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May 1831

April 30 and May 1.--To meet Sandy Pringle to settle the day of election on Monday. Go on with _Count Robert_ half-a-dozen leaves per day. I am not much pleased with my handiwork. The Chancery money seems like to be paid. This will relieve me of poor Charles, who is at present my chief burthen. The task of pumping my brains becomes inevitably harder when "both chain-pumps are choked below;"[456] and though this may not be the case literally, yet the apprehension is wellnigh as bad.

May 2.--The day passed as usual in dictating (too little) and riding a good deal. I must get finished with _Count Robert_, who is progressing, as the Transatlantics say, at a very slow pace indeed. By the bye, I have a letter from Nathan T. Rossiter, Williamstown, New York City, offering me a collection of poems by Byron, which are said to have been found in Italy some years since by a friend of Mr. Rossiter. I don't see I can at all be entitled to these, so shall write to decline them. If Mr. Rossiter chooses to publish them in Italy or America he may, but, published here, they must be the property of Lord Byron's executors.

May 3.--Sophia arrives--with all the children looking well and beautiful, except poor Johnnie, who looks very pale. But it is no wonder, poor thing!

May 4.--I have a letter from Lockhart, promising to be down by next Wednesday, that is, to-day. I will consult him about Byron's Exec., and as to these poems said to be his Lordship's. They are very probably first copies thrown aside, or may not be genuine at all. I will be glad to see Lockhart. My pronunciation is a good deal improved. My time glides away ill employed, but I am afraid of the palsy. I should not like to be pinned to my chair. But I believe even that kind of life is more endurable than we could suppose. Your wishes are limited to your little circle--yet the idea is terrible to a man who has been active. My own circle in bodily matters is daily narrowing; not so in intellectual matters, but I am perhaps a bad judge. The plough is coming to the end of the furrow, so it is likely I shall not reach the common goal of mortal life by a few years. I am now in my sixtieth year only, and

    "Three score and ten years do sum up."[457]
May 5.--A fleece of letters, which must be answered, I suppose--all from persons, my zealous admirers, of course, and expecting a degree of generosity, which will put to rights all their maladies, physical and mental; and expecting that I can put to rights whatever losses have been their lot, raise them to a desirable rank, and [stand] their protector and patron. I must, they take it for granted, be astonished at having an address from a stranger; on the contrary, I would be astonished if any of these extravagant epistles were from any one who had the least title to enter into correspondence with me. I have all the plague of answering these teasing people.

Mr. Burn, the architect, came in, struck by the appearance of my house from the road. He approved my architecture greatly. He tells me the edifice for Jeanie Deans--that is, her prototype--is nigh finished, so I must get the inscription ready.[458] Mr. Burn came to meet with Pringle of Haining; but, alas! it is two nights since this poor young man, driving in from his own lake, where he had been fishing, an ill-broken horse ran away with him, and, at his own stable-door, overturned the vehicle and fractured poor Pringle's skull; he died yesterday morning. A sad business; so young a man, the proprietor of a good estate, and a well-disposed youth. His politics were, I think, mistaken, being the reverse of his father's; but that is nothing at such a time. Burn went on to Richardson's place of Kirklands, where he is to meet the proprietor, whom I too would wish to see, but I can hardly make it out. Here is a world of arrangements. I think we will soon hit upon something. My son Walter takes leave of me to-day to return to Sheffield. At his entreaty I have agreed to put in a seton, which they seem all to recommend. My own opinion is, this addition to my tortures will do me no good; but I cannot hold out against my son. So, when the present blister is well over, let them try their seton as they call it.

May 6 and 7.--Here is a precious job. I have a formal remonstrance from these critical persons, Ballantyne and Cadell, against the last volume of _Count Robert_, which is within a sheet of being finished. I suspect their opinion will be found to coincide with that of the public; at least it is not very different from my own. The blow is a stunning one I suppose, for I scarcely feel it. It is singular, but it comes with as little surprise as if I had a remedy ready. Yet God knows, I am at sea in the dark, and the vessel leaky, I think, into the bargain. I cannot conceive that I should have tied a knot with my tongue which my teeth cannot untie. We will see. I am determined to write a political pamphlet _coûte que coûte_; ay,--should it cost me my life.

I will right and left at these unlucky proof-sheets, and alter at least what I cannot mend.

May 8.--I have suffered terribly, that is the truth, rather in body than in mind, and I often wish I could lie down and sleep without waking. But I will fight it out if I can. It would argue too great an attachment of consequence to my literary labours to sink under. Did I know how to begin, I would begin this very day, although I knew I should sink at the end. After all, this is but fear and faintness of heart, though of another kind from that which trembleth at a loaded pistol. My bodily strength is terribly gone; perhaps my mental too?

May 9.--The weather uncommonly beautiful and I am very eager to get on thinning woods while the peeling season lasts. We made about £200 off wood last season, and this is a sum worth looking at.

May 10.--Some repairs on the mill-dam still keep the people employed, and we cannot get to the thinning. Yet I have been urging them for a month. It's a great fault of Scottish servants that they cannot be taught to time their turns.

May 11.--By old practice I should be going into town to-day, the Court sitting to-morrow. Am I happier that I am free from this charge? Perhaps I am; that is certain, time begins to make my literary labour more precious than usual. Very weak, scarce able to crawl about without the pony--lifted on and off--and unable to walk half a mile save with great pain.

May 12.--Resolved to lay by _Robert of Paris_, and take it up when I can work. Thinking on it really makes my head swim, and that is not safe. Miss Ferrier comes out to us. This gifted personage, besides having great talents, has conversation the least _exigeante_ of any author, female at least, whom I have ever seen among the long list I have encountered,--simple, full of humour, and exceedingly ready at repartee; and all this without the least affectation of the blue stocking.[459]

May 13.--Mr., or more properly Dr., Macintosh Mackay comes out to see me, a simple learned man, and a Highlander who weighs his own nation justly--a modest and estimable person.

I was beat up at midnight to sign a warrant against some delinquents. I afterwards heard that the officers were pursued by a mob from Galashiels, with purpose of deforcing them as far as St. Boswell's Green, but the men were lodged in Jedburgh Castle.

Reports of mobs at all the elections, which, I fear, will prove too true. They have much to answer for who in gaiety of heart have brought a peaceful and virtuous population to such a pass.

May 14.--Rode with Lockhart and Mr. Mackay through the plantations, and spent a pleasanter day than of late months. Story of a haunted glen in Laggan:--A chieftain's daughter or cousin loved a man of low degree. Her kindred discovered the intrigue and punished the lover's presumption by binding the unhappy man, and laying him naked in one of the large ants' nests common in a Highland forest. He died in agony of course, and his mistress became distracted, roamed wildly in the glen till she died, and her phantom, finding no repose, haunted it after her death to such a degree that the people shunned the road by day as well as night. Mrs. Grant of Laggan tells the story, with the addition, that her husband, then minister of Laggan, fixed a religious meeting in the place, and, by the exercise of public worship there, overcame the popular terror of the Red Woman. Dr. Mackay seems to think that she was rather banished by a branch of the Parliamentary road running up the glen than by the prayers of his predecessor. Dr. Mackay, it being Sunday, favoured us with an excellent discourse on the Socinian controversy, which I wish my friend Mr. Laidlaw had heard.

May 15.--Dr. M. left us early this morning; and I rode and studied as usual, working at the _Tales of My Grandfather_. Our good and learned Doctor wishes to go down the Tweed to Berwick. It is a laudable curiosity, and I hope will be agreeably satisfied.

May 16 and 17.--I wrote and rode as usual, and had the pleasure of Miss Ferrier's company in my family hours, which was a great satisfaction; she has certainly less affectation than any female I have known that has stood so high--Joanna Baillie hardly excepted. By the way, she [Mrs. Baillie] has entered on the Socinian controversy, for which I am very sorry; she has published a number of texts on which she conceives the controversy to rest, but it escapes her that she can only quote them through a translation. I am sorry this gifted woman is hardly doing herself justice, and doing what is not required at her hands. Mr. Laidlaw of course thinks it the finest thing in the world.[460]

May 18.--Went to Jedburgh to the election, greatly against the wishes of my daughters. The mob were exceedingly vociferous and brutish, as they usually are now-a-days. But the Sheriff had two troops of dragoons at Ancrum Bridge, and all went off quietly. The populace gathered in formidable numbers--a thousand from Hawick alone; they were sad blackguards, and the day passed with much clamour and no mischief. Henry Scott was re-elected--for the last time, I suppose. _Troja fuit._

I left the burgh in the midst of abuse and the gentle hint of "Burke Sir Walter." Much obliged to the brave lads of Jeddart. Upwards of forty freeholders voted for Henry Scott, and only fourteen for the puppy that opposed him. Even of this party he gained far the greater number by the very awkward coalition with Sir William Scott of Ancrum. I came home at seven at night.

May 20.--This is the Selkirk election, which I supposed would be as tumultuous as the Jedburgh one, but the soutars of Selkirk had got a new light, and saw in the proposed Reform Bill nothing but a mode of disfranchising their ancient burgh. Although the crowd was great, yet there was a sufficient body of special constables, hearty in their useful office, and the election passed as quietly as I ever witnessed one. I came home before dinner, very quiet. I am afraid there is something serious in Galashiels; Jeffrey is fairly funked about it, and has written letters to the authorities of Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire to caution us against making the precognitions public, which looks ill. Yet I think he would have made arrests when the soldiers were in the country. The time at which I settled at Abbotsford, Whitsunday 1811, I broke up a conspiracy of the weavers. It will look like sympathising with any renewal if another takes place just now. Incendiary letters have been sent, and the householders are in a general state of alarm. The men at Jedburgh Castle are said to be disposed to make a clean breast; if so, we shall soon know more of the matter. Lord William Graham has been nearly murdered at Dumbarton. Why should he not have brought down 50 or 100 lads with the kilts, each with a good kent[461] in his hand fit to call the soul out of the body of these weavers? They would have kept order, I warrant you.

May 21.--Little more than my usual work and my usual exercise. I rode out through the plantations and saw the woodmen getting down what was to be felled. It seems there will be as much for sale as last year of bark: I think about £40 worth. A very nice additional pond to the sawmill has been executed. As for my _Tales_, they go on well, and are amusing to myself at least. The History of France is very entertaining.

May 22.--I have a letter from my friend John Thomson of Duddingston. I had transmitted him an order for the Duke of Buccleuch for his best picture, at his best price, leaving the choice of the subject and everything else to himself. He expresses the wish to do, at an ordinary price, a picture of common size. The declining to put himself forward will, I fear, be thought like shrinking from his own reputation, which nobody has less need to do. The Duke may wish a large picture for a large price for furnishing a large apartment, and the artist should not shrink from it. I have written him my opinion. The feeling is no doubt an amiable, though a false one. He is modest in proportion to his talents. But what brother of the finer arts ever approached [excellence] so as to please himself?

May 23, 24, _and_ 25.--Worked and exercised regularly. I do not feel that I care twopence about the change of diet as to taste, but I feel my strength much decayed. On horseback my spine feels remarkably sore, and I am tired with a few miles' ride. We expect Walter coming down for the Fife election.

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[From May 25th to October 9th there are no dates in the Journal, but the entry beginning "I have been very ill" must have been made about the middle of September. "In the family circle," says Mr. Lockhart, "he seldom spoke of his illness at all, and when he did, it was always in a hopeful strain." "In private, to Laidlaw and myself, his language corresponded exactly with the tone of the Diary. He expressed his belief that the chances of recovery were few--very few--but always added that he considered it his duty to exert what faculties remained to him for the sake of his creditors to the very last.--'I am very anxious,' he repeatedly said to me, 'to be done one way or other with this _Count Robert_, and a little story about the Castle Dangerous--which also I had long in my head--but after that I will attempt nothing more, at least not until I have finished all the notes for the Novels,'" etc.

On the 18th July he set out in company with Mr. Lockhart to visit Douglas Castle, St. Bride's Church and its neighbourhood, for the purpose of verifying the scenery of _Castle Dangerous_, then partly printed, returning on the 20th.

He finished that book and _Count Robert_ before the end of August.

In September, Mr. Lockhart, then staying at Chiefswood, and proposing to make a run into Lanarkshire for a day or two, mentioned overnight at Abbotsford that he intended to take his second son, then a boy of five or six years of age, and Sir Walter's namesake, with him on the stage-coach.

Next morning the following affectionate billet was put into his hands:--

To J.G. LOCKHART, Esq., Chiefswood.

"DEAR DON, or Doctor Giovanni,

"Can you really be thinking of taking Wa-Wa by the coach--and I think you said outside? Think of Johnny, and be careful of this little man. Are you _par hazard_ something in the state of the poor capitaine des dragons that comes in singing:--

'Comment? Parbleu! Qu'en pensez vous, Bon gentilhomme, et pas un sous'?

"If so, remember 'Richard's himself again,' and make free use of the enclosed cheque on Cadell for £50. He will give you the ready as you pass through, and you can pay when I ask.

"Put horses to your carriage, and go hidalgo fashion. We shall all have good days yet.

'And those sad days you deign to spend With me I shall requite them all; Sir Eustace for his friends shall send And thank their love in Grayling Hall!'[462]

"W.S."[463]

On the 15th September he tells the Duke of Buccleuch, "I am going to try whether the air of Naples will make an old fellow of sixty young again."

On the 17th the old splendour of the house was revived. Col. Glencairn Burns, son of the poet, then in Scotland, came

"To stir with joy the towers of Abbotsford."

The neighbours were assembled, and, having his son to help him, Sir Walter did the honours of the table once more as of yore.

On the 19th the poet Wordsworth arrived, and left on the 22d.

On the 20th, Mrs. Lockhart set out for London to prepare for her father's reception there, and on the 23d Sir Walter left Abbotsford for London, where he arrived on the 28th.[464]]

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FOOTNOTES:

[456] Falconer's _Shipwreck_, p. 162--"The Storm." 12mo ed. London, Albion Press, 1810.

[457] Scotch Metrical Version of the 90th Psalm.

[458] On the 18th October Sir Walter sent Mr. Burn the following inscription for the monument he had commissioned, and which now stands in the churchyard of Irongray:--

"This stone was erected by the Author of Waverley to the memory of Helen Walker, who died in the year of God 1791. This humble individual practised in real life the virtues with which fiction has invested the imaginary character of Jeanie Deans; refusing the slightest departure from veracity, even to save the life of a sister, she nevertheless showed her kindness and fortitude, in rescuing her from the severity of the law, at the expense of personal exertions, which the time rendered as difficult as the motive was laudable. Respect the grave of Poverty when combined with the love of Truth and dear affection."

It is well known that on the publication of _Old Mortality_ many people were offended by what was considered a caricature of the Covenanters, and that Dr. M'Crie, the biographer of Knox, wrote a series of papers in the _Edinburgh Christian Instructor_, which Scott affected to despise, and said he would not read. He not only was obliged to read the articles, but found it necessary to inspire or write an elaborate defence of the truth of his own picture of the Covenanters in the Number for January 1817 of the _Quarterly Review_.

In June 1818, however, he made ample amends, and won the hearts of all classes of his countrymen by his beautiful pictures of national character in the _Heart of Midlothian_.

It is worth noticing also that ten years later, viz., in December 1828, his friend Richardson having written that in the _Tales of a Grandfather_ "You have paid a debt which you owed to the manes of the Covenanters for the flattering picture which you drew of Claverhouse in _Old Mortality_. His character is inconceivable to me: the atrocity of his murder of those peasants, as undauntedly devoted to their own good cause as himself to his, his personal (almost hangman-like) superintendence of their executions, are wholly irreconcilable with a chivalrous spirit, which, however scornful of the lowly, could never, in my mind, be cruel," Scott, in reply, gave his matured opinion in the following words:--

"As to Covenanters and Malignants, they were both a set of cruel and bloody bigots, and had, notwithstanding, those virtues with which bigotry is sometimes allied. Their characters were of a kind much more picturesque than beautiful; neither had the least idea either of toleration or humanity, so that it happens that, so far as they can be distinguished from each other, one is tempted to hate most the party which chances to be uppermost for the time."

[459] See Miss Ferrier's account of this visit prefixed to Mr. Bentley's choice edition of her works, 6 vols. cr. 8vo, London, 1881.

[460] Mr. Carruthers remarks in his Abbotsford _Notanda_:--"Joanna Baillie published a thin volume of selections from the New Testament 'regarding the nature and dignity of Jesus Christ.' The tendency of the work was Socinian, or at least Arian, and Scott was indignant that his friend should have meddled with such a subject. 'What had she to do with questions of that sort?' He refused to add the book to his library and gave it to Laidlaw."--p. 179.

[461] A long staff.

[462] See Crabbe's _Sir Eustace Grey_.

[463] _Life_, vol. x. pp. 100-1.

[464] See _Life_, vol. x. pp. 76-106.

Sir Walter Scott