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July 1826

[Edinburgh,] July 1st.--Another sunny day. This threatens absolutely Syrian drought. As the Selkirk election comes on Monday, I go out to-day to Abbotsford, and carry young Davidoff and his tutor with me, to see our quiet way of managing the choice of a national representative.

I wrote a page or two last night slumbrously.

[Abbotsford,] July 2.--Late at Court. Got to Abbotsford last night with Count Davidoff about eight o'clock. I worked a little this morning, then had a long and warm walk. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton from Chiefswood, the present inhabitants of Lockhart's cottage, dined with us, which made the society pleasant. He is a fine, soldierly-looking man[292]--though affected with paralysis--his wife a sweet good-humoured little woman. He is supposed to be a writer in Blackwood's _Magazine_. Since we were to lose the Lockharts, we could scarce have had more agreeable folks.

At Selkirk, where Borthwickbrae was elected with the usual unanimity of the Forest freeholders. This was a sight to my young Muscovite. We walked in the evening to the lake.

July 5.--Still very hot, but with thunder showers. Wrote till breakfast, then walked and signed the death-warrant of a number of old firs at Abbotstown. I hope their deaths will prove useful. Their lives are certainly not ornamental. Young Mr. Davidoff entered upon the cause of the late discontents in Russia, which he imputes to a deep-seated Jacobin conspiracy to overthrow the state and empire and establish a government by consuls.

[Edinburgh,] July 6.--Returned last night with my frozen Muscovites to the Capital, and suffered as usual from the incursions of the black horse during the night. It was absolute fever. A bunch of letters, but little interesting. Mr. Barry Cornwall[293] writes to condole with me. I think our acquaintance scarce warranted this; but it is well meant and modestly done. I cannot conceive the idea of forcing myself on strangers in distress, and I have half a mind to turn sharp round on some of my consolers. Came home from Court. R.P. Gillies called; he is writing a satire. He has a singular talent of aping the measure and tone of Byron, and this poem goes to the tune of _Don Juan_, but it is the Champagne after it has stood two days with the cork drawn. Thereafter came Charles K. Sharpe and Will Clerk, as Robinson sayeth, to my exceeding refreshment.[294] And last, not least, Mr. Jollie, one of the triumvirs who manage my poor matters. He consents to going on with the small edition of novels, which he did not before comprehend. All this has consumed the day, but we will make up tide-way presently. I must dress to go to Lord Medwyn[295] to dinner, and it is near time.

July 7.--Coming home from Lord Medwyn's last night I fell in with Willie Clerk, and went home to drink a little shrub and water, over which we chatted of old stories until half-past eleven. This morning I corrected two proofs of C[roftangr]y, which is getting on. But there must be a little check with the throng of business at the close of the session. D---n the session! I wish it would close its eyes for a century. It is too bad to be kept broiling here; but, on the other hand, we must have the instinctive gratitude of the Laird of M'Intosh, who was for the King that gave M'Intosh half-a-guinea the day and half-a-guinea the morn. So I retract my malediction.

Received from Blackwood to account sales of _Malachi_ £72 with some odd shillings. This was for copies sold to Banks. The cash comes far from ill-timed, having to clear all odds and ends before I leave Edinburgh. This will carry me on tidily till 25th, when precepts become payable. Well! if _Malachi_ did me some mischief, he must also contribute _quodam modo_ to my comfort.

July 8.--Wrote a good task this morning. I may be mistaken; but I do think the tale of Elspat McTavish[296] in my bettermost manner--but J.B. roars for chivalry. He does not quite understand that everything may be overdone in this world, or sufficiently estimate the necessity of novelty. The Highlanders have been off the field now for some time.

Returning from Court, looked into a show of wild beasts, and saw Nero the great lion, whom they had the cruelty to bait with bull-dogs, against whom the noble creature disdained to exert his strength. He was lying like a prince in a large cage, where you might be admitted if you wish. I had a month's mind--- but was afraid of the newspapers; I could be afraid of nothing else, for never did a creature seem more gentle and yet majestic--I longed to caress him. Wallace, the other lion, born in Scotland, seemed much less trustworthy. He handled the dogs as his namesake did the southron.

Enter a confounded Dousterswivel, called Burschal, or some such name, patronised by John Lockhart, teacher of German and learner of English.

He opened the trenches by making me a present of a German work called _Der Bibelische Orient_, then began to talk of literature at large; and display his own pretensions. Asked my opinion of Gray as a poet, and wished me to subscribe an attestation of his own merits for the purpose of getting him scholars. As I hinted my want of acquaintance with his qualifications, I found I had nearly landed myself in a proof, for he was girding up his loins to repeated thundering translations by himself into German, Hebrew, until, thinking it superfluous to stand on very much ceremony with one who used so little with me, hinted at letters to write, and got him to translate himself elsewhere.

Saw a good house in Brunswick Street, which I liked. This evening supped with Thomas Thomson about the affairs of the Bannatyne. There was the Dean, Will Clerk, John Thomson, young Smythe of Methven; very pleasant.

July 9.--Rather slumbrous to-day from having sat up till twelve last night. We settled, or seemed to settle, on an election for the Bannatyne Club. There are people who would wish to confine it much to one party. But those who were together last night saw it in the true and liberal point of view, as a great national institution, which may do much good in the way of publishing our old records, providing we do not fall into the usual habit of antiquarians, and neglect what is useful for things that are merely curious. Thomson is a host for such an undertaking. I wrote a good day's work at the Canongate matter, notwithstanding the intervention of two naps. I get sleepy oftener than usual. It is the weather I suppose--_Naboclish!_[297] I am near the end of the first volume, and every step is one out of difficulty.

July 10.--Slept too long this morning. It was eight before I rose--half-past eight ere I came into the parlour. Terry and J. Ballantyne dined with me yesterday, and I suppose the wassail, though there was little enough of it, had stuck to my pillow.

This morning I was visited by a Mr. Lewis, a smart Cockney, whose object is to amend the handwriting. He uses as a mechanical aid a sort of puzzle of wire and ivory, which is put upon the fingers to keep them in the desired position, like the muzzle on a dog's nose to make him bear himself right in the field. It is ingenious, and may be useful. If the man comes here, as he proposes, in winter, I will take lessons. Bear witness, good reader, that if W.S. writes a cramp hand, as is the case, he is desirous to mend it.

Dined with John Swinton _en famille_. He told me an odd circumstance. Coming from Berwickshire in the mail coach he met with a passenger who seemed more like a military man than anything else. They talked on all sorts of subjects, at length on politics. _Malachi's_ letters were mentioned, when the stranger observed they were much more seditious than some expressions for which he had three or four years ago been nearly sent to Botany Bay. And perceiving John Swinton surprised at this avowal, he added, "I am Kinloch of Kinloch." This gentleman had got engaged in the radical business (the only real gentleman by the way who did), and harangued the weavers of Dundee with such emphasis that he would have been tried and sent to Botany Bay had he not fled abroad. He was outlawed, and only restored to his status on a composition with Government. It seems to have escaped Mr. Kinloch that the conduct of a man who places a lighted coal in the middle of combustibles, and upon the floor, is a little different from that of one who places the same quantity of burning fuel in a fire-grate![298]

July 11.--The last day of the session, and as toilsome a one as I ever saw. There were about 100 or 120 cases on the roll, and most of them of an incidental character, which gives us Clerks the greatest trouble, for it is the grasshopper that is a burthen to us. Came home about four, tired and hungry. I wrought little or none; indeed I could not, having books and things to pack. Went in the evening to sup with John Murray,[299] where I met Will Clerk, Thomson, Henderland, and Charles Stuart Blantyre, and had of course a pleasant party. I came late home, though, for me, and was not in bed till past midnight; it would not do for me to do this often.

July 12.--I have the more reason to eschew evening parties that I slept two mornings till past eight; these vigils would soon tell on my utility, as the divines call it, but this is the last day in town, and the world shall be amended. I have been trying to mediate between the unhappy R.P. G[illies] and his uncle Lord G. The latter talks like a man of sense and a good relation, and would, I think, do something for E.P.G., if he would renounce temporary expedients and bring his affairs to a distinct crisis. But this E.P. will not hear of, but flatters himself with ideas which seem to me quite visionary. I could make nothing of him; but, I conclude, offended him by being of his uncle's opinion rather than his, as to the mode of extricating his affairs.

I am to dine out to-day, and I would fain shirk and stay at home; never, Shylock-like, had I less will to feasting forth, but I must go or be thought sulky. Lord M. and Lady Abercromby called this morning, and a world of people besides, among others honest Mr. Wilson, late of Wilsontown, who took so much care of me at London, sending fresh eggs and all sorts of good things. Well, I have dawdled and written letters sorely against the grain all day. Also I have been down to see Will Allan's picture of the Landing of Queen Mary, which he has begun in a great style; also I have put my letters and papers to rights, which only happens when I am about to move, and now, having nothing left to do, I _must_ go and dress myself.

July 13.--Dined yesterday with Lord Abercromby at a party he gave to Lord Melville and some old friends, who formed the Contemporary Club. Lord M. and I met with considerable feeling on both sides, and all our feuds were forgotten and forgiven; I conclude so at least, because one or two people, whom I know to be sharp observers of the weatherglass on occasion of such squalls, have been earnest with me to meet Lord M. at parties--which I am well assured they would not have been (had I been Horace come to life again[300]) were they not sure the breeze was over. For myself, I am happy that our usual state of friendship should be restored, though I could not have _come down proud stomach_ to make advances, which is, among friends, always the duty of the richer and more powerful of the two.

To-day I leave Mrs. Brown's lodgings. Altogether I cannot complain, but the insects were voracious, even until last night when the turtle-soup and champagne ought to have made me sleep like a top. But I have done a monstrous sight of work here notwithstanding the indolence of this last week, which must and shall be amended.


"So good-by, Mrs. Brown, I am going out of town, Over dale, over down, Where bugs bite not, Where lodgers fight not, Where below you chairmen drink not, Where beside you gutters stink not; But all is fresh, and clean, and gay, And merry lambkins sport and play, And they toss with rakes uncommonly short hay, Which looks as if it had been sown only the other day, And where oats are at twenty-five shillings a boll, they say, But all's one for that, since I must and will away."


July 14, ABBOTSFORD.--Arrived here yesterday before five o'clock. Anybody would think, from the fal-de-ral conclusion of my journal of yesterday, that I left town in a very gay humour--_cujus contrarium verum est_. But nature has given me a kind of buoyancy, I know not what to call it, that mingles even with my deepest afflictions and most gloomy hours. I have a secret pride--I fancy it will be so most truly termed--which impels me to mix with my distresses strange snatches of mirth "which have no mirth in them." In fact, the journey hither, the absence of the affectionate friend that used to be my companion on the journey, and many mingled thoughts of bitterness, have given me a fit of the bile.

July 15.--This day I did not attempt to work, but spent my time in the morning in making the necessary catalogue and distribution of two or three chests of books which I have got home from the binder, Niece Anne acting as my Amanuensis. In the evening we drove to Huntly Burn, and took tea there. Returning home we escaped a considerable danger. The iron screw bolts of the driving-seat suddenly giving way, the servants were very nearly precipitated upon the backs of the horses. Had it been down hill instead of being on the level, the horses must have taken fright, and the consequences might have been fatal. Indeed, they had almost taken fright as it was, had not Peter Matheson,[301] who, in Mr. Fag's phrase, I take to be, "the discreetest of whips,"[302] kept his presence of mind, when losing his equilibrium, so that he managed to keep the horses in hand until we all got out. I must say it is not the first imminent danger on which I have seen Peter (my Automedon for near twenty-five years) behave with the utmost firmness.

July 16.--Very unsatisfactory to-day. Sleepy, stupid, indolent--finished arranging the books, and after that was totally useless--unless it can be called study that I slumbered for three or four hours over a variorum edition of the Gill's-Hill's tragedy.[303] Admirable recipe for low spirits--for, not to mention the brutality of so extraordinary a murder, it led John Bull into one of his uncommon fits of gambols, until at last he become so maudlin as to weep for the pitiless assassin, Thurtell, and treasure up the leaves and twigs of the hedge and shrubs in the fatal garden as valuable relics--nay, thronged the minor theatres to see the very roan horse and yellow gig in which the body was transported from one place to another. I have not stept over the threshold to-day, so very stupid have I been.

July 17.--_Desidiæ longum valedixi._ Our time is like our money. When we change a guinea, the shillings escape as things of small account; when we break a day by idleness in the morning, the rest of the hours lose their importance in our eye. I set stoutly to work about seven this morning to _Boney_--

    And long ere dinner-time, I have
      Full eight close pages wrote;
    What, Duty, hast thou now to crave?
      Well done, Sir Walter Scott!

July 18.--This, as yesterday, has been a day of unremitting labour, though I only got through half the quantity of manuscript, owing to drowsiness, a most disarming annoyance. I walked a little before dinner and after tea, but was unable to go with the girls and Charles to the top of Cauldshiels Hill. I fear my walking powers are diminishing, but why not? They have been wonderfully long efficient, all things considered, only I fear I shall get fat and fall into diseases. Well, things must be as they may. Let us use the time and faculties which God has left us, and trust futurity to his guidance. Amen.

This is the day of St. Boswell's Fair. That watery saint has for once had a dry festival.

July 19.--Wrote a page this morning, but no more. Corrected proofs however, and went to Selkirk to hold Sheriff Court; this consumed the forenoon. Colonel and Miss Ferguson, with Mr. and Mrs. Laidlaw, dined and occupied the evening. The rain seemed to set in this night.

July 20.--To-day rainy. A morning and forenoon of hard work. About five pages, which makes up for yesterday's lee way. I am sadly tired however. But as I go to Mertoun at four, and spend the night there, the exertion was necessary.

July 21.--To Mertoun we went accordingly. Lord and Lady Minto were there, with part of their family, David Haliburton, etc., besides their own large family. So my lodging was a little room which I had not occupied since I was a bachelor, but often before in my frequent intercourse with this kind and hospitable family. Feeling myself returned to that celibacy, which renders many accommodations indifferent which but lately were indispensable, my imagination drew a melancholy contrast between the young man entering the world on fire for fame, and restless in imagining means of coming by it, and the aged widower, _blasé_ on the point of literary reputation, deprived of the social comforts of a married state, and looking back to regret instead of looking forward to hope. This brought bad sleep and unpleasing dreams. But if I cannot hope to be what I have been, I will not, if I can help it, suffer vain repining to make me worse than I may be.

We left Mertoun after breakfast, and the two Annes and I visited Lady Raeburn at Lessudden. My Aunt is now in her ninetieth year--so clean, so nice, so well arranged in every respect, that it makes old age lovely. She talks both of late and former events with perfect possession of her faculties, and has only failed in her limbs. A great deal of kind feeling has survived, in spite of the frost of years.

Home to dinner, and worked all the afternoon among the Moniteurs--to little purpose, for my principal acquisition was a headache. I wrote nothing to-day but part of a trifle for _Blackwood_.

July 22.--The same severe headache attends my poor pate. But I have worked a good deal this morning, and will do more. I wish to have half the volume sent into town on Monday if possible. It will be a royal effort, and more than make up for the blanks of this week.

July 23.--I wrote very hard this day, and attained page 40; 45 would be more than half the volume. Colonel Russell came about one, and carried me out a-walking, which I was all the better of. In the evening we expected Terry and his wife, but they did not come, which makes me fear she may be unwell again.

July 24.--A great number of proof-sheets to revise and send off, and after that I took a fancy to give a more full account of the Constitution framed by Sieyès--a complicated and ingenious web; it is but far too fine and critical to be practically useful.

July 25.--Terry and wife arrived yesterday. Both very well. At dinner-time to-day came Dr. Jamieson[304] of the Scottish Dictionary, an excellent good man, and full of auld Scottish cracks, which amuse me well enough, but are _caviare_ to the young people. A little prolix and heavy is the good Doctor; somewhat prosaic, and accustomed to much attention on the Sunday from his congregation, and I hope on the six other days from his family. So _he will_ demand full attention from all and sundry before he begins a story, and once begun there is no chance of his ending.

July 26.--This day went to Selkirk, and held a Court. The Doctor and Terry chose to go with me. Captain and Mrs. Hamilton came to dinner. Desperate warm weather! Little done in the literary way except sending off proofs. Roup of standing corn, etc., went off very indifferently. Letter from Ballantyne wanting me to write about absentees. But I have enough to do without burning my fingers with politics.

July 27.--Up and at it this morning, and finished four pages. An unpleasant letter from London, as if I might be troubled by some of the creditors there, when going to town to get materials for _Nap_. I have no wish to go,--none at all. I would even like to put off my visit, so far as John Lockhart and my daughter are concerned, and see them when the meeting could be more pleasant. But then, having an offer to see the correspondence from St. Helena, I can make no doubt that I ought to go. However, if it is to infer any danger to my personal freedom, English wind will not blow on me. It is monstrous hard to prevent me doing what is certainly the best for all parties.

July 28.--I am well-nigh choked with the sulphurous heat of the weather--or I am unwell, for I perspire as if I had been walking hard, and my hand is as nervous as a paralytic's. Read through and corrected _St. Ronan's Well_. I am no judge, but I think the language of this piece rather good. Then I must allow the fashionable portraits are not the true thing. I am too much out of the way to see and remark the ridiculous in society. The story is terribly contorted and unnatural, and the catastrophe is melancholy, which should always be avoided. No matter; I have corrected it for the press.[305]

The worthy Lexicographer left us to-day. Somewhat ponderous he is, poor soul! but there are excellent things about him.

Action and Reaction--Scots proverb: "the unrest (_i.e._ pendulum) of a clock _goes aye as far the ae gait as the t'other_."

Walter's account of his various quarters per last despatch. Query if original:--

    "Loughrea is a blackguard place
      To Gort I give my curse;
    Athlone itself is bad enough,
      But Ballinrobe is worse.
    I cannot tell which is the worst,
      They're all so very bad;
    But of all towns I ever saw,
      Bad luck to Kinnegad."

Old Mr. Haliburton dined with us, also Colonel Russell. What a man for fourscore or thereby is Old Haly--an Indian too. He came home in 1785.

July 29.--Yesterday I wrought little, and light work, almost stifled by the smothering heat. To-day I wrought about half task in the morning, and, as a judgment on me I think for yesterday's sloth, Mr. H. stayed unusually late in the forenoon. He is my friend, my father's friend, and an excellent, sensible man besides; and a man of eighty and upwards may be allowed to talk long, because in the nature of things he cannot have long to talk. If I do a task to-day, I hope to send a good parcel on Monday and keep tryst pretty well.

July 30.--I did better yesterday than I had hoped for--four instead of three pages, which, considering how my time was cut up by prolonged morning lounging with friend Haly, was pretty fair. I wrote a good task before eleven o'clock, but then my good friends twaddled and dawdled for near two hours before they set off. The time devoted to hospitality, especially to those whom I can reckon upon as sincere good friends, I never grudge, but like to "welcome the coming, speed the parting guest." By my will every guest should part at half-past ten, or arrange himself to stay for the day.

We had a long walk in a sweltering hot day. Met Mr. Blackwood coming to call, and walked him on with us, so blinked his visit--_gratias, domine_!! Asked him for breakfast to-morrow to make amends. I rather over-walked myself--the heat considered.

July 31st_.--I corrected six sheets and sent them off, with eight leaves of copy, so I keep forward pretty well. Blackwood the bookseller came over from Chiefswood to breakfast, and this kept me idle till eleven o'clock. At twelve I went out with the girls in the sociable, and called on the family at Bemerside, on Dr.[306] and Mrs. Brewster, and Mr. Bainbridge at Gattonside House. It was five ere we got home, so there was a day dished, unless the afternoon does something for us. I am keeping up pretty well, however, and, after all, visitors will come, and calls must be made. I must not let Anne forego the custom of well-bred society.

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FOOTNOTES:

[292] Thomas Hamilton, Esq. (brother of Sir William Hamilton, the Metaphysician), author of _Cyril Thornton_, _Men and Manners in America_, _Annals of the Peninsular Campaign_, _etc._ Died in 1842.

[293] Bryan Waller Procter, author of _Dramatic Scenes, and other Poems_, 1819. He died in London in 1874.

[294] A favourite expression of Scott's, from _Robinson Crusoe_.

[295] John Hay Forbes (Lord Medwyn from 1825 to 1852), second son of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo. Lord Medwyn died at the age of seventy-eight in 1854.

[296] _The Highland Widow_.

[297] A favourite exclamation of Sir Walter's, which he had picked up on his Irish tour, signifying "don't mind it"--_Na-bac-leis_. Compare Sir Boyle Roche's dream that his head was cut off and placed upon a table: "'_Quis separabit?_' says the head; '_Naboclish_,' says I, in the same language."

[298] That Mr. Kinloch was not singular in his opinion has been shown by the remarks made in the House of Commons (see _ante_, March 17). Lord Cockburn in his _Trials for Sedition_ says, "With Botany Bay before him, and money to make himself comfortable in Paris, George Kinloch would have been an idiot if he had stayed." Mr. Kinloch had just returned to Scotland.

[299] His neighbour, John Archibald Murray, then living at 122 George Street.--See p. 133.

[300] See Molière's _l'École des Femmes_.

[301] In 1827 Scott was one day heard saying, as he saw Peter guiding the plough on the haugh:--"Egad, auld Pepe's whistling at his darg: if things get round with me, easy will be his cushion!" Old Peter lived until he was eighty-four. He died at Abbotsford in 1854, where he had been well cared for, respected, and beloved by all the members of the family since Sir Walter's death.

[302] Sheridan's _Rivals_, Act II. Sc. 1.

[303] The murder of Weare by Thurtell and Co., at Gill's-Hill in Hertfordshire (1824). Sir Walter collected printed trials with great assiduity, and took care always to have the contemporary ballads and prints bound up with them. He admired particularly this verse of Mr. Hook's broadside--

  "They cut his throat from ear to ear,
  His brains they battered in;
  His name was Mr. William Weare,
  He dwelt in Lyon's Inn."

--J.G.L.

[304] Dr. John Jamieson, formerly minister to a Secession congregation in Forfar, removed to a like charge in Edinburgh in 1795, where he officiated for forty-three years; he died in his house in 4 George Square in 1838, aged seventy-nine.

[305] This novel was passing through the press in 8vo, 12mo, and 18mo, to complete collective editions in these sizes.--J.G.I.

[306] Afterwards Sir David Brewster. He died at Allerley House on the Tweed, aged eighty-seven, on February 10, 1868.

Sir Walter Scott