LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter V 1808

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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Before Marmion was published, a heavy task, begun earlier than the poem and continued throughout its progress, had been nearly completed; and there appeared in the last week of April, 1808, “The Works of John Dryden, now first collected; illustrated with notes historical, critical, and explanatory, and a Life of the Author. By Walter Scott, Esq. Eighteen volumes, 8vo.” This was the bold speculation of William Miller of Albemarle Street, London; and the editor’s fee, at forty guineas the volume, was L.756. The bulk of the collection, the neglect into which a majority of the pieces included in it had fallen, the obsoleteness of the party politics which had so largely exercised the author’s pen, and the indecorum, not seldom running into flagrant indecency, by which transcendant genius had ministered to the appetites of a licentious age, all combined to make the warmest of Scott’s friends and admirers doubt whether even his skill and reputation would be found sufficient to ensure the success of this undertaking. It was, how
ever, better received than any one, except perhaps the courageous bookseller himself, had anticipated. The entire work was reprinted in 1821; and more lately the
Life of Dryden has been twice republished in collective editions of Scott’s prose miscellanies; nor, perhaps, does that class of his writings include any piece of considerable extent that has, on the whole, obtained higher estimation.

This edition of Dryden was criticised in the Edinburgh Review for October, 1808, with great ability, and, on the whole, with admirable candour. The industry and perspicacity with which Scott had carried through his editorial researches and annotations were acknowledged in terms which, had he known the name of his reviewer, must have been doubly gratifying to his feelings; and it was confessed that, in the life of his author, he had corrected with patient honesty, and filled up with lucid and expansive detail, the sometimes careless and often naked outline of Johnson’s masterly Essay on the same subject. It would be superfluous to quote in this place a specimen of critical skill which has already enjoyed such wide circulation, and which will hereafter, no doubt, be included in the miscellaneous prose works of Hallam. The points of political faith on which that great writer dissents from the editor of Dryden, would, even if I had the inclination to pursue such a discussion, lead me far astray from the immediate object of these pages; they embrace questions on which the best and wisest of our countrymen will probably continue to take opposite sides, as long as our past history excites a living interest, and our literature is that of an active nation. On the poetical character of Dryden I think the editor and his critic will be found to have expressed substantially much the same judgment; when they appear to differ the battle strikes me as being about words rather than things, as is likely
to be the case when men of such abilities and attainments approach a subject remote from their personal passions. As might have been expected, the terse and dexterous reviewer has often the better in this logomachy; but when the balance is struck, we discover here, as elsewhere, that Scott’s broad and masculine understanding had, by whatever happy hardihood, grasped the very result to which others win their way by the more cautious processes of logical investigation. While nothing has been found easier than to attack his details, his general views on critical questions have seldom, if ever, been successfully impugned.

I wish I could believe that Scott’s labours had been sufficient to recall Dryden to his rightful station, not in the opinion of those who make literature the business or chief solace of their lives—for with them he had never forfeited it—but in the general favour of the intelligent public. That such has been the case, however, the not rapid sale of two editions, aided as they were by the greatest of living names, can be no proof; nor have I observed among the numberless recent speculations of the English booksellers, a single reprint of even those tales, satires, and critical essays, not to be familiar with which would? in the last age, have been considered as disgraceful in any one making the least pretension to letters. In the hope of exciting the curiosity, at least, of some of the thousands of young persons who seem to be growing up in contented ignorance of one of the greatest of our masters, I shall transcribe what George Ellis, whose misgivings about Scott’s edition, when first undertaken, had been so serious, was pleased to write some months after its completion.

“Claremont, 23d September, 1808.

“I must confess that I took up the book with some degree of trepidation, considering an edition of such a
writer as on every account periculosæ plenum opus aleæ; but as soon as I became acquainted with your plan I proceeded boldly, and really feel at this moment sincerely grateful to you for much exquisite amusement. It now seems to me that your critical remarks ought to have occurred to myself. Such a passionate admirer of
Dryden’s fables, the noblest specimen of versification (in my mind) that is to be found in any modern language, ought to have perused his theatrical pieces with more candour than I did, and to have attributed to the bad taste of the age, rather than to his own, the numerous defects by which those hasty compositions are certainly deformed. I ought to have considered that whatever Dryden wrote must, for some reason or other, be worth reading; that his bombast and his indelicacy, however disgusting, were not without their use to any one who took an interest in our literary history; that—in short, there are a thousand reflections which I ought to have made and never did make, and the result was that your Dryden was to me a perfectly new book. It is certainly painful to see a race-horse in a hackney-chaise, but when one considers that he will suffer infinitely less from the violent exertion to which he is condemned, than a creature of inferior race—and that the wretched cock-tail on whom the same task is usually imposed, must shortly become a martyr in the service, one’s conscience becomes more at ease, and we are enabled to enjoy Dr Johnson’s favourite pleasure of rapid motion without much remorse on the score of its cruelty. Since, then, your hackneyman is not furnished with a whip, and you can so easily canter from post to post, go on and prosper!”

To return for a moment to Scott’s Biography of Dryden—the only life of a great poet which he has left us, and also his only detailed work on the personal
fortunes of one to whom literature was a profession—it was penned just when he had begun to apprehend his own destiny. On this point of view, forbidden to contemporary delicacy, we may now pause with blameless curiosity; and if I be not mistaken, it will reward our attention. Seriously as he must have in those days been revolving the hazards of literary enterprise, he could not, it is probable, have handled any subject of this class without letting out here and there thoughts and feelings proper to his own biographer’s province; but, widely as he and his predecessor may appear to stand apart as regards some of the most important both of intellectual and moral characteristics, they had nevertheless many features of resemblance, both as men and as authors; and I doubt if the entire range of our annals could have furnished a theme more calculated to keep Scott’s scrutinizing interest awake, than that which opened on him as he contemplated step by step the career of

There are grave lessons which that story was not needed to enforce upon his mind; he required no such beacon to make him revolt from paltering with the dignity of woman, or the passions of youth, or insulting by splenetic levities the religious convictions of any portion of his countrymen. But Dryden’s prostitution of his genius to the petty bitternesses of political warfare, and the consequences both as to the party he served, and the antagonists he provoked, might well supply matter for serious consideration to the author of the Melville song. “Where,” says Scott, “is the expert swordsman that does not delight in the flourish of his weapon? and a brave man will least of all withdraw himself from his ancient standard when the tide of battle beats against it.” But he says also,—and I know enough of his own then recent experiences, in his intercourse
with some who had been among his earliest and dearest associates, not to apply the language to the circumstances that suggested it—“He who keenly engages in political controversy, must not only encounter the vulgar abuse which he may justly contemn, but the altered eye of friends whose regard is chilled;” nor when he adds, that “the protecting zeal of his party did not compensate Dryden for the loss of those whom he alienated in their service,” can I help connecting this reflection too with his own subsequent abstinence from party personalities, in which, had the expert swordsman’s delight in the flourish of his weapon prevailed, he might have rivalled the success of either Dryden or
Swift, to be repaid like them by the settled rancour of Whigs, and the jealous ingratitude of Tories.

It is curious enough to compare the hesitating style of his apology for that tinge of evanescent superstition which seems to have clouded occasionally Dryden’s bright and solid mind, with the open avowal that he has “pride in recording his author’s decided admiration of old ballads and popular tales;” and perhaps his personal feelings were hardly less his prompter where he dismisses with brief scorn the sins of negligence and haste, which had been so often urged against Dryden. “Nothing,” he says, “is so easily attained as the power of presenting the extrinsic qualities of fine painting, fine music, or fine poetry; the beauty of colour and outline, the combination of notes, the melody of versification, may be imitated by artists of mediocrity; and many will view, hear, or peruse their performances, without being able positively to discover why they should not, since composed according to all the rules, afford pleasure equal to those of Raphael, Handel, or Dryden. The deficiency lies in the vivifying spirit which, like alcohol, may be reduced to the same principle in all the fine arts. The
French are said to possess the best possible rules for building ships of war, although not equally remarkable for their power of fighting them. When criticism becomes a pursuit separate from poetry, those who follow it are apt to forget that the legitimate ends of the art for which they lay down rules, are instruction and delight, and that these points being attained, by what road soever, entitles a poet to claim the prize of successful merit. Neither did the learned authors of these disquisitions sufficiently attend to the general disposition of mankind, which cannot be contented even with the happiest imitations of former excellence, but demands novelty as a necessary ingredient for amusement. To insist that every epic poem shall have the plan of the
Iliad, and every tragedy be modelled by the rules of Aristotle, resembles the principle of the architect who should build all his houses with the same number of windows and of stories. It happened, too, inevitably, that the critics in the plenipotential authority which they exercised, often assumed as indispensable requisites of the drama, or epopeia, circumstances which, in the great authorities they quoted, were altogether accidental or indifferent. These they erected into laws, and handed down as essential; although the forms prescribed have often as little to do with the merit and success of the original from which they are taken, as the shape of the drinking glass with the flavour of the wine which it contains.” These sentences appear, from the dates, to have been penned immediately after the biographer of Dryden (who wrote no epic) had perused the Edinburgh Review on Marmion.

I conclude with a passage, in writing which he seems to have anticipated the only serious critical charge that was ever brought against his edition of Dryden as a whole—namely, the loose and irregular way in which
his own æsthetical notions are indicated, rather than expounded. “While Dryden,” says
Scott, “examined, discussed, admitted, or rejected the rules proposed by others, he forbore, from prudence, indolence, or a regard for the freedom of Parnassus, to erect himself into a legislator. His doctrines are scattered without system or pretence to it: it is impossible to read far without finding some maxim for doing, or forbearing, which every student of poetry will do well to engrave upon the tablets of his memory; but the author’s mode of instruction is neither harsh nor dictatorial.”

On the whole it is impossible to doubt that the success of Dryden in rapidly reaching, and till the end of a long life holding undisputed, the summit of public favour and reputation, in spite of his “brave neglect” of minute finishing, narrow laws, and prejudiced authorities, must have had a powerful effect in nerving Scott’s hope and resolution for the wide ocean of literary enterprise into which he had now fairly launched his bark. Like Dryden, he felt himself to be “amply stored with acquired knowledge, much of it the fruits of early reading and application;” anticipated that, though, “while engaged in the hurry of composition, or overcome by the lassitude of continued literary labour,” he should sometimes “draw with too much liberality on a tenacious memory,” no “occasional imperfections would deprive him of his praise;” in short, made up his mind that “pointed and nicely-turned lines, sedulous study, and long and repeated correction and revision,” would all be dispensed with, provided their place were supplied, as in Dryden, by “rapidity of conception, a readiness of expressing every idea, without losing any thing by the way,” “perpetual animation and elasticity of thought;” and language “never laboured, never loitering, never (in Dryden’s own phrase) cursedly confined.”


Scott’s correspondence, about the time when his Dryden was published, is a good deal occupied with a wild project of his friend Henry Weber—that of an extensive edition of our Ancient Metrical Romances, for which, in their own original dimensions, the enthusiastic German supposed the public appetite to have been set on edge by the “Specimens” of Ellis, and imperfectly gratified by the text of Sir Tristrem. Scott assured him that Ellis’s work had been popular, rather in spite than by reason of the antique verses introduced here and there among his witty and sparkling prose; while Ellis told him, with equal truth, that the Tristrem had gone through two editions, simply owing to the celebrity of its editor’s name; and that, of a hundred that had purchased the book, ninety-nine had read only the preface and notes, but not one syllable of True Thomas’s “quaint Inglis.” Weber, in reply to Ellis, alleged that Scott had not had leisure to consider his plan so fully as it deserved; that nothing could prevent its success, provided Scott would write a preliminary essay, and let his name appear in the title-page, along with his own; and though Scott wholly declined this last proposal, he persisted for some months in a negotiation with the London booksellers, which ended as both his patrons had foreseen.

“But how is this?”—(Ellis writes)—“Weber tells me he is afraid Mr Scott will not be able to do any thing for the recommendation of his Romances, because he is himself engaged in no less than five different literary enterprises, some of them of immense extent. Five? Why, no combination of blood and bone can possibly stand this; and Sir John Sinclair, however successful in pointing out the best modes of feeding common gladiators, has not discovered the means of training minds to such endless fatigue. I dare not ask you for an account of these projects, nor even for a letter during the continuance of this
seven years’ apprenticeship, and only request that you will, after the completion of your labours, take measures to lay my ghost, which will infallibly be walking before that time, and suffering all the pains of unsatisfied curiosity. Seriously, I don’t quite like your imposing on yourself such a series of tasks. Some one is, I believe, always of service—because, whatever you write at the same time con amore, comes in as a relaxation, and is likely to receive more spirit and gaiety from that circumstance; besides which, every species of study perhaps is capable of furnishing allusions, and adding vigour and solidity to poetry. Too constant attention to what they call their art, and too much solicitude about its minutiæ, has been, I think, the fault of every poet since
Pope; perhaps it was his too perhaps the frequent and varied studies imposed upon him by his necessities contributed, in some measure, to Dryden’s characteristic splendour of style. Yet, surely, the best poet of the age ought not to be incessantly employed in the drudgeries of literature. I shall lament if you are effectually distracted from the exercise of the talent in which you are confessedly without a rival.”

The poet answers as follows:—“My giving my name to Weber’s Romances is out of the question, as assuredly I have not time to do any thing that can entitle it to stand in his titlepage; but I will do all I can for him in the business. By the by, I wish he would be either more chary in his communications on the subject of my employments, or more accurate. I often employ his assistance in making extracts, &c., and I may say to him as Lord Ogleby does to Canton, that he never sees me badiner a little with a subject, but he suspects mischief—to wit, an edition. In the mean time, suffice it to say, that I have done with poetry for some time—it is a scourging crop, and ought not to be hastily repeated. Editing, there-
fore, may be considered as a green crop of turnips or peas, extremely useful for those whose circumstances do not admit of giving their farm a summer fallow.
Swift is my grande opus at present, though I am under engagements, of old standing, to write a Life of Thomson from some original materials. I have completed an edition of some State Papers of Sir Ralph Sadler, which I believe you will find curious; I have, moreover, arranged, for republication the more early volumes of Somers’s Tracts; but these are neither toilsome nor exhausting labours. Swift, in fact, is my only task of great importance. My present official employment leaves my time very much my own, even while the courts are sitting and entirely so in the vacation. My health is strong, and my mind active; I will therefore do as much as I can with justice to the tasks I have undertaken, and rest when advanced age and more independent circumstances entitle me to repose.”

This letter is dated Ashestiel, October 8, 1808; but it carries us back to the month of April, when the Dryden was completed. His engagements with London publishers respecting the Somers and the Sadler, were, I believe, entered into before the end of 1807; but Constable appears to have first ascertained them, when he accompanied the second cargo of Marmion to the great southern market; and, alarmed at the prospect of losing his hold on Scott’s industry, he at once invited him to follow up his Dryden by an Edition of Swift on the same scale,—offering, moreover, to double the rate of payment which he had contracted for with the London publisher of the Dryden; that is to say, to give him L.1500 for the new undertaking. This munificent tender was accepted without hesitation; and as early as May, I find Scott writing to his literary allies
in all directions for books, pamphlets, and MSS. materials likely to be serviceable in completing and illustrating the Life and Works of the Dean of St Patrick’s. While these were accumulating about him, which they soon did in greater abundance than he had anticipated, he concluded his labours on Sadler’s State Papers, characteristically undervalued in his letter to
Ellis, and kept pace, at the same time, with Ballantyne, as the huge collection of the Somers’ Tracts continued to move through the press. The Sadler was published in the course of 1809, in three large volumes, quarto; but the last of the thirteen equally ponderous tomes to which Somers extended, was not dismissed from his desk until towards the conclusion of 1812.

But these were not his only tasks during the summer and autumn of 1808; and if he had not “five different enterprises” on his hands when Weber said so to Ellis, he had more than five very soon after. He edited this year, Strutt’s unfinished romance of Queenhoo-Hall, and equipped the fourth volume with a conclusion in the fashion of the original;* but how little he thought of this matter may be guessed from one of his notes to Ballantyne, in which he says, “I wish you would see how far the copy of Queenhoo-Hall, sent last night, extends, that I may not write more nonsense than enough.” The publisher of this work was John Murray, of London. It was immediately preceded by a reprint of Captain Carleton’s Memoirs of the War of the Spanish Succession, to which he gave a lively preface and various notes; and followed by a similar edition of the Memoirs of Robert Cary Earl of Monmouth,—each

* See General Preface to Waverley, pp. xiv-xvii. and Appendix No. II. p. lxv.

of these being a single octavo, printed by Ballantyne and published by

The republication of Carleton,* Johnson’s eulogy of which fills a pleasant page in Boswell, had probably been suggested by the lively interest which Scott took in the first outburst of Spanish patriotism consequent on Napoleon’s transactions at Bayonne. There is one passage in the preface which I must indulge myself by transcribing. Speaking of the absurd recall of Peterborough, from the command in which he had exhibited such a wonderful combination of patience and prudence with military daring, he says:—“One ostensible reason was, that Peterborough’s parts were of too lively and mercurial a quality, and that his letters showed more wit than became a General;—a commonplace objection, raised by the dull malignity of commonplace minds, against those whom they see discharging with ease and indifference the tasks which they themselves execute (if at all) with the sweat of their brow and in the heaviness of their hearts. There is a certain hypocrisy in business, whether civil or military, as well as in religion, which they will do well to observe who, not satisfied with discharging their duty, desire also the good repute of men.” It was not long before some of the dull malignants of the Parliament House began to insinuate what at length found a dull and dignified mouthpiece in the House of Commons—that if a Clerk of Session had any real business to do, it could not be done well by a man who found time for more literary enterprises than any other author of the age undertook—“wrote more

* I believe it is now pretty generally believed that Carleton’s Memoirs were among the numberless fabrications of Defoe; but in this case, as in that of his Cavalier, he no doubt had before him the rude journal of some officer who had really served in the campaigns described with such an inimitable air of truth.

Lord Archibald Hamilton serenely added, “than any body could find leisure to read”—and, moreover, mingled in general society as much as many that had no pursuit but pleasure.

The eager struggling of the different booksellers to engage Scott at this time, is a very amusing feature in the voluminous correspondence before me. Had he possessed treble the energy for which it was possible to give any man credit, he could never have encountered a tithe of the projects that the post brought day after day to him, announced with extravagant enthusiasm, and urged with all the arts of conciliation. I shall mention only one out of at least a dozen gigantic schemes which were thus proposed before he had well settled himself to his Swift; and I do so, because something of the kind was a few years later carried into execution. This was a General Edition of British Novelists, beginning with De Foe and reaching to the end of the last century; to be set forth with biographical prefaces and illustrative notes by Scott, and printed of course by Ballantyne. The projector was Murray, who was now eager to start on all points in the race with Constable; but this was not, as we shall see presently, the only business that prompted my enterprising friend’s first visit to Ashestiel.

Conversing with Scott, many years afterwards, about the tumult of engagements in which he was thus involved, he said, “Ay, it was enough to tear me to pieces, but there was a wonderful exhilaration about it all: my blood was kept at fever-pitch—I felt as if I could have grappled with any thing and every thing; then, there was hardly one of all my schemes that did not afford me the means of serving some poor devil of a brother author. There were always huge piles of materials to be arranged, sifted, and indexed—volumes of extracts to be transcribed—journeys to be made hither and thither,
for ascertaining little facts and dates,—in short, I could commonly keep half-a-dozen of the ragged regiment of Parnassus in tolerable case.” I said he must have felt something like what a locomotive engine on a railway might be supposed to do, when a score of coal waggons are seen linking themselves to it the moment it gets the steam up, and it rushes on its course regardless of the burden. “Yes,” said he, laughing, and making a crashing cut with his axe (for we were felling larches); “but there was a cursed lot of dung carts too.” He was seldom, in fact, without some of these appendages; and I admired nothing more in him than the patient courtesy, the unwearied gentle kindness with which he always treated them, in spite of their delays and blunders, to say nothing of the almost incredible vanity and presumption which more than one of them often exhibited in the midst of their fawning; and I believe, with all their faults, the worst and weakest of them repaid him by a canine fidelity of affection. This part of Scott’s character recalls by far the most pleasing trait in that of his last predecessor in the plenitude of literary authority—
Dr Johnson. There was perhaps nothing (except the one great blunder) that had a worse effect on the course of his pecuniary fortunes, than the readiness with which he exerted his interest with the booksellers on behalf of inferior writers. Even from the commencement of his connexion with Constable in particular, I can trace a continual series of such applications. They stimulated the already too sanguine publisher to numberless risks; and when these failed, the result was, in one shape or another, some corresponding deduction from the fair profits of his own literary labour. “I like well,” Constable was often heard to say in the sequel, “like well Scott’s ain bairns—but heaven preserve me from those of his fathering!”


Every now and then, however, he had the rich compensation of finding that his interference had really promoted the worldly interests of some meritorious obscure. Early in 1808 he tasted this pleasure, in the case of a poetical shoemaker of Glasgow, Mr John Struthers, a man of rare worth and very considerable genius, whose “Poor Man’s Sabbath” was recommended to his notice by Joanna Baillie, and shortly after published, at his desire, by Mr Constable. He thus writes to Miss Baillie from Ashestiel, on the 9th of May, 1808:—

“Your letter found me in this quiet corner, and while it always gives me pride and pleasure to hear from you, I am truly concerned at Constable’s unaccountable delays. I suppose that, in the hurry of his departure for London, his promise to write to Mr Struthers had escaped; as for any desire to quit his bargain, it is out of the question. If Mr Struthers will send to my house in Castle Street, the manuscript designed for the press, I will get him a short bill for the copy-money the moment Constable returns, or perhaps before he comes down. He may rely on the bargain being definitively settled, and the printing will, I suppose, be begun immediately on the great bibliopolist’s return; on which occasion I shall have, according to good old phrase, ‘a crow to pluck with him, and a pock to put the feathers in.’ I heartily wish we could have had the honour to see Miss Agnes and you at our little farm, which is now in its glory—all the twigs bursting into leaf, and all the lambs skipping on the hills. I have been fishing almost from morning till night; and Mrs Scott, and two ladies our guests, are wandering about on the banks in the most Arcadian fashion in the world. We are just on the point of setting out on a pilgrimage to the ‘bonny bush, aboon Traquhair,’ which I believe will occupy us all the
morning. Adieu, my dear Miss Baillie. Nothing will give me more pleasure than to hear that you have found the northern breezes fraught with inspiration. You are not entitled to spare yourself, and none is so deeply interested in your labours as your truly respectful friend and admirer,

Walter Scott.

“P.S. We quit our quiet pastures to return to Edinburgh on the 10th. So Mr Struthers’ parcel will find me there, if he is pleased to intrust me with the care of it.”

Mr Struthers’ volume was unfortunate in bearing a title so very like that of James Grahame’s Sabbath, which, though not written sooner, had been published a year or two before. This much interfered with its success, yet it was not on the whole unsuccessful: it put some L.30 or L.40 into the pocket of a good man, to whom this was a considerable supply; but it made his name and character known, and thus served him far more essentially; for he wisely continued to cultivate his poetical talents without neglecting the opportunity, thus afforded him through them, of pursuing his original calling under better advantages. It is said that the solitary and meditative generation of cobblers have produced a larger list of murders and other domestic crimes than any other mechanical trade, except the butchers; but the sons of Crispin have, to balance their account, a not less disproportionate catalogue of poets; and foremost among these stands the pious author of the Poor Man’s Sabbath; one of the very few that have had sense and fortitude to resist the innumerable temptations to which any measure of celebrity exposes persons of their class. I believe Mr Struthers still survives to enjoy the retrospect of a long and virtuous life. His letters to Scott are equally creditable to his taste and
JAMES HOGG—1808.177
his feelings, and sometime after we shall find him making a pilgrimage of gratitude to Ashestiel.*

James Hogg was by this time beginning to be generally known and appreciated in Scotland; and the popularity of his “Mountain Bard” encouraged Scott to more strenuous intercession in his behalf. I have before me a long array of letters on this subject, which passed between Scott and the Earl of Dalkeith and his brother Lord Montagu, in 1808. Hogg’s prime ambition at this period was to procure an ensigncy in a militia regiment, and he seems to have set little by Scott’s representations that the pay of such a situation was very small, and that, if he obtained it, he would probably find his relations with his brother officers far from agreeable. There was, however, another objection which Scott could not hint to the aspirant himself, but which seems to have been duly considered by those who were anxious to promote his views. Militia officers of that day were by no means unlikely to see their nerves put to the test; and the Shepherd’s—though he wrote some capital war-songs, especially Donald Macdonald—were not heroically strung. This was in truth no secret among his early intimates, though he had not measured himself at all exactly on that score, and was even tempted, when he found there was no chance of the militia epaulette, to threaten that he would “list for a soldier” in a marching regiment. Notwithstanding at least one melancholy precedent, the excise, which would have suited him almost as badly as “hugging Brown Bess,” was next thought of; and the

* I am happy to learn, as this page passes through the press, from my friend Mr John Kerr of Glasgow, that about three years ago Mr Struthers was appointed keeper of Stirling’s Library, a collection of some consequence, in that city. The selection of him for this respectable situation reflects honour on the directors of the institution.—(December, 1836).

Shepherd himself seems to have entered into that plan with considerable alacrity: but I know not whether he changed his mind, or what other cause prevented such an appointment from taking place. After various shiftings he at last obtained, as we shall see, from the late Duke of Buccleuch’s munificence, the gratuitous life-rent of a small farm in the vale of Yarrow; and had he contented himself with the careful management of its fields, the rest of his days might have been easy. But he could not withstand the attractions of Edinburgh, which carried him away from Altrive for months every year; and when at home, a warm and hospitable disposition, so often stirred by vanity less pardonable than his, made him convert his cottage into an unpaid hostelrie for the reception of endless troops of thoughtless admirers; and thus, in spite of much help and much forbearance, he was never out of one set of pecuniary difficulties before he had began to weave the meshes of some fresh entanglement. In pace requiescat. There will never be such an Ettrick Shepherd again.

The following is an extract from a letter of Scott’s to his brother Thomas, dated 20th June, 1808.

“Excellent news to-day from Spain—yet I wish the patriots had a leader of genius and influence. I fear the Castilian nobility are more sunk than the common people, and that it will be easier to find armies than generals. A Wallace, Dundee, or Montrose, would be the man for Spain at this moment. It is, however, a consolation that, though the grandees of the earth, when the post of honour becomes the post of danger, may be less ambitious of occupying it, there may be some hidalgo among the mountains of Asturias with all the spirit of the Cid Ruy Diaz, or Don Pelayo, or Don Quixote if you will, whose gallantry was only impeachable from the objects on which he exercised it. It strikes me as
very singular to have all the places mentioned in
Don Quixote and Gil Blas now the scenes of real and important events. Gazettes dated from Oviedo, and gorges fortified in the Sierra Morena, sounds like history in the land of romance.

James Hogg has driven his pigs to a bad market. I am endeavouring, as a pis aller, to have him made an Excise officer, that station being, with respect to Scottish geniuses, the grave of all the Capulets. Witness Adam Smith, Burns, &c.”

I mentioned the name of Joanna Baillie (for “who,” as Scott says in a letter of this time, “ever speaks of Miss Sappho?”) in connexion with the MS. of the Poor Man’s Sabbath. From Glasgow, where she had found out Struthers in April, she proceeded to Edinburgh, and took up her abode for a week or two under Scott’s roof. Their acquaintance was thus knit into a deep and respectful affection on both sides; and henceforth they maintained a close epistolary correspondence, which will, I think, supply this compilation with some of the most interesting of its materials. But within a few weeks after Joanna’s departure, he was to commence another intimacy not less sincere and cordial; and when I name Mr Morritt of Rokeby, I have done enough to prepare many of my readers to expect not inferior gratification from the still more abundant series of letters in which, from this time to the end of his life, Scott communicated his thoughts and feelings to one of the most accomplished men that ever shared his confidence. He had now reached a period of life after which real friendships are but seldom formed; and it is fortunate that another English one had been thoroughly compacted before death cut the ties between him and George Ellis—because his dearest intimates within Scotland had
of course but a slender part in his written correspondence.

Several mutual friends had written to recommend Mr Morritt to his acquaintance—among others, Mr W. S. Rose and Lady Louisa Stuart. His answer to her ladyship I must insert here, for the sake of the late inimitable Lydia White, who so long ruled without a rival in the soft realm of blue Mayfair.

“Edinburgh, 16th June, 1808.
“My dear Lady Louisa,

“Nothing will give us more pleasure than to have the honour of showing every attention in our power to Mr and Mrs Morritt, and I am particularly happy in a circumstance that at once promises me a great deal of pleasure in the acquaintance of your Ladyship’s friends, and affords me the satisfaction of hearing from you again. Pray don’t triumph over me too much in the case of Lydia. I stood a very respectable siege; but she caressed my wife, coaxed my children, and made, by dint of cake and pudding, some impression even upon the affections of my favourite dog:—so, when all the outworks were carried, the mere fortress had no choice but to surrender on honourable terms. To the best of my thinking, notwithstanding the cerulean hue of her stockings, and a most plentiful stock of eccentric affectation, she is really at bottom a good-natured woman, with much liveliness and some talent. She is now set out to the Highlands, where she is likely to encounter many adventures. Mrs Scott and I went as far as Loch Catrine with her, from which jaunt I have just returned. We had most heavenly weather, which was peculiarly favourable to my fair companions’ zeal for sketching every object that fell in their way, from a castle to a pigeon-house. Did your Ladyship ever
travel with a drawing companion? Mine drew like cart-horses, as well in laborious zeal as in effect; for, after all, I could not help hinting that the cataracts delineated bore a singular resemblance to haycocks, and the rocks much correspondence to large old-fashioned cabinets with their folding-doors open. So much for Lydia, whom I left on her journey through the Highlands, but by what route she had not resolved, I gave her three plans, and think it likely she will adopt none of them: moreover, when the executive government of postilions, landlords, and Highland boatmen devolves upon her English servant instead of me, I am afraid the distresses of the errant damsels will fall a little beneath the dignity of romances. All this nonsense is entre nous, for Miss White has been actively zealous in getting me some Irish correspondence about
Swift, and otherwise very obliging.

“It is not with my inclination that I fag for the booksellers; but what can I do? My poverty, and not my will consents. The income of my office is only reversionary, and my private fortune much limited. My poetical success fairly destroyed my prospects of professional success, and obliged me to retire from the bar; for though I had a competent share of information and industry, who would trust their cause to the author of the Lay of the Last Minstrel? How, although I do allow that an author should take care of his literary character, yet I think the least thing that his literary character can do in return is to take some care of the author, who is unfortunately, like Jeremy in Love for Love, furnished with a set of tastes and appetites which would do honour to the income of a Duke if he had it. Besides, I go to work with Swift con amore; for, like Dryden, he is an early favourite of mine. The Marmion is nearly out, and I have made
one or two alterations on the third edition, with which the press is now groaning. So soon as it is, it will make the number of copies published within the space of six months amount to eight thousand,—an immense number surely, and enough to comfort the author’s wounded feelings, had the claws of the reviewers been able to reach him through the steel jack of true Border indifference. Your Ladyship’s much obliged and faithful servant,

Walter Scott.”

Mr and Mrs Morritt reached Edinburgh soon after this letter was written. Scott showed them the lions of the town and its vicinity, exactly as if he had nothing else to attend to but their gratification; and Mr Morritt recollects with particular pleasure one long day spent in rambling along the Esk by Roslin and Hawthornden,
“Where Jonson sat in Drummond’s social shade,”
down to the old haunts of Lasswade.

“When we approached that village,” says the Memorandum with which Mr Morritt favours me, “Scott, who had laid hold of my arm, turned along the road in a direction not leading to the place where the carriage was to meet us. After walking some minutes towards Edinburgh, I suggested that we were losing the scenery of the Esk, and, besides, had Dalkeith Palace yet to see. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘and I have been bringing you where there is little enough to be seen—only that Scotch cottage’ (one by the road side, with a small garth); ‘but, though not worth looking at, I could not pass it. It was our first country house when newly married, and many a contrivance we had to make it comfortable. I made a dining-table for it with my own hands. Look at these two miserable willow-trees on either side the gate into the enclosure; they are tied together at the top to be an arch, and a cross made of two sticks over
MR MORRITT—1808.183
them is not yet decayed. To be sure it is not much of a lion to show a stranger; but I wanted to see it again myself, for I assure you that after I had constructed it, mamma’ (
Mrs Scott) ‘and I both of us thought it so fine, we turned out to see it by moonlight, and walked backwards from it to the cottage door, in admiration of our own magnificence and its picturesque effect. I did want to see if it was still there—so now we will look after the barouche, and make the best of our way to Dalkeith.’ Such were the natural feelings that endeared the Author of Marmion and the Lay to those who ‘saw him in his happier hours of social pleasure.’ His person at that time may be exactly known from Raeburn’s first picture, which had just been executed for his bookseller, Constable, and which was a most faithful likeness of him and his dog Camp. The literal fidelity of the portraiture, however, is its principal merit. The expression is serious and contemplative, very unlike the hilarity and vivacity then habitual to his speaking face, but quite true to what it was in the absence of such excitement. His features struck me at first as commonplace and heavy,—but they were almost always lighted up by the flashes of the mind within. This required a hand more masterly than Raeburn’s; and indeed, in my own opinion, Chantrey alone has in his bust attained that, in his case, most difficult task of portraying the features faithfully, and yet giving the real and transient expression of the countenance when animated.

“We passed a week in Edinburgh, chiefly in his society and that of his friends the Mackenzies. We were so far on our way to Brahan Castle, in Ross-shire. Scott unlocked all his antiquarian lore, and supplied us with numberless data, such as no guide-book could have furnished, and such as his own Monkbarns might have delighted to give. It would be idle to tell how much plea-
sure and instruction his advice added to a tour in itself so productive of both, as well as of private friendships and intimacies, now too generally terminated by death, but never severed by caprice or disappointment. His was added to the number by our reception now in Edinburgh, and, on our return from the Highlands, at Ashestiel—where he had made us promise to visit him, saying that the farm-house had pigeon-holes enough for such of his friends as could live, like him, on Tweed salmon and Forest mutton. There he was the cherished friend and kind neighbour of every middling Selkirkshire yeoman, just as easily as in Edinburgh he was the companion of clever youth and narrative old age in refined society. He carried us one day to Melrose Abbey or Newark—another, to course with mountain greyhounds by Yarrow braes or St Mary’s loch, repeating every ballad or legendary tale connected with the scenery—and on a third, we must all go to a farmer’s kirn, or harvest-home, to dance with Border lasses on a barn floor, drink whisky punch, and enter with him into all the gossip and good fellowship of his neighbours, on a complete footing of unrestrained conviviality, equality, and mutual respect. His wife and happy young family were clustered round him, and the cordiality of his reception would have unbent a misanthrope.

“At this period his conversation was more equal and animated than any man’s that I ever knew. It was most characterised by the extreme felicity and fun of his illustrations, drawn from the whole encyclopædia of life and nature, in a style sometimes too exuberant for written narrative, but which to him was natural and spontaneous. A hundred stories, always apposite, and often interesting the mind by strong pathos, or eminently ludicrous, were daily told, which, with many more, have since been transplanted, almost in the same language, into the Wa-
MR MORRITT—1808.185
verley novels and his other writings. These and his recitations of poetry, which can never be forgotten by those who knew him, made up the charm that his boundless memory enabled him to exert to the wonder of the gaping lovers of wonders. But equally impressive and powerful was the language of his warm heart, and equally wonderful were the conclusions of his vigorous understanding, to those who could return or appreciate either. Among a number of such recollections, I have seen many of the thoughts which then passed through his mind embodied in the delightful prefaces annexed late in life to his poetry and novels. Those on literary quarrels and literary irritability are exactly what he then expressed. Keenly enjoying literature as he did, and indulging his own love of it in perpetual composition, he always maintained the same estimate of it as subordinate and auxiliary to the purposes of life, and rather talked of men and events than of books and criticism. Literary fame, he always said, was a bright feather in the cap, but not the substantial cover of a well-protected head. This sound and manly feeling was what I have seen described by some of his biographers as pride; and it will always be thought so by those whose own vanity can only be gratified by the admiration of others, and who mistake shows for realities. None valued the love and applause of others more than
Scott; but it was to the love and applause of those he valued in return that he restricted the feeling without restricting the kindness. Men who did not, or would not, understand this, perpetually mistook him and, after loading him with undesired eulogy, perhaps in his own house neglected common attention or civility to other parts of his family. It was on such an occasion that I heard him murmur in my ear, ‘Author as I am, I wish these good people would recollect that I began with being a gentleman, and don’t mean to give
up the character.’ Such was all along his feeling, and this, with a slight prejudice common to Scotchmen in favour of ancient and respectable family descent, constituted what in Grub Street is called his pride. It was, at least, what
Johnson would have justly called defensive pride. From all other, and still more from mere vanity, I never knew any man so remarkably free.”

The farmer at whose annual kirn Scott and all his household were, in those days, regular guests, was Mr Laidlaw, the Duke of Buccleuch’s tenant on the lands of Peel, which are only separated from the eastern terrace of Ashestiel by the ravine and its brook. Mr Laidlaw was himself possessed of some landed property in the same neighbourhood, and being considered as wealthy, and fond of his wealth, he was usually called among the country people Laird Nippy; an expressive designation which it would be difficult to translate. Though a very dry, demure, and taciturn old presbyterian, he could not resist the Sheriff’s jokes, nay, he even gradually subdued his scruples so far, as to become a pretty constant attendant at his “English printed prayers” on the Sundays; which, indeed, were by this time rather more popular than quite suited the capacity of the parlour-chapel. Mr Laidlaw’s wife was a woman of superior mind and manners—a great reader, and one of the few to whom Scott liked lending his books; for most strict and delicate was he always in the care of them, and indeed, hardly any trivial occurrence ever seemed to touch his temper at all, except any thing like irreverent treatment of a book. The intercourse between the family at Ashestiel and this worthy woman and her children, was a constant interchange of respect and kindness; but I remember to have heard Scott say that the greatest compliment he had ever received in his life was from the rigid old farmer himself; for, years after he had left Ashestiel, he disco-
vered casually that special care had been taken to keep the turf seat on the Shirra’s knowe in good repair: and this was much from Nippy.

And here I must set down a story which, most readers will smile to be told, was often repeated by Scott; and always with an air that seemed to me, in spite of his endeavours to the contrary, as grave as the usual aspect of Laird Nippy of the Peel. This neighbour was a distant kinsman of his dear friend William Laidlaw;—so distant, that elsewhere in that condition they would scarcely have remembered any community of blood; but they both traced their descent, in the ninth degree, to an ancestress who, in the days of John Knox, fell into trouble from a suspicion of witchcraft. In her time the Laidlaws were rich and prosperous, and held rank among the best gentry of Tweeddale; but in some evil hour, her husband, the head of his blood, reproached her with her addiction to the black art, and she, in her anger, cursed the name and lineage of Laidlaw. Her only son, who stood by, implored her to revoke the malediction; but in vain. Next day, however, on the renewal of his entreaties, she carried him with her into the woods, made him slay a heifer, sacrificed it to the power of evil in his presence, and then, collecting the ashes in her apron, invited the youth to see her commit them to the river. “Follow them,” said she, “from stream to pool, as long as they float visible, and as many streams as you shall then have passed, for so many generations shall your descendants prosper. After that they shall like the rest of the name be poor, and take their part in my curse.” The streams he counted, were nine; and now, Scott would say, “look round you in this country, and sure enough the Laidlaws are one and all landless men, with the single exception of Auld Nippy!” Many times had I heard both him and William Laidlaw tell
this story, before any suspicion got abroad that Nippy’s wealth rested on insecure foundations. Year after year, we never escorted a stranger by the Peel, but I heard the tale;—and at last it came with a new conclusion;—“and now, think whatever we choose of it, my good friend Nippy is a bankrupt.”

Mr Morritt’s mention of the “happy young family clustered round him” at Laird Nippy’s kirn, reminds me that I ought to say a few words on Scott’s method of treating his children in their early days. He had now two boys and two girls;—and he never had more.* He was not one of those who take much delight in a mere infant; but no father ever devoted more time and tender care to his offspring than he did to each of his, as they successively reached the age when they could listen to him and understand his talk. Like their mute playmates, Camp and the greyhounds, they had at all times free access to his study; he never considered their tattle

* I may as well transcribe here the rest of the record in Scott’s family Bible. After what was quoted in a former chapter it thus proceeds:

“24to die Octobris 1799. Margareta C. Scott, filiam apud Edinburgum edidit 15o Novembris 1799, in Ecclesiam Christianam recepta fuit per baptismum dicta filia, nomenque ei adjectum Charlotte Sophia, per virum reverendum Danielem Sandford; sponsoribus prænobili Arthuro Marchione de Downshire, Sophia Dumergue, et Anna Rutherford matre mea.

Margareta C. Scott puerum edidit 28vo Octobris A.D. 1801 apud Edinburgum; nomenque ei adjectum Gualterus, cum per v. rev. Doctorem Danielem Sandford baptizatus erat.

M. C. Scott filiam edidit apud Edinburgum 2do die February 1803, quæ in Ecclesiam recepta fuit per virum reverendum Doctorem Sandford, nomenque ei adjectum Anna Scott.

“24to Decem: 1805. M. C. Scott apud Edinburgum puerum edidit; qui baptizatus erat per virum reverendum Joannem Thomson, Ministrum de Duddingstone prope Edinburgum, nomenque Carolus illi datum.”

as any disturbance; they went and came as pleased their fancy; he was always ready to answer their questions; and when they, unconscious how he was engaged, entreated him to lay down his pen and tell them a story, he would take them on his knee, repeat a ballad or a legend, kiss them, and set them down again to their marbles or ninepins, and resume his labour as if refreshed by the interruption. From a very early age he made them dine at table, and “to sit up to supper” was the great reward when they had been “very good bairns.” In short, he considered it as the highest duty as well as the sweetest pleasure of a parent to be the companion of his children; he partook all their little joys and sorrows, and made his kind unformal instructions to blend so easily and playfully with the current of their own sayings and doings, that so far from regarding him with any distant awe, it was never thought that any sport or diversion could go on in the right way, unless papa were of the party, or that the rainiest day could be dull so he were at home.

Of the irregularity of his own education he speaks with considerable regret, in the autobiographical fragment written this year at Ashestiel; yet his practice does not look as if that feeling had been strongly rooted in his mind;—for he never did show much concern about regulating systematically what is usually called education in the case of his own children. It seemed, on the contrary, as if he attached little importance to any thing else, so he could perceive that the young curiosity was excited̬the intellect, by whatever springs of interest, set in motion. He detested and despised the whole generation of modern children’s books, in which the attempt is made to convey accurate notions of scientific minutiæ: delighting cordially, on the other hand, in those of the preceding age, which, addressing themselves chiefly to
the imagination, obtain through it, as he believed, the best chance of stirring our graver faculties also. He exercised the memory, by selecting for tasks of recitation passages of popular verse the most likely to catch the fancy of children; and gradually familiarized them with the ancient history of their own country, by arresting attention, in the course of his own oral narrations, on incidents and characters of a similar description. Nor did he neglect to use the same means of quickening curiosity as to the events of sacred history. On Sunday he never rode—at least not until his growing infirmity made his pony almost necessary to him—for it was his principle that all domestic animals have a full right to their Sabbath of rest; but after he had read the church service, he usually walked with his whole family, dogs included, to some favourite spot at a considerable distance from the house—most frequently the ruined tower of Elibank—and there dined with them in the open air on a basket of cold provisions, mixing his wine with the water of the brook beside which they all were grouped around him on the turf; and here, or at home, if the weather kept them from their ramble, his Sunday talk was just such a series of biblical lessons as that which we have preserved for the permanent use of rising generations, in his
Tales of a Grandfather, on the early history of Scotland. I wish he had committed that other series to writing too;—how different that would have been from our thousand compilations of dead epitome and imbecile cant! He had his Bible, the Old Testament especially, by heart; and on these days inwove the simple pathos or sublime enthusiasm of Scripture, in whatever story he was telling, with the same picturesque richness as he did, in his week-day tales, the quaint Scotch of Pitscottie, or some rude romantic old rhyme from Barbour’s Bruce or Blind Harry’s Wallace.


By many external accomplishments, either in girl or boy, he set little store. He delighted to hear his daughters sing an old ditty, or one of his own framing; but, so the singer appeared to feel the spirit of her ballad, he was not at all critical of the technical execution. There was one thing, however, on which he fixed his heart hardly less than the ancient Persians of the Cyropædia; like them, next to love of truth, he held love of horsemanship for the prime point of education. As soon as his eldest girl could sit a pony, she was made the regular attendant of his mountain rides; and they all, as they attained sufficient strength, had the like advancement. He taught them to think nothing of tumbles, and habituated them to his own reckless delight in perilous fords and flooded streams; and they all imbibed in great perfection his passion for horses as well, I may venture to add, as his deep reverence for the more important article of that Persian training. “Without courage,” he said, “there cannot be truth; and without truth there can be no other virtue.”

He had a horror of boarding-schools; never allowed his girls to learn any thing out of his own house; and chose their governess—(Miss Miller)—who about this time was domesticated with them, and never left them while they needed one,—with far greater regard to her kind good temper and excellent moral and religious principles, than to the measure of her attainments in what are called fashionable accomplishments. The admirable system of education for boys in Scotland combines all the advantages of public and private instruction; his carried their satchels to the High-School, when the family was in Edinburgh, just as he had done before them, and shared of course the evening society of their happy home. But he rarely, if ever, left them in town, when he could himself be in the country; and at Ashestiel he was, for
better or for worse, his eldest boy’s daily tutor, after he began Latin.

The following letter will serve, among other things, to supply a few more details of the domestic life of Ashestiel:—

To Miss Joanna Baillie—Hampstead.
“Sept. 20, 1808.
“My dear Miss Baillie,

“The law, you know, makes the husband answerable for the debts of his wife, and therefore gives him a right to approach her creditors with an offer of payment; so that, after witnessing many fruitless and broken resolutions of my Charlotte, I am determined, rather than she and I shall appear longer insensible of your goodness, to intrude a few lines on you to answer the letter you honoured her with some time ago. The secret reason of her procrastination is, I believe, some terror of writing in English—which you know is not her native language—to one who is as much distinguished by her command of it as by the purposes she adapts it to. I wish we had the command of what my old friend Pitscottie calls ‘a blink of the sun or a whip of the whirlwind,’ to transport you to this solitude before the frost has stripped it of its leaves. It is not, indeed (even I must confess), equal in picturesque beauty to the banks of Clyde and Evan; but it is so sequestered, so simple, and so solitary, that it seems just to have beauty enough to delight its inhabitants, without a single attraction for any visitor, except those who come for its inhabitants’ sake. And in good sooth, whenever I was tempted to envy the splendid scenery of the lakes of Westmoreland, I always endeavoured to cure my fit of spleen by recollecting that they attract as many idle, insipid, and indolent gazers as any
celebrated beauty in the land, and that our scene of pastoral hills and pure streams is like Touchstone’s mistress, ‘a poor thing, but mine own.’ I regret, however, that these celebrated beauties should have frowned, wept, or pouted upon you, when you honoured them by your visit in summer. Did
Miss Agnes Baillie and you meet with any of the poetical inhabitants of that district—Wordsworth, Southey, or Coleridge? The two former would, I am sure, have been happy in paying their respects to you; with the habits and tastes of the latter I am less acquainted.

“Time has lingered with me from day to day in expectation of being called southward; I now begin to think my journey will hardly take place till winter, or early in spring. One of the most pleasant circumstances attending it will be the opportunity to pay my homage to you, and to claim withal a certain promise concerning a certain play, of which you were so kind as to promise me a reading. I hope you do not permit indolence to lay the paring of her little finger upon you; we cannot afford the interruption to your labours which even that might occasion. And ‘what are you doing?’ your politeness will perhaps lead you to say: in answer,—Why, I am very like a certain ancient King, distinguished in the Edda, who, when Lok paid him a visit,—
‘Was twisting of collars his dogs to hold,
And combing the mane of his courser bold.’
If this idle man’s employment required any apology, we must seek it in the difficulty of seeking food to make savoury messes for our English guests; for we are eight miles from market, and must call in all the country sports to aid the larder. We had here, two days ago, a very pleasant English family, the
Morritts of Rokeby Park, in Yorkshire. The gentleman wandered over all
Greece, and visited the Troad, to aid in confuting the hypothesis of old
Bryant, who contended that Troy town was not taken by the Greeks. His erudition is, however, not of an overbearing kind, which was lucky for me, who am but a slender classical scholar. Charlotte’s kindest and best wishes attend Miss Agnes Baillie, in which I heartily and respectfully join; to you she offers her best apology for not writing, and hopes for your kind forgiveness. I ought perhaps to make one for taking the task off her hands, but We are both at your mercy; and I am ever your most faithful, obedient and admiring servant,

Walter Scott.

“P.S. I have had a visit from the author of the Poor Man’s Sabbath, whose affairs with Constable are, I hope, settled to his satisfaction. I got him a few books more than were originally stipulated, and have endeavoured to interest Lord Leven,* and through him Mr Wilberforce, and through them both the saints in general, in the success of this modest and apparently worthy man. Lord Leven has promised his exertions; and the interest of the party, if exerted, would save a work tenfold inferior in real merit. What think you of Spain? The days of William Wallace and the Cid Ruy Diaz de Bivar seem to be reviving there.”

* The late Earl of Leven had married a lady of the English family of Thornton, whose munificent charities are familiar to the readers of Cowper’s Life and Letters; hence, probably, his Lordship’s influence with the party alluded to in the text.