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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Sir Walter Scott to Maria Edgeworth, 4 February 1829

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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“Edinburgh, Feb. 4, 1829.
“My dear Miss Edgeworth,

“I have had your letter several days, and only answer just now, not, you may believe, from want of interest in the contents, but from the odd circumstance of being so much afflicted with chilblains in the fingers, that my pen scrambles every way but the right one. Assuredly I should receive the character of the most crabbed fellow from those modern sages who judge of a man from his handwriting. But as an old man becomes a child, I must expect, I suppose, measles and smallpox. I only wish I could get a fresh set of teeth. To tell you the truth, I feel the advance of age more than I like, though my general health is excellent; but I am not able to walk as I did, and I fear I could not now visit St Kevin’s Bed. This is a great affliction to one who has been so active as I have been, in spite of all disadvantages. I must now have a friendly arm, instead of relying on my own exertions; and it is sad to think I shall be worse before I am better. However, the mild weather may help me in some degree, and the worst is a quiet pony (I used to detest a quiet pony), or perhaps a garden-chair. All this does not prevent my sincere sympathy in the increase of happiness, which I hope Miss Fanny’s marriage will afford to herself, and you, and all who love her. I have not had the same opportunity to know her merits as those of my friends Mrs Butler and Mrs Fox; but I saw enough of her (being your sister) when at Dublin, to feel most sincerely interested in a young person whose exterior is so amiable.
Mr Wilson you describe the national character of John Bull, who is not the worst of the three nations, though he has not the quick feeling and rich humour of your countrymen, nor the shrewd sagacity, or the romantic spirit of thinking and adventuring which the Scotch often conceal under their apparent coldness, and which you have so well painted in the M’Leod of your Ennui. Depend upon it, I shall find Russell Square when I go to London, were I to have a voyage of discovery to make it out; and it will be Mr Wilson’s fault if we do not make an intimate acquaintance.

“I had the pleasure of receiving, last autumn, your American friend Miss Douglas, who seems a most ingenious person; and I hope I succeeded in making her happy during her short visit at Abbotsford; for I was compelled to leave her to pay suit and service at the Circuit. The mention of the Circuit brings me to the horrors which you have so well described, and which resemble nothing so much as a wild dream. Certainly I thought, like you, that the public alarm was but an exaggeration of vulgar rumour; but the tragedy is too true, and I look in vain for a remedy of the evils, in which it is easy to see this black and unnatural business has found its origin. The principal source certainly lies in the feelings of attachment which the Scotch have for their deceased friends. They are curious in the choice of their sepulchre, and a common shepherd is often, at whatever ruinous expense to his family, transported many miles to some favourite place of burial which has been occupied by his fathers. It follows, of course, that any interference with these remains is considered with most utter horror and indignation. To such of their superiors as they love from clanship or habits of dependance, they attach the same feeling. I experienced it when I had a great domestic loss; for I
learned afterwards that the cemetery was guarded, out of good will, by the servants and dependants who had been attached to her during life; and were I to be laid beside my lost companion just now, I have no doubt it would be long before my humble friends would discontinue the same watch over my remains, and that it would incur mortal risk to approach them with the purpose of violation. This is a kind and virtuous principle, in which every one so far partakes, that, although an unprejudiced person would have no objection to the idea of his own remains undergoing dissection, if their being exposed to scientific research could be of the least service to humanity, yet we all shudder at the notion of any who had been dear to us, especially a wife or sister, being subjected to a scalpel among a gazing and unfeeling crowd of students. One would fight and die to prevent it. This current of feeling is encouraged by the law which, as distinguishing murderers and other atrocious criminals, orders that their bodies shall be given for public dissection. This makes it almost impossible to consign the bodies of those who die in the public hospitals to the same fate; for it would be inflicting on poverty the penalty which, wisely or unwisely, the law of the country has denounced against guilt of the highest degree; and it would assuredly deprive all who have a remaining spark of feeling or shame, of the benefit of those consolations of charity of which they are the best objects. If the prejudice be not very liberal, it is surely natural, and so deeply-seated, that many of the best feelings must be destroyed ere it can be eradicated. What then remains? The only chance I see is to permit importation from other countries. If a subject can be had in Paris for ten or twenty francs, it will surely pay the importer who brings it to Scotland. Something must be
done, for there is an end of the Cantabit vacuus,* the last prerogative of beggary, which entitled him to laugh at the risk of robbery. The veriest wretch in the highway may be better booty than a person of consideration, since the last may have but a few shillings in his pocket, and the beggar, being once dead, is worth ten pounds to his murderer.

“The great number of the lower Irish which have come over here since the peace, is, like all important occurrences, attended with its own share of good and evil. It must relieve Ireland in part of the excess of population, which is one of its greatest evils, and it accommodates Scotland with a race of hardy and indefatigable labourers, without which it would be impossible to carry on the very expensive improvements which have been executed. Our canals, our railroads, and our various public works are all wrought by Irish. I have often employed them myself at burning clay, and similar operations, and have found them as labourers quiet and tractable, light-spirited, too, and happy to a degree beyond belief, and in no degree quarrelsome, keep whisky from them and them from whisky. But most unhappily for all parties they work at far too low a rate; at a rate, in short, which can but just procure salt and potatoes; they become reckless, of course, of all the comforts and decencies of life, which they have no means of procuring. Extreme poverty brings ignorance and vice, and these are the mothers of crime. If Ireland were to submit to some kind of poor-rate—I do not mean that of England—but something that should secure to the indigent their natural share of the fruits of the earth, and enable them at least to feed while others are feasting—it would, I cannot doubt, raise the character of the lower orders, and deprive them of that recklessness of

* Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator.—Juvenal.

futurity which leads them to think only of the present. Indeed, where intoxication of the lower ranks is mentioned as a vice, we must allow the temptation is well-nigh inevitable; meat, clothes, fire, all that men can and do want are supplied by a drop of whisky, and no one should be surprised that the relief (too often the only one within the wretches’ power) is eagerly grasped at.

“We pay back, I suspect, the inconveniencies we receive from the character of our Irish importation, by sending you a set of half-educated, cold-hearted Scotchmen to be agents and middle-men. Among them, too, there are good and excellent characters, yet I can conceive they often mislead their employers. I am no great believer in the extreme degree of improvement to be derived from the advancement of science; for every study of that nature tends, when pushed to a certain extent, to harden the heart, and render the philosopher reckless of every thing save the objects of his own pursuit; all equilibrium in the character is destroyed, and the visual force of the understanding is perverted by being fixed on one object exclusively. Thus we see theological sects (although inculcating the moral doctrines) are eternally placing man’s zeal in opposition to them; and even in the practice of the bar, it is astonishing how we become callous to right and wrong, when the question is to gain or lose a cause. I have myself often wondered how I became so indifferent to the horrors of a criminal trial, if it involved a point of law. In like manner, the pursuit of physiology inflicts tortures on the lower animals of creation, and at length comes to rub shoulders against the West Port. The state of high civilisation to which we have arrived, is perhaps scarcely a national blessing, since, while the few are improved to the highest point, the many are in proportion tantalized
and degraded, and the same nation displays at the same time the very highest and the very lowest state in which the human race can exist in point of intellect. Here is a doctor who is able to take down the whole clock-work of the human frame, and may in time find some way of repairing and putting it together again; and there is
Burke with the body of his murdered countrywoman on his back, and her blood on his hands, asking his price from the learned carcass-butcher. After all, the golden age was the period for general happiness, when the earth gave its stores without labour, and the people existed only in the numbers which it could easily subsist; but this was too good to last. As our numbers grew our wants multiplied, and here we are contending with increasing difficulties by the force of repeated inventions. Whether we shall at last eat each other, as of yore, or whether the earth will get a flap with a comet’s tail first, who but the reverend Mr Irving will venture to pronounce?

“Now here is a fearful long letter, and the next thing is to send it under Lord Francis Gower’s omnipotent frank.* Anne sends best compliments; she says she had the honour to despatch her congratulations to you already. Walter and his little wife are at Nice; he is now major of his regiment, which is rapid advancement, and so has gone abroad to see the world. Lockhart has been here for a week or two, but is now gone for England. I suspect he is at this moment stopped by the snow-storm, and solacing himself with a cigar somewhere in Northumberland; that is all the news that can interest you. Dr and Mrs Brewster are rather getting over their heavy loss, but it is still too visible on their brows, and that broad river lying daily before them is a

* Lord F. G. was Secretary for Ireland, under the Duke of Wellington’s Ministry.

sad remembrancer. I saw a brother of yours on a visit at Allerley;* he dined with us one day and promised to come and see us next summer, which I hope he will make good.—My pen has been declaring itself independent this last half hour, which is the more unnatural, as it is engaged in writing to its former mistress.†—Ever yours affectionately.

W. Scott.”