LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter III 1821

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 the end of January, 1821, Scott went to London, at the request of the other Clerks of Session, that he might watch over the progress of an Act of Parliament, designed to relieve them from a considerable part of their drudgery, in attesting recorded deeds by signature; and his stay was prolonged until near the beginning of the Summer term of his Court. His letters while in London are chiefly to his own family, and on strictly domestic topics; but I shall extract a few of them, chiefly (for reasons which I have already sufficiently intimated) those addressed to his son the Cornet. I need not trespass on the reader’s attention by any attempt to explain in detail the matters to which these letters refer. It will be seen that Sir Walter had heard with deep concern, some rumours of irregularity in the interior of the 18th Hussars; and that the consequent interference of the then Commander of the forces in Ireland, the late Sir David Baird, had been received in any thing but a spirit of humility. The reports that reached Scott proved to have been grossly exaggerated: but I presume there
had been some relaxation of discipline in the regiment, and Sir Walter was by no means sorry to learn, in, the course of the spring, first, that his son had been detached on a small separate service; then that the corps was to be sent to India, in which case he would have a fair pretext for removing him into another regiment; and, finally, that the
Duke of York had resolved on reducing the 18th. Cornet Scott—(who had never himself been suspected of sharing in any of the indiscretions which led to this step)—then travelled for some time in Germany, with a view to his improvement in the science of his profession. He afterwards spent a brief period, for the same purpose, in the Royal Military College of Sandhurst; and ere long he obtained a commission as lieutenant in the 15th, or King’s Hussars—a regiment which has uniformly, I believe, been ranked among the most distinguished in the service and in which his father lived to see him Major.

It will also be seen, that during this visit to London, Sir Walter was released from considerable anxiety on account of his daughter Sophia, whom he had left in a weak state of health at Edinburgh, by the intelligence of her safe accouchement of a boy,—John Hugh Lockhart, the “Hugh Littlejohn” of the Tales of a Grandfather. The approaching marriage of Captain, now Sir Adam Ferguson, to which some jocular allusions occur, may be classed with these objects of family interest; and that event was the source of unmixed satisfaction to Scott, as it did not interrupt his enjoyment of his old friend’s society in the country; for the Captain, though he then pitched a tent for himself, did so at a very short distance from Huntly Burn. I believe the ensuing extracts will need no further commentary.

To Mrs Lockhart, Great King Street, Edinburgh.
“Ditton Park, Feb. 18, 1821.
“My dearest Sophia,

“I received as much pleasure, and was relieved from as much anxiety, as ever I felt in my life, by Lockhart’s kind note, which acquainted me with the happy period that has been put to your suffering, and, as I hope and trust, to the complaints which occasioned it. You are now, my dearest girl, beginning a new course of pleasures, anxieties, and duties, and the best I can wish for you is, that your little boy may prove the same dutiful and affectionate child which you have always been to me, and that God may give him a sound and healthy mind, with a good constitution of body—the greatest blessings which this earth can bestow. Pray be extremely careful of yourself for some time. Young women are apt to injure their health by thinking themselves well too soon. I beg you to be cautious in this respect.

“The news of the young stranger’s arrival was most joyfully received here, and his health and yours toasted in a bumper. Lady Anne is quite well, and Isabella also; and Lady Charlotte, who has rejoined them, is a most beautiful creature indeed. This place is all light and splendour, compared to London, where I was forced to use candles till ten o’clock at least. I have a gay time of it. To-morrow I return to town, and dine with old Sotheby; on Tuesday, with the Duke of Wellington; Wednesday with Croker, and so on. Love to L., the Captain, and the Violet, and give your bantling a kiss extraordinary for Grandpapa. I hope Mungo* approves of the child, for that is a serious point. There are no clogs in the hotel where I lodge, but a tolerably

* Mungo was a favourite Newfoundland dog.

FEBRUARY, 1821.53
conversible cat, who eats a mess of cream with me in the morning. The little chief and his brother have come over from Eton to see me, so I must break off. I am, my dear love, most affectionately yours,

Walter Scott.”

To Walter Scott, Esq., Poriobetto Barracks, Dublin.
“Waterloo Hotel, Jermyn Street, Feb. 19, 1821.
“My dear Walter,

“I have just received your letter. I send you a draught for L.50, which you must make go as far as you can.

“There is what I have no doubt is a very idle report here, of your paying rather marked attention to one young lady in particular. I beg you would do nothing that can justify such a rumour, as it would excite my highest displeasure should you either entangle yourself or any other person. I am, and have always been, quite frank with you, and beg you will be equally so with me. One should, in justice to the young women they live with, be very cautious not to give the least countenance to such rumours. They are not easily avoided, but are always highly prejudicial to the parties concerned; and what begins in folly ends in serious misery—avis au lecteur.

Believe me, dear Cornet, your affectionate father,
Walter Scott.

“P.S.—I wish you could pick me up the Irish lilt of a tune to ‘Patrick Fleming.’ The song begins—

‘Patrick Fleming was a gallant soldier,
He carried his musket over his shoulder.
When I cock my pistol, when I draw my raper,
I make them stand in awe of me, for I am a taker.
Falala,’ &c.

“From another verse in the same song, it seems the hero was in such a predicament as your own.

‘If you be Peter Fleming, as I suppose you be, sir,
We are three pedlars walking on so free, sir.
We are three pedlars a-walking on to Dublin,
With nothing in our pockets to pay for our lodging.
Falala,’ &c.”

To Walter Scott, Esq., 18th Hussars, Cappoquin.
“London, 17th March, 1821.
“My dear Commandant of Cappoquin,

“Wishing you joy of your new government, these are to inform you that I am still in London. The late aspersion on your regiment induced me to protract my stay here, with a view to see the Duke of York on your behalf, which I did yesterday. H. R. Highness expressed himself most obligingly disposed, and promised to consider what could best be done to forward your military education. I told him frankly, that in giving you to the King’s service I had done all that was in my power to show our attachment to his Majesty and the country which had been so kind to me, and that it was my utmost ambition that you should render yourself capable of serving them both well. He said he would give the affair his particular consideration, and see whether he could put you on the establishment at Sandhurst, without any violent infringement on the rules; and hinted that he would make an exception to the rule of seniority of standing and priority of application in your favour when an opportunity occurs.

“From H. R. H’s. very kind expressions I have little doubt you will have more than justice done you in the patronage necessary to facilitate your course through life; but it must be by your own exertions, my dearest
MARCH, 1821.55
boy, that you must render yourself qualified to avail yourself of the opportunities which you may have offered to you. Work therefore as hard as you can, and do not be discontented for want of assistance of masters, &c., because the knowledge which we acquire by our own unaided efforts, is much more tenaciously retained by the memory, while the exertion necessary to gain it strengthens the understanding. At the same time, I would enquire whether there may not be some catholic priest, or protestant clergyman, or scholar of any description, who, for love or money, would give you a little assistance occasionally. Such persons are to be found almost every where; not professed teachers, but capable of smoothing the road to a willing student. Let me earnestly recommend in your reading to keep fast to particular hours, and suffer no one thing to encroach on the other.

Charles’s last letter was uncommonly steady, and prepared me for one from Mr Williams, in which he expresses satisfaction with his attention, and with his progress in learning, in a much stronger degree than formerly. This is truly comfortable, and may relieve me from the necessity of sending the poor boy to India.

“All in Edinburgh are quite well, and no fears exist saving those of little Catherine* for the baby, lest the fairies take it away before the christening. I will send some books to you from hence, if I can find means to transmit them. I should like you to read with care the campaigns of Buonaparte, which have been written in French with much science.†

“I hope, indeed I am sure, I need not remind you to be very attentive to your duty. You have but a small

* Mrs Lockhart’s maid.

† This letter was followed by a copy of General Jomini’s celebrated work.

charge, but it is a charge, and rashness or carelessness may lead to discredit in the commandant of Cappoquin, as well as in a field-marshal. In the exercise of your duty, be tender of the lower classes; and as you are strong be merciful. In this you will do your master good service, for show me the manners of the man, and I will judge those of the master.

“In your present situation it may be interesting to you to know that the bill for Catholic Emancipation will pass the Commons without doubt, and very probably the Peers also, unless the Spiritual Lords make a great rally. No body here cares much about it, and if it does not pass this year, it will the next without doubt.

“Among other improvements, I wish you would amend your hand. It is a deplorable scratch, and far the worst of the family. Charles writes a firm good hand in comparison.

“You may address your next to Abbotsford, where I long to be, being heartily tired of fine company and fine living, from dukes and duchesses, down to turbot and plovers’ eggs. It is very well for a while, but to be kept at it makes one feel like a poodle dog compelled to stand for ever on his hind legs. Most affectionately yours,

Walter Scott.”

During this visit to London, Sir Walter appears to have been consulted by several persons in authority as to the project of a Society of Literature, for which the King’s patronage had been solicited, and which was established soon afterwards—though on a scale less extensive than had been proposed at the outset. He expressed his views on this subject in writing at considerable length to his friend the Hon. John Villiers (now Earl of Clarendon); but of that letter, described to me
MARCH, 1821.57
as a most admirable one, I have as yet failed to recover a copy. I have little doubt, that both the letter in question and the following, addressed, soon after his arrival at Abbotsford, to the then
Secretary of State for the Home Department, were placed in the hands of the King; but it seems probable, that whatever his Majesty may have thought of Scott’s representations, he considered himself as already, in some measure, pledged to countenance the projected academy.

To the Right Hon. the Lord Viscount Sidmouth, &c. &c. &c., Whitehall.
“Abbotsford, April 20, 1821.
“My dear Lord,

“Owing to my retreat to this place, I was only honoured with your Lordship’s letter yesterday. Whatever use can be made of my letter to stop the very ill contrived project to which it relates, will answer the purpose for which it was written. I do not well remember the terms in which my remonstrance to Mr Villiers was couched, for it was positively written betwixt sleeping and waking; but your Lordship will best judge how far the contents may be proper for his Majesty’s eye; and if the sentiments appear a little in dishabille, there is the true apology that they were never intended to go to Court. From more than twenty years’ intercourse with the literary world, during which I have been more or less acquainted with every distinguished writer of my day, and, at the same time, an accurate student of the habits and tastes of the reading public, I am enabled to say, with a feeling next to certainty, that the plan can only end in something very unpleasant. At all events, his Majesty should get out of it; it is nonsense to say or suppose that any steps have been taken which, in such a matter, can or ought to be considered as
irrevocable. The fact is, that nobody knows as yet how far the matter has gone beyond the projet of some well-meaning but misjudging persons, and the whole thing is asleep and forgotten so far as the public is concerned. The Spanish proverb says, ‘God help me from my friends, and I will keep myself from my enemies;’ and there is much sense in it, for the zeal of misjudging adherents often contrives, as in the present case, to turn to matter of reproach the noblest feelings on the part of a sovereign.

“Let men of letters fight their own way with the public, and let his Majesty, according as his own excellent taste and liberality dictate, honour with his patronage, expressed in the manner fitted to their studies and habits, those who are able to distinguish themselves, and alleviate by his bounty the distresses of such as, with acknowledged merit, may yet have been unfortunate in procuring independence. The immediate and direct favour of the Sovereign is worth the patronage of ten thousand societies. But your Lordship knows how to set all this in a better light than I can, and I would not wish the cause of letters in better hands.

“I am now in a scene changed as completely as possible from those in which I had the great pleasure of meeting your Lordship lately, riding through the moors on a pony, instead of traversing the streets in a carriage, and drinking whisky-toddy with mine honest neighbours, instead of Champagne and Burgundy. I have gained, however, in point of exact political information; for I find we know upon Tweedside with much greater accuracy what is done and intended in the Cabinet than ever I could learn when living with the Ministers five days in the week. Mine honest Teviotdale friends, whom I left in a high Queen-fever, are now beginning to be somewhat ashamed of themselves, and
to make as great advances towards retracting their opinion as they are ever known to do, which amounts to this: ‘God judge me, Sir W——, the King’s no been so dooms far wrong after a’ in yon Queen’s job like;’ which, being interpreted, signifies, ‘We will fight for the King to the death.’ I do not know how it was in other places; but I never saw so sudden and violent a delusion possess the minds of men in my life, even those of sensible, steady, well-intentioned fellows, that would fight knee-deep against the Radicals. It is well over, thank God.

“My best compliments attend the ladies. I ever am, my dear Lord, your truly obliged and faithful humble servant,

Walter Scott.”

I have thought it right to insert the preceding letter, because it indicates with sufficient distinctness what Scott’s opinions always were as to a subject on which, from his experience and position, he must have reflected very seriously. In how far the results of the establishment of the Royal Society of Literature have tended to confirm or to weaken the weight of his authority on these matters, I do not presume to have formed any judgment. He received, about the same time, a volume of poetry, by Allan Cunningham, which included the drama of Sir Marmaduke Maxwell; and I am happy to quote his letter of acknowledgment to that high-spirited and independent author in the same page with the foregoing monition to the dispensers of patronage.

To Mr Allan Cunningham, Ecclestone Street, Pimlico.
“Abbotsford, 27th April.
“Dear Allan,

“Accept my kind thanks for your little modest volume, received two days since. I was acquainted with
most of the pieces, and yet I perused them all with renewed pleasure, and especially my old friend Sir Marmaduke with his new face, and by assistance of an April sun, which is at length, after many a rough blast, beginning to smile on us. The drama has, in my conception, more poetical conception and poetical expression in it than most of our modern compositions. Perhaps, indeed, it occasionally sins even in the richness of poetical expression; for the language of passion, though bold and figurative, is brief and concise at the same time. But what would, in acting, be a more serious objection, is the complicated nature of the plot, which is very obscure. I hope you will make another dramatic attempt; and, in that case, I would strongly recommend that you should previously make a model or skeleton of your incidents, dividing them regularly into scenes and acts, so as to insure the dependence of one circumstance upon another, and the simplicity and union of your whole story. The common class of readers, and more especially of spectators, are thick-sculled enough, and can hardly comprehend what they see and hear, unless they are hemmed in, and guided to the sense at every turn.

“The unities of time and place have always appeared to me fopperies, as far as they require close observance of the French rules. Still, the nearer you can come to them, it is always, no doubt, the better, because your action will be more probable. But the unity of action—I mean that continuity which unites every scene with the other, and makes the catastrophe the natural and probable result of all that has gone before—seems to me a critical rule which cannot safely be dispensed with. Without such a regular deduction of incident men’s attention becomes distracted, and the most beautiful language, if at all listened to, creates no interest, and is out of place. I would give, as an example, the sud-
denly entertained, and as suddenly abandoned, jealousy of Sir Marmaduke, p. 85, as a useless excrescence in the action of the drama.

“I am very much unaccustomed to offer criticism, and when I do so, it is because I believe in my soul that I am endeavouring to pluck away the weeds which hide flowers well worthy of cultivation. In your case the richness of your language, and fertility of your imagination, are the snares against which I would warn you. If the one had been poor, and the other costive, I would never have made remarks which could never do good, while they only gave pain. Did you ever read Savage’s beautiful poem of the Wanderer? If not, do so, and you will see the fault which, I think, attaches to Lord Maxwell—a want of distinct precision and intelligibility about the story, which counteracts, especially with ordinary readers, the effect of beautiful and forcible diction, poetical imagery, and animated description.

“All this freedom you will excuse, I know, on the part of one who has the truest respect for the manly independence of character which rests for its support on honest industry, instead of indulging the foolish fastidiousness formerly supposed to be essential to the poetical temperament, and which has induced some men of real talents to become coxcombs—some to become sots—some to plunge themselves into want—others into the equal miseries of dependence, merely because, forsooth, they were men of genius, and wise above the ordinary and, I say, the manly duties of human life.
‘I’d rather be a kitten, and cry, Mew!’
than write the best poetry in the world on condition of laying aside common sense in the ordinary transactions and business of the world; and, therefore, dear
I wish much the better to the muse whom you meet by the fireside in your hours of leisure when you have played your part manfully through a day of labour. I should like to see her making those hours also a little profitable. Perhaps something of the dramatic romance, if you could hit on a good subject, and combine the scenes well, might answer. A beautiful thing with appropriate music, scenes, &c. might be woven out of the
Mermaid of Galloway.

“When there is any chance of Mr Chantrey coming this way, I hope you will let me know; and if you come with him, so much the better. I like him as much for his manners as for his genius.
‘He is a man without a clagg;
His heart is frank without a flaw.’

“This is a horrible long letter for so vile a correspondent as I am. Once more, my best thanks for the little volume, and believe me yours truly,

Walter Scott.”

I now return to Sir Walter’s correspondence with the Cornet at Cappoquin.

To Walter Scott, Esq., 18th Hussars.
“Abbotsford, April 21, 1821.
“My Dear Walter,

“. . . . A democrat in any situation is but a silly sort of fellow, but a democratical soldier is worse than an ordinary traitor by ten thousand degrees, as he forgets his military honour, and is faithless to the master whose bread he eats. Three distinguished heroes of this class have arisen in my time, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Colonel Despard, and Captain Thistlewood, and, with the contempt and abhorrence of all men, they died
the death of infamy and guilt. If a man of honour is unhappy enough to entertain opinions inconsistent with the service in which he finds himself, it is his duty at once to resign his commission; in acting otherwise he disgraces himself for ever. . . . . . . . The reports are very strange, also, with respect to the private conduct of certain officers. . . . . Gentlemen maintain their characters even in following their most licentious pleasures, otherwise they resemble the very scavengers in the streets. . . . . . . . I had written you a long letter on other subjects, but these circumstances have altered my plans, as well as given me great uneasiness on account of the effects which the society you have been keeping may have had on your principles, both political and moral. Be very frank with me on this subject. I have a title to expect perfect sincerity, having always treated you with openness on my part.

“Pray write immediately, and at length.—I remain your affectionate father,

Walter Scott.”

To the Same.
“Abbotsford, April 28, 1821.
“Dear Walter,

“. . . . The great point in the meanwhile is to acquire such preliminary information as may render you qualified to profit by Sandhurst when you get thither. Amongst my acquaintance the men of greatest information have been those who seemed but indifferently situated for the acquisition of it, but who exerted themselves in proportion to the infrequency of their opportunities.

“The noble Captain Ferguson was married on Monday last. I was present at the bridal, and I assure you the like hath not been seen since the days of Lesmahago.
Like his prototype, the Captain advanced in a jaunty military step, with a kind of leer on his face that seemed to quiz the whole affair. You should write to your brother sportsman and soldier, and wish the veteran joy of his entrance into the band of Benedicts. Odd enough that I should christen a grandchild and attend the wedding of a contemporary within two days of each other. I have sent
John of Skye, with Tom, and all the rabblement which they can collect, to play the pipes, shout, and fire guns below the Captain’s windows this morning; and I am just going over to hover about on my pony, and witness their reception. The happy pair returned to Huntly Burn on Saturday; but yesterday being Sunday, we permitted them to enjoy their pillows in quiet. This morning they must not expect to get off so well. Pray write soon, and give me the history of your still-huntings, &c.—Ever yours affectionately,

W. Scott.”

To Charles Scott, Esq., care of the Rev. Mr Williams, Lampeter.
“Abbotsford, 9th May, 1821.
“My dear Charles,

“I am glad to find, by your letter, just received, that you are reading Tacitus with some relish. His style is rather quaint and enigmatical, which makes it difficult to the student; but then his pages are filled with such admirable apothegms and maxims of political wisdom, as infer the deepest knowledge of human nature; and it is particularly necessary that any one who may have views as a public speaker should be master of his works, as there is neither ancient or modern who affords such a selection of admirable quotations. You should exercise yourself frequently in trying to make translations of the passages which most strike you, trying to invest
the sense of Tacitus in as good English as you can. This will answer the double purpose of making yourself familiar with the Latin author, and giving you the command of your own language, which no person will ever have who does not study English composition in early life . . . . . . . . . . I conclude somewhat abruptly, having trees to cut, and saucy
Tom watching me like a Calmuck with the axe in his hand.—Yours affectionately,

W. Scott.”
To Walter Scott, Esq. 18th Hussars, Cappoquin.
“Abbotsford, 10th May, 1821.
“Dear Walter,

“I wrote yesterday, but I am induced immediately to answer your letter, because I think you expect from it an effect upon my mind rather different from what it produces. A man may be violent and outrageous in his liquor, but wine seldom makes a gentleman a blackguard, or instigates a loyal man to utter sedition. Wine unveils the passions and throws away restraint, but it does not create habits or opinions which did not previously exist in the mind. Besides, what sort of defence is this of intemperance? I suppose if a private commits riot, or is disobedient in his cups, his officers do not admit whisky to be an excuse. I have seen enough of that sort of society where habitual indulgence drowned at last every distinction between what is worthy and unworthy, and I have seen young men with the fairest prospects turn out degraded miserable outcasts before their life was half spent, merely from soaking and sotting, and the bad habits these naturally lead to. You tell me * * * and * * * frequent good society and are well received in it, and I am very glad to hear this is the case. But such stories as these will soon occasion their seclusion from the best
company. There may remain, indeed, a large enough circle, where ladies, who are either desirous to fill their rooms or to marry their daughters, will continue to receive any young man in a showy uniform, however irregular in private life; but if these cannot be called bad company, they are certainly any thing but very good, and the facility of access makes the entrée of little consequence.

“I mentioned in my last that you were to continue in the 18th until the regiment went to India, and that I trusted you would get the step within the twelve months that the corps yet remains in Europe, which will make your exchange easier. But it is of far more importance that you learn to command yourself than that you should be raised higher in commanding others. It gives me pain to write to you in terms of censure, but my duty must be done, else I cannot expect you to do yours. All here are well and send love. I am your affectionate father,

Walter Scott.”
To the Same.
“Edinburgh, 15th May, 1821.
“Dear Walter,

“I have your letter of May 6th, to which it is unnecessary to reply very particularly. I would only insinuate to you that the lawyers and gossips of Edinburgh, whom your military politeness handsomely classes together in writing to a lawyer, know and care as little about the 18th as they do about the 19th, 20th, or 21st, or any other regimental number which does not happen for the time to be at Piershill, or in the Castle. Do not fall into the error and pedantry of young military men, who, living much together, are apt to think themselves and their actions the subject of much talk and rumour among the public at large. I will transcribe Fielding’s account
of such a person, whom he met with on his voyage to Lisbon, which will give two or three hours’ excellent amusement when you choose to peruse it:

‘In his conversation it is true there was something military enough, as it consisted chiefly of oaths, and of the great actions and wise sayings of Jack, Will, and Tom of ours, a phrase eternally in his mouth, and he seemed to conclude that it conveyed to all the officers such a degree of public notoriety and importance that it entitled him, like the head of a profession, or a first minister, to be the subject of conversation amongst those who had not the least personal acquaintance with him.’

Avoid this silly narrowness of mind, my dear boy, which only makes men be looked on in the world with ridicule and contempt. Lawyer and gossip as I may be, I suppose you will allow I have seen something of life in most of its varieties; as much at least as if I had been, like you, eighteen months in a cavalry regiment, or, like Beau Jackson, in Roderick Random, had cruized for half-a-year in the chops of the Channel. Now, I have never remarked any one, be he soldier, or divine, or lawyer, that was exclusively attached to the narrow habits of his own profession, but what such person became a great twaddle in good society, besides what is of much more importance, becoming narrow-minded and ignorant of all general information.

“That this letter may not be unacceptable in all its parts, I enclose your allowance without stopping any thing for the hackney. Take notice, however, my dear Walter, that this is to last you till midsummer. We came from Abbotsford yesterday, and left all well, excepting that Mr Laidlaw lost his youngest child, an infant, very unexpectedly. We found Sophia, Lockhart, and their child in good health, and all send love.—I remain your affectionate father,

Walter Scott.”
To Walter Scott, Esq. 18th Hussars.
“Edinburgh, 26th May, 1821.
“My dear Walter,

“I see you are of the mind of the irritable prophet Jonah, who persisted in maintaining ‘he did well to be angry,’ even when disputing with Omnipotence. I am aware that Sir David is considered as a severe and ill-tempered man; and I remember a story that, when report came to Europe that Tippoo’s prisoners (of whom Baird was one) were chained together two and two, his mother said, ‘God pity the poor lad that’s chained to our Davie.’ But though it may be very true that he may have acted towards you with caprice and severity, yet you are always to remember, 1st, That in becoming a soldier you have subjected yourself to the caprice and severity of superior officers, and have no comfort except in contemplating the prospect of commanding others in your turn. In the meanwhile, you have in most cases no remedy so useful as patience and submission. But, 2dly, As you seem disposed to admit that you yourselves have been partly to blame, I submit to you, that in turning the magnifying end of the telescope on Sir D’s. faults, and the diminishing one on your own, you take the least useful mode of considering the matter. By studying his errors, you can acquire no knowledge that will be useful to you till you become Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, whereas, by reflecting on your own, Cornet Scott and his companions may reap some immediate moral advantage. Your fine of a dozen of claret, upon any one who shall introduce females into your mess in future, reminds me of the rule of a country club, that whoever ‘behaved ungenteel,’ should be fined in a pot of porter. Seriously, I think there was bad taste in the style of the forfeiture.


“I am well pleased with your map, which is very business-like. There was a great battle fought between the English and native Irish near the Blackwater, in which the former were defeated, and Bagenal the Knight-Marshal killed. Is there any remembrance of this upon the spot? There is a clergyman in Lismore, Mr John Graham* originally, that is by descent, a borderer. He lately sent me a manuscript which I intend to publish, and I wrote to him enclosing a cheque on Coutts. I wish you could ascertain if he received my letter safe. You can call on him with my compliments. You need only say I was desirous to know if he had received a letter from me lately. The manuscript was written by a certain Mr Gwynne, a Welsh loyalist in the great Civil War, and afterwards an officer in the guards of Charles II. This will be an object for a ride to you.

“I presided last night at the dinner of the Celtic Society, ‘all plaided and plumed in their tartan array,’ and such jumping, skipping, and screaming you never saw. Chief Baron Shepherd dined with us, and was very much pleased with the extreme enthusiasm of the Gael when liberated from the thraldom of breeches. You were voted a member by acclamation, which will cost me a tartan dress for your long limbs when you come here. If the King takes Scotland in coming or going to Ireland (as has been talked of), I expect to get you leave to come over.—I remain your affectionate father,

Walter Scott.

“P. S.—I beg you will not take it into your wise noddle that I will act either hastily or unadvisedly in

* This Mr Graham is known as the author of a “History of the Siege of Londonderry,” “Annals of Ireland,” and various political tracts. Sir Walter Scott published Gwynne’s memoirs, with a preface, &c., in 1822.

your matters. I have been more successful in life than most people, and know well how much success depends, first upon desert, and then on knowledge of the carte de pays

The following letter begins with an allusion to a visit which Captain Ferguson, his bride, and his youngest sister, Miss Margaret Ferguson, had been paying at Ditton Park:—

To the Lord Montagu, &c. &c.
“Edinburgh, 21st May, 1821.
“My dear Lord,

“I was much diverted with the account of Adam and Eve’s visit to Ditton, which, with its surrounding moat, might make no bad emblem of Eden, but for the absence of snakes and fiends. He is a very singular fellow; for, with all his humour and knowledge of the world, he by nature is a remarkably shy and modest man, and more afraid of the possibility of intrusion than would occur to any one who only sees him in the full stream of society. His sister Margaret is extremely like him in the turn of thought and of humour, and he has two others who are as great curiosities in their way. The eldest is a complete old maid, with all the gravity and shyness of the character, but not a grain of its bad humour or spleen; on the contrary, she is one of the kindest and most motherly creatures in the world. The second, Mary, was in her day a very pretty girl; but her person became deformed, and she has the sharpness of features with which that circumstance is sometimes attended. She rises very early in the morning, and roams over all my wild land in the neighbourhood, wearing the most complicated pile of handkerchiefs of different colours on her head, and a stick double her own
height in her hand, attended by two dogs, whose powers of yelping are truly terrific. With such garb and accompaniments, she has very nearly established the character in the neighbourhood of being something no canny—and the urchins of Melrose and Darnick are frightened from gathering hazle-nuts and cutting wands in my cleugh, by the fear of meeting the daft lady. With all this quizzicality, I do not believe there ever existed a family with so much mutual affection and such an overflow of benevolence to all around them, from men and women down to hedge-sparrows and lame ass-colts, more than one of which they have taken under their direct and special protection.

“I am sorry there should be occasion for caution in the case of little Duke Walter, but it is most lucky that the necessity is early and closely attended to. How many actual valetudinarians have outlived all their robust contemporaries, and attained the utmost verge of human life, without ever having enjoyed what is usually called high health. This is taking the very worst view of the case, and supposing the constitution habitually delicate. But how often has the strongest and best confirmed health succeeded to a delicate childhood—and such, I trust, will be the Duke’s case. I cannot help thinking that this temporary recess from Eton may be made subservient to Walter’s improvement in general literature, and particularly in historical knowledge. The habit of reading useful, and, at the same time, entertaining books of history, is often acquired during the retirement which delicate health in convalescence imposes on us. I remember we touched on this point at Ditton; and I think again, that though classical learning be the Shibboleth by which we judge, generally speaking, of the proficiency of the youthful scholar, yet, when this has been too exclusively and
pedantically impressed on his mind as the one thing needful, he very often finds he has entirely a new course of study to commence just at the time when life is opening all its busy or gay scenes before him, and when study of any kind becomes irksome.

“For this species of instruction I do not so much approve of tasks and set hours for serious reading, as of the plan of endeavouring to give a taste for history to the youths themselves, and suffering them to gratify it in their own way, and at their own time. For this reason I would not be very scrupulous what books they began with, or whether they began at the middle or end. The knowledge which we acquire of free will and by spontaneous exertion, is like food eaten with appetite—it digests well, and benefits the system ten times more than the double cramming of an alderman. If a boy’s attention can be drawn in conversation to any interesting point of history, and the book is pointed out to him where he will find the particulars conveyed in a lively manner, he reads the passage with so much pleasure that he very naturally recurs to the book at the first unoccupied moment to try if he cannot pick more amusement out of it; and when once a lad gets the spirit of information, he goes on himself with little trouble but that of selecting for him the best and most agreeable books. I think Walter has naturally some turn for history and historical anecdote, and would be disposed to read as much as could be wished in that most useful line of knowledge;—for in the eminent situation he is destined to by his birth, acquaintance with the history and institutions of his country, and her relative position with respect to others, is a sine qua non to his discharging its duties with propriety. All this is extremely like prosing, so I will harp on that string no longer.


“Kind compliments to all at Ditton; you say nothing of your own rheumatism. I am here for the session, unless the wind should blow me south to see the coronation, and I think 800 miles rather a long journey to see a show.

I am always, my dear Lord,
Yours, very affectionately,
Walter Scott.”