LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter II 1771-78

Vol I Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter I
‣ Chapter II 1771-78
Chapter III 1778-83
Chapter IV 1783-86
Chapter V 1786-90
Chapter VI 1790-92
Chapter VII 1792-96
Chapter VIII 1796-97
Chapter IX 1798-99
Chapter X 1800-02
Chapter XI 1802-03
Chapter XII 1803-04
Vol. II Contents.
Chapter I 1804-05
Chapter II 1805
Chapter III 1806
Chapter IV 1806-08
Chapter V 1808
Chapter VI 1808-09
Chapter VII 1809-10
Chapter VIII 1810
Chapter IX 1810
Chapter X 1810-11
Chapter XI 1811
Chapter XII 1811-12
Vol. III Contents.
Chapter I 1812-13
Chapter II 1813
Chapter III 1814
Chapter IV 1814
Chapter V 1814
Chapter VI 1814
Chapter VII 1814
Chapter VIII 1814
Chapter IX 1814
Chapter X 1814-15
Chapter XI 1815
Chapter XII 1815
Vol III Appendix
Vol. IV Contents.
Chapter I 1816
Chapter II 1817
Chapter III 1817
Chapter IV 1818
Chapter V 1818
Chapter VI 1818
Chapter VII 1818-19
Chapter VIII 1819
Chapter IX 1819
Chapter X 1819
Chapter XI 1820
Chapter XII 1820
Vol. V Contents.
Chapter I 1820
Chapter II 1820-21
Chapter III 1821
Chapter IV 1821
Chapter V 1821
Chapter VI 1821
Chapter VII 1822
Chapter VIII 1822
Chapter IX 1822-23
Chapter X 1823
Chapter XI 1823
Chapter XII 1824
Chapter XIII 1824-25
Vol. VI Contents.
Chapter I 1825
Chapter II 1825
Chapter III 1825
Chapter IV 1825
Chapter V 1826
Chapter VI 1826
Chapter VII 1826
Chapter VIII 1826
Chapter IX 1826
Chapter X 1826
Chapter XI 1826
Vol. VII Contents.
Vol VII Preface
Chapter I 1826-27
Chapter II 1827
Chapter III 1828
Chapter IV 1828
Chapter V 1829
Chapter VI 1830
Chapter VII 1830-31
Chapter VIII 1831
Chapter IX 1831
Chapter X 1831-32
Chapter XI 1832
Chapter XII
Vol VII Appendix
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

Sir Walter Scott opens his brief account of his ancestry with a playful allusion to a trait of national character, which has, time out of mind, furnished merriment to the neighbours of the Scotch; but the zeal of pedigree was deeply rooted in himself, and he would have been the last to treat it with serious disparagement. It has often been exhibited under circumstances sufficiently grotesque; but it has lent strength to many a good impulse, sustained hope and self-respect under many a difficulty and distress, armed heart and nerve to many a bold and resolute struggle for independence; and prompted also many a generous act of assistance, which under its influence alone could have been accepted without any feeling of degradation.

He speaks modestly of his own descent; for, while none of his predecessors had ever sunk below the situation and character of a gentleman, he had but to go three or four generations back, and thence, as far as they could be followed, either on the paternal or maternal side, they were to be found moving in the highest ranks of our baronage. When he fitted up in his later years the beautiful hall of Abbotsford, he was careful to have the armorial bearings of his forefathers blazoned in due
order on the compartments of its roof; and there are few in Scotland, under the titled nobility, who could trace their blood to so many stocks of historical distinction.

In the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and Notes to the Lay of the Last Minstrel, the reader will find sundry notices of the “Bauld Rutherfords that were sae stout,” and the Swintons of Swinton in Berwickshire, the two nearest houses on the maternal side. An illustrious old warrior of the latter family, Sir John Swinton, extolled by Froissart, is the hero of the dramatic sketch, “Halidon Hill”; and it is not to be omitted, that through the Swintons Sir Walter Scott could trace himself to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, the poet and dramatist.* His respect for the worthy barons of Newmains and Dryburgh, of whom, in right of his father’s mother, he was the representative, and in whose venerable sepulchre his remains now rest, was testified by his “Memorials of the Haliburtons,” a small volume printed (for private circulation only) in the year 1820. His own male ancestors of the family of Harden, whose lineage is traced by Douglas in his Baronage of Scotland back to the middle of the fourteenth century, when they branched off from the great blood of Buccleuch, have been so largely celebrated in his various writings,

* On Sir Walter’s copy of “Recreations with the Muses, by William Earl of Stirling, 1637,” there is the following MS. note: “Sir William Alexander, sixth Baron of Menstrie, and first Earl of Stirling, the friend of Drummond of Hawthornden and Ben Jonson, died in 1640. His eldest son, William Viscount Canada, died before his father, leaving one son and three daughters by his wife, Lady Margaret Douglas, eldest daughter of William, first Marquis of Douglas. Margaret, the second of these daughters, married Sir Robert Sinclair of Longformacus in the Merse, to whom she bore two daughters, Anne and Jean. Jean Sinclair, the younger daughter, married Sir John Swinton of Swinton; and Jean Swinton, her eldest daughter, was the grandmother of the proprietor of this volume.”

that I might perhaps content myself with a general reference to those pages, their only imperishable monument. The antique splendour of the ducal house itself has been dignified to all Europe by the pen of its remote descendant; but it may be doubted whether his genius could have been adequately developed, had he not attracted, at an early and critical period, the kindly recognition and support of the Buccleuchs.

The race had been celebrated, however, long before his day, by a minstrel of its own; nor did he conceal his belief that he owed much to the influence exerted over his juvenile mind by the rude but enthusiastic clan-poetry of old Satchells, who describes himself on his title-page as
“Captain Walter Scot, an old Souldier and no Scholler,
And one that can write nane,
But just the Letters of his Name.”
His “
True History of several honourable Families of the Right Honourable Name of Scot, in the Shires of Roxburgh and Selkirk, and others adjacent, gathered out of Ancient Chronicles, Histories, and Traditions of our Fathers,” includes, among other things, a string of complimentary rhymes addressed to the first Laird of Raeburn; and the copy which had belonged to that gentleman, was in all likelihood about the first book of verses that fell into the poet’s hand.* How continually

* His family well remember the delight which he expressed on receiving, in 1818, a copy of this first edition, a small dark quarto of 1688, from his friend Constable. He was breakfasting when the present was delivered, and said, “This is indeed the resurrection of an old ally—I mind spelling these lines.” He read aloud the jingling epistle to his own great-great-grandfather, which, like the rest, concludes with abroad hint that, as the author had neither lands nor flocks “no estate left except his designation” the more fortunate kinsman who enjoyed, like Jason of old, a fair share

its wild and uncouth doggrel was on his lips to his latest day, all his familiars can testify; and the passages which he quoted with the greatest zest were those commemorative of two ancient worthies, both of whom had had to contend against physical misfortune similar to his own. The former of these, according to Satchells, was the immediate founder of the branch originally designed of Sinton, afterwards of Harden.
“It is four hundred winters past in order
Since that Buccleuch was Warden in the Border;
A son he had at that same tide,
Which was so lame could neither run nor ride.
John, this lame son, if my author speaks true,
He sent him to St Mungo’s in Glasgu,
Where he remained a scholar’s time,
Then married a wife according to his mind. . . .
And betwixt them twa was procreat
Headshaw, Askirk, Sinton, and Glack.”

of fleeces, might do worse than bestow on him some of King James’s broad pieces. On rising from table, Sir Walter immediately wrote as follows on the blank leaf opposite to poor Satchells’ honest title-page—

“I, Walter Scott of Abbotsford, a poor scholar, no soldier, but a soldier’s lover,
In the style of my namesake and kinsman do hereby discover,
That I have written the twenty-four letters twenty-four million times over;
And to every true-born Scott I do wish as many golden pieces,
As ever were hairs in Jason’s and Medea’s golden fleeces.”

The rarity of the original edition of Satchells is such, that the copy now at Abbotsford was the only one Mr Constable had ever seen and no wonder, for the author’s envoy is in these words:

“Begone, my book, stretch forth thy wings and fly
Amongst the nobles and gentility;
Thou’rt not to sell to scavengers and clowns,
But given to worthy persons of renown.
The number’s few I’ve printed, in regard
My charges have been great, and I hope reward;
I caus’d not print many above twelve score,
And the printers are engaged that they shall print no more.”
But, if the scholarship of John the Lamiter furnished his descendant with many a mirthful allusion, a far greater favourite was the memory of
William the Boltfoot, who followed him in the sixth generation.
“The Laird and Lady of Harden
Betwixt them procreat was a son
The emphasis with which this next line was quoted I can never forget
He did survive to be a man.”
He was, in fact, one of the “prowest knights” of the whole genealogy—a fearless horseman and expert spearman, renowned and dreaded; and I suppose I have heard Sir Walter repeat a dozen times, as he was dashing into the Tweed or Ettrick, “rolling red from brae to brae,” a stanza from what he called an old ballad, though it was most likely one of his own early imitations.
“To tak the foord he aye was first,
Unless the English loons were near;
Plunge vassal than, plunge horse and man,
Auld Boltfoot rides into the rear.”

“From childhood’s earliest hour,” says the poet in one of his last Journals, “I have rebelled against external circumstances.” How largely the traditional famousness of the stalwart Boltfoot may have helped to develope this element of his character, I do not pretend to say; but I cannot avoid regretting that Lord Byron had not discovered such another “Deformed Transformed” among his own chivalrous progenitors.

So long as Sir Walter retained his vigorous habits, he used to make an autumnal excursion, with whatever friend happened to be his guest at the time, to the tower of Harden, the incunabula of his race. A
more picturesque scene for the fastness of a lineage of Border marauders could not be conceived; and so much did he delight in it, remote and inaccessible as its situation is, that, in the earlier part of his life, he had nearly availed himself of his kinsman’s permission to fit up the dilapidated peel for his summer residence. Harden (the ravine of hares) is a deep, dark, and narrow glen, along which a little mountain brook flows to join the river Borthwick, itself a tributary of the Teviot. The castle is perched on the brink of the precipitous bank, and from the ruinous windows you look down into the crows’ nests on the summits of the old mouldering elms, that have their roots on the margin of the stream far below.—
“Where Bortha hoarse, that loads the meads with sand,
Rolls her red tide to Teviot’s western strand,
Through slaty hills, whose sides are shagged with thorn,
Where springs in scattered tufts the dark-green corn,
Towers wood-girt Harden far above the vale,
And clouds of ravens o’er the turrets sail.
A hardy race who never shrunk from war,
The Scott, to rival realms a mighty bar,
Here fixed his mountain home;—a wide domain,
And rich the soil, had purple heath been grain;
But what the niggard ground of wealth denied,
From fields more bless’d his fearless arm supplied.”*

It was to this wild retreat that the Harden of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, the Auld Wat of a hundred Border ditties, brought home, in 1567, his beautiful bride, Mary Scott, “the Flower of Yarrow,” whose grace and gentleness have lived in song along with the stern vir-

* Leyden, the author of these beautiful lines, has borrowed, as the Lay of the Last Minstrel did also, from one of Satchells’ primitive couplets—

“If heather-tops had been corn of the best,
Then Buccleugh mill had gotten, a noble grist.’
tues of her lord. She is said to have chiefly owed her celebrity to the gratitude of an English captive, a beautiful child, whom she rescued from the tender mercies of Wat’s moss-troopers, on their return from a foray into Cumberland. The youth grew up under her protection, and is believed to have been the composer both of the words and the music of many of the best old songs of the Border. As
Leyden says,
“His are the strains whose wandering echoes thrill
The shepherd lingering on the twilight hill,
When evening brings the merry folding hours,
And sun-eyed daisies close their winking flowers.
He lived o’er Yarrow’s Flower to shed the tear,
To strew the holly leaves o’er Harden’s bier;
But none was found above the minstrel’s tomb,
Emblem of peace, to bid the daisy bloom.
He, nameless as the race from which he sprung,
Saved other names, and left his own unsung.”

We are told, that when the last bullock which Auld Wat had provided from the English pastures was consumed, the Flower of Yarrow placed on her table a dish containing a pair of clean spurs; a hint to the company that they must bestir themselves for their next dinner. Sir Walter adds, in a note to the Minstrelsy, “Upon one occasion when the village herd was driving out the cattle to pasture, the old laird heard him call loudly to drive out Harden’s cow. ‘Harden’s cow!’ echoed the affronted chief; ‘Is it come to that pass? by my faith they shall soon say Harden’s kye (cows).’ Accordingly, he sounded his bugle, set out with his followers, and next day returned with a bow of kye, and a bassen’d (brindled) bull. On his return with this gallant prey, he passed a very large haystack. It occurred to the provident laird that this would be extremely convenient to fodder his new stock of cattle; but as no means of transporting it were obvious, he was fain
to take leave of it with the apostrophe, now become proverbial, By my saul, had ye but four feet ye should not stand lang there. In short, as
Froissart says of a similar class of feudal robbers, nothing came amiss to them that was not too heavy or too hot.”

Another striking chapter in the genealogical history belongs to the marriage of Auld Wat’s son and heir, afterwards Sir William Scott of Harden, distinguished by the early favour of James VI., and severely fined for his loyalty under the usurpation of Cromwell. The period of this gentleman’s youth was a very wild one in that district. The Border clans still made war on each other occasionally, much in the fashion of their forefathers; and the young and handsome heir of Harden, engaging in a foray upon the lands of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank, treasurer-depute of Scotland, was overpowered by that baron’s retainers, and carried in shackles to his castle, now a heap of ruins, on the banks of the Tweed. Elibank’s “doomtree” extended its broad arms close to the gates of his fortress, and the indignant laird was on the point of desiring his prisoner to say a last prayer, when his more considerate dame interposed milder counsels, suggesting that the culprit was born to a good estate, and that they had three unmarried daughters. Young Harden, not, it is said, without hesitation, agreed to save his life by taking the plainest of the three off their hands, and the contract of marriage, executed instantly on the parchment of a drum, is still in the charter-chest of his noble representative.

Walter Scott, the third son of this couple, was the first Laird of Raeburn, already alluded to as one of the patrons of Satchells. He married Isabel Macdougal, daughter of Macdougal of Makerstoun—a family of great antiquity and distinction in Roxburgh-
shire, of whose blood, through various alliances, the poet had a large share in his veins. Raeburn, though the son and brother of two steady cavaliers, and married into a family of the same political creed, became a Whig, and at last a Quaker; and the reader will find, in one of the notes to
The Heart of Mid-Lothian, a singular account of the persecution to which this back-gliding exposed him at the hands of both his own and his wife’s relations. He was incarcerated (A.D. 1665), first at Edinburgh and then at Jedburgh, by order of the Privy Council—his children were forcibly taken from him, and a heavy sum was levied on his estate yearly, for the purposes of their education beyond the reach of his perilous influence. “It appears,” says Sir Walter, in a MS. memorandum now before me, “that the Laird of Makerstoun, his brother-in-law, joined with Raeburn’s own elder brother, Harden, in this singular persecution, as it will now be termed by Christians of all persuasions. It was observed by the people that the male line of the second Sir William of Harden became extinct in 1710, and that the representation of Makerstoun soon passed into the female line. They assigned as a cause, that when the wife of Raeburn found herself deprived of her husband, and refused permission even to see her children, she pronounced a malediction on her husband’s brother as well as on her own, and prayed that a male of their body might not inherit their property.”

The MS. adds, “of the first Raeburn’s two sons it may be observed, that, thanks to the discipline of the Privy Council, they were both good scholars.” Of these sons, Walter, the second, was the poet’s greatgrandfather, the enthusiastic Jacobite of the autobiographical fragment,—who is introduced,
“With amber beard and flaxen hair,
And reverend apostolic air,”
in the epistle prefixed to the sixth canto of
Marmion. A good portrait of Bearded Wat, painted for his friend Pitcairn, was presented by the doctor’s grandson, the Earl of Kellie, to the father of Sir Walter. It is now at Abbotsford; and shows a considerable resemblance to the poet. Some verses addressed to the original by his kinsman Walter Scott of Harden, are given in one of the Notes to Marmion. The old gentleman himself is said to have written verses occasionally, both English and Latin; but I never heard more than the burden of a drinking-song—
“Barba crescat, barba crescat,
Donec carduus revirescat.”

Scantily as the worthy Jacobite seems to have been provided with this world’s goods, he married the daughter of a gentleman of good condition, “through whom,” says the MS. Memorandum already quoted, “his descendants have inherited a connexion with some honourable branches of the Slioch nan Diarmid, or Clan of Campbell.” To this connexion Sir Walter owed, as we shall see hereafter, many of those early opportunities for studying the manners of the Highlanders, to which the world are indebted for Waverley, Rob Roy, and the Lady of the Lake.

Robert Scott, the son of Beardie, formed also an honourable alliance. His father-in-law, Thomas Haliburton,* the last but one of the “good lairds of New-

* “From the genealogical deduction in the Memorials, it appears that the Haliburtons of Newmains were descended from and represented the ancient and once powerful family of Haliburton of Mertoun, which became extinct in the beginning of the eighteenth cen-

mains,” entered his marriage as follows in the domestic record, which
Sir Walter’s pious respect induced him to have printed nearly a century afterwards: “My second daughter Barbara is married to Robert Scott, son to Walter Scott, uncle to Raeburn, upon this sixteen day of July, 1728, at my house of Dryburgh, by Mr James Innes, minister of Mertoun, their mothers being cousings; may the blessing of the Lord rest upon them, and make them comforts to each other and to all their relations;” to which the editor of the Memorials adds this note, “May God grant that the prayers of the excellent persons who have passed away may avail for the benefit of those who succeed them!—Abbotsford, Nov. 1824.”

I need scarcely remind the reader of the exquisite description of the poet’s grandfather, in the Introduction to the third Canto of Marmion
——“the thatched mansion’s grey-hair’d sire,
Wise without learning, plain and good,
And sprung of Scotland’s gentler blood;

tury. The first of this latter family possessed the lands and barony of Mertoun by a charter granted by Archibald Earl of Douglas and Lord of Galloway (one of those tremendous lords whose coronets counterpoised the Scottish crown) to Henry de Haliburton, whom he designates as his standard-bearer, on account of his service to the earl in England. On this account the Haliburtons of Mertoun and those of Newmains, in addition to the arms borne by the Haliburtons of Dirleton (the ancient chiefs of that once great and powerful but now almost extinguished name)—viz. or, on a bend azure, three mascles of the first—gave the distinctive bearing of a buckle of the second in the sinister canton. These arms still appear on various old tombs in the abbeys of Melrose and Dryburgh, as well as on their house at Dryburgh, which was built in 1572.”—MS. Memorandum, 1820. Sir Walter was served heir to these Haliburtons soon after the date of this Memorandum, and thenceforth quartered the arms above described with those of his paternal family.

Whose eye, in age quick, clear, and keen,
Showed what in youth its glance had been;
Whose doom discording neighbours sought,
Content with equity unbought.”
In the Preface to
Guy Mannering, we have an anecdote of Robert Scott in his earlier days: “My grandfather, while riding over Charterhouse Moor, then a very extensive common, fell suddenly among a large band of gipsies, who were carousing in a hollow surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his bridle with shouts of welcome, exclaiming that they had often dined at his expense, and he must now stay and share their cheer. My ancestor was a little alarmed, for he had more money about his person than he cared to risk in such society. However, being naturally a bold lively spirited man, he entered into the humour of the thing, and sat down to the feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth, that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminate system of plunder. The dinner was a very merry one, but my relative got a hint from some of the older gipsies, just when ‘the mirth and fun grew fast and furious,’ and mounting his horse accordingly, he took a French leave of his entertainers.” His grandson might have reported more than one scene of the like sort in which he was himself engaged, while hunting the same district, not in quest of foxes or of cattle sales, like the goodman of Sandy-knowe, but of ballads for the Minstrelsy. Gipsy stories, as we are told in the same Preface, were frequently in the mouth of the old man when his face ‘brightened at the evening fire,’ in the days of the poet’s childhood. And he adds, that ‘as Dr Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne as a stately lady in black, adorned with diamonds,’ so his own memory was haunted with ‘a solemn remembrance of a woman of more
than female height, dressed in a long red cloak, who once made her appearance beneath the thatched roof of Sandy-Knowe, commenced acquaintance by giving him an apple, and whom he looked on, nevertheless, with as much awe as the future doctor, High Church and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look upon the Queen.’ This was Madge Gordon, granddaughter of
Jean Gordon, the prototype of Meg Merrilees.

Of Robert of Sandy-Knowe also there is a very tolerable portrait at Abbotsford, and the likeness of the poet to his grandfather must have forcibly struck every one who has seen it. Indeed, but for its wanting some inches in elevation of forehead (a considerable want it must be allowed), the picture might be mistaken for one of Sir Walter Scott. The keen shrewd expression of the eye, and the remarkable length and compression of the upper lip, bring him exactly before me as he appeared when entering with all the zeal of a professional agriculturist into the merits of a pit of marle discovered at Abbotsford. Had the old man been represented with his cap on his head, the resemblance to one particular phasis of the most changeful of countenances, would have been perfect.

Robert Scott had a numerous progeny, and Sir Walter has intimated his intention of recording several of them “with a sincere tribute of gratitude” in the contemplated prosecution of his autobiography. Two of the younger sons were bred to the naval service of the East India Company; one of whom died early and unmarried; the other was the excellent Captain Robert Scott, of whose kindness to his nephew some particulars are given in the Ashestiel Fragment, and more will occur hereafter. Another son, Thomas, followed the profession of his father with ability, and
retired in old age upon a handsome independence, acquired by his industrious exertions. He was twice married, first to his near relation, a daughter of Raeburn; and secondly to Miss Rutherford of Know-South, the estate of which respectable family is now possessed by his son
Charles Scott, an amiable and high-spirited gentleman, who was always a special favourite with his eminent kinsman. The death of Thomas Scott is thus recorded in one of the MS. notes on his nephew’s own copy of the Haliburton Memorials:—“The said Thomas Scott died at Monklaw, near Jedburgh, at two of the clock, 27th January, 1823, in the 90th year of his life, and fully possessed of all his faculties. He read till nearly the year before his death; and being a great musician on the Scotch pipes, had, when on his deathbed, a favourite tune played over to him by his son James, that he might be sure he left him in full possession of it. After hearing it, he hummed it over himself, and corrected it in several of the notes. The air was that called Sour Plumbs in Galashiels. When barks and other tonics were given him during his last illness he privately spat them into his handkerchief, saying, as he had lived all his life without taking doctor’s drugs, he wished to die without doing so.”

I visited this old man, two years before his death, in company with Sir Walter, and thought him about the most venerable figure I had ever set my eyes on—tall and erect, with long flowing tresses of the most silvery whiteness, and stockings rolled up over his knees, after the fashion of three generations back. He sat reading his Bible without spectacles, and did not, for a moment, perceive that any one had entered his room, but on recognising his nephew he rose, with cordial alacrity, kissing him on both cheeks, and exclaiming, “God bless thee, Walter, my man, thou hast risen to
be great, but thou wast always good.” His remarks were lively and sagacious, and delivered with a touch of that humour which seems to have been shared by most of the family. He had the air and manner of an ancient gentleman, and must in his day have been eminently handsome. I saw more than once, about the same period, this respectable man’s
sister, who had married her cousin Walter, Laird of Raeburn thus adding a new link to the closeness of the family connexion. She also must have been, in her youth, remarkable for personal attractions; as it was, she dwells on my memory as the perfect picture of an old Scotch lady, with a great deal of simple dignity in her bearing, but with the softest eye, and the sweetest voice, and a charm of meekness and gentleness about every look and expression; all which contrasted strikingly enough with the stern dry aspect and manners of her husband, a right descendant of the moss-troopers of Harden, who never seemed at his ease but on horseback, and continued to be the boldest fox-hunter of the district, even to the verge of eighty. The poet’s aunt spoke her native language pure and undiluted, but without the slightest tincture of that vulgarity which now seems almost unavoidable in the oral use of a dialect so long banished from courts, and which has not been avoided by any modern writer who has ventured to introduce it, with the exception of Scott, and I may add, speaking generally, of Burns. Lady Raeburn, as she was universally styled, may be numbered with those friends of early days whom her nephew has alluded to in one of his prefaces as preserving what we may fancy to have been the old Scotch of Holyrood.

The particulars which I have been setting down may help English readers to form some notion of the structure
of society in those southern districts of Scotland. When
Satchells wrote, he boasted that Buccleuch could summon to his banner one hundred lairds, all of his own name, with ten thousand more landless men, but still of the same blood. The younger sons of these various lairds were, through many successive generations, portioned off with fragments of the inheritance, until such subdivision could be carried no farther, and then the cadet, of necessity, either adopted the profession of arms, in some foreign service very frequently, or became a cultivator on the estate of his own elder brother, of the chieftain of his branch, or of the great chief and patriarchal protector of the whole clan. Until the commerce of England, and above all, the military and civil services of the English colonies were thrown open to the enterprise of the Scotch, this system of things continued entire. It still remained in force to a considerable extent at the time when the Goodman of Sandy-Knowe was establishing his children in the world—and I am happy to say, that it is far from being abolished even at the present day. It was a system which bound together the various classes of the rural population in bonds of mutual love and confidence: the original community of lineage was equally remembered on all sides; the landlord could count for more than his rent on the tenant, who regarded him rather as a father or an elder brother, than as one who owed his superiority to mere wealth; and the farmer who, on fit occasions, partook on equal terms of the chase and the hospitality of his landlord, went back with content and satisfaction to the daily labours of a vocation which he found no one disposed to consider as derogating from his gentle blood. Such delusions, if delusions they were, held the natural arrogance of riches in check, taught the poor man to believe that
in virtuous poverty he had nothing to blush for, and spread over the whole being of the community the gracious spirit of a primitive humanity.

Walter Scott, the eldest son of Robert of Sandy-Knowe, appears to have been the first of the family that ever adopted a town life, or any thing claiming to be classed among the learned professions. His branch of the law, however, could not in those days be advantageously prosecuted without extensive connexions in the country; his own were too respectable not to be of much service to him in his calling, and they were cultivated accordingly. His professional visits to Roxburghshire and Ettrick Forest were, in his vigorous life, very frequent; and though he was never supposed to have any tincture either of romance or poetry in his composition, he retained to the last a warm affection for his native district, with a certain reluctant flavour of the old feelings and prejudices of the Borderer. I have little to add to Sir Walter’s short and respectful notice of his father, except that I have heard it confirmed by the testimony of many less partial observers. According to every account, he was a most just, honourable, conscientious man; only too high of spirit for some parts of his business. “He passed from the cradle to the grave,” says a surviving relation, “without making an enemy or losing a friend. He was a most affectionate parent, and if he discouraged, rather than otherwise, his son’s early devotion to the pursuits which led him to the height of literary eminence, it was only because he did not understand what such things meant, and considered it his duty to keep his young man to that path in which good sense and industry might, humanly speaking, be thought sure of success.”

Sir Walter’s mother was short of stature, and by no
means comely, at least after the days of her early youth. She had received, as became the daughter of an eminently learned physician, the best sort of education then bestowed on young gentlewomen in Scotland. The poet, speaking of
Mrs Euphemia Sinclair, the mistress of the school at which his mother was reared, to the ingenious local antiquary, Mr Robert Chambers, said that “she must have been possessed of uncommon talents for education, as all her young ladies were, in after life, fond of reading, wrote and spelled admirably, were well acquainted with history and the belles lettres, without neglecting the more homely duties of the needle and accompt book; and perfectly well-bred in society.” Mr Chambers adds, “Sir W. further communicated that his mother, and many others of Mrs Sinclair’s pupils, were sent afterwards to be finished off by the Honourable Mrs Ogilvie, a lady who trained her young friends to a style of manners which would now be considered intolerably stiff. Such was the effect of this early training upon the mind of Mrs Scott, that even when she approached her eightieth year, she took as much care to avoid touching her chair with her back, as if she had still been under the stern eye of Mrs Ogilvie.” The physiognomy of the poet bore, if their portraits may be trusted, no resemblance to either of his parents.

Mr Scott was nearly thirty years of age when he married, and six children, born to him between 1759

* See Chambers’s Traditions of Edinburgh, vol. ii. pp. 127-131. The functions here ascribed to Mrs Ogilvie may appear to modern readers little consistent with her rank. Such things, however, were not uncommon in those days in poor old Scotland. Ladies with whom I have conversed in my youth well remembered an Honourable Mrs Maitland who practised the obstetric art in the Cowgate.

and 1766, all perished in infancy.* A suspicion that the close situation of the College Wynd had been unfavourable to the health of his family, was the motive that induced him to remove to the house which he ever afterwards occupied in George’s Square. This removal took place shortly after the poet’s birth; and the children born subsequently were in general healthy. Of a family of twelve, of whom six lived to maturity, not one now survives; nor have any of them left descendants, except
Sir Walter himself, and his next and dearest brother, Thomas Scott.

He says that his consciousness of existence dated from Sandy-Knowe; and how deep and indelible was the impression which its romantic localities had left on his imagination, I need not remind the readers of Marmion and the Eve of St John. On the summit of the Crags which overhang the farm-house stands the ruined tower of Smailholme, the scene of that fine ballad; and the view from thence takes in a wide expanse of the district in which, as has been truly said, every field has its battle, and every rivulet its song:—
“The lady looked in mournful mood,
Looked over hill and vale,
O’er Mertoun’s wood, and Tweed’s fair flood,
And all down Teviotdale”—

* In Sir Walter Scott’s desk, after his death, there was found a little packet containing six locks of hair, with this inscription in the handwriting of his mother:

Mertoun, the principal seat of the Harden family, with its noble groves; nearly in front of it, across the Tweed, Lessudden, the comparatively small but still venerable and stately abode of the Lairds of Raeburn; and the hoary Abbey of Dryburgh, surrounded with yew-trees as ancient as itself, seem to lie almost below the feet of the spectator. Opposite him rise the purple peaks of Eildon, the traditional scene of
Thomas the Rymer’s interview with the Queen of Faerie; behind are the blasted peel which the seer of Erceldoun himself inhabited, ‘the Broom of the Cowdenknowes,’ the pastoral valley of the Leader, and the bleak wilderness of Lammermoor. To the eastward the desolate grandeur of Hume Castle breaks the horizon, as the eye travels towards the range of the Cheviot. A few miles westward, Melrose, ‘like some tall rock with lichens grey,’ appears clasped amidst the windings of the Tweed: and the distance presents the serrated mountains of the Gala, the Ettrick, and the Yarrow, all famous in song. Such were the objects that had painted the earliest images on the eye of the last and greatest of the Border Minstrels. As his memory reached to an earlier period of childhood than that of almost any other person, so assuredly no poet has given to the world a picture of the dawning feelings of life and genius, at once so simple, so beautiful, and so complete, as that of his epistle to William Erskine, the chief literary confidant and counsellor of his prime of manhood.

“Whether an impulse that has birth
Soon as the infant wakes on earth,
One with our feelings and our powers,
And rather part of us than ours;
Or whether fitlier term’d the sway
Of habit, formed in early day,
Howe’er derived, its force confest
Rules with despotic sway the breast,
And drags us on by viewless chain,
While taste and reason plead in vain. . . .
Thus, while I ape the measure wild
Of tales that charm’d me yet a child,
Rude though they be, still with the chime
Return the thoughts of early time,
And feelings rous’d in life’s first day,
Glow in the line and prompt the lay.
Then rise those crags, that mountain tower,
Which charm’d my fancy’s wakening hour.
It was a barren scene and wild
Where naked cliffs were rudely piled;
But ever and anon between
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green;
And well the lonely infant knew
Recesses where the wall flower grew
And honeysuckle loved to crawl
Up the low crag and ruin’d wall.
I deem’d such nooks the sweetest shade
The sun in all its round surveyed;
And still I thought that shattered tower
The mightiest work of human power,
And marvelled as the aged hind,
With some strange tale bewitch’d my mind,
Of forayers who, with headlong force,
Down from that strength had spurr’d their horse,
Their southern rapine to renew,
Far in the distant Cheviots blue,
And home returning, fill’d the hall
With revel, wassel-rout, and brawl.
Methought that still with trump and clang
The gateway’s broken arches rang;
Methought grim features, seam’d with scars,
Glared thro’ the windows’ rusty bars
And ever, by the winter hearth,
Old tales I heard of wo or mirth,
Of lovers’ slights, of ladies’ charms,
Of witches’ spells, of warriors’ arms—
Of patriot battles won of old
Of later fields of feud and fight,
When, pouring from their Highland height,
The Scottish clans, in headlong sway,
Had swept the scarlet ranks away.
While stretched at length upon the floor,
Again I fought each combat o’er,
Pebbles and shells, in order laid,
The mimic ranks of war displayed,
And onward still the Scottish Lion bore,
And still the scattered Southron fled before.”

There are still living in that neighbourhood two old women, who were in the domestic service of Sandy-Knowe, when the lame child was brought thither in the third year of his age. One of them, Tibby Hunter, remembers his coming well; and that ‘he was a sweet-tempered bairn, a darling with all about the house. The young ewe-milkers delighted, she says, to carry him about on their backs among the crags; and he was very gleg (quick) at the uptake, and soon kenned every sheep and lamb by headmark as well as any of them.’ His great pleasure, however, was in the society of the ‘aged hind,’ recorded in the epistle to Erskine. ‘Auld Sandy Ormistoun,’ called, from the most dignified part of his function, ‘the Cow-bailie,’ had the chief superintendence of the flocks that browsed upon ‘the velvet tufts of loveliest green.’ If the child saw him in the morning, he could not be satisfied unless the old man would set him astride on his shoulder, and take him to keep him company as he lay watching his charge.
“Here was poetic impulse given
By the green hill and clear blue heaven.”
The Cow-bailie blew a particular note on his whistle, which signified to the maid-servants in the house below when the little boy wished to be carried home again. He told his friend,
Mr Skene of Rubislaw, when spending a summer day in his old age among these well-remembered crags, that he delighted to roll about on the grass
all day long in the midst of the flock, and that ‘the sort of fellowship he thus formed with the sheep and lambs had impressed his mind with a degree of affectionate feeling towards them which had lasted throughout life.’ There is a story of his having been forgotten one day among the knolls when a thunder-storm came on; and his aunt, suddenly recollecting his situation, and running out to bring him home, is said to have found him lying on his back, clapping his hands at the lightning, and crying out, ‘Bonny, bonny!’ at every flash.

I find the following marginal note on his copy of Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany (edition 1724): “This book belonged to my grandfather, Robert Scott, and out of it I was taught Hardiknute by heart before I could read the ballad myself. It was the first poem I ever learnt the last I shall ever forget.” According to Tibby Hunter, he was not particularly fond of his book, embracing every pretext for joining his friend the Cow-bailie out of doors; but ‘Miss Jenny was a grand hand at keeping him to the bit, and by degrees he came to read brawly.’* An early acquaintance of a higher class, Mrs Duncan, the wife of the present excellent minister of Mertoun, informs me, that though she was younger than Sir Walter, she has a dim remembrance of the interior of Sandy-Knowe:—‘Old Mrs Scott sitting, with her spinning-wheel, at one side of the fire, in a clean clean parlour; the grandfather, a good deal failed, in his elbow-chair opposite; and the little boy lying on the carpet, at the old man’s feet, listening

* This old woman still possesses ‘the banes’ (bones)—that is to say, the boards—of a Psalm-book, which Master Walter gave her at Sandy-knowe. ‘He chose it,’ she says, ‘of a very large print, that I might be able to read it when I was very auld—forty year auld; but the bairns pulled the leaves out langsyne.’

to the Bible, or whatever good book Miss Jenny was reading to them.’

Robert Scott died before his grandson was four years of age; and I heard him mention when he was an old man that he distinctly remembered the writing and sealing of the funeral letters, and all the ceremonial of the melancholy procession as it left Sandy-Knowe. I shall conclude my notices of the residence at Sandy-Knowe with observing, that in Sir Walter’s account of the friendly clergyman who so often sat at his grandfather’s fireside, we cannot fail to trace many features of the secluded divine in the novel of Saint Ronan’s Well.

I have nothing to add to what he has told us of that excursion to England which interrupted his residence at Sandy-Knowe for about a twelvemonth, except that I had often been astonished, long before I read his autobiographic fragment, with the minute recollection he seemed to possess of all the striking features of the city of Bath, which he had never seen again since he quitted it before he was six years of age. He has himself alluded, in his Memoir, to the lively recollection he retained of his first visit to the theatre, to which his uncle Robert carried him to witness a representation of As You Like It. In his Reviewal of the Life of John Kemble, written in 1826, he has recorded that impression more fully, and in terms so striking, that I must copy them in this place:—

“There are few things which those gifted with any degree of imagination recollect with a sense of more anxious and mysterious delight than the first dramatic representation which they have witnessed. The unusual form of the house, filled with such groups of crowded spectators, themselves forming an extraordinary spectacle to the eye which has never witnessed it be-
fore; yet all intent upon that wide and mystic curtain, whose dusky undulations permit us now and then to discern the momentary glitter of some gaudy form, or the spangles of some sandaled foot, which trips lightly within: Then the light, brilliant as that of day; then the music, which, in itself a treat sufficient in every other situation, our inexperience mistakes for the very play we came to witness; then the slow rise of the shadowy curtain, disclosing, as if by actual magic, a new land, with woods, and mountains, and lakes, lighted, it seems to us, by another sun, and inhabited by a race of beings different from ourselves, whose language is poetry,—whose dress, demeanour, and sentiments seem something supernatural,—and whose whole actions and discourse are calculated not for the ordinary tone of everyday life, but to excite the stronger and more powerful faculties—to melt with sorrow, overpower with terror, astonish with the marvellous, or convulse with irresistible laughter:—all these wonders stamp indelible impressions on the memory. Those mixed feelings also, which perplex us between a sense that the scene is but a plaything, and an interest which ever and anon surprises us into a transient belief that that which so strongly affects us cannot be fictitious; those mixed and puzzling feelings, also, are exciting in the highest degree. Then there are the bursts of applause, like distant thunder, and the permission afforded to clap our little hands, and add our own scream of delight to a sound so commanding. All this, and much, much more, is fresh in our memory, although, when we felt these sensations, we looked on the stage which
Garrick had not yet left. It is now a long while since; yet we have not passed many hours of such unmixed delight, and we still remember the sinking lights, the dispersing crowd, with the vain longings which we felt that the
music would again sound, the magic curtain once more arise, and the enchanting dream recommence; and the astonishment with which we looked upon the apathy of the elder part of our company, who, having the means, did not spend every evening in the theatre.”*

Probably it was this performance that first tempted him to open the page of Shakspeare. Before he returned to Sandy-Knowe, assuredly, notwithstanding the modest language of his autobiography, the progress which had been made in his intellectual education was extraordinary; and it is impossible to doubt that his hitherto almost sole tutoress, Miss Jenny Scott, must have been a woman of tastes and acquirements very far above what could have been often found among Scotch ladies, of any but the highest class at least, in that day. In the winter of 1777, she and her charge spent some few weeks—not happy weeks, the “Memoir” hints them to have been—in George’s Square, Edinburgh; and it so happened, that during this little interval, Mr and Mrs Scott received in their domestic circle a guest capable of appreciating, and, fortunately for us, of recording in a very striking manner the remarkable developement of young Walter’s faculties. Mrs Cockburn, mentioned by him in his Memoir as the authoress of the modern “Flowers of the Forest,” born a Rutherford, of Fairnalie, in Selkirkshire, was as distantly related to the poet’s mother, with whom she had through life been in habits of intimate friendship. This accomplished woman was staying at Ravelstone, in the vicinity of Edinburgh, a seat of the Keiths of Dunnotar, nearly related to Mrs Scott, and to herself. With some of that family she spent an evening in George’s Square. She chanced to be writing next day

* Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xx. p. 154.

Dr Douglas, the well-known and much respected minister of her native parish, Galashiels; and her letter, of which the doctor’s son has kindly given me a copy, contains the following passage:

“Edinburgh, Saturday night, 15th of the gloomy month when
the people of England hang and drown themselves.

* * * * “I last night supped in Mr Walter Scott’s. He has the most extraordinary genius of a boy I ever saw. He was reading a poem to his mother when I went in. I made him read on; it was the description of a shipwreck. His passion rose with the storm. He lifted his eyes and hands. ‘There’s the mast gone,’ says he; ‘crash it goes!—they will all perish!’ After his agitation, he turns to me. ‘That is too melancholy,’ says he; ‘I had better read you something more amusing.’ I preferred a little chat, and asked his opinion of Milton and other books he was reading, which he gave me wonderfully. One of his observations was, ‘How strange it is that Adam, just new come into the world, should know every thing—that must be the poet’s fancy,’ says he. But when he was told he was created perfect by God, he instantly yielded. When taken to bed last night, he told his aunt he liked that lady. What lady?’ says she. ‘Why, Mrs Cockburn; for I think she is a virtuoso, like myself.’ ‘Dear Walter,’ says aunt Jenny, ‘what is a virtuoso?’ ‘Don’t ye know? Why, it’s one who wishes and will know every thing.’*—

* It may amuse my reader to recall, by the side of Scott’s early definition of “a Virtuoso,” the lines in which Akenside has painted that character—lines which might have been written for a description of the Author of Waverley:—

“He knew the various modes of ancient times,
Their arts and fashions of each various guise;
Now, sir, you will think this a very silly story. Pray, what age do you suppose this boy to be? Name it now, before I tell you. Why, twelve or fourteen. No such thing; he is not quite six years old.* He has a lame leg, for which he was a year at Bath, and has acquired the perfect English accent, which he has not lost since he came, and he reads like a
Garrick. You will allow this an uncommon exotic.”

Some particulars in Mrs Cockburn’s account appear considerably at variance with what Sir Walter has told us respecting his own boyish proficiency—especially in the article of pronunciation. On that last head, however, Mrs Cockburn was not, probably, a very accurate judge: all that can be said is, that if at this early period he had acquired any thing which could be justly described as an English accent, he soon lost, and never again recovered, what he had thus gained from his short residence at Bath. In after life his pronunciation of words, considered separately, was seldom much different from that of a well-educated Englishman of his time; but he used many words in a sense which belonged to Scotland not to England, and the tone and accent remained broadly Scotch, though, unless in the burr, which no doubt smacked of the country bordering on Northumberland, there was no provincial peculiarity about his utterance. He had strong powers of mimicry—could talk with a peasant quite in his own style, and frequently in general society introduced rustic

Their weddings, funerals, punishments of crimes;
Their strength, their learning eke, and rarities.
Of old habiliment, each sort and size,
Male, female, high and low, to him were known;
Each gladiator’s dress, and stage-disguise,
With learned clerkly phrase he could have shown.”

* He was, in fact, six years and three months old before this letter was written.

patois, northern, southern, or midland, with great truth and effect; but these things were inlaid dramatically, or playfully, upon his narrative. His exquisite taste in this matter was not less remarkable in his conversation than in the prose of his Scotch novels.

Another lady, nearly connected with the Keiths of Ravelstone, has a lively recollection of young Walter, when paying a visit much about the same period to his kind relation,* the mistress of that picturesque old mansion, which furnished him in after days with many of the features of his Tully-Veolan, and whose venerable gardens, with their massive hedges of yew and holly, he always considered as the ideal of the art. The lady, whose letter I have now before me, says she distinctly remembers the sickly boy sitting at the gate of the house with his attendant, when a poor mendicant approached, old and woebegone, to claim the charity which none asked for in vain at Ravelstone. When the man was retiring, the servant remarked to Walter that he ought to be thankful to Providence for having placed him above the want and misery he had been contemplating. ‘The child looked up with a half wistful, half incredulous expression,’—and said Homer was a beggar! How do ‘you know that? said the other Why, don’t you remember, answered the little Virtuoso,—that
‘Seven Roman cities strove for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his bread?’
The lady smiled at the ‘Roman cities,’ but already
‘Each blank in faithless memory void
The poet’s glowing thought supplied.’

It was in this same year, 1777, that he spent some time at Prestonpans; made his first acquaintance with

* Mrs Keith of Ravelstone was born a Swinton of Swinton, and sister to Sir Walter’s maternal grandmother.

George Constable, the original of his Monkbarns; explored the field where Colonel Gardiner received his death-wound, under the learned guidance of Dalgetty; and marked the spot ‘where the grass grew long and green, distinguishing it from the rest of the field,’* above the grave of poor Balmawhapple.

His uncle Thomas, whom I have described as I saw him in extreme old age at Monklaw, had the management of the farm affairs at Sandy-Knowe, when Walter returned thither from Prestonpans; he was a kindhearted man, and very fond of the child. Appearing on his return somewhat strengthened, his uncle promoted him from the Cow-bailie’s shoulder to a dwarf of the Shetland race, not so large as many a Newfoundland dog. This creature walked freely into the house, and was regularly fed from the boy’s hand. He soon learned to sit her well, and often alarmed aunt Jenny, by cantering over the rough places about the tower. In the evening of his life, when he had a grandchild afflicted with an infirmity akin to his own, he provided him with a little mare of the same breed, and gave her the name of Marion, in memory of this early favourite.

* Waverley, vol. ii. p. 175.