LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter X 1800-02

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
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James Ballantyne, in his Memorandum, after mentioning his ready acceptance of Scott’s proposal to print the Minstrelsy, adds—“I do not believe, that even at this time, he seriously contemplated giving himself much to literature.” I confess, however, that a letter of his, addressed to Ballantyne in the spring of 1800, inclines me to question the accuracy of this impression. After alluding to an intention which he had entertained, in consequence of the delay of Lewis’s collection, to publish an edition of the ballads contained in his own little volume, entitled “Apology for Tales of Terror,” he goes on to detail plans for the future direction of his printer’s career, which were, no doubt, primarily suggested by the friendly interest he took in Ballantyne’s fortunes; but there are some hints which, considering what afterwards did take place, lead me to suspect that even thus early the writer contemplated the possibility at least of being himself very intimately connected with the result of these airdrawn schemes. The letter is as follows:

To Mr J. Ballantyne, Kelso Mail Office, Kelso.
“Castle Street, 22d April, 1800.
“Dear Sir,

“I have your favour, since the receipt of which
some things have occurred which induce me to postpone my intention of publishing my ballads, particularly a letter from a friend, assuring me that ‘
The Tales of Wonder’ are actually in the printer’s hand. In this situation I endeavour to strengthen my small stock of patience, which has been nearly exhausted by the delay of this work, to which (though for that reason alone) I almost regret having promised assistance. I am still resolved to have recourse to your press for the Ballads of the Border, which are in some forwardness.

“I have now to request your forgiveness for mentioning a plan which your friend Gillon and I have talked over together with a view as well to the public advantage as to your individual interest. It is nothing short of a migration from Kelso to this place, which I think might be effected upon a prospect of a very flattering nature.

“Three branches of printing are quite open in Edinburgh, all of which I am well convinced you have both the ability and inclination to unite in your person. The first is that of an editor of a newspaper, which shall contain some thing of an uniform historical deduction of events distinct from the farrago of detached and unconnected plagiarisms from the London paragraphs of ‘The Sun.’ Perhaps it might be possible (and Gillon has promised to make enquiry about it) to treat with the proprietors of some established paper—suppose the Caledonian Mercury—and we would all struggle to obtain for it some celebrity. To this might be added a ‘Monthly Magazine,’ and ‘Caledonian Annual Register,’ if you will; for both of which, with the excellent literary assistance which Edinburgh at present affords, there is a fair opening. The next object would naturally be the execution of Session papers, the best paid work which a printer undertakes, and of which, I dare
say, you would soon have a considerable share; for as you make it your business to superintend the proofs yourself, your education and abilities would insure your employers against the gross and provoking blunders which the poor composers are often obliged to submit to. The publication of works, either ancient or modern, opens a third fair field for ambition. The only gentleman who attempts any thing in that way is in very bad health; nor can I, at any rate, compliment either the accuracy or the execution of his press. I believe it is well understood, that with equal attention an Edinburgh press would have superior advantages even to those of the metropolis; and though I would not advise launching into that line at once, yet it would be easy to feel your way by occupying your press in this manner on vacant days only.

“It appears to me that such a plan, judiciously adopted and diligently pursued, opens a fair road to an ample fortune. In the mean while, the ‘Kelso Mail’ might be so arranged as to be still a source of some advantage to you; and I dare say, if wanted, pecuniary assistance might be procured to assist you at the outset, either upon terms of a share or otherwise; but I refer you for particulars to Joseph, in whose room I am now assuming the pen, for reasons too distressing to be declared, but at which you will readily guess. I hope, at all events, you will impute my interference to any thing rather than an impertinent intermeddling with your concerns on the part of, clear sir, your obedient servant,

Walter Scott.”

The Joseph Gillon here named was a Writer to the Signet of some eminence; a man of strong abilities and genuine wit and humour, for whom Scott, as well as
Ballantyne, had a warm regard.* The intemperate habits alluded to at the close of Scott’s letter gradually undermined his business, his health, and his character; and he was glad, on leaving Edinburgh, which became quite necessary some years afterwards, to obtain the situation of a doorkeeper in the House of Lords—in which he died. The answer of Ballantyne has not been preserved.

To return to the “Minstrelsy.”—Scott found able assistants in the completion of his design. Richard Heber (long Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford) happened to spend this winter in Edinburgh, and was welcomed, as his talents and accomplishments entitled him to be, by the cultivated society of the place. With Scott his multifarious learning, particularly his profound knowledge of the literary monuments of the middle ages, soon drew him into habits of close alliance; the stores of his library, even then extensive, were freely laid open, and his own oral commentaries were not less valuable. But through him Scott made acquaintance with a person still more qualified to give him effectual aid in this undertaking; a native of the Border from infancy, like himself, an enthusiastic lover of its legends, and who had already saturated his mind with every species of lore that could throw light upon these relics.

Few who read these pages can be unacquainted with the leading facts in the history of John Leyden.—Few can need to be reminded that this extraordinary man, born in a shepherd’s cottage in one of the wildest valleys of Roxburghshire, and of course almost entirely self-educated, had, before he attained his nineteenth

* Calling on him one day in his writing office, Scott said, “Why, Joseph, this place is as hot as an oven.” “Well,” quoth Gillon, “and isn’t it here that I make my bread?”

year, confounded the doctors of Edinburgh by the portentous mass of his acquisitions in almost every department of learning. He had set the extremest penury at utter defiance, or rather he had never been conscious that it could operate as a bar; for bread and water, and access to books and lectures, comprised all within the bound of his wishes; and thus he toiled and battled at the gates of science after science, until his unconquerable perseverance carried every thing before it; and yet, with this monastic abstemiousness and iron hardness of will, perplexing those about him by manners and habits in which it was hard to say whether the moss-trooper or the schoolman of former days most prevailed, he was at heart a poet.

Archibald Constable, in after life one of the most eminent of British publishers, was at this period the keeper of a small book-shop, into which few, but the poor students of Leyden’s order, had hitherto found their way. Heber, in the course of his bibliomaniacal prowlings, discovered that it contained some of
“The small old volumes, dark with tarnish’d gold,”
which were already the Delilahs of his imagination; and, moreover, that the young bookseller had himself a strong taste for such charmers. Frequenting the place accordingly, he observed with some curiosity the barbarous aspect and gestures of another daily visitant, who came not to purchase evidently, but to pore over the more recondite articles of the collection—often balanced for hours on a ladder with a folio in his hand, like Dominie Sampson. The English virtuoso was on the look-out for any books or MSS. that might be of use to the editor of the projected “
Minstrelsy,” and some casual colloquy led to the discovery that this unshorn stranger was, amidst the endless labyrinth of his lore, a
master of legend and tradition—an enthusiastic collector and most skilful expounder of these very Border ballads in particular.
Scott heard with much interest Heber’s account of his odd acquaintance, and found, when introduced, the person whose initials, affixed to a series of pieces in verse, chiefly translations from Greek, Latin, and the northern languages, scattered, during the last three or four years, over the pages of the “Edinburgh Magazine,” had often much excited his curiosity, as various indications pointed out the Scotch Border for the native district of this unknown “J. L.”

These new friendships led to a great change in Leyden’s position, purposes, and prospects. He was presently received into the best society of Edinburgh, where his strange, wild uncouthness of demeanour does not seem to have at all interfered with the general appreciation of his genius, his gigantic endowments, and really amiable virtues. Fixing his ambition on the East, where he hoped to rival the achievements of Sir William Jones, he at length, about the beginning of 1802, obtained the promise of some literary appointment in the East India Company’s service; but when the time drew near, it was discovered that the patronage of the season had been exhausted, with the exception of one surgeon-assistant’s commission which had been with difficulty secured for him by Mr William Dundas; who, moreover, was obliged to inform him that, if he accepted it, he must be qualified to pass his medical trials within six months. This news, which would have crushed any other man’s hopes to the dust, was only a welcome fillip to the ardour of Leyden. He that same hour grappled with a new science, in full confidence that whatever ordinary men could do in three or four years, his energy could accomplish in as many months; took his degree accordingly in the beginning of 1803, having just before
published his beautiful poem, the “
Scenes of Infancy;” sailed to India; raised for himself, within seven short years, the reputation of the most marvellous of Orientalists; and died, in the midst of the proudest hopes, at the same age with Burns and Byron, in 1811.

But to return: Leyden was enlisted by Scott in the service of Lewis, and immediately contributed a ballad, called The Elf-King, to the Tales of Terror. Those highly spirited pieces, The Cout of Keildar, Lord Soulis, and The Mermaid, were furnished for the original department of Scott’s own collection; and the Dissertation on Fairies, prefixed to its second volume, “although arranged and digested by the editor, abounds with instances of such curious reading as Leyden only had read, and was originally compiled by him;” but not the least of his labours was in the collection of the old ballads themselves. When he first conversed with Ballantyne on the subject of the proposed work, and the printer signified his belief that a single volume of moderate size would be sufficient for the materials, Leyden exclaimed, “Dash it, does Mr Scott mean another thin thing like Goetz of Berlichingen? I have more than that in my head myself: we shall turn out three or four such volumes at least.” He went to work stoutly in the realization of these wider views. “In this labour,” says Scott, “he was equally interested by friendship for the editor, and by his own patriotic zeal for the honour of the Scottish borders; and both may be judged of from the following circumstance. An interesting fragment had been obtained of an ancient historical ballad; but the remainder, to the great disturbance of the editor and his coadjutor, was not to be recovered. Two days afterwards, while, the editor was sitting with some company after dinner, a sound was heard at a distance like that of the whistling of a tempest through the torn
rigging of the vessel which scuds before it. The sounds increased as they approached more near; and Leyden (to the great astonishment of such of the guests as did not know him) burst into the room, chanting the desiderated ballad with the most enthusiastic gesture, and all the energy of what he used to call the saw-tones of his voice. It turned out that he had walked between forty and fifty miles and back again, for the sole purpose of visiting an old person who possessed this precious remnant of antiquity.”*

Various allusions to the progress of Leyden’s fortunes will occur in letters to be quoted hereafter. I may refer the reader, for further particulars, to the biographical sketch by Scott from which the preceding anecdote is taken. Many tributes to his memory are scattered over his friend’s other works, both prose and verse; and, above all, Scott did not forget him when exploring, three years after his death, the scenery of his “Mermaid;”

“Scarba’s isle, whose tortured shore
Still rings to Corrievrekan’s roar,
And lonely Colonsay;—
Scenes sung by him who sings no more:
His bright and brief career is o’er,
And mute his tuneful strains;
Quench’d is his lamp of varied lore,
That loved the light of song to pour;
A distant and a deadly shore
Has Leyden’s cold remains!”†

During the years 1800 and 1801, the Minstrelsy formed its editor’s chief occupation—a labour of love truly, if ever such there was; but neither this nor his sheriffship interfered with his regular attendance at the

* Essay on the Life of LeydenScott’s Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. iv., p. 165.

Lord of the Isles, Canto iv. st. 11.

bar, the abandonment of which was all this while as far as it ever had been from his imagination, or that of any of his friends. He continued to have his summer headquarters at Lasswade; and
Mr (now Sir John) Stoddart, who visited him there in the course of his Scottish tour,* dwells on “the simple unostentatious elegance of the cottage, and the domestic picture which he there contemplated—a man of native kindness and cultivated talent, passing the intervals of a learned profession amidst scenes highly favourable to his poetic inspirations, not in churlish and rustic solitude, but in the daily exercise of the most precious sympathies as a husband, a father, and a friend.” His means of hospitality were now much enlarged, and the cottage, on a Saturday and Sunday at least, was seldom without visitors.

Among other indications of greater ease in his circumstances, which I find in his letter-book, he writes to Heber, after his return to London in May, 1800, to request his good offices on behalf of Mrs Scott, who had “set her heart on a phæton, at once strong, and low, and handsome, and not to cost more than thirty guineas;” which combination of advantages Heber seems to have found by no means easy of attainment. The phæton was, however, discovered; and its springs must soon have been put to a sufficient trial, for this was “the first wheeled carriage that ever penetrated into Liddesdale”—namely, in August, 1800. The friendship of the Buccleuch family now placed better means of research at his disposal, and Lord Dalkeith had taken special care that there should be a band of pioneers in waiting for his orders when he reached Hermitage.

Though he had not given up Lasswade, his sheriffship now made it necessary for him that he should be

* The account of this Tour was published in 1801.

frequently in Ettrick Forest. On such occasions he took up his lodgings in the little inn at Clovenford, a favourite fishing station on the road from Edinburgh to Selkirk. From this place he could ride to the county town whenever business required his presence, and he was also within a few miles of the vales of Yarrow and Ettrick, where he obtained large accessions to his store of ballads. It was in one of these excursions that, penetrating beyond St Mary’s lake, he found a hospitable reception at the farm of Blackhouse, situated on the Douglas-burn, then tenanted by a remarkable family, to which I have already made allusion—that of
William Laidlaw. He was then a very young man, but the extent of his acquirements was already as noticeable as the vigour and originality of his mind; and their correspondence, where “Sir” passes, at a few bounds, through “Dear Sir,” and “Dear Mr Laidlaw,” to “Dear Willie,” shows how speedily this new acquaintance had warmed into a very tender affection. Laidlaw’s zeal about the ballads was repaid by Scott’s anxious endeavours to get him removed from a sphere for which, he writes, “it is no flattery to say that you are much too good.” It was then, and always continued to be, his opinion, that his friend was particularly qualified for entering with advantage on the study of the medical profession; but such designs, if Laidlaw himself ever took them up seriously, were not ultimately persevered in; and I question whether any worldly success could, after all, have overbalanced the retrospect of an honourable life spent happily in the open air of nature, amidst scenes the most captivating to the eye of genius, and in the intimate confidence of, perhaps, the greatest of contemporary minds.

James Hogg had spent ten years of his life in the service of Mr Laidlaw’s father, but although his own
various accounts of his early days are not to be reconciled with each other as to minute particulars of date and locality, he seems to have passed into that of another sheep-farmer in a neighbouring valley, before
Scott first visited Blackhouse. Be that as it may, William Laidlaw and Hogg had been for years the most intimate of friends, and the former took care that Scott should see, without delay, one whose enthusiasm about the minstrelsy of the Forest was equal to his own, and whose mother, then an aged woman, though she lived many years afterwards, was celebrated for having by heart several ballads in a more perfect form than any other inhabitant of the vale of Ettrick. The personal history of James Hogg must have interested Scott even more than any acquisition of that sort which he owed to this acquaintance with, perhaps, the most remarkable man that ever wore the maud of a shepherd. But I need not here repeat a tale which his own language will convey to the latest posterity. Under the garb, aspect, and bearing of a rude peasant—and rude enough he was in most of these things, even after no inconsiderable experience of society—Scott found a brother poet, a true son of nature and genius, hardly conscious of his powers. He had taught himself to write by copying the letters of a printed book as he lay watching his flock on the hill-side, and had probably reached the utmost pitch of his ambition when he first found that his artless rhymes could touch the heart of the ewe-milker who partook the shelter of his mantle during the passing storm. As yet his naturally kind and simple character had not been exposed to any of the dangerous flatteries of the world; his heart was pure—his enthusiasm buoyant as that of a happy child; and well as Scott knew that reflection, sagacity, wit, and wisdom were scattered abundantly among the humblest rangers of these pastoral solitudes, there was
here a depth and a brightness that filled him with wonder, combined with a quaintness of humour, and a thousand little touches of absurdity, which afforded him more entertainment, as I have often heard him say, than the best comedy that ever set the pit in a roar.

Scott opened in the same year a correspondence with the venerable Bishop of Dromore, who seems, however, to have done little more than express a warm interest in an undertaking so nearly resembling that which will ever keep his own name in remembrance. He had more success in his applications to a more unpromising quarter namely, with Joseph Ritson, the ancient and virulent assailant of Bishop Percy’s editorial character. This narrow-minded, sour, and dogmatical little word-catcher had hated the very name of a Scotsman, and was utterly incapable of sympathizing with any of the higher views of his new correspondent. Yet the bland courtesy of Scott disarmed even this half-crazy pedant; and he communicated the stores of his really valuable learning in a manner that seems to have greatly surprised all who had hitherto held any intercourse with him on antiquarian topics. It astonished, above all, the late amiable and elegant George Ellis, whose acquaintance was about the same time opened to Scott through their common friend Heber. Mr Ellis was now busily engaged in collecting the materials for his charming works, entitled Specimens of Ancient English Poetry, and Specimens of Ancient English Romance. The correspondence between him and Scott soon came to be constant. They met personally, not long after the correspondence had commenced, conceived for each other a cordial respect and affection, and continued on a footing of almost brotherly intimacy ever after. To this valuable alliance Scott owed, among other advantages, his early and ready admission to the acquaintance and familiarity of Ellis’s bosom friend, his coadjutor in
Antijacobin, and the confidant of all his literary schemes, the late illustrious statesman, Mr Canning.

The first letter of Scott to Ellis is dated March 27, 1801, and begins thus:—“Sir, as I feel myself highly flattered by your enquiries, I lose no time in answering them to the best of my ability. Your eminence in the literary world, and the warm praises of our mutual friend Heber, had made me long wish for an opportunity of being known to you. I enclose the first sheet of Sir Tristrem, that you may not so much rely upon my opinion as upon that which a specimen of the style and versification may enable your better judgment to form for itself. . . . These pages are transcribed by Leyden, an excellent young man, of uncommon talents, patronised by Heber, and who is of the utmost assistance to my literary undertakings.”

As Scott’s edition of Sir Tristrem did not appear until May 1804, and he and Leyden were busy with the Border Minstrelsy when his correspondence with Ellis commenced, this early indication of his labours on the former work may require explanation. The truth is, that both Scott and Leyden, having eagerly arrived at the belief, from which neither of them ever permitted himself to falter, that the “Sir Tristrem” of the Auchinleck MS., was virtually, if not literally, the production of Thomas the Rhymer, laird of Ercildoune, in Berwickshire, who flourished at the close of the thirteenth century—the original intention had been to give it, not only a place, but a very prominent one, in the “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.” The doubts and difficulties which Ellis suggested, however, though they did not shake Scott in his opinion as to the parentage of the romance, induced researches which occupied so much time, and gave birth to notes so bulky, that he eventually found it expedient first to pass it over in
the two volumes of the Minstrelsy, which appeared in 1802, and then even in the third, which followed a year later; thus reserving Tristrem for a separate publication, which did not take place until after Leyden had sailed for India.

I must not swell these pages By transcribing the entire correspondence of Scott and Ellis, the greater part of which consists of minute antiquarian discussion which could hardly interest the general reader; but I shall, give such extracts as seem to throw light on Scott’s personal history during this period.

To George Ellis, Esq.
“Lasswade Cottage, 20th April, 1801.
“My dear Sir,

“I should long ago have acknowledged your instructive letter, but I have been wandering about in the wilds of Liddesdale and Ettrick Forest, in search of additional materials for the Border Minstrelsy. I cannot, however, boast much of my success. One of our best reciters has turned religious in his later days, and finds out that old songs are unlawful. If so, then, as Falstaff says, is many an acquaintance of mine damned. I now send you an accurate analysis of Sir Tristrem. Philo-Tomas, whoever he was, must surely have been an Englishman; when his hero joins battle with Moraunt, he exclaims,
God help Tristrem the Knight,
He fought for Ingland.
This strain of national attachment would hardly have proceeded from a Scottish author, even though he had laid his scene in the sister country. In other respects the language appears to be Scottish, and certainly contains the essence of Tomas’s work. . . . . You
shall have Sir Otuel in a week or two, and I shall be happy to compare your Romance of Merlin with our Arthur and Merlin, which is a very good poem, and may supply you with some valuable additions. I would very fain lend your elephant* a lift, but I fear I can be of little use to you. I have been rather an observer of detached facts respecting antiquities, than a regular student. At the same time, I may mention one or two circumstances, were it but to place your elephant upon a tortoise. From Selkirkshire to Cumberland, we have a ditch and bulwark of great strength, called the Catrail, running north and south, and obviously calculated to defend the western side of the island against the inhabitants of the eastern half. Within this bulwark, at Drummelzier, near Peebles, we find the grave of Merlin, the account of whose madness and death you will find in
Fordun. The same author says he was seized with his madness during a dreadful battle on the Liddle, which divides Cumberland from Scotland. All this seems to favour your ingenious hypothesis, that the sway of the British Champion [Arthur] extended over Cumberland and Strathcluyd, as well as Wales. Ercildoune is hardly five miles from the Catrail. . . . .

Leyden has taken up a most absurd resolution to go to Africa on a journey of discovery. Will you have the goodness to beg Heber to write to him seriously on so ridiculous a plan, which can promise nothing either pleasant or profitable. I am certain he would get a church in Scotland with a little patience and prudence, and it gives me great pain to see a valuable young man of uncommon genius and acquirements fairly throw himself away. Yours truly,

W. Scott.”

* I believe it was Mr Canning that had, on some occasion when Ellis talked of his antiquarian hobby-horse, exclaimed, “Hobby, truly! yours is an elephant.”

To the Same.
“Musselburgh, 11th May, 1801.

. . . “I congratulate you upon the health of your elephants—as an additional mouthful of provender for them, pray observe that the tale of Sir Gawain’s Foul Ladie, in Percy’s Reliques, is originally Scaldic, as you will see in the history of Hrolfe Kraka, edited by Torfæus from the ancient Sagas regarding that prince. I think I could give you some more crumbs of information were I at home; but I am at present discharging the duties of quartermaster to a regiment of volunteer cavalry—an office altogether inconsistent with romance; for where do you read that Sir Tristrem weighed out hay and corn; that Sir Launcelot du Lac distributed billets; or that any Knight of the Round Table condescended to higgle about a truss of straw? Such things were left for our degenerate days, when no warder sounds his horn from the barbican as the preux chevalier approaches to claim hospitality. Bugles indeed we have; but it is only to scream us out of bed at five in the morning—hospitality such as the seneschals of Don Quixote’s castles were wont to offer him—and all to troopers, to whom, for valour eke and courtesy, Major Sturgeon himself might yield the palm. In the midst of this scene of motley confusion, I long, like the hart for water-brooks, for the arrival of your grande opus. The nature of your researches animates me to proceed in mine (though of a much more limited and local nature), even as iron sharpeneth iron. I am in utter despair about some of the hunting terms in ‘Sir Tristrem.’ There is no copy of Lady Juliana Berners’ work in Scotland, and I would move heaven and earth to get a sight of it. But as I fear this is utterly impossible, I must have recourse to your friendly assistance, and communicate a set of doubts and queries,
which, if any man in England can satisfy, I am well assured it must be you. You may therefore expect, in a few days, another epistle. Mean time I must invoke the spirit of Nimrod.”

“Edinburgh, 10th June, 1801.
“My dear Sir,

“A heavy family misfortune, the loss of an only sister in the prime of life, has prevented, for some time, my proposed communication regarding the hunting terms of ‘Sir Tristrem.’ I now enclose the passage, accurately copied, with such explanations as occur to myself, subject always to your correction and better judgment. . . . . . I have as yet had only a glance of The Specimens. Thomson, to whom Heber intrusted them, had left them to follow him from London in a certain trunk, which has never yet arrived. I should have quarrelled with him excessively for making so little allowance for my impatience, had it not been that a violent epidemic fever, to which I owe the loss already mentioned, has threatened also to deprive me, in his person, of one of my dearest friends, and the Scottish literary world of one of its most promising members.

“Some prospect seems to open for getting Leyden out to India, under the patronage of Mackintosh, who goes as chief of the intended academical establishment at Calcutta. That he is highly qualified for acting a distinguished part in any literary undertaking will be readily granted; nor do I think Mr Mackintosh will meet with many half so likely to be useful in the proposed institution. The extent and versatility of his talents would soon raise him to his level, even although he were at first to go out in a subordinate department. If it be in your power to second his application, I rely upon Heber’s interest with you to induce you to do so.”

“Edinburgh, 13th July, 1801.

. . . “I am infinitely obliged to you, indeed, for your interference in behalf of our Leyden, who, I am sure, will do credit to your patronage, and may be of essential service to the proposed mission. What a difference from broiling himself, or getting himself literally broiled, in Africa. ‘Que diable vouloit-il faire dans cette galère?’ . . . His brother is a fine lad, and is likely to enjoy some advantages which he wanted—I mean by being more early introduced into society. I have intermitted his transcript of ‘Merlin,’ and set him to work on ‘Otuel,’ of which I send a specimen.” . . .

“Edinburgh, 7th December, 1801.

“My literary amusements have of late been much retarded and interrupted, partly by professional avocations, and partly by removing to a house newly furnished, where it will be some time before I can get my few books put into order, or clear the premises of painters and workmen; not to mention that these worthies do not nowadays proceed upon the plan of Solomon’s architects, whose saws and hammers were not heard, but rather upon the more ancient system of the builders of Babel. To augment this confusion, my wife has fixed upon this time as proper to present me with a fine chopping boy, whose pipe, being of the shrillest, is heard amid the storm, like a boatswain’s whistle in a gale of wind. These various causes of confusion have also interrupted the labours of young Leyden on your behalf; but he has again resumed the task of transcribing ‘Arthour,’ of which I once again transmit a part. I have to acknowledge, with the deepest sense of gratitude, the beautiful analysis of Mr Douce’s Fragments, which throws great light upon the romance of Sir Tristan. In arranging that, I have anticipated your
judicious hint, by dividing it into three parts, where the story seems naturally to pause, and prefixing an accurate argument, referring to the stanzas as numbered.

“I am glad that Mrs Ellis and you have derived any amusement from the House of Aspen. It is a very hurried dramatic sketch; and the fifth act, as you remark, would require a total revisal previous to representation or publication. At one time I certainly thought, with my friends, that it might have ranked well enough by the side of the Castle Spectre, Bluebeard, and the other drum and trumpet exhibitions of the day; but the ‘Plays of the Passions’* have put me entirely out of conceit with my Germanized brat; and should I ever again attempt dramatic composition, I would endeavour after the genuine old English model . . . . . . The publication of ‘The Complaynt’† is delayed. It is a work of multifarious lore. I am truly anxious about Leyden’s Indian journey, which seems to hang fire. Mr William Dundas was so good as to promise me his interest to get him appointed secretary to the Institution;‡ but whether he has succeeded or not, I have not yet learned. The various kinds of distress under which literary men, I mean such as have no other profession than letters, must labour, in a commercial country, is a great disgrace to society. I own to you I always tremble for the fate of genius when left to its own exertions, which, however powerful, are usually, by some bizarre dispensation of nature, useful to every one but themselves. If Heber could learn by Mackintosh, whether

* The first volume of Joanna Baillie’sPlays of the Passions” appeared in 1798. Vol. II. followed in 1802.

† “The Complaynt of Scotland, written in 1548; with a Preliminary Dissertation and Glossary, by John Leyden,” was published by Constable in January, 1802.

‡ A proposed Institution for purposes of Education at Calcutta.

any thing could be done to fix Leyden’s situation, and what sort of interest would be most likely to succeed, his friends here might unite every exertion in his favour. . . . . . . . . . . Direct Castle Street, as usual; my new house being in the same street with my old dwelling.”

“Edinburgh, 8th January, 1802.

. . . “Your favour arrived just as I was sitting down to write to you, with a sheet or two of ‘King Arthur.’ I fear, from a letter which I have received from Mr William Dundas, that the Indian establishment is tottering, and will probably fall. Leyden has therefore been induced to turn his mind to some other mode of making his way to the East; and proposes taking his degree as a physician and surgeon, with the hope of getting an appointment in the Company’s Service as surgeon. If the Institution goes forward, his having secured this step will not prevent his being attached to it; at the same time that it will afford him a provision independent of what seems to be a very precarious establishment. Mr Dundas has promised to exert himself. . . . I have just returned from the hospitable halls of Hamilton, where I have spent the Christmas.” . . . . .

“14th February, 1802.

“I have been silent but not idle. The Transcript of King Arthur is at length finished, being a fragment of about 7000 lines. Let me know how I shall transmit a parcel containing it, with the Complaynt and the Border Ballads, of which I expect every day to receive some copies. I think you will be disappointed in the Ballads. I have as yet touched very little on the more remote antiquities of the Border, which, indeed, my songs, all comparatively modern, did not lead me to discuss. Some scattered herbage, however, the elephants may perhaps
find. By the way, you will not forget to notice the mountain called Arthur’s Seat, which overhangs this city. When I was at school the tradition ran that King Arthur occupied as his throne a huge rock upon its summit, and that he beheld from thence some naval engagement upon the Frith of Forth. I am pleasantly interrupted by the post; he brings me a letter from
William Dundas, fixing Leyden’s appointment as an assistant surgeon to one of the India settlements—which is not yet determined; and another from my printer, a very ingenious young man, telling me, that he means to escort the ‘Minstrelsy’ up to London in person. I shall, therefore, direct him to transmit my parcel to Mr Nicol.” . . . .

“2d March, 1802.

“I hope that long ere this you have received the Ballads, and that they have afforded you some amusement. I hope, also, that the threatened third volume will be more interesting to Mrs Ellis than the dry antiquarian detail of the two first could prove. I hope, moreover, that I shall have the pleasure of seeing you soon, as some circumstances seem not so much to call me to London, as to furnish me with a decent apology for coming up sometime this spring; and I long particularly to say, that I know my friend Mr Ellis by sight as well as intimately. I am glad you have seen the Marquess of Lorn, whom I have met frequently at the house of his charming sister, Lady Charlotte Campbell, whom, I am sure, if you are acquainted with her, you must admire as much as I do. Her Grace of Gordon, a great admirer of yours, spent some days here lately, and, like Lord Lorn, was highly entertained with an account of our friendship à la distance. I do not, nor did I ever, intend to fob you off with twenty or thirty
lines of the second part of Sir Guy. Young
Leyden has been much engaged with his studies, otherwise you would have long since received what I now send, namely, the combat between Guy and Colbronde, which I take to be the cream of the romance. . . . . If I do not come to London this spring, I will find a safe opportunity of returning Lady Juliana Berners, with my very best thanks for the use of her reverence’s work.”

The preceding extracts are picked out of letters, mostly very long ones, in which Scott discusses questions of antiquarian interest, suggested sometimes by Ellis, and sometimes by the course of his own researches among the MSS. of the Advocates’ Library. The passages which I have transcribed appear sufficient to give the reader a distinct notion of the tenour of Scott’s life while his first considerable work was in progress through the press. In fact, they place before us in a vivid light the chief features of a character which, by this time, was completely formed and settled—which had passed unmoved through the first blandishments of worldly applause, and which no subsequent trials of that sort could ever shake from its early balance:—His calm delight in his own pursuits—the patriotic enthusiasm which mingled with all the best of his literary efforts; his modesty as to his own general merits, combined with a certain dogged resolution to maintain his own first view of a subject, however assailed; his readiness to interrupt his own tasks by any drudgery by which he could assist those of a friend; his steady and determined watchfulness over the struggling fortunes of young genius and worth.

The reader has seen that he spent the Christmas of 1801 at Hamilton Palace, in Lanarkshire. To Lady Anne Hamilton he had been introduced by her half-
Lady Charlotte Campbell, and both the late and the present Dukes of Hamilton appear to have partaken of Lady Anne’s admiration for Glenfinlas, and the Eve of St John. A morning’s ramble to the majestic ruins of the old baronial castle on the precipitous banks of the Evan, and among the adjoining remains of the primeval Caledonian forest, suggested to him a ballad, not inferior in execution to any that he had hitherto produced, and especially interesting as the first in which he grapples with the world of picturesque incident unfolded in the authentic annals of Scotland. With the magnificent localities before him, he skilfully interwove the daring assassination of the Regent Murray by one of the clansmen of “the princely Hamilton.” Had the subject been taken up in after years, we might have had another Marmion or Heart of MidLothian; for in Cadyow Castle we have the materials and outline of more than one of the noblest of ballads.

Not long before this piece began to be handed about in Edinburgh, Thomas Campbell had made his appearance there, and at once seized a high place in the literary world by his ‘Pleasures of Hope.’ Among the most eager to welcome him had been Scott; and I find the brother-bard thus expressing himself concerning the MS. of Cadyow:—

“The verses of Cadyow Castle are perpetually ringing in my imagination
‘Where mightiest of the beasts of chase
That roam in woody Caledon,
Crashing the forest in his race,
The mountain bull comes thundering on—’
and the arrival of
Hamilton, when
Reeking from the recent deed,
He dashed his carbine on the ground.’
I have repeated these lines so often on the North Bridge that the whole fraternity of coachmen know me by tongue as I pass. To be sure, to a mind in sober, serious street-walking humour, it must bear an appearance of lunacy when one stamps with the hurried pace and fervent shake of the head, which strong, pithy poetry excites.”

Scott finished his Cadyow Castle before the last sheets of the second volume of his “Minstrelsy” had passed through the press; but “the two volumes,” as Ballantyne says, “were already full to overflowing;” so it was reserved for the “threatened third.” The two volumes appeared in the course of January, 1802, from the respectable house of Cadell and Davies, in the Strand; and, owing to the cold reception of Lewis’sTales of Wonder,” which had come forth a year earlier, these may be said to have first introduced Scott as an original writer to the English public.

In his Remarks on the Imitation of Popular Poetry, he says: “Owing to the failure of the vehicle I had chosen, my first efforts to present myself before the public as an original writer proved as vain as those by which I had previously endeavoured to distinguish myself as a translator. Like Lord Home, however, at the Battle of Flodden, I did so far well, that I was able to stand and save myself; and amidst the general depreciation of the ‘Tales of Wonder,’ my small share of the obnoxious publication was dismissed without censure, and in some cases obtained praise from the critics. The consequences of my escape made me naturally more daring, and I attempted, in my own name, a collection of ballads of various kinds, both ancient and modern, to be connected by the common tie of relation to the Border districts in which I had collected them. The edition was curious, as being the first example of a work printed by
my friend and schoolfellow,
Mr James Ballantyne, who at that period was editor of a provincial paper. When the book came out, the imprint, Kelso, was read with wonder by amateurs of typography, who had never heard of such a place, and were astonished at the example of handsome printing which so obscure a town had produced. As for the editorial part of the task, my attempt to imitate the plan and style of Bishop Percy, observing only more strict fidelity concerning my originals, was favourably received by the public.”

The first edition of volumes I. and II. of the Minstrelsy consisted of eight hundred copies, fifty of which were on large paper. One of the embellishments was a view of Hermitage castle, the history of which is rather curious. Scott executed a rough sketch of it during the last of his “Liddesdale raids” with Shortreed, standing for that purpose for an hour or more up to his middle in the snow. Nothing can be ruder than the performance, which I have now before me; but his friend William Clerk made a better drawing from it, and from his a third and further improved copy was done by Hugh Williams, the elegant artist, afterwards known as “Greek Williams.” Scott used to say the oddest thing of all was, that the engraving, founded on the labours of three draughtsmen, one of whom could not draw a straight line, and the two others had never seen the place meant to be represented, was nevertheless pronounced by the natives of Liddesdale to give a very fair notion of the ruins of Hermitage.

The edition was exhausted in the course of the year, and the terms of publication having been that Scott should have half the clear profits, his share was exactly £78, 10s.—a sum which certainly could not have repaid him for the actual expenditure incurred in the collection
of his materials. Messrs
Cadell and Davies, however, complained, and probably with good reason, that a premature advertisement of a “second and improved edition” had rendered some copies of the first unsaleable.

I shall transcribe the letter in which Mr George Ellis acknowledges the receipt of his copy of the book.

To Walter Scott, Esq. Advocate, Castle Street, Edinburgh.
“Sunning Hill, March 5, 1802.
“My dear Sir,

“The volumes are arrived, and I have been devouring them, not as a pig does a parcel of grains (by which simile you will judge that I must be brewing, as indeed I am), putting in its snout, shutting its eyes, and swallowing as fast as it can without consideration—but as a schoolboy does a piece of gingerbread; nibbling a little bit here, and a little bit there, smacking his lips, surveying the number of square inches which still remain for his gratification, endeavouring to look it into larger dimensions, and making at every mouthful a tacit vow to protract his enjoyment by restraining his appetite. Now, therefore—but no! I must first assure you on the part of Mrs E. that if you cannot, or will not come to England soon, she must gratify her curiosity and gratitude, by setting off for Scotland, though at the risk of being tempted to pull caps with Mrs Scott when she arrives at the end of her journey. Next, I must request you to convey to Mr Leyden my very sincere acknowledgment for his part of the precious parcel. How truly vexatious that such a man should embark, not for the ‘fines Atticæ,’ but for those of Asia; that the Genius of Scotland, instead of a poor Complaint, and an address in the style of ‘Navis, quæ tibi creditum debes Virgilium—reddas incolumem, precor,’ should not interfere to
prevent his loss. I wish to hope that we should, as
Sterne says, ‘manage these matters better’ in England; but now, as regret is unavailing, to the main point of my letter.

“You will not, of course, expect that I should as yet give you any thing like an opinion, as a critic, of your volumes; first, because you have thrown into my throat a cate of such magnitude that Cerberus, who had three throats, could not have swallowed a third part of it without shutting his eyes; and secondly, because, although I have gone a little farther than George Nicol the bookseller, who cannot cease exclaiming, “What a beautiful book!” and is distracted with jealousy of your Kelso Bulmer, yet, as I said before, I have not been able yet to digest a great deal of your ‘Border Minstrelsy.’ I have, however, taken such a survey as satisfies me that your plan is neither too comprehensive nor too contracted; that the parts are properly distinct; and that they are (to preserve the painter’s metaphor) made out just as they ought to be. Your introductory chapter is, I think, particularly good; and I was much pleased, although a little surprised, at finding that it was made to serve as a recueil des pièces justificatives to your view of the state of manners among your Borderers, which I venture to say will be more thumbed than any part of the volume.

“You will easily believe that I cast many an anxious look for the annunciation of ‘Sir Tristrem,’ and will not be surprised that I was at first rather disappointed at not finding any thing like a solemn engagement to produce him to the world within some fixed and limited period. Upon reflection, however, I really think you have judged wisely, and that you have best promoted the interests of literature, by sending, as the harbinger of the ‘Knight of Leonais,’ a collection which
must form a parlour window book in every house in Britain which contains a parlour and a window. I am happy to find my old favourites in their natural situation‘indeed in the only situation which can enable a Southern reader to estimate their merits. You remember what somebody said of the
Prince de Condé’s army during the wars of the Fronde, viz.—“that it would be a very fine army whenever it came of age.” Of the Murrays and Armstrongs of your Border Ballads, it might be said that they might grow, when the age of good taste should arrive, to a Glenfinlas or an Eve of St John. Leyden’s additional poems are also very beautiful. I meant, at setting out, a few simple words of thanks, and behold I have written a letter, but no matter; I shall return to the charge after a more attentive perusal. Ever yours very faithfully,

G. Ellis.”

I might fill many pages by transcribing similar letters from persons of acknowledged discernment in this branch of literature; John Duke of Roxburgh is among the number, and he conveys also a complimentary message from the late Earl Spencer; Pinkerton issues his decree of approbation as ex cathedrâ; Chalmers overflows with heartier praise; and even Joseph Ritson extols his presentation copy as “the most valuable literary treasure in his possession.” There follows enough of female admiration to have been dangerous for another man; a score of fine ladies contend who shall be the most extravagant in encomium—and as many professed blue stockings come after; among, or rather above the rest, Anna Seward, “the Swan of Lichfield,” who laments that her “bright luminary,” Darwin, does not survive to partake her raptures;—observes, that “in the Border Ballads the first strong rays of the Delphic orb
illuminate Jellon Græme;” and concludes with a fact indisputable, but strangely expressed, viz. that “the Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament, Cowdenknowes, &c. &c., climatically preceded the treasures of
Burns, and the consummate Glenfinlas and Eve of St John.” Scott felt as acutely as any malevolent critic the pedantic affectations of Miss Seward’s epistolary style, but in her case sound sense as well as vigorous ability had unfortunately condescended to an absurd disguise; he looked below it, and was far from confounding her honest praise with the flat superlatives either of worldly parrots or weak enthusiasts.