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The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 13: 1826
Sir Walter Scott to John Gibson Lockhart, 17 March 1826

Vol. I. Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter 1: 1794-1808
Chapter 2: 1808-13
Chapter 3: 1813-15
Chapter 4: 1815-17
Chapter 5: 1817-18
Chapter 6: 1817-19
Chapter 7: 1818-20
Chapter 8: 1819-20
Chapter 9: 1820-21
Chapter 10: 1821-24
Chapter 11: 1817-24
Chapter 12: 1821-25
Chapter 13: 1826
Vol. II Contents
Chapter 14: 1826-32
Chapter 15: 1828-32
Chapter 16: 1832-36
Chapter 17: 1837-39
Chapter 18: 1837-43
Chapter 19: 1828-48
Chapter 20: 1826-52
Chapter 21: 1842-50
Chapter 22: 1850-53
Chapter 23: 1853-54
Chapter 24: Conclusion
Vol. II Index
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Produced by CATH
Abbotsford, 17th March 1826.

My dear Lockhart,—I am almost stunned with the melancholy intelligence I have this morning received. It appears to be God’s pleasure that this year shall be a most melancholy one, but other considerations were trifles compared to the anxiety communicated by your intelligence. Most unhappily, Morritt is, I understand, just leaving Brighton” (whither Hugh Littlejohn had been sent by the physicians). “I own I have had always a deep-rooted anxiety on account of that poor dear infant, and have sometimes thought there was too much mind for the corporeal strength. I can scarce conceive a situation more melancholy than yours—thinking and feeling as you do. Even Sophia is easier, because she is at least constantly present where her anxiety is most anxiously fixed. What can I form for you but vain wishes? or what arguments can I use that will not occur to yourself, and when they have thus occurred, be of very little avail? We would send up Anne with pleasure if her presence could be useful.

“As for the political part of your letter, Scotland will, in twenty years, perhaps much sooner, be revolutionised from head to foot; and then let England look to herself, for she may have some reason to resume her own old proverb, ‘All ill comes from the North.’ The present time
reminds me strongly of 1638-9, when useless and uncalled-for changes unsettled the minds and irritated the temper of the Scotch, who were not long in communicating the infection to England. Then the opinions were religious, now they are political, but the effect may—indeed, I think, will—prove the same.

“Within these twenty years, nay, within these ten years, there have been so many alterations made, that law seems to be treated like religion, according to Hudibras
——‘as if intended
For nothing else but to be mended.’
In the meantime the Burghers have been assembled into popular meeting of Commissioners and so forth, and have most effectually modelled themselves in such a manner as will make it impossible long to refuse them the popular representation they demand. They will probably send up clever men, for the time is so near, and the prospect so tempting, that some of our clever friends in the Parliament House will never quit so pleasing a harvest. Bold, speculative, able men, long-headed, too, beyond the length of the Southron noddle, they will propose and carry through more general measures of alteration, all leaning to the popular side of the question. These will be given way to as concerning Scotland. Fiercer innovators will arise behind in the usual course of such events—England will catch fire in her turn—
and all this from encouraging a spirit of innovation in the most quiet and peaceful country in Europe. . . .

“As for myself, what reason on earth can I have to affront all my friends in power “(by his “Malagrowther” Letters), “but the deep consciousness that there is a duty to be discharged? If they can argue me out of the world, as they say, and into Liddesdale, I have not the least objections.

“I have written more than I intended, but I am not sorry that any of our private friends should know why I do not answer my friend” (Croker) “at the Admiralty. Mr. Canning is mistaken if he supposes I appealed to the populace. On the contrary, I resisted every proposal to put the ‘Letters’ into a shape for general circulation. If ever there should be an occasion to address the people, I fancy I might have a guess how to set about it. But it should not be against the present men, although I am so unfortunate as to disapprove of the present measures.

“My heart sinks at writing all this stuff on a subject so different from that which at present occupies us both. It is what, however, we would likely have talked about, to divert for a moment our thoughts from that which must be uppermost. I am alone at Abbotsford, and have spent one pleasant day here, but that which follows is after the manner of Sezed with a witness. Pray write often.—Yours truly,

W. Scott.”