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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter VI 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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When Sir Walter returned from London, he brought with him Mr Blore’s detailed plans for the completion of Abbotsford; the wall and gateway of the court in front; and the beautiful open screen-work of stone connecting the house with the garden; this last having been originally devised by himself, and constituting certainly the most graceful feature about the edifice. The foundations towards the river were forthwith laid, and some little progress was made during the autumn; but he was very reluctant to authorize the demolition of the rustic porch of the old cottage, with its luxuriant overgrowth of roses and jessamines; kept it standing for months after his workpeople complained of the obstruction—and indeed could not make up his mind to sign the death-warrant of this favourite bower until winter had
robbed it of its beauties. He then made an excursion from Edinburgh, on purpose to be present at its downfall—saved as many of the creepers as seemed likely to survive removal, and planted them with his own hands, about a somewhat similar porch, erected expressly for their reception, at his daughter
Sophia’s little cottage of Chiefswood.

There my wife and I spent this summer and autumn of 1821—the first of several seasons, which will ever dwell on my memory as the happiest of my life. We were near enough Abbotsford to partake as often as we liked of its brilliant and constantly varying society; yet could do so without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit which the daily reception of new comers entailed upon all the family, except Sir Walter himself. But, in truth, even he was not always proof against the annoyances connected with such a style of open-house-keeping. Even his temper sunk sometimes under the solemn applauses of learned dulness, the vapid raptures of painted and periwigged dowagers, the horse-leech avidity with which underbred foreigners urged their questions, and the pompous simpers of condescending magnates. When sore beset at home in this way, he would every now and then discover that he had some very particular business to attend to on an outlying part of his estate, and craving the indulgence of his guests overnight, appear at the cabin in the glen before its inhabitants were astir in the morning. The clatter of Sibyl Grey’s hoofs, the yelping of Mustard and Spice, and his own joyous shout of reveillée under our windows, were the signal that he had burst his toils and meant for that day to “take his ease in his inn.” On descending, he was to be found seated with all his dogs and ours about him, under a spreading ash that overshadowed half the bank between the cottage and the
brook, pointing the edge of his woodman’s axe for himself, and listening to
Tom Purdie’s lecture touching the plantation that most needed thinning. After breakfast, he would take possession of a dressingroom up stairs, and write a chapter of The Pirate; and then, having made up and despatched his packet for Mr Ballantyne, away to join Purdie wherever the foresters were at work—and sometimes to labour among them as strenuously as John Swanston himself—until it was time either to rejoin his own party at Abbotsford or the quiet circle of the cottage. When his guests were few and friendly, he often made them come over and meet him at Chiefswood in a body towards evening; and surely he never appeared to more amiable advantage than when helping his young people with their little arrangements upon such occasions. He was ready with all sorts of devices to supply the wants of a narrow establishment; he used to delight particularly in sinking the wine in a well under the brae ere he went out, and hawling up the basket just before dinner was announced—this primitive process being, he said, what he had always practised when a young housekeeper, and in his opinion far superior in its results to any application of ice; and, in the same spirit, whenever the weather was sufficiently genial, he voted for dining out of doors altogether, which at once got rid of the inconvenience of very small rooms, and made it natural and easy for the gentlemen to help the ladies, so that the paucity of servants went for nothing. Mr Rose used to amuse himself with likening the scene and the party to the closing act of one of those little French dramas where “Monsieur le Comte,” and “Madame la Comtesse” appear feasting at a village bridal under the trees; but in truth, our “M. le Comte” was only trying to live over again for a few simple hours his own old life of Lasswade.

CHIEFSWOOD—1821. 125

When circumstances permitted, he usually spent one evening at least in the week at our little cottage; and almost as frequently he did the like with the Fergusons, to whose table he could bring chance visiters, when he pleased, with equal freedom as to his daughter’s. Indeed it seemed to be much a matter of chance, any fine day when there had been no alarming invasion of the Southron, whether the three families (which, in fact, made but one) should dine at Abbotsford, at Huntly Burn, or at Chiefswood; and at none of them was the party considered quite complete, unless it included also Mr Laidlaw. Death has laid a heavy hand upon that circle—as happy a circle I believe as ever met. Bright eyes now closed in dust, gay voices for ever silenced, seem to haunt me as I write. With three exceptions, they are all gone. Even since the last of these volumes was finished, she whom I may now sadly record as, next to Sir Walter himself, the chief ornament and delight of all those simple meetings—she to whose love I owed my own place in them—Scott’s eldest daughter, the one of all his children who in countenance, mind, and manners, most resembled himself, and who indeed was as like him in all things as a gentle innocent woman can ever be to a great man deeply tried and skilled in the struggles and perplexities of active life—she, too, is no more. And in the very hour that saw her laid in her grave, the only other female survivor, her dearest friend Margaret Ferguson, breathed her last also.—But enough—and more than I intended—I must resume the story of Abbotsford.

During several weeks of that delightful summer, Scott had under his roof Mr William Erskine and two of his daughters; this being, I believe, their first visit to Tweedside since the death of Mrs Erskine in September 1819. He had probably made a point of having his
friend with him at this particular time, because he was desirous of having the benefit of his advice and corrections from day to day as he advanced in the composition of
the Pirate—with the localities of which romance the Sheriff of Orkney and Zetland was of course thoroughly familiar. At all events, the constant and eager delight with which Erskine watched the progress of the tale has left a deep impression on my memory; and indeed I heard so many of its chapters first read from the MS. by him, that I can never open the book now without thinking I hear his voice. Sir Walter used to give him at breakfast the pages he had written that morning; and very commonly, while he was again at work in his study, Erskine would walk over to Chiefswood, that he might have the pleasure of reading them aloud to my wife and me under our favourite tree, before the packet had to be sealed up for the printer, or rather for the transcriber in Edinburgh. I cannot paint the delight and the pride with which he acquitted himself on such occasions. The little artifice of his manner was merely superficial, and was wholly forgotten as tender affection and admiration, fresh as the impulses of childhood, glistened in his eye, and trembled in his voice.

This reminds me that I have not yet attempted any sketch of the person and manners of Scott’s most intimate friend. Their case was no contradiction to the old saying, that the most attached comrades are often very unlike each other in character and temperament. The mere physical contrast was as strong as could well be, and this is not unworthy of notice here; for Erskine was, I think, the only man in whose society Scott took great pleasure, during the more vigorous part of his life, that had neither constitution nor inclination for any of the rough bodily exercises in which he himself delighted.
The Counsellor (as Scott always called him) was a little man of feeble make, who seemed unhappy when his pony got beyond a foot-pace, and had never, I should suppose, addicted himself to any out-of-doors sport whatever. He would, I fancy, have as soon thought of slaying his own mutton as of handling a fowling-piece: he used to shudder when he saw a party equipped for coursing, as if murder were in the wind; but the cool meditative angler was in his eyes the abomination of abominations. His small elegant features, hectic cheek, and soft hazel eyes were the index of the quick sensitive gentle spirit within. He had the warm heart of a woman, her generous enthusiasm, and some of her weaknesses. A beautiful landscape, or a fine strain of music would send the tears rolling down his cheek; and though capable, I have no doubt, of exhibiting, had his duty called him to do so, the highest spirit of a hero or a martyr, he had very little command over his nerves amidst circumstances such as men of ordinary mould (to say nothing of iron fabrics like Scott’s) regard with indifference. He would dismount to lead his horse down what his friend hardly perceived to be a descent at all; grew pale at a precipice; and, unlike the White Lady of Avenel, would go a long way round for a bridge.

Erskine had as yet been rather unfortunate in his professional career, and thought a sheriffship by no means the kind of advancement due to his merits, and which his connexions might naturally have secured for him. These circumstances had at the time when I first observed him tinged his demeanour; he had come to intermingle a certain wayward snappishness now and then with his forensic exhibitions, and in private seemed inclined (though altogether incapable of abandoning the Tory party) to say bitter things of people in high
places; but with these exceptions, never was benevolence towards all the human race more lively and overflowing than his evidently was, even when he considered himself as one who had reason to complain of his luck in the world. Now, however, these little asperities had disappeared; one great real grief had cast its shadow over him, and submissive to the chastisement of heaven, he had no longer any thoughts for the petty misusage of mankind.
Scott’s apprehension was, that his ambition was extinguished with his resentment; and he was now using every endeavour, in connexion with their common friend the Lord Advocate Rae, to procure for Erskine that long-coveted seat on the bench, about which the subdued widower himself had ceased to occupy his mind. By and by these views were realized to Scott’s high satisfaction, and for a brief season with the happiest effect on Erskine’s own spirits; but I shall not anticipate the sequel.

Meanwhile he shrunk from the collisions of general society in Edinburgh, and lived almost exclusively in his own little circle of intimates. His conversation, though somewhat precise and finical on the first impression, was rich in knowledge. His literary ambition, active and aspiring at the outset, had long before this time merged in his profound veneration for Scott; but he still read a great deal, and did so as much I believe with a view to assisting Scott by hints and suggestions, as for his own amusement. He had much of his friend’s tact in extracting the picturesque from old, and, generally speaking, dull books; and in bringing out his stores he often showed a great deal of quaint humour and sly wit.

Scott, on his side, respected, trusted, and loved him, much as an affectionate husband does the wife who gave him her heart in youth, and thinks his thoughts rather than her own in the evening of life; he soothed, cheered,
and sustained
Erskine habitually; I do not believe a more entire and perfect confidence ever subsisted than theirs was and always had been in each other; and to one who had duly observed the creeping jealousies of human nature, it might perhaps seem doubtful on which side the balance of real nobility of heart and character, as displayed in their connexion at the time of which I am speaking, ought to be cast.

Among the common friends of their young days, of whom they both delighted to speak—and always spoke with warm and equal affection—was the sister of their friend Cranstoun, the confidant of Scott’s first unfortunate love, whom neither had now seen for a period of more than twenty years. This lady had undergone domestic afflictions more than sufficient to have crushed almost any spirit but her own. Her husband, the Count Purgstall, had died some years before this time, leaving her an only son, a youth of the most amiable disposition, and possessing abilities which, had he lived to develope them, must have secured for him a high station in the annals of genius. This hope of her eyes, the last heir of an illustrious lineage, followed his father to the tomb in the nineteenth year of his age. The desolate Countess was urged by her family in Scotland to return, after this bereavement, to her native country; but she had vowed to her son on his deathbed that one day her dust should be mingled with his; and no argument could induce her to depart from the resolution of remaining in solitary Styria. By her desire, a valued friend of the house of Purgstall, who had been born and bred up on their estates, the celebrated Orientalist, Joseph von Hammer, compiled a little memoir of “The Two Last Counts of Purgstall,” which he put forth, in January 1821, under the title of “Denkmahl,” or Monument; and of this work the Countess sent a copy to Sir Walter (with whom
her correspondence had been during several years suspended), by the hands of her eldest brother,
Mr Henry Cranstoun, who had been visiting her in Styria, and who at this time occupied a villa within a few miles of Abbotsford. Scott’s letter of acknowledgment never reached her; and indeed I doubt if it was ever despatched. He appears to have meditated a set of consolatory verses for its conclusion, and the muse not answering his call at the moment, I suspect he had allowed the sheet, which I now transcribe, to fall aside and be lost sight of among his multifarious masses of MS.

To the Countess Purgstall, &c. &c.
“My Dear and much valued Friend,

“You cannot imagine how much I was interested and affected by receiving your token of your kind recollection, after the interval of so many years. Your brother Henry breakfasted with me yesterday, and gave me the letter and the book, which served me as a matter of much melancholy reflection for many hours.

“Hardly any thing makes the mind recoil so much upon itself, as the being suddenly and strongly recalled to times long past, and that by the voice of one whom we have so much loved and respected. Do not think I have ever forgotten you, or the many happy days I passed in Frederick Street, in society which fate has separated so far, and for so many years.

“The little volume was particularly acceptable to me, as it acquainted me with many circumstances, of which distance and imperfect communication had left me either entirely ignorant, or had transmitted only inaccurate information.

“Alas! my dear friend, what can the utmost efforts of friendship offer you, beyond the sympathy which, however sincere, must sound like an empty compliment
in the ear of affliction. God knows with what willingness I would undertake anything which might afford you the melancholy consolation of knowing how much your old and early friend interests himself in the sad event which has so deeply wounded your peace of mind. The verses, therefore, which conclude this letter, must not be weighed according to their intrinsic value, for the more inadequate they are to express the feelings they would fain convey, the more they show the author’s anxious wish to do what may be grateful to you.

“In truth, I have long given up poetry. I have had my day with the public; and being no great believer in poetical immortality, I was very well pleased to rise a winner, without continuing the game, till I was beggared of any credit I had acquired. Besides, I felt the prudence of giving way before the more forcible and powerful genius of Byron. If I were either greedy, or jealous of poetical fame—and both are strangers to my nature—I might comfort myself with the thought, that I would hesitate to strip myself to the contest so fearlessly as Byron does; or to command the wonder and terror of the public, by exhibiting, in my own person, the sublime attitude of the dying gladiator. But with the old frankness of twenty years since, I will fairly own, that this same delicacy of mine may arise more from conscious want of vigour and inferiority, than from a delicate dislike to the nature of the conflict. At any rate, there is a time for every thing, and without swearing oaths to it, I think my time for poetry has gone by.

“My health suffered horridly last year, I think from over labour and excitation; and though it is now apparently restored to its usual tone, yet during the long and painful disorder (spasms in the stomach), and the
frightful process of cure, by a prolonged use of calomel, I learned that my frame was made of flesh, and not of iron, a conviction which I will long keep in remembrance, and avoid any occupation, so laborious and agitating, as poetry must be, to be worth any thing.

“In this humour, I often think of passing a few weeks on the continent—a summer vacation if I can—and of course my attraction to Gratz would be very strong. I fear this is the only chance of our meeting in this world, we, who once saw each other daily! For I understand from George and Henry, that there is little chance of your coming here. And when I look around me, and consider how many changes you will see in feature, form, and fashion, amongst all you knew and loved; and how much, no sudden squall, or violent tempest, but the slow and gradual progress of life’s long voyage, has severed all the gallant fellowships whom you left spreading their sails to the morning breeze, I really am not sure that you would have much pleasure.

“The gay and wild romance of life is over with all of us. The real, dull, and stern history of humanity has made a far greater progress over our heads; and age, dark and unlovely, has laid his crutch over the stoutest fellow’s shoulders. One thing your old society may boast, that they have all run their course with honour, and almost all with distinction; and the brother suppers of Frederick Street have certainly made a very considerable figure in the world, as was to be expected, from her talents under whose auspices they were assembled.

“One of the most pleasant sights which you would see in Scotland, as it now stands, would be your brother George in possession of the most beautiful and
romantic place in Clydesdale—Corehouse. I have promised often to go out with him, and assist him with my deep experience as a planter and landscape gardener. I promise you my oaks will outlast my laurels; and I pique myself more upon my compositions for manure than on any other compositions whatsoever to which I was ever accessary. But so much does business of one sort or other engage us both, that we never have been able to fix a time which suited us both; and with the utmost wish to make out the party, perhaps we never may.

“This is a melancholy letter, but it is chiefly so from the sad tone of yours—who have had such real disasters to lament while mine is only the humorous sadness, which a retrospect on human life is sure to produce on the most prosperous. For my own course of life, I have only to be ashamed of its prosperity, and afraid of its termination; for I have little reason, arguing on the doctrine of chances, to hope that the same good fortune will attend me for ever. I have had an affectionate and promising family, many friends, few unfriends, and I think, no enemies—and more of fame and fortune than mere literature ever procured for a man before.

“I dwell among my own people, and have many whose happiness is dependent on me, and which I study to the best of my power. I trust my temper, which you know is by nature good and easy, has not been spoiled by flattery or prosperity; and therefore I have escaped entirely that irritability of disposition which I think is planted, like the slave in the poet’s chariot, to prevent his enjoying his triumph.

“Should things, therefore, change with me—and in these times, or indeed in any times, such change is to be apprehended—I trust I shall be able to surrender these adventitious advantages, as I would my upper
dress, as something extremely comfortable, but which I can make shift to do without.”* . . . .

As I may have no occasion hereafter to allude to the early friend with whose sorrows Scott thus sympathized amidst the meridian splendours of his own worldly career, I may take this opportunity of mentioning, that Captain Basil Hall’s conjecture of her having been the original of Diana Vernon, appeared to myself from the first chimerical; and that I have since heard those who knew her best in the days of her intercourse with Sir Walter, express the same opinion in the most decided manner. But to return.

While the Pirate was advancing under Mr Erskine’s eye, Scott had even more than the usual allowance of minor literary operations on hand. He edited a reprint of a curious old book, called, ‘Franck’s Northern Memoir, and the Contemplative Angler;’ and he also prepared for the press a volume published soon after, under the title of ‘Chronological Notes on Scottish Affairs, 1680 to 1701, from the Diary of Lord Fountainhall.’ The professional writings of that celebrated old lawyer, had been much in his hands from his early years, on account of the incidental light which they throw on the events of a most memorable period in Scottish history: and he seems to have contemplated some more considerable selection from his remains, but to have dropped these intentions, on being given to understand that they might interfere with those of Lord Fountainhall’s accomplished representative, the present

* In communicating this letter to my friend Captain Hall, when he was engaged in his Account of a Visit to Madame de Purgstall during the last months of her life, I suggested to him, in consequence of an expression about Scott’s health, that it must have been written in 1820. The date of the “Denkmahl,” to which it refers, is, however, sufficient evidence that I ought to have said 1821.

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Baronet. It is, however, to be regretted, that Sir Thomas’s promise of a Life of his eminent ancestor has not yet been redeemed.

In August appeared the volume of the Novelist’s Library, containing Scott’s Life of Smollett; and it being now ascertained that John Ballantyne had died a debtor, the editor offered to proceed with this series of prefaces, on the footing that the whole profits of the work should go to his widow. Mr Constable, whose health was now beginning to break, had gone southwards in quest of more genial air, and was at Hastings when he heard of this proposition. He immediately wrote to me, entreating me to represent to Sir Walter that the undertaking, having been coldly received at first, was unlikely to grow in favour if continued on the same plan—that in his opinion the bulk of the volumes, and the small type of their text, had been unwisely chosen for a work of mere entertainment, and could only be suitable for one of reference; that Ballantyne’s Novelist’s Library, therefore, ought to be stopped at once, and another in a lighter shape, to range with the late collected edition of the first series of the Waverley Romances, announced with his own name as publisher, and Scott’s as editor. He proposed at the same time to commence the issue of a Select Library of English Poetry, with prefaces and a few notes by the same hand; and calculating that each of these collections should extend to twenty-five volumes, and that the publication of both might be concluded within two years—“the writing of the prefaces, &c. forming perhaps an occasional relief from more important labours”!—the bookseller offered to pay their editor in all the sum of L.6000: a small portion of which sum, as he hinted, would undoubtedly be more than Mrs John Ballantyne could ever hope to derive from the prosecution of her husband’s
last publishing adventure. Various causes combined to prevent the realization of these magnificent projects. Scott now, as at the beginning of his career of speculation, had views about what a collection of English Poetry should be, in which even Constable could not, on consideration, be made to concur; and I have already explained the coldness with which he regarded further attempts upon our Elder Novelists. The Ballantyne Library crept on to the tenth volume, and was then dropt abruptly; and the double negotiation with Constable was never renewed.

Lady Louisa Stuart had not, I fancy, read Scott’s Lives of the Novelists until, some years after this time, they were collected into two little piratical duodecimos by a Parisian bookseller; and on her then expressing her admiration of them, together with her astonishment that the speculation, of which they formed a part, should have attracted little notice of any sort, he answered as follows:—“I am delighted they afford any entertainment, for they are rather flimsily written, being done merely to oblige a friend: they were yoked to a great, ill-conditioned, lubberly, double-columned book, which they were as useful to tug along as a set of fleas would be to draw a mail-coach. It is very difficult to answer your ladyship’s curious question concerning change of taste; but whether in young or old, it takes place insensibly without the parties being aware of it. A grand-aunt of my own, Mrs Keith of Ravelstone, who was a person of some condition, being a daughter of Sir John Swinton of Swinton—lived with unabated vigour of intellect to a very advanced age. She was very fond of reading, and enjoyed it to the last of her long life. One day she asked me, when we happened to be alone together, whether I had ever seen Mrs Behn’s novels?—I confessed the charge.—Whether I could get her a sight of them?—I said, with
some hesitation, I believed I could; but that I did not think she would like either the manners, or the language, which approached too near that of
Charles II.’s time to be quite proper reading. ‘Nevertheless,’ said the good old lady, ‘I remember them being so much admired, and being so much interested in them myself, that I wish to look at them again.’ To hear was to obey. So I sent Mrs Aphra Behn, curiously sealed up, with ‘private and confidential’ on the packet, to my gay old grand-aunt. The next time I saw her afterwards, she gave me back Aphra, properly wrapped up, with nearly these words:—‘Take back your bonny Mrs Behn; and, if you will take my advice, put her in the fire, for I found it impossible to get through the very first novel. But is it not,’ she said, ‘a very odd thing that I, an old woman of eighty and upwards, sitting alone, feel myself ashamed to read a book which, sixty years ago, I have heard read aloud for the amusement of large circles, consisting of the first and most creditable society in London.’ This, of course, was owing to the gradual improvement of the national taste and delicacy. The change that brings into and throws out of fashion particular styles of composition, is something of the same kind. It does not signify what the greater or less merit of the book is:—the reader, as Tony Lumpkin says, must be in a concatenation accordingly—the fashion, or the general taste, must have prepared him to be pleased, or put him on his guard against it. It is much like dress. If Clarissa should appear before a modern party in her lace ruffles and head-dress, or Lovelace in his wig, however genteelly powdered, I am afraid they would make no conquests; the fashion which makes conquests of us in other respects is very powerful in literary composition, and adds to the effect of some works, while in others it forms their sole merit.”


Among other miscellaneous work of this autumn, Scott amused some leisure hours with writing a series of “Private Letters,” supposed to have been discovered in the repositories of a Noble English Family, and giving a picture of manners in town and country during the early part of the reign of James I. These letters were printed as fast as he penned them, in a handsome quarto form, and he furnished the margin with a running commentary of notes, drawn up in the character of a disappointed chaplain, a keen Whig, or rather Radical, overflowing on all occasions with spleen against Monarchy and Aristocracy. When the printing had reached the 72d page, however, he was told candidly by Erskine, by James Ballantyne, and also by myself, that, however clever his imitation of the epistolary style of the period in question, he was throwing away in these letters the materials of as good a romance as he had ever penned; and a few days afterwards he said to me patting Sibyl’s neck till she danced under him—“You were all quite right: if the letters had passed for genuine they would have found favour only with a few musty antiquaries, and if the joke were detected, there was not story enough to carry it off. I shall burn the sheets, and give you Bonny King Jamie and all his tail in the old shape, as soon as I can get Captain Goffe within view of the gallows.”

Such was the origin of the “Fortunes of Nigel.” As one set of the uncompleted Letters has been preserved, I shall here insert a specimen of them, in which the reader will easily recognise the germ of more than one scene of the novel.

“Jenkin Harman to the Lord ——.
“My Lord,

“Towching this new mishappe of Sir Thomas, whereof your Lordshippe makes querie of me, I wolde hartilie that I could, truth
and my bounden dutie alweys firste satisfied, make suche answer as were fullie plesaunte to me to write, or unto your Lordshippe to reade. But what remedy? young men will have stirring bloodes; and the courtier-like gallants of the time will be gamesome and dangerous, as they have bene in dayes past. I think your Lordshippe is so wise, as to caste one eye backe to your own more juvenile time, whilest you looke forward with the other upon this mischaunce, which, upon my lyfe, will be founde to be no otherwise harmful to Sir Thomas than as it shews him an hastie Hotspur of the day, suddenlie checking at whatsoever may seem to smirche his honour. As I am a trew man, and your Lordship’s poore kinsman and bounden servant, I think ther lives not a gentleman more trew to his friende than Sir Thomas; and although ye be but brothers uterine, yet so dearly doth he holde your favour, that his father, were the gode knight alyve, should not have more swaye with him than shalle your Lordship; and, also, it is no kindly part to sow discord betwene brethrene; for, as the holy Psalmist saythe, ‘Ecce quam bonum et ijnam jucundum habitare fratres,’ &c. And moreover, it nedes not to tell your Lordshippe that Sir Thomas is suddene in his anger; and it was but on Wednesday last that he said to me, with moche distemperature, Master Jenkin, I be tolde that ye meddle and make betwene me and my Lorde my brother; wherfore, take this for feyr warninge, that when I shall fynde you so dooying, I will incontinent put my dager to the hike in you: and this was spoken with all ernestness of visage and actioun, grasping of his poinard’s handle, as one who wolde presentlie make his words good. Surely, my Lord, it is not fair carriage towarde your pore kinsman if anie out of your house make such reports of me, and of that which I have written to you in sympleness of herte, and in obedience to your commandemente, which is my law on this matter. Truely, my Lord, I wolde this was well looked to, otherweys my rewarde for trew service might be to handsell with my herte’s blode the steel of a Milan poignado. Natheless, I will precede with my mater, fal back fal edge, trustyng all utterly in the singleness of my integretie, and in your Lordshippe’s discretioun.

“My Lorde, the braule which hath befallen chaunced this waye, and not otherwise. It hap’d that one Raines, the master of the ordinarie where his honour Sir Thomas eteth well nie dailie (when he is not in attendance at courte, wherein he is perchance more slacke than were wise), shoulde assemble some of the beste who haunte his house, havyng diet ther for money. The purpose, as shewn forthe, was to tast a new piece of choice wyne, and ther Sir
Thomas must nedes be, or the purpos holdes not, and the Alicant becometh Bastard. Wel, my Lord, dice ther wer and music, lustie helthes and dizzie braines, some saye fair ladyes also, of which I know nought, save that suche cockatrices hatch wher such cockes of the game do haunt. Alweys ther was revel and wassail enow and to spare. Now it channced, that whilst one Button, of Graie’s-Inn, an Essex man, held the dice, Sir Thomas fillethe a fulle carouse to the helth of the fair Ladie Elizabeth. Trulie, my Lord, I cannot blame his devotioun to so fair a saint, though I may wish the chapel for his adoration had been better chosen, and the companie more suitable; sed respice finem. The pledge being given, and alle men on foote, aye, and some on knee, to drink the same, young Philip Darcy, a near kinsman of my Lorde’s, or so callyng himself, takes on him to check at the helthe, askyng Sir Thomas if he were willinge to drink the same in a Venetian glasse? the mening of whiche hard sentence your Lordshippe shal esilie construe. Whereupon Sir Thomas, your Lordsliippe’s brother, somewhat shrewishly demanded whether that were his game or his ernest; to which demaunde the uther answers recklessly as he that wolde not be brow-beaten, that Sir Thomas might take it for game or ernest as him listed. Whereupon your Lordshippe’s brother, throwing down withal the woodcocke’s bill, with which, as the fashioun goes, he was picking his teeth, answered redily, he cared not that for his game or ernest, for that neither were worth a bean. A small matter this to make such a storie, for presentlie young Darcie up with the wine-pot in which they had assaid the freshe hogshede, and heveth it at Sir Thomas, which vessel missing of the mark it was aym’d at, encountreth the hede of Master Button, when the outside of the flaggon did that which peradventure the inside had accomplish’d somewhat later in the evening, and stretcheth him on the flore; and then the crie arose, and you might see twenty swords oute at once, and none rightly knowing wherfor. And the groomes and valets, who waited in the street and in the kitchen, and who, as seldom failes, had been as besy with the beer as their masters with the wine, presentlie fell at odds, and betoke themselves to their weapones; so ther was bouncing of bucklers, and bandying of blades instede of clattering of quart pottles, and chiming of harpis and fiddles. At length comes the wache, and, as oft happens in the like affraies, alle men join ageynst them, and they are beten bak: An honest man, David Booth, constable of the night, and a chandler by trade, is sorely hurt. The crie rises of Prentices, prentices, Clubs, clubs, for word went that the court-gallants and the Graie’s-Inn men had murther’d
a citizen; all menne take the street, and the whole ward is uppe, none well knowing why. Menewhile our gallants had the lucke and sense to disperse their company, some getting them into the Temples the gates wherof were presentlie shut to prevent pursuite I warrant, and some taking boat as they might; water thus saving whom wyne hath endaunger’d. The Alderman of the ward, worthy Master Danvelt, with Master Deputy, and others of repute, bestow’d themselves not a litel to compose the tumult, and so al past over for the evening.

“My Lord, this is the hole of the mater, so far as my earnest and anxious serch had therein, as well for the sake of my blode-relation to your honourable house, as frome affectioun to my kinsman Sir Thomas, and especiallie in humble obedience to your regarded commandes. As for other offence given by Sir Thomas, whereof idle bruites are current, as that he should have call’d Master Darcie a codshead or an woodcocke, I can lerne of no such termes, nor anie nere to them, only that when he said he cared not for his game or ernest, he flung down the woodcock’s bill, to which it may be there was sticking a part of the head, though myinformant saithe otherwise; and he stode so close by Sir Thomas, that he herde the quart-pot whissel as it flew betwixt there too hedes. Of damage done among the better sort, there is not muche; some cuts and thrusts ther wer, that had their sequents in blood and woundes, but none dedlie. Of the rascal sort, one fellowe is kill’d, and sundrie hurt. Hob Hilton, your brother’s grome, for life a maymed man, having a slash over the right hande, for faulte of a gauntlet.—Marry he has been a brave knave and a sturdie: and if it pleses your goode Lordshippe, I fynd he wolde gladlie be prefer’d, when tym is fitting, to the office of bedle. He hath a burlie frame, and scare-babe visage; he shall do wel enoughe in such charge, though lackyng the use of four fingers.* The hurtyng of the constabel is a worse mater; as also the anger that is between the courtiers and Graie’s-Inn men; so that yf close hede be not given, I doubt me we shall here of more Gesta Graiorum. Thei will not be persuaded but that the quarrel betwixt Sir Thomas and young Darcie was simulate; and that Master Dutton’s hurte wes wilful; whereas, on my lyfe, it will not be founde so.

* “The death of the rascal sort is mentioned as he would have commemorated that of a dog; and his readiest plan of providing for a profligate menial, is to place him in superintendence of the unhappy poor, over whom his fierce looks, and rough demeanour are to supply the means of authority, which his arm can no longer enforce by actual violence!”


“The counseyl hath taen the matter up, and I here H. M. spoke many things gravely and solidly, and as one who taketh to hert such unhappie chaunces, both against brauling and drinking. Sir Thomas, with others, hath put in plegge to be forthcoming; and so strictly taken up wes the unhappie mater of the Scots Lord,* that if Booth shulde die, which God forefend, there might be a fereful reckoning: For one cityzen sayeth, I trust falslie, he saw Sir Thomas draw back his hand, having in it a drawn sword, just as the constabel felle. It seems but too constant, that thei were within but short space of ech other when this unhappy chaunce befel. My Lord, it is not for me to saie what course your Lordshippe should steer in this storm, onlie that the Lord Chansellour’s gode worde wil, as resen is, do yeman’s service. Schulde it come to fine or imprisonment, as is to be fered, why should not your Lordshippe cast the weyght into the balance for that restraint which goode Sir Thomas must nedes bear himself, rather than for such penalty as must nedes pinche the purses of his frendes. Your Lordship always knoweth best; but surely the yonge knyght hath but litel reson to expect that you shulde further engage yourself in such bondes as might be necessary to bring this fine into the Chequer. Nether have wise men helde it unfit that heated bloode be coold by sequestration for a space from temptation. There is dout, moreover, whether he may not hold himself bounden, according to the forme of faythe which such gallants and stirring spirits profess, to have further meeting with Master Philip Darcie, or this same Button, or with bothe, on this rare dependance of an woodcocke’s hede, and a quart-pot; certeynly, methoughte, the last tym we met, and when he bare himself towards me, as I have premonish’d your Lordshippe, that he was fitter for quiet residence under safe keeping, than for a free walk amongst peceful men.

“And thus, my Lord, ye have the whole mater before you; trew ye shall find it,—my dutie demands it,—unpleasing, I cannot amende it: But I truste neither more evil in esse nor in posse, than I have set forth as above. From one, who is ever your Lordshippe’s most bounden to command, &c.—J. H.”

I think it must have been about the middle of October that he dropped the scheme of this fictitious correspondence. I well remember the morning that he began

* “Perhaps the case of Lord Sanquhar. His Lordship had the misfortune to be hanged, for causing a poor fencing-master to be assassinated, which seems the unhappy matter alluded to.”

the Fortunes of Nigel. The day being destined for Newark Hill, I went over to Abbotsford before breakfast, and found Mr Terry (who had been staying there for some time) walking about with his friend’s master-mason, of whose proceedings he took a fatherly charge, as he might well do, since the plan of the building had been in a considerable measure the work of his own taste. While Terry and I were chatting, Scott came out, bareheaded, with a bunch of MS. in his hand, and said, “Well, lads, I’ve laid the keel of a new lugger this morning—here it is—be off to the water-side, and let me hear how you like it.” Terry took the papers, and walking up and down by the river, read to me the first chapter of Nigel. He expressed great delight with the animated opening, and especially with the contrast between its thorough stir of London life, and a chapter about Norna of the Fitful-Head, in the third volume of the Pirate, which had been given to him in a similar manner the morning before. I could see that (according to the Sheriff’s phrase) he smelt roast meat; here there was every prospect of a fine field for the art of Terryfication. The actor, when our host met us returning from the haugh, did not fail to express his opinion that the new novel would be of this quality. Sir Walter, as he took the MS. from his hand, eyed him with a gay smile, in which genuine benevolence mingled with mock exultation, and then throwing himself into an attitude of comical dignity, he rolled out in the tones of John Kemble, one of the loftiest bursts of Ben Jonson’s Mammon—

“Come on, sir. Now you set your foot on shore
In Novo orbe
————————Pertinax, my Surly,*

* The fun of this application of “my Surly” will not escape any one who remembers the kind and good-humoured Terry’s power of

Again I say to thee aloud, Be rich,
This day thou shalt have ingots,”—

This was another period of “refreshing the machine.” Early in November, I find Sir Walter writing thus to Constable’s partner, Mr Cadell: “I want two books, Malcolm’s London Redivivus, or some such name, and Derham’s Artificial Clockmaker.” [The reader of Nigel will understand these requests.] “All good luck to you, commercially and otherwise. I am grown a shabby letter-writer, for my eyes are not so young as they were, and I grudge every thing that does not go to press.” Such a feeling must often have been present with him; yet I can find no period when he grudged writing a letter that might by possibility be of use to any of his family or friends; and I must quote one of the many which about this very time reached his second son.

To Mr Charles Scott, care of the Rev. Mr Williams, Lampeter.
“21st Nov. 1821.
“My dear Charles,

“I had the pleasure of your letter two days since, being the first symptom of your being alive and well which I have had directly since you left Abbotsford. I beg you will be more frequent in your communications, which must always be desirable when you are at such a distance. I am very glad to hear you are attending closely to make up lost time. Sport is a good thing both for health and pastime; but you must never allow it to interfere with serious study. You have, my dear boy, your own fortune to make, with better assistance of every kind than I had when the world first opened on

assuming a peculiarly saturnine aspect. This queer grimness of look was invaluable to the comedian in several of his best parts; and in private he often called it up when his heart was most cheerful.

me; and I assure you that had I not given some attention to learning (I have often regretted that, from want of opportunity, indifferent health, and some indolence, I did not do all I might have done), my own situation, and the advantages which I may be able to procure for you, would have been very much bounded. Consider, therefore, study as the principal object. Many men have read and written their way to independence and fame; but no man ever gained it by exclusive attention to exercises or to pleasures of any sort. You do not say any thing of your friend
Mr Surtees,* who I hope is well. We all remember him with much affection, and should be sorry to think we were forgotten.

“Our Abbotsford hunt went off extremely well. We killed seven hares, I think, and our dogs behaved very well. A large party dined, and we sat down about twenty-five at table. Every gentleman present sung a song, tant bien que mal, excepting Walter, Lockhart, and I myself. I believe I should add the melancholy Jaques, Mr Waugh, who, on this occasion, however, was not melancholy.† In short, we had a very merry and social party.

“There is, I think, no news here. The hedger, Captain Davidson,‡ has had a bad accident, and injured

* Mr Villiers Surtees, a school-fellow of Charles Scott’s at Lampeter, had spent the vacation of this year at Abbotsford, He is now one of the Supreme Judges at the Mauritius.

Mr Waugh was a retired West Indian, of very dolorous aspect, who had settled at Melrose, built a large house there, surrounded it and his garden with a huge wall, and seldom emerged from his own precincts except upon the grand occasion of the Abbotsford Hunt. The villagers called him “the Melancholy Man”—and considered him as already “dreein’ his dole for doings amang the poor niggers.”

‡ This hedger had got the title of Captain, in memory of his gallantry at some row.

his leg much by the fall of a large stone. I am very anxious about him as a faithful and honest servant. Every one else at Abbotsford, horses and dogs included, are in great preservation.

“You ask me about reading history. You are quite right to read Clarendon—his style is a little long-winded; but, on the other hand, his characters may match those of the ancient historians, and one thinks they would know the very men if you were to meet them in society. Few English writers have the same precision, either in describing the actors in great scenes, or the deeds which they performed. He was, you are aware, himself deeply engaged in the scenes which he depicts, and therefore colours them with the individual feeling, and sometimes, doubtless, with the partiality of a partisan. Yet I think he is, on the whole, a fair writer; for though he always endeavours to excuse King Charles, yet he points out his mistakes and errors, which certainly were neither few nor of slight consequence. Some of his history regards the country in which you are now a resident; and you will find that much of the fate of that Great Civil War turned on the successful resistance made by the city of Gloucester, and the relief of that place by the Earl of Essex, by means of the trained bands of London, a sort of force resembling our local militia or volunteers. They are the subject of ridicule in all the plays and poems of the time; yet the sort of practice of arms which they had acquired enabled them to withstand the charge of Prince Rupert and his gallant cavalry, who were then foiled for the first time. Read, my dear Charles, read, and read that which is useful. Man only differs from birds and beasts, because he has the means of availing himself of the knowledge acquired by his predecessors. The swallow builds the same nest which its father and mother built; and the
sparrow does not improve by the experience of its parents. The son of the learned pig, if it had one, would be a mere brute, fit only to make bacon of. It is not so with the human race. Our ancestors lodged in caves and wigwams, where we construct palaces for the rich, and comfortable dwellings for the poor; and why is this—but because our eye is enabled to look back upon the past, to improve upon our ancestors’ improvements, and to avoid their errors? This can only be done by studying history, and comparing it with passing events. God has given you a strong memory and the power of understanding that which you give your mind to with attention but all the advantage to be derived from these qualities must depend on your own determination to avail yourself of them, and improve them to the uttermost. That you should do so will be the greatest satisfaction I can receive in my advanced life, and when my thoughts must be entirely turned on the success of my children. Write to me more frequently, and mention your studies particularly, and I will on my side be a good correspondent.

“I beg my compliments to Mr and Mrs Williams; I have left no room to sign myself your affectionate father,

W. S.”

To return to business and Messrs Constable. Sir Walter concluded before he went to town in November another negotiation of importance with this house. They agreed to give for the remaining copyright of the four novels published between December 1819 and January 1821 to wit,—Ivanhoe, the Monastery, the Abbot, and Kenilworth—the sum of five thousand guineas. The stipulation about not revealing the author’s name, under a penalty of L.2000, was repeated. By these four novels, the fruits of scarcely more than twelve months’ labour,
he had already cleared at least L.10,000 before this bargain was completed. They, like their predecessors, were now issued in a collective shape, under the title of “Historical Romances, by the Author of Waverley.”

I cannot pretend to guess what the actual state of Scott’s pecuniary affairs was at the time when John Ballantyne’s death relieved them from one great source of complication and difficulty. But I have said enough to satisfy every reader, that when he began the second, and far the larger division of his building at Abbotsford, he must have contemplated the utmost sum it could cost him as a mere trifle in relation to the resources at his command. He must have reckoned on clearing L.30,000 at least in the course of a couple of years by the novels written within such a period. The publisher of his Tales, who best knew how they were produced, and what they brought of gross profit, and who must have had the strongest interest in keeping the author’s name untarnished by any risk or reputation of failure, would willingly, as we have seen, have given him L.6000 more within a space of two years for works of a less serious sort, likely to be despatched at leisure hours, without at all interfering with the main manufacture. But alas!—even this was not all. Messrs Constable had such faith in the prospective fertility of his imagination, that they were by this time quite ready to sign bargains and grant bills for novels and romances to be produced hereafter, but of which the subjects and the names were alike unknown to them and to the man from whose pen they were to proceed. A forgotten satirist well says,
“The active principle within
Works on some brains the effect of gin;”
but in his case, every external influence combined to stir the flame, and swell the intoxication of restless exuberant energy. His allies knew, indeed, what he did
not, that the sale of his novels was rather less than it had been in the days of
Ivanhoe; and hints had sometimes been dropped to him that it might be well to try the effects of a pause. But he always thought—and James Ballantyne had decidedly the same opinion—that his best things were those which he threw off the most easily and swiftly; and it was no wonder that his booksellers, seeing how immeasurably even his worst excelled in popularity, as in merit, any other person’s best, should have shrunk from the experiment of a decisive damper. On the contrary, they might be excused for from time to time flattering themselves that if the books sold at a less rate, this might be counterpoised by still greater rapidity of production. They could not make up their minds to cast the peerless vessel adrift; and, in short, after every little whisper of prudential misgiving, echoed the unfailing burden of Ballantyne’s song to push on, hoisting more and more sail as the wind lulled.

He was as eager to do as they could be to suggest—and this I well knew at the time. I had, however, no notion, until all his correspondence lay before me, of the extent to which he had permitted himself thus early to build on the chances of life, health, and continued popularity. Before the Fortunes of Nigel issued from the press, Scott had exchanged instruments, and received his bookseller’s bills, for no less than four “works of fiction”—not one of them otherwise described in the deeds of agreement—to be produced in unbroken succession, each of them to fill at least three volumes, but with proper saving clauses as to increase of copy-money, in case any of them should run to four. And within two years all this anticipation had been wiped off by Peveril of the Peak, Quentin Durward, St Ronan’s Well, and Redgauntlet; and the new castle was by that time complete, and overflowing with all its splendour; but by that time the end also was approaching!


The splendid Romance of the Pirate was published in the beginning of December, 1821; and the wild freshness of its atmosphere, the beautiful contrast of Minna and Brenda, and the exquisitely drawn character of Captain Cleveland, found the reception which they deserved. The work was analyzed with remarkable care in the Quarterly Review by a critic second to few, either in the manly heartiness of his sympathy with the felicities of genius, or in the honest acuteness of his censure in cases of negligence and confusion. This was the second of a series of articles in that Journal, conceived and executed in a tone widely different from those given by Mr Gifford himself to Waverley, Guy Mannering, and the Antiquary. I fancy the old gentleman had become convinced that he had made a grievous mistake in this matter, before he acquiesced in Scott’s proposal about “quartering the child” in January 1816; and if he was fortunate in finding a contributor able and willing to treat the rest of Father Jedediah’s progeny with excellent skill, and in a spirit more accordant with the just and general sentiments of the public, we must also recognise a pleasing and honourable trait of character in the frankness with which the recluse and often despotic editor now resigned the pen to Mr Senior.

On the 13th December Sir Walter received a copy of Cain, as yet unpublished, from Lord Byron’s bookseller, who had been instructed to ask whether he had any objection to having the “Mystery” dedicated to him. He replied in these words:—

To John Murray, Esq., Albemarle Street, London.
“Edinburgh, 17th December, 1821.
“My dear Sir,

“I accept with feelings of great obligation the flattering proposal of Lord Byron to prefix my name to
the very grand and tremendous drama of
Cain. I may be partial to it, and you will allow I have cause; but I do not know that his Muse has ever taken so lofty a flight amid her former soarings. He has certainly matched Milton on his own ground. Some part of the language is bold, and may shock one class of readers, whose tone will be adopted by others out of affectation or envy. But then they must condemn the Paradise Lost, if they have a mind to be consistent. The fiend-like reasoning and bold blasphemy of the fiend and of his pupil, lead exactly to the point which was to be expected the commission of the first murder, and the ruin and despair of the perpetrator.

“I do not see how any one can accuse the author himself of Manicheism. The devil takes the language of that sect, doubtless; because, not being able to deny the existence of the Good Principle, he endeavours to exalt himself—the Evil Principle—to a seeming equality with the Good; but such arguments, in the mouth of such a being, can only be used to deceive and to betray. Lord Byron might have made this more evident, by placing in the mouth of Adam, or of some good and protecting spirit, the reasons which render the existence of moral evil consistent with the general benevolence of the Deity. The great key to the mystery is, perhaps, the imperfection of our own faculties, which see and feel strongly the partial evils which press upon us, but know too little of the general system of the universe, to be aware how the existence of these is to be reconciled with the benevolence of the great Creator.—Ever yours truly,

Walter Scott.”

In some preceding narratives of Sir Walter Scott’s Life, I find the principal feature for 1821 to be an affair
of which I have as yet said nothing; and which, notwithstanding the examples I have before me, I must be excused for treating on a scale commensurate with his real share and interest therein. I allude to an unfortunate newspaper, by name
The Beacon, which began to be published in Edinburgh in January 1821, and was abruptly discontinued in the August of the same year. It originated in the alarm with which the Edinburgh Tories contemplated the progress of Radical doctrines during the agitation of the Queen’s business in 1820—and the want of any adequate counteraction on the part of the Ministerial newspapers in the north. James Ballantyne had on that occasion swerved from his banner—and by so doing given not a little offence to Scott. He approved, therefore, of the project of a new Weekly Journal, to be conducted by some steadier hand; and when it was proposed to raise the requisite capital for the speculation by private subscription, expressed his willingness to contribute whatever sum should be named by other gentlemen of his standing. This was accepted of course; but every part of the advice with which the only man in the whole conclave that understood a jot about such things coupled his tender of alliance, was departed from in practice. No experienced and responsible editor of the sort he pointed out as indispensable was secured; the violence of disaffected spleen was encountered by a vein of satire which seemed more fierce than frolicsome; the Law Officers of the Crown, whom he had most strenuously cautioned against any participation in the concern, were rash enough to commit themselves in it; the subscribers, like true Scotchmen, in place of paying down their money and thinking no more of that part of the matter, chose to put their names to a bond of security on which the sum total was to be advanced by bankers, and thus by their own over-
THE BEACON—1821.153
caution as to a few pounds laid the foundation for a long train of humiliating distresses and disgraces; and finally, when the rude drollery of the young hot-bloods to whom they had entrusted the editorship of their paper produced its natural consequences, and the ferment of Whig indignation began to boil over upon the dignified patrons of what was denounced as a systematic scheme of calumny and defamation—these seniors shrunk from the dilemma as rashly as they had plunged into it, and instead of compelling the juvenile allies to adopt a more prudent course, and gradually give the journal a tone worthy of open approbation, they, at the first blush of personal difficulty, left their instruments in the lurch, and, without even consulting Scott, ordered the Beacon to be extinguished at an hour’s notice.

A more pitiable mass of blunder and imbecility was never heaped together than the whole of this affair exhibited; and from a very early period Scott was so disgusted with it that he never even saw the newspaper, of which Whigs and Radicals believed, or affected to believe, that the conduct and management were in some degree at least under his dictation. The results were lamentable: the Beacon was made the subject of Parliamentary discussion, from which the then heads of Scotch Toryism did not escape in any very consolatory plight; but above all, the Beacon bequeathed its rancour and rashness, though not its ability, to a Glasgow Paper of similar form and pretensions, entitled The Sentinel. By that organ the personal quarrels of the Beacon were taken up and pursued with relentless industry; and finally, the Glasgow editors disagreeing, some moment of angry confusion betrayed a box of MSS., by which the late Sir Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck was revealed as the writer of certain truculent enough pasquinades. A leading Edinburgh Whig, who had been
pilloried in one or more of these, challenged Boswell—and the Baronet fell in as miserable a quarrel as ever cost the blood of a high-spirited gentleman.

This tragedy occurred in the early part of 1822; and soon afterwards followed those debates on the whole business in the House of Commons, for which, if any reader feels curiosity about them, I refer him to the Parliamentary Histories of the time. A single extract from one of Scott’s letters to a member of the then Government in London will be sufficient for my purpose; and abundantly confirm what I have said as to his personal part in the affairs of the Beacon.

To J. W. Croker, Esq., Admiralty.
“My dear Croker,

“. . . . I had the fate of Cassandra in the Beacon matter from beginning to end. I endeavoured in vain to impress on them the necessity of having an editor who was really up to the business, and could mix spirit with discretion—one of those “gentlemen of the press,” who understand the exact lengths to which they can go in their vocation. Then I wished them in place of that Bond, to have each thrown down his hundred pounds, and never enquired more about it—and lastly, I exclaimed against the Crown Counsel being at all concerned. In the two first remonstrances I was not listened to—in the last I thought myself successful, and it was not till long afterwards that I heard they had actually subscribed the Bond. Then the hasty renunciation of the thing, as if we had been doing something very atrocious, put me mad altogether. The younger brethren too, allege that they are put into the front of the fight, and deserted on the first pinch; and on my word I cannot say the accusation is altogether false, though I have been doing my best to mediate betwixt the par-
THE BEACON—1821.155
ties, and keep the peace if possible. The fact is, it is a blasted business, and will continue long to have bad consequences.—Yours in all love and kindness,

Walter Scott.”