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February 1829

February 1.--_Domum mansi, lanam feci_,--stayed at home _videlicet_, and laboured without interruption except from intolerable drowsiness; finished eight leaves, however, the best day's work I have made this long time. No interruption, and I got pleased with my work, which ends the second volume of _Anne of Geierstein_. After dinner had a letter from Lockhart, with happy tidings about the probability of the commission on the Stewart papers being dissolved. The Duke of W. says commissions never either did or will do any good. John will in that case be sole editor of these papers with an apartment at St. James's _cum plurimis aliis_. It will be a grand coup if it takes place.

February 2.--Sent off yesterday's work with proofs. Could I do as toughly for a week--and many a day I have done more--I should be soon out of the scrape. I wrote letters, and put over the day till one, when I went down with Sir James Stuart to see Stuart of Dunearn's pictures now on sale. I did not see much which my poor taste covets; a Hobbema much admired is, I think, as tame a piece of work as I ever saw. I promised to try to get a good picture or two for the young Duke.

Dined with the old Club, instituted forty years ago. There were present Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Advocate, Sir Peter Murray, John Irving, William Clerk, and I. It was a party such as the meeting of fellow scholars and fellow students alone could occasion. We told old stories; laughed and quaffed, and resolved, rashly perhaps, that we would hold the Club at least once a year, if possible twice. We will see how this will fudge. Our mirth was more unexpected as Sir Adam, our first fiddle, was wanting, owing to his family loss.

February 3.--Rose at eight--felt my revel a little in my head. The Court business light, returned by Cadell, and made one or two calls, at Skene's especially. Dinner and evening at home; laboriously employed.

February 4.--To-day I was free from duty, and made good use of my leisure at home, finishing the second volume of _Anne_, and writing several letters, one to recommend Captain Pringle to Lord Beresford, which I send to-morrow through Morritt. "My mother whips me and I whip the top." The girls went to the play.

February 5.--Attended the Court as usual, got dismissed about one. Finished and sent off volume ii. of _Anne_. Dined with Robert Rutherford, my cousin, and the whole clan of Swinton.

February 6.--Corrected proofs in the morning, then to the Court; thence to Cadell's, where I found some business cut out for me, in the way of notes, which delayed me. Walked home, the weary way giving my feet the ancient twinges of agony: such a journey is as severe a penance as if I had walked the same length with peas in my shoes to atone for some horrible crime by beating my toes into a jelly. I wrote some and corrected a good deal. We dined alone, and I partly wrought partly slept in the evening. It's now pretty clear that the Duke of W. intends to have a Catholic Bill.[249] He probably expects to neutralise and divide the Catholic body by bringing a few into Parliament, where they will probably be tractable enough, rather than a large proportion of them rioting in Ireland, where they will be to a certain degree unanimous.

February 7.--Up and wrought a little. I had at breakfast a son of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, a very quick, smart-looking young fellow, who is on his way to the Continent with a tutor. Dined at Mrs. George Swinton's with the whole clan.

February 8.--I wrought the whole day and finished about six pages of manuscript of vol. iii. [_Anne of Geierstein_]. _Sat cito si sat bene_. The Skenes came in to supper like the olden world.

February 9.--Was up in good time (say half-past seven), and employed the morning in correcting proofs. At twelve I went to Stuart of Dunearn's sale of pictures. This poor man fell, like myself, a victim to speculation. And though I had no knowledge of him personally, and disliked him as the cause of poor Sir Alexander Boswell's death, yet "had he been slaughterman to all my kin,"[250] I could but pity the miserable sight of his splendid establishment broken up, and his treasures of art exposed to public and unsparing sale. I wanted a picture of the Earl of Rothes for the Duke of Buccleuch, a fine Sir Joshua, but Balfour of Balbirnie fancied it also, and followed it to 160 guineas. Charles Sharpe's account is, that I may think myself in luck, for the face has been repainted. There is, he says, a print taken from the picture at Leslie House which has quite a different countenance from the present.

This job, however, took me up the whole morning to little purpose. Captain and Mrs. Hall dined with us, also Sir James Stuart, Charles Sharpe, John Scott of Gala, etc.

February 10.--I was up at seven this morning, and will continue the practice, but the shoal of proofs took up all my leisure. I will not, I think, go after these second-rate pictures again to-day. If I could get a quiet day or two I would make a deep dint in the third volume; but hashed and smashed as my time is, who can make anything of it? I read over Henry's History of Henry VI. and Edward IV.; he is but a stupid historian after all. This took me up the whole day.

February 11.--Up as usual and wrought at proofs. Mr. Hay Drummond and Macintosh Mackay dined. The last brought me his history of the _Blara Leine_ or White Battle (battle of the shirts). To the Court, and remained there till two, when we had some awkward business in the Council of the Royal Society.

February 12.--W. Lockhart came to breakfast, full of plans for his house, which will make a pretty and romantic habitation. After breakfast the Court claimed its vassal.

As I came out Mr. Chambers introduced a pretty little romantic girl to me who possessed a laudable zeal to know a live poet. I went with my fair admirer as far as the new rooms on the Mound, where I looked into the Royal Society's Rooms, then into the Exhibition, in mere unwillingness to work and desire to dawdle away time. Learned that Lord Haddington had bought the Sir Joshua. I wrought hard to-day and made out five pages.

February 13.--This morning Col. Hunter Blair breakfasted here with his wife, a very pretty woman, with a good deal of pleasant conversation. She had been in India, and had looked about her to purpose. I wrote for several hours in the forenoon, but was nervous and drumlie; also I bothered myself about geography; in short, there was trouble, as miners say when the vein of metal is interrupted. Went out at two, and walked, thank God, better than in the winter, which gives me hopes that the failure of the unfortunate limb is only temporary, owing to severe weather. We dined at John Murray's with the Mansfield family. Lady Caroline Murray possesses, I think, the most pleasing taste for music, and is the best singer I ever heard. No temptation to display a very brilliant voice ever leads her aside from truth and simplicity, and besides, she looks beautiful when she sings.

February 14.--Wrote in the morning, which begins to be a regular act of duty. It was late ere I got home, and I did not do much. The letters I received were numerous and craved answers, yet the third volume is getting on hooly and fairly. I am twenty leaves before the printers; but Ballantyne's wife is ill, and it is his nature to indulge apprehensions of the worst, which incapacitates him for labour. I cannot help regarding this amiable weakness of the mind with something too nearly allied to contempt. I keep the press behind me at a good distance, and I, like the

    "Postboy's horse, am glad to miss
    The lumber of the wheels."[251]
February 15.--I wrought to-day, but not much--rather dawdled, and took to reading Chambers's Beauties of Scotland,[252] which would be admirable if they were more accurate. He is a clever young fellow, but hurts himself by too much haste. I am not making too much myself I know, and I know, too, it is time I were making it. Unhappily there is such a thing as more haste and less speed. I can very seldom think to purpose by lying perfectly idle, but when I take an idle book, or a walk, my mind strays back to its task out of contradiction as it were; the things I read become mingled with those I have been writing, and something is concocted. I cannot compare this process of the mind to anything save that of a woman to whom the mechanical operation of spinning serves as a running bass to the songs she sings, or the course of ideas she pursues. The phrase _Hoc age_, often quoted by my father, does not jump with my humour. I cannot nail my mind to one subject of contemplation, and it is by nourishing two trains of ideas that I can bring one into order.

Colin Mackenzie came in to see me, poor fellow. He looks well in his retirement. Partly I envy him--partly I am better pleased as it is.

February 16.--Stayed at home and laboured all the forenoon. Young Invernahyle called to bid me interest myself about getting a lad of the house of Scott a commission--how is this possible? The last I tried for, there was about 3000 on the list--and they say the boy is too old, being twenty-four. I scribbled three or four pages, forbore smoking and whisky and water, and went to the Royal Society. There Sir William Hamilton read an essay, the result of some anatomical investigations, which contained a masked battery against the phrenologists.

February 17.--In the morning I sent off copy and proof. I received the melancholy news that James Ballantyne has lost his wife. With his domestic habits the blow is irretrievable. What can he do, poor fellow, at the head of such a family of children! I should not be surprised if he were to give way to despair.

I was at the Court, where there was little to do, but it diddled away my time till two. I went to the library, but not a book could I get to look at. It is, I think, a wrong system the lending books to private houses at all, and leads to immense annual losses. I called on Skene, and borrowed a volume of his Journal, to get some information about Burgundy and Provence. Something may be made out of King René, but I wish I had thought of him sooner.[253] Dined alone with the girls.

February 18.--This being Teind Wednesday I had a holiday. Worked the whole day, interrupted by calls from Dr. Ross, Sir Hugh Palliser, Sir David Hunter Blair, and Colonel Blair. I made out about six pages before dinner, and go to Lord Gillies's to dine with a good conscience. Hay Drummond came in, and discharged a volley at me which Mons Meg could hardly have equalled. I will go to work with Skene's Journal. My head aches violently, and has done so several days. It is cold, I think.

At Lord Gillies's we found Sir John Dalrymple, Lady Dalrymple, and Miss Ferguson, Mr. Hope Vere of Craigiehall, and Lady Elizabeth, a sister of Lord Tweeddale, Sir Robert O'Callaghan, Captain Cathcart, and others--a gay party.

February 19.--An execrable day--half frost, half fresh, half sleet, half rain, and wholly abominable. Having made up my packet for the printing-house, and performed my duty at the Court, I had the firmness to walk round by the North Bridge, and face the weather for two miles, by way of exercise. Called on Skene, and saw some of his drawings of Aix. It was near two before I got home, and now I hear three strike; part of this hour has been consumed in a sound sleep by the fireside after putting on dry things. I met Baron Hume,[254] and we praised each other's hardihood for daring to take exercise in such weather, agreeing that if a man relax the custom of his exercise in Scotland for a bad day he is not likely to resume it in a hurry. The other moiety of the time was employed in looking over the _Mémoires de Fauche-Borel._[255]

February 20.--The Court duly took me up from eleven till about three, but left some time for labour, which I employed to purpose, at least I hope so. I declined going to the exhibition of paintings to-night; neither the beauties of art nor of nature have their former charms for me. I finished, however, about seven pages of manuscript, which is a fair half of volume III. I wish I could command a little more time and I would soon find you something or other, but the plague is that time is wanting when I feel an aptitude to work, and when time abounds, the will, at least the real efficient power of the faculties, is awanting. Still, however, we make way by degrees. I glanced over some metrical romances published by Hartshorne, several of which have not seen the light. They are considerably curious, but I was surprised to see them mingled with _Blanchefleur_ and _Florês_ and one or two others which might have been spared. There is no great display of notes or prolegomena, and there is, moreover, no glossary. But the work is well edited.[256]

February 21.--Colonel Ferguson breakfasted with us. I was detained at the Parliament House till the hour of poor Mrs. Ballantyne's funeral, then attended that melancholy ceremony. The husband was unable to appear; the sight of the poor children was piteous enough. James Ballantyne has taken his brother Sandy into the house, I mean the firm, about which there had formerly been some misunderstanding.

I attended the Bannatyne Club. We made a very good election, bringing in Lord Dalhousie and the Lord Clerk Register.[257] Our dinner went pretty well off, but I have seen it merrier. To be sure old Dr. J., like an immense featherbed, was _burking_ me, as the phrase now goes, during the whole time. I am sure that word will stick in the language for one while.

February 22.--Very rheumatic. I e'en turned my table to the fire and feagued it away, as Bayes says. Neither did I so much as cast my eyes round to see what sort of a day it was--the splashing on the windows gave all information that was necessary. Yet, with all my leisure, during the whole day I finished only four leaves of copy--somewhat of the least, master Matthew.[258]

There was no interruption during the whole day, though the above is a poor account of it.

February 23.--Up and at it. After breakfast Mr. Hay Drummond came in enchanted about Mons Meg,[259] and roaring as loud as she could have done for her life when she was in perfect voice.

James Ballantyne came in, to my surprise, about twelve o'clock. He was very serious, and spoke as if he had some idea of sudden and speedy death. He mentioned that he had named Cadell, Cowan, young Hughes, and his brother to be his trustees with myself. He has settled to go to the country, poor fellow, to Timpendean, as I think.

We dined at Skene's, where we met Mr. and Mrs. George Forbes, Colonel and Mrs. Blair, George Bell, etc. The party was a pleasant one. Colonel Blair said, that during the Battle of Waterloo there was at the commencement some trouble necessary to prevent the men from breaking their ranks. He expostulated with one man: "Why, my good fellow, you cannot propose to beat the French alone?--better keep your ranks." The man, who was one of the 71st, returned to his ranks, saying, "I believe you are very right, sir, but I am a man of very _hot temper_." There was much _bonhomie_ in the reply.

February 24.--Snowy miserable morning. I corrected my proofs, but had no time to write anything. We, _i.e._ myself and the two Annes, went to breakfast with Mr. Drummond Hay, where we again met Colonel and Mrs. Blair, with Thomas Thomson. We looked over some most beautiful drawings[260] which Mrs. Blair had made in different parts of India, exhibiting a species of architecture so gorgeous, and on a scale so extensive, as to put to shame the magnificence of Europe. And yet, in most cases, as little is known of the people who wrought these wonders as of the kings who built the Pyramids. Fame depends on literature, not on architecture. We are more eager to see a broken column of Cicero's villa, than all those mighty labours of barbaric power. Mrs. Blair is full of enthusiasm. She told me that when she worked with her pencil she was glad to have some one to read to her as a sort of sedative, otherwise her excitement made her tremble, and burst out a-crying. I can understand this very well, having often found the necessity of doing two things at once. She is a very pretty, dark woman too, and has been compared to Rebecca, daughter of the Jew, Isaac of York.

Detained in the Court till half-past two bothering about Lady Essex Kerr's will without coming to a conclusion. I then got home too late to do anything, as I must prepare to go to Dalmahoy. Mr. Gibson came in for a little while; no news.

I went to Dalmahoy, where we were most kindly received. It is a point of friendship, however, to go eight miles to dinner and return in the evening; and my day has been cut up without a brush of work. Smoked a cigar on my return, being very cold.

February 25.--This morning I corrected my proofs. We get on, as John Ferguson said when they put him on a hunter. I fear there is too much historical detail, and the catastrophe will be vilely huddled up. "And who can help it, Dick?" Visited James Ballantyne, and found him bearing his distress sensibly and like a man. I called in at Cadell's, and also inquired after Lady Jane Stuart, who is complaining. Three o'clock placed me at home, and from that hour till ten, deduct two hours for dinner, I was feaguing it away.

February 26.--Sent off ten pages this morning, with a revise; we spy land, but how to get my catastrophe packed into the compass allotted for it--

    "It sticks like a pistol half out of its holster,
    Or rather indeed like an obstinate bolster,
    Which I think I have seen you attempting, my dear,
    In vain to cram into a small pillowbeer."
There is no help for it--I must make a _tour de force_, and annihilate both time and space. Dined at home; nevertheless made small progress. But I must prepare my dough before I can light my oven. I would fain think I am in the right road.

February 27.--The last post brought a letter from Mr. Heath, proposing to set off his engravings for the _Magnum Opus_ against my contributions for the _Keepsake_. A pretty mode of accounting that would be; he be----. I wrote him declining his proposal; and, as he says I am still in his debt, I will send him the old drama of the _House of Aspen_, which I wrote some thirty years ago, and offered to the stage. This will make up my contribution, and a good deal more, if, as I recollect, there are five acts. Besides, it will save me further trouble about Heath and his Annual. Secondly, There are several manuscript copies of the play abroad, and some of them will be popping out one of these days in a contraband manner. Thirdly, If I am right as to the length of the piece, there is £100 extra work at least which will not be inconvenient at all.

Dined at Sir John Hay's with Ramsay of Barnton and his young bride, Sir David and Lady Hunter Blair, etc.

I should mention that Cadell breakfasted with me, and entirely approved of my rejecting Heath's letter. There was one funny part of it, in which he assured me that the success of the new edition of the _Waverley Novels_ depended entirely on the excellence of the illustrations--_vous êtes joaillier, Mons. Josse.[261]_ He touches a point which alarms me; he greatly undervalues the portrait which Wilkie has prepared to give me for this edition. If it is as little of a likeness as he says, it is a scrape. But a scrape be it. Wilkie behaved in the kindest way, considering his very bad health, in agreeing to work for me at all, and I will treat him with due delicacy, and not wound his feelings by rejecting what he has given in such kindness.[262] And so farewell to Mr. Heath, and the conceited vulgar Cockney his Editor.

February 28.--Finished my proofs this morning, and read part of a curious work, called _Memoirs of Vidocq_; a fellow who was at the head of Bonaparte's police. It is a pickaresque tale; in other words, a romance of roguery. The whole seems much exaggerated, and got up; but I suppose there is truth _au fond._ I came home about two o'clock, and wrought hard and fast till night.



[249] Sir Walter had written to Mr. Lockhart on October 26th, 1828, on hearing of an impending article in the _Quarterly_, the following letter:--

"I cannot repress the strong desire I have to express my regret at some parts of your kind letter just received. I shall lament most truly a _purple_ article at this moment, when a strong, plain, moderate statement, not railing at Catholics and their religion, but reprobating the conduct of the Irish Catholics, and pointing out the necessary effects which that conduct must have on the Catholic Question, would have a powerful effect, and might really serve king and country. Nothing the agitators desire so much as to render the broil general, as a quarrel between Catholic and Protestant; nothing so essential to the Protestant cause as to confine it to its real causes. Southey, as much a fanatic as e'er a Catholic of them all, will, I fear, pass this most necessary landmark of debate. I like his person, admire his genius, and respect his immense erudition, but--_non omnia_. In point of reasoning and political judgment he is a perfect Harpado--nothing better than a wild bull. The circumstances require the interference of _vir gravis pietate et moribus_, and you bring it a Highland piper to blow a Highland charge, the more mischievous that it possesses much wild power of inflaming the passions.

"Your idea that you must give Southey his swing in this matter or he will quit the _Review_,--this is just a pilot saying, If I do not give the helm to such a passenger he will quit the ship. Let him quit and be d--d.

"My own confidence is, you know, entirely in the D. As Bruce said to the Lord of the Isles at Bannockburn, 'My faith is constant in thee.' Now a hurly-burly charge may derange his line of battle, and therein be of the most fatal consequence. For God's sake avail yourself of the communication I opened while in town, and do not act without it. Send this to the D. of W. If you will, he will appreciate the motives that dictate it. If he approves of a calm, moderate, but firm statement, stating the unreasonable course pursued by the Catholics as the great impediment to their own wishes, write such an article _yourself_; no one can make a more impressive appeal to common sense than you can.

"The circumstances of the times are--_must_ be--an apology for disappointing Southey. But nothing can be an apology for indulging him at the expense of aggravating public disturbance, which, for one, I see with great apprehension.

"It has not yet come our length; those [to] whom you allude ought certainly to be served, but the D. is best judge how they may be _best_ served. If the D. says nothing on the subject you can slip your Derwentwater greyhound if you like. I write hastily, but most anxiously. ... I repeat that I think it possible to put the Catholic Question as it now stands in a light which the most zealous of their supporters in this country cannot but consider as fair, while the result would be that the Question should not be granted at all under such guarantees; but I think this is scarce to be done by inflaming the topic with all mutual virulence of polemical discussion."

[250] _Henry VI_. Act I. Sc. 4.

[251] _John Gilpin._

[252] The _Picture of Scotland_ by Robert Chambers, author of _Traditions of Edinburgh_, etc., 8vo, 1829.

[253] Mr. Skene remarks that at this time "Sir Walter was engaged in the composition of the Novel of _Anne of Geierstein_, for which purpose he wished to see a paper which I had some time before contributed to the Memoirs of the Society of Antiquaries on the subject of the Secret Tribunals of Germany, and upon which, accordingly, he grounded the scene in the novel. Upon his describing to me the scheme which he had formed for that work, I suggested to him that he might with advantage connect the history of René, king of Provence, which would lead to many interesting topographical details which my residence in that country would enable me to supply, besides the opportunity of illustrating so eccentric a character as '_le bon roi René_,' full of traits which were admirably suited to Sir Walter's graphic style of illustration, and that he could besides introduce the ceremonies of the _Fête Dieu_ with great advantage, as I had fortunately seen its revival the first time it was celebrated after the interruption of the revolution. He liked the idea much, and, accordingly, a Journal which I had written during my residence in Provence, with a volume of accompanying drawings and Papon's History of Provence was forthwith sent for, and the whole _dénouement_ of the story of _Anne o/Geierstein_ was changed, and the Provence part woven into it, in the form in which it ultimately came forth."--_Reminiscences_.

[254] This learned gentleman died in his house, 34 Moray Place, Edinburgh, on the 30th August 1838, aged eighty-two. He had filled various important situations with great ability during his long life:--Sheriff of Berwick and West Lothian, Professor of Scots Law in the University, and afterwards a Baron of Exchequer, which latter office he held till the abolition of the court in 1830. He is best remembered by his work on the Criminal Law of Scotland, published in 1797. He bequeathed his uncle the historian's correspondence with Rousseau and other distinguished foreigners to the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

[255] Published in four volumes, 8vo, 1829. Fauche-Borel, an agent of the Bourbons, had just died. The book is still in the Abbotsford library.

[256] _Ancient Metrical Tales_, edited by Rev. C.H. Hartshorne. 8vo London, 1829.

[257] The Right Hon. William Dundas, born 1762, died 1845; appointed Lord Clerk Register in 1821.

[258] Ben Jonson, _Every Man in his Humour,_ Act I. Sc. 4.

[259] For notices of this gigantic cannon see _ante_, vol. i. p. 43, and _post_, pp. 247-8; also _Life_, vol. vii. pp. 86-87.

[260] Some of these fine drawings have been engraved for Colonel Tod's _Travels in Western India_. Lond., 4to, 1839.--J.G.L.

[261] Molière, _L'Amour Médecin_, Act I. Sc. 1 (_joaillier_ for _orfévre_).

[262] The following extract from a letter by Wilkie shows how willingly he had responded to Scott's request:--


"DEAR SIR WALTER,--I pass over all those disastrous events that have arrived to us both since our last, as you justly call it, melancholy parting, to assure you how delighted I shall be if I can in the most inconsiderable degree assist in the illustrations of the great work, which we all hope may lighten or remove that load of troubles by which your noble spirit is at this time beset; considering it as only repaying a debt of obligation which you yourself have laid upon me when, with an unseen hand in the _Antiquary_, you took me up and claimed me, the humble painter of domestic sorrow, as your countryman."

Sir Walter Scott