March 1.--_Malachi_ is in the _Edinburgh Journal_ to-day, and reads like the work of an uncompromising right-forward Scot of the old school. Some of the cautious and pluckless instigators will be afraid of their confederate; for if a man of some energy and openness of character happens to be on the same side with these truckling jobbers, they stand as much in awe of his vehemence as doth the inexperienced conjurer who invokes a fiend whom he cannot manage. Came home, in a heavy shower with the Solicitor. I tried him on the question, but found him reserved and cautious. The future Lord Advocate must be cautious; but I can tell my good friend John Hope that, if he acts the part of a firm and resolute Scottish patriot, both his own country and England will respect him the more. Ah! Hal Dundas, there was no such truckling in thy day!
Looked out a quantity of things to go to Abbotsford; for we are flitting, if you please. It is with a sense of pain that I leave behind a parcel of trumpery prints and little ornaments, once the pride of Lady S----'s heart, but which she sees consigned with indifference to the chance of an auction. Things that have had their day of importance with me I cannot forget, though the merest trifles. But I am glad that she, with bad health and enough to vex her, has not the same useless mode of associating recollections with this unpleasant business. The best part of it is the necessity of leaving behind, viz., setting rid of, a set of most wretched daubs of landscapes, in great gilded frames, of which I have often been heartily ashamed. The history of them was curious. An amateur artist (a lady) happened to fall into misfortunes, upon which her landscapes, the character of which had been buoyed up far beyond their proper level, sank even beneath it, and it was low enough. One most amiable and accomplished old lady continued to encourage her pencil, and to order picture after picture, which she sent in presents to her friends. I suppose I have eight or ten of them, which I could not avoid accepting. There will be plenty of laughing when they come to be sold. It would be a good joke enough to cause it to be circulated that they were performances of my own in early youth, and they would be looked on and bought up as curiosities. True it is that I took lessons of oil-painting in youth from a little Jew animalcule, a smouch called Burrell, a clever sensible creature though; but I could make no progress either in painting or drawing. Nature denied me correctness of eye and neatness of hand, yet I was very desirous to be a draughtsman at least, and laboured harder to attain that point than at any other in my recollection, to which I did not make some approaches. My oil-paintings were to Miss ------ above commemorated what hers are to Claude Lorraine. Yet Burrell was not useless to me altogether neither; he was a Prussian, and I got from him many a long story of the battles of Frederic, in whose armies his father had been a commissary, or perhaps a spy. I remember his picturesque account of seeing a party of the Black Hussars bringing in some forage carts which they had taken from a body of the Cossacks, whom he described as lying on the top of the carts of hay, mortally wounded, and, like the Dying Gladiator, eyeing their own blood as it ran down through the straw. I afterwards took lessons from Walker, whom we used to call Blue-beard. He was one of the most conceited persons in the world, but a good teacher--one of the ugliest countenances he had too--enough, as we say, to spean weans. The man was always extremely precise in the quality of everything about him, his dress, accommodations, and everything else. He became insolvent, poor man, and for some reason or other I attended the meeting of those concerned in his affairs. Instead of ordinary accommodations for writing, each of the persons present was equipped with a large sheet of drawing paper and a swan's quill. It was mournfully ridiculous enough. Skirving made an admirable likeness of Walker, not a single scar or mark of the smallpox which seamed his countenance, but the too accurate brother of the brush had faithfully laid it down in longitude and latitude. Poor Walker destroyed it (being in crayons) rather than let the caricature of his ugliness appear at the sale of his effects. I did learn myself to take some vile views from Nature. When Will Clerk and I lived very much together, I used sometimes to make them under his instruction. He to whom, as to all his family, art is a familiar attribute, wondered at me as a Newfoundland dog would at a greyhound which showed fear of the water.
Going down to Liddesdale once, I drew the castle of Hermitage in my
fashion, and sketched it so accurately that with a few verbal
instructions Clerk put it into regular form, Williams (the Grecian)
copied over Clerk's, and _his_ drawing was engraved as the frontispiece
of the first volume of the Kelso edition, _Minstrelsy of the Scottish
Border_. Do you know why you have written all this down, Sir W.?
Because it pleases me to record that this thrice-transmitted drawing,
though taken originally from a sketch of mine, was extremely like
Hermitage, which neither of my colleagues in the task had ever seen? No,
that's not the reason. You want to put off writing _Woodstock_, just as
easily done as these memoranda, but which it happens your duty and your
prudence recommend, and therefore you are loath to begin.
"Heigho, I can't say no; But this piece of task-work off I can stave, O, For Malachi's posting into an octavo; To correct the proof-sheets only this night I have, O, So, Madame Conscience, you've gotten as good as you gave, O But to-morrow's a new day and we'll better behave, O, So I lay down the pen, and your pardon I crave, O."
March 2.--I have a letter from Colin Mackenzie, approving
_Malachi_,--"Cold men may say it is too strong; but from the true men of
Scotland you are sure of the warmest gratitude." I never have yet found,
nor do I expect it on this occasion, that ill-will dies in debt, or what
is called gratitude distresses herself by frequent payments. The one is
like a ward-holding and pays its reddendo in hard blows. The other a
blanch-tenure, and is discharged for payment of a red rose or a
peppercorn. He that takes the forlorn hope in an attack, is often
deserted by those that should support him, and who generally throw the
blame of their own cowardice upon his rashness. We shall see this will
end in the same way. But I foresaw it from the beginning. The bankers
will be persuaded that it is a squib which may burn their own fingers,
and will curse the poor pyrotechnist that compounded it; if they do,
they be d--d. Slept indifferently, and dreamed of Napoleon's last
moments, of which I was reading a medical account last night, by Dr.
Arnott. Horrible death--a cancer on the pylorus. I would have given
something to have lain still this morning and made up for lost time. But
_desidiae valedixi_. If you once turn on your side after the hour at
which you ought to rise, it is all over. Bolt up at once. Bad night
last--the next is sure to be better.
"When the drum beats, make ready; When the fife plays, march away-- To the roll-call, to the roll-call, to the roll-call, Before the break of day."
First epistle of _Malachi_ is getting out of print, or rather is out of print already.
March 3.--Could not get the last sheets of _Malachi_, Second Epistle, last night, so they must go out to the world uncorrected--a great loss, for the last touches are always most effectual; and I expect misprints in the additional matter. We were especially obliged to have it out this morning, that it may operate as a gentle preparative for the meeting of inhabitants at two o'clock. _Vogue la galère_--we shall see if Scotsmen have any pluck left. If not, they may kill the next Percy themselves. It is ridiculous enough for me, in a state of insolvency for the present, to be battling about gold and paper currency. It is something like the humorous touch in Hogarth's _Distressed Poet_, where the poor starveling of the Muses is engaged, when in the abyss of poverty, in writing an Essay on payment of the National Debt; and his wall is adorned with a plan of the mines of Peru. Nevertheless, even these fugitive attempts, from the success which they have had, and the noise they are making, serve to show the truth of the old proverb--
"When house and land are gone and spent, Then learning is most excellent."On the whole, I am glad of this brulzie, as far as I am concerned; people will not dare talk of me as an object of pity--no more "poor-manning." Who asks how many punds Scots the old champion had in his pocket when
"He set a bugle to his mouth, And blew so loud and shrill, The trees in greenwood shook thereat, Sae loud rang ilka hill"?This sounds conceited enough, yet is not far from truth.
The meeting was very numerous, 500 or 600 at least, and unanimous, save in one Mr. Howden, who having been all his life, as I am told, in bitter opposition to Ministers, proposed on the present occasion that the whole contested measure should be trusted to their wisdom. I suppose he chose the opportunity of placing his own opinion in opposition, single opposition too, to that of a large assembly. The speaking was very moderate. Report had said that Jeffrey, J.A. Murray, and other sages of the economical school, were to unbuckle their mails, and give us their opinions. But no such great guns appeared. If they had, having the multitude on my side, I would have tried to break a lance with them. A few short but well-expressed resolutions were adopted unanimously. These were proposed by Lord Rollo, and seconded by Sir James Fergusson, Bart. I was named one of a committee to encourage all sorts of opposition to the measure. So I have already broken through two good and wise resolutions--one, that I would not write on political controversy; another, that I would not be named on public committees. If my good resolves go this way, like _snaw aff a dyke_--the Lord help me!
March 4.--Last night I had a letter from Lockhart, who, speaking of _Malachi_, says, "The Ministers are sore beyond imagination at present; and some of them, I hear, have felt this new whip on the raw to some purpose." I conclude he means Canning is offended. I can't help it, as I said before--_fiat justitia, ruat coelum_. No cause in which I had the slightest personal interest should have made me use my pen 'gainst them, blunt or pointed as it may be. But as they are about to throw this country into distress and danger, by a measure of useless and uncalled-for experiment, they must hear the opinion of the Scotsmen, to whom it is of no other consequence than as a general measure affecting the country at large,--and mine they _shall_ hear. I had determined to lay down the pen. But now they shall have another of _Malachi_, beginning with buffoonery, and ending as seriously as I can write it. It is like a frenzy that they will agitate the upper and middling classes of society, so very friendly to them, with unnecessary and hazardous [projects],
"Oh, thus it was they loved them dear, And sought how to requite 'em, And having no friends left but they, They did resolve to fight them."The country is very high just now. England may carry the measure if she will, doubtless. But what will be the consequence of the distress ensuing, God only can foretell.
Lockhart, moreover, inquires about my affairs anxiously, and asks what he is to say about them; says, "He has inquiries every day; kind, most kind all, and among the most interested and anxious, Sir William Knighton, who told me the king was quite melancholy all the evening he heard of it." _This_ I can well believe, for the king, educated as a prince, has, nevertheless, as true and kind a heart as any subject in his dominions. He goes on: "I do think they would give you a Baron's gown as soon as possible," etc. I have written to him in answer, showing I have enough to carry me on, and can dedicate my literary efforts to clear my land. The preferment would suit me well, and the late Duke of Buccleuch gave me his interest for it. I dare say the young duke would do the same, for the unvaried love I have borne his house; and by and by he will have a voice potential. But there is Sir William Rae in the meantime, whose prevailing claim I would never place my own in opposition to, even were it possible by a _tour de force_, such as L. points at, to set it aside. Meantime, I am building a barrier betwixt me and promotion. Any prospect of the kind is very distant and very uncertain. _Come time, come, rath_, as the German says.
In the meanwhile, now I am not pulled about for money, etc., methinks I am happier without my wealth than with it. Everything is paid. I have no one wishing to _make up a sum_ of money, and writing for his account to be paid. Since 17th January I have not laid out a guinea, out of my own hand, save two or three in charity, and six shillings for a pocket-book. But the cash with which I set out having run short for family expenses I drew on Blackwood, through Ballantyne, which was honoured, for £25, to account of _Malachi's Letters_, of which another edition of 1000 is ordered, and gave it to Lady Scott, because our removal will require that in hand. This is for a fortnight succeeding Wednesday next, being the 8th March current. On the 20th my quarter comes in, and though I have something to pay out of it, I shall be on velvet for expense--and regular I will be. Methinks all trifling objects of expenditure seem to grow light in my eyes. That I may regain independence, I must be saving. But ambition awakes, as love of quiet indulgence dies and is mortified within me. "Dark Cuthullin will be renowned or dead."
March 5.--Something of toddy and cigar in that last quotation, I think. Yet I only smoked two, and liquified with one glass of spirits and water. I have sworn I will not blot out what I have once written here.
_Malachi_ goes on, but I am dubious about the commencement--it must be mended at least--reads prosy.
Had letters from Walter and Jane, the dears. All well. Regiment about to move from Dublin.
March 6.--Finished third _Malachi_, which I don't much like. It respects the difficulty of finding gold to replace the paper circulation. Now this should have been considered first. The admitting that the measure may be imposed is yielding up the question, and _Malachi_ is like a commandant who should begin to fire from interior defences before his outworks were carried. If Ballantyne be of my own opinion I will suppress it. We are all in a bustle shifting things to Abbotsford. I believe we shall stay here till the beginning of next week. It is odd, but I don't feel the impatience for the country which I have usually experienced.
March 7.--Detained in the Court till _three_ by a hearing. Then to the Committee appointed at the meeting on Friday, to look after the small-note business. A pack of old _fainéants_, incapable of managing such a business, and who will lose the day from mere coldness of heart. There are about a thousand names at the petition. They have added no designations--a great blunder; for _testimonia sunt ponderanda, non numeranda_ should never be lost sight of. They are disconcerted and helpless; just as in the business of the King's visit, when everybody threw the weight on me, for which I suffered much in my immediate labour, and after bad health it brought on a violent eruption on my skin, which saved me from a fever at the time, but has been troublesome more or less ever since. I was so disgusted with seeing them sitting in ineffectual helplessness spitting on the hot iron that lay before them, and touching it with a timid finger, as if afraid of being scalded, that at another time I might have dashed in and taken up the hammer, summoned the deacons and other heads of public bodies, and by consulting them have carried them with me. But I cannot waste my time, health, and spirits in fighting thankless battles. I left them in a quarter of an hour, and presage, unless the country make an alarm, the cause is lost. The philosophical reviewers manage their affairs better--hold off--avoid committing themselves, but throw their _vis inertiæ_ into the opposite scale, and neutralise the feelings which they cannot combat. To force them to fight on disadvantageous ground is our policy. But we have more sneakers after Ministerial favour than men who love their country, and who upon a liberal scale would serve their party. For to force the Whigs to avow an unpopular doctrine in popular assemblies, or to wrench the government of such bodies from them, would be a _coup de maître_. But they are alike destitute of manly resolution and sound policy. D--n the whole nest of them! I have corrected the last of _Malachi_, and let the thing take its chance. I have made enemies enough, and indisposed enough of friends.
March 8.--At the Court, though a teind day. A foolish thing happened while the Court were engaged with the teinds. I amused myself with writing on a sheet of paper notes on Frederick Maitland's account of the capture of Bonaparte; and I have lost these notes--shuffled in perhaps among my own papers, or those of the teind clerks. What a curious document to be found in a process of valuation!
Being jaded and sleepy, I took up Le Due de Guise on Naples. I think this, with the old Memoires on the same subject which I have at Abbotsford, would enable me to make a pretty essay for the _Quarterly_. We must take up _Woodstock_ now in good earnest. Mr. Cowan, a good and able man, is chosen trustee in Constable's affairs, with full power. From what I hear, the poor man is not sensible of the nature of his own situation; for myself, I have succeeded in putting the matters perfectly out of my mind since I cannot help them, and have arrived at a _flocci-pauci-nihili-pili-_fication of money, and I thank Shenstone for inventing that long word. They are removing the wine, etc., to the carts, and you will judge if our flitting is not making a noise in the world--or in the street at least.
March 9.--I foresaw justly,
"When first I set this dangerous stone a-rolling, 'Twould fall upon myself."Sir Robert Dundas to-day put into my hands a letter of between thirty and forty pages, in angry and bitter reprobation of _Malachi_, full of general averments and very untenable arguments, all written at me by name, but of which I am to have no copy, and which is to be shown to me _in extenso_, and circulated to other special friends, to whom it may be necessary to "give the sign to hate." I got it at two o'clock, and returned [it] with an answer four hours afterwards, in which I have studied not to be tempted into either sarcastic or harsh expressions. A quarrel it is however, in all the forms, between my old friend and myself, and his lordship's reprimand is to be _read out in order_ to all our friends. They all know what I have said is true, but that will be nothing to the purpose if they are desired to consider it as false. As for Lord Melville, I do not wonder that he is angry, though he has little reason, for he, our _watchman stented_, has from time to time suffered all manner of tampering to go on under his nose with the institutions and habits of Scotland. As for myself, I was quite prepared for my share of displeasure. It is very curious that I should have foreseen all this so distinctly as far back as 17th February. Nobody at least can plague me for interest with Lord Melville as they used to do. By the way, from the tone of his letter, I think his lordship will give up the measure, and I will be the peace-offering. All will agree to condemn me as too warm--too rash--and get rich on privileges which they would not have been able to save but for a little rousing of spirit, which will not perhaps fall asleep again. A gentleman called on the part of a Captain [Rutherford], to make inquiry about the Border Rutherfords. Not being very _cleever_, as John Fraser used to say, at these pedigree matters, referred him to Mrs. Dr. Russell and Robt. Rutherford. The noble Captain conceits he has some title to the honours of Lord Rutherford. Very odd--when there is a vacant or dormant title in a Scottish family or _name_, everybody, and all connected with the clan, conceive they have _quodam modo_ a right to it. Not being engrossed by any individual, it communicates part of its lustre to every individual in the tribe, as if it remained in common stock for that purpose.
March 10.--I am not made entirely in the same mould of passions like
other people. Many men would deeply regret a breach with so old a friend
as Lord Melville, and many men would be in despair at losing the good
graces of a Minister of State for Scotland, and all pretty visions about
what might be done for myself and my sons, especially Charles. But I
think my good lord doth ill to be angry, like the patriarch of old, and
I have, in my odd sans souciance character, a good handful of meal from
the grist of the Jolly Miller, who
"Once Dwelled on the river Dee; I care for nobody, no, not I, Since nobody cares for me."
Sandie Young came in at breakfast-time with a Monsieur Brocque of Montpelier.
Saw Sir Robert Dundas at Court, who condemns Lord Melville, and says he will not show his letter to any one; in fact it would be exactly placarding me in a private and confidential manner. He is to send my letter to Lord Melville. Colin Mackenzie concurs in thinking Lord Melville quite wrong. "_He must cool in the skin he het in._"
On coming home from the Court a good deal fatigued, I took a nap in my easy-chair, then packed my books, and committed the refuse to Jock Stevenson--
"Left not a limb on which a Dane could triumph."Gave Mr. Gibson my father's cabinet, which suits a man of business well. Gave Jock Stevenson the picture of my old favourite dog Camp, mentioned in one of the introductions to _Marmion_, and a little crow-quill drawing of Melrose Abbey by Nelson, whom I used to call the Admiral. Poor fellow! he had some ingenuity, and was, in a moderate way, a good penman and draughtsman. He left his situation of amanuensis to go into Lord Home's militia regiment, but his dissipated habits got the better of a strong constitution, and he fell into bad ways and poverty, and died, I believe, in the hospital at Liverpool. Strange enough that Henry Weber, who acted afterwards as my amanuensis for many years, had also a melancholy fate ultimately. He was a man of very superior attainments, an excellent linguist and geographer, and a remarkable antiquary. He published a collection of ancient Romances, superior, I think, to the elaborate Ritson. He also published an edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, but too carelessly done to be reputable. He was a violent Jacobin, which he thought he disguised from me, while I, who cared not a fig about the poor young man's politics, used to amuse myself with teasing him. He was an excellent and affectionate creature, but unhappily was afflicted with partial insanity, especially if he used strong liquors, to which, like others with that unhappy tendency, he was occasionally addicted. In 1814 he became quite insane, and, at the risk of my life, I had to disarm him of a pair of loaded pistols, which I did by exerting the sort of authority which, I believe, gives an effectual control in such cases. His friends, who were respectable, placed him in the York Asylum, where he pined away and died, I think, in 1814 or 1815. My patronage in this way has not been lucky to the parties protected. I hope poor George Huntly Gordon will escape the influence of the evil star. He has no vice, poor fellow, but his total deafness makes him helpless.
March 11.--This day the Court rose after a long and laborious sederunt. I employed the remainder of the day in completing a set of notes on Captain Maitland's manuscript narrative of the reception of Napoleon Bonaparte on board the _Bellerophon_. It had been previously in the hands of my friend Basil Hall, who had made many excellent corrections in point of style; but he had been hypercritical in wishing (in so important a matter where everything depends on accuracy) this expression to be altered for delicacy's sake,--that to be omitted for fear of giving offence,--and that other to be abridged for fear of being tedious. The plain sailor's narrative for me, written on the spot, and bearing in its minuteness the evidence of its veracity.
Lord Elgin sent me, some time since, a curious account of his imprisonment in France, and the attempts which were made to draw him into some intrigue which might authorise treating him with rigour. He called to-day and communicated some curious circumstances, on the authority of Fouché, Denon, and others, respecting Bonaparte and the empress Maria Louise, whom Lord Elgin had conversed with on the subject in Italy. His conduct towards her was something like that of Ethwald to Elburga, in Joanna Baillie's fine tragedy, making her postpone her high rank by birth to the authority which he had acquired by his talents. Dinner was usually announced for a particular hour, and Napoleon's business often made him late. She was not permitted to sit down to table, an etiquette which was reasonable enough. But from the hour of dinner till the Emperor appeared she was to be in the act of sitting down; that is to say, he was displeased if he found her engaged with a book, with work, or with anything else. She was obliged to be in a state of absolute "being about to sit down." She seemed a good deal _gênée_ by something of that kind, though remembering with pride she had been Empress, it might almost be said of the world. The rest for to-morrow.
March 12.--Resumed _Woodstock_, and wrote my task of six pages. I was interrupted by a slumberous feeling which made me obliged to stop once or twice. I shall soon have a remedy in the country, which affords the pleasanter resource of a walk when such feelings come on. I hope I am the reverse of the well-known line, "sleepy myself, to give my readers sleep." I cannot _gurnalise_ at any rate, having wrought my eyes nearly out.
March 13.--Wrote to the end of a chapter, and knowing no more than the man in the moon what comes next, I will put down a few of Lord Elgin's remembrances, and something may occur to me in the meanwhile. When M[aria] Louise first saw B[onaparte], she was in the carriage with his representative general, when she saw a horseman ride forward at the gallop, passing and repassing the carriage in a manner which, joined to the behaviour of her companion, convinced her who it was, especially as he endeavoured, with a curiosity which would not have been tolerated in another, to peep into the windows. When she alighted at the inn at----, Napoleon presented himself, pulled her by the ear, and kissed her forehead.
Bonaparte's happiest days passed away when he dismissed from about him such men as Talleyrand and Fouché, whose questions and objections compelled him to recur upon, modify, and render practicable the great plans which his ardent conception struck out at a heat. When he had Murat and such persons about him, who marvelled and obeyed, his schemes, equally magnificent, were not so well matured, and ended in the projector's ruin.
I have hinted in these notes that I am not entirely free from a sort of gloomy fits, with a fluttering of the heart and depression of spirits, just as if I knew not what was going to befall me. I can sometimes resist this successfully, but it is better to evade than to combat it. The hang-dog spirit may have originated in the confusion and chucking about of our old furniture, the stripping of walls of pictures, and rooms of ornaments; the leaving a house we have so long called our home is altogether melancholy enough. I am glad Lady S. does not mind it, and yet I wonder, too. She insists on my remaining till Wednesday, not knowing what I suffer. Meanwhile, to make my recusant spirit do penance, I have set to work to clear away papers and pack them for my journey. What a strange medley of thoughts such a task produces! There lie letters which made the heart throb when received, now lifeless and uninteresting--as are perhaps their owners. Riddles which time has read--schemes which he has destroyed or brought to maturity--memorials of friendships and enmities which are now alike faded. Thus does the ring of Saturn consume itself. To-day annihilates yesterday, as the old tyrant swallowed his children, and the snake its tail. But I must say to my _Gurnal_ as poor Byron did to Moore, "Damn it, Tom, don't be poetical."
_Memorandum_.--I received some time since from Mr. Riddoch, of Falkirk, a sort of iron mallet, said to have been found in the ruins of Grame's Dike; there it was reclaimed about three months since by the gentleman on whose lands it was found, a Doctor--by a very polite letter from his man of business. Having unluckily mislaid his letter, and being totally unable either to recollect the name of the proprietor or the professional gentleman, I returned this day the piece of antiquity to Mr. Riddoch, who sent it to me. Wrote at the same time to Tom Grahame of Airth, mentioning what I had done. "Touch my honour, touch my life--there is the spoon."
March 14.--J.B. called this morning to take leave, and receive directions about proofs, etc. Talks of the uproar about _Malachi_; but I am tired of _Malachi_--the humour is off, and I have said what I wanted to say, and put the people of Scotland on their guard, as well as Ministers, if they like to be warned. They are gradually destroying what remains of nationality, and making the country _tabula rasa_ for doctrines of bold innovation. Their loosening and grinding down all those peculiarities which distinguished us as Scotsmen will throw the country into a state in which it will be universally turned to democracy, and instead of canny Saunders, they will have a very dangerous North British neighbourhood.
Some [English] lawyer expressed to Lord Elibank an opinion, that at the Union the English law should have been extended all over Scotland. "I cannot say how that might have answered our purpose," said Lord Patrick, who was never nonsuited for want of an answer, "but it would scarce have suited _yours_, since by this time the _Aberdeen Advocates_ would have possessed themselves of all the business in Westminster Hall."
What a detestable feeling this fluttering of the heart is! I know it is nothing organic, and that it is entirely nervous; but the sickening effects of it are dispiriting to a degree. Is it the body brings it on the mind, or the mind that inflicts it upon the body? I cannot tell; but it is a severe price to pay for the _Fata Morgana_ with which Fancy sometimes amuses men of warm imaginations. As to body and mind, I fancy I might as well inquire whether the fiddle or fiddlestick makes the tune. In youth this complaint used to throw me into involuntary passions of causeless tears. But I will drive it away in the country by exercise. I wish I had been a mechanic: a turning-lathe or a chest of tools would have been a God-send; for thought makes the access of melancholy rather worse than better. I have it seldom, thank God, and, I believe, lightly, in comparison of others.
It was the fiddle after all was out of order, not the fiddlestick; the body, not the mind. I walked out; met Mrs. Skene, who took a turn with me in Princes Street. Bade Constable and Cadell farewell, and had a brisk walk home, which enables me to face the desolation here with more spirit. News from Sophia. She has had the luck to get an anti-druggist in a Dr. Gooch, who prescribes care for Johnnie instead of drugs, and a little home-brewed ale instead of wine; and, like a liberal physician, supplies the medicine he prescribes. As for myself, while I have scarce stirred to take exercise for four or five days, no wonder I had the mulligrubs. It is an awful sensation though, and would have made an enthusiast of me, had I indulged my imagination on devotional subjects. I have been always careful to place my mind in the most tranquil posture which it can assume during my private exercises of devotion.
I have amused myself occasionally very pleasantly during the last few days, by reading over Lady Morgan's novel of _O'Donnel_, which has some striking and beautiful passages of situation and description, and in the comic part is very rich and entertaining. I do not remember being so much pleased with it at first. There is a want of story, always fatal to a book the first reading--and it is well if it gets a chance of a second. Alas! poor novel! Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen's very finely written novel of _Pride and Prejudice_. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!
March 15.--This morning I leave No. 39 Castle Street, for the last time. "The cabin was convenient," and habit had made it agreeable to me. I never reckoned upon a change in this particular so long as I held an office in the Court of Session. In all my former changes of residence it was from good to better; this is retrograding. I leave this house for sale, and I cease to be an Edinburgh citizen, in the sense of being a proprietor, which my father and I have been for sixty years at least. So farewell, poor 39, and may you never harbour worse people than those who now leave you! Not to desert the Lares all at once, Lady S. and Anne remain till Sunday. As for me, I go, as aforesaid, this morning.
"Ha til mi tulidh'!--"
Abbotsford, 9 at night.--The naturally unpleasant feelings which influenced me in my ejectment, for such it is virtually, readily evaporated in the course of the journey, though I had no pleasanter companions than Mrs. Mackay, the housekeeper, and one of the maids; and I have a shyness of disposition, which looks like pride, but it is not, which makes me awkward in speaking to my household domestics. With an out-of-doors labourer, or an old woman gathering sticks, I can talk for ever. I was welcomed here on my arrival by the tumult, great of men and dogs, all happy to see me. One of my old labourers killed by the fall of a stone working at Gattonside Bridge. Old Will Straiton, my man of wisdom and proverbs, also dead. He was entertaining from his importance and self-conceit, but really a sensible old man. When he heard of my misfortunes, he went to bed, and said he would not rise again, and kept his word. He was very infirm when I last saw him. Tom Purdie in great glory, being released from all farm duty, and destined to attend the woods, and be my special assistant. The gardener Bogie is to take care of what small farm we have left, which little would make me give up entirely.
March 16.--Pleasant days make short Journals, and I have little to say to-day. I wrote in the morning at _Woodstock_; walked from one till four; was down at Huntly Burn and paid my respects to the ladies. The spring seems promising, and everything in great order. Visited Will Straiton's widow, who squeezed out among many tears a petition for a house. I do not think I shall let her have one, as she has a bad temper, but I will help her otherwise; she is greedy besides, as was the defunct philosopher William. In a year or two I shall have on the toft field a gallant show of extensive woodland, sweeping over the hill, and its boundaries carefully concealed. In the evening, after dinner, read Mrs. Charlotte Smith's novel of _Desmond_--decidedly the worst of her compositions.
March 17.--Sent off a packet to J.B.; only three pages copy, so must work hard for a day or two. I wish I could wind up my bottom handsomely--an odd but accredited phrase. The conclusion will be luminous; we must try to make it dashing. Go spin, you jade, go spin. Have a good deal to do between-hands in sorting up the newly arrived accession of books.
I need not have exulted so soon in having attained ease and quiet. I am robbed of both with a vengeance. A letter from Lockhart, with one enclosed from Sophia, announces the medical people think the child is visibly losing strength, that its walking becomes more difficult, and, in short, that the spine seems visibly affected. They recommend tepid baths in sea-water, so Sophia has gone down to Brighton, leaving Lockhart in town, who is to visit her once a week. Here is my worst augury verified. The bitterness of this probably impending calamity is extreme. The child was almost too good for this world; beautiful in features; and, though spoiled by every one, having one of the sweetest tempers, as well as the quickest intellect I ever saw; a sense of humour quite extraordinary in a child, and, owing to the general notice which was taken of him, a great deal more information than suited his years. He was born in the eighth month, and such children are never strong--seldom long-lived. I look on this side and that, and see nothing but protracted misery, a crippled frame, and decayed constitution, occupying the attention of his parents for years, and dying at the end of that period, when their hearts were turned on him; or the poor child may die before Sophia's confinement, and that may again be a dangerous and bad affair; or she may, by increase of attention to him, injure her own health. In short, to trace into how many branches such a misery may flow is impossible. The poor dear love had so often a slow fever, that when it pressed its little lips to mine, I always foreboded to my own heart what all I fear are now aware of.
Lockhart writes me that Croker is the author of the Letters in the _Courier_ against _Malachi_, and that Canning is to make another attack on me in the House of Commons. These things would make a man proud. I will not answer, because I must show up Sir William Rae, and even Lord Melville, and I have done enough to draw public attention, which is all I want. Let them call me ungrateful, unkind, and all sorts of names, so they keep their own fingers free of this most threatening measure. It is very curious that each of these angry friends--Melville, Canning, and Croker--has in former days appealed to me in confidence against each other.
While I smoked my cigar after dinner, my mind has been running into four threads of bitter fancies, or rather into three decidedly bitter, and one that is indifferent. There is the distress incumbent on the country by these most untimely proceedings, which I would stop with my life were that adequate to prevent them. 2d, there is the unpleasant feeling of seeing a number of valued friends pass from me; that I cannot help. 3d, there is the gnawing misery about that sweet child and its parents. 4th, there is the necessity of pursuing my own labours, for which perhaps I ought to be thankful, since it always wrenches one's mind aside from what it must dwell on with pain. It is odd that the state of excitation with me rather increases than abates the power of labour, I must finish _Woodstock_ well if I can: otherwise how the Philistines will rejoice!
March 18.--Slept indifferently, and under the influence of Queen Mab, seldom auspicious to me, dreamed of reading the tale of the Prince of the Black Marble Islands to little Johnnie, extended on a paralytic chair, and yet telling all his pretty stories about Ha-papa, as he calls me, and Chiefswood--and waked to think I should see the little darling no more, or see him as a thing that had better never have existed. Oh, misery! misery! that the best I can wish for him is early death, with all the wretchedness to his parents that is like to ensue! I intended to have stayed at home to-day; but Tom more wisely had resolved that I should walk, and hung about the window with his axe and my own in his hand till I turned out with him, and helped to cut some fine paling.
March 19.--I have a most melancholy letter from Anne. Lady S., the faithful and true companion of my fortunes, good and bad, for so many years, has, but with difficulty, been prevailed on to see Dr. Abercrombie, and his opinion is far from favourable. Her asthmatic complaints are fast terminating in hydropsy, as I have long suspected; yet the avowal of the truth and its probable consequences are overwhelming. They are to stay a little longer in town to try the effects of a new medicine. On Wednesday they propose to return hither--a new affliction, where there was enough before; yet her constitution is so good that if she will be guided by advice, things may be yet ameliorated. God grant it! for really these misfortunes come too close upon each other.
A letter from Croker of a very friendly tone and tenor, which I will answer accordingly, not failing, however, to let him know that if I do not reply it is not for fear of his arguments or raillery, far less from diffidence in my cause. I hope and trust it will do good.
Maxpopple and two of his boys arrived to take part of my poor dinner. I fear the little fellows had little more than the needful, but they had all I had to give them.
I wrote a good deal to-day notwithstanding heavy thoughts.
March 20.--Despatched proofs and copy this morning; and Swanston, the carpenter, coming in, I made a sort of busy idle day of it with altering and hanging pictures and prints, to find room for those which came from Edinburgh, and by dint of being on foot from ten to near five, put all things into apple-pie order. What strange beings we are! The serious duties I have on hand cannot divert my mind from the most melancholy thoughts; and yet the talking with these workmen, and the trifling occupation which they give me, serves to dissipate my attention. The truth is, I fancy that a body under the impulse of violent motion cannot be stopped or forced back, but may indirectly be urged into a different channel. In the evening I read, and sent off my Sheriff-Court processes.
I have a sort of grudging to give reasons why _Malachi_ does not reply to the answers which have been sent forth. I don't know--I am strongly tempted--but I won't. To drop the tone might seem mean, and perhaps to maintain it would only exasperate the quarrel, without producing any beneficial results, and might be considered as a fresh insult by my alienated friends, so on the whole I won't.
The thing has certainly had more effect than it deserves; and I suspect my Ministerial friends, if they love me less, will not hold me cheaper for the fight I have made. I am far from saying _oderint dum emerint_, but there is a great difference betwixt that and being a mere protégé, a poor broken-down man, who was to be assisted when existing circumstances, that most convenient of all apologies and happiest of all phrases, would permit.
March 21.--Perused an attack on myself, done with as much ability as truth, by no less a man than Joseph Hume, the night-work man of the House of Commons, who lives upon petty abuses, and is a very useful man by so doing. He has had the kindness to say that I am interested in keeping up the taxes; I wish I had anything else to do with them than to pay them. But he lies, and is an ass, and not worth a man's thinking about. Joseph Hume, indeed!--I say Joseph Hum,--and could add a Swiftian rhyme, but forbear.
Busy in unpacking and repacking. I wrote five pages of _Woodstock_, which work begins
Sent off proofs and copy, and shall indulge a little leisure to-day to collect my ideas and stretch my limbs. I am again far before the press.
March 23.--Lady Scott arrived yesterday to dinner. She was better than I expected, but Anne, poor soul, looked very poorly, and had been much worried with the fatigue and discomfort of the last week. Lady S. takes the digitalis, and, as she thinks, with advantage, though the medicine makes her very sick. Yet, on the whole, things are better than my gloomy apprehensions had anticipated.
I wrote to Lockhart and to Lord Downshire's Agent,--G. Handley, Esq., Pentonville, London.
Took a good brushing walk, but not till I had done a good task.
March 24.--Sent off copy, proofs, etc. J.B. clamorous for a motto.
It is foolish to encourage people to expect mottoes and such-like decoraments. You have no credit for success in finding them, and there is a disgrace in wanting them. It is like being in the habit of showing feats of strength, which you at length gain praise by accomplishing, while some shame occurs in failure.
March 25.--The end winds out well enough. I have almost finished to-night; indeed I might have done so had I been inclined, but I had a walk in a hurricane of snow for two hours and feel a little tired. Miss Margaret Ferguson came to dinner with us.
March 26.--Here is a disagreeable morning, snowing and hailing, with gleams of bright sunshine between, and all the ground white, and all the air frozen. I don't like this jumbling of weather. It is ungenial, and gives chilblains. Besides, with its whiteness, and its coldness, and its glister, and its discomfort, it resembles that most disagreeable of all things, a vain, cold, empty, beautiful woman, who has neither mind nor heart, but only features like a doll. I do not know what is so like this disagreeable day, when the sun is so bright, and yet so uninfluential, that
"One may gaze upon its beams Till he is starved with cold."No matter, it will serve as well as another day to finish _Woodstock_. Walked out to the lake, and coquetted with this disagreeable weather, whereby I catch chilblains in my fingers and cold in my head. Fed the swans.
Finished _Woodstock_, however, _cum tota sequela_ of title-page, introduction, etc., and so, as Dame Fortune says in _Quevedo_,
"Go wheel, and may the devil drive thee."
March 27.--Another bright cold day. I answered two modest requests from widow ladies. One, whom I had already assisted in some law business, on the footing of her having visited my mother, requested me to write to Mr. Peel, saying, on her authority, that her second son, a youth of infinite merit and accomplishment, was fit for any situation in a public office, and that I requested he might be provided accordingly. Another widowed dame, whose claim is having read _Marmion_ and the _Lady of the Lake_, besides a promise to read all my other works--Gad, it is a rash engagement!--demands that I shall either pay £200 to get her cub into some place or other, or settle him in a seminary of education. Really this is very much after the fashion of the husbandman of Miguel Turra's requests of Sancho when Governor. "Have you anything else to ask, honest man?" quoth Sancho. But what are the demands of an honest man to those of an honest woman, and she a widow to boot? I do believe your destitute widow, especially if she hath a charge of children, and one or two fit for patronage, is one of the most impudent animals living.
Went to Galashiels and settled the dispute about Sandie's wall.
March 28.--We have now been in solitude for some time--myself nearly totally so, excepting at meals, or on a call as yesterday from Henry and William Scott of Harden. One is tempted to ask himself, knocking at the door of his own heart, Do you love this extreme loneliness? I can answer conscientiously, _I do_. The love of solitude was with me a passion of early youth; when in my teens, I used to fly from company to indulge in visions and airy castles of my own, the disposal of ideal wealth, and the exercise of imaginary power. This feeling prevailed even till I was eighteen, when love and ambition awakening with other passions threw me more into society, from which I have, however, at times withdrawn myself, and have been always even glad to do so. I have risen from a feast satiated; and unless it be one or two persons of very strong intellect, or whose spirits and good-humour amuse me, I wish neither to see the high, the low, nor the middling class of society. This is a feeling without the least tinge of misanthropy, which I always consider as a kind of blasphemy of a shocking description. If God bears with the very worst of us, we may surely endure each other. If thrown into society, I always have, and always will endeavour to bring pleasure with me, at least to show willingness to please. But for all this "I had rather live alone," and I wish my appointment, so convenient otherwise, did not require my going to Edinburgh. But this must be, and in my little lodging I will be lonely enough.
Had a very kind letter from Croker disowning the least idea of personal attack in his answer to _Malachi_.
Reading at intervals a novel called _Granby_; one of that very difficult class which aspires to describe the actual current of society, whose colours are so evanescent that it is difficult to fix them on the canvas. It is well written, but over-laboured--too much attempt to put the reader exactly up to the thoughts and sentiments of the parties. The women do this better: Edgeworth, Ferrier, Austen have all had their portraits of real society, far superior to anything man, vain man, has produced of the like nature.
March 29.--Worked in the morning. Had two visits from Colonels Russell and Ferguson. Walked from one till half-past four. A fine, flashy, disagreeable day; snow-clouds sweeping past among sunshine, driving down the valley, and whitening the country behind them.
Mr. Gibson came suddenly in after dinner. Brought very indifferent news from Constable's house. It is not now hoped that they will pay above three or four shillings in the pound. Robinson supposed not to be much better.
Mr. G. goes to London immediately, and is to sell _Woodstock_ to Robinson if he can, otherwise to those who will, John Murray, etc. This work may fail, perhaps, though better than some of its predecessors. If so, we must try some new manner. I think I could catch the dogs yet.
A beautiful and perfect lunar rainbow to-night.
March 30.--Mr. Gibson looks unwell, and complains of cold--bitter bad weather for his travelling, and he looks but frail.
These indifferent news he brought me affect me but to a little degree. It is being too confident to hope to ensure success in the long series of successive struggles which lie before me. But somehow, I do fully entertain the hope of doing a good deal.
"He walked and wrote poor soul, what then? Why then, he wrote and walked again."But I am begun _Nap. Bon._ again, which is always a change, because it gives a good deal of reading and research, whereas _Woodstock_ and such like, being extempore from my mother-wit, is a sort of spinning of the brains, of which a man tires. The weather seems milder to-day.
 The full-length picture of Sir Walter (with, the two dogs, Camp and the deerhound) by Raeburn, painted in 1809, was at this time given to Mr. Skene, and remained in his possession till 1831, when it was sent to Abbotsford, where it now hangs.--See Letter, Scott to Skene, under January 16th, 1831.
 Spean a wean, _i.e._ wean a child.
 Archibald Skirving (1749-1819), well known as a portrait-painter in chalk and crayons in Edinburgh in the early part of this century.
 H.W. Williams, a native of Wales, who settled in Edinburgh at the beginning of this century. His _Travels in Italy and Greece_ were published in 1820, and the _Views in Greece_ in 1827. This work was completed in 1829, the year in which he died.
 Vols. i. and ii. were published in 1802.
 _Kain_ in Scotch law means payment in _kind. Carriages_ in the same phraseology stands for services in driving with horse and cart.
 Ballad of _Hardyknute_, slightly altered.--J.G.L.
 Sir W. Knighton was Physician and Private Secretary to George IV. Rogers (_Table-Talk_, p. 289) says no one had more influence with the King. Sir William died in 1836; his _Memoirs_ were published in 1838, edited by his widow.
 Pastoret: _Le Duc de Guise à Naples, etc., en_ 1647 _et_ 1648. 8vo, 1825; also _Memoires relating his passage to Naples and heading the Second Revolt of that people_. Englished, sm. 8vo, 1669.
"The Reviewal then meditated was afterwards published in _Foreign Quarterly Review_, vol. iv. p 355, but not included in the _Misc. Prose Works."_--_Abbotsford Library Catalogue_, p. 36.
 W. Shenstone's _Essays_ (1765), p. 115, or _Works_ (1764-69), vol. iii. p. 49.
I am indebted to Dr. J.A.H. Murray for this reference, which he kindly supplied from the materials for his great English Dictionary on Historical Principles.
 _King Henry VIII._, Act v. Sc. 2, slightly altered.--J.G.L.
 "Watch the sign to hate."--Johnson's _Vanity of Human Wishes_.
 See _Arniston Memoirs_, 8vo, Edin. 1888, for text of Lord Melville's letter and Sir Walter's reply, pp. 315-326.
 "Seldom has any political measure called forth so strong and so universal an expression of public opinion. In every city and in every county public meetings were held to deprecate the destruction of the one pound and guinea notes."--_Annual Register_ (1826), p. 24.
 Alex. Young of Harburn, a steady Whig of the old school, and a steady and esteemed friend of Sir Walter's.--J.G.L.
 See _Life_, vol. iv. pp. 146-148.
 Henry Weber died in 1818.
 See Life of Bonaparte. _Miscellaneous Prose Works_, vol. xi. pp. 346-351.--J.G.L.
 _Plays on the Passions_, 2 vols. 8vo, Lond. 1802, vol. ii. pp. 211-215.
 He had, however, snatched a moment to write the following playful note to Mr. Sharpe, little dreaming that the sportive allusion to his return in May would be so sadly realised:--
"MY DEAR CHARLES,--You promised when I _displenished_ this house that you would accept of the prints of Roman antiquities, which I now send. I believe they were once in some esteem, though now so detestably smoked that they will only suit your suburban villa in the Cowgate when you remove to that classical residence. I also send a print which is an old favourite of mine, from the humorous correspondence between Mr. Mountebank's face and the monkey's. I leave town to-day or to-morrow at furthest. When I return in May I shall be
Bachelor Bluff, bachelor Bluff, Hey for a heart that's rugged and tough.I shall have a beefsteak and a bottle of wine of a Sunday, which I hope you will often take share of,--Being with warm regard always yours, WALTER SCOTT."--Sharpe's _Correspondence_, vol. ii. pp. 359-60.
 Apropos of the old Scotch lady who had surreptitiously pocketed a silver spoon, one of a set of a dozen which were being passed round for examination in an auction room. Suspicion resting on her, she was asked to allow her person to be searched, but she indignantly produced the article, with "Touch my honour," etc.
 The _Attorneys_ of Aberdeen are styled _advocates_. This valuable privilege is said to have been bestowed at an early period by some (sportive) monarch.--J.G.L.
 This clever book was published in 1814: at the same time as _Waverley_. Had it contained nothing else than the sketch of Bran, the great Irish wolf-hound, it would have commended itself to Scott. The authoress died in 1859.
 It is worth noting that a quarter of a century after Sir Walter had written these lines, we find Macaulay stating that, in his opinion, "there are in the world no compositions which approach nearer perfection." Scott had already criticised Miss Austen in the 27th No. of the _Quarterly_. She died in 1817.
 "I return no more,"--see _Mackrimmon's Lament_ by Scott.--_Poetical Works_, vol. xi. p. 332.
 Published as far back as 1792. An appreciative criticism on Mrs. Smith's works will be found in Scott's _Miscellaneous Prose Works_, vol. iv. pp. 58-70.
 See this Journal, 2 December last.
 The letters of _Malachi_ were treated by some members of the House of Commons as incentives to rebellion, and senators gravely averred that not many years ago they would have subjected the author to condign punishment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, declared that he did not dread "the flashing of that Highland claymore though evoked from its scabbard by the incantations of the mightiest magician of the age."--Speech of Rt. Hon. F.J. Robinson.
 Both letters are quoted in Lockhart's _Life_, vol. viii. pp. 299-305. See also _Croker's Correspondence and Diaries_, edited by Louis J. Jennings, 3 vols. 8vo, Lond. 1884, vol. i. pp. 315-319.
 W. Scott, Esq., afterwards of Raeburn, Sir Walter's Sheriff-substitute.
 One of Sir Walter's kindly "_weird sisters_" and neighbours, daughters of Professor Ferguson. They had occupied the house at Toftfield (on which Scott at the ladies' request bestowed the name of Huntly Burn) from the spring of 1818. Miss Margaret has been described as extremely like her brother Sir Adam in the turn of thought and of humour.--See _Life_, vol. vi. p. 322.
 _Fortune in her Wits, and the Hour of all Men_, Quevedo's Works, Edin. 1798, vol. iii. p. 107.
 _Don Quixote_, Pt. II. cap. 47.
 _Granby_ was written by a young man, Thos. H. Lister, some years afterwards known as the author of _The Life and Administration of the First Earl of Clarendon_, 3 vols. 8vo, 1837-38. Mr. Lister died in his 41st year in 1842.
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