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March 1831

March 1, 2, 3.--All these three days I wrote forenoon and fagged afternoon. Kept up the ball indifferent well, but began to tire on the third, and suspected that I was flat--a dreary suspicion, not easily chased away when once it takes root.

March 4.--Laid aside the novel, and began with vigour a review of Robson's Essay on Heraldry;[431] but I missed some quotations which I could not get on without. I gave up, and took such a rash ride nowadays. Returned home, and found Colonel Russell there on a visit. Then we had dinner, and afterwards the making up this miserable Journal.

March 5.--I have a letter from our member, Whytbank, adjuring me to assist the gentlemen of the county with an address against the Reform Bill, which menaces them with being blended with Peeblesshire, and losing of consequence one half of their franchise. Mr. Pringle conjures me not to be very nice in choosing my epithets. Mr. Pringle, Torwoodlee, comes over and speaks to the same purpose, adding, it will be the greatest service I can do the county, etc. This, in a manner, drives me out of a resolution to keep myself clear of politics, and "let them fight dog, fight bear." But I am too easy to be persuaded to bear a hand. The young Duke of Buccleuch comes to visit me also; so I promised to shake my duds and give them a cast of my calling, fall back, fall edge.

March 7-10.--In these four days I drew up, with much anxiety, an address reprobatory of the Bill, both with respect to Selkirkshire, and in its general purport. I was not mealy-mouthed, and those who heard the beginning could hardly avoid listening to the end. It was certainly in my best style, and would have made a deal of noise. From the uncompromising style it would have attracted attention. Mr. Laidlaw, though he is on t'other side on the subject, thinks it the best thing I ever wrote; and I myself am happy to find that it cannot be said to smell of the apoplexy. The pointed passages were, on the contrary, clever and well put. But it was too declamatory, too much like a pamphlet, and went far too generally into opposition to please the country gentlemen, who are timidly inclined to dwell on their own grievances rather than the public wrongs.

March 11.--This day we had our meeting at Selkirk. I found Borthwickbrae (late member) had sent the form of an address, which was finished by Mr. Andrew Lang.[432] It was the reverse of mine in every respect. It was short, and to the point. It only contained a remonstrance against the incorporation with [Peebles]shire, and left it to be inferred that they approved the Bill in other respects.[433] As I saw that it met the ideas of the meeting (six in number) better by far than such an address as mine, I instantly put it in my pocket. But I endeavoured to add to their complaint of a private wrong a general clause, stating their sense of the hazard of passing a Bill full of such violent innovations at once on the public. But though Harden, Alva, and Torwoodlee voted for this measure, it was refused by the rest of the meeting, to my disappointment; since in its present state it will not be attended to, and is in fact too milk-and-water to attract notice. I am, however, personally out of the scrape; I was a fool to stir such a mess of skimmed milk with so honourable an action.[434] If some of the gentlemen of the press get hold of this story, what would they make of it, and how little would I care! One thing is clear: it gives me a right to decline future interference, and let the world wag, _Sessa_.[435]

March 12.--Wrote the history of my four days' labour in vain to Sandy Pringle, Whytbank, and so _transeat_ with _cæteris erroribus_. I only gave way to one jest. A ratcatcher was desirous to come and complete his labours in my house, and I, who thought he only talked and laughed with the servants, recommended him to go to the head courts and meetings of freeholders, where he would find rats in plenty.

March 13.--I have finally arranged a thorny transaction. Mr. Cadell has an interest in some of the Novels, amounting to one-half; but the following are entirely my own, viz.:--

St. Ronan's Well,    3 vols.
Tales of Crusaders,  4 "
First Chronicles,    2 "
Anne of Geierstein,  3 "
Redgauntlet,         3 "
Woodstock,           3 "
Second Chronicles,   3 "
Count Robert,        3 "
In all, twenty-four volumes, which will begin printing after _Quentin Durward_, and concludes the year 1831. For half the property he proposes to pay 6000 guineas on 2d February 1831 [1832?]. I think that with this sum, and others coming in, I may reduce the debt to £45,000.

But I do not see clearly enough through this affair to accept this offer. _First_, I cannot see that there is wisdom in engaging Mr. Cadell in deep speculations, unless they served him very much. I am, in this respect, a burnt child: I have not forgotten the fire, or rather the furnace. _Second_, I think the property worth more, if publicly sold. _Third_, I cannot see any reasons which should render it advantageous for me to sell one half of this property, it being admittedly at the same [time] highly judicious to keep the other half. This does not fadge. _Fourth_, As to the immediate command of the money, I am not pressed for it, not having any advantage by paying it a year or two sooner or later. The actual proceeds of the sales will come in about 1834, and I daresay will not be far behind in amount the sum of £6000.

In short, I will not sell on a rainy day, as our proverb says. I have communicated my resolution to Cadell, to whom, no doubt, it will be a disappointment, for which I am sorry, but cannot help it.

March 14.--Had a very sensible and good-humoured answer from Mr. Cadell, readily submitting to my decision. He mentions, what I am conscious of, the great ease of accomplishing, if the whole is divided into two halves. But this is not an advantage to me, but to them who keep the books, and therefore I cannot be moved by it. It is the great advantage of uniformity, of which Malachi Malagrowther tells so much. I do not fear that Mr. Cadell will neglect the concern because he has not the large share in it which he had in the other. He is, I think, too honest a man. He has always shown himself every way willing and ready to help me, and verily he hath his reward; and I can afford him on that property a handsome percentage for the management. But if his fate was to lose considerably by this transaction, I must necessarily be a sufferer; if he be a great gainer, it is at my expense, so it is like the children's game of "Odds I win, evens you lose"--so will say no more about it. I think I will keep my ground nearly, so these cursed politics do not ruin the country. I am unable to sit at good men's boards, and Anne has gone to Mertoun to-day without me. I cannot walk or ride but for a mile or two. Naboclish! never mind. I am satisfied that I am heart-whole as a biscuit, and I may live to see the end of those affairs yet. I am driving on the _Count of Paris_ right merrily. I have plenty of leisure, and _vive la plume_! I have arranged matters as I think for the best, so will think no more about it.

March 16.--The affair with Mr. Cadell being settled, I have only to arrange a set of regular employment for my time, without over-fatiguing myself. What I at present practise seems active enough for my capacity, and even if I should reach the threescore and ten, from which I am thrice three years distant, or nearer ten, the time may pass honourably, usefully, and profitably, both to myself and other people. My ordinary runs thus:--Rise at a quarter before seven; at a quarter after nine breakfast, with eggs, or in the singular number, at least; before breakfast private letters, etc.; after breakfast Mr. Laidlaw comes at ten, and we write together till one. I am greatly helped by this excellent man, who takes pains to write a good hand, and supplies the want of my own fingers as far as another person can. We work seriously at the task of the day till one o'clock, when I sometimes walk--not often, however, having failed in strength, and suffering great pain even from a very short walk. Oftener I take the pony for an hour or two and ride about the doors; the exercise is humbling enough, for I require to be lifted on horseback by two servants, and one goes with me to take care I do not fall off and break my bones, a catastrophe very like to happen. My proud promenade à pied or à cheval, as it happens, concludes by three o'clock. An hour intervenes for making up my Journal and such light work. At four comes dinner,--a plate of broth or soup, much condemned by the doctors, a bit of plain meat, no liquors stronger than small beer, and so I sit quiet to six o'clock, when Mr. Laidlaw returns, and remains with me till nine or three quarters past, as it happens. Then I have a bowl of porridge and milk, which I eat with the appetite of a child. I forgot to say that after dinner I am allowed half a glass of whisky or gin made into weak grog. I never wish for any more, nor do I in my secret soul long for cigars, though once so fond of them. About six hours per day is good working, if I can keep at it.

March 17.--Little of this day, but that it was so uncommonly windy that I was almost blown off my pony, and was glad to grasp the mane to prevent its actually happening. Rode round by Brigends. I began the third volume of _Count Robert of Paris_, which has been on the anvil during all these vexatious circumstances of politics and health. But "the blue heaven bends over all." It may be ended in a fortnight if I keep my scheme. But I will take time enough. This would be on Thursday. I would like it much.

March 18.--We get well on. _Count Robert_ is finished so far as the second goes, and some twenty [pages] of the third. _Blackwood's Magazine_, after long bedaubing me with compliment, has began to bedaub Lockhart for my sake, or perhaps me for Lockhart's sake, with abuse. Lockhart's chief offence seems to have been explaining the humbug of showing up Hogg as a fool and blackguard in what he calls the _Noctes_.[436] For me I care wonderfully little either for his flattery or his abuse.[437]

March 19.--I made a hard working day--almost equal to twenty pages, but there was some reason for it, for Ballantyne writes me that the copy sent will not exceed 265 pages when the end of volume ii. is reached; so 45 more pages must be furnished to run it out to page 329. This is an awful cast back; so the gap is to be made up.

March 20.--I thought I was done with politics, but it is easy getting into the mess, and difficult and sometimes disgraceful to get out. I have a letter from Sheriff Oliver, desiring me to go [to Jedburgh] on Monday (to-morrow) and show countenance by adhering to a set of propositions, being a resolution. Though not well drawn, they are uncompromising enough; so I will not part company. Had a letter, too, from Henry Scott. He still expects to refuse the Bill. I wrote him that would but postpone the evil day, unless they could bring forward a strong Administration, and, what is most essential, a system of finance; otherwise it won't do. Henry has also applied to me for the rejected address. But this I shall decline.

March 22.--Went to-day at nine o'clock to the meeting. A great number present, with a tribune full of Reformers, who showed their sense of propriety by hissing, hooting, and making all sorts of noises; and these unwashed artificers are from henceforth to select our legislators. There was some speaking, but not good. I said something, for I could not sit quiet.[438]

We did not get home till about nine, having fasted the whole time. James, the blockhead, lost my poor Spice, a favourite terrier. The fool shut her in a stable, and somebody, [he] says, opened the door and let her out. I suspect she is lost for aye, for she was carried to Jedburgh in a post-chaise.

March 23.--The measure carried by a single vote.[439] In other circumstances one would hope for the interference of the House of Lords, but it is all hab-nab at a venture. The worst is that there is a popular party who want personal power, and are highly unfitted to enjoy it. It has fallen easily, the old Constitution; no bullying Mirabeau to assail, no eloquent Maury to defend. It has been thrown away like a child's broken toy. Well trained, the good sense of the people is much trusted to; we will see what it will do for us.[440]

The curse of Cromwell on those whose conceit brought us to this pass. _Sed transeat_. It is vain to mourn what cannot be mended.

March 24.--Frank Grant and his lady came here. Frank will, I believe, and if he attends to his profession, be one of the celebrated men of the age. He is well known to me as the companion of my sons and the partner of my daughters. In youth, that is in extreme youth, he was passionately fond of fox-hunting and other sports, but not of any species of gambling. He had also a strong passion for painting, and made a little collection. As he had sense enough to feel that a younger brother's fortune would not last long under the expenses of a good stud and a rare collection of _chef-d'œuvres_, he used to avow his intention to spend his patrimony, about £10,000, and then again to make his fortune by the law. The first he soon accomplished. But the law is not a profession so easily acquired, nor did Frank's talents lie in that direction. His passion for painting turned out better. Nature had given him the rare power of judging soundly of painting, and in a remarkable degree the power of imitating it. Connoisseurs approved of his sketches, both in pencil and oils, but not without the sort of criticisms made on these occasions--that they were admirable for an amateur; but it could not be expected that he should submit to the technical drudgery absolutely necessary for a profession, and all that species of criticism which gives way before natural genius and energy of character.

Meantime Frank Grant, who was remarkably handsome, and very much the man of fashion, married a young lady with many possibilities, as Sir Hugh Evans says.[441] She was eldest sister of Farquharson of Invercauld, chief of that clan; and the young man himself having been almost paralysed by the malaria in Italy, Frank's little boy by this match becomes heir to the estate and chieftainship. In the meantime fate had another chance for him in the matrimonial line. At Melton-Mowbray, during the hunting season, he had become acquainted (even before his first marriage) with a niece of the Duke of Rutland, a beautiful and fashionable young woman, with whom he was now thrown into company once more. It was a natural consequence that they should marry. The lady had not much wealth, but excellent connections in society, to whom Grant's good looks and good breeding made him very acceptable.

March 25.--In the meantime Frank saw the necessity of doing something to keep himself independent, having, I think, too much spirit to become a Stulko,[442] drinking out the last glass of the bottle, riding the horses which the laird wishes to sell, and drawing sketches to amuse the lady and the children,--besides a prospect on Invercauld elevating him, when realised, to the rank of the laird's father.

March 26.--Grant was above all this, and honourably and manfully resolved to cultivate his taste for painting, and become a professional artist. I am no judge of painting, but I am conscious that Francis Grant possesses, with much taste, a sense of beauty derived from the best source, that of really good society, while in many modern artists, the total want of that species of feeling is so great as to be revolting. His former acquaintances render his immediate entrance into business completely secure, and it will rest with himself to carry on his success. He has, I think, that degree of energy and force of character which will make him keep and enlarge any reputation which he may acquire. He has confidence too in his own powers, always a requisite for a young painter whose aristocratic pretensions must be envied by [his less fortunate brethren].

March 27.--Frank Grant is still with me, and is well pleased--I think very deservedly so--with a cabinet picture of myself, armour, and so forth, together with my two noble staghounds of the greyhound race. I wish Cadell had got it; it is far better than Watson's--though his is well too. The dogs sat charmingly, but the picture took up some time.[443]

March 28.--We went out a little ride. The weather most tempting, the day beautiful. We rode and walked a little.

March 29.--We had an hour's sitting of the dogs, and a good deal of success. I cannot compose my mind on this public measure. It will not please those whom it is the object to please.

March 30.--Robert Dundas[444] and his wife--Miss Durham that was--came to spend a day or two. I was heartily glad to see him, being my earliest and best friend's son. John Swinton came by Blucher, on the part of an anti-Reform meeting in Edinburgh; exhorting me to take up the pen, but I declined and pleaded health, which, God knows, I have a right to urge. I might have urged also the chance of my breaking down, but there would be a cry of this kind which might very well prove real.

March 31.--Swinton returned in the forenoon yesterday after lunch. He took my denial very quietly, and said it would be wrong to press me. I have not shunned anything that came fairly on me, but I do not see the sense of standing forth a champion. It is said that the Duke of Buccleuch has been offered the title of Monmouth if he would cease to oppose. He said there were two objections--they would not give it him if he seriously thought of it, and he would not take it if they did. The Dundases went off to-day. I was glad I had seen them, although visitors rather interrupt work.

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FOOTNOTES:

[431] _The British Herald_, by Thomas Robson, 3 vols. 4to, 1830. Mr. Lockhart says this review never was published.

[432] Mr. Andrew Lang, Sheriff and Commissary Clerk, and Clerk of Peace, for Selkirkshire, grandfather of Mr. Andrew Lang, the accomplished poet and man of letters of the present time. The tact and ability of the grandfather are noticed by Sir Walter in his letter to Lord Montagu of Oct. 3, 1819, describing Prince Leopold at Selkirk.--_Life_, vol. vi. p. 131.

[433] This proposal, resisted successfully in 1832, has since been put in force so far as Parliament is concerned.

[434] I _Henry IV_., Act II. Sc. 3.

[435] _Taming of the Shrew_, Introd.

[436] As this is the last reference to the Ettrick Shepherd in the Journal, it may be noted that Sir Walter, as late as March 23d, 1832, was still desirous to promote Hogg's welfare. In writing from Naples he says, in reference to the Shepherd's social success in London, "I am glad Hogg has succeeded so well. I hope he will make hay while the sun shines; but he must be aware that the Lion of this season always becomes the Boar of the next.... I will subscribe the proper sum, _i.e._ what you think right, for Hogg, by all means; and I pray God, keep farms and other absurd temptations likely to beset him out of his way. He has another chance for comfort if he will use common sense with his very considerable genius."

[437] This expression of irritation can easily be understood after reading the passages referred to in the twenty-ninth volume of _Blackwood's Magazine_, pp. 30-35, and 535-544. Readers of this _Journal_ have seen what uphill work these "Letters on Demonology" were to the author, but the unsparing criticism of _Christopher North_ must have appeared to the author as a very unfriendly act, more especially, he thought, if the critic really knew the conditions under which the book had been written.

[438] Mr. Lockhart says:--"He proposed one of the Tory resolutions in a speech of some length, but delivered in a tone so low, and with such hesitation in utterance, that only a few detached passages were intelligible to the bulk of the audience."--See _Life_, vol. x. pp. 46-8.

[439] The passing of the great Reform Bill in the House of Commons on the 22d March.

[440] His friend Richardson, who was a Whig, writes him from London on February 14:--"What a singular feeling it was to me to find Brougham Lord Chancellor, and Jeffrey and Cockburn in their present stations! I am afraid that the spirit of reform goes at present beyond the limits to which even the Government will go--and but for the large stock of good sense and feeling which I think yet pervades the country, I should tremble for the future."

[441] _Merry Wives_, Act I. Sc. 1.

[442] _Stulko_ or _Stulk_ (? _Stocaire_, in Irish), a word formerly in common use among the Irish, signifying an idle, lazy, good-for-nothing fellow.

[443] Mary Campbell, Lady Ruthven, for whom the picture was painted, was not only the friend of Scott, but she held relations more or less close with nearly every one famous in Art and Literature during the greater part of the nineteenth century. No mean artist herself, and though, perhaps, not a clever letter-writer, she had among her correspondents some of the most brilliant men of her day. She survived all her early friends, but had the gift of being attractive to the young, and for three generations was the delight of their children and grandchildren. Those who were privileged to share in the refined hospitality of Winton, never forgot either the picturesque old house (the supposed Ravenswood Castle of the _Bride of Lammermoor_), or its venerable mistress as she sat of an evening in her unique drawing-room, the walls of which were adorned with pictures of Grecian temple and landscape, her own handiwork in days long gone by when she was styled by her friends Queen of Athens. Her conversation, after she was ninety, was fresh and vigorous; and, despite blindness and imperfect hearing, she kept herself well acquainted with the affairs of the day. The last great speech in Parliament, or the newest _bon mot_, were equally acceptable and equally relished. Her sense of humour and fun made her, at times, forget her own sufferings, and her splendid memory enabled her to while away many a sleepless hour by repeating long passages from the Bible or Milton. The former she had so much in her heart that it was scarcely possible to believe she was not reading from the Book. Above all was her truly divine gift of charity, the practical application of which, in her every-day life, was only bounded by her means.

It was said of her by one who knew her well--

"She lived to a great age, dispensing kindness and benevolence to the last, and cheered in the sore infirmities of her later years by the love of friends of all ranks, and all parties of all ages.

"The Living Lamp of Lothian, which from Winton, has so long shed its beneficent lustre, has been extinguished, but not so will be lost the memory of the gifted lady, for by not a few will still be cherished the recollection of her noble nature, and of her Christian life."

Lady Ruthven prized the picture referred to. She would not, as Sir Francis Grant relates,[D] permit him to touch the canvas after it left the Abbotsford studio; and it remained a cherished possession which she took pride in showing to appreciative guests, pointing out the details of face and form which she still saw with that inner eye, which time had not darkened.

It is now in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland--bequeathed to the nation with other pictures, as well as the magnificent collection of Greek archaeological objects gathered by herself and Lord Ruthven in their early married life. She was born in 1789, and died in 1885.

[444] Robert Dundas of Arniston, Esq., the worthy representative of an illustrious lineage, died at his paternal seat in June 1838.--J.G.L. See _Arniston Memoirs_--_Three Centuries of a Scottish House_, 1571-1838. Edin. 8vo, 1887.

[D] See long and interesting letter of June 5, 1872, from Sir Francis to Sir W.S. Maxwell.--Laing's _Catalogue_, pp. 72-81.

Sir Walter Scott