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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter III 1778-83

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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The report of Walter’s progress in horsemanship probably reminded his father that it was time he should be learning other things beyond the department either of aunt Jenny or uncle Thomas, and after a few months he was recalled to Edinburgh. But extraordinary as was the progress he had by this time made in that self-education, which alone is of primary consequence to spirits of his order, he was found too deficient in lesser matters to be at once entered in the High School. Probably his mother dreaded, and deferred as long as she could, the day when he should be exposed to the rude collision of a crowd of boys. At all events he was placed first in a little private school kept by one Leechman in Bristo-port; and then, that experiment not answering expectation, under the domestic tutorage of Mr James French, afterwards minister of East Kilbride in Lanarkshire. This respectable man grounded him in the Latin grammar, and considered him fit to join Luke Fraser’s second class in October 1779.

His own account of his progress at this excellent seminary is, on the whole, very similar to what I have received from some of his surviving school-fellows. His quick apprehension and powerful memory enabled him, at little cost of labour, to perform the usual routine of tasks, in such a manner as to keep him generally “in
a decent place” (so he once expressed it to
Mr Skene), “about the middle of the class; with which,” he continued, “I was the better contented, that it chanced to be near the fire.”* Mr Fraser was, I believe, more zealous in enforcing attention to the technicalities of grammar, than to excite curiosity about historical facts, or imagination to strain after the flights of a poet. There is no evidence that Scott, though he speaks of him as his “kind master,” in remembrance probably of sympathy for his physical infirmities, ever attracted his special notice with reference to scholarship; but Adam, the rector, into whose class he passed in October, 1782, was, as his situation demanded, a teacher of a more liberal caste, and though never, even under his guidance, did Walter fix and concentrate his ambition so as to maintain an eminent place, still the vivacity of his talents was observed, and the readiness of his memory in particular was so often displayed, that (as Mr Irving, his chosen friend of that day, informs me), the doctor “would constantly refer to him for dates, the particulars of battles, and other remarkable events alluded to in Horace, or whatever author the boys were reading, and used to call him the historian of the class.” No one who has read, as few have not, Dr Adam’s interesting work on Roman Antiquities, will doubt the author’s capacity for stimulating such a mind as young Scott’s.

He speaks of himself as occasionally “glancing like a meteor from the bottom to the top of the form.” His school-fellow, Mr Claud Russell, remembers that he once made a great leap in consequence of the stupidity of some laggard on what is called the dult’s (dolt’s) bench,

* According to Mr Irving’s recollection, Scott’s place, after the first winter, was usually between the 7th and the 15th from the top of the class. He adds, “Dr James Buchan was always the dux; David Douglas (Lord Reston) second; and the present Lord Melville third.”

who being asked, on boggling at cum, “what part of speech is with?” answered, “a substantive” The rector, after a moment’s pause, thought it worth while to ask his dux—“Is with ever a substantive?” but all were silent until the query reached
Scott, then near the bottom of the class, who instantly responded by quoting a verse of the book of Judges: “And Sampson said unto Delilah, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and as another man.”* Another upward movement, accomplished in a less laudable manner, but still one strikingly illustrative of his ingenious resources, I am enabled to preserve through the kindness of a brother poet and esteemed friend, to whom Sir Walter himself communicated it in the melancholy twilight of his bright day.

Mr Rogers says—“Sitting one day alone with him in your house, in the Regent’s Park—(it was the day but one before he left it to embark at Portsmouth for Malta)—I led him, among other things, to tell me once again a story of himself, which he had formerly told me, and which I had often wished to recover. When I returned home, I wrote it down, as nearly as I could, in his own words; and here they are. The subject is an achievement worthy of Ulysses himself, and such as many of his school-fellows could, no doubt, have related of him; but I fear I have done it no justice, though the story is so very characteristic that it should not be lost. The inimitable manner in which he told it—the glance of the eye, the turn of the head, and the light that played over his faded features as, one by one, the circumstances came back to him, accompanied by a thousand boyish feelings, that had slept perhaps for years—there is no language, not even his own, could convey to you; but you can supply them. Would that

* Chap. xvi. v. 7.

others could do so, who had not the good fortune to know him! The memorandum (Friday, October 21, 1831) is as follows:—

“There was a boy in my class at school, who stood always at the top,* nor could I with all my efforts supplant him. Day came after day, and still he kept his place, do what I would; till at length I observed that, when a question was asked him, he always fumbled with his fingers at a particular button in the lower part of his waistcoat. To remove it, therefore, became expedient in my eyes; and in an evil moment it was removed with a knife. Great was my anxiety to know the success of my measure; and it succeeded too well. When the boy was again questioned, his fingers sought again for the button, but it was not to be found. In his distress he looked down for it; it was to be seen no more than to be felt. He stood confounded, and I took possession of his place; nor did he ever recover it, or ever, I believe, suspect who was the author of his wrong. Often in after-life has the sight of him smote me as I passed by him; and often have I resolved to make him some reparation; but it ended in good resolutions. Though I never renewed my acquaintance with him, I often saw him, for he filled some inferior office in one of the courts of law at Edinburgh. Poor fellow! I believe he is dead; he took early to drinking.”

The autobiography tells us that his translations in verse from Horace and Virgil were often approved by Dr Adam. One of these little pieces, written in a weak boyish scrawl, within pencilled marks still visible, had

* Mr Irving inclines to think that this incident must have occurred during Scott’s attendance on Luke Fraser, not after he went to Dr Adam; and he also suspects that the boy referred to sat at the top not to the class, but of Scott’s own bench or division of the class.

been carefully preserved by his
mother; it was found folded up in a cover inscribed by the old lady—“My Walter’s first lines, 1782.”
“In awful ruins Ætna thunders nigh,
And sends in pitchy whirlwinds to the sky
Black clouds of smoke, which, still as they aspire,
From their dark sides there bursts the glowing fire;
At other times huge balls of fire are toss’d,
That lick the stars, and in the smoke are lost:
Sometimes the mount, with vast convulsions torn,
Emits huge rocks, which instantly are borne
With loud explosions to the starry skies,
The stones made liquid as the huge mass flies,
Then back again with greater weight recoils,
While Ætna thundering from the bottom boils.”
I gather from
Mr Irving that these lines were considered as the second best set of those produced on the occasion—Colin Mackenzie of Portmore, through life Scott’s dear friend, carrying off the premium.

In his Introduction to the “Lay,” he alludes to an original effusion of these “schoolboy days,” prompted by a thunder-storm, which he says “was much approved of, until a malevolent critic sprung up in the shape of an apothecary’s blue-buskined wife, who affirmed that my most sweet poetry was copied from an old magazine. I never” (he continues) “forgave the imputation, and even now I acknowledge some resentment against the poor woman’s memory. She indeed accused me unjustly, when she said I had stolen my poem ready made; but as I had, like most premature poets, copied all the words and ideas of which my verses consisted, she was so far right. I made one or two faint attempts at verse after I had undergone this sort of daw-plucking at the hands of the apothecary’s wife, but some friend or other always advised me to put my verses into the fire; and, like Dorax in the play, I
submitted, though with a swelling heart.” These lines, and another short piece “on the Setting Sun,” were lately found wrapped up in a cover, inscribed by
Dr Adam, “Walter Scott, July, 1783,” and have been kindly transmitted to me by the gentleman who discovered them.

On a Thunder-storm.
“Loud o’er my head though awful thunders roll,
And vivid lightnings flash from pole to pole,
Yet ’tis thy voice, my God, that bids them fly,
Thy arm directs those lightnings through the sky.
Then let the good thy mighty name revere,
And hardened sinners thy just vengeance fear.”
On the Setting Sun.
“Those evening clouds, that setting ray
And beauteous tints, serve to display
Their great Creator’s praise;
Then let the short-lived thing call’d man,
Whose life’s comprised within a span,
To Him his homage raise.
“We often praise the evening clouds,
And tints so gay and bold,
But seldom think upon our God,
Who tinged these clouds with gold!”*

It must, I think, be allowed that these lines, though of the class to which the poet himself modestly ascribes them, and not to be compared with the efforts of Pope,

* I am obliged for these little memorials to the Rev. W. Steven of Rotterdam, author of an interesting book on the history of the branch of the Scotch Church long established in Holland, and still flourishing under the protection of the enlightened government of that country. Mr Steven found them in the course of his recent researches, undertaken with a view to some memoirs of the High School of Edinburgh, at which he had received his own early education.

still less of
Cowley at the same period, show, nevertheless, praiseworthy dexterity for a boy of twelve.

The fragment tells us, that on the whole he was “more distinguished in the Yards (as the High School playground was called), than in the class;” and this, not less than the intellectual advancement which years before had excited the admiration of Mrs Cockburn, was the natural result of his lifelong “rebellion against external circumstances.” He might now with very slender exertion have been the dux of his form, but if there was more difficulty, there was also more to whet his ambition, in the attempt to overcome the disadvantages of his physical misfortune, and in spite of them assert equality with the best of his compeers on the ground which they considered as the true arena of honour. He told me, in walking through these same yards forty years afterwards, that he had scarcely made his first appearance there, before some dispute arising, his opponent remarked that “there was no use to hargle-bargle with a cripple;” upon which he replied, that if he might fight mounted, he would try his hand with any one of his inches. “An elder boy” (said he), “who had perhaps been chuckling over our friend Roderick Random when his mother supposed him to be in fall cry after Pyrrhus or Porus, suggested that the two little tinklers might be lashed front to front upon a deal board—and—‘O gran bonta de’ cavalier antichi’—the proposal being forthwith agreed to, I received my first bloody nose in an attitude which would have entitled me, in the blessed days of personal cognizances, to assume that of a lioncel seiant gules. My pugilistic trophies here” (he continued) “were all the results of such sittings in banco” Considering his utter ignorance of fear, the strength of his chest and upper limbs, and that the scientific part of pugilism never
flourished in Scotland, I daresay these trophies were not few.

The mettle of the High-School boys, however, was principally displayed elsewhere than in their own yards; and Sir Walter has furnished us with ample indications of the delight with which he found himself at length capable of rivalling others in such achievements as required the exertion of active locomotive powers. Speaking of some scene of his infancy in one of his latest tales, he says: “Every step of the way after I have passed through the green already mentioned” (probably the Meadows behind George’s Square), “has for me something of an early remembrance. There is the stile at which I can recollect a cross child’s-maid upbraiding me with my infirmity as she lifted me coarsely and carelessly over the flinty steps which my brothers traversed with shout and bound. I remember the suppressed bitterness of the moment, and conscious of my own infirmity, the envy with which I regarded the easy movements and elastic steps of my more happily formed brethren. Alas!” (he adds), “these goodly barks have all perished in life’s wide ocean, and only that which seemed, as the naval phrase goes, so little sea-worthy, has reached the port when the tempest is over.” How touching to compare with this passage, that in which he records his pride in being found before he left the High School one of the boldest and nimblest climbers of “the kittle nine stanes,” a passage of difficulty which might puzzle a chamois-hunter of the Alps, its steps “few and far between,” projected high in air from the precipitous black granite of the Castle rock. But climbing and fighting could sometimes be combined, and he has in almost the same page dwelt upon perhaps the most favourite of all these juvenile exploits—namely, “the manning of the Cowgate Port,”—in the season when snowballs could be
employed by the young scorners of discipline for the annoyance of the Townguard. To understand fully the feelings of a High-School boy of that day with regard to those ancient Highlanders, who then formed the only police of the city of Edinburgh, the reader must consult the poetry of the scapegrace
Ferguson. It was in defiance of their Lochaber axes that the Cowgate Port was manned—and many were the occasions on which its defence presented at least a formidable mimicry of warfare. “The gateway,” Sir Walter adds, “is now demolished, and probably most of its garrison lie as low as the fortress! To recollect that I, however naturally disqualified, was one of these juvenile dreadnoughts, is a sad reflection for one who cannot now step over a brook without assistance.”

I am unwilling to swell this narrative by extracts from Scott’s published works, but there is one juvenile exploit told in the General Preface to the Waverley Novels which I must crave leave to introduce here in his own language, because it is essentially necessary to complete our notion of his schoolboy life and character. “It is well known” (he says) “that there is little boxing at the Scottish schools. About forty or fifty years ago, however, a far more dangerous mode of fighting, in parties or factions, was permitted in the streets of Edinburgh, to the great disgrace of the police, and danger of the parties concerned. These parties were generally formed from the quarters of the town in which the combatants resided, those of a particular square or district fighting against those of an adjoining one. Hence it happened that the children of the higher classes were often pitted against those of the lower, each taking their side according to the residence of their friends. So far as I recollect, however, it was unmingled either with feelings of democracy or aristo-
oracy, or indeed with malice or ill-will of any kind towards the opposite party. In fact, it was only a rough mode of play. Such contests were, however, maintained with great vigour with stones, and sticks, and fisticuffs, when one party dared to charge and the other stood their ground. Of course mischief sometimes happened; boys are said to have been killed at these Bickers, as they were called, and serious accidents certainly took place, as many contemporaries can bear witness.

“The author’s father, residing in George’s Square, in the southern side of Edinburgh, the boys belonging to that family, with others in the square, were arranged into a sort of company, to which a lady of distinction presented a handsome set of colours.* Now, this company or regiment, as a matter of course, was engaged in weekly warfare with the boys inhabiting the Crosscauseway, Bristo-Street, the Potterrow,—in short, the neighbouring suburbs. These last were chiefly of the lower rank, but hardy loons, who threw stones to a hair’s-breadth, and were very rugged antagonists at close quarters. The skirmish sometimes lasted for a whole evening, until one party or the other was victorious, when, if ours were successful, we drove the enemy to their quarters, and were usually chased back by the reinforcement of bigger lads who came to their assistance. If, on the contrary, we were pursued, as was often the case, into the precincts of our square, we were in our turn supported by our elder brothers, domestic servants, and similar auxiliaries. It followed, from our frequent opposition to each other, that, though not knowing the names of our enemies, we were yet well acquainted with their appearance, and had nicknames for the most remarkable of them. One very

* This young patroness was the present Countess-Duchess of Sutherland.

active and spirited boy might be considered as the principal leader in the cohort of the suburbs. He was, I suppose, thirteen or fourteen years old, finely made, tall, blue-eyed, with long fair hair, the very picture of a youthful Goth. This lad was always first in the charge, and last in the retreat—the Achilles at once and Ajax of the Crosscauseway. He was too formidable to us not to have a cognomen, and, like that of a knight of old, it was taken from the most remarkable part of his dress, being a pair of old green livery breeches, which was the principal part of his clothing; for, like Pentapolin, according to Don Quixote’s account, Green-breeks, as we called him, always entered the battle with bare arms, legs, and feet.

“It fell, that once upon a time when the combat was at the thickest, this plebeian champion headed a charge so rapid and furious, that all fled before him. He was several paces before his comrades, and had actually laid his hands upon the patrician standard, when one of our party, whom some misjudging friend had intrusted with, a couteau de chasse, or hanger, inspired with a zeal for the honour of the corps, worthy of Major Sturgeon himself, struck poor Green-breeks over the head, with strength sufficient to cut him down. When this was seen, the casualty was so far beyond what had ever taken place before, that both parties fled different ways, leaving poor Green-breeks, with his bright hair plentifully dabbled in blood, to the care of the watchman, who (honest man) took care not to know who had done the mischief. The bloody hanger was thrown into one of the Meadow ditches, and solemn secrecy was sworn on all hands; but the remorse and terror of the actor were beyond all bounds, and his apprehensions of the most dreadful character. The wounded hero was for a few days in the Infirmary, the case being only a trifling one.
But though enquiry was strongly pressed on him, no argument could make him indicate the person from whom he had received the wound, though he must have been perfectly well known to him. When he recovered, and was dismissed, the author and his brothers opened a communication with him, through the medium of a popular gingerbread baker, of whom both parties were customers, in order to tender a subsidy in the name of smart-money. The sum would excite ridicule were I to name it; but sure I am, that the pockets of the noted Green-breeks never held as much money of his own. He declined the remittance, saying that he would not sell his blood; but at the same time reprobated the idea of being an informer, which he said was clam, i. e. base or mean. With much urgency, he accepted a pound of snuff for the use of some old woman aunt, grandmother, or the like with whom he lived. We did not become friends, for the bickers were more agreeable to both parties than any more pacific amusement; but we conducted them ever after, under mutual assurances of the highest consideration for each other.”
Sir Walter adds:—“Of five brothers, all healthy and promising in a degree far beyond one whose infancy was visited by personal infirmity, and whose health after this period seemed long very precarious, I am, nevertheless, the only survivor. The best loved, and the best deserving to be loved, who had destined this incident to be the foundation of a literary composition, died “before his day,” in a distant and foreign land; and trifles assume an importance not their own, when connected with those who have been loved and lost.”

During some part of his attendance on the High School, young Walter spent one hour daily at a small separate seminary of writing and arithmetic, kept by one Morton, where, as was, and I suppose continues to be, the
custom of Edinburgh, young girls came for instruction as well as boys; and one of Mr Morton’s female pupils has been kind enough to set down some little reminiscences of Scott, who happened to sit at the same desk with herself. They appear to me the more interesting, because the lady had no acquaintance with him in the course of his subsequent life. Her nephew
Mr James (the accomplished author of Richelieu), to whose friendship I owe her communication, assures me too, that he had constantly heard her tell the same things in the very same way, as far back as his own memory reaches, many years before he had ever seen Sir Walter, or his aunt could have dreamt of surviving to assist in the biography of his early days.

“He attracted,” Mrs Churnside says, “the regard and fondness of all his companions, for he was ever rational, fanciful, lively, and possessed of that urbane gentleness of manner, which makes its way to the heart. His imagination was constantly at work, and he often so engrossed the attention of those who learnt with him, that little could be done—Mr Morton himself being forced to laugh as much as the little scholars at the odd turns and devices he fell upon; for he did nothing in the ordinary way, but, for example, even when he wanted ink to his pen, would get up some ludicrous story about sending his doggie to the mill again. He used also to interest us in a more serious way, by telling us the visions, as he called them, which he had lying alone on the floor or sofa, when kept from going to church on a Sunday by ill health. Child as I was, I could not help being highly delighted with his description of the glories he had seen—his misty and sublime sketches of the regions above, which he had visited in his trance. Recollecting these descriptions, radiant and not gloomy as they were, I have often thought since,
that there must have been a bias in his mind to superstition—the marvellous seemed to have such power over him, though the mere offspring of his own imagination, that the expression of his face, habitually that of genuine benevolence, mingled with a shrewd innocent humour, changed greatly while he was speaking of these things, and showed a deep intenseness of feeling, as if he were awed even by his own recital. . . . I may add, that in walking he used always to keep his eyes turned downwards as if thinking, but with a pleasing expression of countenance, as if enjoying his thoughts. Having once known him it was impossible ever to forget him. In this manner, after all the changes of a long life, he constantly appears as fresh as yesterday to my mind’s eye.”

This beautiful extract needs no commentary. I may as well, however, bear witness, that exactly as the schoolboy still walks before “her mind’s eye,” his image rises familiarly to mine, who never saw him until he was past the middle of life: that I trace in every feature of her delineation, the same gentleness of aspect and demeanour which the presence of the female sex, whether in silk or in russet, ever commanded in the man; and that her description of the change on his countenance when passing from the “doggie of the mill,” to the dream of Paradise, is a perfect picture of what no one that has heard him recite a fragment of high poetry, in the course of table-talk, can ever forget. Strangers may catch some notion of what fondly dwells on the memory of every friend, by glancing from the conversational bust of Chantrey, to the first portrait by Raeburn, which represents the Last Minstrel as musing in his prime within sight of Hermitage.*

* The Duke of Buccleuch, who now possesses this admirable portrait, has kindly permitted it to be re-engraved for the illustration of the present volume.

I believe it was about this time that, as he expresses it in one of his latest works, “the first images of horror from the scenes of real life were stamped upon his mind,” by the tragical death of his great-aunt
Mrs Margaret Swinton. This old lady, whose extraordinary nerve of character he illustrates largely in the introduction to the story of Aunt Margaret’s Mirror, was now living with one female attendant, in a small house not far from Mr Scott’s residence in George’s Square. The maidservant, in a sudden access of insanity, struck her mistress to death with a coal-axe, and then rushed furiously into the street with the bloody weapon in her hand, proclaiming aloud the horror she had perpetrated. I need not dwell on the effects which must have been produced in a virtuous and affectionate circle by this shocking incident. The old lady had been tenderly attached to her nephew. “She was” (he says) “our constant resource in sickness, or when we tired of noisy play, and closed round her to listen to her tales.”

It was at this same period that Mr and Mrs Scott received into their house, as tutor for their children, Mr James Mitchell, of whom the Ashestiel Memoir gives us a description, such as I could not have presented had he been still alive. Mr Mitchell was still living, however, at the time of his pupil’s death, and I am now not only at liberty to present Scott’s unmutilated account of their intercourse, but enabled to give also the most simple and characteristic narrative of the other party. I am sure no one, however nearly related to Mr Mitchell, will now complain of seeing his keen-sighted pupil’s sketch placed by the side, as it were, of the fuller portraiture drawn by the unconscious hand of the amiable and worthy man himself. The following is an extract from Mr Mitchell’s MS., entitled “Memorials of the most remarkable occurrences and trans-
actions of my life, drawn up in the hope that, when I shall be no more, they may be read with profit and pleasure by my children.” The good man was so kind as to copy out one chapter for my use, as soon as he heard of
Sir Walter Scott’s death. He was then, and had for many years been, minister of a Presbyterian chapel at Wooler, in Northumberland, to which situation he had retired on losing his benefice at Montrose, in consequence of the Sabbatarian scruples alluded to in Scott’s Autobiography.

“In 1782,” says Mr Mitchell, “I became a tutor in Mr Walter Scott’s family. He was a Writer to the Signet, in George’s Square, Edinburgh. Mr Scott was a fine looking man, then a little past the meridian of life, of dignified, yet agreeable manners. His business was extensive. He was a man of tried integrity, of strict morals, and had a respect for religion and its ordinances. The church the family attended was the Old Grey Friars, of which the celebrated Doctors Robertson and Erskine were the ministers. Thither went Mr and Mrs Scott every Sabbath, when well and at home, attended by their fine young family of children, and their domestic servants—a sight so amiable and exemplary as often to excite in my breast a glow of heartfelt satisfaction. According to an established and laudable practice in the family, the heads of it, the children, and servants were assembled on Sunday evenings in the drawing-room, and examined on the Church catechism and sermons they had heard delivered during the course of the day; on which occasions I had to perform the part of chaplain, and conclude with prayer. From Mrs Scott I learned that Mr Scott was one that had not been seduced from the paths of virtue; but had been enabled to venerate good morals from his youth. When he first came to Edinburgh to follow out his profession,
some of his school fellows, who, like him, had come to reside in Edinburgh, attempted to unhinge his principles, and corrupt his morals; but when they found him resolute, and unshaken in his virtuous dispositions, they gave up the attempt; but, instead of abandoning him altogether, they thought the more of him, and honoured him with their confidence and patronage; which is certainly a great inducement to young men in the outset of life to act a similar part.

“After having heard of his inflexible adherence to the cause of virtue in his youth, and his regular attendance on the ordinances of religion in after-life, we will not be surprised to be told that he bore a sacred regard for the Sabbath, nor at the following anecdote illustrative of it. An opulent farmer of East Lothian had employed Mr Scott as his agent, in a cause depending before the Court of Session. Having a curiosity to see something in the papers relative to the process, which were deposited in Mr Scott’s hands, this worldly man came into Edinburgh on a Sunday to have an inspection of them. As there was no immediate necessity for this measure, Mr Scott asked the farmer if an ordinary week-day would not answer equally well. The farmer was not willing to take this advice, but insisted on the production of his papers. Mr Scott then delivered them up to him, saying, it was not his practice to engage in secular business on Sabbath, and that he would have no difficulty in Edinburgh to find some of his profession who would have none of his scruples. No wonder such a man was confided in, and greatly honoured in his professional line.—All the poor services I did to his family were more than repaid by the comfort and honour I had by being in the family, the pecuniary remuneration I received, and particularly by his recommendation of me, sometimes afterwards, to the Magistrates and Town-Council of Mon-
trose, when there was a vacancy, and this brought me on the carpet, which, as he said, was all he could do, as the settlement would ultimately hinge on a popular election.

Mrs Scott was a wife in every respect worthy of such a husband. Like her partner, she was then a little past the meridian of life, of a prepossessing appearance, amiable manners, of a cultivated understanding, affectionate disposition, and fine taste. She was both able and disposed to soothe her husband’s mind under the asperities of business, and to be a rich blessing to her numerous progeny. But what constituted her distinguishing ornament was, that she was sincerely religious. Some years previous to my entrance into the family, I understood from one of the servants she had been under deep religious concern about her soul’s salvation, which had ultimately issued in a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and in the enjoyment of its divine consolations. She liked Dr Erskine’s sermons; but was not fond of the Principal’s, however rational, eloquent, and well composed, and would, if other things had answered, have gone, when he preached, to have heard Dr Davidson. Mrs Scott was a descendant of Dr Daniel Rutherford, a professor in the Medical School of Edinburgh, and one of those eminent men, who, by learning and professional skill, brought it to the high pitch of celebrity to which it has attained. He was an excellent linguist, and, according to the custom of the times, delivered his prelections to the students in Latin. Mrs Scott told me, that, when prescribing to his patients, it was his custom to offer up at the same time a prayer for the accompanying blessing of heaven; a laudable practice, in which, I fear, he has not been generally imitated by those of his profession.

Mr Scott’s family consisted of six children, all of which were at home except the eldest, who was an offi-
cer in the army; and as they were of an age fit for instruction, they were all committed to my superintendence, which, in dependence on God, I exercised with an earnest and faithful regard to their temporal and spiritual good. As the most of them were under public teachers, the duty assigned me was mainly to assist them in the prosecution of their studies. In all the excellencies, whether as to temper, conduct, talents natural or acquired, which any of the children individually possessed, to
Master Walter, since the celebrated Sir Walter, must a decided preference be ascribed. Though, like the rest of the children, placed under my tuition, the conducting of his education comparatively cost me but little trouble, being, by the quickness of his intellect, tenacity of memory, and diligent application to his studies, generally equal of himself to the acquisition of those tasks I or others prescribed to him. So that Master Walter might be regarded not so much as a pupil of mine, but as a friend and companion, and I may add, as an assistant also; for, by his example and admonitions, he greatly strengthened my hands, and stimulated my other pupils to industry and good behaviour. I seldom had occasion all the time I was in the family to find fault with him even for trifles, and only once to threaten serious castigation, of which he was no sooner aware than he suddenly sprung up, threw his arms about my neck, and kissed me. It is hardly needful to state, that now the intended castigation was no longer thought of. By such generous and noble conduct my displeasure was in a moment converted into esteem and admiration; my soul melted into tenderness, and I was ready to mingle my tears with his. Some incidents in reference to him in that early period, and some interesting and useful conversations I had with him, then deeply impressed on my mind, and which the lapse of near half
a century has not yet obliterated, afforded no doubtful presage of his future greatness and celebrity. On my going into the family, as far as I can judge, he might be in his twelfth or thirteenth year, a boy in the Rector’s class. However elevated above the other boys in genius, though generally in the list of the duxes, he was seldom, as far as I recollect, the leader of the school: nor need this be deemed surprising, as it has often been observed, that boys of original genius have been outstripped by those that were far inferior to themselves, in the acquisition of the dead languages.
Dr Adam, the rector, celebrated for his knowledge of the Latin language, was deservedly held by Mr Walter in high admiration and regard; of which the following anecdote may be adduced as a proof. In the High School, as is well known, there are four masters and a rector. The classes of those masters the rector in rotation inspects, and in the mean time the master, whose school is examined, goes in to take care of the rector’s. One of the masters, on account of some grudge, had rudely assaulted and injured the venerable rector one night in the High School Wynd. The rector’s scholars, exasperated at the outrage, at the instigation of Master Walter, determined on revenge, and which was to be executed when this obnoxious master should again come to teach the class. When this occurred, the task the class had prescribed to them was that passage in the Æneid of Virgil, where the Queen of Carthage interrogates the court as to the stranger that had come to her habitation—
‘Quis novus hic hospes successit sedibus nostris?’*

* This transposition of hospes and nostris sufficiently confirms his pupil’s statement that Mr Mitchell “superintended his classical themes, but not classically.” The “obnoxious master “alluded to was Burns’s friend Nicoll, the hero of the song—

“Willie brewed a peck o’ maut,
And Rob and Allan came to see,” &c.
Master Walter having taken a piece of paper, inscribed upon it these words, substituting vanus for novus, and pinned it to the tail of the master’s coat, and turned him into ridicule by raising the laugh of the whole school against him. Though this juvenile action could not be justified on the footing of Christian principles, yet certainly it was so far honourable that it was not a dictate of personal revenge; but that it originated in respect for a worthy and injured man, and detestation of one whom he looked upon as a bad character.

“One forenoon, on coming from the High School, he said he wished to know my opinion as to his conduct in a matter he should state to me. When passing through the High School Yards, he found a half-guinea piece on the ground. Instead of appropriating this to his own use, a sense of honesty led him to look around, and on doing so he espied a countryman, whom he suspected to be the proprietor. Having asked the man if he had lost anything, he searched his pockets, and then replied that he had lost half-a-guinea. Master Walter with pleasure presented him with his lost treasure. In this transaction, his ingenuity in finding out the proper owner, and his integrity in restoring the property, met my most cordial approbation.

“When in church, Master Walter had more of a soporific tendency than the rest of my young charge. This seemed to be constitutional. He needed one or other of the family to arouse him, and from this it might be inferred that he would cut a poor figure on the Sabbath evening when examined about the sermons. But what excited the admiration of the family was, that none of the children, however wakeful, could answer as he did. The only way that I could account for this was, that when he heard the text, and divisions of the subject, his good sense, memory, and genius supplied the thoughts which would occur to the preacher.


“On one occasion, in the dining-room, when, according to custom, he was reading some author in the time of relaxation from study, I asked him how he accounted for the superiority of knowledge he possessed above the rest of the family. His reply was—Some years ago he had been attacked by a swelling in one of his ankles, which confined him to the house, and prevented him taking amusement and exercise, and which was the cause of his lameness as under this ailment he could not romp with his brothers and the other young people in the green in George’s Square, he found himself compelled to have recourse to some substitute for the juvenile amusements of his comrades, and this was reading. So that, to what he no doubt accounted a painful dispensation of Providence, he probably stood indebted for his future celebrity. When it was understood I was to leave the family, Master Walter told me that he had a small present to give me to be kept as a memorandum of his friendship, and that it was of little value: ‘But you know, Mr Mitchell,’ said he, ‘that presents are not to be estimated according to their intrinsic value, but according to the intention of the donor.’ This was his Adam’s grammar, which had seen hard service in its day, and had many animals and inscriptions on its margins. This, to my regret, is no longer to be found in my collection of books, nor do I know what has become of it.

“Since leaving the family, although no stranger to the widely spreading fame of Sir Walter, I have had few opportunities of personal intercourse with him. When minister in the second charge of the Established Church at Montrose, he paid me a visit, and spent a night with me—few visits have been more gratifying. He was then on his return from Aberdeen, where he, as an advocate, had attended the Court of Justiciary in its
northern circuit. Nor was his attendance in this court his sole object; another, and perhaps the principal, was, as he stated to me, to collect in his excursion ancient ballads and traditional stories about fairies, witches, and ghosts. Such intelligence proved to me as an electrical shock; and as I then sincerely regretted, so do I still, that Sir Walter’s precious time was so much devoted to the dulce, rather than the utile of composition, and that his great talent should have been wasted on such subjects. At the same time I feel happy to qualify this censure, as I am generally given to understand that his Novels are of a more pure and unexceptionable nature than characterises writings of a similar description; while at the same time his pen has been occupied in the production of works of a better and nobler order. Impressed with the conviction that he would one day arrive at honour and influence in his native country, I endeavoured to improve the occasion of his visit to secure his patronage in behalf of the strict and evangelical party in the Church of Scotland, in exerting himself to induce patrons to grant to the Christian people liberty to elect their own pastors in cases of vacancy. His answer struck me much—it was: ‘Nay, nay,
Mr Mitchell, I’ll not do that; for if that were to be done, I and the like of me would have no life with such as you;’ from which I inferred he thought that, were the evangelical clergy to obtain the superiority, they would introduce such strictness of discipline as would not quadrate with the ideas of that party called the moderate in the Church of Scotland, whose views, I presume, Sir Walter had now adopted. Some, however, to whom I have mentioned Sir Walter’s reply, have suggested that I had misunderstood his meaning, and that what he said was not in earnest, but in jocularity and good-humour. This may be true, and certainly is a candid interpretation. As to
the ideal beings already mentioned as the subject of his enquiries, my materials were too scanty to afford him much information.”

Notwithstanding the rigidly Presbyterian habits which this chronicle describes with so much more satisfaction than the corresponding page in the Ashestiel Memoir, I am reminded, by a communication already quoted from a lady of the Ravelstone family, that Mrs Scott, who had, she says, “a turn for literature quite uncommon among the ladies of the time,” encouraged her son in his passion for Shakspeare that his plays, and the Arabian Nights, were often read aloud in the family circle by Walter, “and served to spend many a happy evening hour”—nay, that, however good Mitchell may have frowned at such a suggestion, even Mr Scott made little objection to his children, and some of their young friends, getting up private theatricals occasionally in the dining-room, after the lessons of the day were over. The lady adds, that Walter was always the manager, and had the whole charge of the affair, and that the favourite piece used to be Jane Shore, in which he was the Hastings, his sister the Alicia. I have heard from another friend of the family, that Richard III. also was attempted, and that Walter took the part of the Duke of Gloucester, observing that “the limp would do well enough to represent the hump.”

A story which I have seen in print, about his partaking in the dancing lessons of his brothers, I do not believe. But it was during Mr Mitchell’s residence in the family that they all made their unsuccessful attempts in the art of music, under the auspices of poor Elshender Campbell the Editor of “Albyn’s Anthology.”

Mr Mitchell appears to have terminated his super-
intendence before
Walter left Dr Adam, and in the interval between this and his entrance at College, he spent some time with his aunt, who now inhabited a cottage at Kelso; but the Memoir, I suspect, gives too much extension to that residence—which may be accounted for by his blending with it a similar visit which he paid to the same place during his College vacation of the next year.

Some of the features of Miss Jenny’s abode at Kelso are alluded to in the Memoir, but the fullest description of it occurs in his “Essay on Landscape Gardening” (1828), where, talking of grounds laid out in the Dutch taste, he says: “Their rarity now entitles them to some care as a species of antiques, and unquestionably they give character to some snug, quiet, and sequestered situations, which would otherwise have no marked feature of any kind. I retain an early and pleasing recollection of the seclusion of such a scene. A small cottage, adjacent to a beautiful village, the habitation of an ancient maiden lady, was for some time my abode. It was situated in a garden of seven or eight acres, planted about the beginning of the eighteenth century, by one of the Millars related to the author of the “Gardeners’ Dictionary,” or, for aught I know, by himself. It was full of long straight walks, between hedges of yew and hornbeam, which rose tall and close on every side. There were thickets of flowery shrubs, a bower, and an arbour, to which access was obtained through a little maze of contorted walks calling itself a labyrinth. In the centre of the bower was a splendid Platanus, or Oriental plane—a huge hill of leaves—one of the noblest specimens of that regularly beautiful tree which I remember to have seen. In different parts of the garden were fine ornamental trees, which had attained great size, and the orchard was filled with fruit
trees of the best description. There were seats and hilly walks, and a banquetting house. I visited this scene lately, after an absence of many years. Its air of retreat, the seclusion which its alleys afforded, was entirely gone; the huge Platanus had died, like most of its kind, in the beginning of this century; the hedges were cut down, the trees stubbed up, and the whole character of the place so destroyed, that I was glad when I could leave it.” It was under this Platanus that Scott first devoured
Percy’s Reliques. I remember well being with him, in 1820 or 1821, when he revisited the favourite scene, and the sadness of his looks when he discovered that “the huge hill of leaves” was no more.

To keep up his scholarship while inhabiting the garden, he attended daily, as he informs us, the public school of Kelso, and here he made his first acquaintance with a family, two members of which were intimately connected with the most important literary transactions of his after life—James Ballantyne, the printer of almost all his works, and his brother John, who had a share in the publication of many of them. Their father was a respectable tradesman in this pretty town. The elder of the brothers, who did not long survive his illustrious friend, was kind enough to make an exertion on behalf of this work, while stretched on the bed from which he never rose, and dictated a valuable paper of memoranda, from which I shall here introduce my first extract:—

“I think” (says James Ballantyne) “it was in the year 1783, that I first became acquainted with Sir Walter Scott, then a boy about my own age, at the Grammar School of Kelso, of which Mr Lancelot Whale was the Rector. The impression left by his manners was, even at that early period, calculated to be deep, and I cannot recall any other instance in which the man and
the boy continued to resemble each other so much and so long. Walter Scott was not a constant school-fellow at this seminary; he only attended it for a few weeks during the vacation of the Edinburgh High School. He was then, as he continued during all his after life to be, devoted to antiquarian lore, and was certainly the best story-teller I had ever heard, either then or since. He soon discovered that I was as fond of listening as he himself was of relating; and I remember it was a thing of daily occurrence, that after he had made himself master of his own lesson, I, alas! being still sadly to seek in mine, he used to whisper to me, ‘Come, slink over beside me, Jamie, and I’ll tell you a story.’ I well recollect that he had a form, or seat, appropriated to himself, the particular reason of which I cannot tell, but he was always treated with a peculiar degree of respect, not by the boys of the different classes merely, but by the venerable Master Lancelot himself, who, an absent, grotesque being, betwixt six and seven feet high, was nevertheless an admirable scholar, and sure to be delighted to find any one so well qualified to sympathize with him as young Walter Scott; and the affectionate gratitude of the young pupil was never intermitted, so long as his venerable master continued to live. I may mention, in passing, that old Whale bore, in many particulars, a strong resemblance to Dominie Sampson, though, it must be admitted, combining more gentlemanly manners with equal classical lore, and, on the whole, being a much superior sort of person. In the intervals of school hours, it was our constant practice ta walk together by the banks of the Tweed, our employment continuing exactly the same, for his stories seemed to be quite inexhaustible. This intercourse continued during the summers of the years 1783-4, but was broken off in 1785-6, when I went into Edinburgh to College.”


Perhaps the separate seat assigned to Walter Scott, by the Kelso schoolmaster, was considered due to him as a temporary visitor from the great Edinburgh seminary. Very possibly, however, the worthy Mr Whale thought of nothing but protecting his solitary student of Persius and Tacitus from the chances of being jostled among the adherents of Ruddiman and Cornelius Nepos.

Another of his Kelso schoolfellows was Robert Waldie (son of Mr Waldie of Henderside), and to this connexion he owed, both while quartered in the Garden, and afterwards at Rosebank, many kind attentions, of which he ever preserved a grateful recollection, and which have left strong traces on every page of his works in which he has occasion to introduce the Society of Friends. This young companion’s mother, though always called in the neighbourhood “Lady Waldie,” belonged to that community; and the style of life and manners depicted in the household of Joshua Geddes of Mount Sharon and his amiable sister, in some of the sweetest chapters of Redgauntlet, is a slightly decorated edition of what he witnessed under her hospitable roof. He records, in a note to the Novel, the “liberality and benevolence” of this “kind old lady” in allowing him to “rummage at pleasure, and carry home any volumes he chose of her small but valuable library,” annexing only the condition that he should “take at the same time some of the tracts printed for encouraging and extending the doctrines of her own sect. She did not,” he adds, “even exact any assurance that I would read these performances, being too justly afraid of involving me in a breach of promise, but was merely desirous that I should have the chance of instruction within my reach, in case whim, curiosity, or accident might induce me to have recourse to it.” I remember the pleasure with
which he read, late in life, “
Rome in the Nineteenth Century,” an ingenious work produced by one of Mrs Waldie’s grand-daughters, and how comically he pictured the alarm with which his ancient friend would have perused some of its delineations of the high places of Popery.

I shall be pardoned for adding in this place a marginal note, written apparently late in Scott’s life, on his copy of a little forgotten volume, entitled “Trifles in Verse, by a Young Soldier.” “In 1783” (he says) “or about that time, I remember John Marjoribanks, a smart recruiting officer in the village of Kelso, the Weekly Chronicle of which he filled with his love verses. His Delia was a Miss Dickson, daughter of a shopkeeper in the same village—his Gloriana a certain prudish old maiden lady, benempt Miss Goldie; I think I see her still, with her thin arms sheathed in scarlet gloves, and crossed like two lobsters in a fishmonger’s stand. Poor Delia was a very beautiful girl, and not more conceited than a be-rhymed miss ought to be. Many years afterwards I found the Kelso belle, thin and pale, her good looks gone, and her smart dress neglected, governess to the brats of a Paisley manufacturer. I ought to say there was not an atom of scandal in her flirtation with the young military poet. The bard’s fate was not much better; after some service in India, and elsewhere, he led a half-pay life about Edinburgh, and died there. There is a tenuity of thought in what he has written, but his verses are usually easy, and I like them because they recall my schoolboy days, when I thought him a Horace, and his Delia a goddess.”