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May 1826

May 1.--I walked to-day to the western corner of the Chiefswood plantation, and marked out a large additional plantation to be drawn along the face of the hill. It cost me some trouble to carry the boundaries out of the eye, for nothing is so paltry as a plantation of almost any extent if its whole extent lies defined to the eye. By availing myself of the undulations of the ground I think I have avoided this for the present; only when seen from the Eildon Hills the cranks and turns of the enclosure will seem fantastic, at least until the trees get high.

This cost Tom and me three or four hours. Lieut.-Colonel Ferguson joined us as we went home, and dined at Abbotsford.

My cousin, Barbara Scott of Raeburn, came here to see Lady S. I think she was shocked with the melancholy change. She insisted upon walking back to Lessudden House, making her walk 16 or 18 miles, and though the carriage was ordered she would not enter it.

May 2.--Yesterday was a splendid May day--to-day seems inclined to be _soft_, as we call it; but _tant mieux_. Yesterday had a twang of frost in it. I must get to work and finish Boaden's _Life of Kemble_, and Kelly's _Reminiscences_,[263] for the _Quarterly_.

I wrote and read for three hours, and then walked, the day being soft and delightful; but alas! all my walks are lonely from the absence of my poor companion. She does not suffer, thank God, but strength must fail at last. Since Sunday there has been a gradual change--very gradual--but, alas! to the worse. My hopes are almost gone. But I am determined to stand this grief as I have done others.

May 3,--Another fine morning. I answered a letter from Mr. Handley, who has taken the pains to rummage the Chancery Records until he has actually discovered the fund due to Lady Scott's mother, £1200; it seems to have been invested in the estates of a Mr. Owen, as it appears for Madame Charpentier's benefit, but, she dying, the fund was lost sight of and got into Chancery, where I suppose it must have accumulated, but I cannot say I understand the matter; at a happier moment the news would have given poor Charlotte much pleasure, but now--it is a day too late.

May 4.--On visiting Lady Scott's sick-room this morning I found her suffering, and I doubt if she knew me. Yet, after breakfast, she seemed serene and composed. The worst is, she will not speak out about the symptoms under which she labours. Sad, sad work; I am under the most melancholy apprehension, for what constitution can hold out under these continued and wasting attacks?

My niece, Anne Scott, a prudent, sensible, and kind young woman, arrived to-day, having come down to assist us in our distress from so far as Cheltenham. This is a great consolation.

May 5.--Haunted by gloomy thoughts; but I corrected proofs from seven to ten, and wrote from half-past ten to one. My old friend Sir Adam called, and took a long walk with me, which was charity. His gaiety rubbed me up a little. I had also a visit from the Laird and Lady of Harden. Henry Scott carries the county without opposition.

May 6.--- The same scene of hopeless (almost) and unavailing anxiety. Still welcoming me with a smile, and asserting she is better. I fear the disease is too deeply entwined with the principles of life. Yet the increase of good weather, especially if it would turn more genial, might, I think, aid her excellent constitution. Still labouring at this _Review_, without heart or spirits to finish it. I am a tolerable Stoic, but preach to myself in vain.

    "Since these things are necessities,
    Then let us meet them like necessities."[264]
And so we will.

May 7.--Hammered on at the _Review_ till my backbone ached. But I believe it was a nervous affection, for a walk cured it. Sir Adam and the Colonel dined here. So I spent the evening as pleasantly as I well could, considering I am so soon to leave my own house, and go like a stranger to the town of which I have been so long a citizen, and leave my wife lingering, without prospect of recovery, under the charge of two poor girls. _Talia cogit dura necessitas._

May 8.--I went over to the election at Jedburgh. There was a numerous meeting; the Whigs, who did not bring ten men to the meeting, of course took the whole matter under their patronage, which was much of a piece with the Blue Bottle drawing the carriage. I tried to pull up once or twice, but quietly, having no desire to disturb the quiet of the election. To see the difference of modern times! We had a good dinner, and excellent wine; and I had ordered my carriage at half-past seven, almost ashamed to start so soon. Everybody dispersed at so early an hour, however, that when Henry had left the chair, there was no carriage for me, and Peter proved his accuracy by showing me it was but a quarter-past seven. In the days I remember they would have kept it up till day-light; nor do I think poor Don would have left the chair before midnight. Well, there is a medium. Without being a veteran Vice, a grey Iniquity, like Falstaff, I think an occasional jolly bout, if not carried to excess, improved society; men were put into good humour; when the good wine did its good office, the jest, the song, the speech, had double effect; men were happy for the night, and better friends ever after, because they had been so.

May 9.--My new Liverpool neighbour, Mr. Bainbridge, breakfasts here to-day with some of his family. They wish to try the fishing in Cauldshields Loch, and [there is] promise of a fine soft morning. But the season is too early.

They have had no sport accordingly after trying with Trimmers. Mr. Bainbridge is a good cut of John Bull--plain, sensible, and downright; the maker of his own fortune, and son of his own works.

May 10.--To-morrow I leave my home. To what scene I may suddenly be recalled, it wrings my heart to think. If she would but be guided by the medical people, and attend rigidly to their orders, something might be hoped, but she is impatient with the protracted suffering, and no wonder. Anne has a severe task to perform, but the assistance of her cousin is a great comfort. Baron Weber, the great composer, wants me (through Lockhart) to compose something to be set to music by him, and sung by Miss Stephens--as if I cared who set or who sung any lines of mine. I have recommended instead Beaumont and Fletcher's unrivalled song in the _Nice Valour_:

    "Hence, all ye vain delights," etc.

[Edinburgh],[265] May 11.--

    "Der Abschiedstag ist da,
    Schwer liegt er auf den Herzen--schwer."[266]
Charlotte was unable to take leave of me, being in a sound sleep, after a very indifferent night. Perhaps it was as well. Emotion might have hurt her; and nothing I could have expressed would have been worth the risk. I have foreseen, for two years and more, that this menaced event could not be far distant. I have seen plainly, within the last two months, that recovery was hopeless. And yet to part with the companion of twenty-nine years when so very ill--that I did not, could not foresee.[267] It withers my heart to think of it, and to recollect that I can hardly hope again to seek confidence and counsel from that ear to which all might be safely confided. But in her present lethargic state, what would my attentions have availed? and Anne has promised close and constant intelligence. I must dine with James Ballantyne to-day _en famille_. I cannot help it; but would rather be at home and alone. However, I can go out too. I will not yield to the barren sense of hopelessness which struggles to invade me. I passed a pleasant day with honest J.B., which was a great relief from the black dog which would have worried me at home. We were quite alone.

[Edinburgh,] May 12.--Well, here I am in Arden. And I may say with Touchstone, "When I was at home I was in a better place,"[268] and yet this is not by any means to be complained of. Good apartments, the people civil and apparently attentive. No appearance of smoke, and absolute warrandice against my dreaded enemies, bugs. I must, when there is occasion, draw to my own Bailie Nicol Jarvie's consolation, "One cannot carry the comforts of the Saut-Market about with one." Were I at ease in mind, I think the body is very well cared for. I have two steady servants, a man and woman, and they seem to set out sensibly enough. Only one lodger in the house, a Mr. Shandy, a clergyman; and despite his name, said to be a quiet one.

May 13.--The projected measure against the Scottish bank-notes has been abandoned, the resistance being general. _Malachi_ might clap his wings upon this, but, alas! domestic anxiety has cut his comb.

I think very lightly in general of praise; it costs men nothing, and is usually only lip-salve. They wish to please, and must suppose that flattery is the ready road to the good will of every professor of literature. Some praise, however, and from some people, does at once delight and strengthen the mind, and I insert in this place the quotation with which Ld. C. Baron Shepherd concluded a letter concerning me to the Chief Commissioner: "_Magna etiam illa laus et admirabilis videri solet tulisse casus sapienter adversos, non fractum esse fortunā, retinuisse in rebus asperis dignitatem._"[269] I record these words, not as meriting the high praise they imply, but to remind me that such an opinion being partially entertained of me by a man of a character so eminent, it becomes me to make my conduct approach as much as possible to the standard at which he rates it.

As I must pay back to Terry some cash in London, £170, together with other matters here, I have borrowed from Mr. Alexander Ballantyne the sum of £500, upon a promissory note for £512, 10s. payable 15th November to him or his order. If God should call me before that time, I request my son Walter will, in reverence to my memory, see that Mr. Alexander Ballantyne does not suffer for having obliged me in a sort of exigency--he cannot afford it, and God has given my son the means to repay him.

May 14.--A fair good-morrow to you, Mr. Sun, who are shining so brightly on these dull walls. Methinks you look as if you were looking as bright on the banks of the Tweed; but look where you will, Sir Sun, you look upon sorrow and suffering. Hogg was here yesterday in danger, from having obtained an accommodation of £100 from Mr. Ballantyne, which he is now obliged to repay. I am unable to help the poor fellow, being obliged to borrow myself. But I long ago remonstrated against the transaction at all, and gave him £50 out of my pocket to avoid granting the accommodation, but it did no good.

May 15.--Received the melancholy intelligence that all is over at Abbotsford.

[Abbotsford,] May 16.--She died at nine in the morning, after being very ill for two days,--easy at last.

I arrived here late last night. Anne is worn out, and has had hysterics, which returned on my arrival. Her broken accents were like those of a child, the language, as well as the tones, broken, but in the most gentle voice of submission. "Poor mamma--never return again--'gone for ever--a better place." Then, when she came to herself, she spoke with sense, freedom, and strength of mind, till her weakness returned. It would have been inexpressibly moving to me as a stranger--what was it then to the father and the husband? For myself, I scarce know how I feel, sometimes as firm as the Bass Rock, sometimes as weak as the wave that breaks on it.

I am as alert at thinking and deciding as I ever was in my life. Yet, when I contrast what this place now is, with what it has been not long since, I think my heart will break. Lonely, aged, deprived of my family--all but poor Anne, an impoverished and embarrassed man, I am deprived of the sharer of my thoughts and counsels, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone. Even her foibles were of service to me, by giving me things to think of beyond my weary self-reflections.

I have seen her. The figure I beheld is, and is not, my Charlotte--my thirty years' companion. There is the same symmetry of form, though those limbs are rigid which were once so gracefully elastic--but that yellow masque, with pinched features, which seems to mock life rather than emulate it, can it be the face that was once so full of lively expression? I will not look on it again. Anne thinks her little changed, because the latest idea she had formed of her mother is as she appeared under circumstances of sickness and pain. Mine go back to a period of comparative health. If I write long in this way, I shall write down my resolution, which I should rather write up, if I could. I wonder how I shall do with the large portion of thoughts which were hers for thirty years. I suspect they will be hers yet for a long time at least. But I will not blaze cambric and crape in the public eye like a disconsolate widower, that most affected of all characters.

May 17.--- Last night Anne, after conversing with apparent ease, dropped suddenly down as she rose from the supper-table, and lay six or seven minutes as if dead. Clarkson, however, has no fear of these affections.

May 18.--Another day, and a bright one to the external world, again opens on us; the air soft, and the flowers smiling, and the leaves glittering. They cannot refresh her to whom mild weather was a natural enjoyment. Cerements of lead and of wood already hold her; cold earth must have her soon. But it is not my Charlotte, it is not the bride of my youth, the mother of my children, that will be laid among the ruins of Dryburgh, which we have so often visited in gaiety and pastime. No, no. She is sentient and conscious of my emotions somewhere--somehow; _where_ we cannot tell; _how_ we cannot tell; yet would I not at this moment renounce the mysterious yet certain hope that I shall see her in a better world, for all that this world can give me. The necessity of this separation,--that necessity which rendered it even a relief,--that and patience must be my comfort. I do not experience those paroxysms of grief which others do on the same occasion. I can exert myself and speak even cheerfully with the poor girls. But alone, or if anything touches me--the choking sensation. I have been to her room: there was no voice in it--no stirring; the pressure of the coffin was visible on the bed, but it had been removed elsewhere; all was neat as she loved it, but all was calm--calm as death. I remembered the last sight of her; she raised herself in bed, and tried to turn her eyes after me, and said, with a sort of smile, "You all have such melancholy faces." They were the last words I ever heard her utter, and I hurried away, for she did not seem quite conscious of what she said. When I returned, immediately [before] departing, she was in a deep sleep. It is deeper now. This was but seven days since.

They are arranging the chamber of death; that which was long the apartment of connubial happiness, and of whose arrangements (better than in richer houses) she was so proud. They are treading fast and thick. For weeks you could have heard a foot-fall. Oh, my God!

May 19.--Anne, poor love, is ill with her exertions and agitation--cannot walk--and is still hysterical, though less so. I advised flesh-brush and tepid bath, which I think will bring her about. We speak freely of her whom we have lost, and mix her name with our ordinary conversation. This is the rule of nature. All primitive people speak of their dead, and I think virtuously and wisely. The idea of blotting the names of those who are gone out of the language and familiar discourse of those to whom they were dearest is one of the rules of ultra-civilisation which, in so many instances, strangle natural feeling by way of avoiding a painful sensation. The Highlanders speak of their dead children as freely as of their living, and mention how poor Colin or Robert would have acted in such or such a situation. It is a generous and manly tone of feeling; and, so far as it may be adopted without affectation or contradicting the general habits of society, I reckon on observing it.

May 20.--To-night, I trust, will bring Charles or Lockhart, or both; at least I must hear from them. A letter from Violet [Lockhart] gave us the painful intelligence that she had not mentioned to Sophia the dangerous state in which her mother was. Most kindly meant, but certainly not so well judged. I have always thought that truth, even when painful, is a great duty on such occasions, and it is seldom that concealment is justifiable.

Sophia's baby was christened on Sunday, 14th May, at Brighton, by the name of Walter Scott.[270] May God give him life and health to wear it with credit to himself and those belonging to him. Melancholy to think that the next morning after this ceremony deprived him of so near a relation. Sent Mr. Curle £11 to remit Mrs. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, for books--I thought I had paid the poor woman before.

May 21.--Our sad preparations for to-morrow continue. A letter from Lockhart; doubtful if Sophia's health or his own state of business will let him be here. If things permit he comes to-night. From Charles not a word; but I think I may expect him. I wish to-morrow were over; not that I fear it, for my nerves are pretty good, but it will be a day of many recollections.

May 22.--Charles arrived last night, much affected of course. Anne had a return of her fainting-fits on seeing him, and again upon seeing Mr. Ramsay, the gentleman who performs the service.[271] I heard him do so with the utmost propriety for my late friend, Lady Alvanley,[272] the arrangement of whose funeral devolved upon me. How little I could guess when, where, and with respect to whom I should next hear those solemn words. Well, I am not apt to shrink from that which is my duty, merely because it is painful; but I wish this day over. A kind of cloud of stupidity hangs about me, as if all were unreal that men seem to be doing and talking about.

May 23.--About an hour before the mournful ceremony of yesterday, Walter arrived, having travelled express from Ireland on receiving the news. He was much affected, poor fellow, and no wonder. Poor Charlotte nursed him, and perhaps for that reason she was ever partial to him. The whole scene floats as a sort of dream before me--the beautiful day, the grey ruins covered and hidden among clouds of foliage and flourish, where the grave, even in the lap of beauty, lay lurking and gaped for its prey. Then the grave looks, the hasty important bustle of men with spades and mattocks--the train of carriages--the coffin containing the creature that was so long the dearest on earth to me, and whom I was to consign to the very spot which in pleasure-parties we so frequently visited. It seems still as if this could not be really so. But it is so--and duty to God and to my children must teach me patience.

Poor Anne has had longer fits since our arrival from Dryburgh than before, but yesterday was the crisis. She desired to hear prayers read by Mr. Ramsay, who performed the duty in a most solemn manner. But her strength could not carry it through. She fainted before the service was concluded.[273]

May 24.--Slept wretchedly, or rather waked wretchedly, all night, and was very sick and bilious in consequence, and scarce able to hold up my head with pain. A walk, however, with my sons did me a great deal of good; indeed their society is the greatest support the world can afford me. Their ideas of everything are so just and honourable, kind towards their sisters, and affectionate to me, that I must be grateful to God for sparing them to me, and continue to battle with the world for their sakes, if not for my own.

May 25.--I had sound sleep to-night, and waked with little or nothing of the strange, dreamy feeling which made me for some days feel like one bewildered in a country where mist or snow has disguised those features of the landscape which are best known to him.

Walter leaves me to-day; he seems disposed to take interest in country affairs, which will be an immense resource, supposing him to tire of the army in a few years. Charles, he and I, went up to Ashestiel to call upon the Misses Russell, who have kindly promised to see Anne on Tuesday. This evening Walter left us, being anxious to return to his wife as well as to his regiment. We expect he will be here early in autumn, with his household.

May 26.--A rough morning, and makes me think of St. George's Channel, which Walter must cross to-night or to-morrow to get to Athlone. The wind is almost due east, however, and the channel at the narrowest point between Port-Patrick and Donaghadee. His absence is a great blank in our circle, especially, I think, to his sister Anne, to whom he shows invariably much kindness. But indeed they do so without exception each towards the other; and in weal or woe have shown themselves a family of love. No persuasion could force on Walter any of his poor mother's ornaments for his wife. He undid a reading-glass from the gold chain to which it was suspended, and agreed to give the glass to Jane, but would on no account retain the chain. I will go to town on Monday and resume my labours. Being of a grave nature, they cannot go against the general temper of my feelings, and in other respects the exertion, as far as I am concerned, will do me good; besides, I must re-establish my fortune for the sake of the children, and of my own character. I have not leisure to indulge the disabling and discouraging thoughts that press on me. Were an enemy coming upon my house, would I not do my best to fight, although oppressed in spirits, and shall a similar despondency prevent me from mental exertion? It shall not, by Heaven! This day and to-morrow I give to the currency of the ideas which have of late occupied my mind, and with Monday they shall be mingled at least with other thoughts and cares. Last night Charles and I walked late on the terrace at Kaeside, when the clouds seemed accumulating in the wildest masses both on the Eildon Hills and other mountains in the distance. This rough morning reads the riddle.

Dull, drooping, cheerless has the day been. I cared not to carry my own gloom to the girls, and so sate in my own room, dawdling with old papers, which awakened as many stings as if they had been the nest of fifty scorpions. Then the solitude seemed so absolute--my poor Charlotte would have been in the room half-a-score of times to see if the fire burned, and to ask a hundred kind questions. Well, that is over--and if it cannot be forgotten, must be remembered with patience.

May 27.--A sleepless night. It is time I should be up and be doing, and a sleepless night sometimes furnishes good ideas. Alas! I have no companion now with whom I can communicate to relieve the loneliness of these watches of the night. But I must not fail myself and my family--and the necessity of exertion becomes apparent. I must try a _hors d'oeuvre_, something that can go on between the necessary intervals of _Nap._ Mrs. M[urray] K[eith's] Tale of the Deserter, with her interview with the lad's mother, may be made most affecting, but will hardly endure much expansion.[274] The framework may be a Highland tour, under the guardianship of the sort of postilion, whom Mrs. M.K. described to me--a species of conductor who regulated the motions of his company, made their halts, and was their cicerone.

May 28.--I wrote a few pages yesterday, and then walked. I believe the description of the old Scottish lady may do, but the change has been unceasingly rung upon Scottish subjects of late, and it strikes me that the introductory matter may be considered as an imitation of Washington Irving. Yet not so neither. In short, I will go on, to-day make a dozen of close pages ready, and take J.B.'s advice. I intend the work as an _olla podrida_, into which any species of narrative or discussion may be thrown.

I wrote easily. I think the exertion has done me good. I slept sound last night, and at waking, as is usual with me, I found I had some clear views and thoughts upon the subject of this trifling work. I wonder if others find so strongly as I do the truth of the Latin proverb, _Aurora musis amica_. If I forget a thing over-night, I am sure to recollect it as my eyes open in the morning. The same if I want an idea, or am encumbered by some difficulty, the moment of waking always supplies the deficiency, or gives me courage to endure the alternative.[275]

May 29.--To-day I leave for Edinburgh this house of sorrow. In the midst of such distress, I have the great pleasure to see Anne regaining her health, and showing both patience and steadiness of mind. God continue this, for my own sake as well as hers. Much of my future comfort must depend upon her.

[Edinburgh,] May 30.--Returned to town last night with Charles. This morning resume ordinary habits of rising early, working in the morning, and attending the Court. All will come easily round. But it is at first as if men looked strange on me, and bit their lip when they wring my hand, and indicated suppressed feelings. It is natural this should be--undoubtedly it has been so with me. Yet it is strange to find one's-self resemble a cloud which darkens gaiety wherever it interposes its chilling shade. Will it be better when, left to my own feelings, I see the whole world pipe and dance around me? I think it will. Thus sympathy intrudes on my private affliction.

I finished correcting the proofs for the _Quarterly_; it is but a flimsy article, but then the circumstances were most untoward.

This has been a melancholy day, most melancholy. I am afraid poor Charles found me weeping. I do not know what other folks feel, but with me the hysterical passion that impels tears is of terrible violence--a sort of throttling sensation--then succeeded by a state of dreaming stupidity, in which I ask if my poor Charlotte can actually be dead. I think I feel my loss more than at the first blow.

Poor Charles wishes to come back to study here when his term ends at Oxford. I can see the motive.

May 31.--The melancholy hours of yesterday must not return. To encourage that dreamy state of incapacity is to resign all authority over the mind, and I have been wont to say--

    "My mind to me a kingdom is."[276]
I am rightful monarch; and, God to aid, I will not be dethroned by any
rebellious passion that may rear its standard against me. Such are
morning thoughts, strong as carle-hemp--says Burns--

"Come, firm Resolve, take thou the van, Thou stalk of carle-hemp in man."

Charles went by the steam-boat this morning at six. We parted last night mournfully on both sides. Poor boy, this is his first serious sorrow. Wrote this morning a Memorial on the Claims which Constable's people prefer as to the copyrights of _Woodstock_ and _Napoleon_.[277]

-

FOOTNOTES:

[263] See _Miscellaneous Prose Works_, vol. xx. pp. 152-244, or _Quarterly Review_ No. 67, Kelly's _Reminiscences_.

[264] 2 _Henry IV_., Act III. Sc. I, slightly altered.

[265] [Mrs. Brown's Lodgings, No. 6 North St. David Street.]

[266] This is the opening couplet of a German trooper's song, alluded to in _Life_, vol. ii. p. 13. The literal translation is:--

"The day of departure is come; Heavy lies it on the hearts--heavy."--J.G.L.

[267] Scott had written:--"and yet to part with the companion of twenty years just six," and had then deleted the three words, "years just six," and written "nine" above them. It looks as if he had meant at first to refer to the change in his fortunes, "just six" MONTHS before, and had afterwards thought it better to refrain. This would account for a certain obscurity of meaning.

[268] _As You Like It_, Act II. Sc. 4.

[269] Cicero, _de Orat._ ii. p. 346.--J.G.L.

[270] Walter Scott Lockhart, died at Versailles in 1853, and was buried in the Cemetery of Notre-Dame there.

[271] The Rev. Edward Bannerman Ramsay, A.M., St. John's College, Cambridge, incumbent St. John's, Edinburgh, afterwards Dean of the Diocese in the Scots Episcopal Church, and still more widely known as the much-loved "Dean Ramsay," author of _Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character_. This venerable Scottish gentleman was for many years the delight of all who had the privilege of knowing him. He died at the age of eighty-three in his house, 23 Ainslie Place, Edinburgh, Dec. 27th, 1872.

[272] See _Life_, vol. iv. p. 2.

[273] Mr. Skene has preserved the following note written on this day:--"I take the advantage of Mr. Ramsay's return to Edinburgh to answer your kind letter. It would have done no good to have brought you here when I could not have enjoyed your company, and there were enough friends here to ensure everything being properly adjusted. Anne, contrary to a natural weakness of temper, is quite quiet and resigned to her distress, but has been visited by many fainting fits, the effect, I am told, of weakness, over-exertion, and distress of mind. Her brothers are both here--Walter having arrived from Ireland yesterday in time to assist at the _munus inane_; their presence will do her much good, but I cannot think of leaving her till Monday next, nor could I do my brethren much good by coming to town, having still that stunned and giddy feeling which great calamities necessarily produce. It will soon give way to my usual state of mind, and my friends will not find me much different from what I have usually been.

"Mr. Ramsay, who I find is a friend of yours, appears an excellent young man.--My kind love to Mrs. Skene, and am always, yours truly,

"WALTER SCOTT. ABBOTSFORD, _23d May_."

[274] _The Highland Widow_, Waverley Novels, vol. xli.

[275] See February 10, 1826.

[276] This excellent philosophical song appears to have been famous in the sixteenth century.--Percy's _Reliques_, vol. i. 307.--J.G.L.

[277] See June 2.

Sir Walter Scott