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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Sir Walter Scott, Journal, 23 February-25 April 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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Diary, “Feb. 23.—Anne and I dined at Skene’s, where we met Mr and Mrs George Forbes, Colonel and Mrs Blair, George Bell, &c. The party was a pleasant one. Colonel Blair told us that at the commencement of the battle of Waterloo, there was some trouble to prevent the men from breaking their ranks. He expostulated with one man—‘Why, my good fellow, you cannot propose to beat the French alone? You had better keep your ranks.’ The man, who was one of the 71st, returned to his place, saying, ‘I believe you are right, sir, but I am a man of a very hot temper.’ There was much bonhommie in the reply.

February 24.‘Snowy miserable morning. I corrected my proofs, and then went to breakfast with Mr
Drummond Hay, where we again met Colonel and Mrs Blair, with Thomas Thomson. We looked over some most beautiful drawings which Mrs Blair had made in different parts of India, exhibiting a species of architecture so gorgeous, and on a scale so extensive, as to put to shame the magnificence of Europe; and yet, in most cases, as little is known of the people who wrought these wonders as of the kings who built the Pyramids. Fame depends on literature, not on architecture. We are more eager to see a broken column of Cicero’s villa, than all these mighty labours of barbaric power. Mrs Blair is full of enthusiasm. She told me, that when she worked with her pencil she was glad to have some one to read to her as a sort of sedative, otherwise her excitement made her tremble, and burst out a-crying. I can understand this very well. On returning home, I wrought, but not much—rather dawdled and took to reading Chambers’s Beauties of Scotland, which would be admirable if they were accurate. He is a clever young fellow, but hurts himself by too much haste. I am not making too much myself I know—and I know, too, it is time I were making it—unhappily there is such a thing as more haste and less speed. I can very seldom think to purpose by lying perfectly idle, but when I take an idle book, or a walk, my mind strays back to its task, out of contradiction as it were; the things I read become mingled with those I have been writing, and something is concocted. I cannot compare this process of the mind to any thing save that of a woman to whom the mechanical operation of spinning serves as a running bass to the songs she sings, or the course of ideas she pursues. The phrase Hoc age, so often quoted by my father, does not jump with my humour. I cannot nail my mind to one subject of contemplation, and it is by nourishing two trains of ideas that I can bring one into order.


February 28.—Finished my proofs this morning; and read part of a curious work, called Memoirs of Vidocq; a fellow who was at the head of Buonaparte’s police. It is a picaresque tale; in other words, a romance of roguery. The whole seems much exaggerated, and got up; but I suppose there is truth au fond. I came home about two o’clock, and wrought hard and fast till now—night. I cannot get myself to feel at all anxious about the Catholic question. I cannot see the use of fighting about the platter, when you have let them snatch the meat off it. I hold Popery to be such a mean and depraving superstition, that I am not sure I could have found myself liberal enough for voting the repeal of the penal laws as they existed before 1780. They must, and would, in course of time, have smothered Popery; and, I confess, I should have seen the old lady of Babylon’s mouth stopped with pleasure. But now, that you have taken the plaster off her mouth, and given her free respiration, I cannot see the sense of keeping up the irritation about the claim to sit in Parliament. Unopposed, the Catholic superstition may sink into dust, with all its absurd ritual and solemnities. Still it is an awful risk. The world is, in fact, as silly as ever, and a good competence of nonsense will always find believers. Animal magnetism, phrenology, &c. &c., have all had their believers, and why not Popery? Ecod! if they should begin to make Smithfield broils, I do not know where many an honest Protestant could find courage enough to be carbonadoed? I should shrink from the thoughts of tar-barrels and gibbets, I am afraid, and make a very pusillanimous martyr. So I hope the Duke of Wellington will keep the horned beast well in hand, and not let her get her leg over the harrows.

March 4.—At four o’clock arrives Mr Cadell, with his horn charged with good news. The prospectus of
DIARY—MARCH, 1829.181
the Magnum, although issued only a week, has produced such a demand among the trade, that he thinks he must add a large number of copies, that the present edition of 7000 may be increased to meet the demand; he talks of raising it to 10,000 or 12,000. If so, I shall have a powerful and constant income to bear on my unfortunate debts for several years to come, and may fairly hope to put every claim in a secure way of payment.
Laidlaw dined with me, and, poor fellow, was as much elated with the news as I am, for it is not of a nature to be kept secret. I hope I shall have him once more at Kaeside to debate, as we used to do, on religion and politics.

March 5.—I am admitted a member of the Maitland Club of Glasgow, a Society on the principle of the Roxburgh and Bannatyne. What a tail of the alphabet I should draw after me were I to sign with the indications of the different societies I belong to, beginning with President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and ending with umpire of the Six-feet-high Club.

March 6.—Made some considerable additions to the Appendix to General Preface. I am in the sentiments towards the public that the buffoon player expresses towards his patron—
“Go tell my good Lord, said this modest young man,
If he will but invite me to dinner,
I’ll be as diverting as ever I can—
I will, on the faith of a sinner.’
I will multiply the notes, therefore, when there is a chance of giving pleasure and variety. There is a stronger gleam of hope on my affairs than has yet touched on them; it is not steady or certain, but it is bright and conspicuous. Ten years may last with me, though I have but little chance of it.

March 7.—Sent away proofs. This extrication of my affairs, though only a Pisgah prospect, occupies my
mind more than is fitting; but without some such hopes I must have felt like one of the victims of the wretch
Burke, struggling against a smothering weight on my bosom, till nature could endure it no longer.

March 8.—Ballantyne, by a letter of this morning, totally condemns Anne of Geierstein. Third volume nearly finished—a pretty thing, truly, for I shall be expected to do all over again. Great dishonour in this, as Trinculo says, besides an infinite loss. Sent for Cadell to attend me to-morrow morning, that we may consult about this business.—Peel has made his motion on the Catholic question with a speech of three hours. It is almost a complete surrender to the Catholics, and so it should be, for half measures do but linger out the feud. This will, or rather ought to satisfy all men who sincerely love peace, and, therefore, all men of property. But will this satisfy Pat, who, with all his virtues, is certainly not the most sensible person in the world? Perhaps not; and if not, it is but fighting them at last. I smoked away, and thought of ticklish politics and bad novels.

March 9.—Cadell came to breakfast. We resolved in privy council to refer the question whether Anne of G—n be sea-worthy or not to further consideration, which, as the book cannot be published, at any rate, during the full rage of the Catholic question, may be easily managed. After breakfast I went to Sir William Arbuthnot’s,* and met there a select party of Tories, to decide whether we should act with the Whigs, by adopting their petition in favour of the Catholics. I was not free from apprehension that the petition might be put

* This gentleman was a favourite with Sir Walter—a special point of communion being the Antiquities of the British Drama. He was Provost of Edinburgh in 1816-17, and again in 1822, and the King gracefully surprised him by proposing his health, at the Banquet in the Parliament House, as “Sir William Arbuthnot, Baronet.”

DIARY—MARCH, 1829.183
into such language as I, at least, should be unwilling to homologate by my subscription. The Solicitor was voucher that they would keep the terms quite general; whereupon we subscribed the requisition for a meeting, with a slight alteration, affirming that it was our desire not to have intermeddled, had not the anti-Catholics pursued that course; and so the Whigs and we are embarked in the same boat—vogue la galère.

“Went about one o’clock to the Castle, where we saw the auld murderess Mons Meg* brought up in solemn procession to reoccupy her ancient place on the Argyle battery. The day was cold, but serene, and I think the ladies must have been cold enough, not to mention the Celts, who turned out upon the occasion, under the leading of Cluny Macpherson, a fine spirited lad. Mons Meg is a monument of our pride and poverty. The size is enormous, but six smaller guns would have been made at the same expense, and done six times as much execution as she could have done. There was immense interest taken in the show by the people of the town, and the numbers who crowded the Castle-hill had a magnificent appearance. About thirty of our Celts attended in costume: and as there was a Highland regiment for duty, with dragoons and artillerymen, the whole made a splendid show. The style in which the last manned and wrought the windlass which raised Old Meg, weighing seven or eight tons, from her temporary carriage to that which has been her basis for many years, was singularly beautiful as a combined exhibition of skill and strength. My daughter had what might have proved a frightful accident. Some rockets were let off, one of which lighted upon her head, and set her bonnet on fire. She neither screamed nor ran, but quietly per-

* See ante, Vol. v. p. 221.

Charles Sharpe to extinguish the fire, which he did with great coolness and dexterity. All who saw her, especially the friendly Celts, gave her merit for her steadiness, and said she came of good blood. My own courage was not tried, for being at some distance escorting the beautiful and lively Countess of Hopetoun, I did not hear of the accident till it was over.

“We lunched with the regiment (73d) now in the castle. The little entertainment gave me an opportunity of observing what I have often before remarked the improvement in the character of the young and subaltern officers in the army, which in the course of a long and bloody war had been, in point of rank and manners, something deteriorated. The number of persons applying for commissions (3000 being now on the lists) gives an opportunity of selection; and officers should certainly be gentlemen, with a complete opening to all who can rise by merit. The style in which duty and the knowledge of their profession are now enforced, prevents faineants from remaining long in the profession.

“In the evening I presided at the annual festival of the Celtic Club. I like this Society, and willingly give myself to be excited by the sight of handsome young men with plaids and claymores, and all the alertness and spirit of Highlanders in their native garb. There was the usual degree of excitation excellent dancing, capital songs, a general inclination to please and to be pleased. A severe cold caught on the battlements of the Castle prevented me from playing first fiddle so well as on former occasions, but what I could do was received with the usual partiality of the Celts. I got home fatigued and vino gravatus about eleven o’clock. We had many guests, some of whom, English officers, seemed both amused and surprised at our wild ways, especially at the dancing without ladies, and the mode
DIARY—MARCH, 1829.185
of drinking favourite toasts, by springing up with one foot on the bench and one on the table, and the peculiar shriek of applause, so unlike English cheering.

Abbotsford, March 18.—I like the hermit life indifferent well, nor would, I sometimes think, break my heart, were I to be in that magic mountain where food was regularly supplied by ministering genii, and plenty of books were accessible without the least interruption of human society. But this is thinking like a fool. Solitude is only agreeable when the power of having society is removed to a short space, and can be commanded at pleasure. ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’* It blunts our faculties and freezes our active virtues. And now, my watch pointing to noon, I think after four hours’ work I may indulge myself with a walk. The dogs see me about to shut my desk, and intimate their happiness by caresses and whining. By your leave, Messrs Genii of the Mountain, if I come to your retreat I’ll bring my dogs with me.

“The day was showery, but not unpleasant—soft dropping rains, attended by a mild atmosphere, that spoke of flowers in their seasons, and a chirping of birds, that had a touch of spring in it. I had the patience to get fully wet, and the grace to be thankful for it.

“Come, a little flourish on the trumpet. Let us rouse the Genius of this same red mountain—so called, because it is all the year covered with roses. There can be no difficulty in finding it, for it lies towards the Caspian, and is quoted in the Persian Tales. Well, I open my ephemerides, form my scheme under the suitable planet, and the Genius obeys the invitation and appears. The Gnome is a misshapen dwarf, with a huge jolter-head like that of Boerhaave on the Bridge,† his limbs and body

* Genesis, chap. ii. v. 18.

† This head may still be seen over a laboratory at No. 100 of

monstrously shrunk and disproportioned. ‘Sir Dwarf,’ said I, undauntedly, thy head is very large, and thy feet and limbs somewhat small in proportion.’ ‘I have crammed my head, even to the overflowing, with knowledge; and I have starved my limbs by disuse of exercise and denial of sustenance!’ ‘Can I acquire wisdom in thy solitary library?’ ‘Thou mayest!’ ‘On what condition?’ ‘Renounce all gross and fleshly pleasures, eat pulse and drink water, converse with none but the wise and learned, alive and dead.’ ‘Why, this were to die in the cause of wisdom!’ ‘If you desire to draw from our library only the advantage of seeming wise, you may have it consistent with all your favourite enjoyments.’ ‘How much sleep?’ ‘A Lapland night—eight months out of the twelve.’ ‘Enough for a dormouse, most generous Genius—a bottle of wine?’ ‘Two, if you please; but you must not seem to care for them—cigars in loads, whisky in lushings—only they must be taken with an air of contempt, a flocci-pauci-nihili-pili-fication of all that can gratify the outward man.’ ‘I am about to ask you a serious question—when one has stuffed his stomach, drunk his bottle, and smoked his cigar, how is he to keep himself awake?’ ‘Either by cephalic snuff or castle-building.’ ‘Do you approve of castle-building as a frequent exercise?’ ‘Genius—Life were not life without it—
‘Give me the joy that sickens not the heart,
Give me the wealth that has no wings to fly.’
Author.—I reckon myself one of the best aerial architects now living, and Nil me pœnitet.’ Genius.—‘Nec est cur te pœniteat. Most of your novels had previously been

the South Bridge, Edinburgh.—N.B. There is a tradition that the venerable busto in question was once dislodged by “Colonel Grogg” and some of his companions, and waggishly planted in a very inappropriate position.

DIARY—MARCH 19, 1829.187
subjects for airy castles.’ Author.—‘You have me—and moreover a man derives experience from such fanciful visions. There are few situations I have not in fancy figured, and there are few, of course, which I am not previously prepared to take some part in.’ Genius.—‘True, but I am afraid your having fancied yourself victorious in many a fight, would be of little use were you suddenly called to the field, and your personal infirmities and nervous agitations both rushing upon you and incapacitating you.’ Author.—‘My nervous agitations! down with them!—
“Down down to Limbo and the burning lake!
False fiend avoid!—
So there ends the tale, with a hoy, with a hoy,
So there ends the tale with a ho.
There’s a moral—if you fail
To seize it by the tail,
Its import will exhale, you must know.

March 19.—The above was written yesterday before dinner, though appearances are to the contrary. I only meant that the studious solitude I have sometimes dreamed of, unless practised with rare stoicism, might perchance degenerate into secret indulgences of coarser appetites, which, when the cares and restraints of social life are removed, are apt to make us think, with Dr Johnson, our dinner the most important event of the day. So much in the way of explanation, a humour which I love not. Go to. I fagged at my Review on Ancient Scottish History, both before and after breakfast. I walked from one o’clock till near three. I make it out rather better than of late I have been able to do in the streets of Edinburgh, where I am ashamed to walk so slow as would suit me. Indeed nothing but a certain suspicion, that once drawn up on the beach, I would soon break up, prevents my renouncing pedestrian exer-
cises altogether, for it is positive suffering, and of an acute kind too.

May 26.—Sent off ten pages of the Maid of the Mist this morning with a murrain:—But how to get my catastrophe packed into the compass allotted for it?
‘It sticks like a pistol half out of its holster,
Or rather indeed like an obstinate bolster,
Which I think I have seen you attempting, my dear,
In vain to cram into a small pillow-beer.’
There is no help for it—I must make a tour de force, and annihilate both time and space.

March 28.—In spite of the temptation of a fine morning, I toiled manfully at the Review till two o’clock, commencing at seven. I fear it will be uninteresting, but I like the muddling work of antiquities, and, besides, wish to record my sentiments with regard to the Gothic question. No one that has not laboured as I have done on imaginary topics can judge of the comfort afforded by walking on all fours, and being grave and dull. I dare say, when the clown of the pantomime escapes from his nightly task of vivacity, it is his especially to smoke a pipe and be prosy with some good-natured fellow, the dullest of his acquaintance. I have seen such a tendency in Sir Adam Ferguson, the gayest man I ever knew; and poor Tom Sheridan has complained to me on the fatigue of supporting the character of an agreeable companion.

April 3.—Both Sir James Mackintosh and Lord Haddington have spoken very handsomely in Parliament of my accession to the Catholic petition, and I think it has done some good; yet I am not confident that the measure will disarm the Catholic spleen nor am I entirely easy at finding myself allied to the Whigs even in the instance where I agree with them This is witless prejudice, however.

DIARY—APRIL, 1829. 189

April 8.—We have the news of the Catholic question being carried in the House of Lords, by a majority of 105 upon the second reading. This is decisive, and the balsam of Fierabras must be swallowed.

April 9.—I have bad news of James Ballantyne. Hypochondria, I am afraid, and religiously distressed in mind.

April 18.—Corrected proofs. I find J. B. has not returned to his business, though I wrote to say how necessary it was. My pity begins to give way to anger. Must he sit there and squander his thoughts and senses upon dowdy metaphysics and abstruse theology, till he addles his brains entirely, and ruins his business?—I have written to him again, letter third, and, I am determined, last.

April 20.—Lord Buchan is dead, a person whose immense vanity, bordering upon insanity, obscured, or rather eclipsed, very considerable talents. His imagination was so fertile, that he seemed really to believe the extraordinary fictions which he delighted in telling. His economy, most laudable in the early part of his life, when it enabled him, from a small income, to pay his father’s debts, became a miserable habit, and led him to do mean things. He had a desire to be a great man and a Mæsenasa bon marché. The two celebrated lawyers, his brothers, were not more gifted by nature than I think he was, but the restraints of a profession kept the eccentricity of the family in order. Henry Erskine was the best-natured man I ever knew, thoroughly a gentleman, and with but one fault. He could not say no, and thus sometimes misled those who trusted him. Tom Erskine was positively mad. I have heard him tell a cock-and-a-bull story of having seen the ghost of his father’s servant, John Burnet, with as much gravity as if he believed every word he was saying. Both Henry and Thomas were saving
men, yet both died very poor. The latter at one time possessed L.200,000; the other had a considerable fortune. The Earl alone has died wealthy. It is saving, not getting, that is the mother of riches. They all had wit. The Earl’s was crack-brained, and sometimes caustic; Henry’s was of the very kindest, best-humoured, and gayest sort that ever cheered society; that of Lord Erskine was moody and muddish. But I never saw him in his best days.

April 25.—After writing a heap of letters, it was time to set out for Lord Buchan’s funeral at Dryburgh Abbey. The letters were signed by Mr David Erskine, his Lordship’s natural son; and his nephew, the young Earl, was present; but neither of them took the head of the coffin. His Lordship’s burial took place in a chapel amongst the ruins. His body was in the grave with its feet pointing westward. My cousin, Maxpopple,* was for taking notice of it, but I assured him that a man who had been wrong in the head all his life would scarce become right-headed after death. I felt something at parting with this old man, though but a trumpery body. He gave me the first approbation I ever obtained from a stranger. His caprice had led him to examine Dr Adam’s class when I, a boy of twelve years old, and then in disgrace for some aggravated case of negligence, was called up from a low bench, and recited my lesson with some spirit and appearance of feeling the poetry—(it was the apparition of Hector’s ghost in the Æneid)—which called forth the noble Earl’s applause. I was very proud of this at the time. I was sad from

* William Scott, Esq.—the present Laird of Raeburn—was commonly thus designated from a minor possession, during his father’s lifetime. Whatever, in things of this sort, used to be practised among the French noblesse might be traced, till very lately, in the customs of the Scottish provincial gentry.

another account—it was the first time I had been among those ruins since I left a very valued pledge there. My next visit may be involuntary. Even God’s will be done—at least I have not the mortification of thinking what a deal of patronage and fuss Lord Buchan would bestow on my funeral.* Maxpopple dined and slept here with four of his family, much amused with what they heard and saw. By good fortune, a ventriloquist and parcel juggler came in, and we had him in the library after dinner. He was a half-starved wretched looking creature, who seemed to have eat more fire than bread. So I caused him to be well-stuffed, and gave him a guinea—rather to his poverty than to his skill—and now to finish
Anne of Geierstein.”