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January 1826

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January 1.--A year has passed--another has commenced. These solemn divisions of time influence our feelings as they recur. Yet there is nothing in it; for every day in the year closes a twelvemonth as well as the 31st December. The latter is only the solemn pause, as when a guide, showing a wild and mountainous road, calls on a party to pause and look back at the scenes which they have just passed. To me this new year opens sadly. There are these troublesome pecuniary difficulties, which however, I think, this week should end. There is the absence of all my children, Anne excepted, from our little family festival. There is, besides, that ugly report of the 15th Hussars going to India. Walter, I suppose, will have some step in view, and will go, and I fear Jane will not dissuade him.

A hard, frosty day--cold, but dry and pleasant under foot. Walked into the plantations with Anne and Anne Russell. A thought strikes me, alluding to this period of the year. People say that the whole human frame in all its parts and divisions is gradually in the act of decaying and renewing. What a curious timepiece it would be that could indicate to us the moment this gradual and insensible change had so completely taken place, that no atom was left of the original person who had existed at a certain period, but there existed in his stead another person having the same limbs, thews, and sinews, the same face and lineaments, the same consciousness--a new ship built on an old plank--a pair of transmigrated stockings, like those of Sir John Cutler,[107] all green silk, without one thread of the original black silk left! Singular--to be at once another and the same.

January 2.--Weather clearing up in Edinburgh once more, and all will, I believe, do well. I am pressed to get on with _Woodstock_, and must try. I wish I could open a good vein of interest which would breathe freely. I must take my old way, and write myself into good-humour with my task. It is only when I dally with what I am about, look back, and aside, instead of keeping my eyes straight forward, that I feel these cold sinkings of the heart. All men I suppose do, less or more. They are like the sensation of a sailor when the ship is cleared for action, and all are at their places--gloomy enough; but the first broadside puts all to rights. Dined at Huntly Burn with the Fergusons _en masse_.

January 3.--Promises a fair day, and I think the progress of my labours will afford me a little exercise, which I greatly need to help off the calomel feeling. Walked with Colonel Russell from eleven till two--the first good day's exercise I have had since coming here. We went through all the Terrace, the Roman Planting,[108] over by the Stiel and Haxellcleuch, and so by the Rhymer's Glen to Chiefswood,[109] which gave my heart a twinge, so disconsolate it seemed. Yet all is for the best. Called at Huntly Burn, and shook hands with Sir Adam and his Lady just going off. When I returned, signed the bond for £10,000, which will disencumber me of all pressing claims;[110] when I get forward W----k and Nap. there will be £12,000 and upwards, and I hope to add £3000 against this time next year, or the devil must hold the dice. J.B. writes me seriously on the carelessness of my style. I do not think I am more careless than usual; but I dare say he is right. I will be more cautious.

January 4.--Despatched the deed yesterday executed. Mr. and Mrs. Skene, my excellent friends, came to us from Edinburgh. Skene, distinguished for his attainments as a draughtsman, and for his highly gentlemanlike feelings and character, is Laird of Rubislaw, near Aberdeen. Having had an elder brother, his education was somewhat neglected in early life, against which disadvantage he made a most gallant [fight], exerting himself much to obtain those accomplishments which he has since possessed. Admirable in all exercises, there entered a good deal of the cavalier into his early character. Of late he has given himself much to the study of antiquities. His wife, a most excellent person, was tenderly fond of Sophia. They bring so much old-fashioned kindness and good-humour with them, besides the recollections of other times, that they must be always welcome guests. Letter from Mr. Scrope,[111] announcing a visit.

January 5.--Got the desired accommodation with Coutts, which will put J.B. quite straight, but am a little anxious still about Constable. He has immense stock, to be sure, and most valuable, but he may have sacrifices to make to convert a large proportion of it into ready money. The accounts from London are most disastrous. Many wealthy persons totally ruined, and many, many more have been obliged to purchase their safety at a price they will feel all their lives. I do not hear things are so bad in Edinburgh; and J.B.'s business has been transacted by the banks with liberality.

Colonel Russell told us last night that the last of the Moguls, a descendant of Kubla-Khan, though having no more power than his effigies at the back of a set of playing-cards, refused to meet Lord Hastings, because the Governor-General would not agree to remain standing in his presence. Pretty well for the blood of Timur in these degenerate days!

Much alarmed. I had walked till twelve with Skene and Col. Russell, and then sat down to my work. To my horror and surprise I could neither write nor spell, but put down one word for another, and wrote nonsense. I was much overpowered at the same time, and could not conceive the reason. I fell asleep, however, in my chair, and slept for two hours. On waking my head was clearer, and I began to recollect that last night I had taken the anodyne left for the purpose by Clarkson, and being disturbed in the course of the night, I had not slept it off.

Obliged to give up writing to-day--read Pepys instead. The Scotts of Harden were to have dined, but sent an apology,--storm coming on. Russells left us this morning to go to Haining.

January 6.--This seems to be a feeding storm, coming on by little and little. Wrought all day, and dined quiet. My disorder is wearing off, and the quiet society of the Skenes suits with my present humour. I really thought I was in for some very bad illness. Curious expression of an Indian-born boy just come from Bengal, a son of my cousin George Swinton. The child saw a hare run across the fields, and exclaimed, "See, there is a little tiger!"

January 7, Sunday--Knight, a young artist, son of the performer, came to paint my picture at the request of Terry. This is very far from being agreeable, as I submitted to this distressing state of constraint last year to Newton, at request of Lockhart; to Leslie at request of my American friend;[112] to Wilkie, for his picture of the King's arrival at Holyrood House; and some one besides. I am as tired of the operation as old Maida, who had been so often sketched that he got up and went away with signs of loathing whenever he saw an artist unfurl his paper and handle his brushes. But this young man is civil and modest; and I have agreed he shall sit in the room while I work, and take the best likeness he can, without compelling me into fixed attitudes or the yawning fatigues of an actual sitting. I think, if he has talent, he may do more my way than in the customary mode; at least I can't have the hang-dog look which the unfortunate Theseus has who is doomed to sit for what seems an eternity.[113]

I wrought till two o'clock--indeed till I was almost nervous with correcting and scribbling. I then walked, or rather was dragged, through the snow by Tom Purdie, while Skene accompanied. What a blessing there is in a man like Tom, whom no familiarity can spoil, whom you may scold and praise and joke with, knowing the quality of the man is unalterable in his love and reverence to his master. Use an ordinary servant in the same way and he will be your master in a month. We should thank God for the snow as well as summer flowers. This brushing exercise has put all my nerves into tone again, which were really jarred with fatigue until my very backbone seemed breaking. This comes of trying to do too much. J.B.'s news are as good as possible.--Prudence, prudence, and all will do excellently.

January 8.--Frost and snow still. Write to excuse myself from attending the funeral of my aunt, Mrs. Curle, which takes place to-morrow at Kelso. She was a woman of the old Sandy-Knowe breed, with the strong sense, high principle, and indifferent temper which belonged to my father's family. She lived with great credit on a moderate income, and, I believe, gave away a great deal of it.[114]

January 9.--Mathews the comedian and his son came to spend a day at Abbotsford. The last is a clever young man, with much of his father's talent for mimicry. Rather forward though.[115] Mr. Scrope also came out, which fills our house.

January 10.--Bodily health, the mainspring of the microcosm, seems quite restored. No more flinching or nervous fits, but the sound mind in the sound body. What poor things does a fever-fit or an overflowing of the bile make of the masters of creation!

The snow begins to fall thick this morning--

    "The landlord then aloud did say,
    As how he wished they would go away."
To have our friends shut up here would be rather too much of a good thing.

The day cleared up and was very pleasant. Had a good walk and looked at the curling. Mr. Mathews made himself very amusing in the evening. He has the good-nature to show his accomplishments without pressing, and without the appearance of feeling pain. On the contrary, I dare say he enjoys the pleasure he communicates.

January 11.--I got proof-sheets, in which it seems I have repeated a whole passage of history which had been told before. James is in an awful stew, and I cannot blame him; but then he should consider the _hyoscyamus_ which I was taking, and the anxious botheration about the money-market. However, as Chaucer says:--

    "There is na workeman
    That can bothe worken wel and hastilie;
    This must be done at leisure parfitly."[116]
January 12.--Mathews last night gave us a very perfect imitation of old Cumberland, who carried the poetic jealousy and irritability further than any man I ever saw. He was a great flatterer too, the old rogue. Will Erskine used to admire him. I think he wanted originality. A very high-bred man in point of manners in society.

My little artist, Knight, gets on better with his portrait--the features are, however, too pinched, I think.

Upon the whole, the days pass pleasantly enough--work till one or two, then an hour or two's walk in the snow, then lighter work, or reading. Late dinner, and singing or chat in the evening. Mathews has really all the will, as well as the talent, to be amusing. He confirms my idea of ventriloquism (which is an absurd word), as being merely the art of imitating sounds at a greater or less distance, assisted by some little points of trick to influence the imagination of the audience--the vulgar idea of a peculiar organisation (beyond fineness of ear and of utterance) is nonsense.

January 13.--Our party are about to disperse--

    "Like youthful steers unyoked, east, north, and south."[117]
I am not sorry, being one of those whom too much mirth always inclines to sadness. The missing so many of my own family, together with the serious inconveniences to which I have been exposed, gave me at present a desire to be alone. The Skenes return to Edinburgh, so does Mr. Scrope--_item_, the little artist; Mathews to Newcastle; his son to Liverpool. So _exeunt omnes._[118]

Mathews assures me that Sheridan was generally very dull in society, and sate sullen and silent, swallowing glass after glass, rather a hindrance than a help. But there was a time when he broke out with a resumption of what had been going on, done with great force, and generally attacking some person in the company, or some opinion which he had expressed. I never saw Sheridan but in large parties. He had a Bardolph countenance, with heavy features, but his eye possessed the most distinguished brilliancy. Mathews says it is very simple in Tom Moore to admire how Sheridan came by the means of paying the price of Drury Lane Theatre, when all the world knows he never paid it at all; and that Lacy, who sold it, was reduced to want by his breach of faith.[119] Dined quiet with Anne, Lady Scott, and Gordon.

January 14.--An odd mysterious letter from Constable, who is gone post to London, to put something to rights which is wrong betwixt them, their banker, and another moneyed friend. It strikes me to be that sort of letter which I have seen men write when they are desirous that their disagreeable intelligence should be rather apprehended than avowed. I thought he had been in London a fortnight ago, disposing of property to meet this exigence, and so I think he should. Well, I must have patience. But these terrors and frights are truly annoying. Luckily the funny people are gone, and I shall not have the task of grinning when I am serious enough. Dined as yesterday.

A letter from J.B. mentioning Constable's journey, but without expressing much, if any, apprehension. He knows C. well, and saw him before his departure, and makes no doubt of his being able easily to extricate whatever may be entangled. I will not, therefore, make myself uneasy. I can help doing so surely, if I will. At least, I have given up cigars since the year began, and have now no wish to return to the habit, as it is called. I see no reason why one should not be able to vanquish, with God's assistance, these noxious thoughts which foretell evil but cannot remedy it.

January 15.--Like yesterday, a hard frost. Thermometer at 10; water in my dressing-room frozen to flint; yet I had a fine walk yesterday, the sun dancing delightfully on "grim Nature's visage hoar."[120] Were it not the plague of being dragged along by another person, I should like such weather as well as summer; but having Tom Purdie to do this office reconciles me to it. _I cannot cleik with John_, as old Mrs. Mure [of Caldwell] used to say. I mean, that an ordinary menial servant thus hooked to your side reminds me of the twin bodies mentioned by Pitscottie, being two trunks on the same waist and legs. One died before the other, and remained a dead burden on the back of its companion.[121] Such is close union with a person whom you cannot well converse with, and whose presence is yet indispensable to your getting on. An actual companion, whether humble or your equal, is still worse. But Tom Purdie is just the thing, kneaded up between the friend and servant, as well as Uncle Toby's bowling-green between sand and clay. You are certain he is proud as well as patient under his burthen, and you are under no more constraint than with a pony. I must ride him to-day if the weather holds up. Meantime I will correct that curious fellow Pepys' Diary,--I mean the article I have made of it for the _Quarterly_.

Edinburgh, January 16.--Came through cold roads to as cold news. Hurst and Robinson have suffered a bill of £1000 to come back upon Constable, which I suppose infers the ruin of both houses. We shall soon see. Constable, it seems, who was to have set off in the last week of December, dawdled here till in all human probability his going or staying became a matter of mighty little consequence. He could not be there till Monday night, and his resources must have come too late. Dined with the Skenes.[122]

January 17.--James Ballantyne this morning--good honest fellow, with a visage as black as the crook.[123] He hopes no salvation; has indeed taken measures to stop. It is hard, after having fought such a battle. Have apologised for not attending the Royal Society Club, who have a _gaudeamus_ on this day, and seemed to count much on my being the preses.

My old acquaintance, Miss Elizabeth Clerk, sister of Willie, died suddenly. I cannot choose but wish it had been S.W.S., and yet the feeling is unmanly. I have Anne, my wife, and Charles to look after. I felt rather sneaking as I came home from the Parliament House--felt as if I were liable _monstrari digito_ in no very pleasant way. But this must be borne _cum caeteris_; and, thank God, however uncomfortable, I do not feel despondent.

I have seen Cadell, Ballantyne, and Hogarth. All advise me to execute a trust of my property for payment of my obligations. So does John Gibson,[124] and so I resolve to do. My wife and daughter are gloomy, but yet patient. I trust by my hold on the works to make it every man's interest to be very gentle with me. Cadell makes it plain that by prudence they will, in six months, realise £20,000, which can be attainable by no effort of their own.

January 18.--He that sleeps too long in the morning, let him borrow the pillow of a debtor. So says the Spaniard, and so say I. I had of course an indifferent night of it. I wish these two days were over; but the worst _is_ over. The Bank of Scotland has behaved very well; expressing a resolution to serve Constable's house and me to the uttermost; but as no one can say to what extent Hurst and Robinson's failure may go, borrowing would but linger it out.

January 19.--During yesterday I received formal visits from my friends, Skene and Colin Mackenzie (who, I am glad to see, looks well), with every offer of service. The Royal Bank also sent Sir John Hope and Sir Henry Jardine[125] to offer to comply with my wishes. The Advocate came on the same errand. But I gave all the same answer--that my intention was to put the whole into the hands of a trustee, and to be contented with the event, and that all I had to ask was time to do so, and to extricate my affairs. I was assured of every accommodation in this way. From all quarters I have had the same kindness. Letters from Constable and Robinson have arrived. The last persist in saying they will pay all and everybody. They say, moreover, in a postscript, that had Constable been in town ten days sooner, all would have been well. When I saw him on 24th December, he proposed starting in three days, but dallied, God knows why, in a kind of infatuation, I think, till things had got irretrievably wrong. There would have been no want of support then, and his stock under his own management would have made a return immensely greater than it can under any other. _Now_ I fear the loss must be great, as his fall will involve many of the country dealers who traded with him.

I feel quite composed and determined to labour. There is no remedy. I _guess_ (as Mathews makes his Yankees say) that we shall not be troubled with visitors, and I _calculate_ that I will not go out at all; so what can I do better than labour? Even yesterday I went about making notes on _Waverley_, according to Constable's plan. It will do good one day. To-day, when I lock this volume, I go to W[oodstock]. Heigho!

Knight came to stare at me to complete his portrait. He must have read a tragic page, compared to what he saw at Abbotsford.[126]

We dined of course at home, and before and after dinner I finished about twenty printed pages of _Woodstock_, but to what effect others must judge. A painful scene after dinner, and another after supper, endeavouring to convince these poor dear creatures that they must not look for miracles, but consider the misfortune as certain, and only to be lessened by patience and labour.

January 20.--Indifferent night--very bilious, which may be want of exercise. A letter from Sir J. Sinclair, whose absurd vanity bids him thrust his finger into every man's pie, proposing that Hurst and Robinson should sell their prints, of which he says they have a large collection, by way of lottery like Boydell.

    "In scenes like these which break our heart
    Comes Punch, like you and----"
_Mais pourtant, cultivons notre jardin_. The public favour is my only lottery. I have long enjoyed the foremost prize, and something in my breast tells me my evil genius will not overwhelm me if I stand by myself. Why should I not? I have no enemies--many attached friends. The popular ascendency which I have maintained is of the kind which is rather improved by frequent appearances before the public. In fact, critics may say what they will, but "_hain_ your reputation, and _tyne_ your reputation," is a true proverb.[127]

Sir William Forbes called--the same kind, honest friend as ever, with all offers of assistance,[128] etc. etc. All anxious to serve me, and careless about their own risk of loss. And these are the cold, hard, money-making men whose questions and control I apprehended.

Lord Chief Commissioner Adam also came to see me, and the meeting, though pleasing, was melancholy. It is the first time we have met since the _break up_ of his hopes in the death of his eldest son on his return from India, where he was Chief in Council and highly esteemed.[129] The Commissioner is not a very early friend of mine, for I scarce knew him till his settlement in Scotland with his present office.[130] But I have since lived much with him, and taken kindly to him as one of the most pleasant, kind-hearted, benevolent, and pleasing men I have ever known. It is high treason among the Tories to express regard for him, or respect for the Jury Court in which he presides. I was against that experiment as much as any one. But it is an experiment, and the establishment (which the fools will not perceive) is the only thing which I see likely to give some prospects of ambition to our bar, which has been otherwise so much diminished. As for the Chief Commissioner, I dare say he jobs, as all other people of consequence do, in elections, and so forth. But he is the personal friend of the King, and the decided enemy of whatever strikes at the constitutional rights of the Monarch. Besides, I love him for the various changes which he has endured through life, and which have been so great as to make him entitled to be regarded in one point of view as the most fortunate--in the other, the most unfortunate--man in the world. He has gained and lost two fortunes by the same good luck, and the same rash confidence, which raised, and now threatens, my _peculium_. And his quiet, honourable, and generous submission under circumstances more painful than mine,--for the loss of world's wealth was to him aggravated by the death of his youngest and darling son in the West Indies,--furnished me at the time and now with a noble example. So the Tories and Whigs may go be d----d together, as names that have disturbed old Scotland, and torn asunder the most kindly feelings since the first day they were invented. Yes, ----- them, they are spells to rouse all our angry passions, and I dare say, notwithstanding the opinion of my private and calm moments, I will open on the cry again so soon as something occurs to chafe my mood; and yet, God knows, I would fight in honourable contest with word or blow for my political opinions; but I cannot permit that strife to "mix its waters with my daily meal," those waters of bitterness which poison all mutual love and confidence betwixt the well-disposed on either side, and prevent them, if need were, from making mutual concessions and balancing the constitution against the ultras of both parties. The good man seems something broken by these afflictions.

January 21.--Susannah in _Tristram Shandy_ thinks death is best met in bed. I am sure trouble and vexation are not. The watches of the night pass wearily when disturbed by fruitless regrets and disagreeable anticipations. But let it pass.

    "Well, Goodman Time, or blunt, or keen,
    Move thou quick, or take thy leisure,
    Longest day will have its e'en,
    Weariest life but treads a measure."
I have seen Cadell, who is very much downcast for the risk of their copyrights being thrown away by a hasty sale. I suggested that if they went very cheap, some means might be fallen on to keep up their value or purchase them in. I fear the split betwixt Constable and Cadell will render impossible what might otherwise be hopeful enough. It is the Italian race-horses, I think, which, instead of riders, have spurs tied to their sides, so as to prick them into a constant gallop. Cadell tells me their gross profit was sometimes £10,000 a year, but much swallowed up with expenses, and his partner's draughts, which came to £4000 yearly. What there is to show for this, God knows. Constable's apparent expenses were very much within bounds.

Colin Mackenzie entered, and with his usual kindness engages to use his influence to recommend some moderate proceeding to Constable's creditors, such as may permit him to go on and turn that species of property to account, which no man alive can manage so well as he.

Followed Mr. Gibson with a most melancholy tale. Things are so much worse with Constable than I apprehended that I shall neither save Abbotsford nor anything else. Naked we entered the world, and naked we leave it--blessed be the name of the Lord!

January 22.--I feel neither dishonoured nor broken down by the bad--now really bad news I have received. I have walked my last on the domains I have planted--sate the last time in the halls I have built. But death would have taken them from me if misfortune had spared them. My poor people whom I loved so well! There is just another die to turn up against me in this run of ill-luck; _i.e._ if I should break my magic wand in the fall from this elephant, and lose my popularity with my fortune. Then _Woodstock_ and _Bony_ may both go to the paper-maker, and I may take to smoking cigars and drinking grog, or turn devotee, and intoxicate the brain another way. In prospect of absolute ruin, I wonder if they would let me leave the Court of Session. I would like, methinks, to go abroad,

    "And lay my bones far from the Tweed."
But I find my eyes moistening, and that will not do. I will not yield without a fight for it. It is odd, when I set myself to work _doggedly_, as Dr. Johnson would say, I am exactly the same man that I ever was, neither low-spirited nor _distrait_. In prosperous times I have sometimes felt my fancy and powers of language flag, but adversity is to me at least a tonic and bracer; the fountain is awakened from its inmost recesses, as if the spirit of affliction had troubled it in his passage.

Poor Mr. Pole the harper sent to offer me £500 or £600, probably his all.[131] There is much good in the world, after all. But I will involve no friend, either rich or poor. My own right hand shall do it--else will I be _done_ in the slang language, and _undone_ in common parlance.

I am glad that, beyond my own family, who are, excepting L.S., young and able to bear sorrow, of which this is the first taste to some of them, most of the hearts are past aching which would have once been inconsolable on this occasion. I do not mean that many will not seriously regret, and some perhaps lament, my misfortunes. But my dear mother, my almost sister, Christy R[utherfor]d,[132] poor Will Erskine--these would have been mourners indeed.

Well--exertion--exertion. O Invention, rouse thyself! May man be kind! May God be propitious! The worst is, I never quite know when I am right or wrong; and Ballantyne, who does know in some degree, will fear to tell me. Lockhart would be worth gold just now, but he too would be too diffident to speak broad out. All my hope is in the continued indulgence of the public. I have a funeral-letter to the burial of the Chevalier Yelin, a foreigner of learning and talent, who has died at the Royal Hotel. He wished to be introduced to me, and was to have read a paper before the Royal Society when this introduction was to have taken place. I was not at the Society that evening, and the poor gentleman was taken ill at the meeting and unable to proceed. He went to his bed and never rose again; and now his funeral will be the first public place I shall appear at. He dead, and I ruined; this is what you call a meeting.[133]

January 23.--Slept ill, not having been abroad these eight days--_splendida bilis_. Then a dead sleep in the morning, and when the awakening comes, a strong feeling how well I could dispense with it for once and for ever. This passes away, however, as better and more dutiful thoughts arise in my mind. I know not if my imagination has flagged; probably it has; but at least my powers of labour have not diminished during the last melancholy week. On Monday and Tuesday my exertions were suspended. Since Wednesday inclusive I have written thirty-eight of my close manuscript pages, of which seventy make a volume of the usual Novel size.

Wrote till twelve A.M., finishing half of what I call a good day's work--ten pages of print, or rather twelve. Then walked in Princes Street pleasure-grounds with good Samaritan James Skene, the only one among my numerous friends who can properly be termed _amicus curarum mearum,_ others being too busy or too gay, and several being estranged by habit.[134]

The walks have been conducted on the whole with much taste, though Skene has undergone much criticism, the usual reward of public exertions, on account of his plans. It is singular to walk close beneath the grim old Castle, and to think what scenes it must have seen, and how many generations of three score and ten have risen and passed away. It is a place to cure one of too much sensation over earthly subjects of mutation. My wife and girl's tongues are chatting in a lively manner in the drawing-room. It does me good to hear them.

January 24.--Constable came yesterday, and saw me for half an hour. He seemed irritable, but kept his temper under command. Was a little shocked when I intimated that I was disposed to regard the present works in progress as my own. I think I saw two things:--(1) That he is desirous to return into the management of his own affairs without Cadell, if he can. (2) That he relies on my connection as the way of helping us out of the slough. Indeed he said he was ruined utterly without my countenance. I certainly will befriend him if I can, but Constable without Cadell is like getting the clock without the pendulum--the one having the ingenuity, the other the caution of the business. I will see my way before making any bargain, and I will help them, I am sure, if I can, without endangering my last cast for freedom. Worked out my task yesterday. My kind friend Mrs. Coutts has got the cadet-ship for Pringle Shortreed, in which he was peculiarly interested.

I went to the Court for the first time to-day, and, like the man with the large nose, thought everybody was thinking of me and my mishaps. Many were, undoubtedly, and all rather regrettingly; some obviously affected. It is singular to see the difference of men's manner whilst they strive to be kind or civil in their way of addressing me. Some smile as they wish me good-day, as if to say, "Think nothing about it, my lad; it is quite out of our thoughts." Others greeted me with the affected gravity which one sees and despises at a funeral. The best bred--all, I believe, meaning equally well--just shook hands and went on. A foolish puff in the papers, calling on men and gods to assist a popular author, who, having choused the public of many thousands, had not the sense to keep wealth when he had it. If I am hard pressed, and measures used against me, I must use all means of legal defence, and subscribe myself bankrupt in a petition for sequestration. It is the course I would have advised a client to take, and would have the effect of saving my land, which is secured by my son's contract of marriage. I might save my library, etc., by assistance of friends, and bid my creditors defiance. But for this I would, in a court of honour, deserve to lose my spurs. No, if they permit me, I will be their vassal for life, and dig in the mine of my imagination to find diamonds (or what may sell for such) to make good my engagements, not to enrich myself. And this from no reluctance to allow myself to be called the Insolvent, which I probably am, but because I will not put out of the [power] of my creditors the resources, mental or literary, which yet remain to me.

Went to the funeral of Chevalier Yelin, the literary foreigner mentioned on 22d. How many and how various are the ways of affliction! Here is this poor man dying at a distance from home, his proud heart broken, his wife and family anxiously expecting letters, and doomed only to learn they have lost a husband and father for ever. He lies buried on the Calton Hill, near learned and scientific dust--the graves of David Hume and John Playfair being side by side.

January 25.--Anne is ill this morning. May God help us! If it should prove serious, as I have known it in such cases, where am I to find courage or comfort? A thought has struck me--Can we do nothing for creditors with the goblin drama, called _Fortunes of Devorgoil_? Could it not be added to _Woodstock_ as a fourth volume? Terry refused a gift of it, but he was quite and entirely wrong; it is not good, but it may be made so. Poor Will Erskine liked it much.[135] Gave my wife her £12 allowance. £24 to last till Wednesday fortnight. January 26.--Spoke to J.B. last night about _Devorgoil_, who does not seem to relish the proposal, alleging the comparative failure of _Halidon Hill_. Ay, says Self-Conceit, but he has not read it; and when he does, it is the sort of wild fanciful work betwixt heaven and earth, which men of solid parts do not estimate. Pepys thought Shakespeare's _Midsummer Night's Dream_ the most silly play he had ever seen, and Pepys was probably judging on the same grounds with J.B., though presumptuous enough to form conclusions against a very different work from any of mine. How if I send it to Lockhart by and by?

I called to-day at Constable's; both partners seemed secure that Hurst and Robinson were to go on and pay. Strange that they should have stopped. Constable very anxious to have husbanding of the books. I told him the truth that I would be glad to have his assistance, and that he should have the benefit of the agency, but that he was not to consider past transactions as a rule for selling them in future, since I must needs make the most out of the labours I could: _item_, that I, or whoever might act for me, would of course, after what has happened, look especially to the security. He said if Hurst and Robinson were to go on, bank notes would be laid down. I conceive indeed that they would take _Woodstock_ and _Napoleon_ almost at loss rather than break the connection in the public eye. Sir William Arbuthnot and Mr. Kinnear were very kind. But _cui bono_?[136]

Gibson comes with a joyful face announcing all the creditors had unanimously agreed to a private trust. This is handsome and confidential, and must warm my best efforts to get them out of the scrape. I will not doubt--to doubt is to lose. Sir William Forbes took the chair, and behaved as he has ever done, with the generosity of ancient faith and early friendship. They[137] are deeper concerned than most. In what scenes have Sir William and I not borne share together--desperate, and almost bloody affrays, rivalries, deep drinking-matches, and, finally, with the kindest feelings on both sides, somewhat separated by his retiring much within the bosom of his family, and I moving little beyond mine. It is fated our planets should cross though, and that at the periods most interesting for me. Down--down--a hundred thoughts.

Jane Russell drank tea with us.

I hope to sleep better to-night. If I do not I shall get ill, and then I cannot keep my engagements. Is it not odd? I can command my eyes to be awake when toil and weariness sit on my eyelids, but to draw the curtain of oblivion is beyond my power. I remember some of the wild Buccaneers, in their impiety, succeeded pretty well by shutting hatches and burning brimstone and assafoetida in making a tolerable imitation of _hell_--but the pirates' _heaven_ was a wretched affair. It is one of the worst things about this system of ours, that it is a hundred times more easy to inflict pain than to create pleasure.

January 27.--Slept better and less bilious, owing doubtless to the fatigue of the preceding night, and the more comfortable news. I drew my salaries of various kinds amounting to £300 and upwards and sent, with John Gibson's consent, £200 to pay off things at Abbotsford which must be paid. Wrote Laidlaw with the money, directing him to make all preparations for reduction.[138] Anne ill of rheumatism: I believe caught cold by vexation and exposing herself to bad weather.

The Celtic Society present me with the most splendid broadsword I ever saw; a beautiful piece of art, and a most noble weapon. Honourable Mr. Stuart (second son of the Earl of Moray), General Graham Stirling, and MacDougal, attended as a committee to present it. This was very kind of my friends the Celts, with whom I have had so many merry meetings. It will be a rare legacy to Walter;--for myself, good lack! it is like Lady Dowager Don's prize in a lottery of hardware; she--a venerable lady who always wore a haunch-hoop, silk négligé, and triple ruffles at the elbow--having the luck to gain a pair of silver spurs and a whip to correspond.

January 28.--Ballantyne and Cadell wish that Mr. Alex. Cowan should be Constable's Trustee instead of J.B.'s. Gibson is determined to hold by Cowan. I will not interfere, although I think Cowan's services might do us more good as Constable's Trustee than as our own, but I will not begin with thwarting the managers of my affairs, or even exerting strong influence; it is not fair. These last four or five days I have wrought little; to-day I set on the steam and ply my paddles.

January 29.--The proofs of vol. i.[139] came so thick in yesterday that much was not done. But I began to be hard at work to-day, and must not _gurnalise_ much.

Mr. Jollie, who is to be my trustee, in conjunction with Gibson, came to see me:--a, pleasant and good-humoured man, and has high reputation as a man of business. I told him, and I will keep my word, that he would at least have no trouble by my interfering and thwarting their management, which is the not unfrequent case of trusters and trustees.[140]

Constable's business seems unintelligible. No man thought the house worth less than £150,000. Constable told me when he was making his will that he was worth £80,000. Great profits on almost all the adventures. No bad speculations--yet neither stock nor debt to show: Constable might have eaten up his share; but Cadell was very frugal. No doubt trading almost entirely on accommodation is dreadfully expensive.[141]

January 30.--_False delicacy_. Mr. Gibson, Mr. Cowan, Mr. J.B., were with me last night to talk over important matters, and suggest an individual for a certain highly confidential situation. I was led to mention a person of whom I knew nothing but that he was an honest and intelligent man. All seemed to acquiesce, and agreed to move the thing to the party concerned this morning, and so Mr. G. and Mr. C. left me, when J.B. let out that it was their unanimous opinion that we should be in great trouble were the individual appointed, from faults of temper, etc., which would make it difficult to get on with him. With a hearty curse I hurried J.B. to let them know that I had no partiality for the man whatever, and only named him because he had been proposed for a similar situation elsewhere. This is provoking enough, that they would let me embarrass my affairs with a bad man (an unfit one, I mean) rather than contradict me. I dare say great men are often used so.

I laboured freely yesterday. The stream rose fast--if clearly, is another question; but there is bulk for it, at least--about thirty printed pages.

    "And now again, boys, to the oar."
January 31.--There being nothing in the roll to-day, I stay at home from the Court, and add another day's perfect labour to _Woodstock_, which is worth five days of snatched intervals, when the current of thought and invention is broken in upon, and the mind shaken and diverted from its purpose by a succession of petty interruptions. I have now no pecuniary provisions to embarrass me, and I think, now the shock of the discovery is past and over, I am much better off on the whole; I am as if I had shaken off from my shoulders a great mass of garments, rich, indeed, but cumbrous, and always more a burden than a comfort. I am free of an hundred petty public duties imposed on me as a man of consideration--of the expense of a great hospitality--and, what is better, of the great waste of time connected with it. I have known, in my day, all kinds of society, and can pretty well estimate how much or how little one loses by retiring from all but that which is very intimate. I sleep and eat, and work as I was wont; and if I could see those about me as indifferent to the loss of rank as I am, I should be completely happy. As it is, Time must salve that sore, and to Time I trust it.

Since the 14th of this month no guest has broken bread in my house save G.H. Gordon[142] one morning at breakfast. This happened never before since I had a house of my own. But I have played Abou Hassan long enough; and if the Caliph came I would turn him back again.

-

FOOTNOTES:

[107] The parsimonious yet liberal London merchant, whose miserly habits gave Arbuthnot the materials of the story. See Professor Brown's _Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind_, vol i. p. 244, and Martin Scriblerns, cap. xii., Pope, vol. iv. p. 54, Edin. 1776.

[108] This plantation now covers the remains of an old Roman road from the Great Camp on the Eildon Hills to the ford below Scott's house.--J.G.L.

[109] The residence for several years of Mr. and Mrs. Lockhart.

[110] When settling his estate on his eldest son, Sir Walter had retained the power of burdening it with £10,000 for behoof of his younger children; he now raised the sum for the assistance of the struggling firms.--J.G.L. See Dec. 14, 1825.

[111] William Scrope, author of _Days of Deer Stalking_, roy. 8vo, 1839; and _Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing_, roy. 8vo, 1843; died in his 81st year in 1852. Mr. Lockhart says of this enthusiastic sportsman that at this time "he had a lease of Lord Somerville's pavilion opposite Melrose, and lived on terms of affectionate intimacy with Sir Walter Scott."

[112] Mr. George Ticknor of Boston. He saw much of Scott and his family in the spring of 1819 in Edinburgh and at Abbotsford; and was again in Scotland in 1838. Both visits are well described in his journals, published in Boston in 1876.

Mrs. Lockhart was of opinion that Leslie's portrait of her father was the best extant, "and nothing equals it except Chantrey's bust."--Ticknor's _Life_, vol. i. p. 107.

Leslie himself thought Chantrey's was the best of all the portraits. "The gentle turn of the head, inclined a little forward and down, and the lurking humour in the eye and about the mouth, are Scott's own."--_Autobiographical Recollections of Leslie_, edited by Taylor, vol. i. p. 118.

[113] ... sedet, eternumque sedebit Infelix Theseus ... VIRGIL.--J.G.L.

[114] In a letter of this date to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Thomas Scott, Sir Walter says:--"Poor aunt Curle died like a Roman, or rather like one of the Sandy-Knowe bairns, the most stoical race I ever knew. She turned every one out of the room, and drew her last breath alone. So did my uncle, Captain Robert Scott, and several others of that family."--J.G.L.

[115] See letter addressed by C.J. Mathews to his mother, in which he says, "I took particular notice of everything in the room (Sir Walter's sanctum), and _if he had left me there, should certainly have read all his notes_." _Memoirs_, edited by Dickens, 2 vols., London, 1879, vol. i. p. 284.

[116] _Merchant's Tale_, lines 9706-8, slightly altered.

[117] 2 _King Henry IV_., Act iv. Sc. 2.--J.G.L.

[118] "I had long been in the habit of passing the Christmas with Sir Walter in the country, when he had great pleasure in assembling what he called 'a fireside party,' where he was always disposed to indulge in the free and unrestrained outpouring of his cheerful and convivial disposition. Upon one of these occasions the Comedian Mathews and his son were at Abbotsford, and most entertaining they were, giving us a full display of all their varied powers in scenic representations, narrations, songs, ventriloquism, and frolic of every description, as well as a string of most amusing anecdote, connected with the professional adventures of the elder, and the travels of the son, who seemed as much a genius as his father. He has never appeared on the stage, although abundantly fit to distinguish himself in that department, but has taken to the profession of architecture. Notwithstanding that the snow lay pretty deep on the ground, Sir Walter, old Mathews, and myself set out with the deerhounds and terriers to have a large range through the woods and high grounds; and a most amusing excursion it was, from the difficulties which Mathews, unused to that sort of scrambling, had to encounter, being also somewhat lame from an accident he had met with in being thrown out of a gig,--the good-humoured manner with which each of my two lame companions strove to get over the bad passes, their jokes upon it, alternately shouting for my assistance to help them through, and with all the liveliness of their conversation, as every anecdote which one told was in emulation tried to be outdone by the other by some incident equally if not more entertaining,--and it may be well supposed that the healthful exercise of a walk of this description disposed every one to enjoy the festivity which was to close the day."--_Mr. Skene's Reminiscences_.

[119] See Moore's _Life of Sheridan_, vol. i. p. 191. This work was published late in 1825.--J.G.L.

[120] Burns's _Vision_.--J.G.L.

[121] Lindsay's _Chronicles of Scotland_ 2 vols. Edin. 1814, pp. 246-7.

[122] Mr. Skene in his _Reminiscences_ says:--"The family had been at Abbotsford, and it had long been their practice the day they came to town to take a family dinner at my house, which had accordingly been complied with upon the present occasion, and I never had seen Sir Walter in better spirits or more agreeable. The fatal intimation of his bankruptcy, however, awaited him at home, and next morning early I was surprised by a verbal message to come to him as soon as I had got up. Fearful that he had got a fresh attack of the complaint from which he had now for some years been free, or that he had been involved in some quarrel, I went to see him by seven o'clock, and found him already by candle-light seated at his writing-table, surrounded by papers which he was examining, holding out his hand to me as I entered, he said, "Skene, this is the hand of a beggar. Constable has failed, and I am ruined _de fond en comble_. It's a hard blow, but I must just bear up; the only thing which wrings me is poor Charlotte and the bairns.""

[123] _Crook_. The chain and hook hanging from the crook-tree over the fire in Scottish cottages.

[124] [Sir Walter's private law-agent.] Mr. John Gibson, Junr., W.S., Mr. James Jollie, W.S., and Mr. Alexander Monypenny, W.S., were the three gentlemen who ultimately agreed to take charge, as trustees, of Sir Walter Scott's affairs; and certainly no gentlemen ever acquitted themselves of such an office in a manner more honourable to themselves, or more satisfactory to a client and his creditors.--J.G.L. Mr. Gibson wrote a little volume of _Reminiscences of Scott_, which was published in 1871. This old friend died in 1879. "In the month of January 1826," says Mr. Gibson, "Sir Walter called upon me, and explained how matters stood with the two houses referred to, adding that he himself was a partner in one of them--that bills were falling due and dishonoured--and that some immediate arrangement was indispensably necessary. In such circumstances, only two modes of proceeding could be thought of--either that he should avail himself of the Bankrupt Act, and allow his estate to be sequestrated, or that he should execute a trust conveyance for behoof of his creditors. The latter course was preferred for various reasons, but chiefly out of regard for his own feeling." _Reminiscences_, p. 12. See entry in Journal under Jan. 24.

[125] Sir John Hope of Pinkie and Craighall, 11th Baronet; Sir Henry Jardine, King's Remembrancer from 1820 to 1837; and Sir William Rae, Lord Advocate, son of Lord Eskgrove, were all Directors of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

[126] John Prescott Knight, the young artist referred to, afterwards R.A., and Secretary to the Academy, wrote (in 1871) to Sir William Stirling Maxwell, an interesting account of the picture and its accidental destruction on the very day of Sir Walter's death. _Scott Exhibition Catalogue_, 4to, Edin. p. 199. Mr. Knight died in 1881.

[127] To _hain_ anything is, _Anglicè_, to deal very carefully, penuriously about it--_tyne_, to lose. Scott often used to say "hain a pen and tyne a pen," which is nearer the proverb alluded to.--J.G.L.

[128] The late Sir William Forbes, Baronet, succeeded his father (the biographer of Beattie) as chief of the head private banking-house in Edinburgh. Scott's amiable friend died 24th Oct. 1828.--J.G.L.

[129] John Adam, Esq., died on shipboard on his passage homewards from Calcutta, 4th June 1825.--J.G.L.

[130] The Right Hon. W. Adam of Blairadam, born in 1751. When trial by Jury in civil cases was introduced into Scotland in 1815, he was made Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court, which office he held till 1830.

Mr. Lockhart adds (_Life_, vol. v. p. 46): "This most amiable and venerable gentleman, my dear and kind friend, died at Edinburgh, on the 17th February 1839, in the 89th year of his age. He retained his strong mental faculties in their perfect vigour to the last days of this long life, and with them all the warmth of social feelings which had endeared him to all who were so happy as to have any opportunity of knowing him."

[131] Mr. Pole had long attended Sir Walter Scott's daughters as teacher of the harp. In the end Scott always spoke of his conduct as the most affecting circumstance that accompanied his disasters.--J.G.L. For Mr. Pole's letter see _Life_, vol. viii. p. 205. Mr. Pole went to live in England and died at Kensington.

[132] Scott's mother's sister. See _Life_, vols. i., iii., v., and vi.

[133] Chevalier Yelin, the friend and travelling companion of Baron D'Eichthal, was a native of Bavaria. His wife had told him playfully that he must not leave Scotland without having seen the great bard; and he prolonged his stay in Edinburgh until Scott's return, hoping to meet him at the Royal Society on this evening.

[134] On the morning of this day Sir Walter wrote the following note to his friend:--

"DEAR SKENE,--If you are disposed for a walk in your gardens any time this morning, I would gladly accompany you for an hour, since keeping the house so long begins rather to hurt me, and you, who supported the other day the weight of my body, are perhaps best disposed to endure the gloom of my mind.--Yours ever, W.S.

"CASTLE STREET, 23 January.

"I will call when you please: all hours after twelve are the same to me."

On his return from this walk, Mr. Skene wrote out his recollections of the conversation that had taken place. Of his power to rebuild his shattered fortunes, Scott said, "'But woe's me, I much mistrust my vigour, for the best of my energies are already expended. You have seen, my dear Skene, the Roman coursers urged to their speed by a loaded spur attached to their backs to whet the rusty metal of their ager--ay! it is a leaden spur indeed, and it goads hard.'

"I added, 'But what do you think, Scott, of the bits of flaming paper that are pasted on the flanks of the poor jades? If we could but stick certain small documents on your back, and set fire to them, I think you might submit for a time to the pricking of the spur.' He laughed, and said, 'Ay! Ay!--these weary bills, if they were but as the thing that is not--come, cheer me up with an account of the Roman Carnival.' And, accordingly, with my endeavour to do so, he seemed as much interested as if nothing had happened to discompose the usual tenor of his mind, but still our conversation ever and anon dropt back into the same subject, in the course of which he said to me, 'Do you know I experience a sort of determined pleasure in confronting the very worst aspect of this sudden reverse,--in standing, as it were, in the breach that has overthrown my fortunes, and saying, Here I stand, at least an honest man. And God knows, if I have enemies, this I may at least with truth say, that I have never wittingly given cause of enmity in the whole course of my life, for even the burnings of political hate seemed to find nothing in my nature to feed the flame. I am not conscious of having borne a grudge towards any man, and at this moment of my overthrow, so help me God, I wish well and feel kindly to every one. And if I thought that any of my works contained a sentence hurtful to any one's feelings, I would burn it. I think even my novels (for he did not disown any of them) are free from that blame.'

"He had been led to make this protestation from my having remarked to him the singularly general feeling of goodwill and sympathy towards him which every one was anxious to testify upon the present occasion. The sentiments of resignation and of cheerful acquiescence in the dispensation of the Almighty which he expressed were those of a Christian thankful for the blessings left, and willing, without ostentation, to do his best. It was really beautiful to see the workings of a strong and upright mind under the first lash of adversity calmly reposing upon the consolation afforded by his own integrity and manful purposes. 'Lately,' he said, 'you saw me under the apprehension of the decay of my mental faculties, and I confess that I was under mortal fear when I found myself writing one word for another, and misspelling every word, but that wore off, and was perhaps occasioned by the effects of the medicine I had been taking, but have I not reason to be thankful that that misfortune did not assail me?--Ay! few have more reason to feel grateful to the Disposer of all events than I have.'"--_Mr. Skene's Reminiscences._

[135] "The energy with which Sir Walter had set about turning his resources, both present and past, to immediate account, with a view to prove to his creditors, with as little delay as possible, that all that could depend upon himself should be put in operation to retrieve his affairs, made him often reluctant to quit his study however much he found himself exhausted. However, the employment served to occupy his mind, and prevent its brooding over the misfortune which had befallen him, and joined to the natural contentedness of his disposition prevented any approach of despondency. 'Here is an old effort of mine to compose a melo-drama' (showing me one day a bundle of papers which he had found in his repositories). 'This trifle would have been long ago destroyed had it not been for our poor friend Kinnedder, who arrested my hand as he thought it not bad, and for his sake it was kept. I have just read it over, and, do you know, with some satisfaction. Faith, I have known many worse things make their way very well in the world, so, God willing, it shall e'en see the light, if it can do aught in the hour of need to help the hand that fashioned it.' Upon asking the name of this production, he said, 'I suspect I must change it, having already forestalled it by the _Fortunes of Nigel_. I had called it the _Fortunes of Devorgoil_, but we must not begin to double up in that way, for if you leave anything hanging loose, you may be sure that some malicious devil will tug at it. I think I shall call it _The Doom of Devorgoil_. It will make a volume of itself, and I do not see why it should not come out by particular desire as a fourth volume to _Woodstock_. They have some sort of connection, and it would not be a difficult matter to bind the connection a little closer. As the market goes, I have no doubt of the Bibliopolist pronouncing it worth £1000, or £1500.' I asked him if he meant it for the stage. 'No, no; the stage is a sorry job, that course will not do for these hard days; besides, there is too much machinery in the piece for the stage.' I observed that I was not sure of that, for pageant and machinery was the order of the day, and had Shakespeare been of this date he might have been left to die a deer-stealer. 'Well, then, with all my heart, if they can get the beast to lead or to drive, they may bring it on the stage if they like. It is a sort of goblin tale, and so was the _Castle Spectre_, which had its run.' I asked him if the _Castle Spectre_ had yielded Lewis much. 'Little of that, in fact to its author absolutely nothing, and yet its merits ought to have brought something handsome to poor Mat. But Sheridan, then manager, you know, generally paid jokes instead of cash, and the joke that poor Mat got was, after all, not a bad one. Have you heard it? Don't let me tell you a story you know.' As I had not heard it, he proceeded. 'Well, they were disputing about something, and Lewis had clenched his argument by proposing to lay a bet about it. I shall lay what you ought long ago to have paid me for my _Castle, Spectre_.' "No, no, Mat," said Sheridan, "I never lay large bets; but come, I will bet a trifle with you--I'll bet what the _Castle Spectre_ was worth." Now Constable managed differently; he paid well and promptly, but devil take him, it was all spectral together. Moonshine and no merriment. He sowed my field with one hand, and as liberally scattered the tares with the other.'"--_Mr. Skene's Reminiscences._

[136] These two gentlemen were at this time Directors of the Bank of Scotland.

[137] Sir W. Forbes and Co.'s Banking House.

[138] An extract from what is probably the letter to Laidlaw written on this day was printed in _Chambers's Journal_ for July 1845. The italics are the editor's:--

"For you, my dear friend, we must part--that is, as laird and factor--and it rejoices me to think that your patience and endurance, which set me so good an example, are like to bring round better days. You never flattered my prosperity, and in my adversity it is not the least painful consideration that I cannot any longer be useful to you. But Kaeside, I hope, will still be your residence, and I will have the advantage of your company and advice, and probably your service as amanuensis. Observe, I am not in indigence, though no longer in affluence, and if I am to exert myself in the common behalf, I must have honorable and easy means of life, although it will be my inclination to observe the most strict privacy, the better to save expense, and also time. Lady Scott's spirits were affected at first, but she is getting better. _For myself, I feel_ _like the Eildon Hills--quite firm, though a little cloudy._

"I do not dislike the path which lies before me. I have seen all that society can show, and enjoyed all that wealth can give me, and I am satisfied much is vanity, if not vexation of spirit. What can I say more, except that I will write to you the instant I know what is to be done."

[139] _Life of Bonaparte_. (?)

[140] "In the management of his Trust," Mr. Gibson remarks, "everything went on harmoniously--the chief labour devolving upon myself, but my co-Trustees giving their valuable aid and advice when required."--_Reminiscences_, p. 16.

[141] The total liabilities of the three firms amounted in round numbers to nearly half-a-million sterling. Sir Walter, as the partner of Ballantyne and Co., was held responsible for about £130,000;--this large sum was ultimately paid in full by Scott and his representatives. The other two firms paid their creditors about 10 per cent, of the amounts due. It must be kept in mind, however, as far as Constable's house was concerned, that their property appears to have been foolishly sacrificed by forced sales of copyrights and stock.

[142] Mr. Gordon was at this time Scott's amanuensis; he _copied_, that is to say, the MS. for press.--J.G.L.

Sir Walter Scott