the creditors, to express their sense of my exertions in their behalf. All this is consolatory.

January 28.--I am in the scrape of sitting for my picture, and had to repair for two hours to-day to Mr. Colvin Smith--Lord Gillies's nephew. The Chief Baron[122] had the kindness to sit with me great part of the time, as the Chief Commissioner had done on a late occasion. The picture is for the Chief Commissioner, and the Chief Baron desires a copy. I trust it will he a good one. At home in the evening, and wrote. I am well on before the press, notwithstanding late hours, lassitude, and laziness. I have read Cooper's _Prairie_--better, I think, than his _Red Rover_, in which you never get foot on shore, and to understand entirely the incidents of the story it requires too much knowledge of nautical language. It's very clever, though.[123]

January 29.--This day at the Court, and wrote letters at home, besides making a visit or two--rare things with me. I have an invitation from Messrs Saunders and Otley, booksellers, offering me from £1500 to £2000 annually to conduct a journal; but I am their humble servant. I am too indolent to stand to that sort of work, and I must preserve the undisturbed use of my leisure, and possess my soul in quiet. A large income is not my object; I must clear my debts; and that is to be done by writing things of which I can retain the property. Made my excuses accordingly.

January 30.--After Court hours I had a visit from Mr. Charles Heath, the engraver, accompanied by a son of Reynolds the dramatist. His object was to engage me to take charge as editor of a yearly publication called _The Keepsake,_ of which the plates are beyond comparison beautiful, but the letter-press indifferent enough. He proposed £800 a year if I would become editor, and £400 if I would contribute from seventy to one hundred pages. I declined both, but told him I might give him some trifling thing or other, and asked the young men to breakfast the next day. Worked away in the evening and completed, "in a way and in a manner," the notes on _Guy Mannering_. The first volume of the _Chronicles_ is now in Ballantyne's hands, all but a leaf or two. Am I satisfied with my exertions? So so. Will the public be pleased with them? Umph! I doubt the bubble will burst. While it is current, however, it is clear I should stand by it. Each novel of three volumes brings £4000, and I remain proprietor of the mine when the first ore is cropped out. This promises a good harvest, from what we have experienced. Now, to become a stipendiary editor of a New-Year's Gift-Book is not to be thought of, nor could I agree to work for any quantity of supply to such a publication. Even the pecuniary view is not flattering, though these gentlemen meant it should be so. But one hundred of their close-printed pages, for which they offer £400, is not nearly equal to one volume of a novel, for which I get £1300, and have the reversion of the copyright. No, I may give them a trifle for nothing, or sell them an article for a round price, but no permanent engagement will I make. Being the Martyrdom, there was no Court. I wrought away with what appetite I could.

January 31.--I received the young gentlemen to breakfast and expressed my resolution, which seemed to disappoint them, as perhaps they expected I should have been glad of such an offer. However, I have since thought there are these rejected parts of the _Chronicles_, which Cadell and Ballantyne criticised so severely, which might well enough make up a trifle of this kind, and settle the few accounts which, will I nill I, have crept in this New Year. So I have kept the treaty open. If I give them 100 pages I should expect £500.

I was late at the Court and had little time to write any till after dinner, and then was not in the vein; so commentated.



[109] To whom Scott addressed the fifth canto of _Marmion_.

[110] See letter to R. Cadell, _Life_, vol. ix. p. 209.

[111] "The first _Tales of a Grandfather_ [as has already been said] appeared early in December, and their reception was more rapturous than that of any one of his works since _Ivanhoe_. He had solved for the first time the problem of narrating history, so as at once to excite and gratify the curiosity of youth, and please and instruct the wisest of mature minds. The popularity of the book has grown with every year that has since elapsed; it is equally prized in the library, the boudoir, the schoolroom, and the nursery; it is adopted as the happiest of manuals, not only in Scotland, but wherever the English tongue is spoken; nay, it is to be seen in the hands of old and young all over the civilised world, and has, I have little doubt, extended the knowledge of Scottish history in quarters where little or no interest had ever before been awakened as to any other parts of that subject except those immediately connected with Mary Stuart and the Chevalier."--_Life_, vol. ix. pp. 186-7.

[112] It may be remarked at this point how the value of these works has been sustained by the public demand during the term of legal copyright and since that date. That of _Waverley_ expired in 1856, and the others at forty-two years from the date of publication.

On December 19, 1827, the copyright of the Novels from _Waverley_ to _Quentin Durward_ was acquired, as mentioned in the text, for £8400 as a joint purchase. Five years later, viz., in 1832, Mr. Cadell purchased from Sir Walter's representatives, for about £40,000, the author's share in stock and entire copyrights!

Nineteen years afterwards, viz., on the 26th March 1851 (after Mr. Cadell's death), the stock and copyrights were exposed for sale by auction in London, regarding which a Trade Journal of the date says--

"Mr. Hodgson offered for sale the whole of the copyrights of Sir Walter Scott's works, including stereotypes, steels, woodcuts, etc., to a very large meeting of the publishers of this country. After one or two of our leading firms had retired from the contest, the lot was bought in for, we believe, £15,500. This sum did not include the stock on hand, valued at £10,000. However, the fact is that the Trustees have virtually refused £25,000 for the stock, copyrights, etc., of Scott's works."

Messrs. A. & C. Black in 1851 purchased the property at nearly the same price, viz.:--Copyright, £17,000; stock, £10,000--in all, £27,000. Mr. Francis Black, who has kindly given me information regarding the sale of these works, tells me that of the volumes of one of the cheaper issues about three millions have been sold since 1851. This, of course, is independent of other publishers' editions in Great Britain, the Continent, and America.

[113] In _Henry IV._, Act v. Sc. 3.

[114] In an interesting letter to Scott from Fenimore Cooper, dated Sept. 12th, 1827, he tells him "that the French abuse you a little, but as they began to do this, to my certain knowledge, five months before the book was published, you have no great reason to regard their criticism.

It would be impossible to write the truth on such a subject and please this nation. One frothy gentleman denounced you in my presence as having a low, vulgar style, very much such an one as characterised the pen of Shakespeare!"

[115] A proverb having its rise from an exclamation made by Mr. David Dick, a Covenanter, on witnessing the execution of some of Montrose's followers.--Wishart's _Montrose_, quoting from Guthrie's _Memoirs_, p. 182.

[116] Scott's biographer records his admiration for the manner in which all his dependants met the reverse of their master's fortunes. The butler, instead of being the easy chief of a large establishment, was now doing half the work of the house at probably half his former wages. Old Peter, who had been for five-and-twenty years a dignified coachman, was now ploughman in ordinary; only putting his horses to the carriage on high and rare occasions; and so on with all that remained of the ancient train, and all seemed happier.

[117] _Ante_, vol. i. p. 120.

[118] _Twelfth Night_, Act II. Sc. 3.

[119] Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth. He lived at 1 Park Place.

[120] The circumstances under which these sermons were written are fully detailed in the _Life_, vol. ix. pp. 193, 206. They were issued in a thin octavo vol. under the title _Religious Discourses,_ by a Layman, with a short Preface signed W.S. There were more editions than one published during 1828.

[121] _Ante_, p. 65.

[122] Sir Samuel Shepherd.

[123] Mr. Cooper did not relax his efforts to secure Scott an interest in his works reprinted in America, but he was not successful, and he writes to Scott in the autumn of 1827: "This, sir, is a pitiful account of a project from which I expected something more just to you and creditable to my country."

Sir Walter Scott