The Works of Sydney Fowler Wright 1874 - 1965

The Life Of Sir Walter Scott - Part II

by S. Fowler Wright

First published by the Poetry League

See prequel The Life Of Sir Walter Scott - part 1


        Scott's original contract with Murray was to write four tales, each of a single-volume length, 0 and he supplied The Black Dwarf to this pattern, but his tale of Claverhouse expanded till it sufficed for the other three.

        John Murray read The Black Dwarf, and felt dubious. He showed it to Gifford, the Quarterly editor, who said whoever had written it had written a poor thing. Murray sent this discouraging opinion on to Blackwood, who agreed, with an increased emphasis. He went to see James, who was secretly, if not openly, of the same opinion. Blackwood wanted James to induce the unknown author to write the latter part of the book again. He even sketched what he thought that ending should be. James said he would see what he could do. But what about the cost of resetting? Blackwood said he felt so strongly about it that he was willing for that to be charged to him. James went to see Scott, who resented Blackwood's suggested alterations. He said he would see them damned before he would change a word. With an author's proverbial perversity, he thought the Black Dwarf to be an example of his best work. Not like - ? Of course, it wasn't like anything else he had written. Wasn't it understood that he was to write in a new way? James said diffidently that everyone agreed that it began well. The trouble was that it became lifeless before it died.

        But Scott still answered after the manner of Pilate. What he had written, he had written. It was a very powerful study No, he wouldn't change anything.

        So that was that, and there was no more to be said. Fortunately, Murray read Old Mortality, and felt better. In spite of its dull-sounding title, he saw that he had got a good thing. A historical novel of a new kind. Was there no end to Scott's wizardry? He wrote to him with congratulations.

        Scott was not to be hooked with that bait. What were the Tales of my Landlord to him? If Murray liked, he would demonstrate his independence of them by writing a review for the Quarterly. Everyone would recognise that a man would not cut up his own children. Even Solomon knew that.

        There was laughter in Albermarle Street when this letter came. Gifford was taken into consultation. Then Murray replied. Why should Scott confine himself to reviewing the Tales of my Landlord? Why not deal with the Waverley novels?

        Scott wrote back, and agreed, on condition that William Erskine, who thought better of those novels than he did himself, should lend a hand. So, in a short time, it was done. No-one who engaged in the correspondence could doubt the authorship of the novels. Scott might admit nothing, but he did not write in the tone and manner in which he would certainly have done had he been dealing with work which was genuinely not his. People were agreeably mystified rather than deceived. Everybody said that they knew - and yet there was just that little pleasant flavour of doubt, which the review helped to maintain when it had been a dying thing. The novels were not over-praised, but Scott (or Erskine in his name) discussed them intelligently. It was excellent advertising. Excellent copy for the Quarterly also. The money for the article was well-earned, and doubtless Erskine had a liberal share.

        And the second experiment in anonymity was as great a success as the first. The position of Old Mortality relatively to the whole gallery of Scott's romances has been a matter on which differences of opinion have been expressed at later periods, but its first reception was a chorus of praise, in which the only note of discord came from those who asserted that the Covenanters were not represented fairly. It was a contention which an impartial judgement will hardly sustain. Indeed, as a work of pure imagination, the book suffers from Scott's desire to be historically accurate, and exactly fair. It may be said that it is too romantic for history, and too historical for romance. The character of Claverhouse is well drawn, but Scott is too anxious to draw it. Instead of leaving it to reveal itself, a method in which he had an almost incomparable ability, whether in prose or verse, it must be explained, even self-explained at times, and there are occasions when Claverhouse talks like a stuffed dummy in consequence. Yet in narrative power, in force and realism, the book was a new thing in historical fiction: it had humour also, which is the one added excellence in Scott's prose romances, which his lyrical ones rarely attempt. It is no wonder that it had high praise, and a large sale.

        Almost immediately after the publication of Old Mortality and the Black Dwarf, the anonymous author of the Bridal of Triermain issued another poem, Harold the Dauntless. Constable published it. It had been hanging about for years. It contained parts which lovers of Scott's poetry would be sorry to lose. It contained others that he could have had little pleasure to write. He must have been glad to have it off his hands. Its sales were not such as to induce the kind of boasting that gives exact figures. It is enough to say that they were quite good.


        Enter Boswell. It is the spring of 1817, and a public dinner of farewell is being given to John Henry Kemble, who has completed a series of Shakespearian performances at the Edinburgh theatre. Jeffrey is in the chair, Scott and John Wilson are the after-dinner speakers. Lockhart is a young lawyer among the guests. All his life he could not remember anything 'more impressive' than that dinner, though he does not say why or how. Doubtless Scott spoke well, as he would when he was among friends, and con amore to the subject with which he dealt. Doubtless, he said the right word to the young lawyer, as he to him. He had good spirits. He did not seem an ill man. Yet he had been ill all the winter, at intervals, with attacks which might seize him at any moment. One had been so severe that he had been laid up for a month, and 'as weak as water' when he wrote to Morritt afterwards to explain why he had not done so earlier. There had been intense pains, culminating in inflammatory symptoms 'about the diaphragm', for which he had been bled and blistered with great severity, and burnt with hot salt, and he believed that these measures, 'under higher assistance' had saved his life. It was a condition which would be met by prompt operation today. It would have been cure or Will. In those days doctors fought it with such knowledge as they had, and by such methods as experience warranted or tradition required, which are disparaged now. Yet it is fair to observe that their patient lived. His remaining blood continued to course through his body, and it was a body in which the spirit was unbroken and unafraid. Friends might be anxious for him, and in correspondence he might admit that the symptoms were of a dangerous kind - Baillie had been frank about that - and his own account is that when the severe symptoms had subsided: "I could neither stir for weakness and giddiness, nor read for dazzling in my eyes, nor listen for a whizzing sound in my ears, nor even think for lack of the power of arranging my ideas. So I had a comfortless time of it for about a week." Yet as he lay, he had dreams. He would win more with his pen from those neighbours who had no love for the land they owned. He would yet make fair woodlands of those barren neglected hills. And he would build a house more fitting than this cramped cottage to be the centre of the loveliness that would one day surround it. "I will pull down my barns and build greater." And no voice answered him with "Thou fool" in the night, for another dream was to come true.

        So when he was strong enough to walk, and before the pain returned, as it surely would, he marked out the foundations of Abbotsford.

        It was at this time that William Laidlaw came to Kaeside. Farming had been difficult during the war. It became impossible afterwards, except for those who had stored capital which they could afford to lose. William Laidlaw gave up the fight. His farm was sold up. Scott, in the midst of his illness, had another worry on his mind, more acute than any question of how matters were going at the Canongate works, or with the bill-discounting account at Sir William Forbes and Co's bank. With whatever may be happening in those directions, he can deal when he gets about again. And, as a matter of fact, things went well enough. The prestige that those anonymous novels had brought made credit easier: the money they brought made it less necessary to obtain: their printing kept the works busier than ever before, and brought a humble prosperity into many homes. But Scott's worry was of a different kind. How, without appearance of charity, could he help Willie Laidlaw, as helped he must surely be? It was by the mercy of Heaven that he had bought that land at Kaeside, with the little house upon it which the tenant, Moss, was due to vacate at Whitsuntide. So he wrote to Moss to know whether it were really convenient to him to leave (for we cannot turn a man out of his home simply because his lease is over), and on receiving a reply that Moss had arranged to go, he used his diplomatic persuasion to induce William Laidlaw to bring his family there.

        So it was arranged, and Scott, thinking to aid others, gave good help to himself in the end, as men often do. In Edinburgh, Constable watched with an angry contempt while Blackwood started a magazine. Pringle, Blackwood's new editor, asked Scott for his help. Scott was too busy for that - and too ill. But he could get his friend Laidlaw to write a good article on gypsies for the first number, with others to follow. So it was agreed. The article was written in Scott's bedroom, Scott dictating anecdotes, as the intervals of pain allowed, from his memory's endless store. He discovered thus that he could write by dictation, and that Laidlaw was a sympathetic amanuensis, which he put to a good use at a future time.

        He got better as the summer approached. He designed a new Waverley novel, concerning which he instructed John Ballantyne to open negotiations with Constable. Constable proposed that he should come to Abbotsford, and discuss the contract with Scott himself. Scott agreed to that, but preferred that John should be present. He sent this note to Hanover Street:


Saturday, May 3, 1817

Dear John,

        I shall be much obliged to you to come here with Constable on Monday, as he proposes a visit, and it will save time. By the way, you must attend that the usual quantity of stock is included in the arrangement - this is £600 - for 6,000 copies. My sum is £1,700 payable in May - a sound advance, by'r Lady, but I think I am entitled to it, considering what I have turned off hitherto on such occasions.

        I make a point of your coming with Constable, health allowing.

Yours truly,

W. S."

        On the following Tuesday, John sent this letter on to James, with another note scribbled upon its foot:

"Half-past 3 o'clock Tuesday.

Dear James, - I am this moment returned from Abbotsford, with entire and full success. Wish me joy. I shall gain about £600 - Constable taking, my share of stock also. The title is Rob Roy, by the author of Waverley!!! Keep this letter for me.

J. B."

        James did keep the letter and returned it to John, for the latter pasted it into a book in which he kept correspondence of importance, and he wrote beneath it at a later date: "N.B. I did gain about £1,200. J.B."

        Many years later, Constable still had a clear recollection of that Monday evening at Abbotsford, and of how they sat together in the garden after dinner, when their business was done. He did not often find Scott so genial to him in his attitude, so readily confidential about his plans. He even gave way about the title, which he rarely would. The book was to be about Rob Roy. Constable, with a sound commercial instinct, said that its subject should be its title also. You couldn't do better than call the book by the Highland bandit's name. Scott always liked titles which meant little until the book had been read. But on this occasion he gave way.

        John proposed bringing Rob Roy's old gun out of the house, and firing a salute in honour of the christening of the new book. Scott vetoed that, saying it would explode. Constable jibed at John: 'What put drawing at sight into your head?'

        Constable's pleasantries were apt to be of that kind. He once spoiled a business deal by mentioning that he had named five geese after Longman and his four partners. He knew something about long-dated bills himself, and was destined to know more.

        Scott saw that John resented the jest, and was quick to interpose a request that he should give them the Cobbler of Kelso. John was famous among his friends as an entertainer, having a quick wit, and an exceptional power of dramatic mimicry. Scott and he had watched this cobbler when they were schoolboys together. He had a favourite blackbird, to which he would talk while it sang. John could imitate his high cracked voice and the blackbird's song about equally well. Lockhart says that he could do these imitations 'with wonderful skill'. It is the witness of a man who disliked John, caricatured him without mercy, and libelled him without scruple, and he is not likely to be overgenerous in his praise.

        So peace was restored, and, in the morning, Constable and John travelled back to Edinburgh together.

        As to John's £600 of estimated commission - which became £1,200 - we may agree that he was well paid, without accepting Lockhart's comment that 'he had no more trouble about the selling or publishing of Rob Roy than his own Cobbler of Kelso.' He adds that 'one must admire his adroitness in persuading Constable, during their journey back to Edinburgh, to relieve him of that fraction of his own old stock, with which his unhazardous share in the new transaction was burdened. Scott's kindness continued as long as John Ballantyne lived, to provide for him a constant succession of similar advantages at the same easy rate; and Constable, from deference to Scott's wishes, and from views of bookselling policy, appears to have submitted to this heavy tax on his most important ventures.'

        But he obstinately refuses to see that Scott did not arrange these liberal commissions for John as his friend, but as his literary agent, in which capacity John seems to have shown some efficiency as well as zeal. Anyway, he pleased Scott, who was most concerned.

        If they were able to arrange that this remuneration should be paid out of the publishers' share of the profits, it is a method to which no literary agent need object, and which all authors would approve today.


        The winter of 1816-17 was one of confused prosperity and want, with much unemployment, and consequently suffering, both in urban and rural districts. It is outside the scope of this book to attempt analyses either of the causes or conditions of this industrial chaos, but we have to notice, that, even through the severity of his own illness, and the pressure of work which was upon him during his intervals of recovery, Scott's correspondence shows that sympathy for those who suffered was preoccupying his mind continually; that he took upon himself the burden of relieving it in his own neighbourhood as a matter of course, and in a wholesale manner; and that in considering and facing its problems he showed a practical sagacity which a further century of experience, and an endless literature of sociology, does not enable us to excel, or perhaps equal, today.

        In the course of a long letter to Robert Southey on May 9th, 1817, he deals with some severity with a scheme of employment upon public works which had been brought into operation in Edinburgh supported by a fund which had been raised through the private generosity of its citizens, and administered by a voluntary committee, and this criticism deserves the greater attention because it is sympathetic to all concerned. He recognises the generosity that has impulsed the project, and the 'yet more praise-worthy because most difficult exertions of those who superintend,' yet he thinks that the result has been 'full as much mischief as good'.

        The scheme was organised on the reasonable premise that it must not be made sufficiently attractive to draw men away from other employment, or indifferent to obtaining it, and the scale of remuneration was fixed somewhat below the standard rates that were then current, with the addition of a compassionate allowance to those who had families. Scott observed the consequence to be that the scheme was regarded "partly as charity, which is humiliating," and "partly as an imposition in taking their labour below value," while there was a further opinion that it was 'a sort of half-pay, not given them for work, but to prevent rebellion,' and the consequence of these attitudes was the worst slacking that he had ever seen.

        He remarks that it would be unreasonable to expect too much, because 'an individual always manages his own concerns better than those of the country can be managed,' which is an obvious truth that some of us are still unwilling to recognise, or to apply; but he lays down as a basic necessity of relief plans that they should be so contrived that the labourer will 'bring his heart and spirit to the work,' and he tells in some detail how he had contrived to reach this result.

        When that winter came, there were about thirty men living around Abbotsford who were without employment, and he offered work to all of them in clearing, draining and planting the land he had bought. He says explicitly that it was not to be regarded as an act of charity on his part, for the work needed to be done, and it had been his ultimate purpose to carry it out; but he had thought of it as a gradual labour of many years, and the money had been very hard to find. We can easily believe that. Even for his income, and even if the printing and publishing enterprise had ceased, for the moment, to drain his purse, the support of thirty families month by month must have strained his resources, as he admits (without complaint) that it did: and the work on which the men were employed was not such as would bring any immediate return. But when his 'honest neighbours' were in need, what choice had he?

        But he bears witness to a spirit the very opposite of that which prevailed at the relief works in Edinburgh. He had been shrewd enough to stipulate for piece-work wherever possible, and just enough to be careful that men should not undertake it, under the stress of want, at a price which would not give a fair wage for a good week's work. He observes that in a piece-work bargain it is always necessary to watch that 'the undertakers, in their anxiety for employment, do not take the job too cheap'.

        Probably men recognised that his action, as he modestly says, was 'not altogether selfish,' and responded in the right way. There had been no slacking at Abbotsford.

        At about the same time as he was corresponding with Southey on these matters, he was expressing himself to Morritt with a very radical vigour concerning the state of the artisans of Yorkshire and Lancashire, where the introduction of machinery was bringing fortunes to many manufacturers while the hand-workers starved, or were obliged to accept work at such wages as were offered, which were often no better than a subsistence minimum. He says truly that a Poor Law charity is no remedy for such conditions. Personally, he would go to any length to change them, even to the approval of a tax on manufacturers, to be levied according to the number of work-people they employed, and handed over to those whom they exploited, which even the Radical Committee at Manchester might have accepted as a sufficiently drastic remedy.

        We have another view of his attitude regarding the obligations of those who control wealth or land in his correspondence at this time with his friend the Duke of Buccleuch, regarding the conduct of certain 'young blackguards' of Selkirk. The Duke's property included some beautiful and extensive woodlands on the banks of the Yarrow, and he had thrown the walks through these woods open to the inhabitants of Selkirk - and the inhabitants of Selkirk were destroying the woods. The Duke wrote to Scott in evident anger, requiring him, in his office as Sheriff, to bring the culprits to justice, and expressing his intention of withdrawing a privilege which was being so grossly abused. There had, apparently, been some violent clash between the depredators and Hudson, the Duke's forester, for Scott alludes to the trouble as 'the disagreeable affair of Tom Hudson', in his reply.

        As Sheriff, as a life-long friend, as a landowner himself in a smaller way, Buccleuch evidently assumed his sympathy and co-operation, and so far as the apprehension and punishment of those who transgressed were concerned, he received explicit assurances in reply. Neither was sympathy lacking: Scott can imagine 'hardly anything more exasperating' than the way in which the Duke's generosity had been received. But he will give no support to the threat that the privilege shall be withdrawn because some have abused it.

        'I think,' He writes 'your Grace will be inclined to follow this up only for the purpose of correction, not that of requital. They are so much beneath you, and so much in your power, that this would be unworthy of you - especially as all the inhabitants of the little country town must necessarily be included in the punishment. After all, those who look for anything better than ingratitude from the uneducated and unreflecting mass of a corrupt population must always be deceived; and the better the heart is that has been expanded towards them, their wants, and their wishes, the deeper is the natural feeling of disappointment. But it is our duty to fight on, doing what good we can. . . . "

        He added a suggestion that the Duke might reach his purpose by an opposite road, if he would 'distinguish by any little notice such Selkirk people working with you as have their families under good order'.

        That was his counsel to another, which is always easy to give. He showed how he would act himself on a later occasion, when people who were going to Selkirk began to trespass across the 'very centre' of his Abbotsford grounds, finding that they could shorten the distance by that invasion. He told Tom Purdie to put up a notice at the place where the trespassers entered. Tom did his best, but he spelt with an independent spirit. 'The Rod to Selkirk ' was the legend which ended the difficulty. You cannot trespass where you are invited to come. Scott told Captain Basil Hall that he would never prosecute a man for trespass, under any circumstances: he added that he had never known anyone to break his fences, or damage his growing trees.

        It was while Scott was writing to Morritt his opinion of those who exploited the labour of the poor that the news reached him that a shot had been fired at the Prince Regent, and he added a footnote to his letter: "I hear the Prince Regent has been attacked and fired at. Since he was not hurt (for I should be sincerely sorry for my fat friend), I see nothing but good luck to result from this assault. It will make him a good manageable boy, and, I think, secure you a quiet session of Parliament."


        The remainder of 1817 was mainly spent on the writing of Rob Roy, varied by a volume of Border Antiquaries, and a substantial portion of the Annual Register, in the publication of which Scott continued with a stubborn determination that would not admit defeat. He visited Loch Lomond and Glasgow to refresh his memory of the scenes with which the novel would largely deal, and when Washington Irving saw him at Abbotsford in August, he found him in apparently vigorous health, but the attacks of "cramp in the stomach" recurred at frequent intervals, and beyond a restricted diet, the physicians appear to have concentrated their prescriptions rather upon relief of pain than any radical cure. He was taking opium to render endurable the recurrent bouts of pain.

        Yet, all the time, he was planning for the future with unabated courage. He laid the foundations of the house which he had resolved to build: he arranged the purchase of the adjoining house of Topsfield, with considerable additional land, and was able to offer it as a home to Adam Fergusson, his friend from boyhood, who now retired from the army on half pay, and came to reside there with his sisters. The name of the house was changed to Huntley Burn. The purchase brought into Scott's possession the whole field of the Battle of Melrose, and Thomas the Rhymer's Glen. It gave him more excuse to find occupation for William Laidlaw as steward of the estate, a position which was gradually established, though Scott appears to have found difficulty during the first year in advancing pretexts for the payments which he knew that Laidlaw's family required, and in overcoming his friend's reluctance; for he wrote to him in November arguing that 'this same account of Dr. and Cr. which fills up so much time in the world, is comparatively of very small value . . . it would be very silly in either of us to let a cheque twice a year of £25 make a difference between us. . . .

        It is customary to represent Scott's purchases of land as an imprudent folly, but it is difficult to accept this view without reservations, especially if we look at things as they were, with no more recognition of the future than he himself could have had at the time. In itself, to create large sums of money by the writing of novels, and to invest them in landed properties is a road to affluence rather than to financial disaster. By purchasing Huntley Burn, and letting it to the Fergussons, he did not only gratify friends and obtain good neighbours. He got good tenants also, and the investment seems to have been sound enough.

        But the foundations of the new house at Abbotsford foretold an expenditure that would increase with the years; the planting of the bare lands he bought might have a far-sighted wisdom, and might bring good wages into many homes where the pinch of poverty might otherwise have been felt, but was not of an immediately remunerative character; the obligations of hospitality as he understood them were an unceasing drain; and the cheques that William Laidlaw was so reluctant to take, the cheques for Weber at the York asylum, the cheques for the support of Daniel's nameless child, they are only those at which we have happened to glance among - how many? - others, that diminished his resources in a score of directions. Money would always be to him a power, not to hoard but to use. It was the chivalrous ideal by which he would live or die.

        It may be said that even the purchase of freehold property was an imprudence, if not an impropriety, while money was owing from many borrowings on bills that were being indefinitely renewed. But, even on this point, there may be material misapprehension. The printing business was still being carried on with a good deal of capital which was provided by the bankers, or other commercial channels, and Scott was leaving it largely to the management of James Ballantyne with an easy - if we are to believe Lockhart, a too-easy - mind. But the successive sales of stock, and some of the large sums that Scott had been making by his pen, had been so applied that all the John Ballantyne bills which had been placed among friends, even those which Morritt had so freely offered to finance, appear to have been taken up. Only the overdraft on the Duke's guarantee was still outstanding, and as he finished Rob Roy, and felt that he had well earned the value of Constable's advances, he determined upon a bold move which would close the chapter of the publishing business for ever. He instructed John Ballantyne to open negotiations with Constable for a second series of Tales of my Landlord to be ready by the following midsummer.

        "I have hungered and thirsted," he wrote to John, "to see the end of those shabby borrowings among friends; they have all been wiped out, except the good Duke's £4,000 - and I will not suffer either new offers of land or anything else to come in the way of that clearance. I expect that you will be able to arrange this resurrection of Jedediah, so that £5,000 shall be at my order."

        That John had justified this confidence is shown by a note which Scott wrote to Buccleuch on January 7th, 1818: "I have the great pleasure of enclosing the discharged bond which your Grace stood engaged in on my account."

        In fact, John had, in Lockhart's contention, gone far beyond his instructions. The details of the event, and Lockhart's comments upon them, in view of the charges which he made against John in regard to his conduct of the previous negotiation, are sufficiently curious to deserve the investigation of a separate chapter.


        Constable was in a good temper with himself and the world, and especially with his Abbotsford bargains. He had believed in Rob Roy. The Highland outlaw was a good subject for a novel, and one which he had been confident would be suitable to the author's genius. He liked it none the less because he had named it himself. James Ballantyne had been enthusiastic about the chapters as they had come into his hands. Constable could be bold, as we know, and he was usually bold at the right time. Now he adventured a first edition of 10,000 copies - an enormous quantity at that time - and the public bought them at once. He had to order the printing of 3,000 more. Rob Roy was going to earn a huge profit for its publisher, and much more for its author than the £1,700 which Constable had advanced already. It was a novel rich alike in background, in incident, and in character; and in Diana it had a more vivacious heroine than those of Scott's prose imaginations had so far been. Probably we may thank Charlotte for that. As Matilda is Williamina Stuart, fencing between her friendship with Walter Scott, and her growing love for Willie Forbes, Diana is with equal certainty, and bolder, clearer delineation, the Charlotte Charpentier that Walter Scott and Adam Fergusson first saw riding upon the Westmorland Hills.

        Scott may be the poet of action, the novelist of adventure: to a superficial survey he may appear to be occupied with material things, but, in fact, his is a dream-world in which there is no physical dominance, and little physical reality. It is a world in which only spiritual values are taken seriously. To a generation saturated with the prolonged osculations of Hollywood, and avid for Warwick Deeping's sentimental hysteria. Scott's reticences are inexplicable both in kind and degree. Diana Vernon's gay fortitude gives way for an instant, as she leans from her horse in the darkness, and a tear falls on her lover's face. . . . You can't get much kick out of that! Perhaps not. But it may be your loss, all the same.

        Scott's illness may have had its share in the tone and quality which divided Rob Roy from his earlier novels. Physical weakness and periods of convalescent exhaustion may clarify mental processes, and give leisure for imagination which it would otherwise lack. Anyway, the fact stood that Rob Roy was another evidence of variety in what might well seem to be an inexhaustible power, and from which, in fact, still further varieties of excellence, including the two greatest of the Waverley novels, were yet to come.

        John was right in thinking that Constable would be keen to deal, and he planned a coup after his own heart. Scott had instructed John to procure £5,000. He had not specified how it was to be obtained, whether by further sales of stock, or by a contract for novels alone, but he had said definitely that Constable was to have the first offer. That being so, we can imagine how the purity of Lockhart's soul is shocked by the way in which John carried out his instructions. It is true that he did not approach any other publishers, and in the end he made a good bargain with Constable. He also got Scott the £5,000, and a good bit more. His sin was that he did not go straight to Constable and say: "I'm instructed to sell you the next series of Tales of my Landlord. Scott wants £5,000. Will you give it, and, if so, what for ?" Instead of that he just talked about the new series of the Tales on which Scott was engaged. The last had been published by Murray and Blackwood. Instead of John going to Constable, an anxious Constable came to him. What were the terms on which Scott would give him the preference for the Tales, so that he should become his exclusive publisher? John invited him to bid high. It was not a question now of taking part of the John Ballantyne stock. It must be finally cleared. If Constable would do that, he could have the Tales on the usual profit-sharing terms. The wholesale value of the remaining stock was placed at £5,270.

        Constable gave way. The stock was carted to his own premises. He signed the usual series of bills. There was the necessary interview at the bank. Constable's name stood high in the banking world of Edinburgh in 1814. So did that of Scott. The bills were discounted, and Buccleuch's guarantee was handed back.

        Constable had bought a large stock of publications, on the realisation of which he would almost certainly lose. But in view of the profits which he was making from the Waverley novels, he could afford to do so. It was worth a large risk, even the certainty of a large loss, to draw Scott definitely into his own orbit, outside that of Blackwood and Murray - the two men in the trade whom he hated most: the two who had the impudence to bring out magazines in competition with his.

        Lockhart is censorious over this transaction. He says that John had "acquitted himself with a species of dexterity not contemplated in his commission". He sheds a tear on Constable's desk concerning the unsaleable nature of that stock. On a previous occasion he asserts that John could easily have sold the whole stock to any of the publishers concerned, and that he deliberately betrayed his employer's interests for his own ends when he failed to make a sufficient effort to do so. Now he does the very thing that he was blamed for not attempting earlier, and which he was accused of scheming to avoid, and he is wrong again. Lockhart's path of righteousness is very narrow for John.

        The accusation is, of course, utter nonsense in itself, as well as being destructive of that which had been made before. Scott's instructions to his agent were obviously confidential, and it was no part of his duty - might, indeed, have been a definite betrayal - to communicate them to Constable. He carried these instructions out both in letter and spirit, obtained what Scott required, and deserved, and doubtless received, his thanks.

        Scott's letter of instructions leaves much latitude for negotiating how the required sum was to be obtained, but, in view of the profit-sharing system now in vogue between Constable and himself, he can scarcely have expected to secure immediate control of £5,000 without such a deal as John Ballantyne made.

        Anyway, the stock was gone, and the firm of John Ballantyne & Co. had come to a final end. Scott reckoned that by nursing the stock, and the method of realisation which he had adopted, he had not merely avoided loss, but had closed his account with a final profit of about £1,000. His reckoning may not have been such as would be considered a satisfactory basis for an accountant's certificate, and the results, in any event, were due to his own value as an author rather than the intrinsic merits of the stock which he had been so largely responsible for creating. The credibility of such a result depends upon the way in which the Hanover Street expenses had been discharged, and the directions in which the heavy costs of bill-renewing had been debited. There would be other questions, such as that of the final adjustments of the loan to James at the start, which would affect the figure, but, considering the quantity of stock which had been dealt with by the John Ballantyne firm, if they finally secured a 10%, margin of profit upon the whole, it is not an impossible result. And, in any case, the printing office had had its usual scale of profit upon that immense turnover.

        It had been an enormous blunder, and, whether by its own inevitability or John's mismanagement, it had brought Scott to the threshold of ruin on at least two occasions. But, as he posted back the Duke's guarantee, he could feel that, by his own energy and ability, as well as by his genius as a novelist, he had first sustained, and afterwards redeemed the position. For years he had thought of it as, at the best, a source of almost ruinous loss, and now, at last, it was a chapter in his life which was closed; and, almost miraculously, he was £1,000 to the good. Now he had only to write a couple more novels for Constable, and he would be a few thousand pounds more on the right side. Even if James were losing money at the Canongate works (which he did not suppose) he could hardly be doing so as fast as that. If Scott looked forward to the future with a confident courage, we may think that few men had a better right.

        Yet we may observer that he had received a very large total during the last year in the form of Constable's bills. They had been easily discounted. Constable's name was good. His bills were always met to the day. He was the Napoleon of the trade. And the fact that he was making a fortune out of Scott's novels was not likely to make him less able to meet his obligations. Yet it is a fact that if he should fail, Scott might be called upon to repay all the money which the banks had given him so readily against the publisher's signature. It was a remote - it might seem an absurdly remote - possibility. It was a risk which the banks would take for a small percentage, and they usually knew what they were doing. It was no more than a business risk, such as all might take at times. But that Scott was not careless, even in regard to such remote contingencies, was shown by that instruction to John last year to see that Longman's own bill, rather than Constable's substitute, should be paid over to him.


        It was in August of this year (1817) that Washington Irving called at Abbotsford. He had a note of introduction from Thomas Campbell, which he sent down to the house with his card, and a line upon it saying he was on his way to inspect Melrose Abbey, and would it be convenient for Mr. Scott to receive a visit from him in the course of the morning? He sat in his chaise on the highroad above the house - 'a vineclad cottage' he called it - waiting for the reply, and Scott came out himself, walking vigorously though lamely along the path, with the help of a heavy stick. Irving did not know of, nor apparently guess, those bouts of illness which were wearing down his strength at this time. He called out heartily how was Tom Campbell, before he reached the side of the chaise. Dogs frisked round him, greyhound and setter. Maida, the great staghound, walked gravely behind. Mr. Irving must come in and have breakfast. Mr. Irving excused himself. He had had it already. Then another would do no harm. It will be remembered that Scott had a habit of breaking the back of the day's work before breakfast. It was a late meal. Mr. Irving had a full programme to get through that day. It had been early with him.

        He was soon in the breakfast room, meeting Mrs. Scott and the four children, who were all there. Sophia was nearly eighteen, with much of her father's intelligence, much of her mother's vivacity. Walter, two years younger. Anne, a girl of fourteen, quieter than her sister, Mr. Irving thought. Perhaps shyer would be the better word. And there was Charles, not yet twelve who was delegated to show Melrose to the visitor later in the morning, a duty which often fell upon him on behalf of the Abbotsford guests. It was a family which was seldom separated as yet. Its affections were strong and close. Scott had given up teaching the boys Latin since they left Ashestiel, but he had engaged George Thomson, the son of the minister of Melrose, as a tutor, and by this time, like Miss Miller, he was almost one of the household. He was a natural athlete, who was still good at single-stick or on horse-back, though he had a wooden leg - the result of a violent accident in boyhood, concerning the cause of which he had always maintained silence, so that the culprit had gone free.

        Mr. Irving, thinking to stay hours, found that it would be days. Scott said the country could not be read like a newspaper, in a single morning. There would be a walk on the hills for the afternoon, and up the Yarrow tomorrow, and a drive to Melrose next day.

        In the afternoon, Scott took him up to the hills. Irving says that he looked round in a "mute surprise". The hills were not very high: they were very bare. Scott saw that he was not greatly impressed. Irving paid an adroit compliment in the assurance that it had a greater charm to him than any English scenery, because of the mantle of romance in which Scott himself had clothed it. But that was no consolation to Scott. He loved that land far more than his own fame.

        "It may be pertinacity," said he at length; "but to my eye, these grey hills, and all this wild border country, have beauties peculiar to themselves. I like the very nakedness of the land; it has something bold, and stern, and solitary about it. When I have been for some time in the rich scenery about Edinburgh, which is like ornamented garden land, I begin to wish myself back again among my own honest grey hills; and if I did not see the heather, at least once a year, I think I should die!"

        They made Mr. Irving one of the family that evening, sitting in the room, now 'half drawing-room, half study,' where Scott had once worked in the window with a curtain behind his back. Now he read Mallory to the family for an evening recreation.

        In the morning, wakened by the sound of voices, Mr. Irving looked out through a window of honeysuckle, to see Scott, already about directing the labour of the new house that he had commenced to build. Later in the day, he saw the old quarry at Kaeside, from which Scott was getting his own stone for his own house, and learnt incidentally that when he had been abroad he had brought back presents for all the men he employed, that each might know that he had not been out of his thoughts.

        He left at length, marvelling not merely at the unexpected hospitality he had had from one who was of so great a fame, but at the appearance of leisure which Scott, in spite of his immense industry, was able to show to the world. Yet the burden of such entertainment fell very heavily upon him, and upon the whole family, as the years passed. Those who came with letters of introduction were always received as expected guests, and even those who made a merely unmannered intrusion upon the privacy of the home sometimes came off better than they deserved. It was a year later that Lockhart observed such an incident, when, on returning with Scott from a visit to Dryburgh, they found two American callers of another pattern. They had arrived from Selkirk earlier in the day, enquired for Mr. Scott, and shown such annoyance when told that he was out that the servant had asked if they would like to speak to his mistress. They accepted this offer, and had so conducted themselves as to convey the impression to Charlotte that they were visitors of importance, so that she had entertained them for lunch, and she and the girls had had them on their hands all day. When Scott returned for dinner with his guests, they met him on his own doorstep with such assurance that he would have welcomed them in the presumption that Charlotte knew who they were, but suspicion had been a growing plant in her mind, especially since they had annoyed her by enquiring first as to Mr. Scott's age, and then what was her own? Now she interposed to suggest that they would like to take the opportunity of presenting their letters of introduction. The gentlemen said they had none. They were travelling on their own merits. Scott said politely that it was a long walk to Melrose, and the day was advancing: it would be wrong to detain them further. Visibly reluctant, they went.

        Scott listened with amusement to Charlotte's indignant comments, and laughed her annoyance away. But his own mind was uneasy; he remarked that no traveller of respectability could ever be at a loss for such an introduction as would ensure his best hospitality. Half-an-hour after he broke out with: "Hang the Yahoos, Charlotte - but we should have bid them stay dinner." And then later to Captain Fergusson he was on the same subject in the local dialect: "For a' that, the loons would hae been nane the waur o' their kail."


        It is at this time that Lockhart's previous introduction to Scott was improved into a personal acquaintance, and Scott conquered the young lawyer of literary predelictions, as he conquered all who came under the immediate influence of his personality.

        Lockhart, in his facile journalistic style, becomes almost lyrical in his praise:

        "At this moment, his position, take it for all in all, was, I am inclined to believe, what no other man had ever won for himself by the pen alone. His works were the daily food, not only of his country-men, but of all educated Europe. His society was courted by whatever England could shew of eminence. Station, power, wealth, beauty, and genius, strove with each other in every demonstration of respect and worship, and - few political fanatics and envious poetasters apart - wherever he appeared in town or country: whoever had Scotch blood in him, 'gentle or simple', felt it move more rapidly through his veins when he was in the presence of Scott. To descend to what many looked on as higher things, he considered himself, and was considered by all about him, as rapidly consolidating a large fortune: - the annual profits of his novels alone had, for several years, been not less than £10,000 his domains were daily increased - his castle was rising - and perhaps few doubted that ere long he might receive from the just favour of his Prince some distinction in the way of external rank, such as had seldom before been dreamt of as the possible consequences of a mere literary celebrity. It was about this time that the compiler of these pages first had the opportunity of observing the plain easy modesty which had survived the many temptations of such a career; and the kindness of heart pervading, in all circumstances, his gentle deportment, which made him the rare, perhaps the solitary, example of a man signally elevated from humble beginnings, and loved more and more by his earliest friends and connections, in proportion as he had fixed on himself the homage of the great and the wonder of the world."

        It was at the dinner table of Mr. Hall Drummond that Lockhart found himself next to the man who had the greatest reputation of any of the nation to which they both belonged, and experienced "a cordiality which I had not been prepared to expect from one filling a station so exalted".

        Scott did not spread the feathers of his own genius for a young man to admire. He led the conversation to Mr. Lockhart's own opinions and experiences, as his way had been from a child. Mr. Lockhart had been in Germany, in Weimar. He had seen Goethe. He had plenty to tell which Scott was pleased to hear. When they left the table, Lockhart had been told that he would be expected one day at Abbotsford. Scott had added him mentally to that innumerable list of the young men of Edinburgh who were interested in literature, and for whom it was mere routine for him to provide.

        A few days later Lockhart received a letter from Messrs. James Ballantyne & Co. It appeared that Mr. Scott's 'various avocations' had prevented him from writing the usual historical summary of the year for the Edinburgh Register, 1816, which would be due for publication in the autumn. It would be agreeable both to Mr. Scott and themselves if Mr. Lockhart would undertake it on this occasion.

        We may suppose that he did not hesitate in accepting this opportunity. He saw Scott several times in connection with it while he was in Edinburgh, usually in the library behind the dining-room at North Castle Street, where Weber had once produced his pistols, and where Maida (who used to accompany his master on all the migrations between the city and Abbotsford) would now be stretched at the side of his chair, or rise to strike the door with an imperious paw if he required Scott to open it for his exit, when the cat would come down from his high security at the ladder-top to take the vacated place at his master's side. . . . But, however intimate he may become, Lockhart warns us to expect no exposures of private confidence from him.

        "I never thought it lawful," he remarks in his sententious manner, "to keep a journal of what passes in private society, so that no one need expect from the sequel of this narrative any detailed record of Scott's familiar talk. What fragments of it have happened to adhere to a tolerably retentive memory, and may be put into black and white without wounding, any feelings which my friend, were he alive, would have wished to spare, I shall introduce as the occasion suggests or serves. But I disclaim on the threshold anything more than this; and I also wish to enter a protest once for all against the general fidelity of several literary gentlemen who have kindly forwarded to me private lucubrations of theirs, designed to Boswellise Scott, and which they may probably publish hereafter. To report conversations fairly, it is a necessary pre-requisite that we should be completely familiar with all the interlocutors, and understand thoroughly all their minutest relations, and points of common knowledge and common feeling, with each other. He who does not must be perpetually in danger of misinterpreting sportive allusions into serious statement; and the man who was only recalling, by some jocular phrase or half-phrase, to an old companion, some trivial reminiscence of their boyhood or youth, may be represented as expressing, upon some person or incident casually tabled, an opinion which he had never framed, or if he had, would never have given words to in any mixed assemblage - not even among what the world calls friends at his own board. In proportion as a man is witty and humorous, there will always be about him and his a widening maze and wilderness of cues and catchwords, which the uninitiated will, if they are bold enough to try interpretation, construe, ever and anon, egregiously amiss - not seldom into arrant falsity. For this one reason to say nothing of many others, I consider no man justified in journalising what he sees and hears in a domestic circle where he is not thoroughly at home; and I think there are still higher and better reasons why he should not do so where he is.

        It is an admirable sentiment, and though most of us could have said it more clearly in fewer words, we will not quarrel with it for that. Lockhart's style is his own, and has been admired. The qualification that the bounds of decency are only to be observed towards those whose feelings the one of whom we are writing would not wish to wound is a subtlety of ethics which we must not turn aside to explore. It is sufficient to observe that Lockhart forgot either his own resolution, or that both James and John Ballantyne were Scott's lifelong friends.

        Yet Lockhart probably did have his conscious reticences and reservations, for he was a man who would see much, and overhear more. He was one of those who live in their surroundings, who are more conscious of their environment than themselves. Sight or sound or scent - he would be alert to every assault upon his senses, of whatever kind. Those who live in themselves, in the resources of their intellects, or the riches of their imaginations, tend to lose, or at least omit to exercise, the acuteness of their physical senses, except by an exertion of conscious will. Scott puzzled Lockhart in these ways. He was less quickly conscious than others of the approach of a haunch of overkept venison: could not (or so Lockhart accuses him) tell corked wine from sound, either by scent or taste. Lockhart thought him deficient in appreciation of music, concerning which we may come to a consideration of his own testimony.

        He went out little in the evenings while in Edinburgh at this period of intermittent illness, unless it were occasionally to the theatre, or more often for a drive, if the weather were favourable. Now or then, he gave or attended a formal dinner. On Sundays it was customary to invite three or four intimate friends to dinner en famille, with whom the evening would be spent informally in reading and conversation. Scott sometimes read aloud on these occasions, and Lockhart, who was often one of the party, says that he read 'high poetry with far greater simplicity, depth, and effect, than any other man I ever heard'. His favourite selections were from Shakespeare, Crabbe, Joanna Baillee, Dryden, Johnson; occasional scenes from Beaumont and Fletcher; and, among contemporary poets, Wordsworth and Southey were conspicuous, and all Byron as it was published. James Ballantyne was frequently a member of the Sunday gatherings, and took his share in the readings; Constable less frequently. John Ballantyne is not mentioned.

        But Lockhart saw something of John, if it were not in Scott's drawing-room at North Castle Street. The dual occupations of auctioneer, and literary agent to the best-seller of the day, appeared to have brought prosperity to John at this period. He was often abroad, making search in France or Belgium for the antique treasures which his sale-room offered. He had lived with his family on the premises in Hanover Street in the days when his salary had been £300 from a publishing business which did not pay: now, he had a villa by Trinity, near to the Firth of Forth, which he had 'invested with an air of dainty voluptuous finery'. It had gardens, not extensive in themselves, but so contrived as to conceal their limitations with 'trellised alley and mysterious alcove, interspersed among their bright parterres'. John Ballantyne was a small man, and had chosen a wife of a larger size, as small men frequently do. Lockhart makes this difference the basis for one of the quaintest innuendoes likely to be discovered in any biography. He says: "he had erected for himself a private wing, the access to which, whether from the main building or from the bosquet, were so narrow that it was physically impossible for the handsome and portly lady who bore his name to force her person through any of them."

        It was as a guest that Lockhart observed and was able to record this sinister peculiarity. He went out to dinner, and Scott and Constable were there also. He did not ascertain, or does not record, whether a maid-servant was kept specially slimmed to enter the private wing, or whether John cleaned it himself. But, of course, it may never have been cleaned at all.

        The house which Scott made momentarily respectable by his presence had mirrors also, and portraits of actresses - Peg Woffington among them, and Kitty Clive. "Every actor or singer of eminence" who visited Edinburgh would be invited to its "Paphian arbours". "Here Braham quavered, and here Liston drolled his best - here Johnstone and Murray and Yates mixed jest and stave - here Keen revelled and rioted - and here the Roman Kemble often played the Greek from sunset to dawn." It is a dreadful tale. Lockhart sometimes gives us figures which we are able to check, with surprising results. But we can check nothing here. Once again, we must believe what we will.

        But if we doubt John's depravity, Lockhart has a supporting anecdote. John, as we know, went to Paris on business. Paris, as we know, is a singularly wicked place. A certain Calvinistic bookseller of Edinburgh also had to go there on business, had John's address (how carelessly given!) and called upon him about buying a book. John was out, but the bookseller was invited to see 'madame' and taken up to a room where a lady was in bed, and several others - men and women - were there also. Shamelessly, they ate and drank. The good bookseller 'ran out o' the house as if I had been shot. What judgement: will this wicked world come to! The Lord pity us!'

        Scott was not complaisant to vicious follies, and Lockhart was puzzled because he laughed at this joke.

        In the intervals of squeezing into his private wing, John was fond of riding to hounds. When he went to his Princes Street auction room, he rode on a milk-white hunter, and ascended the rostrum in the half-dress of a sporting club - 'a light-grey frock, with emblems of the chase on its silver buttons, white cord breeches Land jockey-boots in Meltonian order'. John's greyhounds used to come into Edinburgh behind the hunter, and Maida knew so well his master's habit of attending John's sales when the Court of Session rose, that he would go in advance to join the other dogs where they waited outside the auction rooms.

        When John drove, he drove tandem, mounted on a bright-blue dogcart. That is about the last of his sins at this period. It is a slightly redeeming feature that his horses were named after Scott's novels, and his dogs after characters therein.

        We may recognise Lockhart as a picturesque rather than an impartial witness, and still conclude that John Ballantyne's heirs were unlikely to live in idleness on anything he would leave.

        Of James Ballantyne, whose acquaintance Lockhart made practically at the same time through his visits to North Castle Street he gives a widely different account. It appears that James invited him to his own house almost immediately they met, and he accepted the opportunity. He gives this description:

        "James Ballantyne then lived in St. John Street, a row of good, old-fashioned, and spacious houses. adjoining the Canongate and Holyrood, and at no great distance from his printing establishment. He had married a few years before the daughter of a wealthy farmer in Berwickshire - a quiet, amiable woman of simple manners and perfectly domestic habits: a group of fine young children were growing up about him: and he usually, if not constantly, had under his roof his aged mother, his and his wife's tender care of whom it was most pleasing to witness. As far as a stranger might judge, there could not be a more exemplary household, or a happier one; and I have occasionally met the poet in St. John Street when there were no other guests but Erskine, Terry, George Hogarth, and another intimate friend or two, and when James Ballantyne was content to appear in his own true and best colours, the kind head of his family, the respectful but honest school-fellow of Scott, the easy landlord of a plain comfortable table."

        George Hogarth, a lawyer by profession, a man of reputed culture and author of a History of Music, was James's brother-in-law. At Scott's invitation, he had drawn up the documents which had released James from the partnership liabilities to clear the way for his sister's marriage; Scott's selection of him being good evidence of the liberality of his treatment of James, and of a personal confidence which he had no reason to regret.

        Lockhart's account of James in this instance is not free from the usual tone of contempt, and the phrase "respectful but honest" may deserve a smile, yet it is not unkindly, nor derogatory in its broader outlines. The fact is that, in his treatment of James, there is such recurrent inconsistency that it would be easy to select half-a-dozen passages by which it would appear that James was of admirable character and exceptional abilities, and half-a-dozen others which give an opposite evidence. There is none of this inconsistency in the treatment of John. He is attacked on every possible occasion, and accused of every possible delinquency. If a stone can be flung in his direction, neither improbability nor inconsistency will be allowed to prevent its flight.

        The cause of this difference may be that Lockhart always disliked John - and it is a likely guess that John was not fond of him. But Lockhart received hospitality and kindness from James during these years of prosperity, when their sequel was an unguessed, and would have seemed an incredible thing, and the impressions formed at that time will not leave his mind. The result is that while he caricatures John with a steady merciless consistency, that leaves him at last with the aspect of a monkey rather than a man, his James Ballantyne is neither successful caricature nor consistent portrait. It is at the worst an impossibility, at the best a blur.

        It is also worth notice that while his bitterest representations of John were contained in the original Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott, he was comparatively reticent or restrained in his attacks upon the elder brother, until his accuracy in what he had said was intemperately challenged by the James Ballantyne Trustees, when he made the random counter-charges of a cornered man.

        Lockhart's opportunities of observing James were not limited to the semi-domesticity of a private dinner party. He was invited to the christening dinner of the new novel which came out at this midsummer, to get which Constable had taken the whole of that Hanover Street stock. It was the Heart of Midlothian. Scott had given about six months of work as continuous as his health had allowed, and with little else to distract his mind. If Constable had paid high, he had got good value returned.

        Now there was a congregation of Edinburgh celebrities, literary and social, at the printer's house, to welcome another novel by the author for whom James had invented the title of the Great Unknown.

        Lockhart can describe a feast, and especially its drinking features, in a spirit which Dickens himself might not think unworthy. The turtle and venison were 'aldermanic' on this occasion: the ale was 'potent', the Madeira 'generous'. Scott Was present, quietly amused, and watchful of that thin cloak of incognito which he would not drop. There was the usual loyal toast, as the solid fare (or what was left of it) was removed, and then one that, James said: "shall never be omitted in a house of mine - that of Mr. Walter Scott".

        When this had been drunk, and Scott briefly replied "with some expressions of warm affection" to James, Mrs. Ballantyne retired, and then "James rose once more, every vein on his brow distended, his eyes solemnly fixed on vacancy, to propose, not as before in his stentorian key, but with bated breath, in the sort of whisper by which a stage conspirator thrills the gallery - "Gentlemen, a bumper to the immortal author of Waverley". It is a little difficult to understand how or why James distended so many veins when he spoke in a low voice, but, otherwise, the scene is realistic enough, with the 'cool demure fun' on Scott's face as he joins in the applause and listens to James returning thanks for the anonymous author, who would experience 'the proudest hour in his life' when informed of the reception which the toast had met.

        And then James, too adroit to let discussion arise in Scott's presence from that hilarious assembly, started a song 'in a style which would have done no dishonour to almost any orchestra', and so the convivial evening went on with song and wine until Scott and Erskine, with any other 'clerical or very staid personage that had chanced to be admitted, saw fit to withdraw'.

        That was the signal for claret and olives to be cleared away. Broiled bones took their place, with a 'mighty bowl' of punch, and after James had had several glasses of this beverage (but Lockhart may not have been in a condition to count accurately at this hour, and we need not take this aspersion too seriously) he was persuaded to read from the proof sheets the dialogue in the new novel which he thought best of all.

        In this atmosphere, James read in such a style that 'the effect it produced was deep and memorable', the scene in Richmond Park between Jennie Deans, the Duke of Argyle, and Queen Caroline. We may agree that James made a good choice.

        And after that they all drank again to the Great Unknown, and James recited the last words of Marmion (which was the closing ritual on these occasions) and everyone went home as best they could - and the Heart of Midlothian was published when they woke up, or perhaps earlier.


        The Court of Session rose, and Scott, whose health had shown some improvement during the summer days, went back to Abbotsford to superintend the building of his new house, with the happy knowledge that the Heart of Midlothian had exceeded even his own successes. He had a genius which rose to its opportunities. Perhaps no great writer of fiction has been so dependent upon the spiritual qualities of the tale which he has to tell. To Scott, a poor theme meant a poor novel, but a poor theme would always be, and was particularly at this period of physical weakness, an unlikely choice.

        It is a common superficial folly to represent him as the novelist of pageant rather than reality, of silk and steel, or even of pasteboard and tinsel; but here a young woman comes to us in a peasant's shawl, without wealth, without beauty, without intellect or culture, and by simple force of character, by the spirit in which she faces tragedy, she reduces those decorations of life to their essential triviality. If she were with us in the flesh today, she would be a woman, through the revelation of Scott's genius, that all would delight to honour. And so real is her presentation that it seems idle to say that she had less objective reality than any of those of her own time whose records are so much less vivid in actuality. We may tell ourselves that John Porteous lived, but that Jeanie Deans is an invented character, but we are not convinced. We feel that it is a fundamental falsehood. If God had not first created Jeanie Deans, the genius of Scott would have been unable to do so afterwards. She is the spirit of the Lowland peasant at its noblest possibility, as only Scott could have understood and revealed it. For Scott's mind searched everywhere for nobility. If he found it most easily in the glamour of the past, he did not therefore cease to seek, or fail to find it, in the life around him.

        The Heart of Midlothian might well be received with enthusiasm in Edinburgh. It was the last and greatest chapter in the epic series of verse and prose by which its author revealed Scotland to herself, as well as to the outer world.

        Leaving the loud chorus of applause with which the book was received, he went back to Abbotsford, to another dream of less enduring nobility - the house which he had designed in his mind, and which, had it been possible, he would doubtless have built with his own hands. But the days when he had made the dining-table for Lasswade, even the days when he had laboured among the masons on the first alterations at Abbotsford, were gone now, and for ever. Yet though he could not labour himself he had contrived that the house should be, as far as possible, the work of his neighbours' brains, and his neighbours' hands. He discovered talents of mason and carpenter among the local work-people which, under his directions, rendered him comparatively independent of imported assistance. Now one wing of it approached completion. In a few weeks it would be possible to migrate to some of the new rooms. The expense of building was heavy, and that of furnishing was Still to come. They would have been heavy even had Scott been one to make hard bargains, which was not his way. There must be a deal with Constable for another book. There would be no difficulty about that. Especially not now that there was no more old stock for disposal, and with this last book being so great a success. He must contract at once for ten thousand copies. That would mean good profits for the author, and good printing orders for the Canongate works. The old money troubles were over now - surely over for ever. But for this battle against ill-health, the recurrence of this terrible internal pain, the skies would have been of unbroken blue. . .

        In September, Mr. Cadell came to Abbotsford. Being Constable's partner, he was in the secret of the authorship of the novels. He found Scott in better health. He was so busy upon the house-building, and the plantations, and the laying out of the new gardens, that Cadell wondered when he had time to think. But he said that he did that in the mornings, before he rose, and while he dressed, and if he would write for a few hours afterwards, the words came quickly enough. There would be no difficulty about another novel - no difficulty, and no delay. The subject had been chosen last year, before he had realised that Midlothian would be so long a tale. There would be no difficulty about the contract either. Everything went smoothly now that the nightmare of the stock was an ended dream.

        Scott was building a new dyke at this time to keep back the Tweed at times of flood from his lower land. He had built one before, but it had been swept away in a night. He was building more strongly now. We do not make the same mistake twice, be it in conflict with financial forces or river flood. . . . Not the same, perhaps. But the wrong roads are many, and are most easily taken when we are oversure of the way.

        Scott was laying out a new bowling green also, with a quiet seat for himself, where he might rest in the evening hours. He had chosen that spot because it was near the window of the room where Peter Mathieson, the coachman, had evening prayers with his family when the day's work was done. Lockhart thought that Scott was not fond of music. He was not an expert in the gymnastics of sound. He agreed about that. He was always quick to agree as to his own deficiencies. But he liked to sit by himself where he could hear the singing of the evening psalm from Peter's window.

        It was early in the following month that he gave a dinner to half-a-dozen friends to celebrate the opening of the new diningroom. It was not yet ready for occupation, and the meal was laid in the little room in the cottage, into which all must be crowded as best they could, but there was to be dancing afterwards in the new room, which would be lit up for the first time.

        The significance of the occasion was increased by the fact that two of the guests had been friends of Scott's boyhood days, with whom he had kept up an intimacy of correspondence, but whom he had not seen for many years. These were Lord Melville (he had been Lord Melville's son in the old days), and Captain Adam Fergusson, so long abroad in the wars, and now to be settled with his sisters at Huntley Burn, whom Charlotte remembered also as Scott's companion of the happy days of Gilsland when first they met. Scott of Gala came also and other neighbours not too distant to return home when the evening's celebration was over, for the guest-rooms of Abbotsford were still unready for occupation, and the accommodation of the old house was very limited, both above and below. But the little separate cottage, called the chapel, had two bedrooms, and Scott had heard that young Lockhart and John Wilson were taking holiday at Windermere, and had written to them to stop at Abbotsford on the way back, and to be there by October 8th, for their own good.

        His object was to introduce them to Lord Melville who, as he told them once, was 'the great giver of good things' at Parliament House, and whom it might be of advantage to them to know. It was a time when careers - or at least, their opportunities - were largely dependent upon such patronage.

        Now they walked with the older men round the plantations, and by the half-built dyke, and watched Maida forget his dignity to join the terriers in useless chasing of the fleeter hares that swarmed on the unploughed land.

        Fourteen or fifteen people had to be accommodated in a room that ten would crowd, but Charlotte managed it somehow, so that space was left for the servants to wait, and Lockhart (who was critical of such things) approved both service and company. He had not previously seen Scott in such buoyant spirits, nor been present at a gayer dinner.

        It was eaten to the sound of John Bruce's bagpipes. John of Skye was a hedger-and-ditcher who had found service at Abbotsford, and Scott, learning that he could play the pipes, had dressed him in full Highland costume for this occasion. Now he paraded outside the window, and added music to the merriment within.

        There was a turret already risen at the western end of the half-built mansion, and after dinner those who were young and vigorous, and such of the elders as did not know what they were about to do, accepted Scott's invitation to ascend it for the enjoyment of the moonlit view. He led the way himself, though he must apologise for the stairs, which were dark and narrow and very steep, and there were enough who followed to crowd the little platform, and look down upon the beauty of the moonlight-softened scene, and the distant ruin of Melrose, clear and white against the dark background of the Eildon hills . . . and the piper played Lochaber no more from the shadows beneath the tower.

        After that, there was dancing in the new dining-room, for which the piper played, and there were none but joined, except Scott himself and the lame tutor Thomson, who must stand aside and look on. After that there was a song or two: Johnnie Cope from Captain Fergusson, and Kenmure's on and awa' from the girls, and then they must all join hands in a circle for the final chorus:

    "Weel may we a' be,
    Ill may we never be,
    God bless the King and the good companie."

And after that they went home.

        Lockhart, sleeping in the 'chapel' bedroom, was waked before seven by the sound of his host's voice. He looked out through the latticed window to see Scott and Tom Purdie in conference. They had a rough sketch of the 'Blue Bank' at Toftfield - a field of clay that Scott was resolved to drain. He was up no later for the merriment of the night before. He did not seem like a sick man.

        When he came in to breakfast two hours later he ate well of kippered salmon, and cut freely at the brown loaf which was beside his plate. Those who saw him at breakfast might think him to be a man of great appetite, but, in fact, doing some hours' work before it, as his way was, he had come to make breakfast the principal meal of the day. Lockhart had noticed in Edinburgh, (where his breakfast appetite may not have been equal to that of Abbotsford) how little he ate at dinner, and how singularly little (to Lockhart's mind) he seemed to care what it might be.

        The post-bag came in while the breakfast proceeded, with a weight of contents which caused Lord Melville to wonder what was happening at the moment, but Scott said that it was no more than the usual infliction. He had good friends who helped him with the franking of envelopes, and the post-office was kind, but his bill for letters alone was £150 a year, and as to parcels - he told a tale in illustration against himself.

        He had carelessly opened a parcel one morning, never doubting that it was franked - for who in his senses would send such a weight of matter unless under that customary protection? - and had been appalled to find that it was a MS. play from a lady in New York who thought that, if he would write a prologue and do a few other necessary things, he might place it with Constable to her great advantage - and, of course, with the manager at Drury Lane. A hurried glance at the cover showed that he had been debited £5 odd by the Post Office for this parcel, but he had broken the seal, and there was no more to be said.

        Yet, in spite of this lesson, he was equally careless with another parcel a fortnight later, to find to his horror that it was a second copy of the same play. The lady had considered the risks of tempest and the uncertainties of our earthly life, and had sent a second copy to make sure that her treasure should not be lost. . . .

        So Scott dispersed his guests to such pleasures as the country gave, and disappeared with his morning correspondence till one o'clock, when he emerged with a dozen letters written in his own hand for the post, and a coach-parcel addressed to James, which an urchin at the toll-gate fielded as they drove out to see Melrose in the afternoon, and carried into the adjoining pot-house, to wait the coach. The careful Lockhart considered how thin was the disguise of the Great Unknown, which might be exposed by any unscrupulous stranger who should break the seal of one of those daily parcels which were so randomly handled. . . . And how many might be willing to do it - or even to steal such a priceless packet! - of the endless tourists who lounged around Abbotsford and Melrose now? For they had driven past two loaded chaises, drawn up at the gate, and waiting for a glimpse of Scott if he should be coming out, and at the side of the road (it being before the era of photography) there were men who sketched. . . . But Scott left Lockhart to do the worrying. His day's work was done. He threw the packet to the urchin who may have caught so many before, and drove on to Melrose and Dryburgh Abbey to show his guests what their beauties were.


        Charles Charpentier was dead. He had died in his Indian exile, leaving a wife, but no children. He left considerable property - spoken of as £30,000 to £40,000 - to his wife during her life, and then to his sister's children. Scott thought of this money with some satisfaction. It was an added security for his children, if the inspiration of his novels should cease, and his income with it. He felt that he would embark on his dreams of improving Abbotsford with more confidence than before. But he did not want the children to take the news in the wrong way. He would not have them overvalue money, or the power it brings. He suggested that their mother had the first right. So she had, they said generously; she could have all if she would.

        Scott thought he could provide for their mother himself, but he was pleased by the way they spoke. They could not know that that money would never be more than a mirage to them. None of them would see it. Charles Charpentier's widow would outlive them all. But who could have guessed that then?

        Charlotte had not seen her brother since he sailed for India twenty years ago. We might think that his death would mean little to her. But she did not feel it like that. He had been her one link with a dead past - a past that was private to her own mind. His letters had been the one thing that kept it alive. Now it was utterly gone. The home in southern France that was a childhood's dream. Her dead parents. Her only brother, who was dead now. She had no relative left alive. There had been an uncle - a colonel in the Russian army - but news of him had ceased many years ago. Doubtless he was dead.

        Walter could not console her now, for they were people - it was a life - he had never known. Now it was so utterly gone, and these memories that none could share - it was like being dead while you still lived. For with all the gay courage with which she had faced the changes of life, Charlotte knew that she was an exile here. She would be exiled from his memory when he was dead. He might have no complaint of her, or she of him, but afterwards it would always be said that he had not chosen the right wife. She did not care (overmuch) for his books, though she had a great pride in all that he did. She did not pretend to care for the derivation of a burn's name. Why should she ? She was a daughter of southern France. Of a land she would never see. With memories that there was no-one alive to share. For two days she lay taking consolation from none. Scott wrote about it to Morritt on the third day. He understood well enough. It was a grief that he saw that he could not share. He had never seen her brother. That was the cry of her distress. What could such a death be to him?

        But on that day she had regained her courage, her self-control. She was coming downstairs again.

        Biography is most often unfair to those whose lives surrounded the genius on which it dwells. They are the furniture of his life. It is intolerable that they should disturb or frustrate it. They should understand what they are for. They are thrust into a publicity which they have done nothing to challenge, and they are regarded only in relation to an orbit which is not theirs. It is obvious that their own lives should be subordinated to that of the genius who was their parent, or whom they married or bore. If they fall short of understanding that, they are execrated for the failures which they are shown to be.

        But Charlotte did not fail. She married a man of a foreign race, and a poet of genius, which is a sufficiently difficult combination for any woman to undertake. She was handicapped by the fact that he had contracted an earlier love which he could never - which, indeed, he did not desire to forget. Yet she did not fail him in any way. She gave him pleasure and peace. She showed no jealousy of his genius, which is a common experience of such marriages. She showed no jealousy of his very numerous women friends. She ruled his home well, and in the spirit which he preferred. In her own sphere, she was as generous as he. She was loyal to him in every circumstance and relation of life.

        She had her reward in a love which grew closer as the years passed, and a comradeship which was no less real because there were some things which they did not fully share. She made a very fortunate marriage, and requires no sympathy. But she requires a more difficult thing - justice, which she has not had.


        The thought of Charles Charpentier's fortune, which might be his children's at any time, may have encouraged Scott to regard his substantial professional income, and the almost fantastic profits that his novels brought, as money which he could spend with a freer hand than he would otherwise have done, but he was not insensible of the future, nor reckless in regard to his present commitments.

        It may have been owing to the extent of his current expenditure upon the building of the new house, to which it is commonly attributed, that he now entered into a negotiation with Constable regarding the copyrights which he had retained in his own name; but it is more probable that it was induced by consideration of the uncertainty of his own life, and a desire to lease his estate in a settled form. Cramp in the stomach did not sound a very formidable name to give the seizures to which he had become intermittently liable, and he had survived several already. He had found that, as soon as it had time to take effect, opium would do much to deaden the pain. He was not one to give way to morbid fears. The moment that the symptoms ceased, he would be his usual buoyant resolute self. But his courage was of the kind that would look facts in the face, and he knew that he was weakening and ageing under these attacks, that were always recurring and for which no-one could offer him any radical cure.

        It is most probable that he looked death in the face when he made the bargain with Constable which was expressed in a formal bond, the terms of which were agreed in December, and which was executed in February, 1819.

        Up to this date, he had retained all or part of the copy rights of some of the poems, and part of the copyright of some of the novels. Now he made them over to Constable for a total consideration of £12,000. The money was not to be paid at once, and the copyrights were not to be legally assigned until, or as far as, the money was paid. Scott protected himself in this way, even against the possibility of Constable's insolvency, of which no-one thought at that time. But it was a definite undertaking to buy at a settled price. It removed that portion of his estate from the hazards of incompetent bargaining, or a change of literary fashion which might reduce their value. Scott was adventurous by disposition, and immensely generous both by principle and inclination, but he never showed lack of business ability in regard to any matter which engaged his attention seriously.

        He had had separate occasion to review the solidity of his financial position during the last few months owing to an intimation which had come to him some months earlier with the usual initial informality, that the Prince-Regent would be pleased to confer on him the rank of baronet, if he would be pleased to accept it. His correspondence shows that he was dubious about this distinction, which he was clear-sighted enough to see would be a burden rather than an advantage financially, not only to himself, but potentially to his children. There was a prolonged delay before he gave such a reply that the invitation could be formally issued, but in the end he accepted, as men usually do.

        But though he signified his acceptance, the actual assumption of the honour was delayed, for, as the winter had come, the attacks of illness had resumed their violence, and increased their frequency. He spent these months in Edinburgh as usual, and continued his duties of Clerk of Session as often as heath allowed; he was even seen at the theatre more than once, where Rob Roy was performed in February, and had a run of forty-one nights, but his condition was such that he delayed the commencement of the projected novels, contenting himself with historical and antiquarian essays in his better intervals, and when the Court rose in March, and he was able to leave for Abbotsford, his state of health was a subject of anxious conversation among his friends.

        He went home with the resolution that the novels - for he had more than one in his mind at this time - should not be longer delayed, let his health be what it would. He called on Laidlaw's services again to take down from his dictation, and then on John Ballantyne also. John left his business in Princes Street, and the pleasure (whatever it might be) of squeezing through the narrow door in his Trinity villa, to spend long periods at Abbotsford at his patron's call.

        It seems an expensive method of dictating, but the day of professional stenographers had not come. The writing had to be rapid and accurate, for Scott would dictate fast, especially when he came to a passage of dialogue, or a scene of special animation, and it must be intelligently transcribed.

        John said that he used to start in the morning with a dozen pens laid out for use, so that he should not risk having to pause to mend a quill when the narration was in full flow. Scott lay on a couch at this time, the sentences of dictation often broken with groans of pain, but there were times (John said) when he would forget his physical weakness in the excitement of climax, and pace rapidly up and down the room as he dictated, in the different voices of the characters, the conversation which he conceived.

        Toward the end of the vacation, Lockhart had an invitation to spend a few days at Abbotsford, and rode out with John, who had warned him of the rapid change which illness had made since he had seen Scott only a few weeks before, but he found it to be far more than he had supposed. His clothes hung loosely on a frame that had lost its flesh, his face was haggard and yellow, his hair, which had been slightly tinged with grey, had turned almost snow-white during those weeks of agony.

        But his eyes had even more than their old brilliancy, his greeting was cordial, his spirits good. He came to the table at dinner, though his diet was rice-pudding only, with toast and water to follow. He talked of his illness as a battle that he had fought and won. He said that there had been a time when he had feared that it was affecting his brain, and he had tried whether he could translate an old German ballad, as a test to reassure himself. They could see what he had done. Sophia went for the script. . . . She and William Laidlaw had taken it down between them during one day of incessant pain. He read the Noble Morringer. It is a wonderful translation, by any standard, worthy to be placed among the best of his ballads. It has a gaiety of tone which is an amazement for a composition under such conditions. When he found that his guests praised it freely, he said it should go into the new Register.

        Certainly, his illness had not weakened his mind. But he had tired visibly as he read the poem, and he said he would go to bed. Later, when the family were retiring, his illness returned acutely, and Dr. Scott was hastily summoned. For some hours his groans could be heard even at some distance from the house. The only 'remedy' that was attempted at this stage was hot baths, with opium to relieve the pain.

        Lockhart resolved that he would leave in the morning. It was no time to inflict a guest on that house. But as he was dressing, before seven, Scott tapped on his door, and came in, looking better than the night before. He said he mustn't think of leaving, for after last night he was sure of three days' respite at least. He wanted to ride out, to get rid of that accursed laudanum. He would finish his morning's dictation to John, and they would all go to Selkirk together. Not do twenty miles after last night? He had done forty under similar circumstances a week ago. There was an election on, and Buccleuch, who was ill and gone abroad with Adam Fergusson, was relying upon him to see it through.

        So, by eleven o'clock they set off, John on the milk-white steed of which we have heard before, and Scott on Sybil Grey, an active cob, on which he cantered briskly to catch up his companions after telling them to ride forward when he stopped at the Sheriff's office in Selkirk.

        Thin and white-haired he might be, but he seemed in good health enough as they rode by Philliphaugh, and he must describe the battle when Montrose was beaten at last. For he was busy on A Legend of Montrose as well as the Bride of Lammermuir, and would have them both ready for publication by midsummer, unless he were a dead man before that.

        And the next day they rode out again over Bowden Moor and beyond, canvassing doubtful voters, as he had promised to do, and with results with which he was well content.

        And the day after that, having done with the election, they went over the Eildon hills and within sight of Smailholm Tower, and elsewhere, and that night he had the cramp, as they called it, again, though not so badly as before. And Lockhart left him next morning dictating to John, and talking cheerfully of what he would do when he was in Edinburgh; but his own thought was that he might have seen Scott for the last time.

        A few days later Scott had the news that Buccleuch was dead at Lisbon, and he wrote to Fergusson, who was bringing home his remains: "I have had another eight days' visit of my disorder, which has confined me chiefly to my bed. It will perhaps shade off into a mild chronic complaint - if it returns frequently with the same violence, I shall break up by degrees, and follow my dear chief. I thank God I can look at this possibility without much anxiety, and without a shadow of fear."

        He wrote to Southey also, a long letter commenced on April 4th, in the course of which he said:

        "I have gone through a cruel succession of spasms and sickness. . . . I have been seized with one or two successive crises of my cruel malady, lasting in the utmost anguish from eight to ten hours. If I had not the strength of a team of horses, I could never have fought through it. . . . I did not lose my senses, because I resolved to keep them, but I thought once or twice they would have gone overboard, top and top-gallant. I should be a great fool, and a most ungrateful wretch, to complain of such inflictions as these. My life has been, in all its public and private relations, as fortunate perhaps as was ever lived up to this period; and whether pain or misfortune may be behind the dark curtain of futurity, I am already a sufficient debtor to the bounty of Providence to be resigned to it. Fear is an evil which has never mixed with my nature, nor has even unwonted good fortune rendered my love of life tenacious. . . ."

        But there is an undated postscript to this letter which says:

        "Another ten days have passed away, for I would not send this Jeremiad to tease you, while its termination seemed doubtful. For the present

    "The game is done - I've won, I've won,
    Quoth she, and whistles thrice."

        He travelled back to Edinburgh for the new Session, but an attempt to return to his duties at the Court proved beyond his capacity. He was in bed there for several weeks: still in bed when the new novels were published, and those who read them supposed them to be the last that he would ever write.

        The knowledge of his condition had spread by this time wherever a newspaper penetrated through the world that knew him. The two tales were received in the atmosphere of this consciousness, and would have escaped any severity of criticism had they been much worse than they were. They were good enough, but we have to forget Scott at his best before we can praise them freely. They are both significantly short, and the genius of Scott at his best needed a large canvas. A Legend of Montrose does not rise to its opportunities. Under other circumstances of composition, it might have been one of his greatest novels. The Bride of Lammermuir has always been a disputed book. To some it is dull and unreal; others have placed it high, or even highest on the list of Scott's romances. Probably, preference for the species of tale it tells has deranged their judgement. But the doubt is the condemnation. Had it been written with the intellectual vigour and imagination of the Heart of Midlothian, its tragedy would have left no doubt in our minds. It was composed under such conditions that its author read it without memory of its contents, and turning each page in fear of what nonsense he might discover upon the next. He fortified himself with the thought that he could trust James not to have let anything dreadful pass, and he ended with the thought that it might do well enough with a friendly public. In this verdict he showed sounder judgement than some who have praised it since. Had it been the work of an unknown author, it is doubtful whether it would have attained popularity, or been remembered at all today. It may be easy to find points on which we can praise it, but the truth is a better thing.

        The fact was that the severity of his illness had been too great to enable him to imagine with continuous power. Previously, it had had the effect of giving him an increased leisure for composition, perhaps an increased consciousness of the spiritual values of life. Hence the Heart of Midlothian. Now he had been too ill, and too exhausted, for successful effort. The determination that the books should be written had carried him through, but this obstinate courage had

      "ill supplied
    "The stream of life's exhausted tide,"

and the results are as we see them to be.

        There had been times during their composition when his own resolute courage had thought it better to face the fact that he could not live, than to continue the struggle. Sophia remembered one evening in June when he called the family together, thinking that he would not live through the night, and addressed them in words of confident faith and exhortation, telling them to leave him at last that he might "turn his face to the wall". But after that he slept very long, and the next day the doctors spoke with a new hope. They thought that there was a change in his condition, to whatever weakness he had been reduced. They spoke of a crisis past.

        Passers-by glanced at the house in North Castle Street with its muffled knocker from day to day expecting to see a house of death, but he did not die. When the session ended, he was well enough, and we can suppose how willing, to be moved to Abbotsford. The attacks did not return with their old severity. Very slowly he was regaining strength. He had already commenced a new novel before he returned to Abbotsford, where the masons were still at work, and the house grew, as did the plantations round it.


        As Scott's health came slowly back in the summer days, he dictated a new novel to Laidlaw - not that which he had commenced in the period of severe illness. He was dissatisfied, uncertain, about that. He had thrown it aside. A new and fortunate imagination had invaded his mind.

        He might be weak and unable to get about for more than a few hours of the day, but he was buoyant of mood and clear of brain. He knew that he was doing a good thing. James thought the same. There was a growing enthusiasm in the Canongate office as the chapters came, one by one, on the coach from Abbotsford, and were prepared for the press.

        In fact, as his health returned, Scott approached the peak of prosperity and reputation. It was a height such as few can even approach, and from which it would not be easy to fall.

        Yet during this year, when his own sun rose higher, as though it would never set, the shadows of the mutability of earthly things fell thickly across his path. For twenty years, strong affection and settled judgement had combined to keep his children closely around him. Now Walter must go. At seventeen, he was gazetted ensign to the 18th Hussars, stationed in Ireland. Sophia's interest in John Lockhart, and his in her, pointed to another separation that could not long be delayed. The home that had been founded in the Lasswade cottage was commencing to break apart. These were signs of a new flowering, rather than the falling of ruined leaves, but December brought its sorrows of a different kind. Vigorous and clear of intellect to the last, Scott's mother died. Her half-brother, Dr. Rutherford died. Her half-sister, Christian Rutherford, died. All within three weeks. Christian had been sister to Scott, rather than aunt. There was a close affection between them of forty years. He had griefs enough this December when Ivanhoe came out, and the flame of his reputation rose to its fullest height.

        His own health was largely restored by this time, and he had even thought to mount a battle-charger again. For the unrest in the industrial districts of Scotland had become so great that the talk of revolution was in every mouth. Volunteer regiments for the preservation of public order were being raised in all parts of the country. Scott of Abbotsford and Scott of Gala consulted together for the peace of their own district. There were a hundred names sent in of men in his neighbourhood who would join a sharpshooter regiment if he would act as its colonel. Then the political skies cleared for the time, and the project was put aside. Scott had ordered a charger of the kind he rode in the old Yeomanry days, though he cancelled this before an actual purchase took place.

        As to the novel, being of a new kind, he had been bent on the adventure of another anonymity. For this reason it had been printed in a new setting, on better paper than had been used for the Waverley series. It was to be a three-volume publication, at the increased price of 10/- each - thirty shillings the set. And he was so sure of success on this occasion, name or no name, that he had stipulated for the first edition to by larger than ever.

        At the last moment, Constable had protested against the folly of anonymous publication, and Scott had given way, but he was probably right in thinking that it would have made no difference. England had welcomed the Scottish novels, but not as she welcomed Ivanhoe. They had had immense sales, but not such as were now recorded. Twelve thousand sets at thirty shillings - eighteen thousand pounds the public handed to the trade for these books, and demanded more.

        There will always be those who dispute pre-eminence between Ivanhoe and the novels of Scottish life, in which the element of imagination is less, and that of observation more. It is a problem without solution, because they have different excellences of which there can be no common standard of measurement. We may discuss it till we tire, but praise and preference will go together at last.

        There have been those who have criticised Ivanhoe because it is not an accurate portrait of life in England in the days of King John. They have also said that Cedric was not a man's name. Perhaps not: but it is now. Minds of that order will think that the Scottish novels are of a better kind.

        But there are others to whom that order of criticism has no meaning. To them, if it could be shown that King John or Richard had never lived, that there had never been such a time at all, Ivanhoe would be even a greater wonder than it is now.

        From whatever materials, Scott has created a living world. It is the marvel of his genius that he had made three separate successes, of which no two include or imply the third. The author of the Lady of the Lake had produced a poem of the highest order, and his place in the world's literature was secure over all changes of fashion, while the language lasts, but he might have written that poem and been incapable of producing The Heart of Midlothian. Similarly, the author of that novel had won his rank in the realms of fiction, but it contains no evidence that its author could project his imagination into the atmosphere in which Ivanhoe is conceived.

        It is equally true that the author of these three works of highest imagination might have been incapable of such lyrics as are scattered among them and his other romances in verse and prose, and had he published these lyrics and ballads separately as the whole work of his life, he would have won a place in English poetry which would have been both high and secure. And by this four-fold strength he is entrenched upon the heights, beyond the challenge of mediocrity.

        It has been objected that the plot of Ivanhoe would have been more interesting had its hero and Rebecca defied their environment, and eloped together. It would certainly have made it nearer to the pattern of tale which is approved today; but to Scott it would have been an impossible thing for a hero to do, being without heroism. We say that we must be true to ourselves and, it we cannot be true to others, it may be all that remains. It is the last ditch. But Scott's ideals were different. For a man to break faith with a woman who loves him, and whom he is pledged to marry, may be prudent, for all its baseness. It may even be wise. But it would not have occurred to Scott to call it a romantic action.

        There are details in the plot of the novel which outrage probability. They belong to the possibilities which are as unlikely as truth itself, which the careful novelist should avoid. They belong to Scott's method of constructing his plots en route. A different habit would have prepared the Templar for his final exit with some earlier evidence of a bad heart.

        The resurrection of Athelstan was James Ballantyne's contribution, and an evidence of Scott's complaisancy. But we may doubt whether he would have been so complaisant had he not enjoyed exercising the ingenuity which the alteration required.

        The book does not depend upon plot, but upon the splendour and vividness of its scenes and characters. A reader accustomed to let a dozen modern novels drift every month across the mind's surface, leaving no trace, would find it hard to read the scene in Friar Tuck's hut and forget it with the same facility.


        Ivanhoe was followed within less than three months by another novel which will not endure comparison. The Monastery had been commenced with, or before, Ivanhoe, and continued intermittently. A few chapters had been set in type even before the publication of: the other novel. They were set in the usual style of the Waverley series, as it was intended that this should be announced as the next novel by that author, while Ivanhoe should be put forward as the work of a new candidate for public favour, 'Lawrence Templeton'. That idea had been abandoned, but it was too late, even had it been desirable, to arrange to bring out the Monastery in the ornate style of Ivanhoe, and at its higher price. Longmans had the London publishing of this book. Constable could not complain. He was making a small fortune out of Ivanhoe, for which there was a sustained demand. Longmans could place important printing orders with James, which he was glad to have. They could not be entirely ignored.

        But the book itself failed, as it deserved to do. It had a large sale, but those who read it were not pleased. It had good features, of course, as anything which Scott wrote would be sure to have, but in its broad effect it was dull, and, at times, silly; it was an immense contrast to Ivanhoe. Constable may have been well content that it had Longman's name on the cover. He had his own idea as to the next book that Scott should write for him. It should be about the Armada. Scott so far agreed that he said he would give him a book about Elizabeth. But the scene must be Kenilworth. Scott liked to work either by pure imagination, or on scenes that he knew. He had inspected Kenilworth twice - the second time with some care. He had a tale in his mind. It should be called Cumnor Hall. Constable said, why not call it Kenilworth? James objected that that would ruin the best book ever written. Worth a kennel! What a name! But Scott sided with Constable. Kenilworth it should be. Constable almost felt that he was writing these anonymous Waverley novels himself. He had named one of them previously. Now he had suggested a period and christened the book as well. There was only the remaining detail of writing it, which Scott could attend to quite competently. He promised that it should be out before the end of the year. But before he began it, he must go up to London for the formal acceptance of the title which had been offered him more than a year ago by the Regent who was now King. And he must be back before April was over, for Sophia was to be married to John Lockhart, and Scott shared the superstitious objection to a marriage in May.

        He planned to visit London as soon as the Court rose, and before then there must be a hurried weekend visit to Abbotsford, for he had a vacant secluded cottage on his property, beyond Huntley Burn, which could be improved into a summer residence for John and Sophia. They would commence on a slender income, which does young people no harm, but he would do nothing to hinder the marriage. His own observation of life was too sound, his own experience too bitter, for there to be any doubt of that.

        It was probably the first weekend that the weather had permitted that six-hours drive to Abbotsford, with any probability that they would be able to inspect the cottage on the following day, for the winter had been one of exceptional severity, with a depth of snow which forbade all rural occupations, and had lain unthawed during the previous month.

        For on January 19th, Scott had been writing his letter of instructions to Laidlaw, which seems to have been a weekly custom when he was in Edinburgh, unless he could get down for the weekend, and had sent him £60 for current expenses, with this concluding paragraph:

        "It makes me shiver in the midst of superfluous comforts to think of the distress of others. £10 of the £60 I wish you to distribute among our poorer neighbours so as may best aid them. I mean not only the actually indigent, but those who are in our phrase 'ill aff'. I am sure Dr. Scott will assist you with his advice in this labour of love. I think part of the wood-money, too, should be given among the Abbotstown folk if the storms keep them off work, as is like."

        And a week later he sent another cheque for £50, with an added note of anxiety as to the condition of the people around Abbotsford under such climatic conditions. "Do not let the poor bodies want for a £5 or even a £10 more or less." It is clear that it would never be easy for Walter Scott to be rich while there was a need around him that was unrelieved.

        The allusion to the 'wood-money' in the first letter is interesting, because it shows how early this fund had been instituted. Several years later he explained to Captain Basil Hall that his energetic and systematic forestry had resulted in the production of large quantities of fire-wood which he would willingly have given, but that he had doubted the wisdom of . . . general charity. ("I very, very rarely" he had assured Captain Hall, "give anything away"!) So he had put a nominal price on the timber, which people really liked better. They carted it off without any uncomfortable feeling of obligation, and the money they left behind was paid into a fund which was handed over to Dr. Scott, with private instructions to charge against it his attendances upon Scott's poorer neighbours, so that they might have equal advantages with the most affluent.

        But the snow had gone, and the weather was fine enough on this Saturday afternoon in February when he came to Court with his weekend clothes under his gown; and when the morning's work was over, the carriage was waiting outside, with Peter on the box, and as many of the family as it would hold, beside himself and John and Sophia, crowded inside, and they drove off to Abbotsford. . . .

        The next morning, John Ballantyne and Constable rode in to breakfast. Business still seemed to be flourishing with John, and his spirits were as irrepressible as ever, though he had the look of a sick man. He was very thin, and had trouble with his lungs. But he was of the usual ceaseless activity, and the expenses of his Trinity residence had not prevented him taking a hunting-box in the Leader valley, near Abbotsford, to which Constable came as his guest.

        As to John's sources of income at this time, we get some light in a letter which Scott wrote to him during the previous autumn, when young Walter went up to London to get his officer's outfit, and Scott had been too ill to go with him. John was in London at that time: looking round for articles that he could buy cheaply and auction at higher prices in Edinburgh, and with a probable eye upon the publishers also, on behalf of the printing business.

        Walter was staying with Miss Dumergue, and Scott would like John to look after him while in London, where he would be strange and shy, and particularly to oversee the cost of his outfit, some of the items of which seemed needless in themselves or extortionate in their cost. Scott adds that he wants John back in Edinburgh as soon as possible. He is short of money, and wants to fix up the contract for Ivanhoe, which is nearing completion, and he hints that if John is not on the spot to handle the negotiation it may not be easy to get that liberal percentage for him which Constable had been accustomed to pay.

        John's regular business was that of an auctioneer of antiques and curios, in which he had established himself with substantial success, but he was also making a good income as Scott's literary agent, and in return for those easily-earned commissions, Scott regarded him - and he was evidently more than willing to be regarded - as at his disposal for any matter, business or private, in which he required his aid, whether it were to negotiate a printing order in London, or to act as his amanuensis at Abbotsford.

        Now John drove in for breakfast in the early winter dawn. He was like Scott in preferring a horse to a carriage-seat, but he had Constable as his guest, and the publisher was a man of a different build. The day's programme had been arranged before the parties left Edinburgh, and John had fixed a place and time where his groom would meet him with Old Mortality, that milk-white hunter of which we have heard already.

        But, being Sunday, Scott must first read prayers, and one of Jeremy Taylor's sermons, to guests and household, and then, while it was still before noon, the whole party set out for the two-mile walk to the cottage which was to be the young couple's future home, taking Huntley Burn on the way.

        Two miles is not far, but it was a rough road. There were hillocks to be climbed, and ravines to be descended, and Scott, lame and still half-invalid though he might be, set a pace which was far from easy for the corpulent city publisher to maintain beside him. Lockhart remembered Constable stopping to wipe his forehead with the remark that it wasn't every author who should lead him a dance like that.

        Indeed, Lockhart remembered all the events of that day very vividly, as well he might; it was a happy occasion for him, in itself and in that which it promised for future days, and though we may suppose that Sophia had her share of attention, it did not prevent the words of others being heard, the actions of others being recorded, in a retentive memory.

        They stopped at Huntley Burn, where the Misses Fergusson comforted Constable with a good lunch, and then went on to inspect the cottage, and hold counsel upon the alterations which would be needed, and which Tom Purdie who was of the party (with the inevitable dogs - even Maida had come down to weekend at Abbotsford) received instructions to put in hand.

        It may have been the happy association of the day which caused Lockhart to describe John Ballantyne's part in a manner which, though not free from the element of caricature which was probably unavoidable with him towards those whom he disliked, is none the less convincing because it is almost kindly.

        "Johnny Ballantyne, a projector to the core, was particularly zealous about this embryo establishment. Foreseeing that he should have had walking enough ere he reached Huntley Burn, his dapper little Newmarket groom had been ordered to fetch Old Mortality thither, and now, mounted on his fine hunter, he capered about us, looking pallid and emaciated as a ghost, but as gay and cheerful as ever, and would fain have been permitted to ride over hedge and ditch to mark out the proper line of the future avenue. Scott admonished him that the country-people, if they saw him at such work, would take the whole party for heathens; and clapping spurs to his horse, he left us. "The devil's in the body," quoth Tom Purdie; "he'll be ower every yett atween this and Turn-again, though it be the Lord's day. I wadna wonder if he were to be ceeted before the Session." - "Be sure, Tam," cries Constable, "that you egg on the Dominie to blaw up his father - I wouldna grudge a hundred miles o'gait to see the ne'er-do-weel on the stool, and neither I'll be sworn, would the Sheriff." "Na, na," quoth the Sheriff, "we'll let sleeping dogs be, Tam."

        It is a curious sidelight on the Scottish sabbatarianism of the period that it should have been considered even a half-jocular possibility that a visitor might be disciplined by the local minister for the crime of jumping gates on his host's estate. The Dominie was, of course, George Thomson, the tutor of the Scott boys, who was a son of the Melrose minister of that name.

        It is significant that, in this one-day truce of his post-mortem animosities, Lockhart gives us a more convincing portrait of John Ballantyne than in any dozen of the onslaughts which he makes upon him. He is a 'projector to the core', alert with suggestions for the alterations of cottage and garden, though they are nothing to him, and with an irrepressible activity, even though he looked the sick man that he surely was. We get a glimpse of the sanguine spirit, the desire to do, to create, the restless irrepressible audacities, which, joined to a fine capacity for personal loyalty and a genuine love of art or beauty in any form, endeared him to Scott, who was an exceptionally sane judge of his fellow-men, and explain the words he spoke as, a year later, he walked away from John Ballantyne's grave: "I feel as if there would be less sunshine for me from this day forth".

        But now John rode his own way, and the rest of the party walked back to Abbotsford, the young couple gay with hope, happy in the coming idyll of their own lives, and Scott, conscious that his strength would never last again as once it did, leaning on Tom Purdie's shoulder - his "Sunday pony" he took to calling him in these days - as he must learn to do increasingly in the years to come.


        It was in the month following this expedition to Abbotsford that Scott at last went up to London to formally receive the title which was to be conferred upon him, Charlotte remaining in Scotland to superintend the preparations for Sophia's wedding, which had been fixed for the end of April, and for which Scott had, of course, undertaken to return.

        It may not have been without weariness for him to experience, and it would surely be wearisome to record, the glittering crowds among whom he feasted and talked, and who jostled each other for introductions to the greatest poet and (who could doubt the authorship of those novels now?) the greatest novelist of the day. The letters which he wrote during this period are of the usual pattern, full of interest in the well-being of those he loved, gently protesting at times that fuller news was not sent to him, discussing presents promised or to be thought of, and ballasted with anecdotes and comment which is always shrewd, and almost always kindly.

        He wrote to James of a sharp quarrel which had arisen between the houses of Longmans and Constable, regarding the terms on which his novels were to be marketed, in regard to which he had resolutely refused to take sides; he added that he would not willingly place his novels otherwise than with Constable now, except for one reason. "Had we not been controlled by the narrowness of discount, I would put nothing past him." It is an evident deduction that Scott had as many of Constable's bills on his hands, after the completion of the Ivanhoe deal, as he could find channels in which to discount them. The Monastery, coming out so soon after, could only be productive of immediate money by placing it with another publisher. That there should be need to consider such a point, after the sum obtained for Ivanhoe, is evidence of how closely expenditure followed the footsteps of income, unless it were the case that Constable was already finding it necessary to renew older bills as they fell due, in which case Scott would have an increased weight of these documents for his bankers to carry, of which there is no evidence at this period, though it is likely enough. But, in observing this, it is fair to remember that Scott was printer as well as author. Publishers paid with long-dated bills for the books themselves, at this period, as well as for the author's copyright, so that money had to be raised on these documents for the heavy wages-lists and other outlays that the printing of these large editions required. Under such circumstances, it might seem no more than prudence to obtain some variety in the signatures upon these long-dated documents.

        "You say nothing of John," Scott added, in a postscript to this letter, "yet I am anxious about him." John's friends seem to have been more alarmed than he was himself by the physical symptoms of recent months.

        In a letter to Charlotte of about the same date, Scott mentions his plan of completing Abbotsford on a scale appropriate to the new dignity he had undertaken, which would furnish him "with a handsome library, and you with a drawing-room and better bedroom, with good bedrooms for company, etc. It will cost me a little hard work to meet the expense, but I have been a good while idle".

        The 'idleness' must have been that of last year's illness. It had not been of recent months. Ivanhoe had been published in December: the Monastery in March, when this letter was written. Two more novels were planned to be out before the year should end. Beside Constable's pet idea, Kenilworth, Scott was already resolved upon a sequel to the Monastery. His reason was characteristic. It is usually the most popular books for which sequels are written - and they usually fail: Scott was going to write a sequel now because he recognised the book to be a failure, and he would not admit defeat. It was not that he thought the public verdict perverse, and hoped to bring it to his own view. His correspondence shows that he agreed. The Monastery was an uninteresting book. Very well. He was not going to admit failure. He would continue the tale, and turn defeat into victory. It was a decision which reason hesitates to approve. It was magnificent, but it was not war.

        The decision to enlarge the Abbotsford plans was unfortunate, as we can see now. It was not the cost of the building alone, it was the entertaining of the ceaseless visitors who would come from all parts of the world during the next five years, and be entertained in Scott's unstinting way - unstinting, not only of money but of his own priceless time - which would be made possible by those added rooms. All this was involved: and adequate or more than adequate as Scott's income might appear to be for all possible demands that might be made upon it, yet it was a fact that money was being spent very promptly as it came in: it was a fact that the publishers' payments were in the form of bills for which Scott might be able to obtain cash, but which cash he would be liable to be called upon to refund if at any time they should fail, which is always a commercial possibility, however remote it may seem: it was a fact that the printing business, however active and prosperous it might now be, was working on a capital which was supported by bills in the same way: and it was a fact also that the printing business was largely occupied in production of Scott's own books, which did not make its prosperity any the less real while the publishers met their engagements to it, but did place Scott in the added jeopardy that, if these publishers should fail, he stood to lose not only as author, but as printer also. It did not increase the probability of such an event, but it doubled the severity of its consequences, if it should occur.

        And though there were years of prosperity to come, and new triumphs to be recorded, yet the tide was at its full - may, even now, however slightly, however imperceptibly, have been on the turn. . . .

        Lockhart makes an assertion, and an accusation on this point which should not be passed unnoticed. It deserves at least the courtesy of a considered analysis, for he is a shrewd observer, and often worthy of attention if he be neither dealing with figures, nor suffering from Ballantynes on the brain. He says:

        "I cannot conclude without observing that the publication of Ivanhoe marks the most brilliant epoch in Scott's history as the literary favourite of his contemporaries. With the novel which he next put forth, the immediate sale of these works began gradually to decline; and though, even when that had reached its lowest declension, it was still far above the most ambitious dreams of any other novelist, yet the publishers were afraid the announcement of anything like a falling-off might cast a damp over the spirits of the author. He was allowed to remain for many years under the impression that whatever novel he threw off commanded at once the old triumphant sale of ten or twelve thousand, and was afterwards, when included in the collective edition, to be circulated in that shape also as widely as Waverley and Ivanhoe. In my opinion, it would have been very unwise in the booksellers to give Scott any unfavourable tidings upon such subjects after the commencement of the malady which proved fatal to him - for that from the first shook his mind; but I think they took a false measure of the man when they hesitated to tell him exactly how matters stood, throughout 1820 and the three or four following years, when his intellect was as vigorous as it ever had been, and his heart as courageous; and I regret their scruples (among other reasons), because the years now mentioned were the most costly ones in his life; and for any twelve months in which any man allows himself, or is encouraged by others, to proceed in a course of unwise expenditure, it becomes proportionately more difficult for him to pull up when the mistake is at length detected or recognised."

        Now so far as sales did fall off, and if, and so far as, anyone did conceal the fact from him who was principally concerned, it was beyond defense. But in estimating the importance of this point we must observe that there certainly was no steady downward movement, such as would have been a clear and unmistakable warning, which could have been indicated to Scott before the last acre of the Abbotsford estate was bought, and the last stone laid of the edifice which would make curtailment in future a very difficult programme to carry out; and, further, that though it would be easy for any of us to avoid disaster if we could see three or four years ahead, and Scott, like the rest of us, would have found it very useful to be able to do so, even such prescience might have modified rather than averted the course of events, which would have been largely beyond individual control.

        Lockhart's second opinion, "that it would have been very unwise in the booksellers, etc.," is partly at variance with the facts as they did occur, and otherwise hypothetical, and there it may be left. As to whether Scott's malady "from the first shook his mind" anyone may read the journal of those final years and form his own judgement. The general opinion might be that few have ever met disaster with clearer minds, or more unshaken fortitude.

        But I think Lockhart is always disposed to magnify the extent to which Scott was oblivious of his environment or ill-informed concerning it. I think Scott was clearly and accurately aware of most of these circumstances, and had he been informed most completely, even to the last months of his life, nothing might have been worse - and very little might have been different.

        However these things might have been, had they been other than they were, the fact is that Sir Walter Scott came back from London in time for his daughter's wedding, confident of recovered health, and of the plenitude of his mental powers. He had no thought of financial shadow, either near or far. He was making money with almost magical ease, and money to him was a power to use, not to hoard.

    "The only gold he ever stored
      Inlays his helm, and hilts his sword."

        If we lose sight of that attitude, we are searching an enigma to which we have lost the key.

        Lockhart sees the masons gathering for the new wing of Abbotsford, and the reflection that they are to be paid with the profits of Kenilworth, which is not half-written as yet, vexes his timid conventional mind. It is an imprudent thing. Most of us would agree to that. But, to Scott, it would make the enterprise of that new wing a more attractive, a more adventurous thing. He would dream Kenilworth, and the dream would turn into solid stone. Can the world give a greater magic than that? And it was so little, so easy a thing to do! He thought - it might be better to say, he knew - that the writing of books is no great matter of which to boast. Smaller men may swell with pride at a lyric's praise. But Scott measured all by the sky's height.

        Did he never think as he walked over the plantation by which he was bringing beauty to barren hills, "There was a year when I was nearly ruined in May, and I was nearly ruined again in August, but I won both of those fights, and in the July between I bought this land up to the Caulshields Loch"?

        There may have been many men who have been nearly ruined in March, and again in May. Doubtless there are also those who have overcome such perils and steered at last to a good port - but how many are there who bought wide lands in the month between? But those battles were over now. Over, also, that harder battle against disease - the fight that was almost lost.

        Triumphs were easy now. There was nothing left but to ride a friendly bout against fate with a blunted spear.

        So he went back to Edinburgh in good spirits for the Spring Session. He did his work at the Court with his usual thoroughness. He made good progress with the two novels. At the end of May he wrote to Walter in Dublin:

        "I have bought the land adjoining to the Burnfoot Cottage. . . . It cost £2,300 . . . there is a good deal of valuable fir planting . . . still I think it is £200 too dear. Mr. Laidlaw thinks it can be made worth. . . . "

        Two months later he wrote to his brother Tom in Canada. He gave all the news, as his way was. He was happy about his daughter's marriage:

        "Lockhart seems everything I could wish. . . . They are to spend their vacations in a nice little cottage, in a glen belonging to this property, with a rivulet in front, and a grove of trees on the east side to keep away the cold wind."

        Tom's eldest boy (another Walter) was to come to Abbotsford. Tom was not exactly a poor man now, but Sir Walter was proposing to pay all the charges of completing his nephew's education, and starting him on any career he might choose. Tom wanted him to take up accountancy, which was at that time in Scotland a branch of the legal profession. Scott replied at length on this point. It would be to the advantage of many sons if all parents should study this letter. He says that a parent who has established a sufficiently sympathetic relation with his son can almost always influence him to adopt the profession which he (the father) thinks most suitable, and, for that reason, he should be the more careful to consider the boy's proclivities rather than his own wishes. He adds:

        "Walter would have gone to the bar had I liked, but I was sensible (with no small reluctance did I admit the conviction) that I should only spoil an excellent soldier to make a poor and undistinguished gownsman. On the same principle, I shall send Charles to India, not, God knows, with my will, for there is little chance of my living to see him return. . . .

He will not promise to influence or coerce the boy towards any profession he does not choose, or for which he does not think him suitable, but, apart from that; "When you send him here I will do all that is in my power to stand in the place of father to him, and you may fully rely on my care and tenderness." It was a promise well kept.


        In the autumn, Mr. and Mrs. Lockhart were easily persuaded that Abbotsford had some residential advantages over the Chiefswood cottage, and they came there on a long visit.

        Then, and afterwards, Lockhart had intimate and continual opportunities of watching the internal economy of a house that was assuming some of the attributes of an international hotel, and, in spite of his journalistic vice of verbosity, the picture he gives deserves to be reproduced in his own words:

        "The humblest person who stayed merely for a short visit, must have departed with the impression that what he witnessed was an occasional variety; that Scott's courtesy prompted him to break in upon his habits when he had a stranger to amuse; but that it was physically impossible that the man who was writing the Waverley romances at the rate of nearly twelve volumes in the year, could continue, week after week, and month after month, to devote all but a hardly perceptible fraction of his mornings to out-of-doors occupations, and the whole of his evenings to the entertainment of a constantly varying circle of guests. The hospitality of his afternoons must alone have been enough to exhaust the energies of almost any man; for his visitors did not mean, like those of country-houses in general, to enjoy the landlord's good cheer and amuse each other; but the far greater proportion arrived from a distance, for the sole sake of the Poet and Novelist himself, whose person they had never before seen, and whose voice they might never again have an opportunity of hearing. No other villa in Europe was ever resorted to from the same motives, and to anything like the same extent, except Ferney; and Voltaire never dreamt of being visible to his hunters: except for a brief space of the day; - few of them ever dined with him, and none of them seem to have slept under his roof. Scott's establishment, on the contrary, resembled in every particular that of the affluent idler, who, because he has inherited, or would fain transmit political influence in some province, keeps open house - receives as many as he has room for, and sees their apartments occupied, as soon as they vacate them, by another troupe of the same description. Even on gentlemen guiltless of inkshed, the exercise of this sort of hospitality upon this sort of scale is found to impose a heavy tax; few of them, now-a-days, think of maintaining it for any large portion of the year: very few indeed below the highest rank of the nobility - in whose case there is usually a staff of led-captains, led-chaplains, servile dandies, and semi-professional talkers and jokers from London, to take the chief part of the burden. Now, Scott had often in his mouth the pithy verses -

    "Conversation is but carving: -
    Give no more to every guest,
    Than he's able to digest:
    Give him always of the prime,
    And but little at a time;
    Carve to all but just enough,
    Let them neither starve nor stuff;
    And that you may have your due,
    Let your neighbours carve for you
    "; -

and he, in his own familiar circle always, and in other circles where it was possible, furnished a happy exemplification of these rules and regulations of the Dean of St. Patrick's. But the same sense and benevolence which dictated adhesion to them among his old friends and acquaintance rendered it necessary to break them when he was receiving strangers of the class I have described above at Abbotsford: he felt that their coming was the best homage they could pay to his celebrity, and that it would have been as uncourteous in him not to give them their fill of his talk, as it would be in your every-day lord of manors to make his casual guests welcome indeed to his venison, but keep his grouse-shooting for his immediate allies and dependants.

        "Every now and then he received some stranger who was not indisposed to take his part in the carving; and how good-humouredly he surrendered the lion's share to anyone that seemed to covet it - with what perfect placidity he submitted to be bored even by bores of the first water must have excited the admiration of many besides the daily observers of his proceedings. I have heard a spruce Senior Wrangler lecture him for half an evening on the niceties of the Greek epigram; I have heard the poorest of all parliamentary blunderers try to detail to him the pros and cons of what he called the Truck system; and in either case the same bland eye watched the lips of the tormentor. But, with such ludicrous exceptions, Scott was the one object of the Abbotsford pilgrims; and evening followed evening, only to show him exerting for their amusement, more of animal spirits, to say nothing of intellectual vigour, than would have been considered by any other man in the company as sufficient for the whole expenditure of a week's existence. Yet this was not the chief marvel: he talked of things that interested himself, because he knew that by doing so he should give most pleasure to his guests. But how vast was the range of subjects on which he could talk with unaffected zeal; and with what admirable delicacy of instinctive politeness did he select his topic according to the peculiar history, study, pursuits or social habits of the stranger! And all this was done without approach to the unmanly trickery of what is called catching the tone of the person one converses with. Scott took the subject on which he thought such a man or woman would like best to hear him speak - but not to handle it in their way, or in any way but what was completely, and most simply his own: - not to flatter them by embellishing, with the illustration of his genius the views and opinions which they were supposed to entertain, - but to let his genius play out its own variations for his own delight and theirs, as freely and easily, and with as endless a multiplicity of delicious novelties, as ever the magic of Beethoven or Mozart could fling over the few primitive notes of a village air. . . .

        ". . . It is needless to add, that Sir Walter was familiarly known long before the days I am speaking of, to almost all the nobility and higher gentry of Scotland; and consequently, that there seldom wanted a fair proportion of them to assist him in doing the honours of his country. It is still more superfluous to say so respecting the heads of his own profession at Edinburgh: Sibi et amicis - Abbotsford was their villa whenever they pleased to resort to it. and few of them were ever absent from it long. He lived meanwhile in a constant interchange of easy visits with the gentlemen's families of Teviotdale and the Forest; so that mixed up with his superfine admirers of the Mayfair breed, his staring worshippers from foreign parts, and his quick-witted coevals of the Parliament-House - there was found generally some hearty home-spun laird, with his dame, and the young laird - a bashful bumpkin who, perhaps, did not soar beyond his gun and pointer - or perhaps a little psuedo-dandy, for whom the Kelso race-course and the Jedburgh ball were Life and the World. To complete the olla podrida, we must remember that no old acquaintance, or family connections, however remote their actual station or style of manners from his own, were forgotten or lost sight of. He had some even near relations, who, except when they visited him, rarely if ever found admittance to what the haughty dialect of the upper world is pleased to designate as society. These were welcome guests, let who might be under that roof; and it was the same with many a worthy citizen of Edinburgh, habitually moving in an obscure circle, who had been in the same class with Scott at the High School, or his fellow-apprentice when he was proud of earning three-pence a page by the use of his pen. To dwell on nothing else, it was surely a beautiful perfection of real universal humanity and politeness, that could enable this great and good men to blend guests so multifarious in one group, and contrive to make them all equally happy with him, with themselves, and with each other."

        And when the boredom of this continual hospitality passed the bounds of endurance, or would have left even less than the minimum of time which he required for his own work, Scott would escape on some pretext of visiting a distant part of his estate, and ride over to Chiefswood, where he could be sure of quiet and where Sophia kept a dressing-room at his disposal for writing purposes. Here at times, also, especially in summer days when out-door picnicking would be possible, the more intimate guests of Abbotsford would be brought, or they would be taken to Huntley Burn, the inhabitants of castle, farmhouse, and cottage invading each other with little ceremony, and with what ever retinue.

        They were happy, fortunate days, and Charlotte proved herself adequate to the control of this growing mansion with its incessant cosmopolitan hospitality; and yet she, and Sir Walter also, may have had the happier times in their first carefree days in the simplicity of the Lasswade cottage. Perhaps now it was the life at Chiefswood rather than at Abbotsford which wisdom might be disposed to envy.

        But the cottage at Lasswade had fulfilled its vital purpose: the nest was emptying, though the cottage might be a mansion now. Charles had gone to Lampeter, to continue his studies there. Only Anne was left at home.


        As a picture of the successful exercise of the rites of hospitality on an extended scale, Lockhart's description may be interesting, and in some respects admirable enough. Certainly, it is without discredit to the man who received the international invasion. and neither repelled nor allowed it to overwhelm him. His apparent leisure may still appear wonderful, when its explanation has been observed, but that explanation obviously lay in his habit of retiring at a reasonable hour, and doing early morning work while his guests slept.

        We may also observe that the exercise of hospitality on such a scale is a costly thing. The profits of the Waverley novels were very large, but so also was the number of those, both inside and around Abbotsford, who were living upon them.

        We get another glimpse of this expenditure at the end of the year, when about a hundred of the children of the men employed on the estate danced to the bagpipes at the Hogmanay Festival, and got a meal, and a penny each when they went home. And Scott looked on, happily enough no doubt, but with a feeling of disquiet that, for no sufficient reason that he could see, he should be so much better off than they. "I declare to you, my dear friend," he wrote to Joanna Baillie, "that when I thought the poor fellows who kept these children so neat, and well-taught, and well-behaved, were slaving the whole day for eighteen-pence, or twenty-pence at the most, I was ashamed of their gratitude. . . ."

        But money was coming in fast at this time, and there seemed no need to be over-careful of the rate at which it was passed on to others. For Scott had done what he proposed The Abbot had been published in September, and Kenilworth appeared in the closing weeks of the year.

        The Abbot, being a sequel of the Monastery, was published in the same style, and through the same channel - Longmans - as the previous book. It might have been wiser to make Mary Stuart the subject of a quite independent novel, but Scott largely justified his determination that the sequel should redeem the previous failure. It had, and deserved, a much better reception, and a larger sale.

        Kenilworth was published by Constable in the more ornate style, and at the advanced price of Ivanhoe, and it rivalled, if it did not outshine, its success. The turn of the tide, if such there were, is still very hard to see.

        And after the publication of Kenilworth there can have been no immediate reaction, for there was a pause of unusual length - nearly twelve months - before the next novel appeared. Kenilworth had been published in December, 1820. The Pirate appeared slightly earlier in December, 1821.

        The earlier part of the year had not been entirely barren of literary output. John Ballantyne had recently conceived a project of publishing a series of the novels of a past generation, under the general title of The Novelist's Library. This was to be a private venture of his own, and Scott had promised to help him by writing lives of the novelists concerned as introductory matter. He did some of these, and some other miscellaneous work during the early part of the year, but the fact was that he went to London as representative of the Clerks of Session, who were interested in a bill before the House to relieve them of some of their more laborious and less responsible duties, and this business kept him in town for some months. It may be doubted whether he ever worked as well in London as when in Edinburgh or at Abbotsford. When he got back, Adam Fergusson was married in April, leaving his sisters at Huntley Burn, and taking Gattanside, in the next parish; and in June, more to his own surprise than that of his friends, John Ballantyne died.

        Scott took Lockhart to see him during his last illness, and his description of that visit has his customary sharpness of vision with less than the usual bitterness:

        "John's deathbed was a thing not to be forgotten. We sat by him for perhaps an hour, and I think half that space was occupied with his predictions of a speedy end, and details of his last will, which he had just been executing, and which lay on his coverlid; the other half being given, five minutes or so at a time, to questions and remarks, which intimated that the hope of life was still flickering before him - nay, that his interest in all its concerns remained eager. The proof-sheets of a volume of his Novelist's Library lay also by his pillow; and he passed from them to his will, and then back to them, as by jerks and starts the unwonted veil of gloom closed upon his imagination, or was withdrawn again. He had, he said, left his great friend and patron £2,000 towards the completion of the new library at Abbotsford - and the spirit of the auctioneer virtuoso flashed up as he began to describe what would, he thought, be the best style and arrangement of the bookshelves. He was interrupted by an agony of asthma which left him with hardly any sign of life; and ultimately he did expire in a fit of the same kind. Scott was visibly and profoundly shaken by this scene and sequel."

        Lockhart repeats a tale that Scott told him as they walked away from the funeral, of how he had once known the dead man give a cheque for £5 or £10 to a poor student of divinity whom he had noticed in his auction room. John remarked to the young man that he looked ill, and receiving an affirmative answer, said, with his usual jocularity, as he passed him the unexpected cheque, that it would prove beneficial if taken on an empty stomach.

        Scott gives that as his last memory of the man who certainly worshipped him, and whom he had called his friend - that, and the thought that there would never be so much of sunshine in his life again. But Lockhart will not leave without dealing a final kick at the coffin.

        "I am sorry," he says. "to take leave of John Ballantyne with the remark that his last will and testament was a document of the same class with too many of his states and calendars. So far from having £2,000 to bequeath to Sir Walter, he died as he had lived, ignorant of the state of his affairs, and deep in debt."

        It is a fact that John did not leave a sufficient estate to allow of the payment of the £2,000 legacy, and that so far was Sir Walter from thinking of, or desiring to receive it, that he was considering soon afterwards the possibility of continuing the Novelist's Library for the widow's benefit. There is also a vague suggestion that Scott may have discharged some of his debts, but it is indefinite in itself, and might have arisen (if it had any basis at all) from his payment of obligations incurred by John as agent on his behalf. It may be agreed that had John been insolvent Scott would have been very likely to take such a course, but, in fact, the statement that John died 'deep in debt' appears to be no more than one of Lockhart's rhetorical flourishes.

        At the time of John's death he was so far either from anticipating that event, or conscious of financial trouble, that he was engaged in the conversion of some old houses that he had bought at the end of the Kelso High Street into one mansion, which was to be named Walton Hall, and enable him to take up a stately residence in his native town. He might be of a naturally gay or even mercurial disposition, but at the time of serious crisis with the John Ballantyne bills he is said on more than one evidence to have been ill with worry. He had now been 'on his own' for several years, and that his spirits would have been high enough to overcome his physical weakness, and left him energy for this new building enterprise, had he really been 'deep in debt' is an obvious improbability. But when we examine his sources of income we observe that they would all cease at his death, and a half-finished mansion may not be a very saleable asset to leave behind.

        It is no unforgivable crime to die poor, even if it be John Ballantyne who commits the offence but the real sting of the paragraph quoted is the innuendo of the allusion to 'his states and calendars'.

        Lockhart charges him elsewhere with the faking of 'States' or Balance Sheets, but the accusation breaks down utterly on examination. By 'calendars' he meant lists of obligations (specifically, Bills payable) which require to be honoured during a forth-coming financial period. There is evidence that both Scott and James Ballantyne relied upon John for the keeping of such records over long periods in connection with both the publishing and printing firms. Had he been carelessly inaccurate the consequences would have been too disastrous for it to have been possible to retain him in such a position. Had he been deliberately so, it would have been evidence that he was non compos mentis. Is there the slightest evidence that he ever made a single mistake in these documents at any time, or of any kind?

        But in this final attack, over his grave, upon the man with whom he had been on terms of apparent cordiality, Lockhart preserves an outward decency of expression. He professes perfunctory sorrow that he should have to make accusations, which there was no reason to do. When he had been convicted of other inaccuracies, he repeated the charge, such as it is, with an altered vocabulary, which shows what his true feelings were. He says (Letter to Sir Adam Fergusson, p.64, footnote) -

        "In how far John had deceived himself as to his pecuniary status, I cannot undertake to guess. That, situated as he really was, death should have arrested him in the midst of constructing a splendid villa on the Tweed, and that he should have penned legacies when he could leave nothing but debt to be discharged by his friends - even these circumstances are sufficiently in keeping with the whole of this person's history."

        We may observe an obvious inaccuracy of rhetoric in the statement that "he could leave nothing but debts". Lockhart has told us of a half-built house. Had he been substantially insolvent, it is likely that there would be more and different evidence than a vague statement that Scott paid his debts, and such evidence Lockhart would have been glad to produce. The expression "this person's" as a substitute for "his", which is all that the construction of the sentence requires, shows temper, for which there should have been no occasion had he conducted his investigation in a judicial spirit.

        John made an estimate of his position, for his own guidance, shortly before his death, in which he valued his assets at £5,000 against liabilities of £2,000. As a 'going concern' this was probably accurate enough, and gave no cause for anxiety to a man who was making a large income, as he must have been doing at this time, and was living within it, or he would not have reached that position.


        A few weeks after John Ballantyne's death, Scott was in London again, this time for the King's coronation, and it was not till he got back to such limited peace as Abbotsford gave that the Pirate appears to have made a steady and regular progress. William Erskine, who, it will be remembered, had been one of the party with whom Scott had visited the scene in which this tale is laid, and who, in his official capacity as Sheriff of the Orkney and Shetland islands, was otherwise familiar with those localities, came with his two daughters (his wife had died two years earlier) to stay at Abbotsford, and gave the assistance of his own knowledge to Scott's limited notes or uncertain memories. Keenly interested as he always was in the progress of these novels, he appears to have taken an exceptional 'constant and eager delight' in the creation of one which dealt with the locality he represented. He would commonly, during this summer holiday period, get from Scott at breakfast the sheets which he had written in the early morning and take them over to Chiefswood for the pleasure of reading them to the Lockharts, where we are assured that 'tender affection and admiration, fresh as the impulses of childhood, glistened in his eye, and trembled in his voice. Lockhart does not record his own emotions at these ceremonies (he is usually more detailed and picturesque regarding those of others) nor what Sophia thought of being called from her housework in the middle-morning to sit under a tree listening to an emotional rendering of one of her father's chapters, but we may conclude that William Erskine enjoyed the job. With the impulse of his admiring society, the book grew. But it had been an unusually long time in process of composition, and that was not a good sign. Neither was it favourable that Scott should have come to divide his attention between it and some fictitious letters which he was endeavouring to write in the style of the seventeenth century, which with a sudden wisdom, he threw aside to commence a novel against the same background. He made considerable progress with this before he wrote the Pirate's concluding words, and that was a good omen in one direction, for he had never yet written two novels at once without making one a success of the first order.

        The programme of building advanced this year more rapidly than the novels. Scott had come back from his spring visit to London with complete plans for the final wing, and the work had only been delayed by his refusal to allow the demolition of the porch of the old cottage until the roses and jessamines had ceased to flower. Then, on a late-autumn Sunday, having come from Edinburgh for the purpose, he removed the roots of the creepers to Chiefswood, and planted them with his own hands around the entrance to his daughter's cottage.

        It is in dealing with this period of an abundant prosperity, and very heavy expenditure, that Lockhart makes a statement regarding Scott's income and reasonable expectations which requires notice because it is loosely false, both in fact and inference and is a major example of the distortions with which he gradually blurred what in itself is both a simpler and a nobler tale.

        It was in November of this year that Scott made a further agreement with Constable regarding the copyrights which had been created since his previous comprehensive sale, and Lockhart makes it occasion for this statement:

        "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 £2,000, was repeated. By these four novels, the fruits of scarcely more than twelve months' labour, he had already cleared at least £10,000 before this bargain was completed. I cannot pretend to guess what the actual state of his 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 £30,000 at least in the course of a couple of years by the novels written within such a period."

        It might not be difficult to prepare an approximately accurate statement of Scott's financial position at this time, and it would certainly show him to have been substantially solvent, with a very large income, which his expenditure did not equal; but no-one with a knowledge of what accountancy is will needlessly indulge in such estimates. Ascertained figures are sufficiently difficult to handle justly. We may agree that Lockhart was wise, in not 'pretending to guess' in that direction, and we may pass with a moment's wonder the suggestion that John Ballantyne's death relieved Scott's pecuniary affairs from 'one great source of complication and difficulty'. Lockhart does not explain what he means, and no-one else is likely to have that ability. It is no more than a random stone cast backward upon a grave. But the major figures he gives, both the £10,000 and the £30,000 are utterly fallacious, and double the annual profits that Scott received, or could reasonably have expected to receive, from his novels at any period. It is absurd to assert, because four novels were published within fourteen months, that they were written within such a period, and Lockhart has himself given detailed and conclusive contrary evidence. By a parity of reasoning, if a man have pains at regular intervals, and one is at four and the next at eight, he has two in four hours, and as there are twenty-four hours in the day he must have twelve pains a day. The production of the novels was irregular, but never greatly exceeded two a year, and averaged less. During the year when Scott is discredited with these absurd calculations (which he would certainly never have made) his output was one.

        The estimate of these figures is as random as were the assertions that the popularity of the novels declined after Ivanhoe, and that Scott ought to have been made aware of this circumstance. Ivanhoe and the Monastery were published almost together, and the Monastery was the nearest thing to a failure he had yet had. Kenilworth and the Abbot were issued in the same bracketed way. Lockhart's own testimony is that Kenilworth was as successful as Ivanhoe, and that the Abbot was better received than the Monastery. The next novel - The Pirate - was yet to come. What evidence of declining popularity call be extracted here?

        Nothing beyond a very vague estimate of the annual profit which Scott was making from his novels, or which he could reasonably expect in future, could have been made then, or is possible now, but the figure could have been most reasonably placed at between £6,000 and £7,000. With his salaries and other sources of income he may have approached £10,000, against which we have to place the fact that the outlay upon the development of the Abbotsford estate (apart from the house and grounds) must have exceeded the immediate receipts, though it was not foolishly expended, and was increasing the annual value of the property.

        Scott's position was that he was making a large income with fantastic ease, that he was living well within it, even after allowance has been made for his almost endless generosities, and was developing an estate by a method which looked ahead rather than to immediate returns, and which was likely to render it of permanent and increasing value.

        While living well within his income, as he appears to have done, without exception during the whole of his life, he was not saving to any great extent, which it was not his nature to do, or, at least it was not his nature to plan cautiously to such ends. He was confident rather than cautious by disposition, a lover of hazards, but not therefore one incompetent in business or other relations of life. Such a combination of qualities would have come to earth at the first ditch.

        The weakness of his position lay in the fact that an income from literature must always be precarious (though on this point he justified his confidence in his own capacity); and in the fact that he was taking payments from his publishers in longdated bills, not only for his literary work, but for the actual manufacture of the novels at the Canongate Press.

        Must we, after a survey of the whole position, as it then was, convict him of imprudence in enlarging Abbotsford, or continuing the printing business, as Lockhart asks us to do? To answer this question we must return our regard to the affairs of James Ballantyne & Co., which we have left very much to themselves since James asked to be relieved of his partnership about five years ago.

        It may be remembered that Scott had generously given him the right to resume the position which he had vacated, if, at any future time, he should think it to be to his advantage. Now he made a formal application to be reinstated in partnership.

        If we would regard these events in a correct perspective, the significance of this application cannot easily be exaggerated. Now that the publishing firm was dead, and its liabilities ended, the printing business was the most vulnerable side of Scott's financial position, and it was there, several years later, that the line broke. James had been left in sole authority, and with comparatively little supervision during the last five years. He should know, if anyone did, what the position was, and the nature of the responsibility which he would assume. It was a step which proved, in the end, disastrous to him. Was that end one which a good business man should have foreseen at this time, or did it arise from future causes which were beyond the possibilities of human foresight? Was James himself, and, if so, to what extent, responsible for the position of this business at this date, or for the events that followed?

        All these were points of acute controversy between Lockhart and the Ballantyne trustees, and either side would have been capable of spoiling a good case with bad advocacy. Their charges and counter-charges are a wild chaos of baseless calumnies and recriminations; their figures, and their deductions from them, are nightmares of improbability and inconsequence. Can we disentangle sufficient facts to get the position clearly and simply stated?

        We have the clear fact that after this five-years arrangement James felt sufficient confidence in the business to desire to resume his partnership, and that he thought the profits to be such that it would be to his advantage to do so; and we have the further and even more significant fact that George Hogarth was again consulted, and was the legal instrument of reconstituting the partnership which he had previously considered it essential to terminate in his sister's interest.

        We have the fact also, that Scott was sufficiently satisfied with the method in which James had managed the business to commence a new partnership with him, and this was quite voluntary on his part, for, as we shall see, there had been sufficient errors of default, if not of commission, on James's part to give Scott solid legal ground for refusal, had he desired to take that course.

        As to the competence of the parties, Scott was a barrister, trained in a lawyer's office at a time when law and accountancy were a single profession. He showed on several occasions the ability to grasp and analyse even intricate financial problems which a barrister is expected to have, and which could reasonably be expected from his professional training, and intellectual capacity. The large-handed way in which he dealt with money, and his habit of regarding his income as a fund for the support of endless relatives and friends, and for all indigent people within a five mile radius of where he lived, or with whom his voluminous correspondence might acquaint him, was a defect (if such we call it) of character, not of intellect, and its results were incidentally augmented by the fact that Charlotte's generosities were of a similar liberality.

        James always said frankly that he did not like figures. His interest in his business was on its practical side. But it does not appear that he was incompetent, if he would discipline himself to the work.

        When the principle of a new partnership was agreed, the evident course on both sides would have been to have entrusted John with the preparation of the accounts on which it would be based. It is improbable that this should have been the case, after several years experience of a man who, according to Lockhart, could not or would not draw up a list of forthcoming bills accurately, yet so it was. But, while the negotiation was in its preliminary stage, John died.

        A fortnight before his death, on June 3rd, 1821, when it was evident that his assistance would not be available, James wrote a letter to Scott of which this is the concluding portion:

        "With some unwilling foreboding that this might happen, and that John might be unable to assist us in our approaching arrangement, I have been studying the whole affairs of the concern with all the attention I could exert; and, as generally happens to persons of good sense, I have found that what others can accomplish I can accomplish too. I am very sure that in one week I shall he able to produce a statement which, subject to your amendments, may prove a very sufficient foundation for a new contract between us. I do not pretend to think that I can make out a balanced account which would brook an accountant's examination; but that happily you do not exact; and have kindly allowed for the former negligence, which renders that altogether impracticable. But I am pretty confident that I can show how the concern stands with the world - what it owes, and what is owing to it; I can show what is the value of its present stock; I am ready to agree to any terms you can propose for me; and most zealously trust (and you will see that I will not fail) to keep everything betwixt us in future as regularly as the affairs of the Weekly Journal. Still, therefore, I look forward with hope and confidence to be useful to myself, my family, and you. I am sure this is yet in my power, and I think you will believe it is. I may venture to say that I have never been idle but, on the contrary, most active and assiduous in those parts of my business which I liked - trusting most absurdly to others to attend to the most important departments which I did not like. Henceforward I shall trust to myself alone, and I really have no doubt that I shall manage everything as correctly as is my duty. With the deepest respect and gratitude. - J. B."

        The admissions in this letter are not the less serious because they are so frankly made. It is clear that the books had been badly kept. James had been absorbed in the production department, and had entrusted the accounts to others; without even exercising sufficient supervision to see that the work was properly done. It is evident also that during these very busy and prosperous years Scott cannot have exercised a strict control, or required exact periodic accounts to be presented to him, as he had in earlier years. Doubtless, he had asked for them. Doubtless, they had been promised. But the busy days had gone by and they had not been completed for him. Yet at times some estimated figures there may - indeed, must - have been, for Scott makes an incidental allusion to having drawn 'the profits' during these five years.

        James had been a salaried manager. His remuneration had been £400, which had afterwards been raised to £500. It was substantially less than he had been accustomed to spend, and he was still paying interest on some amounts of borrowed capital, and on a bank overdraft. He was editing a weekly newspaper, for which he received a salary of £200, and Scott had agreed that that should be outside the business, as his separate income. Scott had also made an arrangement with him by which a percentage of the profits of each of the novels was written off that capital debt of £3,000, as a remuneration for his services in correcting the proofs, and it had been reduced to £1,800 in this way. This has some of the aspects of a gift, as James's salary already covered such services, but James had no other substantial source of income. Unless by his labour, how was it to be repaid at all ? By this arrangement, Scott reduced it in accordance with the advance of his own prosperity.

        Beyond these, his wife had some means, though, considered as income-producing capital, they were not large. James has described her as a frugal manager. They lived in substantial comfort, though without ostentation. While John rode his white hunter, or drove tandem with a liveried groom up to the auction-room door, James was content with a sober cob: while John had his villa at Trinity, and his rising mansion at Kelso, James was content with the quiet respectability of his St. John Street residence.

        Yet, though we can acquit him of personal extravagance, if Lockhart's indictment that he habitually drew from this business much more than he was entitled to do can receive no better reply than that he does not prose his case, and that any figure he gives without verification is almost certainly wrong, and if, in fact - as is quite possible - James was innocent at this time of any such excessive expenditure - the fault is his own. He was in sole control of the business, and he failed to balance his cash.

        Everyone with any experience of book-keeping knows that, if a cash book is to be accurately balanced, it must be written up, and its totals watched, with continual regularity.

        James had written to his brother a few months before to this somewhat astonishing effect:

Oct. 31st 1820.

        On checking your note of bills with my bill-book I find the following do not appear there:-

    1821 Jan. 4th . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £876
    23rd Acceptance for . . . . Cash . . Lent . . . . . .£500 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -------
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £1376
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -------

        For the first you say you find funds: but, as they both ought to go regularly through my books I will thank you to furnish me with a state of the particulars of these bills, as drawer, acceptor, endorser, date, and time. When I reflect how many bills I have paid for Sir Walter Scott on verbal orders or mere notes, which I thought no more about, I absolutely quake for the aspect under which I might be considered were he to die. Thousands upon thousands might be brought against me; and all I could say would be, "Well, gentlemen where are they? My manner of life is well known - I have not spent them; my cash accounts are open - they are not there." Of late I have been more careful; but even yet I am sure there are some of his transactions which I am called upon ultimately to pay which have never appeared in my books, and which if rigidly scrutinised would make an ignorant accountant like me stand upon character alone. Many is the hours vexation and alarm this gives me."

        It sounds incredible, but we owe the production of this letter to the Ballantyne Trustees, who put it forward as evidence of the reckless manner in which Scott drained the business for his private purposes! He drew so many items that the poor manager had not time to enter them in the cashbook as he paid them out! It is the paradox of that controversy that when we examine Lockhart's charges against James they break down so completely that we are prepared to deliver a verdict of not guilty without troubling the witnesses for the defense; but when they insist on putting their evidence forward, we find that it is not such a clear case as it had appeared to be. . . .

        After the receipt of James's letter, Scott went into the affairs of the business with him direct. It was becoming too evident that John's assistance would never be available, and Scott was not content to leave James to produce the account at which he aimed, and start a new partnership on such a foundation. During the next fortnight there were many conferences, at the end of which time Scott had decided to admit James as a partner again, and had outlined the conditions, but he had stipulated that the agreement should not take effect for twelve months. There was to be that probationary period, at the end of which time proper accounts were to be prepared by independent accountants, as was actually done when the time came. On June l5th, 1821 - the day before John died - Scott wrote the following letter:

"Dear James,

        It appears to me that the contract betwixt us may be much shortened by an exchange of missive letters, distinctly expressing the grounds on which we proceed; and if I am so fortunate as to make these grounds distinct, intelligible, and perfectly satisfactory in this letter, you will have only to copy it with your own hand, and return me the copy with your answer expressing your acquiescence in what I have said, and your sense of the justice and propriety of what I have to propose as the result of our investigations and conferences.

        It is proper to set out by reminding you that upon the affairs of the printing house being in difficulties about the term of Whitsunday 1816, I assumed the total responsibility for its expenditure and its debts, including a salary of £400 to you as manager; and on condition of my doing so, you agreed that I should draw the full profits. Under this management, the business is to continue down to the term of Whitsunday next, being, l822, when I, considering myself as fully indemnified for my risk and my advances, am willing and desirous that this management shall terminate, and that you shall be admitted to a just participation of the profits which shall arise after that period. It is with a view to explain and ascertain the terms of this new contract, and the relative rights of the parties to each other, that these missives are exchanged.

        First, then, it appears from the transactions of our former copartnery that you were personally indebted to me in the year 1816 in the sum of £3,000, of which you have already paid me £1,200, by assigning to me your share in the profits of certain novels; and as there still remains due at this term of Whitsunday the sum of £1,800, I am content to receive in payment thereof the profits of three novels, now contracted for, to be published after this date of Whitsunday 1821. It may be proper to mention that no interest is imputed on this sum of £3,000; because I account it compensated by the profits of the printing-office, which I have drawn for my exclusive use since 1816; and, for the same reason, such part of the balance as may remain due at Whitsunday 1822, when these profits are liable to division under our new contract, will bear interest from that period.

        Secundo. During the space betwixt Whitsunday 1816 to Whitsunday 1822, I have been, Imo, At the sole expense of renewing the whole stock of the printing office, valued at £1,700; 2do, I have paid up a cash-credit due at the Bank of Scotland, amounting to £500; and 3tio, I have acquired by purchase certain feus affecting the printing-office property, for the sum of £375; - which three sums form altogether a capital sum of £2,575, for one half of which sum, being £1287. 10. 0, sterling, you are to give me a bill or a bond, with security if required, bearing interest at 5 per cent. from the term of Whitsunday 1822.

        Tertio. There is a cash-credit in your name as an individual with the Royal Bank for £500, and which is your proper debt, no part of the advances having been made to James Ballantyne & Co. I wish my name withdrawn from the obligation, where I stand as a cautioner, and that you would either pay up the account, or find the Bank other caution.

        The above arrangements being made and completed it remains to point out to you how matters will stand between us at Whitsunday 1822, and on what principle the business is after that date to be conducted.

        Primo, At that period, as I will remain liable personally for such Bills of the Company as are then current (exclusive of those granted for addition to stock, if any are made subsequent to this date, for which we are mutually liable) and exclusive also of such debts as were contracted before 1816, for which we are also mutually liable) I shall retain my exclusive right of property to all the several funds of the Company, book debts, money, bills, or balances of money, and bills in bankers hands for retiring the said current bills, and indemnifying me for my advances; and we are upon these terms to grant each other a mutual and effectual discharge of all claims whatsoever arising out of our former contract, or out of any of the transactions that have followed therefrom excepting as to the two sums of £1,800 and £1,287. 10. 0. due by you to me as above mentioned.

        Secundo. The printing-office, the house in Foulis Close, and all the stock in trade, shall from and after the term of Whitsunday 1822 be held a joint property, and managed for our common behoof, and at our joint expense; and on dissolution of the partnership, the partners shall make an equal division of all balance that may arise upon payment of the copartnery debts affecting the same.

        Tertio. In order to secure a proper fund for carrying on the business, each of us shall place in Bank at the aforesaid term of 1822 Whitsunday, the sum of £1,000 (to form a fund for carrying, on the business until returns shall come in for that purpose) - I say the input to be £1,000 each.

        Quarto. The profits of every kind after Whitsunday l822 (excepting works in progress before that period, and going on in the office) shall be equally divided. It being now found from experience that the influence and patronage which it is in my power to afford the concern is of nearly the same advantage as your direct and immediate exertion of skill and superintendence.

        5to. Respecting books which have been begun before the term of Whitsunday 1822, but not finished till afterwards. I propose, after some consideration, the following equitable distinction. Of all such works as, having been commenced and in progress before Whitsunday 1822, shall be published and sent out of the office before Lammas in the same year, I shall draw the profit; repaying the concern one half of the calculated wages expended per sheet or otherwise on the said works, subsequent to the term of Whitsunday. On the other hand, the profit of all such works as, having been commenced before Whitsunday 1822, shall not be published or delivered till after Lammas in the same year, shall be divisible between us in terms of the new copartnery; you in that case repaying me moiety of such wages and expenditure as shall have been expended upon such sheets or volumes previous to Whitsunday 1822.

        6to. I think it would be highly advisable that our drafts on the business (now so flourishing) should be limited to £500 per annum, suffering the balance to go to discharge debt, reinforce our cash accounts, add to stock in case it is thought advisable, until circumstances shall authorise in prudence a further dividend.

        It is almost unnecessary to add that there must be the usual articles about the use of a firm, etc. But the above are the peculiar principles of the new copartnery, and I should be desirous that our mutual friend Mr. Hogarth, your brother-in-law, and a man of business and honour, should draw up the new copartnery, coupling it with a mutual discharge. He will be a better judge than either you or I of the terms in which they should be couched to be legally binding: and being your connection and relative, his intervention will give to all who may hereafter-look into these affairs the assurance that we have acted towards each other on terms which we mutually consider as fair, just, and honourable.

        The letter which I wrote to you at the time of your marriage in 1816, or about that time, explained completely the conditions on which I then undertook the management of the printing office, so far as cash matters were concerned; and, as they were communicated to Mr. Hogarth, he will recollect their tenor. In case they are preserved. I think you will find that they accord with what I now propose, and are in the same spirit of regard and friendship with which you have always been considered by, Dear James, Yours very truly,

Walter Scott."

        The letter bore this postscript:

        "Mr. Hogarth will understand that though the mutual discharge of our accounts respectively cannot be perhaps effectually executed till Whitsunday 1822, yet is not our purpose to go back on these complicated transactions, being perfectly satisfied with the principles of arrangement above expressed. So that if it should please God that either of us were removed before the term of Whitsunday 1822, the survivor shall not be called to account upon any other principle than those which we have above expressed, and which I, by the writing hereof, and you by your acceptances declare are those by which we intend these affairs shall be settled: and that after full consideration, and being well advised, we hereby for ourselves and our heirs renounce and disclaim all other modes of accounting whatsoever.

Walter Scott."

        It is possible to place various interpretations upon the postscript to this letter, but its significance becomes reasonably clear when we consider the circumstances with which it dealt. Scott was the sole legal owner of the business. The death of his manager could not have embarrassed him with any necessity of explaining their financial relations. The deed of dissolution by which that position was created five years ago was in the supposed interests of James's wife, and prepared by her brother. Neither could it be of great importance to Scott to have the exact amount of James's liabilities to him settled beyond the possibility of dispute in such an eventuality. It was certain that, if James died within the year, he would have little to leave, and Scott was not the man to worry his mind about such a remote contingency, nor to press a claim under such circumstances.

        But if Scott should die - and he had had warning enough that his constitution was not invulnerable - and his manager had the task of explaining a cash book which was far from balancing to unsympathetic executors, it might be a more serious matter. We are reminded of the warning that Scott had given at the time of the trouble over the Alexander Ballantyne bill.

        If this be its interpretation, it was an act on Scott's part to safeguard James from any possible consequences of his inability to give a satisfactory account of his stewardship, chivalrous in its conception, and particularly so in its wording. It made no imputation on James whatever. It was a letter he could show to anyone. But it was a free pardon also, issued in advance, if any charge should subsequently be made against him.

        It is fair to say that it is capable of another explanation, equally creditable to Scott, and not reflecting by implication upon James in the same way. There were at this time a large number of the firm's bills in circulation. The nature of these bills, and the circumstances and consideration for which they had been issued, and for whose benefit, are problems which we now approach. If, as the Ballantyne Trustees asserted, and Lockhart denied, they had been discounted for Scott's private assistance, it is theoretically possible that there might be circumstances or accounts relating to them which James might have found it difficult to explain, now that John was dying, if Scott also were dead. It is mere theory, without supporting evidence, and much less probable than the explanation previously suggested, but it is a possibility which it is only fair to observe.

        On June 22nd 1821 - a week after Scott's missive letter was written, the interval being sufficiently explained by John's intervening death - James returned it with this acceptance endorsed upon it:

        "I hereby agree to the propositions contained in the prefixed letter; and am ready to enter into a regular deed founded upon them, when it shall be thought necessary.

James Ballantyne."


        It may be convenient to conclude the consideration of the circumstances of this new partnership by going forward at once to the spring of 1822, though it will be necessary to revert subsequently to some earlier incidents.

        A deed of partnership was drawn up by George Hogarth, on the terms of Scott's letter of June 15th, 1821, and executed on April 1st, 1822. It was evidently at Scott's insistence, and by an independent accountant, that new books were opened, and the financial relations of the new partners clearly set out. Nothing could be clearer in themselves than are the conditions of the deed, or the opening of the accounts in the partnership books, and it is evident that the whole circumstances of the position must have been known not only to James Ballantyne but to George Hogarth also. Yet is it in regard to one of these accounts, or rather the interpretation that should be placed upon it, that the controversy between Lockhart and the Trustees reached its bitterest issue. There was incompetence, intemperance, and prejudice on both sides, and it is easy to show that either was wrong; but to find the truth is a harder thing.

        This is the account in question:

State of Debts due by and to Sir Walter Scott.

The amount of bills payable, now current,

and to be provided for by him . . . . . . . . . . . . £33,954.11. 3

The amount of Bills Receivable is -£6,097.18. 1

Outstanding Printing Accounts . .-£ 488. 9. 9

Balance on Sir Walter Scott's A/C . . . . . . . . . .£2,052./14. 2

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .--------------------------

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£6,586. 7.10 £36,007. 5. 5*

Sum due by James Ballantyne for

        which he has granted an assignment

        of his Life Assurance Policy. -£2,524.11. 8 £9,110.19. 6

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .--------------------------------------------

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£26,896. 5.11

        [* By an evident printers' error this figure is £36,077. 5. 5 in the Ballantyne pamphlet.]

        There is nothing puzzling or unusual in the construction or itemising of this account: it is the amount of the liabilities for which Scott accepted personal responsibility which is surprising, and for which two contrary explanations were advanced with equal confidence and unnecessary vehemence.

        It will be remembered that Scott proposed, in his letter of June l5th, 1821, to accept personal responsibility for all the debts of the business, except such as had been incurred prior to the previous dissolution of partnership. This distinction is, evidently based upon the fact that Scott was reinstating James in the half-possession of the assets of the business, other than bookdebts, as they then were, only debiting him with a half-charge for the additions thereto, and this exception, only loosely logical as it was, is shown by other accounts to have been observed. It supplies an argument for excluding the possibility that these bills had any connection with the old John Ballantyne & Co. issues, and, in any event, those bills ought to have been extinguished, for the whole of the stock was now sold.

        Lockhart finds no difficulty in supplying an explanation. He asserts as a fact that this extraordinary total represented the mismanagement and extravagance of James Ballantyne during the previous five years, and that Scott, with a splendid generosity, took it upon himself to give James a clean start, and a fresh chance, on his promising to behave better in future. He makes a number of statements which are either disputable or demonstrably false, and then concludes (letter to Sir Adam Fergusson, p. 83) 'I have already shown that the outstanding bills at the date of the contract were not his' (Scott's) 'private debts, but were merely assumed till the Company's profits should clear them off. Their amount was £36,000.'

        But he had not shown it at all. Nor does he appear to observe that if the liability had been incurred in that way, and it had been agreed that it should be discharged from future profits, it is extremely improbable that the account would have been entered on the ledger by an independent accountant in this form; nor would it have been properly reduced by an item which was a personal debt of James to Scott, unless Lockhart would have us believe that this huge sum was to be charged to Scott's share of the profits alone; and, if so, why? On Lockhart's contention, it would be an absurd adjustment of such a deficiency.

        Indeed, its amount makes this explanation inherently incredible. After allowing for the fact that the assets of the business, other than its book debts, had been increased, And were, apart from this figure, transferred to the new partnership (subject to some minor qualifications) in an unencumbered form, it still remains that James's deficiency must have accumulated at the rate of at least £4,000 a year, up to a total of £20,000.

        If this had not been urged as a fact by Scott's biographer, it would hardly deserve the formality of refutation. But its amount presented no difficulty to him. He advanced two evidences in its support. He pointed to the item on the account "Sum due by James Ballantyne etc. £2,524. 11. 8." and boldly asserted that this was (part of) a fresh deficiency created by James, even during the interval for which Scott had stipulated before the new partnership was commenced. If that were true, it would be supporting evidence of the strongest kind; and it might well have been that after such an interval, and the deaths of all the parties concerned, it might have been impossible to prove the falsehood of this assumption. But - magna est veritas - the actual composition of this figure was still on record. This is how it was made up:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £ s. d.
Balance of £3,000 as agreed due in 1816, still outstanding 1,800. 0. 0
Add half-cost of Scott's additions to assets, as set out in his
letter of June l5th, 1821, and in the partnership deed . . . . 1,287.10. 0
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ----------------
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,087.10. 0

Less credited by Scott to James for his agreed
share in the sale of the Pirate copyright . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 562. 18. 4
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ---------------
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Balance due . . . .£2,524.11. 8

        The liberal reward to James for his services on the Pirate MS. is an interesting evidence of the large-handed liberality with which Scott treated those who were associated with his prosperity, but as an evidence of extravagance on the part of James it fails utterly. Not a penny of the sum passed through his hands. It is no more than a bookkeeping entry.

        But Lockhart brought forward another amount which does, at first, have a more sinister appearance. He said that, in addition to the £2,524, when the partnership was commenced, there was found to be a deficiency of £1,629 on the cash book, and that the opening of the new books included a ledger account charging James with this amount.

        Had these two sums been beyond explanation, there would have been a prima facie case for convicting James of doing away with over £4,000, beyond his proper remuneration, even in what we may describe as his probation year, and so Lockhart would have us believe; and there would have been no more to be argued over than whether a hopeless fool had gone into a second partnership with a hopeless knave, or they were no worse than two fools in the same boat. But once more the truth wins. How Lockhart could have justified the way he abstracted and interpreted these figures, or his blindness to what it was not convenient to see, or in what category he places himself by this accusation, it is not necessary to determine. But the fact is this. The cash book in which this balance appeared was not the trade cash book, but a separate one which James kept to record sums which passed through his hands on Scott's behalf; and the accountant who opened the new books did not bring this sum into the account we were previously considering for a reason which was carefully explained in the vidimus to which Lockhart had access, and from which he quoted. The explanatory note is this:

        "As this cash book was merely a state of transactions between Sir Walter Scott and Mr. Ballantyne, the above balance is due to Sir Walter, but as it arose in a great measure from the accidental circumstance of the transactions, on the day they closed, having left a considerable sum in Mr. Ballantyne's hands, which would speedily be extinguished by further transactions of Sir Walter Scott's account, the above balance is carried to the credit of Sir Walter, and the debit of Mr. Ballantyne in the books opened for the new concern."

        That is to say, it was not money which James had collected from business funds and misappropriated, as Lockhart alleged, to his own use, but money provided by Scott and entrusted; to James for specific payments to be made on or after April 1st, and for which purposes it was properly in his hands on that date.

        It may be asked for what purposes it had become necessary to have such a separate cash book, and this may be best considered after hearing the widely different allegations made by the Ballantyne Trustees regarding the origin of this £36,000 of floating bills. But it may be useful to observe at this point, and to bear in mind, that Scott's three adventures in anonymity - one as poet, and two as novelist - had created a position by which he could not collect a large part of his own income in his own name.

        James Ballantyne & Co. disposed of the copyrights of the works of anonymous authors, and, in the first instance, must receive the proceeds of such transactions. This position had been modified since Constable had been taken into full confidence, but was still applicable to transactions with Longman, Murray, Blackwood, or other publishers.

        Finally, in discussing Lockhart's explanation as to the genesis of these bills, we may consider Scott's own deliberate entry in his Journal nearly four years later (20th Jan. 1826):

        "I have been far from suffering from James Ballantyne. I owe it to him to say that his difficulties, as well as his advantages are owing to me."

        It is a generous voluntary testimony, written not for living eyes, but for those who were to come after. It reads somewhat like the postscript of the 'missive' letter - as though Scott were aware of facts which might incline the scale (even beyond the point of equity) to a different judgement. It may be the act of one who throws a cloak over a friend's failing: who says: "if I forgave, cannot others forget?" We know that Scott could be a good friend. . . . Or it may be no more nor less than the bare justice of literal fact.

        But one thing is sure. Scott could have felt no occasion or inclination to make such record had the facts at this time and afterwards been as Lockhart would have us believe.

        The Ballantyne Trustees gave an absolutely different explanation of the existence of these bills, and were as confident as Lockhart in their assertions. The bills were really nothing to do with the business at all. Scott, they said, used the credit of the firm to discount them, and the money for his private objects - that is, for the purchase of land.

        Having asserted this as a fact, without supporting it with any evidence, they went on to found some disputable theories upon it. They said:

        "If Sir Walter Scott had never been connected with James Ballantyne in business, but had contented himself in extending his patronage to his old school-fellow, it would have been infinitely better for both parties. Mr. Ballantyne would, in that case, have realised a respectable fortune; and Sir Walter would have escaped the temptation presented by the facilities of a mercantile co-partnership to raise money for the purchase of lands for which he had not otherwise the means of paying.

        "Sir Walter Scott's embarrassments, and the consequent embarrassment and ruin of his partner, arose, as we have just stated, from his extensive purchases of land before he had realised money to pay for it: and from his making a free use of the name of the Company (with the consent of his partner, of course) to meet the payments for these purchases, - a proceeding which led to a series of bill transactions with Constable & Co, which, on the failure of that firm, brought ruin both on himself and on Mr. James Ballantyne."

        Even assuming the premise that the Trustees set up, there are gross inaccuracies in these paragraphs.

        In the first place, Lockhart had not, in his original life of Scott, made any allusion to the dissolution of partnership in 1816 or its renewal in 1822. He had ignored these events entirely. He may not have done this with deliberation. They were not material to the narrative in the form in which he presented it. But the Trustees in this first pamphlet dealt affirmatively with the events of this period, and preserved a corresponding silence. It is difficult to avoid the conviction that they thought Lockhart might be unaware of the break in the continuity of the partnership, and did not intend to disclose it.

        Even in the passage quoted, there is an evident lack of candour in the construction of the argument, because at the time when these bills were issued, no question of a partner's consent could arise, for James was a manager only.

        Beyond this, it is not a fact that the renewals of these bills, under whatever circumstances they were created, was the sole or even a major cause of the resulting catastrophe, as we shall observe in its due place. And it is almost wild hypothesis to say that Ballantyne, if he had traded alone, would have 'realised a respectable fortune'.

        One change of circumstance in human life must, as the years pass, involve a myriad others, utterly beyond calculation; but if we are to consider seriously the hypothesis of there having been no partnership, and everything else having occurred on parallel lines, then James would have been printing the Waverley novels (or how else would he have made a fortune through Scott?), he would have been printing them for Constable; he would have been paid with Constable's bills; Constable would have obtained all possible credit from him in the last difficult years; Hurst, Robinson & Co. would have failed; then Constable would have failed, and it is at least improbable that James would have survived; whoever printed the Waverley novels must have sustained a ruinous loss when Hurst, Robinson & Co. suspended payment, and that suspension was utterly remote from the existence of these bills.

        But without admiring the superstructure of theory and reproach which the Trustees built upon this foundation, we may still ask, had that foundation itself any solidity? What, in fact, did these bills represent?

        Lockhart has given us his assertion, and has supported it with evidence which will not endure examination. The Trustees have given us their assertion, and have supported it with no evidence at all, relying upon its plausibility. To a superficial examination it seems a simple, probable thing. Scott was anxious to buy the land around Abbotstord. He did buy it largely. Bills were, in fact discounted for large amounts while he was in sole possession of the business. It is far more plausible to say that he used the money for the purchase of the land he desired than that James used it to such amounts in profligate private expenditure, and that Scott then took over the liability thus created, and rewarded him with a new partnership. The trouble is that this plausibility decreases on closer examination.

        Let us see first what these purchases of land were. We will accept Lockhart's own figures. He gives the total expenditure upon the purchase of Abbotsford, and the adjoining properties, as £29,083 from 1811 to 1821 inclusive, and he adds that the largest expenditure on building and planting took place after these dates.

        It is a large sum. But we must deduct from it the first £4,200, because we know the sources from which that money came. We know also that buildings and freehold lands are forms of property on which money can be more easily and more cheaply borrowed than commercial bills. That was (almost) as true then as it is now. It would seem improbable that Scott, under any financial circumstances, would have preferred to raise the whole of such an amount on bills rather than to mortgage the properties, or obtain an advance from his bankers by depositing the deeds. But if we allow that he might have had such a preference (which is negatively supported by the fact that the deeds must have been his unencumbered property a few years later), and go on to the supposition that he raised the money by discount of these Ballantyne bills, we find that we have only changed one difficulty for another. For what then became of his income from other sources?

        During this period his receipts from professional salaries and his wife's estate had approached £2,000 a year. He had also been making a huge income from his literary work. What became of this latter income if the whole or even the bulk of his investments in landed property were raised by discounting what were practically his own bills? It becomes a problem so insoluble that we may conclude with some confidence that the premise is false.

        It is also contradicted by various subordinate evidences. There are frequent allusions in his earlier correspondence to his own freedom from debt, apart from the complications of the publishing and printing businesses; after the completion of the disposal of the publishing stock, these allusions cease, but there are occasions when he mentions that he is needing money, and always in relation to the dates at which payments for his novels could be arranged. When large amounts are received for them he is affluent: in the intervals he is not. If he had been raising £25,000 in a few years for his own purposes by the simple method of discounting his own bills, these peaks of prosperity and plains of depression would have been comparatively levelled.

        There is also an extreme absence of documentary evidence to support the assertion that the Ballantyne Trustees made. Had Scott been putting this huge total of bills into circulation for his own purposes during the period when James was manager, everything must have been done through him, and there must have been frequent correspondence concerning it.

        The Trustees put forward overwhelming evidence that Scott kept in regular touch with the finances of the business, which Lockhart had been foolish enough to deny, but on this point they advanced only one utterly inconclusive letter, in which Scott made an appointment to meet James in relation to one of his purchases of land, but for what exact object he does not say. Even if it were for the receipt of money in connection with the discount of a bill (of which there is not the remotest suggestion) it would prove nothing, because John or James collected publishers' bills for the anonymous novels, and they may well have been discounted through the firm's bankers. Yet the production of this letter is of a real significance, because it shows that the Trustees had searched and had failed to find.

        But the central objection to the interpretation which they placed upon the existence of these bills is that we can see that Scott had a large income from other sources during the period in question, the allocation of which becomes inexplicable. It is a subordinate objection, but falls, as every evidence does, into the same scale, that there is no record of any objection being taken by George Hogarth, no discussion in correspondence, no allusion in Scott's missive letter to the existence of such ultra-commercial transactions. Everyone takes these bills in silence, and as a matter of course. It is a position open to several interpretations, but it does not help that of the Trustees.

        Yet the bills were a fact. It is more than possible that they are an enigma to which we have lost the key: that there is some unguessed explanation which we shall never know, as to the nature of which we have no guide but the character of those concerned; and if this be thought an improbable suggestion, let us consider how easily it might have happened that Lockhart's plausible and confident assertion that those items of £2,524 and £1,629 represented James's defalcations in a single year would have been beyond the disproof of any remaining evidence, and would have appeared so certain that it would have seemed a mere perversity to dispute it.

        Yet, it is possible, and better than no explanation at all, that the truth may be midway between the diverse explanations which were put forward by contending prejudices.

        We have to rule out the possibility of the inclusion of any liabilities which were originally created prior to the dissolution of partnership, because they were explicitly placed in another category both in the missive letter and the partnership deed, and this alone shows how dangerous conjecture may be, for apart from this evidence, we might have confidently attributed the creation of at least part of this liability to that period; but it remains a possibility that Scott may have made some use of the credit facilities of the firm to complete the amounts which he paid for the properties he acquired: that James may have drawn, during the five years, considerably more than he was entitled to do: and that the business had been conducted by him with such financial laxity that considerable losses or leakages had occurred and had been covered by this easy method - easy in busy prosperous-seeming days - of increasing the floating acceptances of the firm. When we remember that the net amount which has to be explained, after allowing for the value of the otherwise unencumbered business assets, is not more than £20,000, and that, before the era of limited liability companies, the issue of such bills was a normal financial expedient, we may recognise that we are as near to a reasonable explanation as we are likely to get.

        If Scott were offered a property, say, for £5,000, and had £3,000 in hand, he might feel that he could safely and reasonably borrow the balance on the commercial credit of the business, and keep the deeds in his own desk.

        If the total of bills (which James had the legal power to issue on behalf of the actual owner of the firm) had grown beyond any proper explanation that he could furnish - and this imputation is not groundless in view of the anxious letter to John which the Trustees so naively published, the protestation of better bookkeeping in future in his letter to Scott, and the suggestion of indemnity which is implicit in Scott's postscript to the missive letter - we have a position which Scott might have accepted, however unsatisfactory, in a spirit of generosity and forgiveness, and allowed liabilities to be charged to himself at the formation of the new partnership for which he was already legally liable, and which James, even if he were in default, had no means of paying, without subjecting him to a penurious scale of living which Scott, in a time of personal prosperity, would have been very reluctant to do. If we accept this midway explanation, we can understand George Hogarth's silence and acquiescence. Five years earlier, he and his father had insisted that James should resign his partnership, as they supposed, in the interests of his intended wife. This course had proved needless, and detrimental if not disastrous to James. The financial storm which had appeared to threaten had passed over. A great fame had come to his partner, and a period of prosperity which James had lost his title to share. If Scott were willing to reinstate him now, and if he had to admit to George that his books would not balance, and he could not account for the full amount of the bills which he had put into circulation, but that Scott had agreed to accept the position as it should be ascertained to be without probing the past, it was unlikely that George would propose to do so. Scott had said that they could debit those bills to him. It was the utmost that James could hope, and more than he was entitled to claim. Let the past lie.

        It may be all wrong, and yet as near the truth as we are ever likely to get.

        It has, at least, more probability than either of the contending explanations which it compromises rather than denies.

        All we certainly know is that it was on this basis that the new partnership was commenced.


        The Pirate was published in December, 1821. It was a clear year since the last novel had appeared. It had a good title. It was well-enough received. It had good features, as any novel by Scott would be sure to have. It has its lovers today, who place it high on the Waverley list. At times it has a sombre vigour: at others it is nearly dull. Its humour is like the sunlight of a pallid day. Its background is less clearly conceived than are those either of the novels in which he told of familiar scenes, such as the Heart of Midlotian, or such as Ivanhoe, where his imagination moved in a clear space. Memory and imagination are bad yoke-fellows, and Scott never did his best work when he drove them in equal harness. They should be driven tandem, if at all; and then it may be difficult to keep their heads in the same direction. If Scott had never visited the Orkneys, the Pirate might have been a more vivid romance to those who are under the same disadvantage.

        It was followed by the Fortunes of Nigel at the end of May. Constable had been building himself a country house in Fifeshire in these affluent days, but a breakdown in health had been followed by medical advice that he should go south for a time, and he was living near London. If it were a fact, as Lockhart states, that the sales of the Waverley novels showed some diminution at this time (of which there is little evidence, apart from his assertion), then it is true that Scott was not well served by his publisher, for Constable's letters only boasted increasing triumphs.

        It was Sunday when the smack Ocean sailed in from Leith, and tied up at the London docks. At one A.M. on Monday the bales were being hauled out of her holds, and by 10.30 a.m. 7,000 copies had been dispersed to the trade. Constable saw people reading the book as they walked the streets. So he wrote. Scott had promised to write something for Miss Joanna Baillie at this time, for a miscellany which she was preparing for publication, to assist a literary friend in indigent circumstances. The call of charity is responsible for most of his worst work. He sent her the dramatic sketch, Halidon Hill.

        Robert Cadell, Constable's partner, heard of it, and offered £1,000 for the copyright, which Scott accepted. When Constable heard of it, he wrote warmly approving the bargain. He gave (bills for) the £1,000. He suggested that Scott should supply him with a similar sketch once a quarter at the same price. Lockhart thinks he had lost his head at this time. But if he had, Scott hadn't. He ignored the offer.

        We need not take Lockhart's reflections on Constable too literally at this period. Lockhart judged by results. Constable is to fail in business in four years time, and already he is being dressed for the part.

        But Lockhart's explanation of his alleged condition of mental instability is too quaint for omission. He says that Constable's corpulent body was now suffering from 'a threatening of water on the chest', for which doses of foxglove had been prescribed. The result of this treatment was that the whole world was a rosy dream, in which innumerable Waverley novels went into editions of incredible size. Let all takers of digitalis beware.

        It was, we are told, under the influence of this curious form of intoxication that he sent Scott a summary of the reprints which he had recently had occasion to order from the Ballantyne Press.

""A new edition of Sir W. Scott's Poetical Works" in

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 vols. (miniature) 5 000 copies

"Novels and Tales," . . . . . . . . . . 12 vols. . . . . . . . . . 5,000   "

"Historical Romances,". . . . . . . . . 6 vols.    ditto 5,000   "

"Poetry from Waverley, etc." . . . .1 vol.   12mo. 5,000   "

Paper required 7,772 reams.

Volumes produced from Ballantyne's145,000!"

        Lockhart does not suggest that these figures were incorrect, nor that Constable was placing orders beyond the requirements of the trade, and these omissions leave his outburst in a somewhat unconvincing condition. But as a matter of cool business argument, if the earlier books were being bought to this extent, the copyrights were extremely valuable, and we can understand Constable's anxiety to acquire them absolutely. To do this, he had to bid high, and reach a figure at which Scott would he willing to take cash down (or perhaps bills down would be a more accurate expression) for an absolute sale. And 'cash down' and 'bills down' may have seemed to both of them at this time, and even to their bankers, to be very similar things.

        But if we are to understand the position fairly, we must ignore this talk about digitalis and swelled heads, and consider the credits which such figures as those above quoted must have involved. The Ballantyne Press was producing hundreds of thousands of books which were all charged to one firm - Constable & Co. That firm was re-selling them to many retail booksellers in Scotland, but mainly to its London agents, Hurst, Robinson & Co., who distributed them, mostly on long credit terms, to the English book-trade. So long as Hurst, Robinson & Co. met their engagements regularly, all would be well. The James Ballantyne & Co. bills, about which Lockhart and the Trustees disputed so acrimoniously, would not matter at all. And Hurst, Robinson & Co. had the reputation of being at this time (and were in fact) a very wealthy firm.

        As to Constable, he had built up a splendidly successful business. As a going concern, he was a prosperous, even a wealthy man. Scott may have been his best author, but he would have had a large business had he never touched a Waverley novel. His weakness was that his business had grown so fast and so far that it had gone beyond the support of its original capital. It was carried on almost entirely by bills. Bills to Ballantyne & Co., and half-a-score of other printers: bills to Scott and other authors: bills from Hurst, Robinson & Co., for many thousands of pounds: even accommodation bills at times exchanged with friendly firms when a strain came. But it was a prosperous, profit-making firm, seemingly impregnable in its strength - while Hurst, Robinson & Co. met their engagements, as they surely, surely would.

        It is under these circumstances that Lockhart asks us to glance at Constable's home in Fifeshire, with this comment: "Alas! For 'Archibald Constable of Balniel ' also, and his overweening intoxication of worldly success, Fortune had already begun to prepare a stern rebuke."

        Lockhart can be rather sickening at times.


        However opinion may divide upon the merits of the Pirate, those of Nigel are well agreed. It dealt with a period of English history of which Scott had an enormous knowledge, which was not confined to its domestic or international politics or its prominent figures, but included social conditions, and religious and intellectual interests. He did not have to read up in preparation for this novel, consciously storing his mind, as he had done for Old Mortality, nor was he concerned by any vexed question of historical equity. The period was too remote for the excitement of living passions: his own knowledge too well assimilated for the process of digestion to delay his imagination, which moved freely, both in this novel and the subsequent Peveril, constructing a world as real as that of Ivanhoe, and with a far nearer approach to the re-creation of an actual past. It showed again, as had the Heart of Midlotian, the freedom and domination of his imagination when applied to a period outside the radius of feudal romanticism, with which what he wrote was most strongly, and is still too narrowly associated in the popular mind, and sometimes by the superficialities of literary criticism. The reception of Nigel and its sales were such that the ebb of the tide which Lockhart asked us to observe a year earlier is still very hard to see. It seems rather to rest at flood.

        And at this time, in the full tide of his prosperity, Scott became the inspiration of a national gesture which may be described as the burial service of the Jacobitism which he was supposed to favour. No Hanoverian prince had entered Scotland, except or since when the Duke of Cumberland had conquered at Culloden, and left behind him a hated name. But the Cardinal of York was dead, and the restoration of the Stuarts no longer anything more than a sentimental dream. If all the races of Scotland, all creeds, and all political parties, could be united in giving enthusiastic welcome to the Hanoverian king, a bitter quarrel of centuries would be consigned at last to a quiet and final grave. But was it a possible thing?

        Unfortunately, George IV. was not one about whom it was easy to be enthusiastic. Tories showed an outward loyalty, and spoke their thoughts in the privacy of the club-room: Whigs gave theirs in the public press.

        If there were one man who could organise and unite Scottish prejudices and Scottish jealousies, and overcome Scottish disaffection, so that such a visit would be an assured success, it was Sir Walter Scott. He believed it possible, and that it ought to be attempted. In correspondence with the King, he brought him to the same view.

        The visit was arranged, and the task of organising the reception, with its processions, receptions and banquets, was thrown, largely by formal resolution and in practice almost entirely, upon Scott's shoulders. It was a gigantic labour of detail, and a feat of diplomacy at which no other could have succeeded. To marshall the chieftains of the Highland clans in an order of precedence which was in itself defensible, and which they would all accept without drawing of dirks, or going sulking home, was alone an unattempted dexterity which might have been regarded as impossible had not Scott achieved it, and he was probably the only man who would have ventured on such an enterprise.

        But Scott could do what no other would have attempted with prudence. Burns had represented the Lowland-Scotsman to the world that admired his poetry in the guise of a profligate sot. Scott had interpreted Scotland, Highlands and Lowlands both, in nobler, broader and truer portraiture, and to an ever wider audience. He may have been the man at this time who was of the most fame in the world: that he was first in Scotland and Scottish hearts, there can be no doubt at all.

        And beyond this popularity, he had exceptional qualifications for the organisation of such a reception. He was known to all, and of a universal friendship. He had powers of persuasion and conciliation which have been rarely equalled. He had the unusual combination of qualities which is essential to the successful organiser on a large scale - he could plan with imagination, and then could give his mind to the endless details on which the large outlines depend.

        The King was entertained at Dalkieth House by the boy-Duke of Buccleuch, and there was a crowded fortnight of banquets, receptions and processions, in which, for the first time in recorded history, Scottish men from all parts of the kingdom appeared united, not only in a common loyalty, but a common friendship. Having been done successfully, it may seem to have been a simple thing, but it had been of the nature of audacious experiment, which only Scott would have adventured, only Scott could have persuaded the King to attempt, and only Scott could have brought to its triumphant end.

        The Home Secretary, Mr. Peel - afterwards Sir Robert - addressed a letter to him on the King's departure:

        "The king has commanded me to acquaint you that he cannot bid adieu to Scotland without conveying to you individually his warm personal acknowledgements. His Majesty well knows how many difficulties have been smoothed, and how much has been effected by your unremitting activity, by your knowledge of your countrymen, and by the just estimation in which they hold you. The King wishes to make you the channel of conveying to the Highland chiefs and their followers, who have given to the varied scene which we have witnessed so peculiar and romantic a character, his particular thanks for their attendance, and his warm approbation of their uniform deportment."

        As a fact, there was a little feeling among Edinburgh citizens that the picturesqueness of the Highland clans had been rather too prominent. They counted populations and discussed importances. But Scott's instinct for pageant and the management of men had both been justified by the event.

        Sir Robert Peel related, long afterwards, how he had had occasion to walk up the High Street on the day of the King's progress from Holyrood to the Castle, before the procession passed, Scott accompanying him, to see whether some arrangements for the reception were complete. Mr Peel said: "You will never get through in privacy." Scott said to that: "They are all absorbed in loyalty." But it was an occasion on which Scott was wrong. They walked through a roar of cheers "from one extremity of the street to the other." "Never," Sir Robert bore record "did I see such an instance of national devotion expressed."

        To the eyes of all around him, except those who were most intimate, it must have seemed that few men were so enviable as Sir Walter Scott at this time. He had the world's gifts at his feet. Fame and honour and wealth were supported by recovered health and domestic felicity. He had the land that he most loved in his own possession: day by day its plantations grew towards the beauty that he had dreamed to give it. The last wing of Abbotsford rose, and while the masons' trowels rang on the stones, the portions already finished were "like a cried fair" with the crowding of many guests. It was some weeks after the King had gone back to England before the last of those who were entertained in this connection had climbed into their carriages and left Abbotsford to no more than its normal bustle.

        Yet while the festivities were at their height, and Scott was the life of the whole, he was distracted by a personal sorrow, in the death of William Erskine, his lifelong, and in some relations, his most intimate friend.

        It is difficult to know William Erskine: Lockhart's caricature intervenes. He represents him as a man who lived in a state of perpetual tears. With a curious lack of variety, and violation of probability, he represented William Laidlaw in the same monotony of occupation. When Scott offered him Kaeside, Lockhart could hear him sobbing twenty years away.

        There are evidences which profoundly modify, if they do not refute, the accusations of moral and physical weakness which Lockhart made against William Erskine; but it appears to have been true that he was of a particularly gentle and sensitive disposition.

        For a long time, he had had a private dissatisfaction with the moderate recognition in the public service which had come to him as the reward of family connections and his own merits. Scott had shared this feeling, and had been indefatigable in urging his claims to higher office. It was only at the beginning of this year that his representations had succeeded, and Erskine had been elevated to the Bench, and the title of Lord Kinneder conferred upon him.

        He had only enjoyed this office a few months when his health failed. The reason which is given for this certainly goes far to justify Lockhart's invertebrate presentation. He is said to have died of grief because his name was involved in a baseless scandal. He took to bed, and the physicians bled him white. It was a method which appears to have been frequently successful in prolonging the lives of apoplectic lawyers, but as a remedy for mental depression it failed. Scott observes, with his invincible tolerance, that the treatment may have been necessary, but it certainly increased the patient's weakness. William Erskine died.

        Scott must attend his funeral in the midst of one of the busiest days of the celebrations. Up to then, with that capacity to use time as though it were of unlimited amount for which he had such amazing faculty, he had been sitting 'day and night' at his friend's bedside, while every moment of his time seemed to the outer world to be given to the elaborate organisation for which he had accepted responsibility. Lockhart, who went with him to the funeral, says that he never saw him in such a state of dejection as he was when they parted in the street, and he was turning again to the scenes of gaiety in which there could be no place for private grief.

        Scott found a spare moment to write to his eldest son with the news of Erskine's death:

        "It would be rather difficult for anyone who has never lived much among my good country-people to comprehend that an idle story of a love intrigue, a story alike base and baseless, should be the death of an innocent man of high character, high station, and well advanced in years. It struck into poor Erskine's heart and soul, however, quite as cruelly as any similar calumny ever affected a modest woman - he withered and sunk. There is no need that I should say peace be with him! If ever a pure spirit quitted this vale of tears, it was William Erskine's. I must turn to and see what can be done about getting some pension for his daughters."

        The last sentence is characteristic.

        It is a detail of the occupations of this period that George Crabbe, a poet for whom Scott had always felt and expressed a high measure of admiration, and whose works he could probably have quoted as fully as their author himself, selected this time of the King's visit to appear at North Castle Street, where Scott put him up and found space and time to entertain the somewhat precise and bewildered old gentleman in the midst of the crowding distractions of the time.

        It is not surprising that, as the crowds withdrew and the noise died, Scott found that he had exerted himself beyond the limit of his own strength. He lay exhausted and ill for some days, while correspondence accumulated upon him from a hundred directions. Everyone who had helped to make the King's reception successful now expected some reward of title or patronage, and who but Sir Walter could put it forward in such a way that it would not be ignored in Whitehall?

        We can suppose with what patience he answered, with what discretion he put forward such pleas as might be reasonably advanced; but he had a larger claim to advance for others, a more personal desire to plead on his own behalf. He made a formal written request that the peerages forfeited in consequence of the insurrection of '15 and '45 might be restored, so that the last memory of the old divisions, the last bitterness they had left, might be ended. It was a petition which was soon afterwards granted, giving many noble families in Scotland a cause for gratitude to him; granted also - after some years of unavoidable delay - was his own plea that Mons Meg should be returned to its place on the Edinburgh battlements.

        It is worth a moment's reflection, for it is an incident of revealing quality, that Scott's one great political achievement (apart from the equally characteristic Malachi letters, to which we have still to come) was a battle in the cause of peace.

        It is equally characteristic that when he was putting forward so many claims, and might have asked for himself almost anything that he would, his only request of a personal nature was for the restoration to Edinburgh of its famous cannon. For himself he asked nothing at all.

        Yet, it might be questioned, what could he have asked that was not already his? Honours and wealth and fame had come to him already, and by a better way. Not by inheritance, or a blundering chance, but by the quality of his own work. He had the joy of that work, and the consciousness that it was of a good kind, doing evil to none. He had domestic happiness also, such as is seldom gained with the world's more spectacular blessings. If he were of an easy faith, thanking God for a good world, was it much to boast? If he were generous to others, was it much to praise ?


        Peveril of the Peak was published in January 1823, and was received with less enthusiasm than had been the recent experience. It was criticised with justice for the faults which it had, and less than adequately praised for its compensating excellences. Fenella is not an exact parallel of the White Lady, but she is similar in being a somewhat unearthly character, and she fails in the same way. She is unconvincing; and her unreality affects the flavour of the whole book.

        But the fact was that Scott had set a standard which was almost impossibly difficult to maintain. The Waverley novels have certain features of unity which distinguish them from all other works of the kind. They are inimitable; and had one been left till this day in undiscovered manuscript everyone would recognise it for what it would be, even though it might be as far from any other as is Ivanhoe from Guy Mannering. But while they maintained a separate standard of excellence, they also showed a wide divergence among themselves, and it is these differences - this newness - which had been the occasions of their greatest separate triumphs. The Heart of Midlotian had been unexpected: so had Ivanhoe: so had Nigel. There is little in Waverley itself to foretell any of these books.

        Peveril would have been a greater success had not Nigel preceded it. It was too nearly of the same pattern to astonish: criticism found its voice.

        Large as the sale was, it showed a reduction on other recent figures. Lockhart has cast Constable for the part of an infatuated man, rushing obstinately upon his fate: he has completely lost his head over the Waverley novel sales, and undertakes wild liabilities in an utterly reckless way. Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat. Such is the picture he gives us, but he gives us facts also, and these have a different front.

        A year or two ago, Constable had contracted with Scott for four novels, for which he had boldly given bills in advance of their production. Now he had had two of them - Nigel and Peveril, and the third was promised for the spring. We know that Constable was making a large annual profit at this time. His partner, Cadell, puts it at about £10,000, of which he says that Constable drew £4,000. We know also that the financing of the huge business from which these profits grew was carried on mainly by means of the discount of bills. More than from any other single source, this large profit came from handling the works of Sir Walter Scott. To retain him was vital prudence. To do this by means of advance agreements and the obligation of longdated bills, was the obvious method under the circumstances of the case. Now the existing agreement was approaching its end, but Constable did not press for, nor even propose another. He sat back and watched.

        Lockhart has alleged in condemnation of those concerned, and in an exculpation of Scott for which there is no need, that he suffered a decline in popularity which was concealed from him during these years. Peveril is the first book in regard to which such a decline can be demonstrated, and it is not easy to discover that such concealment was attempted.

        It is Lockhart's own witness that Scott was informed by Constable himself when he thought the first reception of the next novel Quentin Durward, to be disappointing, and Scott was writing to Ballantyne about it immediately:

      "The mouse who only trusts to one poor hole
      Can never be a mouse with any soul."

There was no concealment: he knew at once. And he was so alert to such indications that he was already thinking of abandoning fiction, and adventuring on a different line of literary work. As a fact, he had had doubts himself concerning Peveril. He had written to Terry in the previous October, expressing fears both as to the state of his own health, and its possible effect on the book, which are of dual significance. In an expression of uncertain implications he mentioned apoplexy. It is reasonably supposed that the illness which is known to have laid him up for a week or two in that month may have given him some warning symptom which he concealed from those who were nearest to him. If that be so, there was, for a time, a complete recovery. Leaving Peveril to sink or swim as it would, he pushed forward with his French romance. He was trying a cast with a novel of a fresh kind. When he heard that it was coldly received, it must have been disconcerting, though he took it easily.

        As to the future, Constable showed caution. He did, indeed, make an offer, and came to terms, for the purchase of the moiety of the copyrights in the last four novels which Scott had retained. He purchased these outright, giving bills for five thousand guineas. But as for further agreements, he was inclined to pause. . . . And then the scene changed again.

        The tide, which had shown some signs of recession, rose again to full flood. London might have seemed cold to Quentin Durward, but Paris was wild with enthusiasm. London flared up, somewhat late, to the height of the Paris fire. For the last time, a Waverley novel was hailed as a fresh achievement of the first rank: a new peak in the range. From this time, we are dealing with a day in which there may still be sunny hours, but the high noon is passed.


        St. Ronan's Well was published in December, and its reception was sufficiently cordial in Scotland, but colder in London, as it deserved to be. It can be praised well enough, if we chose the right words with care, but by the standard of the Waverley novels it is a poor thing. The novelty of the conception was good. Had it succeeded fully, it would have added a new triumph to the series. To describe the life of a contemporary; Scottish watering-place, and make it the scene of tragedy of a modern kind, had it been done in a manner comparable with that of the Antiquary or Ivanhoe, Nigel or the Heart of Midlotian, would have added a different excellence to those of the existing gallery, but the book would not have endured such a comparison, even had it been left unmutilated. James Ballantyne read some chapters and raised a wail of protest. There was an episode (he said) which the public would not endure. After some argument, Scott gave way. He tore up twenty-eight pages, and wrote a different version. It was the solitary incident of his life for which a biographer can attempt no apology, beyond recognition of the fact that all men have their weak moments, their weak moods. All we know of those twenty-eight pages is that in them Clara Mowbray's false marriage was consummated, while in the revised ending it is not. The difference is fatal to the plausibility of the final tragedy. It is a kind of alteration which Scott would not have made - for instance - in the Heart of Midlotian, nor in any book which he had imagined with a sufficient energy. In fact, by doing it, he condemned himself and the book together.

        It is true that the actual change is without violation of probability, but the sequel becomes comparatively inconsequent. It has the irritation of a needless tragedy, and Clara not only goes mad at a provokingly inopportune moment, when she had only to remain quiescent for a few further hours for everything to have been happily adjusted, but she has already alienated the reader's sympathy by never seeming quite sane.

        In short, Scott allowed James Ballantyne's opinion to spoil a book which was quite easy to spoil. It was not only criticised with some severity: the trade found the large number of copies which had been distributed were in excess of their requirements. The sale of the Waverley novels had been raised to a total which it was almost impossible to sustain permanently, and though it was still at a great height, the weakening of the position was apparent. The success of Quentin Durward had required the impulsion of foreign favour, and now the ground recovered had been lost again.

        But Scott, as usual, had another novel in preparation: and, as usual he put it on the market the more quickly when he became aware that the line of battle wavered. Six months later, Redgauntlet appeared.

        The position of Redgauntlet in the Waverley gallery is somewhat anomalous, and it is not difficult to understand that its first reception was hesitant rather than enthusiastic or hostile. It approaches more nearly to autobiography than do any of the others, and has a unique interest in that consequence. Few would place it among the first six: perhaps fewer still would place it in the lower half of the list. It cannot be considered as a new triumph. It held rather than advanced a retreated line. But the position which it entrenched was still of a great strength.

        For the summer of 1824 Scott put fiction aside. He had made a profitable contract for re-editing a second edition of the Swift volumes which had cost much labour in earlier years: he allowed himself much time also to design and superintend the fittings and furnishings of Abbotsford, from which the masons and carpenters were at last withdrawing. Charlotte ruled in the drawing-room, but the remainder of the house was completed to his own preferences, and largely to his own designs. He spent much time also in the plantations, where the quick-growing larches were evidence of the years that had passed since he had purchased the strip of land which had been known at that time as Cartly Hole. He spent much time with Tom Purdie during these summer days, as the pressure of many visitors allowed. His health seemed to be re-established. He liked to show Tom that he could still use an axe with the vigour and accuracy of earlier years.

        His literary output showed a tendency to slacken, though the difference might not be great. He had been drawn into serving on many Committees and Public Boards during the months when he was in Edinburgh, and even his energies had their limits, as had the hours of his day. Had the current of life continued smoothly, it may be questioned whether there would have been so much of achievement in the following years - even whether those years might have been longer, as is the usual facile presumption. But this year was without omen of approaching evil. There were financial responsibilities to be watched: credits to be renewed. But the position was controlled without difficulty. His income was large: his credit good. If the expenditure at Abbotsford had become heavy - as it had - and if fittings and furnishings and decorations might levy an even more liberal tribute than that of the masons and carpenters of earlier years, yet it was not beyond the reasonable expenditure that such an income allows. The drain of Scott's endless generosities was best known to himself. At the worst, another novel could always be written, and a few additional thousands provided. Indeed, for several years past, it had not been necessary to write it. If further funds were needed, it would be sufficient to sign a contract to provide one at a future date, and Constable's bills would be accepted and the banks would discount. And had Constable refused, other publishers would have crowded forward to take his place. But who had a better claim to be preferred? Who would give more liberal terms? Who was more solidly established than he?

        It might even have been argued that it would be needless to enquire into the financial stability of any publisher who should deal regularly with the Waverley novels: the fact that he had the contract for them would in itself be sufficient to establish him on an impregnable financial rock.

        And the contracts were kept: the bills received their value. If Ballantyne intimated that he had presses for which work was required, the daily packets of copy would come from Abbotsford or North Castle Street, and in due course there would be more bills to be drawn - Constable's again - for the printing of eight or ten thousand books; and the books would be shipped at Leith for the London docks, and would be scattered among the trade, and the public would buy, and thousands of pounds would flow inwards, to enable bills to be paid off, and make way for others to be drawn and discounted against the novels of future days. . . .

        It was a year of domestic rather than literary event. The year of the final arrangement of the new library at Abbotsford: the year of Maria Edgeworth's visit: the year that Charles went to Oxford - the idea of Indian exile having been gladly abandoned as fortune smiled: - the year that ended with the news that Tom had died in Canada. More than all these, it was the year of Walter's engagement to Lady Fergusson's niece, Miss Jobson of Lochore. This last was a fact of many consequences, and Abbotsford blazed at Christmas with the splendour of a ball given in Miss Jobson's honour. It was the first time since its completion that it had been thrown open to such festivities - it was the last time also that all its splendid rooms would be open for the reception of visitors until it would be for the funeral of its creator, though that event would be eight years away. But who could guess those things now?

        Jane Jobson was a quiet loving girl. We see in a later generation that the Scotts can still choose their wives well. She was also an heiress of great wealth. There was a marriage contract to which her guardians' signatures must be affixed. There must be wealth for wealth. They had stipulated that Sir Walter should settle Abbotsford upon his eldest son. It was not an unreasonable suggestion. Title and land should go together. Sir Walter made no difficulty about that; nor, we may be sure, did Charlotte. The six-foot soldier was her favourite child.

        It was a happy marriage, and must have been a joy to Walter's parents, as much, almost, as to himself. Scott had let him go into the army with an evident reluctance. He knew what army life was among the officers of those days. He had given his son the freedom of his own preference, but his constant letters to him when he was first stationed in Dublin and the nature of their contents, shows how keen his anxiety, how wise his influence had been. They are letters which, like that to his brother Tom on the nature and permissible extent of parental influence and authority, are conspicuous for that quality of sympathetic insight which explains Lord Cockburn's remark that Sir Walter Scott's sense was more wonderful than his genius. They show that the loving intimacy with which he had always treated his children had had that most difficult and rarest of rewards - he had retained his son's confidence and his own authority.

        Walter wrote freely and frankly of the life in the officers' mess which he had joined. He gave particulars regarding some of those whom he had made his friends which did not have the effect which he had anticipated on his father's mind. He was told that their conduct was discreditable, and he should avoid such intimacies.

        Walter protested that they were men whose friendship it was an honour to have. They were received in the best houses in Dublin.

        His father replied that that was impossible, because houses which received them showed, by so doing, that they were not the best. He advised his son to observe that discreditable conduct is not condoned by insobriety, because men do not change their natures when they drink. Vicious proclivities are exposed, not originated, by alcohol.

        Walter is discouraged from criticising the Irish Governor, even in correspondence. The duties or deficiencies of governors do not concern him. Let him concentrate on the qualities which good subalterns require.

        He is encouraged to be generous, but never wasteful with money. His necessities are liberally but not loosely supplied. A small bill which he left unpaid when moving from town to town, and which came to his father's hands, occasioned a sharp rebuke. It was an omission beyond excuse.

        Any deviation from the self-evident standards of personal chastity and rectitude in his own relations with women (which his father would not easily believe), whatever might be the standard of other officers, would occasion his extreme displeasure.

        It is as creditable to son as to father that such correspondence could be continued with an affectionate freedom, and that rebuke or criticism did not discourage a further confidence.

        On the father's side it exhibits his constant attitude, the aloofness of a personal integrity which is yet all things to all men, and the creed which places conduct before all other considerations either of gain or pleasure. . . .

        Captain Basil Hall, an indefatigable diarist, was at Abbotsford when this ball was given. He was not on terms of any intimate friendship with the family - he did not even grasp its occasion, or recognise that Jane Jobson was the guest of honour; but his observations may not be lessened in value from the detachment of the position from which they were taken.

        "Last night," he wrote, "there was a dance in honour of Sir Walter Scotts's eldest son, who had recently returned from Sandhurst College, after having passed through some military examinations with great credit. We had a great clan of Scotts. There were no less than nine Scotts of Harden, and ten of other families. There were others besides from the neighbourhood - at least half-a-dozen Fergussons, with the jolly Sir Adam at their head. Lady Fergusson, her niece, Miss Jobson, the pretty heiress of Lochore. . . ."

        The gathering of that 'great clan of Scotts', in the mansion of the man who had made their name as immortal as English speech, and the good fellowship that Abbotsford gave to its neighbours of all degrees, may have occasioned the direction in which Captain Hall led the conversation when Scott had leisure to walk with him (as of course he had) over the land.

        He learnt something of Scott's theories of the ways in which wealth should relieve surrounding poverty without the humiliations of charity: of the wood-fund for secret medical charges which must have grown now to substantial figures: of the importance of avoiding prying into the affairs or habits of those who are indigent, or of insulting them with unasked advice: of the freedom with which everyone was allowed to trespass on the Abbotsford land.

        "I make not a rule to be on intimate terms," he told us, "with all my neighbours - that would be an idle thing to do. Some are good - some are not so good, and it would be foolish and ineffectual to treat all with the same cordiality; but to live in harmony with all is quite easy, and surely very pleasant. Some of them may be rough and gruff at first, but all men, if kindly used, come about at last, and by going on gently, and never being eager or noisy about what I want, and letting things glide on leisurely, I always find in the end that the object is gained on which I have set my heart, either by purchase or exchange, or by some sort of compromise by which both parties are obliged, and good-will begot if it did not exist before - strengthened if it did exist." - I have never seen any person on more delightful terms with his family. The youngest of his nephews and nieces can joke with him, and seem at all times perfectly at ease in his presence - his coming into the room only increases the laugh, and never checks it - he either joins in what is going on or passes. No one notices him any more than if he were one of themselves. These are things which cannot be got up."

        The wedding took place in Edinburgh at the beginning of February. Scott settled Abbotsford, with all its land, upon his eldest son, subject to a right to charge it up to £10,000 if he should at any time have occasion to do so. Lockhart was present when the marriage-contract containing this provision was signed, and his memory of Sir Walter's words was that he said, as he laid down the pen:

        "I have now parted with my lands with more pleasure than I ever derived from the acquisition or possession of them; and if I be spared for ten years, I think I may promise to settle as much more again upon these young folks."

        Was it a reasonable anticipation at this time, on the very threshold of catastrophe? Or was it the infatuation of a self-deluded man? Or was it even the dishonest action of one aware of a doubtful solvency who thus attempted to alienate his substantial assets from his creditors' grasp?

        The question has been raised and must be faced, because it goes to the root of any judgement of Scott's character either for probity or business judgement. It must be considered in the light of facts to which we have still to come. For the moment we may observe that it was done in a very public way. There can have been few people of importance in Edinburgh who were not aware of the nature of the settlement. It appears also, and is significant, and in some aspects may seem surprising, that the whole of the Abbotsford properties were un-encumbered by any existing charge.

        We may think that, if Scott's circumstances were embarrassed, or his credit strained, the news of such a settlement would produce pressure from various quarters, and might even promote an otherwise avoidable crisis, but there is no evidence of such sequel. On the contrary, a few weeks later, Scott was able to raise the large sum of £3,500 to purchase his son a commission in the King's Hussars, - a loan of £5,000 being negotiated through George Hogarth with another member of that family.

        The circumstances under which this purchase was undertaken may be worth a glance. They increase the evidence that Scott was not aware of any present or approaching financial shadow, and show that the expenditure was somewhat different from a random extravagance.

        Mrs. Jobson was an elderly widow, and Jane was her only child. She had resolutely opposed the marriage unless Lieutenant Scott would resign his commission, and settle down at Lochore. She did not want to lose her daughter's society: she urged the hardships and uncertainties of barrack life. But on this point Sir Walter had been equally resolute. He would never agree that his son should degenerate to the idle life of a fox-hunting squire. Relatives and friends uniting their pressure upon her, Mrs. Jobson had reluctantly given way.

        But, in any direction that was not inconsistent with his own welfare, Scott had been anxious to placate the old lady's objections, which were not entirely groundless. The accommodation that might be available for a subaltern's wife in any Irish town in which Walter's regiment might be stationed, would not be attractive to a young girl who had been used to the sheltered luxuries of Lochore.

        A commission in the King's Hussars meant living in London instead of Dublin or Limerick, and the status of a Captain's was very different from that of a Subaltern's wife.

        Scott's letters at this time, both to Walter and Jane, show that the girl's happiness in the strangeness of her new life was constantly in his thoughts, and the very price of the commission is evidence of how highly the difference of social life was valued.

        It appears that there had been an offer on the part of Jane's Trustees to find at least part of the purchase money if Scott should consider it more than he was able or willing to pay, for in a letter to Walter (27 th April, 1825) he says that he had "written to Edinburgh to remit the price as soon as possible," and adds, "I can make this out without troubling Mr. Bayley; but it will pare my nails short for the summer and I fear prevent my paying your carriage, as I had intended."

        Sir. Isaac Bayley was one of Jane's trustees. Scott had written a previous letter advising her of the kind of carriage that she should purchase, but without hinting that he had thought of the bill being sent to him. The statement that he had 'written Edinburgh to remit . . . as soon as possible,' exposes the fact, to which there will be occasion to return, that he was treating James Ballantyne & Co. very much as his bankers at this period. He frequently sent James instructions to settle lists of trades-people's accounts, or would sometimes give them notes of authority to apply to him for the money. This may not have been an unnatural procedure, under a variety of financial circumstances, which must be the subject of later consideration. The mere fact of this procedure being adopted does not imply that he was drawing upon the business beyond the total of amounts which it collected on his behalf, which is enough to say of it in this place. The refusal to allow part of the price of the commission to come from the Jobson estate shows that he was reasonably confident in the sufficiency of his own resources: the wording of the intimation does not suggest that he was reckless in such expenditure, or incurred it without calculation.

        The remainder of this letter to Walter is of a further significance. He says that "Nichol is certainly going to sell Faldonside." That was an adjoining property. He was asking £40,000 - a price which, under any circumstances, Scott would not pay. But, apart from that, how did Walter and Jane feel about it? It mattered more to them than to him. He adds:

        "I think I could work it all off during my life, and also improve the estate highly; but then it is always a heavy burden, and I would not like to undertake it unless I were sure that Jane and you desire such an augmentation of territory. I do not intend to do anything hasty, but, as an opportunity may cast up suddenly, I should like to know your mind."

        This suggestion may be regarded variously, according to the final judgement which must be rendered as to what Scott's financial position really was at this time, and whether we accept Lockhart's assertion that (whether culpably or not) he was allowing himself to be kept in ignorance of it, as to which we may have to conclude that he was as fully aware of it as it was in his power to be, or in that of James Ballantyne to have informed him.

        It is sufficient of observe here that it adds to the overwhelming weight of evidence that he was not aware of any advancing shadow, and that he was still confident in his power to use his pen for the earning of a further fortune.

        But there is one question which is fundamental when we consider the prudence of these successive land purchases, which are commonly represented as having been of a disastrous kind.

        In suggesting that he might devote the remainder of his life to the earning of enough money to purchase this further estate, Scott says that he thinks he could 'improve it highly '. Did he really add greatly, by his methods of planting and cultivating, to the value of the land he bought, or was this also the self-delusion of an infatuated man? The question is fundamental, because, though it may be possible for even a wealthy man to become embarrassed by ill-considered purchases of land which he is incompetent to handle properly, it is difficult to establish the proposition that a man who makes very large sums (as Scott did) by literary work is acting imprudently by investing it in land, if he be of competence and industry to increase its value greatly, and this difficulty is not substantially reduced if we allow that such properties were acquired somewhat in advance of the dates at which the whole amounts of the purchase moneys had been fully earned. If Scott really managed and developed the estates, which he purchased from the huge sums which he made from his writings, in a profitable way, and if he was ultimately ruined, we must look elsewhere for the cause.

        This question leads us back to Captain Hall's diary. It is the record of a man who was an eyewitness at Abbotsford, an acute and curious observer, not sufficiently intimate to be called a friend and who wrote down what he saw and heard each evening while it was fresh in his mind. He saw Abbotsford and the Scott family at the peak of their apparent prosperity, and their most lavish expenditure. He walked over the estate with Scott and others on at least two occasions, on one of which - it is a proof of Scott's physical vigour and energy at this period - the Captain records that they must have covered 'five or six miles'.

        In the course of these walks he made three specific observations. He saw a property which the tenant-farmer had vacated at the time it came into the market, and Scott bought it. Scott had turned the better half of the land into a plantation, his theory being that few crops are so profitable as timber for those who have patience to wait its growth, and that less satisfactory results are achieved owing to the custom of planting it only on the worst land. Timber requires and repays the use of the best land it can have. Now the tenant farmer was back again. The wind-screen of the young plantation had proved so valuable (possibly with other improvements of which Captain Hall did not hear) that he had agreed to pay the same rent for the half that he previously paid for the whole.

        There was another farm for which Scott had suggested to his tenant that a dressing of lime on a generous scale would be beneficial. Finding that the man would not incur the expense he had told him to do it all the same, and to deduct the cost from the rent. At the end of the year the man had paid the full rent, saying that the results of following Scott's advice had been such that he could not honestly make any deduction.

        But the Captain's third observation was not hearsay, but of an ocular kind. There was a wood of which Scott had bought the half five years earlier. The part which he had controlled had been thinned and pruned, while that which the owner had retained had been left to go its own way. Captain Hall says that it appeared almost incredible that five years should have produced so great a contrast. The trees in Scott's portion were not only well-proportioned and producing valuable timber, they were 'twice the height' of those in the neglected wood. The second of these observations is particularly illustrative of that quality in Scott's character which was most baffling to those of alien minds, and the controlling nature of which Lockhart did not sufficiently appreciate. If Scott saw land that was needing lime, he would regard it as of the first importance that it should have it, and of second importance to consider who would pay for it, or benefit. It was not that he was at all indifferent to his own profits: the difference was not absolute but relative. He hated waste or disorder of any kind, as liberal natures always do. If he saw a need it was his instinct to help first, and to consider afterwards who would pay the bill. He would not willingly pay £4,000 for land that was worth £3,000, but if he had no better choice, he would be happier in doing that and raising its value to £3,500 by intelligent industry, than if he had bought land for £3,000 that was worth £4,000 and allowed it to fall in value to £3,500 by neglect, though to a meaner mind the difference might seem to be against himself to the extent of some hard work and £1,000.

        He gave help to all those in need with whom he came in contact as a natural necessary thing, and if some adjoining land were degenerating or undeveloped his instinct would be keener to go to its rescue than if it were already receiving sufficient care. . . .

        Captain Hall's observations were not confined to the land. On December 29th, 1824, he had a careful look round the house, and that evening he made this entry:

        "All is in good order, and an air of punctuality and method, without any waste or ostentation, pervades everything. Everyone seems at his ease; although I have been in some big houses in my time, and amongst good folk who studied these sort of points not a little, I don't remember to have met with things better managed in all respects."

        This may be regarded as a certificate of excellence for Lady Scott, even more than Sir Walter; and it is high praise, for it is to be remembered that this was not a great house of established traditions and long-ordered service, but one which they had built up almost literally with their own hands, and adapted for the entertaining of people of all nationalities and every social grade.

        There was an indication of what that burden of hospitality had become in the notices which Captain Hall observed to be displayed at the inns in Selkirk and Melrose, warning people that they could not be received at Abbotsford without invitation or previous arrangement. It was a breakwater which had become inevitable after a point was reached at which the whole family were becoming entirely occupied in showing strangers over the house and grounds, a condition obviously intolerable on a day when sixteen unauthorised parties had stopped their carriages at the gate.

        Captain Hall noted shrewdly that however much money the novels were bringing in, he doubted whether much was being saved; but he entered another conclusion which was of equal truth: "I should suspect that when the author of Waverley sets his shoulder to any wheel, it must be a devilish deep slough if it be not lifted out."

        He could not guess the depth of the slough which was to test the shoulder of the Author of Waverley scarcely twelve months ahead.


        Walter and Jane went from Edinburgh for a three weeks holiday at Abbotsford, and then to join his regiment at Dublin. Scott remained in Edinburgh, as was usual at this time of year, busy with two new novels. He had thought of a period and new lands for imagination to conquer. He would write a series of romances, under the general title Tales of the Crusades, and in accordance with his frequent custom he was writing two of them more or less side by side: they were to be called The Betrothed and The Talisman.

        They were making rapid progress, too, in the midst of legal duties, and multifarious distracting interests. Scott was Chairman of a Gas Company at this time, which aimed to supplant candles with a new illuminant, and here we have occasion to see how provokingly difficult it is to classify him in the clear and final manner with which the public likes to regard its celebrities. Abbotsford had been panelled with old oak, and decorated with ancient armour, showing its creator to be a man obsessed by the past: one who must dislike change: who looked back with regret. But in building it he had inserted specimens of a wild untested innovation: a crack-brained invention of pneumatic bells. Any sane person could have told in advance that they would not act. Lockhart would have seen it at once. In the end, they had to be taken out, and sensible wires substituted, such as the experience of our ancestors has shown to be the right thing. But when poets design houses what better can you expect?

        That was not all. The completed Abbotsford was illuminated in a new way. It had a private plant for the manufacture of coal-gas. Opinions differed about the result. There was no doubt there was enough light; but it was said that women looked old and haggard in the merciless glare. Some thought that the excess of light must be bad for the eyes. They prophesied that the use of glasses would increase, as it did.

        Yet Scott was right in thinking that candles would be supplanted by coal-gas. As Chairman of the Gas Company that aimed to illuminate Edinburgh, as a pioneer of progress who installed a flaring jet over his desk; in North Castle Street, we observe him to be a farseeing business man.

        Yet, that is not the whole tale. The Gas Company did not succeed. After years of struggle to overcome a general prejudice against the invention it advocated, and the competition of a rival company, it failed to get the Parliamentary power it required. In the end, it was wound up. Others reaped where it had sown too early for its own crop to survive. Scott lost the money he had invested. After all, we had better call him a fool; especially as the failure was so largely his own fault. He was the one man on the Board with political influence in London which might have got the Bill through, and he declined to use it, let his colleagues urge as they might. The Bill must go through on its own merits, if at all. He would not use his influence with the Government in London to force upon his fellow-citizens in Edinburgh an installation which they did not want, even though he thought it a good thing, and to have done so would have been his own gain. So, in the end, the Gas Company closed its doors. . . .

        Scott had scarcely raised and paid away the £3,500 which was the price of his son's commission in the London regiment when he had another demand for help of sufficiently large amount to deserve a separate mention. Daniel Terry, jointly with Frederick Yates, another comedian very popular at the time, had an opportunity of acquiring the lease of the Adelphi Theatre in London, and Terry appealed for help, either by loan or guarantee, both to Scott and James Ballantyne. Neither of them regarded it as a desirable investment. Scott knew the hazard of all adventures in the theatrical world, and had a particular doubt of Daniel Terry's fitness for such a management. But he had made Terry his friend and confidant for several years. He had been associated with him in connection with the staging of more than one of the Waverley novels. It was not easy for him to refuse a friend under such circumstances. But his correspondence with Terry shows something very different either from a facile willingness, or a selfish reluctance to give the needed assistance. He is frank with his friend as to his own financial engagements. Cash, to such an amount as is required, he is unable to spare. A guarantee must be given, but he must first be satisfied that the project has a reasonable business chance of success. He goes into this question in much detail. Long letters were exchanged, and many queries were asked and answered. There is one letter in particular which Lockhart characterises as being 'when considered with reference to the time at which it was written, and the then near, though unforeseen, result of the writer's own commercial speculations, as remarkable a document as was ever penned'.

        Perhaps it was, though perhaps not quite for the same reasons which were in Lockhart's mind when he wrote. Indeed, it is an abuse of language to say that Scott was engaged in any 'commercial speculations', though he was subject to some commercial hazards, at this time.

        The letter is one to which anyone who is adventuring upon theatrical enterprise might well give a week's thought. It deals with penetrating sagacity alike with the broader principles of sound commercial enterprise, and the special difficulties of theatrical finance and successful management, as well as with the estimates of this particular venture. It is a letter that Lockhart could not have written just because he could never have embarked on the bold hazard of a publishing venture, and still less, when the whirlpool of disaster threatened to suck him in, could he have trimmed helm and sail with the skill and courage which would have cast anchor at last in a quieter sea. His comment is as though one should say: "How can this man teach another to guard his life in the fight? He shows the scar of a wound. More than that, he may be wounded again in a year's time."

        Probably Lockhart's special astonishment is aroused by the fact that Scott wrote in explicit condemnation of the practice of obtaining capital by means of accommodation bills. It would have been far more surprising, after his observations and experiences of the past fifteen years, had he failed to see the defects of that system of capitalisation. It would not have occurred to him to modify the expression of any judgement he might have formed lest it might appear to reflect upon his own business ability, whether past or present. Besides, he might have said to Daniel Terry with truth, though he would be unlikely to do so, that what he might do himself with reasonable safety would be more perilous for one who had less legal and commercial knowledge, and far inferior resources, whether of money, of intellect, or of character, to retrieve an error.

        However these things may have been, Scott did finally agree to give a guarantee of £1,250 in Terry's support, and though he wrote plainly that he would not influence James to take a similar risk, the printer also helped his friend with a guarantee for about half that amount.

        The incident is a conclusive evidence that at this date - May, 1825 - not only the name of Walter Scott, but that of James Ballantyne, which was given upon a separate guarantee, was considered good for a substantial credit in banking circles, and that not merely in the routine support of his own business or commitments, but for a separate responsibility which might have been refused on several grounds, without reflection on his solvency, had it been considered prudent to do so.

        In the course of this correspondence with Terry, Scott wrote about his own expenditure and resources with a deliberate frankness. He could not spare a large sum in cash, for expenditure upon the marriage of his eldest son and the purchase of his commission had been very heavy. Besides the £3,500 for the commission, he mentions that he had given presents to the bride 'jewels and so-forth becoming her situation and fortune' which had cost him £500, and that £1,000 'at least' had gone in providing Walter with a good horse and much else, so that he should have a clear start for his marriage, on the very moderate income (£400) which was all the financial reward of that £3,500.

        Scott added: "I am a sharer to the extent of £1,500 on a railroad, which will bring coal and limes here at half-price, and double the rent of the arable part of my property, but is dead outlay in the meantime, and I have shares in the oil-gas, and other promising concerns, not having resisted the mania of the day, though I have yielded to it but soberly; also, I have the dregs of Abbotsford House to pay for - and all besides my usual considerable expenditure, so I must look for some months to be put to every corner of my saddle."

        "The mania of the day" - the idea that a concluded war brings automatic prosperity to an exhausted nation - which had led to so much wild financial adventure in the commercial world, was to bring ruin to many thousands before the conclusion of the year in which he wrote. Who could be sure of escape when the storm would break?

        . . . It is in one of the long letters which Scott wrote to Walter and Jane at this period, giving endless news of events at Abbotsford and Lochore, and endless, though never fussy, advice for the conduct of their own lives, that there comes an ominous allusion - not the first in his correspondence - to the health of John Hugh, Sophia's child.

        Born (somewhat prematurely, it was said) eight months after marriage, he had been a cause of frequent anxiety. Now he was getting better from a bad cough. Had it been whooping-cough? No-one was quite sure. But, anyway, it was better now.

        Scott's affection for this first grandchild seems to have been particularly strong, even for one who had much affection to give. And the child was easy to love, being intelligent, and responding in loving ways through his pathetically shortened life, of which there were still some years to be. But he had no physical vigour. From whatever cause, Lockhart could not give his wife robust children. We are reminded of his naive astonishment that Scott could have lived decently before his own marriage. The thought may do injustice to the biographer, but who is to blame for that?


        The Betrothed was sent to the Ballantyne Press, and set up chapter by chapter as it proceeded, in the method which had usually been adopted with these novels, and as James prepared its pages for the press he expressed his feelings upon the narrative, as it had become his habit to do.

        Often, in the past, Scott had been encouraged by the enthusiasm of his printer; often he may have benefited by criticism, or by his attention being directed to obscurity or omission in those rapidly-written sheets: sometimes, as in the mauling of the plot of St. Ronan's Well, he was misled by a fatuous importunity. But James's criticism was generally sound enough, and it came from a man whose loyalty was beyond question - a man who was prepared and anxious to praise.

        But there was no praise on this occasion. Chapter after chapter came under review and went into type, and he said monotonously that the book was a disappointment. So it was. It was not bad in any affirmative way. It was just dull. It never sank below its level of dullness, nor rose above it. Incidentally, it supported Scott's objection to a revealing title - or, at least, to one which is first adopted, and has to be written up to. As it proceeded, it became evident that it had little to do with Crusaders in that capacity.

        Scott knew it to be a failure. It was a depressing realisation, for, so far as this period is concerned, Lockhart's suggestion that the decrease in the sales of the Waverley novels (such as it was) had been concealed from their author is obviously untrue. He was so watchful of such signs, and so sensitive to their implications, that he was considering seriously, as he had done before at a similar indication, the advisability of abandoning fiction entirely for a new field of literary enterprise. But more than once before he had found fresh triumph by breaking new and unexpected ground. This he had resolved to do again in what should be a final effort. There was prudence in this resolution, as there was courage in the renewed attempt. The Waverley novels had a large continuing sale. It would do no good to their author's reputation, little good to his pocket, and harm to them, for him to add to their number a succession of inferior examples. He had set up a standard of achievement below which he could not afford to fall.

        His own judgement confirming Ballantyne's reluctant pessimism, he took the bold resolution of suppressing the book entirely, at a time when it was approaching completion. But it was not surprising that James demurred to that drastic remedy. With the exception of its concluding chapters, the book had not merely been set up, the sheets of a complete edition were already printed, according to the method by which he contrived that publication should follow almost immediately on the writing of the last chapter of one of these novels. There was hesitation, Lockhart records, with his incurable journalistic looseness, in consigning the huge piles of printed sheets 'to the flames'.

        Scott had in fact, got another tale developing in his mind, of a greater promise. It might recover the lost ground, which The Betrothed certainly never would. He sent James the opening chapters of The Talisman.

        James read them and did not respond to their author's mood. It would be little use to have the great loss and delay of suppressing The Betrothed, if the substitute were of the same brand. So he wrote.

        Scott was roused to protest in reply: "is it wise to mend a dull overloaded fire by heaping on a shovelful of wet coals?" He had invariably agreed with James's criticisms before, but he felt differently now. Yet this criticism may neither have been wrong in itself nor unfortunate in its effects. The book does move heavily in its opening chapters. But as it advances its paragraphs shorten, its animation increases. James felt the change and was quick to congratulate. As the book progressed, the old enthusiasm revived. Here might be another success to equal the splendour of those that the past had seen.

        Then there came a disconcerting rumour that the sheets of The Betrothed had been stolen, and that it was to be printed in Germany. James suggested that the two books should be issued together, and the quality of The Talisman would be sufficient to distract attention from its companion's deficiencies. Scott agreed reluctantly, in view of that rumour of piracy, that it would be the best course, though, he said, he would rather have written two novels than those concluding chapters. In that spirit he finished it, and the two books appeared together.

        This singular recipe for the selling of a dull book may appear questionable in itself, and has never become a popular precedent in the trade; but, in all the circumstances, it may have been a wise decision, and it was justified by its results. The two books appeared together in June, and The Talisman had an instant popularity, such as few of its predecessors had surpassed. People were too busy praising it to have many words to waste on the sister-story, which had no evident defects to draw the lightning of criticism. It is the usual fate of dullness to be disregarded. It might have been expressly written for the part it played.


        It is one of Lockhart's most curious features as a biographer that he constantly supplies materials for the destruction of his own assertions.

        It was shortly before the publication of the Tale of the Crusades that he was present at dinner one Saturday evening at Abbotsford, on an occasion when James Ballantyne and Constable were the only other guests. The conjunction of these two, and the fact that Scott had no-one else there except his son-in-law, who was regarded as one of the family, is evidence that the meeting was of the nature of a business conference. However long, and in some ways intimate, might be Scott's associations, in different degrees, with these two men their relations always maintained a measure of business formality. James said, at the end of his life, that he had never taken the liberty of visiting Abbotsford without formal invitation. Constable and Scott, while recognising qualities, each in the other, which had their due measure of admiration and approval, were never entirely congenial. The old days of difference might be almost forgotten, their scars barely visible now, but Constable might still be disposed to aggrandise his own importance as a publisher, his own services to the author on whom his prosperity so largely depended.

        Lockhart has represented Constable as almost insanely intoxicated by the huge sales which Scott's writings now commanded: he has represented him and Ballantyne (somewhat inconsistently) as conspiring to deceive their author as to their declining popularity. When this meeting took place, the success of The Talisman was an event of the following month. It was nearly a year since Redgauntlet had been a respectable, but unexciting success. The interval of publication had been unusually long. The success of the Tales of the Crusades could be no better than a hopeful guess. It is evident that both Scott and Constable had been considering what the position would be if they should meet a cold reception. They did not regard such a possibility with dismay. They were both confident capable men. But they were both of the temperament which is too cautious not to plan in advance against the possibilities of failure, and too adventurous not to plan in audacious ways.

        They met now with different plans in the minds of each, which they would endeavour to mould into one shape, and which were equally based upon the presumption that it might prove impossible to maintain the sales of new Waverley Novels indefinitely at the prevailing level.

        When the ladies withdrew from the dinner-table, the four men were left alone - Sir Walter, Constable, Ballantyne and Lockhart. We have Lockhart's account of the conversation that followed. It is the record of a witness who was sometimes unscrupulous in adding intention to recollection, who became hostile to two of those who were present on this occasion between the time of his observation and that on which he recorded his memory, and who was of a natural incompetence in commercial matters. But it is the only witness we have.

        "After dinner," he says, "there was a little pause of expectation, and the brave schemer suddenly started in medias res, saying "Literary genius may, or may not, have done its best; but the trade are in the cradle." Scott eyed the florid bookseller's beaming countenance, and the solemn stare with which the equally portly printer was listening and pushing round the bottles with a hearty chuckle, bade me "Give our two soncie babbies a drap mother's milk." Constable sucked in fresh inspiration, and proceeded to say that, wild as we might think him, certain new plans, of which we had all already heard some hints, had been suggested by, and were in fact mainly grounded upon, a sufficiently prosaic authority - namely the annual schedule of assessed taxes, a copy of which interesting document he drew from his pocket and substituted for his D'Oyley. It was copiously diversified, ''text and margent" by figures and calculations in his own handwriting, which I for one might have regarded with less reverence, had I known at the time this 'great arithmetician's' rooted aversion and contempt for all examination of his own balance-sheet. He had, however, taken vast pains to fill in the number of persons who might fairly be supposed to pay the taxes for each separate article of luxury, armorial bearings, hunters, racers, four-wheeled carriages, &c &c; and having demonstrated that hundreds of thousands held, as necessary to their comfort and station, articles upon articles of which their forefathers never dreamt, said, that our self-love never deceived us more grossly than when we fancied our notions as to the matter of books had advanced in at all a corresponding proportion. "On the contrary," cried Constable "I am satisfied that the demand for Shakespeare's plays, contemptible as we hold it to have been, in the times of Elizabeth and James, was more creditable to the classes who really indulged in any sort of elegance then, than the sale of Childe Harold or Waverley is to this nineteenth century. "

        "Scott helped him on by interposing, that at that moment he had a rich valley crowded with handsome houses under his view, and yet much doubted whether any laird within ten miles spent ten pounds per annum on the literature of the day. "No," said Constable, "there is no market among them that's worth one's thinking about. They are contented with a review or a magazine, or at least with a paltry subscription to some circulating library forty miles off. But if I live for half-a-dozen years, I'll make it as impossible that there should not be a good library in every decent house in Britain as that the shepherd's ingle-nook should want the saut poke. Ay, and what's that?" he continued, warming and puffing; "why should the ingle-nook itself want a shelf for the novels?" - "I see your drift, my man," says Sir Walter; - "You're for being like Billy Pitt in Gilray's print - you want to get into the salt-box yourself." "Yes," he responded (using a favourite adjuration) - "I have hitherto been thinking only of the wax lights, but before I'm a twelvemonth older I shall have my hand upon the tallow." "Troth," says Scott, you are indeed likely to be 'The grand Napoleon of the realms of print'." - "If you outlive me," says Constable, with a regal smile, "I bespeak that line for my tomb-stone, but, in the meantime, may I presume to ask you to be my right-hand man when I open my campaign of Marengo? I have now settled my outline of operations - a three-shilling or half-crown volume every month, which must and shall sell, not by thousands or tens of thousands but by hundreds of thousands - ay! by millions! Twelve volumes in the year, a half-penny of profit upon every copy of which will make me richer than the possession of all the copyrights of all the quartos that ever were, or will be, hot-pressed! Twelve volumes, so good that millions must wish to have them and so cheap that every butcher's callant may have them, if he pleases to let me tax him sixpence a week!"

        "Many a previous consultation, and many a solitary meditation, too, prompted Scott's answer. - "Your plan," said he "cannot fail, provided the books be really good; but you must not start until you have not only leading columns, but depth upon depth of reserve in thorough order. I am willing to do my part in this grand enterprise. Often of late, have I felt that the vein of fiction was nearly worked out; often, as you all know, have I been thinking seriously of turning my hand to history. I am of opinion that historical writing has no more been adapted to the demands of the increased circles among which literature does already find a way, than you allege as to the shape and price of books in general. What say you to taking the field with a Life of the other Napoleon?"

        There are several statements here which must be accepted with caution if at all. The suggestion that Constable had a 'rooted aversion and contempt for all examination of his own balance-sheet' condemns itself by its own excess. Besides, the book-keeping department of Constable's business was in the hands of his partner, Robert Cadell, who, Lockhart asserted subsequently, when setting up his witness against that of the Ballantyne Trustees, was one of the best business men in the world. He may not have been that, but he was certainly capable of accurate accountancy, and, during Constable's illness, and long absences in the south, he was in entire charge of the Edinburgh office, and in financial control of the business. There is not a shred of evidence that Constable's books were badly kept, or that any subsequent disaster can be attributed to such negligence.

        Printer and publisher were invited to continue their visit over Monday, when the discussion was resumed in detail during a long drive to Smailholm and Dryburgh Abbey, "both poet and publisher," Lockhart says, "talking over the past and future course or their lives, and agreeing, as far as I could penetrate, that the years to come were likely to be more prosperous than any they had yet seen."

        Before Constable left, a detailed plan had been agreed by which a cheap monthly series was to be started, to consist of alternate reprints of the Waverley Novels and new historical works by their author. The first volume was to consist of one half of Waverley, the second of the commencement of a Life of Napoleon. Waverley was to be completed in three further parts and followed by other new historical works, alternated with re-prints of the novels in the order of their original publication.

        The impetus of the new series was to be supplied by this Life of Napoleon, for which, with a sound publishing instinct, Constable anticipated an enormous demand. The closeness with which Scott had followed the historical events through which he had lived, his prodigious memory, his imagination, and his ability to arrange and analyse evidence rendered him peculiarly fitted for the task he had undertaken, but it was one which obviously could not be done with finality or completeness until much documentary material should be disclosed that he could not hope to reach.

        Yet the generation that is alive will not refuse to receive such information as is available, if it be well presented, because their children will be better served. A Life of Napoleon by such an author would be of an assured quality, and would have an assured sale. Constable undertook to obtain material for it, and proceeded to do so with an instant energy. Books, pamphlets and newspapers in wholesale quantities were collected from all parts of Europe, and delivered in wagon-loads at North Castle Street, and as Scott commenced the actual writing of the book it became immediately apparent to all concerned that the original idea must be abandoned. Four of those small cheap projected volumes would not avail to contain the work that was in progress now. The decision was taken to publish it separately, first in four volumes of the full library size, and then in an ever increasing number, as the extent of the ground which such a work must cover was more adequately realised.

        Meanwhile, it was found that the original plan could not, in any event, have been put into immediate execution. The quantities of the existing editions of the Waverley novels which were still in the hands of the trade proved, on enquiry, to be more considerable than had been supposed. For a cheap issue to be taken up with the proper enthusiasm it was necessary that time should first be allowed for this stock to be sold off. Then the urgency of the enterprise was reduced, as it was seen that the Tales of the Crusades was a success. After all, the Waverley novels need not be looked upon as a series that neared completion. And Constable still thought that the success of the Miscellany, as he had christened his new idea, depended mainly upon the inclusion of the Napoleon. Let that come out first in a full-dress form - such was the final decision - and a second edition could form part of the cheaper series, which must be deferred accordingly.

        Confident in the present, and looking for greater successes in the years to come, so they agreed their plans.


        In the early part of July, a month after the Tales of the Crusades had been successfully published, the Napoleon had made at least a substantial commencement. Scott was then intent upon an Irish holiday. He had promised to visit Miss Edgeworth in her own land. He wanted to see Walter and Jane in their Dublin home. He wanted to see the country. It was decided to postpone the actual setting up of Napoleon until he should return, when it should be commenced in earnest. He blamed himself afterwards for the time which this holiday occupied. Had he known, had he exerted himself to the swift production of another novel - so he thought, but it would have made no difference. It may be that had he been given a full knowledge of all that destiny had prepared for the next six months he might have had ability, and would certainly not have lacked energy or courage to turn the lightning aside, but the mere writing of another novel, or three for that matter, the mere provision of an additional five or ten thousand pounds, would have made no difference at all.

        As it was, a carefree party of three - himself, and Lockhart, and Anne - took carriage to Glasgow and there put it on to the packet's deck, and sailed for Belfast. The next six weeks were spent in wandering across Ireland and returning by different routes, and then sailing from Dublin to Holyhead, and driving home through North Wales and the lakes of Westmorland.

        There was a long pause with Miss Edgeworth at Edgeworthstown; and a shorter one at Windermere on the way home.

        The little party had expected a friendly reception from the Protestant gentlefolk of the country, and a ready hospitality. Beyond that there had been a doubt. The Irish peasant was not expected to be familiar with the Waverley novels, and the feeling of the Catholics in general might not have been overcordial. Catholic emancipation was then an acute political issue, and Scott had publicly opposed it. It was not only that he doubted its political wisdom at that time; he considered it to be a foolish attempt to heal a sore with an ineffectual remedy. He said with forceful metaphors that Ireland's real grievance was the exactions of the absentee landlords, for whom he had a bitter contempt. While that evil continued, no measure of Catholic Emancipation would do any good, and, doing no good, it might do actual harm. Yet when it became clear that such a measure would be passed he condemned the Bill because it did not go far enough. He said that if it were done at all, it should have been with a more generous equity.

        Now while the controversy was acute and bitter, there might well have been an element of coldness, if not of hostility, among those to whom he was something more than a vague name.

        Such doubts there might be. But except among the friends to whom he journeyed, Scott did not expect that the passing of his inconspicuous carriage would attract any notice at all. It was a repetition of the mistake which once drew upon himself the louder plaudits of the Edinburgh crowd than would greet the King at a later hour.

        He had not adequately understood his immense reputation or his universal popularity, which may have exceeded anything in the world's history which poet or novelist had won during his own lifetime. It might be only occasionally that he would be personally recognised in the London crowds. In Edinburgh or Selkirkshire, everyone was his friend. But in Ireland his coming was an event. Celebrities who visited it were few and separate, and the whole of the population was aware of such a presence, though it might not always stir them to cheers.

        Scott found that he drove through shouting crowds. If he made a call in a Dublin Street, it would be hard to start the horses again amid the pressure of the cheering mob. From high and low, from Catholic and Protestant, from town and country, there was the same cordiality of reception, the same attitude of respectful homage. It was a triumphal procession rather than a private visit.

        In Dublin, he had the pleasure, for the first time, of being entertained at his son's table.

        Lockhart records how greatly he was moved to sorrow and indignation by the contrast of luxury in the occasional mansions of Southern Ireland, and the squalid misery that surrounded them, and it is, doubtless, a truthful witness. Yet there is a significant difference between Lockhart's account, and the notes on the same subject that Scott made in his Journal a few months later. Lockhart pours indignant intemperate words into a single scale. No strength of feeling or sympathy would ever destroy Scott's sense of equity or the impartiality of his judgement. He wrote:

        "There is much less exaggeration about the Irish than is to be expected. Their poverty is not exaggerated: it is on the extreme verge of human misery; their cottages would scarce serve for pig-styes, even in Scotland and their rags seem the very refuse of a rag-shop, and are disposed on their bodies with such ingenious variety of wretchedness that you would think nothing but some sort of perverted taste could have assembled so many shreds together. You are constantly fearful that some knot or loop will give, and place the individual before you in all the primitive simplicity of Paradise. Then, for their food, they have only potatoes, and too few of them. Yet the men look stout and healthy, the women buxom and well-coloured.

        "I said their poverty was not exaggerated; neither is their wit - nor their good humour - nor their whimsical absurdity - nor their courage. . . .

        "There is perpetual kindness in the Irish cabin: butter-milk, potatoes, a stool is offered, or a stone is rolled that your honour may sit down and be out of the smoke, and those who beg everywhere else seem desirous to exercise free hospitality in their own houses. Their natural disposition is turned to gaiety and happiness; while a Scotchman is thinking about the term-day, or, if easy on that subject, upon hell in the next world - while an Englishman is making a little hell of his own in the present, because his muffin is not well roasted - Pat's mind is always turned to fun and ridicule. They are terribly excitable, to be sure, and will murther you on slight suspicion, and find out next day that it was all a mistake, and that it was not yourself they meant to kill at all at all."

        He noted that there was 'courtesy as well as wit' in the retort of a ragged peasant to whom he handed a shilling, and should have had an unproducable sixpence change: "May your Honour live till I pay you!"

        We may wonder how many of such sixpences he left behind, and under what variety of circumstances, when we read that this tour 'cost me upwards of £500, including £100 left with Walter and Jane'. It is a large sum to be spent in less than two months, during almost the whole of which time the party were being entertained by others, and by one who had resolved to 'pare his nails' very closely during the next few months. A more prudent man might have gone home with the best part of that £500 still in his pocket-book. We may suppose that he did not regard poverty with a closed hand. We may praise him for this, if we will; but there is not much cause. Being received as a prince, it is natural to act as a prince would. It is always more blessed to give than to receive. He had the easier part.

        When a man is conscious that he can make £5,000 in a few weeks, any time that he will by writing a book about noble living to live nobly may not be a very difficult thing. . . . He could not know that the devil's voice was heard about this time in the courts of Heaven: "Doth Job serve God for naught?"


        The little party stopped for a few days on the way back, at Storrs, off the shore of Windermere, to be entertained by its owner, Mr. John Bolton, a Birmingham engineer, whom Scott had met first in London on an occasion when Allan Cunningham heard of an exchange between them which was not of the friendliest. Scott overheard a remark of John Bolton - not addressed to him - that Scots and rats could be found in all places, and with his quick reaction to any slight on his country, he interposed to say: Mr. Bolton, you should have added and a Brummagen button". The engineer turned round to the interrupter and replied seriously, with an equal pride in his own place: "We make something better than buttons in Birmingham - we make steam-engines, sir".

        Mr. Bolton was the owner of the Birmingham mint of that day. Scott liked him for the courage he had shown on the occasion when there had been an armed attempt of robbery of his gold ingots, which he had resisted without asking the police for help, and when his porter had been shot dead by the thieves.

        Now he was using his Windermere house to give Canning and Scott an opportunity of meeting, which they had both desired. Wordsworth came also. It seems that Mr. Bolton entertained well. Lockhart who shared the privilege of that hospitality, becomes lyrical in its praise. He almost forgave his host the degrading fact that he was a business man. The whole passage deserves quotation, if only for the unconscious humour with which he patronises the far abler and more important man who received him into his house because he was the son-in-law of his friend:

        "It has not, I suppose, often happened, to a plain English merchant, wholly the architect of his own fortunes to entertain at one time a party embracing so many illustrious names. He was proud of his guests; they respected him, and honoured and loved each other; and it would have been difficult to say which star in the constellation shone with the brightest or the softest light. There was 'high discourse ' intermingled with as gay flashings of courtly wit as ever Canning displayed; and a plentiful allowance, on all sides, of those airy transient pleasantries, in which the fancy of poets however wise and grave, delights to run riot when they are sure not to be misunderstood. There were beautiful and accomplished women to adorn and enjoy this circle. The weather was as Elysian as the scenery. There were brilliant cavalcades through the woods in the mornings, and delicious boatings on the lake by moonlight; and on the last day, 'the Admiral of the Lake' presided over one of the most splendid regattas that ever enlivened Windermere. Perhaps there were not fewer than fifty barges following in the Professor's radiant procession, when it paused at the point of Storrs to admit into the place of honour the vessel that carried kind and happy Mr. Bolton and his guests. The bards of the Lakes led the cheers that hailed Scott and Canning: music and sunshine, flags, streamers and gay dresses, the merry hum of voices, and the rapid splashing of innumerable oars made up a dazzling mixture of sensations as the flotilla wound its way among the richly-foliaged islands, and along bays and promontories peopled with enthusiastic spectators."

        With that naive lack of humour which makes Lockhart so fascinating to those who can read him in the right mood, this egregious paragraph, in which the feelings of the guests towards each other are so carefully differentiated from that which they can cultivate for 'kind and happy' Mr. Bolton, is shortly preceded by an anecdote of how Scott had rebuked a member of his family for using the word 'vulgar' was an adjective of contempt. He had pointed out that the word meant nothing but common, and the best things, by God's mercy, are all of a vulgar kind.


        A short visit to Southey, a few days with Wordsworth and his daughter, completed the Westmorland pause, and the holiday party drove back to Abbotsford.

        "Without an hour's delay," Lockhart records his observation, Scott "resumed his usual habits of life".

        the musing ramble among his own glens, the breezy ride over the moors, the merry spell at the woodman's axe, or the festive chase of Newark, Fernilee, Hangingshaw, or Deloraine; the quiet old-fashioned contentment of the little domestic circle, alternating with the brilliant phantasmagoria of admiring, and sometimes admired, strangers - or hoisting the telegraph flag that called laird and bonnet-laird to the burning of the water, or the wassail of the hall. The hours of the closet alone had found a change. The preparation for the Life of Napoleon was a course of such hard reading as had not been called for while 'the great magician', in the full sunshine of ease, amused himself, and delighted the worlds by unrolling, fold after fold, his endlessly varied panorama of romance.

        He had now to apply himself doggedly to the mastering of a huge accumulation of historical materials. He read, and noted, and indexed with the pertinacity of some pale compiler in the British Museum; but rose from such employment, not radiant and buoyant, as after he had been feasting himself among the teeming harvests of Fancy, but with an aching brow, and eyes on which the dimness of years had begun to plant some specks, before they were subjected again to that straining over small print and difficult manuscript. It was a pleasant sight when one happened to take a passing peep into his den, to see the white head erect, and the smile of conscious inspiration on his lips, while the pen, held boldly, and at a commanding distance, glanced steadily and gaily along a fast-blackening page of The Talisman. It now often made me sorry to catch a glimpse of him, stooping and poring with his spectacles, amidst piles of authorities - a little note-book ready in the left hand, that had always used to be at liberty for patting Maida."

        There may be something beyond Lockhart's journalistic love of contrast in the picture which he elaborates of the burden of Scott's Napoleonic labours, but we must not take it too seriously. Lockhart was always too fond of writing with tears in his eyes. At the most, it was a kind of work of which Scott had done a great deal in earlier years. Both as editor and biographer, he was used to the discipline of mind which research requires and his memory rendered it easier to him than to most of those who undertake such biographies. Besides, it was done entirely at his own choice. Constable would have been content with a short work, such as Scott could have written in three weeks from the resources of his own mind, with no more precaution than to delegate an assistant to verify names and dates. The whole idea had been Scott's from the first, and it was by his preference that the bulk grew. Nor was he working, at this time, at a killing pace. Tom Moore, paying him a long-hoped-for visit, and being fortunate enough to find him almost alone with Charlotte and Anne, did not find that he made any; difficulty about giving him a leisurely companionship both of field and fireside. The visit belongs rather to Moore's biography than our present subject. Scott got on well with him, as he did with all the combative poet race: they might quarrel among themselves, but not here.

        "All the world," Moore wrote "might admire him in his works, but those only could learn to love him as he deserved who had seen him at Abbotsford." "Kindness and gentleness" were the qualities which impressed Tom Moore's mind most strongly, as he observed Sir Walter in his own family. But that such qualities were worn without weakness, we may observe from another incident of this autumn, when Mrs. Coutts, the banker's widow, perhaps the richest woman of the time, drove up to the gates of Abbotsford. She was touring Scotland. She had met Scott incidentally years before. She claimed some remote kinship, with the aid of one of those complicated pedigrees which are dear to the Scottish heart. She had solicited and received an invitation, and was an expected guest.

        Before the banker married her, she had been a comedy actress. Now she had control of millions. The day when she would be Duchess of St. Albans was still ahead. But though she had left the stage, the comedy continued. She travelled with many servants. She took a doctor because she might fall ill on the road. But, being a prudent woman, she saw that he might fall ill at the same time. Therefore she took two. The rest of her retinue was on the same scale.

        But Mrs. Coutts was not inconsiderate. She left four carriages and sixteen horses at Edinburgh, with the sections of her staff which they had contained. Three carriages, each drawn by four horses, pulled up at the gates. Mrs. Coutts, the Duke of St. Albans and his sister, two physicians, two lady's maids, a companion, and an assortment of other 'menials of every grade' alighted from them. There is no record of what Lady Scott said. It happened that Abbotsford was full at the moment with a party of high-born guests. When the accommodation for the invaders had been arranged, we may guess that some of these earlier arrivals were less comfortable than they had been before. The ex-comedy-actress was tolerated for her wealth to her face, and joked at her behind her back, in the London society from which she came. And the joke was a nuisance here.

        Scott observed the conversation at dinner and was not satisfied. The ladies rose and left the men at table according to the ugly custom of the time. But Scott cut this sitting unexpectedly short. With the minimum of interval, he led the way to the drawing-room.

        He observed what was going on for a few moments, and then quietly asked the Marchioness of Northampton, 'the youngest, gayest and cleverest, who was also the highest in rank' among his guests, to step out into the hall, where he told her plainly that he knew it was the custom in London to attend the balls and fetes which Mrs. Coutts gave, and to cold shoulder her on other occasions. Fine people would do shabbiness for which beggars might blush. But Abbotsford had different standards. He had mentioned two days ago that Mrs. Coutts would be coming, and those who were not prepared to treat her with courtesy should have left before she arrived.

        The Marchioness was a daughter of Mrs. Maclean Clephane of Torloisk. Scott had known her from childhood. (Whom did he not know?) In fact, she had been his ward. He knew the right way to influence her now. They went back into the drawing-room together, and the Marchioness was soon singing a song for Mrs. Coutts's particular pleasure. Half-an-hour after, a happy woman was telling comic anecdotes of her early theatrical experiences and all went amicably until she left three days later.

        This incident is additionally curious because of Lockhart's laboured and elaborate comments upon it. He says that some silly people might suppose that Scott only acted in this way because his guest was a wealthy woman, which would be unjust, as Scott treated every guest, of whatever wealth or poverty or social status, with equal consideration. Possibly there are people sufficiently silly or sufficiently incapable of understanding a character such as Scott's, to form such an opinion but are they worth two pages of refutation?

        And the most curious thing is that in his muddled verbiage Lockhart actually makes several attacks upon Scott which his own biographical records are sufficient to refute about a hundred times over.

        "I dare not deny," he says, " that he set more of his affections, during the great part of his life, upon worldly things, wealth among others, than might have become such an intellect." But we are not to blame Scott for this (alleged) weakness overmuch, because of the influences (whatever they were) to which he was exposed in the 'plastic period'. If we were to tabulate and believe, all the 'influences' to which Lockhart attributes Scott's actions from youth to age, we might decide that he had no more individuality than a composite photograph.

        If Scott were really one who cared over-greatly for 'worldly ' wealth, his biographer should say so plainly, without equivocation, or twaddle about plastic periods. And having said so, he should not go on to assert that he valued wealth mainly as a means to helping others; and rank far more than wealth; and rank so little that he took so little interest in it apart from the pleasure or advantage it gave to other members of his family, that he accepted a title for 'the pleasure which his wife took, and gaily acknowledged that she took, in being My Lady', and refused a Privy Councillorship, because he did not care for a title which was merely personal to himself. It is logically possible for Lockharts first assertion to be true or for there to be truth in those that follow, but they are mutually destructive.

        The assertion that Scott at any period of his life, however plastic, cared over-much for money, even though it be made (and then elaborately denied) by his own son-in-law scarcely merits reply. As Scott himself suggested in his letter to Lord Byron, the conduct of his life makes refutation too easy.

        "The circumstances of the King's visit in 1822," Lockhart observes, at the commencement of his final and most fatuous paragraph on this subject ,"and others already noted, leave no doubt that imagination enlarged and glorified for him many objects to which it is very difficult for ordinary men in our generation to attach much importance; and perhaps he was more apt to attach importance to such things, during, the prosperous course of his own fortunes, than even a liberal consideration of circumstances can altogether excuse. To myself it seems to have been so; yet I do not think the severe critics on this part of his story have kept quite sufficiently in mind how easy it is for us all to undervalue any species of temptation to which have not happened to be exposed."

        Lockhart's real grievance concerning this episode of the King's visit appears to have been that, being a Lowland Scot, he thought the Highlanders, by Scott's decision, were too prominent in the processions. That Scott's use of his 'fat friend', George IV, as an instrument to reconcile not only English and Scottish differences, but many latent internal animosities, was an act of bold political wisdom which only he would have had the audacity to conceive, and the personal influence, energy and courage to carry through to success, Lockhart scarcely seems to have understood.


        It may be remembered that, in Scott's correspondence with Daniel Terry, earlier in the year, he had alluded to a prevalent wave of speculation in business circles as a 'mania' into which he had only ventured with a sober moderation.

        It was in fact, a post-war boom, such as was experienced a century later, which ended in a similar depression, though the catastrophe was, for a time, more stoutly resisted, and was far more disastrous when it came, for reasons which do not concern us except so far as they are necessary to elucidate the events with which we are dealing. There was, at this period, no law of limited liability, such as prevails today, and which, apart from speculations on margins (which are gambling, transactions disconnected with legitimate business) enables even the largest of commercial vessels to founder with no more than a distributed loss, such as may not involve a single shareholder in financial ruin. Such vessels may founder with far less effort to save them than would be made if every shareholder, however small, were responsible for their debts to the limit of his own possessions, and to the risk of a personal bankruptcy. Indeed, the shareholders who would then have been making frantic efforts to keep them afloat, may now send them under with a parting kick. The idea of the limitation of joint-stock liability grew out of the disasters of the decade with which we are dealing, but the rope it threw was of no benefit to those who were drowned already.

        Having assured themselves and each other that the world had entered upon an era of automatic and ever-increasing prosperity, men made investments under conditions of unlimited liability which seem to us fantastic in their disproportionate hazards, even though we make allowance for the fact that the larger measure of individual freedom which prevailed in Britain a century ago bred a bolder and more adventurous population. But their actions were of the nature of an infectious insanity, and the risks taken may not have been more reckless, and miscalculations no greater, than were those that built up the stock-exchange boom in the United States a few years ago.

        But the fact of this unlimited liability of every stockholder, and the prevalence of the system of bill-finance, which bound people together in another way, deferred and aggravated the catastrophe, until the position of the great banks themselves became precarious, and they must destroy their customers as they struggled desperately for their own survival. . . .

        Immediately on the conclusion of his Irish holiday, Lockhart left for London on personal business, and found himself surrounded there with a restless talk of commercial disaster that he says frankly he was not competent to understand. He was a lawyer by training, and then a journalist by profession. Lawyers deal with, and are amongst the first to hear of financial difficulties: journalists hear and talk of the affairs of publishing houses, with which they have many associations. It was not wonderful that Lockhart heard gossip around him which he understood sufficiently to disturb his mind. It was said that several publishing houses were on the verge of failure. There were rumours even about the great firm of Hurst, Robinson & Co. Lockhart knew of them as being Constable's London agents, and the distributors of the Waverley novels. He wondered how much loss it would mean to Constable if they should go down. When he heard Constable's name also mentioned as one who was swimming against the current, he considered that his failure might cause Scott to lose the price of a novel (his thoughts did not go beyond that), and he very properly wrote to Sir Walter with a report of the rumours that had reached his ears.

        He received a confident letter in reply. Constable was 'rooted as well as branched, like the oak'. Let who would fall in London, Edinburgh had nothing to fear. Lockhart read, and dismissed the matter with an easy mind.

        If Scott had communicated these rumours, and if he had received bold assurances from the publisher which went somewhat beyond his real feelings, we must not blame Constable without reservation. It is said that a pack of hungry wolves will devour one of their number which is maimed or wounded. Commercial custom was of a similar standard. Even today, we do not provide a hospital, or even a system of first-aid, for a business in difficulties. There is only the wasteful slaughterhouse of the Official Receiver. To show a wound, in the conditions that prevailed in the autumn of 1825, was to ask to be torn to pieces immediately. Constable said stoutly that all was well with him though all London should fail. Scott wrote in the same tone. Doubtless Lockhart repeated the thing he read. Adverse rumours would be somewhat discounted in consequence, somewhat reduced. . . .

        But Lockhart had not been long back at Chiefswood when he had a letter from a barrister friend in Lincoln's Inn, Mr. William Wright, who was a friend of Constable also. He said it was reported in London that Constable's banker had 'thrown up his book' .

        The rumour, if true, would be of an uncertain gravity. The relations between banker and customer were rather different in several ways a century ago from what they are now. They were usually more personal in character. There were actually some country bankers who never dishonoured a cheque. They might close the account of an unsatisfactory customer, but so long as they were his agents, his honour was theirs. Such bankers accepted customers with discretion, and the mere fact of having an account with them was a substantial reference.

        The large London and Edinburgh banks were not so widely different in their practices from the Joint-stock banks of today, but Constable's account was a large and valuable one, which no bank would lightly lose. On the other hand, no bank would have been likely to retain his custom without giving substantial discount facilities, even if there were no unsecured overdraft. If he had been asked to remove his account, it might be a disastrous sign. If, on the other hand, it were the case of a man conscious of his own strength resenting some lack of accommodation in the assurance that other bankers would give him more generous treatment, it might be of a different significance.

        It was five in the afternoon when Lockhart read the letter. He rightly thought that it was a report of which Scott ought to know. He got out his horse at once, and rode over to Abbotsford.

        He found Sir Walter taking his ease before dinner. His day's work was done. There had been a time when, having finished writing before this hour, he would have been toiling among the masons at the building of the house where he now sat, enjoying a weak glass of whisky and water, and a cigar, of which he had recently taken to smoking rather too many. He was at ease with himself and the world. Since he came back from Ireland, and had heard how well the Talisman was selling, he had decided on alternating the Napoleon with work on another novel. He liked best to have two books on hand together in that way. He could always turn aside to the other, if imagination tired of the one, or material halted. He had commenced Woodstock of which he thought he could make a good thing. Constable, impressed by the Talisman sales, had been very willing to contract for it, though he had said prudently that they would agree for this book alone. He would not again risk contracting for several novels ahead, and incurring further liabilities on long-dated bills.

        Scott felt that he might have been unjust to his own powers when he told Tom Moore, a few weeks ago, "they have been a mine of wealth to me but I find I fail in them now. I can no longer make them so good as at first". After all, he was not dead yet.

        And though he might not work with the masons now, he could still use an axe with ease, as Tom Purdie observed when they went out together. For the plantations grew, and there was much thinning to be done, and Sir Walter would do his share with the axe, or a bit more. He might find a need to lean on Tom's shoulder at times, if he should walk far, but there was no weakness in his arms when the axe swung. If he dozed now before dinner, after that afternoon's walk, few men had a better right.

        He roused himself when Lockhart was announced, and took Mr. Wright's letter to read. Lockhart watching his face, saw no sign that he was disturbed.

        He handed back the letter with his usual look of tranquil good-humour. He said he had no doubt the report was false. If Constable's account were to be had, there would be a pretty decent scramble among the London bankers to get it. He went on placidly with his cigar.

        Lockhart rode back to Chiefswood with a relieved mind. Sir Walter sat thinking quietly while the sound of the horse-hooves died on the road. Then he got up. He told Charlotte that, he thought he would go over to see Constable. There was a matter of business he would like to talk over with him. Peter had better get out the carriage. He drove to Poulton without stopping, and got there just as Constable was going to bed.

        The next morning, before Lockhart was up, he heard the sound of wheels, and looked out of his window to see a carriage below, with Peter Mathieson on the box. Scott descended, yawning, having waked when the carriage stopped. He went to join his grandson, who was feeding the ducks on the stream. It appears that Lockhart's family got up earlier than he. Lockhart talks about a 'fleet of ducklings on the brook,' but as it was October we may be content to conclude that he did not take much interest in domestic poultry. It is such little slips that are frequent with Scott's biographer, and make it difficult to give faith to his circumstantial narratives. He was a journalist, rather than a deliberate liar; but the practical difference is not great.

        Scott told Sophia that he would stay for breakfast. He seemed in good spirits, though tired. When his son-in-law appeared he told him frankly that he had been more disturbed by Mr. Wright's letter than he had been disposed to reveal. He had gone to see Constable at once, and an hour's conference with him had re-assured his mind. Constable had been definite that the report concerning his bankers was false (as, in fact, it was). Scott would prefer that nothing should be said at Abbotsford about this. He had not told Lady Scott or Anne of the reason for his sudden visit to Poulton.

        After that there was a merry breakfast, and then Scott, who had told Peter not to wait for him, walked home through the woods, with Lockhart for company, and leaning on his shoulder, which he seldom did at this time with anyone other than Tom Purdie, but this morning he was in an exceptionally happy and affectionate mood.

        Lockhart went back to talk to his wife. It was evident to both of them that her father must have been very much disturbed by the idea that Constable might be in financial difficulties. Sophia suggested that such an event might have very serious consequences for Mr. Ballantyne. She thought that such circumstances would trouble her father almost as much as though the loss were personal to himself. They agreed that this was a likely explanation. Lockhart says: "we well knew that James was his confidential critic - his trusted and trustworthy friend from boyhood." That is the actual statement of a man who was building up an elaborate structure of needless falsehood on the basis of his emphatic assertion that James was not trustworthy, and had never been so. He writes so randomly that he sometimes tempts us to wonder whether he was quite sane. He adds this:

        "But that Sir Walter was, and had all along been James's partner in the great printing concern, neither I, nor I believe, any member of his family, had entertained the slightest suspicion prior to the coming calamities which were now 'casting their shadows before '."

        We may accept Lockhart's assurance that neither he nor Sophia were aware of the partnership at this time, but, beyond that, the statement is palpably false. There are few things more certain than that Charlotte had been in her husband's confidence from the first. It would be easy to demonstrate that the partnership must have been known to dozens of people (probably hundreds) at this time; and that some of them had known it for many years. Such a secret (even if it were desired to keep it as such, of which there is not a single item of evidence! is no secret at all.

        That Sophia was not aware of it proves nothing. She had been five years old when the partnership was commenced. What interest at any time, is she known or likely to have taken in her father's business affairs? Still less does it prove anything that Scott had not felt it necessary or had occasion to mention it to his son-in-law. Lockhart was not a man with whom any intelligent person would go into counsel on business matters. And Scott was not a man who chattered about himself or his affairs. His letters show that he was not reticent, in the sense of concealment, about his financial circumstances. He wrote to several people, and under various conditions, with a frank precision. But his letters are mainly occupied with abstract interests, or the affairs of those to whom he wrote; and there is much evidence that his conversation was of the same pattern.

        We may accept as an unsurprising fact, that, in October 1825, Lockhart and his wife did not know that her father was a partner in the firm of James Ballantyne & Co., and on this slender basis has been built up one of the great myths of biography.

        Scott was also Ballantyne's partner in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal. Lockhart happened to know this, because he had been incidentally present at a conversation between them which had disclosed it, neither making any pretence of secrecy. But for this accidental circumstance, he would have been ignorant of that also and been able to provide us with an additional mystery.


        It was in November 1825 that Sir Walter procured a thick quarto vellum-bound book, with a good lock, and commenced the habit of keeping, a daily journal. To anyone who did as much desk-work as he, and wrote with such swift precision, it was no great task to make entries in such a book either long or short as time and inclination led, sometimes two or three times a day, and continuing, with some considerable gaps, as long as he had strength to hold a pen, and sight to guide it.

        The thousand pages of the book became, from this date the most reliable guide to the events that follow, and any other biography must be of a supplementary and explanatory kind. He commenced this Journal with a resolution, to which he adhered, not to alter or erase anything which he might enter, in whatever mood, or however it might be falsified by succeeding circumstance. It is here only, apart from two or three dozen lines in his poems, two or three paragraphs in his novels, and occasional passages in private correspondence, that he partially overcomes an habitual reticence, and reveals himself in his own words. It is one of the few books of its kind which are worth reading.

        At the time when he made the first entry - November 20th - he held a position such as few men have ever reached. He had one of the greatest fames that have ever come to a man during his own life, and it had come in a good way, without violence or crime, or the ruin of others; it was a fame that was sustained without anxiety, and provoked no foes. He had joy in his work, which was done with ease, so that he had much leisure in later hours for the outdoor occupations he loved, and for social intercourse. He had domestic happiness, such as comes to few who give themselves to the winning of the world's more glittering rewards. He may not have had great wealth, to which he would have attached no value, but he had found that money came to his call with a magic ease, and he had used it to gain control of the land he loved, and very freely for the help of others in a hundred needs. Publicly and privately, there can have been few men in the world's history who, in their own life-times, have been more honoured or better loved. It might seem that there was nothing more than either Earth or Heaven could give. Was it wonderful if he faced life, as Job had faced it in his prosperity, with an aspect of courage, and a confident faith.

        Who could have guessed that he was on the threshold of the moment when everything but his own fortitude would be swept away?

        At this moment, he was saddened only by one change, which had no aspect of disaster. Chiefswood was emptying. Lockhart was going to London, with Sophia and his family - going permanently, to take up the editing of the Quarterly Review, left vacant by Gifford's death. It was a reward, in part, of Lockhart's own ability, in part of Scott's exertions on his behalf. It had not been easy to arrange. Lockhart's unscrupulous uses of his pen in the earlier Blackwood days were remembered against him. He was better adapted to be an editor than a novelist, at which he had made several unsuccessful attempts. He reverenced grammar. But that he would never have had this position had he not been Scott's son-in-law, is a certain thing. The idea seems to have originated with Canning, either before or during the meeting at Storrs, when he questioned Anne about her brother-in-law's opinions and qualifications. Murray gave Lockhart a contract for the position when he saw him in London, and then, when protests came from members of the Government and others about the reputed character of the new editor, he sent Benjamin D'Israeli to Edinburgh to ask Scott's assistance in smoothing the difficulty. D'Israeli saw Lockhart, and talked of the matter as still in suspense. Scott was roused on his son-in-law's behalf. He wrote Murray with some stiffness, in his legal vein. Murray replied in haste that D'Israeli should have gone direct to him, and not to Lockhart at all. All that were needed were confidential letters from Scott to endorse the opinion that Lockhart was the right man. So a letter went to Southey and another to Heber, and the storm fell. It meant a salary of £1,200, and extra payment for special articles. If Lockhart could hold the appointment successfully (as he did) he had a life-provision from the magazine which Scott had done so much to found.

        There was no disaster in that, but the days when Scott would ride through the woods to escape from the crowded hospitalities of Abbotsford to the quietness of that little upstair room, where he could work in peace till Sophia would give him breakfast or lunch, and he would relax to talk and games with Johnnie Hugh, were over for ever.

        Two days later there was a letter from Constable, and the shadow of financial ruin fell definitely across his path. He did not write as he had spoken a few weeks earlier, when he had given assurance that all was well. He said that Hurst, Robinson & Co., were in financial difficulties, and it was essential to give them support, for he would be ruined if they should fail. He would be coming tomorrow to discuss what could be done. That day Scott entered in his Journal:

        "Here is a matter for a May morning, but much fitter for a November one. The general distress in the city has affected H. & R., Constable's great agents. Should they go, it is not likely that Constable can stand, and such an event would lead to great distress and perplexity on the part of J. B. and myself. Thank God, I have enough at least to pay 20/- in the pound, taking matters at the very worst. But much distress and inconvenience must be the consequence. I had a lesson in 1814 which should have done good upon me, but success and abundance erased it from my mind. But this is no time for journalising or moralising either. . . . If Woodstock can be out by 25th January it will do much and it is possible. . . "

        Having made that entry, his mind left his personal concerns very easily; he went on to write of other persons and other things. And then he remembered that he had an engagement to dine with David Boyle in Charlotte Square, and went there to discover that he had made a mistake of memory - the engagement was for the next week - and returned "well pleased, not being exactly in the humour for company, and had a beef-steak ".

        The next day Constable came. His partner, Robert Cadell, was with him, and James Ballantyne, and they were anxious men. But Constable was of a resolute mind to meet a crisis which he did not minimise, and confident that it would be overcome.

        For some time past, Constable explained, Hurst, Robinson & Co., had been placing him in a serious financial difficulty. Owing to causes which they had, at first, represented as quite temporary, they had been renewing, instead of meeting their bills, so that the total had grown. The bulk of the proceeds of the Waverley novels passed through their hands. They also owed him large sums in respect of other publications. He always gave them a very large credit. Their name was good, and he could discount their bills for very large amounts. But those amounts were not unlimited. Every new transaction meant further bills being issued, and their discountable value depended upon some of the older ones being paid off.

        There had come a time when Constable had said that he could not renew further. He could not digest bills to a larger total. Some of those that would soon be falling due must be met without renewal. Then let him help to tide them over the emergency with accommodation bills. If they had some with his name upon them, they would find means to raise the money on such documents, and their floating bills to him would be reduced accordingly.

        Constable might not have liked to do this, but what alternative had he, except immediate ruin? The complicated structure of bills payable and receivable by which his business was carried on had always been a subject of watchfulness and anxiety, but, so far, he had ridden and controlled it successfully. Since Hurst, Robinson & Co., had been taking these continually extending credits, it had become like a nightmare dream. Yet, even so, he felt strong enough to handle it successfully, providing that Hurst, Robinson & Co. should maintain their credit with the banking world. But if that should fail - it had been easy to go cold at the thought.

        He had seen that the bills for which they asked must be given. Into whatever depth of difficulty the great firm might be slipping, he must pull with all his weight upon a rope which he could not cut. He had given the bills.

        But now it had gone further than that. A time had come when bills were of no avail. Both they and he had exhausted their discounting facilities. Their credit shook. They had written to him that there were large obligations approaching which they must have help to meet, not in bills but in cash.

        It was the kind of conference which was being held in business circles in every commercial quarter. Failure followed failure. About three weeks later, one of the great London banks itself would collapse in ruin.

        What was to be done? Constable was in no doubt about that. Hurst & Robinson must be supported at any cost. He had already raised a large sum, which was on its way to London now. If Scott would take the same view, all might yet be well. It was not of Scott's nature, nor is it clear that it would have been wiser on the knowledge that they then had, to take a different attitude. When the conference broke up, he wrote in his Journal:

        "Constable has been here, as lame as a duck on his legs, but his heart and courage as firm as a cock. He has convinced me we will do well to support the London House. He has sent them about £5,000, and proposed we should borrow on our joint security £5,000 for their accommodation. J. B. and R. Cadell present. I must be guided by them and hope for the best. Certainly to part company would be to incur an awful risk."

        Why should it have been an awful risk to part company? The answer requires some examination into the affairs of the printing business, which would be a shorter and simpler matter if Lockhart had not obscured it with a flood of voluble explanations of which some are mere nonsense, and others deserve no worse criticism than to observe that they are untrue. Let him speak for himself first.

        It will he remembered that Lockhart charged James Ballantyne with recklessly extravagant drawings from the first partnership business, prior to the time when John was employed upon its accounts. He does not make that specific allegation in this place but charges James with negligence in more general terms, from which cause he suggests that the business had been in continual financial difficulty from its earlier days. He goes on:

        "the necessity of providing some remedy for this radical disorder must very soon have forced itself upon the conviction of all concerned, had not John introduced his fatal enlightenment on the subject of facilitating discounts, and raising cash by means of accommodation-bills. Hence the perplexed states and calendars - the wilderness and labyrinths of ciphers, through which no eye but that of a professed accountant could have detected any clue; hence the accumulation of bills and counter-bills drawn by both bookselling and printing-house and gradually so mixed up with other obligations, that John died in utter ignorance of the condition of their affairs. The pecuniary detail then devolved upon James; and I fancy it will be only too apparent that he never made even one serious effort to master the formidable array of figures thus committed to his sole trust.

        "The reader has been enabled to trace from its beginning the connection between Constable and the two Ballantyne firms. It has been seen how much they both owed to his interference on various occasions of pressure and alarm. But when he, in his overweening self-sufficiency, thought it involved no mighty hazard to indulge his better feelings, as well as his lordly vanity, in shielding these firms from commercial dishonour, he had estimated but loosely the demands of the career of speculation on which he was himself entering. And, by and by, when advancing by one mighty plunge after another in that vast field, he felt in his own person the threatenings of more signal ruin than could have befallen them, this "Napoleon of the press" - still as of old buoyed up to the ultimate result of his grand operations by the most fulsome flatteries of imagination - appears to have tossed aside very summarily all scruples about the extent to which he might be entitled to tax their sustaining credit in requital. The Ballantynes, if they had comprehended all the bearings of the case, were not the men to consider grudgingly demands of this nature, founded on service so important; and who can doubt that Scott viewed them from a chivalrous attitude? It is easy to see, that the moment the obligations became reciprocal, there arose extreme peril of their coming to be hopelessly complicated. It is equally clear, that Scott ought to have applied on these affairs, as their complication thickened, the acumen which he exerted and rather prided himself in exerting, on smaller points of worldly business, to the utmost. That he did not, I must always regard as the enigma of his personal history. But various incidents in that history which I have already narrated, prove incontestably that he had never done so; and I am unable to account for this having been the case except on the supposition that his confidence in the resources of Constable and the prudence of James Ballantyne was so entire, that he willingly absolved himself from all duty of active and thorough going superinspection.

        "It is the extent to which the confusion had gone that constitutes the great puzzle. I have been told that John Ballantyne, in his hey-day, might be heard whistling for his clerk, John Stevenson (often alluded to in Scott's correspondence as True Jock) from the sanctum behind the shop with, "Jock, you lubber, fetch ben a sheaf o' stamps". Such things might well enough be believed of that hare-brained creature; but how sober solemn James could have made up his mind, as he must have done, to follow much the same wild course whenever any pinch occurred, is to me, I must own incomprehensible. The books were kept at the printing-house; and of course Sir Walter (who alone in fact had capital at stake) might have there examined them as often as he liked; but it is to me very doubtful if he ever once attempted to do so; and it is certain that they were never balanced during the latter years of the connection. During several years it was almost daily my custom to walk home with Sir Walter from the Parliament-House, calling at James's on our way. For the most part I used to amuse myself with a newspaper or proof-sheet in the outer room, while they were closeted in the little cabinet at the corner; and merry were the tones that reached my ear while they remained in colloquy. If I were called in, it was because James, in his ecstasy, must have another to enjoy the dialogue that his friend was improvising - between Meg Dods and Captain MacTurk, for example, or Peter Peebles and his counsel.

        The reader may perhaps remember a page in a former chapter where I described Scott as riding with Johnny Ballantyne and myself round the deserted halls of the ancient family of Riddell, and remarking how much it increased the wonder of their ruin that the late baronet had kept 'day-book and ledger as regularly as any cheese monger in the Grassmarket'. It is nevertheless true, that Sir Walter kept from first to last as accurate account of his own personal expenditure as Sir John Riddell could have done of his extravagant outlay on agricultural experiments. I could, I believe, place before my reader the sum-total of six-pences that it had cost him to ride through turnpike-gates during a period of thirty years. This was, of course, an early habit mechanically adhered to: but how strange that the man who could persist, however mechanically, in noting down every shilling that he actually drew from his purse, should have allowed others to pledge his credits year after year, upon sheafs of accommodation paper, without keeping any efficient watch - without knowing, any one Christmas, for how many thousands he was responsible as a printer in the Cannongate!

        This is sufficiently astonishing - and had this been all, the result must sooner or later have been sufficiently uncomfortable; but it must be admitted that Scott could never have foreseen a step which Constable took in the frenzied excitement of his day of pecuniary alarm. Owing to the original habitual irregularities of John Ballantyne, it had been adopted as the regular plan between that person and Constable, that, whenever the latter signed a bill for the purpose of the other's raising money among the bankers, there should, in the case of his neglecting to take that bill up before it fell due, be deposited a counter-bill, signed by Ballantyne, on which Constable might, if need were, raise a sum equivalent to that for which he had pledged his credit. I am told that this is an usual enough course of procedure among speculative merchants; and it may be so. But mark the issue. The plan went on under James's management, just as John had begun it. Under his management also - such was the incredible looseness of it - the counter bills, meant only for being sent into the market in the event of the primary bills being threatened with dishonour - these instruments of safeguard for Constable against contingent danger were allowed to lie uninquired about in Constable's desk, until they had swelled to a truly monstrous 'sheaf of stamps'. - Constable's hour of distress darkened about him, and he rushed with these to the money-changers. And thus it came to pass, that, supposing Ballantyne & Co. to have at the day of reckoning obligations against them, in consequence of bill transactions with Constable, to the extent of £25,000, they were legally responsible for £50,000.

        It is not my business to attempt any detailed history of the house of Constable. The sanguine man had, almost at the outset of his career, 'been lifted off his feet', in Burns's phrase, by the sudden and unparalleled success of the Edinburgh Review. Scott's poetry and Scott's novels followed: had he confined himself to those three great and triumphant undertakings, he must have died in possession of a princely fortune. But his 'appetite grew with what it fed on', and a long series of less meritorious publications, pushed on, one after the other, in the craziest rapidity, swallowed up the gains which, however vast, he never counted, and therefore always exaggerated to himself. Finally what he had been to the Ballantynes, certain other still more audacious 'Sheafmen' had been to him. Hurst, Robinson & Co. had long been his London correspondents: and he had carried on with them the same traffic in bills and counter-bills that the Canongate Company did with him - and upon a still larger scale. They had done what he did not - or at least did not to any culpable extent: they had carried their adventures out of the line of their own business. It was they, for example, that must needs be embarking such vast sums in a speculation on hops! When ruin threatened them, they availed themselves of Constable's credit without stint or limit - while he, feeling darkly that the net was around him, struggled and splashed for relief, no matter who might suffer so he escaped! And Sir Walter Scott, sorely as he suffered, was too plainly conscious of the 'strong tricks' he had allowed his own imagination to play, not to make merciful allowance for all the apparently monstrous things that I have now been narrating of Constable."

        It may occur to anyone on reading these explanations that they are rather more numerous than the occasion requires. It may be considered also that if they were substantially true it would have been more probable, at this period of financial panic, that the improvident firms of Ballantyne and Constable would have been appealing to Hurst, Robinson & Co. for assistance rather than dispatching money to London, in such sums as we have seen already, to assist their agents more urgent need. But the picture which Lockhart gives, though radically misleading, and in the idea of Sir Walter's negligence definitely false, contains the proportion of truth which makes a lie most poisonous, and cannot therefore be passed without some consideration.

        The anecdote about Jock and the 'sheaf of stamps' may be dismissed as nonsense. To finance a business by means of the discounting of bills is only possible by careful forethought and exact accounting. It is an anxious process at the best, and there is sufficient evidence that John Ballantyne felt it to be so. No-one could have gone through his experiences with the publishing business, and continued to regard such obligations with levity, if he had been sufficiently foolish at any time, which is improbable.

        The allegation that John 'introduced this fatal entanglement' might or might not be a serious one, but it would be waste of space to discuss it, for it is untrue. The system of raising capital by means of bill-discounting was used by James Ballantyne & Co. before John came to Edinburgh.

        The various aspersions upon Constable's character and business capacity may contain a percentage of truth, but are very randomly expressed, and cannot be regarded as a judicial pronouncement. The earlier transactions between Constable and the Ballantyne firm have been sufficiently explained to show that they were founded on business considerations and mutual interests, and though his better feelings may have also been exercised there is no occasion to talk about 'lordly vanity' or 'over-weening self-sufficiency' in this connection.

        He did all that he undertook at those times, and neither vanity or folly can properly be charged against him.

        The tale about Constable's misuse of 'counter-bills' may also be dismissed as a groundless slander. The James Ballantyne Trustees gave it the lie direct. They said that no such bills were ever left in Constable's hands, and that this lurid statement is imagination on the part of Scott's biographer. Their testimony is not always reliable, but they had no particular reason for defending Constable, or denying the tale, if it were true. Beyond that, it contains a number of improbabilities. Bills have dates. Even if such a pile of accumulated documents were still current, they would be so drawn that they would be very quickly due, if they were not so already - unless they had been deposited in blank, which is a wildly unlikely thing. To discount bills which will fall due almost immediately, and for which the acceptors do not expect to have to provide, is about as short a cut to his own ruin as a man can take. Also, had it been possible to save the position by means of such discounting, it is certain that Constable would have asked for the assistance they offered, and almost certain that it would have been given in documents more appropriate than these old alleged ones would have been likely to be.

        Finally, no such explanation is needed. Accommodation bills provide, in the first instance, capital for both of those who exchange them. The natural result is that either becomes liable for twice the amount he receives. That is a position which results automatically, and is probably all the leaven of fact that Lockhart's assertion contains.

        If these things be false, what remains? To answer this question it is necessary to clear away another misstatement. - That Scott really left anyone to pledge his credit year after year, upon sheafs of accommodation paper, without keeping any efficient watch, or knowing for how many thousands he was responsible in the Canongate business. It may be held to increase the extent of Scott's responsibility for the position in which he stood, and it certainly alters its character from that in which Lockhart attempts to dress it, but we are concerned only with the truth. Scott knew, from month to month, all about the liabilities of the printing-business, and Lockhart was well aware of this when he wrote these mendacious paragraphs. There was a certain book, bound in red morocco, which at this time, and for many previous years, had been sent to Scott every month, and which would contain a list of all the bills and other obligations, including estimates of the wages for which provision must be made during the coming month, together with estimates of the resources which would be available. This book had certainly been in regular use during John's lifetime, and it is extremely probable that the system had been instituted by Scott after he found that he had not been promptly and fully informed of the difficulties of the publishing business, and to prevent the possibility of the recurrence of such a position.

        Challenged on this point, Lockhart admitted that he was familiar with the book, but he declined to withdraw his assertion of Scott's ignorance of the finances of the Ballantyne business. He said that the book was not a 'private' one of Sir Walter's, because the Jock of whom we have heard used to take it backwards and forwards between Abbotsford and the printing-office, and that he had examined it without finding that it contained anything in Scott's writing.

        The first of these statements is important, because it supplies additional evidence of how little secrecy there was regarding Scott's interest in - and, indeed, control of - the printing business, but otherwise they are no more than the futile wrigglings of a convicted liar.

        Strong as is the evidence of this book, it is only complementary to that of Scott's own letters to James, for he did not merely give a casual or doubtful attention; he used to write his detailed instructions as to the financial dispositions required by the obligations which it disclosed.

        The first transaction with Constable of considerable magnitude of which there is a detailed record, and which was purely of an accommodation character, occurred early in July 1819. It will be remembered that Scott had been suffering from severe illness during the earlier part of that year, which reached a crisis in June, at which period his friends hardly expected his recovery, and there were times when he himself lost hope, if not courage, in the extremities of weakness and pain.

        On July 5th of that year James Ballantyne & Co. handed Constable & Co. a series of bills totalling £3,160, and received a series from them differing in amounts and dates, but of an exactly similar total.

        Such a transaction might be primarily for the accommodation of either party, but, in such a case, it was usual for the one that sought the assistance to give bills for a slightly larger amount, as payment for the risk taken and the trouble involved. The fact that the bills were for an exactly similar total, and other circumstances of the transaction, suggest that it was a mutual convenience, and that both firms were in need of additional capital, or of paying off similar obligations previously incurred, for which they hoped to provide by this means.

        It might be supposed that, Scott being as ill as he was, this transaction was arranged by John and James, whether legitimately or not, without Scott's knowledge, or, at least, without his active participation. But the fact is that it was done with his full knowledge, and, though he had been too ill to leave his room a fortnight before, he appears to have been in firm control of the major operations involved.

        On July 26th he received from James a long and detailed report of the obligations of the coming month, with a suggested scheme for financing them. He replied in equal detail, giving an amended scheme, with an alternative variation due to the fact that he thought James had overlooked a bill 'Veitch £1,000' for which provision should be made during August.

        He also declined to allow the renewal of a bill of Constable's for £423, which he detected among the list, or of two for £424 and £425 during the following months, which related to that final purchase of stock in 1817, and which had been renewed up to this date.

        His letter on this point is sufficiently characteristic to deserve quotation. He thought that James was ignorant of, or had forgotten, what these bills originally represented, and that Constable's office was taking advantage of his oversight. Under such circumstances he had a habit of using plain words. He says:

        "Constable's people ought not to have asked for a renewal of this bill: it was a catch at your ignorance of the transaction."

And he enclosed a letter which could be shown to them, on the point. In regard to the two further bills for £424 and £425, he wrote:

        "The two bills were renewed in April last when they were beyond credit, and when, by-the-by, I paid the discount, which is still due to me by Messrs. Constable. You will not, therefore, renew either of these bills. But if Messrs. Constable want any accommodation of the same kind which they very frankly grant us, you will of course be ready to oblige them. But to discount their bills and get them the money, having so much of their paper, cannot be expected. I request you to lose no time in explaining this, in case Messrs. Constable should be relying on this, which, however, ought not to be the case, John's explanation having been explicit."

        This letter is typical of the business attitude which Scott usually displayed in his letters. It is firm in resisting any attempt to gain advantage by manoeuvre, and chivalrous in its deliberate generosities. Other letters of later dates might be quoted in equal illustration of the control which Scott exercised over these financial transactions, but this is of particular importance, because it shows not only that the system of mutual accommodation was in operation as early as 1819, but that Scott considered that there was an obligation of honour to oblige Constable in that way if a request should be made. It is, indeed, an explicit instruction to his manager (as James then was) to be ready to do so if requested.

        It is obvious, from a letter written to James from Abbotsford a week later, that there was more difficulty than had been anticipated in distributing this £3,160 of bills in such a way that the full benefit could be obtained, and that, till Ivanhoe should materialise, it was essential to do so. And it appears that this difficulty had in some way obstructed the purchase of the paper for Ivanhoe, and that the printing of the opening chapters had been delayed in consequence, for Scott wrote:

"August 2, 1819.

Dear James,

        I observe your unpleasant dilemma, out of which I trust to help you. It is indeed at the unpleasant alternative of anticipating funds designed for the end of the month and the beginning of next; but the thing cannot be helped. What is perhaps worst of all is the delay of the paper for Ivanhoe - had I known of it! - but this avails little now.

        Upon receiving this, you will restore to Mr. Constable the bills which you find difficulty in discounting. I will draw on him for £450, which I am pretty sure to get at Galashiels, and for £350, which I trust to get at Jedburgh. The former sum I trust to send you by Monday's post."

        He added that Cowan (a paper merchant) must renew under the circumstances a bill for £220 which he had previously put on the list to be met, but that Cowan's accounts 'have been so regularly paid that he cannot refuse us such an accommodation'. It must stand till Ivanhoe could be got out, for which, "But for that blasted blunder about the paper, two months would be sufficient". (The estimate was too sanguine. Ivanhoe was not published until December 18th, and the delay of the paper in July can have had little, if any, influence upon that date.)

        Scott did, in fact, discount the two substitution bills which he drew upon Constable at Galashiels and Jedburgh, and sent James the money.

        It is clear from this correspondence (and other similar evidence might be detailed) that Scott controlled the major operations of the printing business. It is clear, also, that the proceeds of this £3,160 of accommodation bills was required, not for his personal use, but entirely for business purposes.

        It may be observed that by this means the two firms obtained banking accommodation to a total of over £6,000, which would have been refused to either separately. The money was not required to fill a hole, but for the legitimate financing of two prosperous and expanding businesses. Otherwise the banks would not have found it at all. Our present system of financing by permanent limited-liability investments is much better, but we must not therefore condemn too readily the adoption of the methods of finance which were then available.

        It may be further observed that, from the time when Scott took control of the finances, and had these estimates of the requirements of the coming month supplied to him, the credit of James Ballantyne & Co. was steadily maintained. Whatever might be the amount of its floating acceptances, they were always paid at maturity, and at this crisis of the affairs of the London firm (which collected the proceeds of the Waverley novels and Constable's other publications from the English trade, and from which source the main supplies of money should come) the credit of James Ballantyne & Co. was unshaken, and would have been maintained without difficulty, even in this world-wide crisis, had the business of Hurst, Robinson & Co. been controlled by a similar standard of prudence.

        The fact that Scott kept in touch through all stresses of other work, and absences which were sometimes prolonged, with the major financial operations of the firm, does not, of course, imply that he was familiar with all its details, or that James might not have damaged it by negligence, or weakened it by extravagant drawings, though it does place some limit upon the amount which he was likely to be able to appropriate without explanation being required.

        The fact that Scott had a habit, over many years, of treating the firm somewhat as his private bank, and referring his house hold tradesmen to it for payment, does admit of the allegation that he drew heavily - even too heavily - from it, but this remains an assertion without proof, and if it were really the case, and if James was unable to prove it, his own negligent bookkeeping is a matter for which no-one but himself can be blamed.

        As to the fact of Scott drawing on the business in this way, there is no doubt, and though Lockhart does not disclose it in his first biography, he did not dispute it, for it would have been impossible to do so.

        As far back as 1820 there was a mercer in Edinburgh, a Mr. Blackwood, to whom Scott addressed this letter:

"October, 15, 1820.


        You will find beneath an order upon Mr. James Ballantyne to settle your account by payment or acceptance, which will be the same as if I did it myself. I could wish to be furnished with these bills before they exceed £50, for your convenience, as well as mine.

Your obedient servant,

Walter Scott."

        The account to which this letter related had amounted to £218 before it was sent in, and this is not the only letter which shows that Scott liked his private accounts to be promptly rendered, and to give them a speedy settlement.

        Approaching the period with which we are now concerned, we find that when the time arrived in 1825 at which the Scotts usually left Edinburgh for the summer vacation there was an accumulation of personal and household accounts incurred during the season, which Sir Walter wished to clear up before leaving. It appears evident that there was a difficulty in dealing with these, which arose from the fact that Constable was already straining the resources of the firm, by renewing bills rather than paying them - an inevitable result of the strain which Hurst, Robinson were putting upon him, which, so far, he had not disclosed.

        It appears that Scott told James that he would be sending him a large batch of accounts for payment, and that James made such a reply that Scott decided to see Constable personally. After doing so, he sent this letter:

"July 8. 1825.

Dear James,

        I was at Constable's yesterday and found all right. Cancelling all former orders, I send a list of accounts and payments to be made. Those to Isaac Bayley £176, and Leith Bank to my account should be made early. You will get the £2,000 on application."

        He enclosed a batch of (mainly household) accounts for payment amounting to about £1,500.

        Constable paid James £1,100 on that day, and £1,000 on the day following. These payments were on account of money due, not to the firm but to Scott personally, and were so credited to him against the required payments which James made during the following days. The total was somewhat increased by a letter from Lady Scott at the end of the week, evidently written as she was on the point of leaving:

"July 13th. 1825.

        Lady Scott with best compliments to Mr. Ballantyne, takes the liberty of enclosing him two of Miss Scott's bills, which have omitted being added to her own, and might occasion some difficulty in the settling of them, as Misses Jollie & Brown are giving up business. Lady Scott has many apologies for giving all this trouble, and having also to request that, when he is so obliging as to settle her account with Mr. Pringle the butcher, that he would also settle her last account with him, that she may be quite clear with him. Lady Scott thinks that her second account will amount nearly to £40.

        Castle Street,

        Saturday morning."

        On the following Thursday, in accordance with these instructions the dressmakers, who had already received accounts £91. 1. 7 and £65. 2. 7 a few days before, received a further payment of £96. 12. 6, and Pringle, the butcher, benefited by £38. 8. 8, Lady Scott's idea of the probable amount having been very accurate.

        As this list of accounts (of which the final total was £1,666. 2. 5.) included another dressmakers' bill of £63 from the Misses Fergusson, we may conclude that Lady Scott and her daughter dressed well.

        That was six months before the final catastrophe. We can only imagine with what difficulty Constable paid over that £2,100, but he must have been conscious that his indebtedness to Scott did not admit of the refusal of the required amount, and that he was already using the discounting facilities of the two firms to their full capacity, so that only cash would avail; and he was still showing a bold financial front to the world.

        There remains the question of how far, if at all, the printing business had been weakened for the struggle which was before it by the extravagant drawings of either or both partners. The question is not of the first importance, for it could have made little ultimate difference to the course of events, nothing being clearer than that the embarrassment of the position did not commence at their end of the line, and that, at the other, it was uncontrollably bad; but it has been raised acutely, and therefore requires to be faced.

        Lockhart repeats the charge against James Ballantyne which he made in reference to earlier periods. He says that, whereas James had undertaken, at the commencement of the new partnership, to draw no more than £500, he had, in fact, drained the business to this extent:

      1822 . . . . . . . £1,339. 6. 9
      1823 . . . . . . . £2,219.15. 7
      1824 . . . . . . . £2,842.19. 8
      1825 . . . . . . . £2,296. 3. 5.
      1826 . . . . . . . £  653.10. 0

        On this basis he calculated (somewhat inexactly) that James had overdrawn £7,581. 15. 5. and he attributed the difficulties with which we are now dealing largely to this extravagance, which would be inaccurate, even if his figures be correct, for which there is no separate evidence, and which the general character of his testimony on points of account does not enable us to accept with confidence.

        But, even it the figures be so accepted, the charge against James Ballantyne is not pros ed. The profits of the business must have been very substantial during this period, and half of them were legitimately his. The arrangement to restrict drawings to £500 a year was subject to revision by mutual consent, and such consent may have been (and very probably was) exchanged during the years of prosperity.

        The charge against James to which there is no defence is that, in spite of the promises he had given when the new partnership was commenced, his cash book had been unbalanced for several years, and the postings of its financial, as distinct from its commercial entries, were in arrears. Any accountant will understand how he had drifted into this position, and that it was not inconsistent with his having been able to supply the monthly lists of approaching liabilities and the estimated receipts, which enabled Scott to make the provisions in advance by which credit was systematically maintained during these years. We may conclude that estimates of profits must have been made in a merely approximate form, by deducting wages and expenses from the totals that the day-books showed.

        To the charge of personal extravagance as it was made by Lockhart against James Ballantyne, in relation to the period of the new partnership, his Trustees retorted that Scott had drawn from the business to at least equal amounts, and they put forward an account which they had made up themselves to support this statement. They admitted that it was compiled of unposted items abstracted from the unbalanced cashbook, but they said that though James might have failed to post this book or add its columns, he had entered it accurately, and they offered to pay half the expenses, up to fifty guineas, if Lockhart would agree to having their account examined by an independent accountant, which offer he declined.

The totals of this account are:

1822-26. Amounts paid for Sir Walter Scott £48,289.18. 2.

. . . . . . . . . . ." . . . received . " . . . " . . . . " . £33,083.13. 9.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -----------------

Net Balance paid for him . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £15,206 4 5.

        It this account be true it would appear to show no more nor less than that he was drawing as heavily on the business as Lockhart alleges that James was doing, and that the total drawings were probably in excess of the profits made, but it is impossible to accept its figures with confidence. Many items are not particularised in such a manner that their nature is discoverable. One (May 23rd, 1823) is described as 'To Cash paid his Acceptance to Constable for paper of Nigel, £540. 5. 8. There may be an explanation of why they should have considered this to have been Scott's personal liability, but it is difficult to imagine. If Constable supplied the paper on which Nigel was printed, he naturally required to be paid, and, with the financial methods prevailing, we can understand that he might like to draw a separate bill rather than allow the firm to deduct the amount from the printing account; but why on earth should it be regarded as Scott's personal liability?

        The confusion is increased by the fact that the Trustees supplied a summary of this account, and that none of the items of that summary are so worded that they could possibly include such an item as this, though they agree with the total of the detailed account. But they do include these two items on following lines as debits against Sir Walter:

"Bills taken out of the circle by means of loans £3,216. 0. 4.

Repayment of these loans. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £3,240. 0. 1

        One or other of these items (if they are accurately described) might properly be debited to Sir Walter's account. It is impossible to tell. To debit both loans and repayments seems absurd.

        Incidentally, Scott is debited in this account for various sums remitted to Coutts for the purchase of Walter's commission. They total £5,349. 7. 3. including the cost of remitting. Both Scott and Lockhart put the cost of this commission at £3,500.

        It is improbable that any accountant, after the death of those principally concerned, and in view of the state in which James had left his books, would have been prepared to certify any figure with confidence as showing the amount which Scott had drawn from the business during these years. It was most probably much less than the £15,000 alleged. James was in sole charge of the books which should have contained these records, and the responsibility for any doubt concerning it is certainly and entirely his.

        But in estimating the position fairly, we must not lose sight of one fact to which Lockhart, in his anxiety to prove that Scott had an impossible ignorance, and James a culpability of incompetence, does not give a reasonable recognition. It was not the firm of James Ballantyne & Co. that was in difficulties; neither, primarily, was it that of Constable. If Hurst, Robinson & Co. had contrived to meet their obligations, there is no reason to doubt that the Edinburgh firms would have done the same without difficulty, even without the assistance of the large sums which were now raised by Scott and his business associates to send to London to assist the extremity there. To read Lockhart one might easily conclude that these Edinburgh firms, badly managed and recklessly financed over many years as he alleges them to have been, would be pulling down their London agents in their headlong fall. But the position is opposite. Hurst, Robinson & Co. are the ones who are slipping upon the rope. If it be true, as Lockhart says, that they had risked £100,000 outside their own business in a disastrous speculation in hops, it seems a sufficient fact alone to explain the pit into which the proceeds of the Waverley novels, and the money raised by discounting Constable's accommodation bills, had been drained away. Constable, in his turn, had had to ask Ballantyne and Scott to renew his bills when they should have been met, till they had grown to a huge total of liability from him to them. Latterly, he had been obliged to get them to give him their own bills also, so that he might use them to sustain the credit upon which their common stability depended. We are not concerned with the affairs of Hurst, Robinson & Co. except so far as they affect those with whom we are more immediately dealing, but if this hop speculation be a fact, it alone explains more than all Lockhart's suspicions and insinuations are sufficient to do - and he could hardly make the dead John or even the living James, responsible for that.


        The decision to give whatever support might be needed to Constable's London agents, left Scott with the sense or a danger past. It had been no worse than a warning that he should address his mind to the curtailment of the expenditure which, as we have seen, had been abnormally heavy during the year, and to disentangling his affairs, and those of the printing partnership, from Constable's perilous association. With a prudent effort, and in view of the large sums which his writings were always likely to command, it did not seem that it would be a very difficult enterprise, or one that would take over-long to do. Two days later he recorded his resolutions:

        "No more building.

        "No purchases of land till times are quite safe.

        "No buying books or expensive trifles - I mean to any extent, and

        "Clearing off encumbrances, with the returns of this year's labours: -

        "Which resolutions, with health, and my habits of industry, will make me 'sleep in spite of thunder'."

        It is easy to criticise the fact that he still failed to understand the magnitude of the crisis which faced him, but, in fact, he had no material on which to do so. He believed - as Constable did also - that Hurst, Robinson & Co. were a normally sound and solvent firm, driven into temporary difficulty by the financial blizzard which was raging across the world. To refuse assistance under such circumstances would have been as foolish as it would have been cowardly: having given it, it was a natural attitude for one of Scott's solid judgement and business capacity to consider the risks of such business entanglements, and to resolve that they should not be avoidably continued. When he wrote the above resolutions, Robert Cadell had just left his library in North Castle Street, probably having called to arrange the form and terms of the accommodation he had promised Constable two days before. Those details were calculated to provoke thought. He dined quietly with Charlotte and Anne, and the resolutions formed in his mind.

        Two days later, he lent £300 on a second mortgage of doubtful value to a widow the affairs of whose son had come under his notice, having been embarrassed by a careless agent. He noted on this:

        "I have no connection with the family except that of compassion and may not be rewarded even by thanks when the young man comes of age. I have known my father often so treated by those whom he had laboured to serve. But if we do not run some hazard in our attempts to do good, where is the merit of them ? So I will bring through my Orkney laird, if I can?"


        Following the conference of November 23rd, and the dispatch to London of the funds with which the Constable and Ballantyne firms had resolved to support the credit of Hurst, Robinson & Co., there was an interval of three weeks, during which no further cause for anxiety was apparent. Scott's Journal during these days is occupied with domestic details, and some resolutions showing that while he was not nervously apprehensive of further evil, he was resolved to diminish both the risks and expenditures of future days.

        "Dined alone with my family," he writes of one evening. "I am determined not to stand mine host to all Scotland and England as I have done."

        He even hardens his heart against one or two preposterous calls upon his charity that the postbag brought. A Danish captain, who required to go to Columbia, wrote that he had dreamed that Scott would find him the money, which occasioned the note: "I can tell him his dreams go by contraries ".

        But when his invertebrate literary friend - or perhaps acquaintance would be a sufficient word - R. P. Gillies, consults him about a financial crisis which is overwhelming him, after noting that "it would be useless to help him to money on such very empty plans," the Journal continues: "I offered him Chiefswood for a temporary retirement. Lady Scott thinks I was wrong, and nobody could less desire such a neighbour, all his affectations being caviare to me. But then the wife and children!"

        There is only one note of despondency in the records of these weeks, yet they contain the foreshadowing of all the calamities which were to be the burden of the coming year.

        He notes a secret fear as to Charlotte's health, "though I trust and pray she may see me out". Yet she seems outwardly well enough. She goes to the theatre with Anne. He parts with Lockhart and Sophia in confidence that his daughter will not fail her husband, or discredit her family in London circles; but to let his well-loved grandson go! "O my God! that poor delicate child, so clever, so animated, yet holding by this earth with so fearfully slight a tenure."

        He records the first warnings of failure of his own physical and mental powers, and his characteristic reactions to them, which would hold them at bay for six further years of such toil as few men have undertaken, even in the energy of their youth. He had made a second mistake respecting a dinner engagement, and Charlotte undertook to watch these dates in future. He mislaid a draft for £750, a few minutes after it arrived, in a foolish manner which meant some hours of search for the precious document. He found it increasingly difficult to walk on a hard pavement, though he thought he would still be able to do five or six miles on the softer country soil when he should get back to Abbotsford. His eyesight was increasingly troublesome.

        Yet he said stubbornly: "My health cannot be better," and on December 10th, being a rough wet day, he walked home through the rain and rather liked it, for "no man that ever stepped on heather had less dread than I of catch-cold, and I seem to regain, in buffeting with the wind, a little of the high spirit with which, in younger days, I used to enjoy a Tam-o'Shanter ride through darkness, wind, and rain -."

        On December 14th, he heard such bad reports of commercial conditions in London that he turned his thoughts to borrowing the £10,000 with which the marriage-contract allowed him to charge the Abbotsford estate. He thought that, with such a sum in hand, he would be independent of difficulty. He made calculations which showed that in his own affairs he was 'certainly not less than £40,000 or nearly £50,000' on the right side. 'But the sun and moon shall dance on the green ere carelessness, or hope of gain, or facility in getting cash, shall make me go too deep again, were it but for the disquiet of the thing.'

        But on December 17th, he was 'annoyed with anxious presentiments' as he anticipated the arrival of the London post. It was not that he had had any specific bad news, but the newspapers told of increasing financial panic in London. How were Hurst, Robinson & Co. riding the storm?

        The next morning James came to North Castle Street with the news that Hurst and Robinson were reported to be failing, in which event Scott saw clearly that they would all be involved in a common ruin. If Hurst & Robinson went down, it seemed impossible that Constable should survive. If he went down, how could the printing business continue? All the proceeds of the novels themselves, all the cost of printing them, had been paid in Constable's bills. How could the money which had been received from the banks as they were discounted be returned when they should demand it? Much of the capital of the printing business, and of the publishing firm, had been found by the discounting of the bills they had exchanged for this purpose. How could Ballantyne & Co. hope to take up those they had under discount themselves, and provide also for those on which Constable's capital had been raised? Then there was that £5,000 bond which had been signed to relieve the position three weeks ago. It was a mere fraction of the gross liability which confronted them.

        It is not surprising that Scott found himself unable to continue his work on Napoleon that day. He wrote at great length in his Journal. Facing the fact, as his way was, he told Charlotte at once, and was met with incredulity. In the evening, hope came again.

        The thoughts which he wrote down that day were not all accurate anticipations. He did not foresee consequences without miscalculation. Yet the entries themselves on that and some succeeding days are better than any comment upon them:

        "December 18th. Ballantyne called on me this morning. Venit illa suprema dies. My extremity is come. Cadell has received letters from London which all but positively announce the failure of Hurst & Robinson, so that Constable & Co. must follow, and I must go with poor James Ballantyne for company. I suppose it will involve my all. But if they leave me £500, I can still make it £1,000 or £1,200 a year. And if they take my salaries of £1,300 and £300, they cannot but give me something out of them. I have been rash in anticipating funds to buy land, but then I made from £5,000 to £10,000 a year, and land was my temptation. I think nobody can lose a penny - that is one comfort. Men will think pride has had a fall. Let them indulge their own pride in thinking that my fall makes them higher, Or seems so at least. I have the satisfaction to recollect that my prosperity has been of advantage to many, and that some at least will forgive my transient wealth on account of the innocence of my intentions, and my real wish to do good to the poor. This news will make sad hearts at Darnick, and in the cottages of Abbotsford, which I do not nourish the least hope of preserving. It has been my Delilah, and so I have often termed it; and now the recollection of the extensive woods I planted and the walks I have formed, from which strangers must derive both the pleasure and profit, will excite feelings likely to sober my gayest moments. I have half resolved never to see the place again. How could I tread my hall with such a diminished crest? How live a poor indebted man where I was once the wealthy, the honoured? My children are provided: thank God for that. I was to have gone there on Saturday in joy and prosperity to receive my friends. My dogs will wait for me in vain. It is foolish - but the thoughts of parting from these dumb creatures have moved me more than any of the painful reflections I have put down. Poor things. I must get them kind masters; there may be yet those who loving me may love my dog because it has been mine. I must end this, or I shall lose the tone of mind with which men should meet distress.

        I find my dogs' feet on my knees. I hear them whining and seeking me everywhere - this is nonsense, but it is what they would do could they know how things are. Poor Will Laidlaw! poor Tom Purdie! this will be news to ring your heart, and many a poor fellow's besides to whom my prosperity was daily bread.

        Ballantyne behaves like himself, and sinks his own ruin in contemplating mine. I tried to enrich him indeed, and now all - all is gone. He will have the 'Journal' still, that is a comfort, for sure they cannot find a better Editor. They - alas! who will they be - the unbekannten Obern who are to dispose of my all as they will? Some hard-eyed banker; some of those men of millions whom I described. Cadell showed more kind and personal feeling, to me than I thought he had possessed. He says there are some properties of works that will revert to me, the copy-money not being paid, but it cannot be any very great matter, I should think.

        Another person did not afford me all the sympathy I expected, perhaps because I seemed to need little support, yet that is not her nature, which is generous and kind. She thinks I have been imprudent, trusting men so far. Perhaps so but what could I do? I must sell my books to someone, and these folks gave me the largest price; if they had kept their ground I could have brought myself round fast enough by the plan of 14th December. I now view matters at the very worst, and suppose that my all must go to supply the deficiencies of Constable. I fear it must be so. His connections with Hurst & Robinson have been so intimate that they must he largely involved. This is the worst of the concern; our own is comparatively plain sailing.

        ". . . I am so much of this mind, that if any one would now offer to relieve all my embarrassments on condition I would continue the exertions which brought it there, dear as the place is to me, I hardly think I would undertake the labour on which I entered with my usual alacrity only this morning though not without a boding feeling of my exertions proving useless. Yet to save Abbotsford I would attempt all that was possible. My heart clings to the place I have created. There is scarce a tree on it that does not owe its being to me, and the pain of leaving it is greater than I can tell. I have about £10,000 of Constable's, for which I am bound to give literary value, but if I am obliged to pay other debts for him, I will take leave to retain this sum at his credit. We shall have made some kittle questions of literary property amongst us. Once more, 'Patience, cousin, and shuffle the cards.'

        "Anne bears her misfortune gallantly and well, with a natural feeling, no doubt, of the rank and consideration she is about to lose. Lady Scott is incredulous, and persists in cherishing hope where there is no ground for hope. I wish it may not bring on the gloom of spirits which has given me such distress. If she were the active person she once was that would not be. Now I fear it more than what Constable or Cadell will tell me this evening, so that my mind is made up. . . ."

        "Half-past Eight. I closed this book under the consciousness of impending ruin, I open it an hour after, thanks be to God, with the strong hope that matters may be got over safely and honourably, in a mercantile sense. Cadell came at eight to communicate a letter from Hurst & Robinson, intimating they had stood the storm, and though clamorous for assistance from Scotland, saying they had prepared their strongholds without need of the banks. This is all so far well, but I will not borrow any money on my estate till I see things reasonably safe. Stocks have risen from - to -, a strong proof that confidence is restored. But I will yield to no delusive hopes, and fall back fall edge, [This was a mistake]

my resolutions hold.

        I shall always think the better of Cadell for this, not merely because his feet are beautiful upon the mountains who brings good tidings, but because he showed feeling - deep feeling, poor fellow - he who I thought had no more than his numeration table, and who, if he had had his whole counting-house full of sensibility, had yet his wife and children to bestow it upon - I will not forget this if I get through. I love the virtues of rough and round men; the others are apt to escape in salt rheum, sal-volatile, and a white pocket-handkerchief. An odd thought strikes me: when I die will the Journal of these days be taken out of the ebony cabinet at Abbotsford, and read as the transient pout of a man worth £60,000, with wonder that the well-seeming Baronet should ever have experienced such a hitch? Or will it be found in some obscure lodging-house, where the decayed son of chivalry has hung up his scutcheon for some 20s. a week, and where one or two old friends will look grave and whisper to each other, 'Poor gentleman', 'A well-meaning man', 'Nobody's enemy but his own', 'Thought his parts could never wear out', 'Family poorly left', Pity he took that foolish title' ? Who can answer this question?

        What a life mine has been! half educated, almost wholly neglected or left to myself, stuffing my head with most nonsensical trash, and undervalued in society for a time by most of my companions, getting forward and held a bold and clever fellow, contrary to the opinion of all who thought me a mere dreamer, broken-hearted for two years, my heart handsomely pieced again, but the crack will remain to my dying day. Rich and poor four or five times, once on the verge of ruin, yet opened new sources of wealth almost overflowing. Now taken in my pitch of pride, and nearly winged (unless the good news hold), because London chooses to be in an uproar, and in the tumult of bulls and bears, a poor inoffensive lion like myself is pushed to the wall And what is to be the end of it? God knows. And so ends the catechism.

        December 19th. Ballantyne here before breakfast. He looks on Cadell's last night's news with more confidence than I do; but I must go to work be my thoughts sober or lively. Constable came in and sat an hour. The old gentleman is firm as a rock, and scorns the idea of Hurst & Robinson's stopping. He talks of going up to London next week, and making sales of our interest in (Woodstock) and Boney, which would put a hedge round his finances. He is a very clever fellow, and will, I think, bear us through .

        December 21st. . . . Things are mending in town. and H & R. write with confidence, and are, it would seem, strongly supported by wealthy friends. Cadell and Constable are confident of their making their way through the storm, and the impression of their stability is general in London. I hear the same from Lockhart. Indeed, I now believe that they wrote gloomy letters to Constable, chiefly to get as much money out of them as they possibly could. But they had well-nigh overdone it."

        The renewed hope, after the shadow of ruin had come so closely upon him, caused a feeling of physical buoyancy on the next day, and an ability to labour which saw the completion of about twenty-four pages of the Napoleon, and the composition of Bonnie Dundee in the later day. "Can't say," the Journal records, "what made me take a frisk so uncommon of late years, as to write verses of free will. I suppose the same impulse which makes birds sing when the storm seems blown over."

        Unfortunately, 'seems' was the right word to use; yet, over Christmas, which was passed very quietly at Abbotsford, the hope held.

        Before leaving Edinburgh on Christmas Eve, Scott wrote to Walter and Jane, telling them "of how things had been in the money market" as a peril past, but saying that he might still have to raise the £10,000 on Abbotsford to relieve the position.

        Constable, always a good fighter, had been to him with a proposal that they should get out an edition of the Waverley novels, with new introductions and notes. He calculated that there would be a £20,000 profit on the whole enterprise. Scott could name his own terms.

        So they drove to Abbotsford in good spirits enough, and on Christmas morning Scott made notes of all the work he would get through during the quiet vacation days, and then he was seized with a sudden violent pain, and a 'deadly sickness' that followed, and sent in haste for Clarkson, the surgeon at Melrose, who diagnosed gravel, and there was no work for two days, after which he was able to write up his Journal again having slept twelve hours from exhaustion, after the pain ceased.

        "I cannot expect," he wrote, "that this will be the last visit of this cruel complaint, but shall we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive evil? And by the afternoon he was able to work again, and Sir Adam Fergusson came to dinner, and suggested that the verses written in Edinburgh a few days before would go well to the tune of Bonnie Dundee, which was a good thought.

        The next day there was a letter from a gentleman named Campbell who had previously 'had an impulse' to request a loan of £50 for two years. Scott had 'felt no corresponding impulse,' and now had the pleasure of paying one-and-twopence postage on the letter of abuse which was the frequent sequel of such refusals.

        On December 30th the Journal records:

        Spent at home and in labour - with the weight of unpleasant news from Edinburgh. J. B. is like to be pinched next week unless the loan can be brought forward. I must and have endeavoured to supply him. At present the result of my attempts is uncertain. I am even more anxious about Constable & Co., unless they can get assistance from their London friends to whom they gave much. All is in God's hands. The worst can only be what I have before anticipated. But I must, I think, renounce the cigars. They brought back (using two, this evening) the irritation of which I had no feelings while abstaining from them. Dined alone with Gordon, Lady S., and Anne. James Curle, Melrose, has handsomely lent me £600; he has done kindly. I have served him before and will again if in my power."

        The next day he took a 'good sharp walk,' the first time he had been able to do so since he arrived at Abbotsford, and felt better for it. In the evening, Colonel Russell and his sister came, and a tribe of Fergussons. They came to sit up for the New Year in the usual Scottish custom, but Scott felt so tired about eleven that he 'was forced to steal to bed'.

        So the year closed.


        The first fortnight of the new year passed happily and quietly at Abbotsford in the society of the Skenes and other of Scott's closer and older friends. It was a time of snow, into which he ventured with lengthening walks. There was one day of alarm when he could not work. ' To my horror and surprise I could neither write nor spell, but put down one word for another, and wrote nonsense.' But this trouble passed. Nor did he allow himself to be disturbed by letters from James, pointing out carelessness of style in the recent proof-sheets, and once the repetition of a long passage of history.

        The deed that charged £10,000 on the Abbotsford property was signed and dispatched to Edinburgh. Its proceeds were to be used to strengthen the position of the printing business. Constable was supposed to be in London, fighting his own battles there. On January 5th Scott noted:

        "Got the desired accommodation with Coutts, which will put J. B. quite straight, but am a little anxious still about Constable. He has immense stock, to be sure, and most valuable, but he may have sacrifices to make to convert a large proportion of it into ready money. The accounts from London are most disastrous. Many wealthy persons totally ruined, and many, many more have been obliged to purchase their safety at a price they will feel all their lives. I do not hear things are so bad in Edinburgh; and J. B.'s business has been transacted by the banks with liberality. . . .

        It was evident that there would be no difficulty with James Ballantyne & Co., if their associates were equally well managed and well supported.

        But on January 14th, there is an entry of a different kind:

        "An odd mysterious letter from Constable, who is gone post to London, to put something to rights which is wrong betwixt them, their banker, and another moneyed friend. It strikes me to be that sort of letter which I have seen men write when they are desirous that their disagreeable intelligence should be rather apprehended than avowed. I thought he had been in London a fortnight ago, disposing of property to meet this exigence, and so I think he should. Well, I must have patience. But these terrors and frights are truly annoying.

        A letter from J. B., mentioning Constable's journey, but without expressing much, if any, apprehension. He knows C. well, and saw him before his departure, and makes no doubt of his being able easily to extricate whatever may be entangled. I will not, therefore, make myself uneasy. I can help doing so surely, if I will. At least, I have given up cigars since the year began, and have now no wish to return to the habit, as it is called. I see no reason why one should not be able to vanquish with God's assistance, these noxious thoughts which foretell evil but cannot remedy it."

        Two days later the family drove back to Edinburgh. As usual on these occasions, they went first to Mr. Skene's on their arrival and had dinner there before going home to North Castle Street. They had a merry time. Skene said he had never seen Sir Walter in better spirits. But when he got home, he opened his letters and made this entry:

        "Came through cold roads to as cold news. Hurst & Robinson have suffered a bill of £1,000 to come back upon Constable, which I suppose infers the ruin of both houses. We shall soon see. Constable, it seems, who was to have set off in the last week of December, dawdled here till in all human probability his going or staying became a matter of mighty little consequence. He could not be there till Monday night, and his resources must have come too late."

        The next morning, very early, there came a verbal message to Mr. Skene asking him to go round to see Sir Walter as soon as possible. Thinking that his illness had returned, he went at once. It was seven, and the winter morning was still dark, when he entered the Castle Street library. Scott was at his desk, working by candle-light, surrounded by many papers. He held out his hand as his friend entered: "Skene, this is the hand of a beggar. Constable has failed, and I am ruined de fond en comble. It's a hard blow, but I must just bear up; the only thing that wrings me is poor Charlotte and the bairns." Such is Skene's memory. Actually, and as yet, Constable had not failed. But Scott's judgement was right. And now that the crisis had come, there was to be no hesitation, little of the moods which impulsed those long entries in the Journal a month ago. His courage rose to face the emergency.

        It seemed, for the moment, as though he were infatuated with a false idea of his own ruin, which others knew to be groundless.

        Sir John Hope and Sir Henry Jardine were sent to him by the Royal Bank of Scotland with an intimation that they were prepared to serve him. "The Advocate came on the same errand." Skene and Colin Mackenzie made offers of help. But he refused all alike. "Borrowing would but linger it out." Two days later, there were letters from Constable and from Hurst & Robinson direct. The last persisted still that they could weather the storm. They blamed Constable for not having come earlier. But Scott did not fail to see clearly what that returned bill must mean. His own resolution was fixed. He would assign all he had to his creditors. When he knew what the loss was, he would pay it off. It would be worth their while to give him time, for they could be paid in no other way.

        On the 19th he wrote:

        "I feel quite composed, and determined to labour. . . . I have finished about twenty pages of Woodstock, but to what effect others must judge. A painful scene after dinner, and another after supper, endeavouring to convince these poor dear creatures that they must not look for miracles, but consider the misfortune as certain and only to be lessened by patience and labour."

        It was not wonderful that it seemed hard to believe.

        The next day Sir William Forbes called: "the same kind honest friend as ever." Others came, and all on the same errand. "All anxious to serve me, and careless about their own risk of loss."

        Scott had never lacked good friends. But his answer was the same to all. He would accept no help.


        What had been happening in London during these fatal days?

        When Constable lowered his portly body from the London coach, he arrived, as we know, a week too late. Hurst & Robinson's bill to himself for £1,000 was in the act of being dishonoured and thrown back on his own bank. Would it have saved the position had he come earlier? It is hard to say. Probably for the moment, it would. If so, it must have been only to face a future of almost daily peril until fresh capital could be obtained, a more conservative policy gradually strengthen the position, or a different atmosphere of world-finance render credit easier to negotiate. Yet, looking at the solid nature of the three businesses with which we are dealing, the large profits they were making, and the fact that they had the goodwill of an author who might still prove to be an unexhausted goldmine, we may conclude that only time was required to restore confidence, and to fill the pit of deficiency which had been dug by Hurst & Robinson's unfortunate speculations.

        It was a thought that must have maddened Constable as he sat hour by hour while the coach drove southward over the winter roads. They were all profit-making firms. It would be absurd, or worse, to subject them to the wasteful processes of liquidation. It would be needless, ruinous loss for all, and not least for the creditors in whose interests it would be asserted that it was done. But that was a position of daily occurrence then, as it is now. The creditors who break up a business by their impatience are themselves the sufferers, as some of them often deserve to be. They are like bees who die through their of their own stings.

        Constable came late; and when he came he was ill. He was ill with anxiety, and physical weakness. He had been unfit to take such a journey in such weather. He stayed fretting in his hotel for two days, unable to move.

        But while he was confined there he planned with a resolute and audacious mind. He knew that Hurst & Robinson were struggling against overwhelming odds. They were doing all that they could. He had asked aid from Scott and Ballantyne, and had had it with a generous hand. They had done their part. Now it rested with him.

        There was one species of property that he had which was unencumbered, and which he rightly thought to be of enormous value, - the unexhausted copyright of the Waverley novels. Suppose he were to go to the Bank of England, explain the emergency, and ask for a loan upon them, throwing his other copyrights, including the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and his part-ownership of the Edinburgh Review, into the scale? He judged rightly that it would be useless to ask for such a loan from any other of the London banks on such security, in the financial panic that was prevailing. He judged also that the Bank of England would not be likely to do anything unless they were assured that it would thoroughly establish the position. Suppose he were to ask for a loan of £200,000, and get half that amount?

        Anyway, it was worth a try. The Bank of England - even the Government - might be willing to avert the threatened failures. The failures in the City during the last few weeks were so many already. And Sir Walter's was a magic name. If only he were here! He knew him for a man as resolute, as audacious, and yet of sounder judgement than himself.

        Together they might have done much.

        But Constable had done much himself by his own courage and his own wits since he had opened a second-hand bookshop in a side street of Edinburgh. His idea might fail now, but it was worth a throw. If Scott were not here to back up the plan, there was his son-in-law, young Lockhart. He disliked Lockhart: his self-sufficiency and conceit. When we remember Lockhart's surprise that he could have the manners and appearance of a gentleman, we cannot blame him for that. But, at the crises of life, personal differences are forgotten. Surely Lockhart could not refuse to come with him on such an errand, even though he might not be much use, and would be a poor substitute for his father-in-law at the best.

        He had sent a note to Lockhart as soon as he arrived in London, asking him to come to the Adelphi hotel were he was staying, and we have only Lockhart's account of the interview that resulted. He heard Constable explain in detail a position with which he had not been fully familiar, and learnt for the first time how heavily Scotts interests were involved. He says that Constable used a violence of language at times which roused his 'wonder and commiseration'. But he himself was a dumb dog. He had no encouragement to give, no counsel to offer. He refused his aid without hesitation, and, in the light of all that happened afterwards, he remained complaisant over that refusal. He says:

        "To be brief, he requested me to accompany him as soon as he could get into his carriage, to the Bank of England, and support him (as a confidential friend of the Author of Waverley) in his application for a loan of from £100,000 to £200,000 on the security of the copyrights in his possession. It is needless to say that without distinct instructions from Sir Walter, I could not take upon me to interfere in such a business as this. Constable, when I refused, became livid with rage. After a long silence, he stamped on the ground, and swore that he could and would do alone. I left him in stern indignation."

        Lockhart thought it 'needless to say' that he refused. Perhaps, to those who knew him, it was. Yet what harm to Sir Walter's interests, under any conceivable circumstances, could it have done to have given Constable the support he asked? He would be unable to pledge the copyrights, except so far as he could show that they were his property, and any money he might raise would serve to relieve a position in which Scott's fortune and honour were involved. Scott had shown Lockhart, by that early morning call at Chiefswood, how much he was concerned at a mere rumour detrimental to Constable's credit.

        We may doubt the possibility of successful effort, the commercial atmosphere being what it was, and the liabilities what they were. We cannot blame Lockhart that he proposed no remedy. His condemnation is that he declined to try. He contributed his 'stern indignation'!

        Constable, swallowing his contempt, saw him again two days later.

        He said that, if £20,000 could be raised quickly in Edinburgh, he could still save the position. Would Lockhart write to Scott, urging that this should be done? With more justification than in his previous attitude, Lockhart would 'promise nothing but to acquaint Scott immediately with his request, and him with Scott's answer'. What was the use of that? Constable knew how to use a pen. The result was 'another scene'. At such a time, Lockharts rectitude must have been very difficult to endure.

        Lockhart's view was that a man could only get in a ditch by his own fault. Men like himself, who are prudent enough to have parents of means, and walk cautiously ever afterwards, will keep clear of the mud. He remarks sapiently that if Constable had confined himself to his great successes, such as the Edinburgh Review, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the exploiting of Scott's works, he would have come to a different end. It sounds a simple recipe, though even then the result is not sure, for Hurst and Robinson would still have failed, and it is impossible to judge how he would have endured the loss that he must have suffered; and Lockhart is very vague about what his publishing errors were. No publishing business can he carried on without mistakes being made, and certainly not one which is as boldly enterprising, and as successful as Constable's had been up to this time. And when a tide of financial disaster sweeps across the world, it is often the ablest and most enterprising - those who are in the forefront of the battle - who are the first to be overwhelmed.


        Lockhart says that Constable 'lingered on' in London, 'fluctuating between wild hope and savage despair, until, I seriously believe, he at last hovered on the brink of insanity'.

        We may call this an error of memory, or a picturesque invention, or what we will, but it cannot be true. It was on the 14th of January that Scott received Constable's letter saying that he was going to London. It was on the 23rd - only nine days later - that he called upon Scott at North Castle Street. He cannot have been in London for more than five days, including the two during which he was unable to move from the hotel, and it seems clear that, immediately after his second interview with Lockhart, he decided that if the £20,000 which (he thought) would save the position were to be raised in Edinburgh, he must not depend upon letters, but must return himself to inspire and engineer the operation. That Scott could have raised that, or a much larger sum, had he been persuaded to attempt it, there is no doubt at all. It is useless speculation to consider whether he would have attempted it, had Hurst & Robinson's bill not been dishonoured, and had it seemed possible that credit could still be maintained. Had he once decided upon such a course, he would, in all probability, have carried it through to a final triumph, for the three threatened firms were essentially sound, profitable concerns, with very valuable assets, which liquidation was about to waste.

        But when Constable got back to Edinburgh, he found that he was too late again. Cadell had decided, in his absence, that the game was up; and the action taken by Ballantyne & Co., on that first morning when Scott and James met, had made recovery of the position an almost impossible thing. For that day there had been bills of Ballantyne & Co. coming up at the bank for payment, amounting to some thousands of pounds. There was money in hand to meet them, as a result of the £10,000 charge which Scott had given upon the Abbotsford estate. Having to make a prompt decision, Scott and James had agreed that they ought to stop payment instead of letting further money be paid away. It was a position in which all creditors should be treated equally. It may have been a wise, and was in some respects a courageous decision, but it must have been fatal in its results to any effort to carry on subsequently.

        Constable, not without reason, attributed the position which faced him on his return largely to Cadell's attitude. Had Cadell maintained his own courage, had he even maintained silence about Hurst & Robinson's bill, the whole position would have been different. Why on earth did he tell James about that?

        Cadell pointed to the bill-book. Why not recognise facts? They could no longer expect the bank to take H. & R.'s bills, and without being able to use them, how could they meet the obligations that were before them? A violent quarrel resulted.

        In most battles, men are not really defeated by their enemies. Lacking sufficient courage for victory, they defeat themselves, - often when their enemies would themselves be in flight, if the line were held for another hour.

        Constable thought of Cadell as one who defeats himself, and who had betrayed the partnership trust. Cadell thought that Constable showed an obstinate folly in refusing to face the truth. Constable went to see Scott.

        He was certainly not insane at that interview. He 'seemed irritable, but kept his temper under command'. He gave Scott the impression that he meant to find some means of re-establishing his position, and leaving Cadell out. He was rather staggered when Scott expressed his legal opinion that the unfinished Woodstock and Napoleon would revert to himself, the contracts lapsing with the impending failures. But Scott had formed his own plans by this time, and those copyrights were the strength of his position, both for attack and defense.

        Constable wanted to know whether they would still be working in alliance. He said he was utterly ruined unless Scott would stand by him now. Scott gave a friendly reply, and was frank about his own plans; but he would give no pledge. He thought the quarrel with Cadell a mistake. 'I will help him, I am sure, if I can,' Scott wrote that night, 'without endangering my last cast for freedom.'

        For Scott had made his plans, and had already done much during the last six days. He had assigned his estate to his lawyer, Mr Gibson, and two other lawyers of good standing in Edinburgh, as his Trustees, and a meeting of his creditors and those of Ballantyne & Co. had been convened for the 26th, at which there would be proposals to be put forward on his behalf.

        He had had a week of bad health, being unable to find sleep until towards morning, when it came heavily, and was followed by a reluctant awaking, and a despondency in which he would be glad that his mother, and his 'almost sister' Christy Rutherford, and Will Erskine were dead. But after that 'more dutiful' thoughts would return. If he had weak moments, they were not such that others could see them. He showed a quiet and resolute face to the world. But as accounts were examined, and Cadell assured him that there was little to be hoped from the realisation of Constable & Co.'s assets, he abandoned hope for the moment that he would ever see Abbotsford again. It was a bitter thought. 'Yet,' he wrote, 'I feel neither dishonoured nor broken down.'

        He had formed two resolutions. He would do so many pages of writing every day, be the quality what it might, and at whatever physical cost. It might be a poor chance, but if he could not do that, and imagination respond, there was none at all. For he was determined to attempt that the debts should be paid with his own hand.

        Resolutely, he refused all the offers of help, whether large or small, that were pouring in. They were from many sources, of very various amounts. There was an anonymous one of £30,000 from a 'high quarter' in London. Mr. Pole, a music teacher who had taught his daughters the harp, offered his life's savings - £500 or £600. But he refused them, large and small alike. 'I will involve no friend,' he wrote down his resolution 'either rich or poor.' And his resolute courage had its influence upon others, and its reaction upon himself. For he heard the voices of Lady Scott and Anne talking merrily in the drawing-room on the day that Constable called, and it did him good to hear them. . . .

        And one morning he sent a note over to Skene, asking him to walk with him after lunch, for Skene was a good friend for such a time, and he knew that he could lean on him as he did on Tom Purdie, should his strength fail. And when they parted Skene wrote down what he could remember of their conversation.

        Scott had told him of his resolution to attempt to pay his debts and rebuild his fortune with his own hand, but 'I much mistrust my vigour, for the best of my energy is already expended'. He spoke of the day when he had been unable to control his hand to write the words that he would. Then he had been in mortal fear that his mind was going. But that fear had passed. Had he not good cause to be thankful for that? "Few," he said, "have more reason to feel grateful to the Disposer of all events than I."

        Scott's refusal to accept the many offers of assistance that poured in upon him during this week, and subsequently, may seem, to a superficial view, inconsistent with the financial adventures of earlier years.

        In the aggregate, these offers would have been sufficient to have enabled him to control the whole position. He could have re-established both the Ballantyne and Constable firms and have set about the work of repayment in a secure leisure, fortified by the profits of the businesses that he would have saved. Twenty years earlier, it is at least probable that he would have taken that course. In earlier days, he had accepted loans from his friends. More than that, he had asked. There was that £4000 guarantee from Buccleuch. In fact he had borrowed money almost as lightly as he had lent it - with the difference that it had been repaid. But at those times he had been confident in himself. He must borrow, now, if at all with a different doubt. And under such circumstances a man who will drain the pockets of relatives and friends to pay his debts does not save his own honour, he only shows he has none to lose.

        Scott's judgement, almost always sound, whether for himself or others, told him that there was not one chance in ten, but that he was facing his last and greatest defeat. It was at that thought that his spirits rose. For weakened in body and saddened in mind though he might be, his spirit was still that of one to whom it had seemed a natural thought that

    "if the path be dangerous known,
    The danger's self may lure alone."

        But he saw that he must enter the arena alone. Let others sit back and watch, though it were to see nothing better than an old man's fall. A man who was old - and tired. But yet one whose courage endured: in whom the spirit of romance was young.

        And having resolved in this way, he was not wholly unhappy, nor quite ashamed. For the feelings of those who face the worst fate that the world can deal are different from the terrors of those who run.


        The creditors met on the 26th. Sir William Forbes was in the chair. He was the head of the largest private bank in Edinburgh, and it was very deeply involved. So, though not so heavily was the Royal Bank of Scotland. But Sir Walter, who had decided not to attend the meeting, had had a talk with two of their Directors in the morning and their attitude was agreed in advance.

        Thirty years ago, Willie Forbes had captured the girl whom Scott had wooed for five years, and Scott had declined to make it a cause of quarrel between them. Now Sir William Forbes held his future in his hands in a different way - a way that would have seemed incredible even three months ago.

        Mr. Gibson explained the position to the assembled creditors. Sir Walter, finding that bills which were payable to himself, and which he had placed under discount, were not being met, had been advised to assign his whole estate into the hands of trustees for the benefit of his creditors. It was open to them to agree to the deed, or to throw the estate into bankruptcy.

        He explained that there was a marriage settlement, made less than twelve months ago, the effect of which was that the creditors would not be able to pay themselves by selling Abbotsford. They would be entitled to let it during Sir Walter's life. They would be entitled to collect the rents of the estate during the same period. At Sir Walter's death, it would pass absolutely to his eldest son.

        Apart from the life-rents of Abbotsford, there was the house in North Castle Street, which had been Sir Walter's property for many years, and its contents. There were some shares of no very great value. There were the assets of the printing business, of which the other partner, Mr. Ballantyne, had decided that he must submit to a personal bankruptcy.

        Altogether, a few thousands could be promptly realised.

        But the liabilities were a very large total. There were bills which Constable had given to Sir Walter for his literary work, which had been renewed and added to, till they had reached a very large amount. There were financial bills which had provided the capital for the printing business. There were large exchanges of bills with Constable for his support and that of Hurst, Robinson & Co. There was one bill of the latter firm which was in the hands of Ballantyne & Co.'s bankers. All these bills had been discounted, and Sir Walter was liable upon them as drawer, endorser, or as a partner in the printing firm. Their total was over £100,000. (The gross total of liabilities was finally settled at £130,000, of which the partnership business of Ballantyne & Co. was responsible for £117,000, and £13,000 were Sir Walter's separate debts.)

        Sir Walter's offer was to pay these debts in full. He had his official salaries, on which (or less) he was prepared to live. He thought that, in five or ten years, he could earn enough with his pen to clear every claim that could be made upon him.

        As to that, he was already engaged upon a life of Napoleon, and a novel, from which he hoped that a sum would be realised sufficient to make a substantial distribution before the year closed.

        Mr. Gibson having concluded his statement, a discussion followed. On the larger half of the liabilities, Constable & Co. were primarily, and on a much greater proportion they were legally, liable. Sir Walter's ultimate responsibility, and the creditors' risk of ultimate loss, would depend largely upon what Constable could pay - and that, again, would depend upon Hurst, Robinson & Co., who had not yet legally failed, and still talked of carrying on. There was a doubt here which no discussion would clear away.

        There was another point for Mr. Gibson to explain. Scott had made contracts with Constable for the two books he was now writing. There would almost certainly be a claim upon these from Constable's estate. But, as the books were not yet complete, he thought that it could be resisted successfully, and he could promise them the proceeds. That was, if they accepted Sir Walter's offer. You cannot compel an author to finish writing a book.

        The marriage settlement naturally came up for discussion. Being made less than a year ago, it was at least possible that it could be upset, if it could be shown that Sir Walter was actually insolvent when it was executed. If they should accept the offer now made, they might be throwing away the real prospect of payment for no more than an old man's dream.

        As to that, Mr. Gibson pointed out that it might be very difficult to set up that Sir Walter was insolvent a year ago. If these bills were properly met, he would not be insolvent now. And the matter had passed out of Sir Walter's hands. He was not holding back Abbotsford from his creditors. He placed it at their disposal as long as his life should last. But, beyond that, it had become a matter for the Trustees of the Marriage Settlement, who would certainly fight in the interests of Mrs. Walter Scott. There were several trustees, including some of the most prominent men in Edinburgh. The settlement had been publicly known at the time, and no creditor had taken any motion against it. It had been entered in the Record Office, in the usual way.

        Sir William Forbes, in the chair, did not encourage talk of contesting the settlement. He thought Sir Walter's offer should be accepted. The representative of the Royal Bank said the same. In the end, a resolution to that effect was passed unanimously.

        Looking back, we can see that it was a wise resolution for themselves, as generosities often are. Yet, at the time, it may have worn a different face. Those who met in Edinburgh were, for the most part, Scott's personal friends, as, indeed, all Edinburgh was. Yet when large amounts are involved, and men have their own difficulties in mind, they may forget much. And this plan of paying off such a sum by future earnings had a wild sound. They all knew Sir Walter as a man of inexhaustible courage and energy, but he was obviously ageing. He had been white-haired ever since that illness of years ago. He had been seen two days back - the first time he had been out since his ruin was public talk - with Mr. Skene. He had walked slowly, leaning on the shoulder of the younger man. He might be good yet for some years at the Clerks' table in the Court of Session; but as to paying these debts - wouldn't it be better to face the inevitable with an immediate bankruptcy, and get it over? Wouldn't it be better for him?

        Apart from that, if the creditors stood firm that it should be payment or bankruptcy, there might be help from many quarters and in forms that Sir Walter could not refuse. There might even be a public subscription.

        Looking at the position as it then was, we may conclude that the unanimity of that resolution arose less from a balancing of selfish interests than from a common desire to do that which Sir Walter wished. Its atmosphere was reflected in the cheerful tone with which Mr. Gibson told the news when he hurried to North Castle Street at the termination of the meeting.

        Scott had not stopped working during the last few days. Thirty-eight pages of Woodstock had been sent over to James to be set up. But he had been unable to sleep. Now he knew what was before him; and he wrote that night that he thought that he would sleep well, as he did.

        His Edinburgh creditors were his friends still. But London creditors might be differently influenced, and their decisions were still to come.

        The next day he drew £325 for his official salary, and asked Mr. Gibson's consent to send £200 to Abbotsford to deal with essential payments there. He enclosed it to William Laidlaw with a letter of instructions to make immediate economies, but to carry on till his Trustees should decide what was to be done.

        He arranged with Charlotte that she was to have £12 a week, which must have seemed a small sum after the expenditure of recent years, and set himself resolutely to the task of filling up the financial pit that evil circumstance or his own folly had opened before his feet.


        The first day of February brought a joint letter from Walter and Jane. They put Jane's fortune at Scott's disposal to use as he would. It was an almost anticipated offer, but roused him to an unusual extremity of expression. 'God Almighty forbid!' he wrote, as he recorded the intended generosity.

        He was working so rapidly on the conclusion of Woodstock that he reckoned that he was earning for the estate at the rate of £1,000 a week, if the book should sell as well as did those that preceded it. Actually, this was to prove an underestimate. The first volume of Napoleon was completely printed. Conscious of these results, and in a state of some mental exhaustion from the amount of work he was doing, he felt almost indifferent when he heard that a second, more formal meeting of creditors had accepted his offered settlement.

        From the balance of salary left in his hands, he sent £35 to Charles at Oxford, with a letter urging economy, which would not be disregarded. Charles was a boy you could trust. He found time to write to his nephew Walter, Tom's son, who was also on his hands, and now graduated as a lieutenant of Engineers. He wrote to William Laidlaw to come to Edinburgh to discuss the future management of Abbotsford with the Trustees. There was the question of the home farm, which he thought should be given up.

        "With our careless habits," he wrote, "it were best, I think, to risk as little as possible. Lady Scott will not exceed with ready money in her hands; but calculating on the procedure of a farm is different, and neither she nor I are capable of that minute economy. Two cows should be all we should keep. But I find Lady S. inclines much for the four. If she had her youthful activity, and could manage things, it would be well, and would amuse her. But I fear it is too late a week."

        A few days later he had to face one of the practical difficulties of the assignment that he had made, and his resolution not to accept assistance from others. His nephew Walter had an appointment in Bombay, and, since he had taken charge of him at Abbotsford, he had paid all his expenses. He went to see John Gibson, and borrowed the required amount, £240, from him, to be returned in the spring. "I wish I could have got this money otherwise," he wrote, "but I must not let the orphan boy . . . miscarry through my fault."

        Following this, there came Sir Patrick Murray, one of the Barons of the Court of Exchequer, to see him, with a proposal that he should be made a Judge of the Court of Session. The Lord Justice Clerk, and Abercromby, his friends from school days, would exert their combined interest to secure that position for him. But he declined this on several grounds. He had neglected the study of law, and was unfit; he intended to continue the writing of fiction, which he thought would be inconsistent with the dignity of such a position. Underneath this offer, he could see the conviction prevailing among his friends that he was a ruined man. The talk of paying off that huge total of debts was no more than a fantastic dream, such as might find its home in a romancer's mind. Practical friends talked among themselves of what best could be done. "I can see," he wrote, "people think me much worse off than I think myself. They may be right; but I will not be beat till I have tried a rally, and a bold one."

        Yet the offer vexed his mind somewhat on the next day, on the afternoon of which William Laidlaw arrived. They went together over the wages list of Abbotsford, and struck off the names of many, keeping only 'active, young and powerful men'. He showed no mercy in this, for it was a duty to the Trustees that the estate should be made to pay, and Laidlaw must understand the new conditions of service; but he recorded a vow that night that he would 'contrive to make it easy for the sufferers'.

        As it was, Laidlaw's interview with Gibson next morning was not an easy one. In fact, Abbotsford was not a proposition to be easily handled under the new circumstances. He came back to North Castle Street to report that the conditions under which he was to carry on had been arranged, but that Mr. Gibson had said that if it were anyone but Sir Walter Scott, he would have disposed of the whole affair.

        Two days later, Scott had an offer from a manufacturer of patent medicine to share the profits of the invention, if he would lend it his name and blessing. He sent a polite refusal - "for what purpose can anger serve?" He also sent a further £40, from the slender balance of salary which was left in his hands, to his nephew Walter, as the £240 had proved insufficient for his passage and equipment.

        There was kindness from many during these days, but little encouragement for Scott's resolute optimism. There were such 'loads of game' sent in by Mr. Scope and C. K. Sharpe that Lady Scott's gratitude 'became ungovernable' and they must be asked to dinner. They came on February 14th, just four weeks after the return to Edinburgh, and the receipt of the news of ruin which had been waiting there. They were the first visitors to be entertained since that day, and likely to be the last, for as they arrived the sale-bills were fixed to the house. Cadell had called earlier, depressed by difficulties in getting such trustees appointed for his firm's estate as would realise its assets with intelligence. The stock, like the liabilities, was very large. He foresaw the wasteful realisation that actually occurred. Scott saw that any hope he had felt that Constable's estate would substantially relieve the weight of obligations he had taken up must be abandoned. Cadell was not likely to be in very good spirits. He had been in sanctuary in Holyrood for the past week, the Royal Bank having taken process to arrest him for debt, which had only just been retired. And the total result was a day on which not a line was written. This was not only from lack of spirits; it was because Scott could not get the right idea for ending the book. He liked best to write without the harness of a settled plot: to spin a web first, and then think of a way by which it could be broken through. Now he must pause in contemplation of his own dilemma. And while he did so, James Hogg came for advice and help. He said he needed £200, which Scott was reluctantly unable to give.


        It was after dinner, immediately following the visit of the Ettrick Shepherd, that Mr. Gibson called on Sir Walter bringing bad news. The Royal Bank of Scotland had been considering the Marriage Settlement. They did not propose that any action should be taken to set it aside, but they thought it was the duty of Scott's Trustees, either by friendly agreement or a suit at law, to secure some modifications of its provisions, so that the estate could be handled more freely. In particular, they thought that the library, which must be worth a large sum, should be sold.

        Scott listened, and said at once that he could not agree.

        There were two opposite points of view here, which, considered separately, appear about equally reasonable. Scott had assigned his possessions to his creditors. What is the point or meaning of that, if they are not to be realised for their benefit? The Royal Bank felt that they had done all that could be reasonably asked in assenting to the assignment that Scott had proposed.

        Their action may have been influenced by the fact that the financial position of Constable & Co. was being gradually disclosed as far worse than had been anticipated. This meant that the Bank had to face another very heavy bad debt, and it also meant that there would not be much dividend from Constable's estate for the benefit of Scott's creditors. The mood to which they had come was shown by the extremity of their recent action against Cadell.

        Ultimately, the debts of Hurst, Robinson & Co. were proved at £300,000, and those of Constable & Co. at £256,000. It must not be understood that we can add £117,000 to these figures and obtain the gross liabilities of the three firms in that way as being £683,000. A creditor holding a bill with all three names upon it would claim against the three estates. Hurst, Robinson & Co. ultimately paid about £18,000 in dividends to its creditors: Constable & Co. paid £35,000 in spite of the fact that their assets were realised in a very hurried and wasteful way, probably not amounting to a quarter of their fair value. The ratios of liabilities and dividends show where the real weakness had been.

        Facing such losses, the Royal Bank felt that they must do what they could for their shareholders and themselves. Scott was a lawyer, and when he signed the deed he should have expected that his library would have to go. If he wanted to retain it, let him make arrangements to buy it in.

        Scott knew the law well enough. He had been prepared for the possibility of this position arising ever since he had signed the deed. He had thought already of buying in the library, if he were made bankrupt. He had good friends enough, at a pinch, to enable him to do that. But he was resolved that it should be as a bankrupt that he should do it, if at all. If he resolved upon bankruptcy, he would be free in future to use his pen as he would, or to lay it down. If he were to undertake to write off that burden of debt, he must have reasonable conditions in which to work, and the library was an essential thing.

        He told Gibson to give the Royal Bank an instant ultimatum. If they took the sword of the law, he said, he would take the shield. If they thought that, being bankrupt in fact, he was afraid of the name, they would soon have something to learn.

        He was willing to give up the North Castle Street house. They could sell his life-long possessions there. That was reasonable enough. But he required an assurance that his library would not be touched, or he would apply for a sequestration at once.

        The next morning, Mr. Gibson discussed the position with another of the Trustees, Mr. Alexander Monypenny, who had been originally nominated by the Royal Bank. He was a stranger to Scott, they not having met until he had called at North Castle Street to introduce himself after the deed had been executed, though Scott had known his father, and subsequently some of his brothers.

        Mr. Gibson came again in the evening with a somewhat better report. Mr. Monypenny had expressed himself personally as being 'decidedly in favour of the most moderate measures and taken burthen on himself for the Bank of Scotland proceeding with such leniency' as would give 'some time and opportunity to clear these affairs out'.

        It was not the most explicit of surrenders, but Scott had been debating in his mind whether he had been right or wrong, and he now resolved that he ought to accept the measure of concession which Mr. Monypenny's attitude implied. He remembered that he was 'a man of perfect honour and reputation', and that he himself had 'nothing to ask which such a man would not either grant, or convince me was unreasonable'.

        He went on to a very penetrating self-analysis, which the incidents of his life are sufficient to illustrate continually:

        "I have, to be sure, some of my constitutional and hereditary obstinacy; but it is in me a dormant quality. Convince my understanding, and I am perfectly docile: stir my passions by coldness or affronts, and the devil will not drive me from my purpose. Let me record, I have striven against this besetting sin. When I was a boy and on foot expeditions, as we had many, no creature could be so indifferent which way our course was directed, and I acquiesced in whatever anyone proposed; but if I was once driven to make a choice and felt piqued in honour to maintain my proposition, I have broken off from the whole party, rather than yield to anyone. Time has sobered this pertinacity of mind; but it still exists, and I must be on my guard against it."

        He remembered that Alexander had at one time been in a business partnership with Colin Mackenzie, and that Colin spoke well of him. He told John Gibson that he was satisfied to rely on Mr. Monypenny's equity of decision. So the storm blew over.


        At this moment, when Scott analysed so acutely the stubborn core of his outwardly pliable nature, he was to give evidence of it in an unexpected direction, and to enter the political arena for the second time, and to as victorious, though not so important, an issue as when he had reconciled his country's external and internal animosities by the device of the King's visit three or four years earlier.

        The tornado of financial disaster which had swept over the country during the winter, and by which Scott himself had been ruined, had caused the Government to propose certain measures of legislation which might, at least, mitigate the severity of such calamities. It proposed, in particular that the power to issue their own notes, which had been general to English and Scottish banking houses, should be entirely removed, and that only the Bank of England should be allowed to continue a restricted circulation of notes of £5, and upwards.

        The proposal may have been wise in itself, though it was something less than a radical remedy for the evils which had occasioned it, but there was a natural resentment among Scottish bankers at a measure which proposed to reduce their prestige and profits, and a wider national reluctance to assent to a financial reform which must ultimately reduce the relative importance of Edinburgh as a banking centre.

        It was the latter aspect of the matter which stirred in Scott's mind the passionate resentment which was so quickly aroused by any attempt of the London Government to reduce the separate privileges of the sister-kingdom. He contributed to the Edinburgh Weekly Journal, which Ballantyne edited, three Letters of Malachi Malagrowther. These letters aroused the Scottish opposition to a point of resistance that no government could ignore. The replies which Croker wrote in the London Courier might be convincing to an impartial reader, but they had little effect upon the crowded meetings of protest which were being held all over Scotland, or the size of the resulting petitions which were delivered at Westminster. The Government bent to the storm, and the provisions of the bill were limited in their application to the English banks.

        Scott's Journal shows that he wrote these letters with some doubt and reluctance. He reflected that he would 'offend his English friends without propitiating one man in Scotland'. It might also seem that he was 'making himself of too much importance', to attempt interference with a financial measure of this kind. He saw the humour also, on the day when John Gibson brought him the formal deed which assigned his possessions to his creditors to sign, that he, who had proved himself unable to manage his own affairs, should be taking those of Scotland into his charge.

        Yet he saw other consequences as the days passed, and the excitement grew. He was before his countrymen in another aspect than that of an insolvent debtor. He knew that the popular mind cannot conceive of a man in two characters at once, and he liked the change. The Edinburgh banks were also aware of the unexpected championship, which certainly repaid them a thousandfold for any consideration which they had shown to him. They were urgent for the letters to be published in pamphlet form, ordering 500 copies in advance when it was arranged for Blackwood to do this.

        But Lockhart wrote anxiously from London. The letters had greatly disturbed the Government. Scott was of their own party. Many of its members were his personal friends. They had not expected it from him. Melville was particularly incensed, forgetting a life-time's friendship in his anger. He felt the position more acutely because he was the man to whom Scotland looked to defend her national interests. That there should be such an attack upon a measure to which he had given his assent was as though he were directly accused of having sold the pass.

        Scott took these things with a quiet philosophy, declining all individual quarrels, and writing personally to Croker in a way which averted any danger of a breach with one whose friendship he would have been sorry to lose. He had done that at which he aimed, and he must leave it to time to soothe any irritations that it had occasioned. He had been easily reconciled to the delay which this diversion had occasioned in the completion of Woodstock, because he was still watchful as to any claim being made upon it on behalf of Constable's estate, and he reflected cheerfully that while it remained unfinished the game remained in his own hands.

        Lockhart had written that there were many in London, the King included, who were anxious to do something to assist him, so the talk went. Lockhart thought that interest could be made to secure an appointment as Baron of Exchequer at an early date. It was a position of which Scott had thought at times, even before this disastrous reversal of fortune came. Its duties were less onerous than those of a Clerk of Session: its dignity was much greater: it would mean an extra £1,000 a year.

        But he reflected that the Letters of Malachi would hardly have prepared the ground favourably for such an application to be put forward, and a - stronger argument - there was Sir William Rae, who would otherwise be the natural choice for the first vacancy that would occur. He resolved that he would not allow his name to be put forward for a possible tour de force in London which would over-ride Sir William's natural preferment. Let things go on as they were.


        By the beginning of March the position was so far clarified that it had been resolved that the family should return to Abbotsford when the Court rose.

        It appeared to Scott's Trustees, as to himself, the most reasonable course to take. There could, of course, be no return to the lavish expenditure of previous days. It would be rather as caretaker than owner that he would re-enter the house of his own designing. But it is evident that such a house, which would become his son's at any moment that he should die, would not be easy to let.

        If Lady Scott were willing to return - ? Charlotte was quite willing for that. She was, in fact, mortally ill, which she refused to admit. She had, at this time, only twelve weeks before her of rapidly weakening life, but she carried on with the same courage, if not the same gaiety of spirit, with which she had first faced the strangeness of this cold Northern capital nearly thirty years ago. Up to now, she had deceived even Scott as to her real condition, though she can hardly have deceived herself to the same degree. He was often anxious and careful about her health, but still thought or hoped that she might live longer than he. Loyally, through these weeks of trouble, she had done her part, falling in with everything that was proposed. Now the plan was that the family should live entirely at Abbotsford. The North Castle Street house would be sold, and there would be no family migrations to Edinburgh in future, two or three times a year. Scott was to find lodgings for himself during the months when the Court was sitting.

        So it was agreed, and there was packing, and turning out of many papers, and reading of old letters before they went to the final flames, and sorting of such things as might be taken to Abbotsford and saved from the sale. It was a bitter experience for Scott, who would not readily part with anything that he had once loved. He asked Charlotte about many trifles, pictures and 'trumpery' things, as he called them, that they had valued once when they had set up housekeeping together, and was secretly wounded because she always replied in the same way. Let it go. She didn't mind about that.

        There had been no difficulty about money during these weeks. Now that entertaining had ceased, Charlotte had found no difficulty in paying the current expenses with the twelve pounds that had been agreed between them. Scott had spent nothing on himself since they came to Edinburgh 'save two or three guineas for charity, and six shillings for a pocket-book', and he had given Charlotte £24 on the 22nd February, for the fortnight to come.

        But, when early in March it became time to arrange for the removal, there was the fact to be faced that the next quarter's salary could not be drawn before the 20th. There was a gap to be filled somehow. But the Letters of Malachi came in useful here. It does not appear that Scott had received anything for contributing them to the Weekly Journal, but there would be profit to come from the publication of the pamphlet, the first edition of which was already exhausted. Blackwood paid £25 on account, and the difficulty was over. Scott reflected cheerfully that his money troubles were fewer, and more easily resolved, than in the days when he thought of himself as a wealthy man.

        It was Friday, March 11th, when the Court rose, and his inclination had been to leave as quickly as possible for Abbotsford. He had no will to stay in a house which was already disordered by removal, and the impending auction. But Charlotte said she could not go. There were still things to be done. And she was reluctant for him to go yet. "I am glad," he wrote, "that Lady Scott does not mind it, and yet, I wonder, too. She insists on my remaining till Wednesday, not knowing what I suffer."

        There is pathos, of a sort, in these two, each of a different courage, concealing their own troubles, and so, after a comradeship of thirty years, only partly understanding that which the other felt.

        Charlotte had been slow to believe in the reality of the financial trouble. She had believed that there was nothing that her husband was not equal to turn aside. But she had faced it bravely when she had realised that it was something that could not be averted by an effort of will, or a brave word. She had her own trouble, which she had been trying, with an equal futility, to put aside in the same way. But she had been persuaded or had resolved, that she would face it before she left Edinburgh. She would see Dr. Abercrombie, who could be trusted to tell her the truth - or as near to that as a doctor will.

        So Scott spent Sunday in a last sorting and packing of papers, which brought on the painful heart attacks of which he did not make overmuch, having being assured that they were nervous only; on Tuesday he had James to see him, to talk of proofs and take leave; and then he went out to say goodbye to Constable and Cadell, and walked up Princes Street with Mrs. Skene, whom he happened to meet, and went home feeling better in mind and body, and finished reading Pride and Prejudice for the third time, and reflected that Jane Austin had an art which he could never reach.

        The next morning he went back to Abbotsford. He travelled with Mrs. Mackay, the housekeeper, and one of the maids, for Charlotte said that she had still matters that must have attention before she left, and she would follow him on Sunday and till then she would keep Anne for company. But his spirits rose again as he approached the place that he had made to be what it was, and was met by 'the tumult, great of men and dogs, all happy to see me'.

        He spent the next day pleasantly enough, out walking in fine spring weather from one to four, calling on the ladies at Huntley Burn, and going through the plantations with Tom Purdie. Disaster had brought a congenial change of duties to Tom, for he was no longer to be responsible for the farm. He was to give his whole time, with a lessened staff, to the plantations, where, as was the case with his master, his strongest affections lay. What was to be kept of the farm was to be in the gardener's charge. If there were only three pages of Woodstock to be sent off to James in the morning, there was no need to worry about that, for, in the ease and quiet of an Abbotsford to which no visitors would be likely to come, that could easily be finished, and much progress could be made with the Napoleon, before it should be necessary to go back to Edinburgh .

        But the 'ease and quiet' were broken when the post came. There were letters from Lockhart and Sophia to say, that John Hugh's illness had developed into a difficulty in walking. There were symptoms that the spine was affected, and he was visibly weaker. This contrasted with a cheerful letter which had said he was better only a week before. Sophia had taken him to Brighton, where Lockhart would join her at weekends. But what hope was there in that?

        "The bitterness of this probably impending calamity is extreme. The child was almost too good for this world; beautiful in features; and though spoiled by every one, having one of the sweetest tempers as well as the quickest intellect I ever saw; a sense of humour quite extraordinary in a child, and, owing to the general notice which was taken of him, a great deal more information than suited his years. . . . The poor dear love had so often a slow fever, that when it pressed its little lips to mine, I always foreboded to my own heart what all I fear are now aware of."

        He slept badly that night, having dreams of the sick child. It was a quality of his constitution that he did not dream at all unless he dreamt ill. If health were good and circumstances propitious, he would sleep placidly all the night to wake with an imagination that was active and clear, so that, by the time he had dressed in a leisurely way, the day's work of the mind was done, and there was only the slower toil of the pen to follow. But in times of trouble he would be vexed by evil dreams of a vivid quality, in which old griefs would return. He sat in his study without the heart to go out in the usual way, but Tom lingered outside the window, with their two axes in hand, and lured him forth at last, and they cut palings together. Tomorrow Charlotte and Anne would come. But Sunday morning brought a letter from Anne. Her mother had seen a doctor, and had been told that she was more seriously ill than she had supposed. There was talk of a new remedy being tried, and they stayed till Wednesday. 'A new affliction,' Scott wrote that night, 'where there was enough before; yet her constitution is so good that if she will be guided by advice, things may yet be ameliorated. God grant it! for really these misfortunes come too close. . . .'

        But the next letter from Anne was in a more cheerful tone, and when they arrived back on Wednesday evening, in time for dinner, Charlotte seemed better than he had feared to see her. It was, in fact, Anne who looked ill. 'On the whole,' Scott wrote that night, 'things are better than my gloomy apprehensions had anticipated.'

        For Charlotte had been much her old animated self, and he had exciting news for her arrival. There was a letter from Lord Downshire's lawyer, saying that he believed that there were funds in Chancery belonging to Lady Scott, or her deceased brother, which might be recovered if proper instructions were given; and he must promise that he would write about it tomorrow. Charlotte had been advised to take digitalis - a remedy for many ills in the early part of the nineteenth century - and believed that she was already better in consequence. So he slept well that night, and made good progress with Woodstock next morning, and had a long vigorous walk in the afternoon, and wrote Mr. Handley, the London lawyer; and when Mr. Gibson came to Abbotsford unexpectedly, a week later, through a country whitened with unseasonable snow, and bringing colder news that neither Constable's nor Hurst's were likely to pay any considerable dividend, he was able to take the news indifferently, for Woodstock was finished at last.

        If Hurst and Constable were likely to do little to discharge that gross total of half-million of debt, there was the more cause to show that the assignment that Sir Walter Scott had executed was not equally illusory. The convincing evidence would be the sale of Woodstock at a good price. It was arranged that Mr Gibson should go on to London at once, to dispose of the copyright. If Hurst, Robinson & Co. were in a position to handle the book, and could find cash to pay for it, they were to have the first chance; otherwise it must go elsewhere.

        Mr. Gibson, looking frail, and complaining of the bitter weather, went southward by the London coach. Scott wrote, in his Journal:

        "It is being too confident to hope to insure success in the long series of successive struggles which lie before me. But somehow I do fully entertain the hope of doing a good deal. -

    He walked and wrote, poor soul, what then?
    Why then he wrote and walked again."


        It was March 30th when Mr. Gibson took the London coach, and with such eagerness was the privilege of being Scott's future publisher sought, and with such celerity was the bargain made, that letters were at Abbotsford within five days, both from Gibson and James, announcing that Woodstock was sold. The bargain included the printing of the first edition, and was for a total price of £8,228. It was, as Scott noted, an extraordinary amount to be realised by three months' work, and he pushed forward the Napoleon with a strengthened hope. Another such bargain, and there would be no small reduction in that total of liabilities which confronted him. Perhaps, in four or five years. . . .

        Thinking of that successful sale, it was easier to forget the day when he had ceased work because the page would not keep steady before his eyes, and the one when the pain in his back had rendered one position intolerable. . . .

        They would have been quiet, busy, happy spring days after the snow went, with still a month before there must be a lonely return to Edinburgh, but for a growing anxiety as to Charlotte's health. Every day it became more difficult to maintain the fiction that she was not worse, though both she and Scott appear to have been stubborn in their determination to do it.

        With the admission of illness which her reluctant visit to Dr. Abercombie had made, she had relaxed sufficiently not to get up till midday, and the quietness of Abbotsford, to which no visitors now came, except a few intimate neighbouring friends, must have been beneficial.

        On April 13th the Journal records that she 'seems to make no way, yet can scarcely be said to lose any'. The next day Scott went to a friend's funeral at Kelso, and after that the course of events may be best told by the following abstracts:

        "Apl.19th. Returned last night from the house of death and mourning to my own, now the habitation of sickness and anxious apprehension. Found Lady S. had tried the foxglove in quantity, till it made her so sick she was forced to desist. The result cannot yet be judged. Wrote to Mrs. Thomas Scott to beg her to let her daughter, Anne an uncommonly sensible, steady and sweet-tempered girl, come and stay with us a season in our distress, who I trust will come forthwith .

        Two melancholy things. Last night I left my pallet in our family apartment, to make way for a female attendant, and removed to a dressing-room adjoining, when to return, or whether ever, God only can tell. Also, my servant cut my hair, which used to be poor Charlotte's personal task. I hope she will not observe it.

        Apl. 20th. Lady Scott's health in the same harassing state of uncertainty. Yet on my side with more of hope than I had two days since.

        Apl. 2lst. This day I entertained more flattering hopes of Lady Scott's health than late events permitted. I went down to Mertoun. . . . Had the grief to find that Lady Scott had insisted on coming downstairs, and was the worse for it. Also a letter from Lockhart giving a poor account of the infant. God help us! earth cannot.

        Apl. 22nd. Lady Scott continues very poorly. Better news of the child.

        Apl. 23rd. Lady Scott is certainly better, and has promised not to attempt quitting her room.

        Apl 25th. Lady Scott was better yesterday, certainly better, and was sound asleep when I looked in this morning.

        Apl. 26th. Lady Scott continues better, so the clouds are breaking up.

        Apl. 27th. Lady Scott continues better, and, we may hope, has got the turn of her disease.

        Apl. 28th. Found Lady Scott obviously better, I think, than I had left her in the morning."

        So, as April ended, hope rose. And, apart from Charlotte's illness, things were going well enough. An article on Pepys for the Quarterly had brought a draft for £100 from its new editor, which was an important addition to the quarter's income. Lockhart's first number of the review occasioned a shrewd note in the Journal, which he must have read subsequently, though it did him no good:

        "No man can take more general and liberal views of literature that J.G.L. But he lets himself too easily into the advocatism of style, which is that of a pleader, not a judge or critic, and is particularly unsatisfactory to the reader."

        But Lockhart was not seeking advice, which he felt himself more competent to give. A fortnight later there is this entry:

        "J.G.L. kindly points out some solecisms in my style, as 'amid' for 'amidst', 'scarce' for 'scarcely'. 'Whose' he says, is the proper genitive for 'which' only at such times as 'which' retains its quality of impersonification. Well! I will try to remember all this, but after all I write grammar as I speak, to make my meaning known, and a solecism in point of composition, like a Scotch word in speaking is indifferent to me."

        Lockhart could not easily understand the self-confidence that did not seek a guiding authority, nor the stability which was unperturbed by his strictures. It might have seemed a strange idea to him that what Scott wrote today would be likely to be right tomorrow. . . .

        The news of Woodstock was good. The money it had realised was a tribute to Scott's past popularity rather than its own merits; if it should encounter public coldness or critical hostility, the payment might be the last of its kind. But it was received well; its sales, if not phenomenal, were satisfactory, even by the high standards of the past. Its success offset the news that, after many delays, and much talk of reconstruction, Hurst, Robinson & Co. had definitely given up the fight. It was news for which Scott was quite prepared, and to which he had become almost indifferent; but, for Constable, it was the end of a last hope. He had finally quarrelled with Cadell, and they were both trying to re-establish themselves in separate businesses, without much support either of capital or credit, and both hoping that some arrangement might be made with Scott which would enable them to publish for him again. If he should trust either in future, Scott was disposed to prefer the younger man. As to Constable, he pondered whether, or how much, he knew of the real weakness of Hurst, Robinson & Co. when he had drawn him into giving the support during the last fatal weeks which had added so greatly to the liabilities which he was now striving to repay - even how much he might have known or guessed earlier in the year, when he was renewing and exchanging bills with the printing business in ways by which so much of this same liability had been created? It was a question to which no certain answer could be given then: to which no certain answer can be given now. Lockhart answered it with confidence, in words of sweeping contemptuous condemnation. We may prefer those of Scott, who had been ruined by that confidence, and who had the better right to be bitter. He wrote:

      "Constable is sorely broken down.
      'Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
      That's sorry yet for thee.'

        His conduct has not been what I deserved at his hand, but I believe that, walking blindly himself, he misled me without malice prepense. It is best to think so at least, unless the contrary be demonstrated. To nourish angry passions against a man whom I really liked would be to lay a blister on my own heart."


        May came, with only ten days remaining before Scott must return to Edinburgh. The Napoleon had made good progress since Woodstock was finished, and as he walked among plantations to which the new leaves came he hardened his heart to the resolution that he would yet win them back to his own possession.

        But it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the fiction that Charlotte was better than the day before. The Journal reads from this date:

        "May lst. My Cousin, Barbara Scott of Raeburn, came here to see L.S. I think she was shocked with the melancholy change. She insisted on walking back to Lessudden House, making her walk 16 or l8 miles, and though the carriage was ordered she would not enter it.

        May 2nd. I wrote and read for three hours, and then walked, the day being soft and delightful; but alas! all my walks are lonely from the absence of my poor companion. She does not suffer, thank God, but strength must fail at last. Since Sunday, there has been a gradual change - very gradual -but, alas! for the worse. My hopes are almost gone.

        May 3rd. Mr. Handley has actually discovered the fund due to Lady Scott's mother, £1,200 . . . at a happier moment, the news would have given poor Charlotte much pleasure, but now - it is a day too late.

        May 4th. On visiting Lady Scott's sickroom this morning I found her suffering, and I doubt if she knew me. Yet, after breakfast, she seemed serene and composed. The worst is, she will not speak out about the symptoms under which she labours.

        May 6th. The same scene of hopeless (almost) and unavailing anxiety. Still welcoming me with a smile, and asserting she is better.

        May 10th. Tomorrow I leave my home. To what scene I may suddenly be recalled, it wrings my heart to think.

        May 11th (Edinburgh). Charlotte was unable to take leave of me being in a sound sleep, after a very indifferent night. Perhaps it was as well - an adieu might have hurt her; and nothing I could have expressed would have been worth the risk. . . ."

        So these two parted, without leavetaking, who had met, thirty years before, from such different beginnings, on the hills of Westmorland.

        For the first time in his life, Scott entered an Edinburgh in which he had no home. At first, when he saw that the house in North Castle Street must be given up, he had thought of taking rooms at a club. Then the Skenes had offered him hospitality. But he had refused that, because his necessity was not of a season, but would be, as he supposed, of a permanent kind. The days when the family had migrated three times a year between Abbotsford and Edinburgh, with a retinue of servants, horses and other domestic animals, were over for ever. He wanted no more now than rooms where he could have his books, and the quiet that would be needed for uninterrupted work. He took lodgings with a Mrs. Brown, 6, North St. David Street, while the bills TO SELL still hung in the empty North Castle Street windows, for the tide of fashion had moved westward since Charlotte and he had taken it a quarter of a century earlier, and it had become a house for which it would not be easy to find a buyer.

        Scott would rather have spent the afternoon quietly when he arrived in Edinburgh. He was in a mood to be alone with his thoughts. But James had asked him to dine with him en famille, and the invitation, kindly meant, could not easily be refused. James's home had been sold up like his own, and he had removed himself and his growing family to a small house in the suburbs. The printing works were being carried on by the Trustees now, and James was manager at a salary which he must make sufficient for his reduced establishment. His fortunes were still linked to those of Scott, for the printing of Woodstock and Napoleon had been keeping the works busy, and Scott's practice of having the pages set up as he wrote them made it practically obligatory upon any publisher who took the copyright of a book to take the printed volumes from the same source.

        So Scott wrote up his Journal when he arrived, with the record of that parting that sleep had hindered, and added his resolution to keep the engagement, let his feelings be what they might. "I will not yield to the barren sense of helplessness which struggles to invade me."

        And when he came back he had his reward in being able to write: "I passed a pleasant day with honest J.B., which was a great relief from the black dog which would have worried me at home. We were quite alone."

        The rooms did not seem to be bad of their kind. The people were 'civil' and apparently attentive. . . . But that was a minor matter, for Scott was supplying his own service. He brought a maidservant, and the butler, Dalgleish, who had been on the list of those who were to go, but had refused his dismissal, protesting that he would stay at whatever wages or none. So Scott was not without service of a faithful kind; but in his own spirit he was as lonely as when he lay beneath the storm, a laughing baby in the heather of Sandy-Knowe, though he would not laugh at the lightning now. . . . He had been two days in Edinburgh when there came a letter to say that Charlotte was dead. . . .

        There has been previous occasion to remark a disposition on the part of Scott's biographers to do less than justice to Charlotte Charpentier, and, in particular, to represent her as the makeshift substitute for the ideal partner whom Scott had loved, but had failed to win.

        There is a common shallowness of judgement which will always idealise the frustrated in contrast to the consummated attraction. Either might in theory contain the greater potentialities of passion, of sympathy, or of understanding; but the fact that the one should fail through the impulse on either side being unequal to the conquest of circumstance, or the power of subjecting the other, is argument, though less than proof, of its comparative deficiency.

        That which would follow the fruition of the first attraction can be a surmise only: that which follows the second is a tested thing. And in the case of Walter Scott and Charlotte Charpentier it was one that endures inspection, and defies criticism. Charlotte married a man of alien race, and widely different interests from her own: he was a dreamer and a poet. Neither the individual nor the institution of marriage can be subjected to many severer tests. It was a marriage which did nothing to obstruct, but obviously fostered the development of his own genius. It brought many years of happiness to these two who gave each other a most loyal and unswerving love.

        Even the differences of their interests may be exaggerated, for they were both lovers of the open air, and of country life: they were alike in love of order, and in generosity of disposition. They were alike in love of the home they had united to form, and the children it brought; and whether in the town house, the Lasswade cottage, or the country mansion, Charlotte proved herself equal to the exceptional requirements of the partnership into which she had entered.

        As to Scott's own feelings, they are best shown by a few further abstracts from his Journal during the fortnight following the news of his wife's death:

        "(Abbotsford) May 16th. When I contrast what this place now is with what it has been long since, I think my heart will break. Lonely, aged, deprived of my family - all but poor Anne - an impoverished and embarrassed man, I am deprived of the sharer of my thoughts and counsels, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone. . . . I wonder how I shall do with the large portion of thoughts which were hers for thirty years. I suspect that they will be hers yet, for a long time at least.

        May 17th.        Yet would I not at this moment renounce the mysterious yet certain hope that I shall see her in a better world, for all that the world can give me. . . . I remember the last sight of her, she raised herself in bed, and tried to turn her eyes after me, and said, with a sort of smile, "You all have such melancholy faces." They were the last words I ever heard her utter, and I hurried away, for she did not seem quite conscious of what she said. When I returned, immediately before departing, she was in a deep sleep. It is deeper now. This was but seven days since.

        May 23rd. . . . It seems still as if this could not be really so. But it is so - and duty to God and my children must teach me patience.

        May 24th.         Slept wretchedly, or rather waked wretchedly all night, and was very sick and bilious in consequence, and scarce able to hold up my head with pain. A walk, however, with my sons, did a great deal of good; indeed, their society is the greatest support the world can afford me. Their ideas of everything are so just and honourable, kind toward their sisters, and affectionate to me, that I must be grateful to God for sparing them to me, and continue to battle with the world for their sakes, if not for my own.

        May 26th. I will go to town on Monday, and resume my labours. . . Were an enemy coming upon my house, would I not do my best to fight, although oppressed in spirits, and shall a similar despondency prevent me from mental exertion ? It shall not, by Heaven! . . . I cared not to carry my own gloom to the girls, and so sat in my own room, dawdling with old papers, which awakened as many stings as if they had been the nest of fifty scorpions. Then the solitude seemed so absolute - my poor Charlotte would have been in that room a score of times to see if the fire burned, and to ask a hundred kind questions.

        Well, that is over - and if it cannot be forgotten, must be remembered with patience.

        May 27th.         A sleepless night. It is time I should be up and be doing, and a sleepless night sometimes furnishes good ideas. Alas! I have no companion now with whom I can communicate to relieve the loneliness of these watches of the night. But I must not fail myself and my family - and the necessity of exertion becomes apparent.

        May 29th.         Today I leave for Edinburgh this house of sorrow.

        Edinburgh.         May 30th. This has been a melancholy day, most melancholy. I am afraid poor Charles found me weeping. I do not know what other folks feel, but with me the hysterical passion that implies tears is of terrible violence - a sort of throttling sensation - then succeeded by a state of dreaming stupidity, in which I ask if my poor Charlotte can actually be dead. I think I feel my loss more than at the first blow.

        May 31st.         The melancholy hours of yesterday must not return. To encourage that dreamy state of incapacity is to resign all authority over the mind, well I have been wont to say -

"My mind to me a kingdom is."

I am rightful monarch, and, God to aid, I will not be dethroned by any rebellious passion that may rear its standard against me. . . . Wrote this morning a memorial on the Claims which Constable's people prefer as to the copyrights of Woodstock and Napoleon."

        The news of their mother's death had brought Walter and Charles, from Dublin and Oxford, to their father's side. Sophia, with a second child only just born, was unable to come. In view of her condition, Violet Lockhart, with a doubtful wisdom, had concealed the fact of her mother's illness from her, until the news of the death made it unavoidable to disclose the truth. Under the circumstances, Lockhart felt that his place was at his wife's side.

        Anne's health had given way after her mother's death. Long fainting-fits before, and at the funeral, had added to the trouble of the household. Her cousin Anne, who had come to help in nursing her mother, was now to stay at Abbotsford for the time as a companion for her. The boys went back to their respective duties. Scott settled down to work in his Edinburgh lodging.

        While he worked on Napoleon he had to deal with the half-anticipated legal difficulty over the copyrights which had first been sold to Constable & Co. That had been the first call to battle which had enabled him to resist the lethargy of grief, as the above-quoted abstract from the diary shows.

        It was a legal point of great importance to Scott and his creditors, for if he could establish his contention that the copyrights were still his, the sale of Woodstock and the various amounts which had been realised from his other assets, including the contents of the North Castle Street house, and the debts due to James Ballantyne & Co., were now sufficient, Mr. Gibson calculated, to pay a first dividend of 6/- in the £, with the aid of another substantial sum to come when Napoleon should be finished. It made the prospect of paying off the huge total seem an almost possible thing - but if the proceeds of Woodstock were to go to Constable's creditors, from which only a fraction would be returned for Scott's own claims on that estate - and if the proceeds of Napoleon were to go by the same road - then the result of the year's work might be little better than a vain beating of the air. And the Napoleon was proving an immense labour. It had grown far beyond the scope of the ideas of either Constable or himself when they had held confident counsel together less than a year ago. It moved forward - even rapidly. Its bulk grew. More slowly, the years of Napoleon's life advanced, until he was now upon 'the victorious chess-board of Italy'. But as it advanced, its end seemed further away. The labour of its production, the price at which it could be published, the probable profits, were continually increasing estimates. Scott had been rightly determined that if he completed this book for the payment of the avalanche of liabilities which had descended upon him, it should be his own creditors, rather than those of Constable & Co., who should reap the benefit. When he shook himself free for a moment from the lethargy of grief, his first thought had been to prepare a statement of the case as he saw it to be, and though, when the time came a few days later for a conference on the subject with the Trustees, he records that he had been so distracted by other thoughts that he would probably have overlooked the appointment had not Gibson sent a note of reminder, yet he may not have been found wanting when the moment came, for his record is that he left the legal gentlemen confident in the strength of the case he put before them:

        "I think I know how our profession speak when sincere. I cannot interest myself deeply in it. When I had come home from such a business I used to carry the news to poor Charlotte, who dressed her face in sadness or mirth as she saw the news affect me. . . . I passed a piper in the street as I went, and could not help giving him a shilling to play Pibroch a Donuil Dhu for luck's sake - what a child I am!"

        For the next fortnight he worked as perhaps even he had never worked before, in the effort to win self-control, if not forgetfulness, and with the urge of the stubborn resolution which he had formed before this grief had clouded his mind. "My head aches," he recorded once, as he laid down the pen, "my eyes ache - my back aches - so does my breast - and I am sure my heart aches, and what can Duty ask more?" And when, on the 17th of June, he left to face a long weekend at Abbotsford, the third volume of Napoleon was complete.

        The two Annes met him at Torsonce, giving a pleasant surprise, and when he had hardened his resolution to re-occupy his now-empty room, and walked next morning through the summer woods which owed their being to him, the old fighting spirit gathered strength again.

        "The young woods,'' he wrote, "are rising in a kind of profusion I never saw elsewhere. Let me once clear off these encumbrances, and they shall wave broader and deeper yet. But to attain this I must work. . . . Wrought very fair accordingly. . . ."

        He 'wrought very fair' indeed, for he went back to Edinburgh five days later carrying with him a hundred pages of a new tale, and by the end of the month the deathless spirit of adventure was reawakened, and a new plot of anonymity was commenced.

        James Ballantyne and Robert Cadell came to dinner together at Mrs. Brown's apartments, and though we have Dalgleish's evidence that Scott lived an abstemious life at this time, it is recorded in his own Journal that the evening saw the disappearance of one bottle of champagne, one of claret, and a glass or two of port among the three, with a glass each of whisky-toddy to complete the conviviality.

        But it was primarily a business conference. Under the circumstances under which insolvent printer, insolvent publisher, and insolvent author met, it might be called a council of war.

        The bargain made was this. Scott was to write a series of Tales which he was to send to Cadell, who would publish them anonymously under the title of Canongate Chronicles, or the Canongate Miscellany. Cadell was to employ the Ballantyne works to do the printing, and was to pay all charges thereon. He was to make Scott a cash advance of £500 upon this work, half of which was to be paid in time to return the money which Scott had borrowed from Gibson to equip his nephew for India when it should fall due in the autumn. Scott promised, in view of the responsibility that Cadell was taking, that, if the publication fell unregarded from the press, some steps - presumably leading to his admission of authorship - should be taken to call public attention to it.

        But having made this bargain, he turned back to Napoleon, which must be his main occupation till it should be finished. He would complete the fourth volume, and then have a change with the Canongate book. He worked to such purpose that the fourth volume was finished by the middle of August, by which time he was back at Abbotsford, with Charles, and Walter and Jane, and Jane's mother come to increase the diminished family circle, to which no strangers intruded now. But he did not turn to the Canongate Chronicles then, for his mind was full of the Treaty of Amiens, and the fifth volume of Napoleon was commenced as the fourth was ended.

        Youth asserted itself around him, as it always must, and there was music again in the large half-empty rooms, and he looked on, and was happy for his children, and sad for the vacant place which they could forget more easily than he. And they drove out to Drumlanrig, and climbed the Yarrow, and ascended the Birkhill path, where there was a good road; but there was an old woman in a herdsman's cottage who remembered how he had crossed the hills and bogs twice with Charlotte in a wheeled carriage, long ago, when there had been no road at all. And he knew it was true, "but, on my soul, looking where we must have gone, I could hardly believe I had been such a fool. For riding, pass if you will; but to put one's neck in such a venture with a wheeled-carriage was too silly."

        The summer months, with summer hours spent in the open air, in a quieter social atmosphere than Abbotsford had provided in previous seasons, and with many short expeditions among neighbouring friends, was not without its hours of quiet happiness, and the freedom from invading guests enabled work to proceed to the limit of the daily 'task ' of pages which he had set himself, to be a constant yoke while his health should endure it.

        There was no trouble from the outer world, except that Mr. Gibson wrote in some anxiety respecting the Constable claim. It had been agreed to submit it to arbitration, and it appeared that (at least as far as the proceeds of Woodstock were concerned), the Arbitrator did not consider it quite as simple a case as it had been hoped that he would be disposed to do. Also, there had been a disconcerting hint of caution in reference to a project which Scott had formed of visiting London later in the year. There was a firm of money-lenders, there, Abud & Sons, creditors of Hurst, Robinson & Co., who held Ballantyne bills for £1,500, and who had not agreed to the deed. It might not be wise to venture into England while that matter stood as it did.

        Napoleon had advanced very rapidly during these months. James had said that seven volumes would be necessary - had even suggested that it looked as though it would mean eight in the end, of which Scott was not willing to think. After all, he had passed Jena now. Napoleon was at the height of his power. There might be less space needed for his closing years.

        And there had been some progress with the Chronicles, too; though Scott had, at times, a shrewd doubt as to whether he could write fiction now with the old vivacity of imagination. But that was not sufficient cause to avoid the attempt. 'In literature,' he reflected stoutly, 'as in love, courage is half the battle.'

        So the long vacation drew to its end, and it was agreed that Anne should come back to Edinburgh with him, for cousin Anne had left, called away by another illness, and it would be best for both that they should be together now. So Anne and Jane and Mrs. Jobson went to Edinburgh to find suitable accommodation. Mrs. Brown's lodging had been accepted cheerfully. Even the secrecy of the Journal contained no grumble against it, till the day had come when it could be left. Then there was a hint that it had been no better than a dirty hole. Where-ever Scott went in the autumn, he did not mean to return there.

        And then, early in the autumn, the difficulty about going to London was cleared away. Abud & Sons, though they still sat on the fence, and would not agree to the deed, had written that they would take no hostile steps for four or five weeks, if Sir Walter wished to visit England for such a period. And Longmans (Mr. Gibson wrote) had offered £10,500 for the Napoleon. It was a magnificent sum, showing there had been no rashness of optimism in Constable's earlier estimate that it would be worth £10,000. And the fifth volume was finished now.

        Also, Cadell sent the second instalment of the £500 deposit which he had agreed to pay on the Canongate Chronicles. It was in English bills and money, such as would provide conveniently for the journey.

        Everything pointed southward. Scott had come to a point in the Napoleon at which it was important to obtain sight of many State and other records which would be available there. But he was curiously reluctant to go. He was clearly in an overworked condition which could continue at its regular task, but could not easily rouse or reconcile itself to a different effort.

        "I am downhearted," he wrote, "at leaving all my things, after I was quietly settled; it is a kind of disrooting that recalls a thousand painful ideas of former happier journeys."

        And the effort showed that there was no margin of safety in the degree of health which had left his Journal clear of any record of illness during the summer months. He wrote on the next day:

        Oct. 11th. We are ingenious self-tormentors. This journey annoys me more than anything of the kind in my life. My wife's figure seems to stand before me, and her voice is in my ears - "Scott, do not go." It half frightens me. Strong throbbing at my heart, and a disposition to be very sick. It is just the effect of many feelings which have been lulled asleep by the uniformity of my life, but which awaken on any new subject of agitation. Poor, poor Charlotte! I cannot daub it further. I get incapable of arranging my papers too. I will go out for half-an-hour. God relieve me!

        "I quelled this hysteria passi by pushing a walk toward Kaeside and back again. . . ."

        But the fluctuations of mood, the moments of weakness, which the Journal showed, were seldom allowed to become apparent to those around him, and still less often to deflect the course which courage or judgement willed him to take. He returned from the walk still suffering from the confusion of mind that disabled him from finding or arranging the papers which he must sort before he could leave for such a journey. So he gave it up at last, and went out to a parting dinner with some neighbours at Kippielaw. But the next day's entry is short and definite.

        "Oct.12th. Reduced my rebellious papers to order. Set out after breakfast, and reached Carlisle at eight o'clock at night."


        The next six weeks were spent in London and Paris, with Anne for company. It was a journey fruitful in its immediate object. The Government offered free access to the state-papers of the Foreign Office: statesmen and soldiers offered their diaries: the Duke of Wellington promised a regular correspondence: much material was obtained in Paris by enquiry and conversation.

        Socially, it enabled many old acquaintances to be renewed, and some new ones made. The Morritts were visited at Rokeby on the way to London, which was approached through Grantham and Biggleswade. Tom Moore, Rogers, Joanna Baillie, Allan Cunningham, Sir Thomas Lawrence, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Melville, the old friend of Charlotte's family, M. Dumergue, and a hundred others of public repute or private friendships welcomed and entertained them.

        There was an invitation from the King to spend an afternoon with him at Windsor at the Forest Lodge, and Scott contrived to record the real kindness of a man so naturally uncongenial with a discretion which is free from insincerity. "I am sure," he wrote, "such a man is fitter for us than one who would long to head armies, or be perpetually intermeddling with la grande politique."

        There was an 'April-weather' meeting with Sophia, whom he had not seen since she had left for London a year ago, when her mother had been alive, and he had just returned, at the height of an apparent prosperity, from the tumultuous reception of his Irish visit. There was John Hugh, little better or worse, 'looking well, though the poor dear child is kept always in a prostrate position;' and there was a gathering of the most eminent physicians, apparently by Scott's energetic interposition, around his couch, with no better result than that they agreed, with a learned solemnity, that there might be something wrong with his spine which could not be cured, but it was more likely that it could, though they didn't say how, except that sea or country air was better than that of the town.

        And there was a visit to Daniel Terry, and the Adelphi Theatre, which, it will be remembered, Scott's guarantee had enabled him to acquire. And they went to the play there, and had the pleasure of seeing a crowded house, by which it might be thought that Daniel was doing well. But the theatre was badly ventilated, and the heat so great that Anne, who was very subject to fainting, was taken ill, and had to be carried into Daniel's house, which was contrived in a little space at the rear of the theatre 'like a squirrel's cage'.

        And in Paris, besides the King, and a hundred French celebrities, Scott met the American author, Fennimore Cooper, who proposed a plan by which (he thought) the piracy of Scott's works in the United States might be circumvented by registering them as the property of an American citizen. Nothing came of that; but Scott, who liked and admired Cooper, wrote of him that night: "This man, who has shown so much genius, has a good deal of the manner, or want of manner, peculiar to his countrymen." And the Journal came to be published at last, and 'manners' was printed for 'manner', and it was supposed that Scott had made a reflection on the American people of that time which he did not imply.

        Apart from the direct object of the expedition, and the pleasure which Anne took in such a holiday, it had a direct result in a promise from Sir Thomas Knighton, on the King's behalf, that a post should be found for Charles in the Diplomatic Service, which was good news to give, when they returned through Oxford, and Charles was able to entertain his father and sister in his college rooms.

        Also, there had been some talk with French publishers in Paris about selling the translation rights of Napoleon, but there was not much in that, for the price proposed was no more than a hundred guineas, and even that was checked by a suggestion that this right had been sold already, though it was not clear who could have done it, unless it had been Constable & Co. at an earlier date.

        So they came back by Cheltenham, where they saw Mrs. Thomas Scott, and then through the industrial Midland district, stopping at Birmingham and Manchester, and hearing dismal prophesies of the miseries and disorders that the coming winter would be likely to bring.

        It was three in the morning when they got home, for they had been faced by heavy snow after leaving Manchester, and had made a forced march of the remainder of the way, taking 'two pairs of horses over the Shap Fells . . . and by dint of exertion reaching Penrith to breakfast'. Then they drove on till they found their own horses at Hawick, and so completed the journey, which the snow might have blocked by a later day.

        It had been an expensive expedition. Of the £200 with which Scott had set out, he could count only £8 in his purse when he alighted at Abbotsford. He noted against this loss of money that he had gained:

        "in health, spirits, in a new stock of ideas, new combinations, and new views. My self-consequence is raised, I hope not unduly, by the many flattering circumstances attending my reception in the two capitals, and I feel confident in proportion. In Scotland I shall find time for labour and for economy."

        There could be no pausing at Abbotsford. His duty lay at the Court of Session, from which he had been absent too long already. He spent the day of arrival packing a load of books which were to be carted to Edinburgh, and reflecting that the home of his building was still best to his own mind. "I have seen in my travels none I liked so well." And the next morning, after breakfast, they set out again, and though there was delay at Fushie Bridge, where all the horses had gone to the smithy to be rough shod, they got into town about eight, and drove to No. 3, Walker Street, a furnished house which had been taken for them, and which Walter and Jane, who were staying with Mrs. Jobson in Edinburgh, had made ready for their reception.


        The record of the next seven months - until the midsummer of 1827 - is one of concentration upon the Napoleon, for which other work was almost entirely laid aside, and a continual struggle against ill-health. Scott had a constitution which required, and was accustomed to, exercise, and his physical infirmities were increased at this time by severe attacks of rheumatism, which settled most obstinately in the knee of his sounder leg. . .

        It was recognised in January that the Napoleon could not easily be compressed into seven volumes, and an eighth was added, with Longmans' assent. The effect of this, and of a bold decision to increase the quantity of the first edition, was that the author's immediate return was increased to a total of £18,000. Lockhart estimates that, with £8,000 from Woodstock and a valuation of £1,000 upon the portion of Canongate Chronicles written during the year, that Scott had earned by his pen a total of £28,000 within eighteen months. There is some inaccuracy here, as a proportion of this sum was for the manufacture of the books themselves, but the substantial result remains, and is a sufficient cause for wonder if all its circumstances be considered. His private expenditure was supplied during this period by a resolution of the Trustees to refund him the cost of travelling to secure materials for the biography. It is characteristic that, during the last days of completing this book, a new project was undertaken. The last words of Napoleon were written on June 10th. It had been on May 24th. that 'a good thought came into my head'. A week later he was discussing with Cadell the financial basis on which a series of historical tales for children might be produced, and on June 7th, he had fixed up a contract with him by which he was to receive £787. 10. 0 upon the first 10,000 copies of these Tales of a Grandfather.

        But the record of this period is best given in the form of some brief abstracts from the Journal. It should be understood that the 'pages' of work to which allusion is sometimes made were large close-written sheets, each equal to several pages of a printed book.

        Dec. 17th. This was a day of labour, agreeably varied by a pain which rendered it scarcely possible to sit up.

        Dec. 18th. Almost sick with pain, and it stops everything.

        Dec. 21st. In the house till two o'clock nearly. Came home corrected proof-sheets, etc., mechanically. All well, would the machine but keep in order, but 'The spinning wheel is auld and stiff.' I think I shall not live to the usual verge of human existence. I shall never see the threescore and ten, and shall be summed up at a discount. No help for it, and no matter either.

        Dec. 24th. To add to my other grievances I have this day a proper fit of rheumatism in my best knee. I pushed to Abbotsford, however, after the Court rose, though compelled to howl for pain as they helped me out of the carriage.

        Dec. 27th. Still weak with this wasting illness, but it is clearly going off. Time it should, quoth Sancho. I began my work again which had slumbered betwixt pain and weakness. In fact, I could not write or compose at all.

        Dec. 28th. Stuck to my work.

        Jan. 2nd. I had resolved to mark; down no more griefs and groans, but I must needs briefly state that I am nailed to my chair like the unhappy Theseus.

        Jan. 7th. Wrought till twelve, then sallied and walked with Skene for two miles; home and corrected proofs, and to a large amount.

        Jan. 8th. Slept well last night in consequence I think of my walk, which I will, God willing, repeat today.

        . . . Afterwards I walked to the Welsh pool, Skene declining to go, for I

      ". . . not over stout of limb,
      Seem stronger of the two."

        Jan. 9th. . . . Here blows a gale of wind. I was to go to Galashiels to settle some foolish lawsuit, and afterwards to have been with Mr. Kerr of Kippilaw to treat about a march-dike. I shall content myself with the first duty, for this day does not suit Bowdenmoor.

        Went over to Galashiels like the devil in a gale of wind, and found a writer contesting with half-a-dozen unwashed artificers the possession of a piece of ground the size and shape of a three-cornered pocket-handkerchief. Tried to 'gar them gree,' and if I succeed, I shall think I deserve something better than the touch of rheumatism, which is like to be my only reward.

        Jan. 10th. Enter rheumatism, and takes me by the knee. So much for playing the peacemaker in a shower of rain.

        Jan. 12th. All this day occupied with camomile poultices and pen and ink. It is now four o'clock, and I have written yesterday and today ten of my pages - that is, one-tenth of one of these large volumes - moreover, I have corrected three proof-sheets. I wish it may not prove fool's haste, yet I take as much pains too as is in my nature.

        Jan. 17th. (Edinburgh). Another proper day of mist, sleet, and rain, through which I navigated homeward. I imagine the distance to be a mile and a half. It is a good thing to secure as much exercise.

        Jan. 23rd . I have got a piece of armour, a knee-cap of chamois leather, which I think does my unlucky rheumatism some good. I begin, too, to sleep at night, which is a great comfort. Spent this day completely in labour. . . ."

        Jan. 28th. Continued my reading with the commentary of the D. of W. If his broad shoulders cannot carry me through, the devil must be in the dice. Longman and Company agree to the eight volumes. It will make the value of the book more than £12,000. Wrought indifferent hard.

        Jan. 30th. . . . By a letter from Gibson I see the gross proceeds of Bonaparte, at eight volumes are -

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£12,600. 0. 0.

Discount, five months, -210. 0. 0.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .-----------------

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .£12,390. 0. 0.

I question if more was ever made by a single work or by a single author's labours, in the same time. But whether it is deserved or not is the question.

        January 31st. . . . Wet to the skin coming from the Court. . . . Dined at the Bannatyne Club, where I am chairman.

        February 1st. I feel a return of the cursed rheumatism. How could it miss, with my wetting? Also feverish, and a slight headache. So much for claret and champagne. I begin to be quite unfit for a good fellow. Like Mother Cole in the Minor, a thimbleful upsets me - I mean, annoys my stomach, for my brains do not suffer. Well, I have had my time of these merry doings.

    "The haunch of the deer, and the wine's red dye
    Never bard loved them better than I."

But it was for the sake of sociality; never either for the flask or the venison. That must end - is ended. The evening sky of life does not reflect those brilliant flashes of light that shot across its morning and noon. Yet I thank God it is neither gloomy nor disconsolately lowering; a sober twilight - that is all.

        February 3rd. There is nought but care on every hand. James Hogg writes that he is to lose his farm, on which he laid out, or rather threw away the profit of all his publications.

        Then Terry has been pressed by Gibson for his debt to me. That I may get managed.

        I sometimes doubt if I am in what the good people call the right way. Not to sing my own praises, I have been willing always to do my friends what good was in my power, and have not shunned personal responsibility. But then that was in money matters, to which I am naturally indifferent, unless when the consequences press on me. But then I am a bad comforter in case of inevitable calamity; and feeling proudly able to endure in my own case, I cannot sympathise with those whose nerves are of a feebler texture.

        February 7th. Wrote six leaves today, and am tired - that's all.

        March 1st. At Court until two - wrote letters under cover of the lawyers' long speeches, so paid up some of my correspondents, which I seldom do upon any other occasion. I would sometimes let letters lie for days unopened, as if that would postpone the necessity of answering them. Here I am at home, and to work we go - not for the first time today, for I wrought hard before breakfast. So glides away Thursday 1st.

        March 3rd. Very severe weather, came home covered with snow. White as a frosted-plum-cake, by jingo! No matter; I am not sorry to find that I can stand a brush of weather . .

        March 4th. . . . Sir Adam came, and had half an hour's chat and laugh. My jaws ought to be sore, if the unwontedness of the motion could do it. But I have little to laugh at but myself, and my own bizarreries are more like to make me cry. Wrought hard, though - there's sense in that.

        March 5th. . . . I think today I have finished a quarter of vol. viii., and last. Shall I be happy when it is done? - Umph! I think not.

        March 9th. . . . We were detained till half-past three o'clock, so when I came home I was fatigued and slept. I walk slow, heavily, and with pain; but perhaps the good weather may banish the Fiend of the joints.

        March 11th. . . . James Ballantyne dined with us. He kept up my heart about Bonaparte, which sometimes flags; and he is such a grumbler that I think I may trust him when he is favourable. There must be sad inaccuracies, some of which might certainly have been prevented by care; but as the Lazaroni used to say, 'Did you but know how lazy I am!'

        March 12th. (Abbotsford). Away we set, and came safely to Abbotsford amid all the dullness of a great thaw, which has set the rivers a-streaming in full tide. The wind is wintry, but for my part

"I like this rocking of the battlements."

I was received by old Tom and the dogs, with the unsophisticated feelings of goodwill.

        March 13th. . . . Had a pleasant walk to the thicket, though my ideas were olla-podrida-ish, curiously checkered between pleasure and melancholy I have cause enough for both humours, God knows. I expect this will not be a day of work but of idleness, for my books are not come. Would to God I could make it light thoughtless idleness, such as I used to have when the silly smart fancies ran in my brain like the bubbles in a glass of champagne, - as brilliant to my thinking, as intoxicating as evanescent. But the wine is somewhat on the lees. Perhaps it was but indifferent cider after all. Yet I am happy in this place, where everything looks friendly, from old Tom to young Nim.

After all, he has little to complain of who has left so many things that like him.

        March 15th. . . . I drove over to Huntley Burn with Anne, then walked through the plantations, with Tom's help to pull me through the snow-wreaths. Returned in a glow of heat and spirits. Corrected proof-sheets in the evening.

        March 18th. Took up Boney again. I am now at writing, as I used to be at riding, slow, heavy, and awkward at mounting, but when I did get fixed in my saddle, could screed away with anyone. I have got six pages ready for my learned Theban tomorrow morning.

        March 21st. Wrote till twelve, then out upon the heights though the day was stormy, and faced the gale bravely. Tom Purdie was not with me. He would have obliged me to keep the sheltered ground. But, I don't know -

"Even in our ashes live our wonted fires."

There is a touch of the old spirit in me yet that bids me brave the tempest.

        March 22nd. Yesterday I wrote to James Ballantyne, acquiescing, in his urgent request to extend the two last volumes to about 600 each. I believe it will be no more than necessary after all, but makes one feel like a dog in a wheel, always moving, and never advancing.

        March 25th. Hard work still, but went to Huntley Burn on foot, And returned in the carriage. Walked well and stoutly - God be praised! - and prepared a whole bundle of proofs and copy for the coach tomorrow; that damned work will certainly end some time or other. As it drips and dribbles out on the paper; I think of the old drunken Presbyterian under the spout.

        March 28th. . . . I did not work longer than twelve, however, but went out in as rough weather as I have seen, and stood out several snow blasts.

        April 5th. Heard from Lockhart; the Duke of Wellington and Croker are pleased with my historical labours; so far well - for the former, as a soldier said of him, "I would rather have his long nose on my side than a whole brigade." Well! something good may come of it, and if it does it will be good luck, for, as you and I know, Mother Duty, it has been a rummily written work. I wrote hard today.

        April 6th. Do. Do. I only took one turn about the thickets and have nothing to put down but to record my labours.

        April 7th. The same history occurs; my desk and my exercise. I am a perfect automaton. Bonaparte runs in my head from seven in the morning till ten at night without intermission. I wrote six leaves today and corrected four-proofs.

        April 8th. Ginger, being in my room, was safely delivered in her basket of four puppies; the mother and children all doing well. Faith! that is as important an entry as my Journal could desire. The day is so beautiful that I long to go out . I won't though, till I have done something. A letter from Mr. Gibson about the trust affairs. If the infernal bargain with Constable go on well, there will be a pretty sop in the pan to the creditors; £35,000 at least. If I could work as effectually for three years more, I shall stand on my feet like a man. But who can assure success with the public?

        April 9th. I wrote as hard today as need be, finished my neat eight pages, and, notwithstanding, drove out and visited at Gattonside. The devil must be in it if the matter drags out longer now.

        April 10th. Some incivility from the Leith Bank, which I despise with my heels. I have done for settling my affairs all that any man - much more than most men - could have done, and they refuse a draught of £20, because, in mistake, it was £8 overdrawn. But what can be expected of a sow but a grumph? Wrought hard, hard.

        April 11th. The parks were rouped for £100 a year more than they brought last year. Poor Abbotsford will come to good after all. In the meantime it is Sic vos non vobis - but who cares a farthing? If Boney succeeds, we will give these affairs a blue eye, and I will wrestle stoutly with them. . . ."

        April 14th. Went to Selkirk to try a fellow for an assault on Dr. Clarkson - fined him seven guineas, which, with his necessary expenses, Will amount to ten guineas. It is rather too little; but as his income does not amount to £30 a year, it will pinch him severely enough, and it is better than sending him to an ill-kept jail, where he would be idle and drunk from morning to night. I had a dreadful headache while sitting in the Court - rheumatism in perfection. It did not last after I got warm by the fireside.

        April 15th. Delightful soft morning, with mild rain. Walked out and got wet, as a soverign cure for the rheumatism. Was quite well though, and scribbled away.

        April 20th. A surly sort of day. I walked for two hours, however, and then returned chiefly to Nap. Egad! I believe it has an end at last, this blasted work. I have the fellow at Plymouth, or near about it. Well, I declare, I thought the end of these beastly big eight volumes was like the end of the world, which is always talked of and never comes.

        April 27th. . . . I have been a little nervous, having been confined to the house for three days. Well, I may be disabled from duty but my tamed spirits and sense of dejection have quelled all that freakishness of humour which made me a voluntary idler. I present myself to the morning task, as the hack-horse patiently trudges to the pole of his chaise, and backs, however reluctantly, to have the traces fixed. Such are the uses of adversity.

        April 29th. . . . I wrote all the morning then cut some wood. I think the weather gets too warm for hard work with the axe, or I get too stiff and easily tired.

        May 12th. . . . Walked with my cousin, Colonel Russell, for three hours in the woods, and enjoyed the sublime and delectable pleasure of being well, - and listened to on the subject of my favourite themes of laying out ground and plantation.

        May 14th. To town per Blucher coach, well stowed and crushed, but saved cash, coming off for less than £2; posting costs nearly five, and you don't get on so fast by one-third. Arrived in my old lodgings here with a stouter heart than I expected.

        May 24th. Rather too many dinner engagements on my list. Must be hard-hearted. I cannot say I like my solitary days the worst by any means. I dine, when I like, on soup or broth, and drink a glass of porter or ginger-beer; a single tumbler of whisky and water concludes the debauch. This agrees with me charmingly. At ten o'clock bread and cheese, a single draught of small beer, porter, or ginger-beer, and to bed.

        May 26th. I went the same dull and weary round out to the Parliament House, which bothers one's brains for the day. Nevertheless, I get on. Pages vanish from under my hand, and find their way to J. Ballantyne, who is grinding away with his presses. I think I may say, now I begin to get rid of the dust raised about me by so many puzzling little facts, that it is plain sailing to the end.

        June 7th. This morning finished Boney. And now, as Dame Fortune says, in Quevedo's Vision's, Go, wheel, and the devil drive thee. It was high time I brought up some reinforcements, for my pound was come to half-crowns, and I had nothing to keep house when the Lockharts come. Credit enough to be sure, but I have been taught by experience to make short reckonings.

        . . . I arranged with Mr. Cadell for the property of Tales of a Grand-father, 10,000 copies for £787. 10. 0.

        June 9th. Corrected proofs in the morning.

        June 10th. Rose with the odd consciousness of being free of my daily task. . . . Fortunately my thoughts are agreeable; cash difficulties, etc., all provided for, as far as I call see, so that we go on hooly and fairly. Betwixt (now) and August 1st. I should receive £750, and I cannot think I have more than the half of it to pay away. Cash, to be sure, seems to burn in my pocket. 'He wasna gien to great misguiding, but coin his pouches wouldna bide in.' By goles, this shall be corrected, though!"

        Within a week of the last proof-sheets being corrected, The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, in eight large close-printed volumes, was in the hands of the booksellers.


        The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte is in some respects, if not Scott's greatest, yet, considered as a feat of intellect, his most marvellous work. His own feeling was expressed, a few weeks after its publication, in conversation with Mr. J. L. Adolphus, to whom "he said, in a quiet but affecting tone, 'I could have done it better, if I could have written at more leisure, and with a mind more at ease.'" But in breadth of imagination, in mastery of a thousand details, in balance and equity of presentation, it is in the foremost rank of the world's biographical or historical works. Almost all historians, almost all biographers, may be classified as writing either with the warmth of prejudice, or in a spirit of cold-blooded impartiality. It is the peculiar excellence of the Napoleon that it is alive with an impartial sympathy. It deals with the world-events of half a century, and with a myriad of characters, many of whom were still alive at the time. It was written without access to many records and documents which were subsequently available. For this reason it has been superseded by later works, but its broad conclusions are unshaken. It became a mine of information and guidance for later historians.

        It is of such bulk, and of such a nature, that it might be supposed to be the work of a decade, if not of a lifetime. It was not merely written during two years of financial disaster, broken health, crushing personal sorrow, and other occupations, it was written from end to end without alteration or revision, as perhaps no such work ever was before or will be again, the chapters being set up in type and printed, one by one, as they came from the author's hand.

        It was attacked, on publication, from every side, as such a book would be certain to be. The attacks cancelled each other. They died down, and the book stood.

        There was one serio-comic episode in connection with General Gourgaud, who had been on Napoleon's staff at St. Helena. He had been active in representing in France that Napoleon had been harshly treated at St. Helena. Scott discovered at the Foreign Office private reports from this man to the English Government of a directly contrary character. He referred to this inconsistency in the Life and Gourgaud burst into excited denials. Thereupon, Scott published his authorities. There was talk of a challenge from the furious Frenchman. Scott expressed a good-humoured readiness to oblige him, and actually went so far as to engage William Clerk to act as his second in the encounter, but the General contented himself with a verbal bluster.

        Immediately following the completion of this work, Scott paid a short visit to Charlton, in company with Sir Adam Fergusson, William Clerk, and a number of other friends of earlier years, "all in the humour to be happy, though time is telling with us all." They went to St. Andrews together, and Scott, for the first time in his life, found himself left behind when there was a turret-stair to be mounted. They climbed St. Rule's Tower, while he sat on a grave-stone below, lamenting rheumatism, and reflecting that "I think this is the first decided sign of acquiescence in my lot". His mind went back to when he had been there thirty-four years before, and carved Williamina's name "in Runic characters on the turf beneath the castle-gate, and I asked why it should still agitate my heart," but his friends came down from the tower, and the foolish idea was chased away.

        Returning to Edinburgh, he turned attention again to the Canongate Chronicles and the Tales of a Grand-father, both at once as his way was, but with some relaxation of the pressure at which he had worked till the Napoleon was finished; and as the Lockharts had come north, to take a summer holiday at Portobello, he went there about every second day, and tried the Tales on his grandson (who was somewhat stronger now, giving a short-lived hope that he would out-grow his weakness), so that he could be sure that he had the right tone for such a work, and when the session closed and he was able to get back to Abbotsford, the Lockharts came also, and John Hugh was found to be strong enough to sit on a pony, and they went rides together in a sedate way, for Scott had found a horse that he could contrive to mount, and that would bear him safely.

        Sybil Grey had been sold, after an attempt to take a jump which would once have been easy alike to horse and rider had resulted in a dangerous spill, but Douce Davie was a horse of another colour - in fact, dun, with a black mane. Douce Davie had a great and singular reputation. He had belonged to a laird who was always drunk when he went home at night, and he was so expert in balancing that his master might lurch as he would without falling from the saddle, every movement would be so intelligently anticipated, so skilfully countered. When his owner died, it was anticipated that the whole countryside would compete for so useful a quadruped, and it was perhaps the greatest tribute ever paid by Selkirkshire to its beloved Sheriff that on it becoming known that he desired the purchase, all competition ceased, and he was able to buy at his own price.

        Scott was cheered at this time by the news that Gibson had nearly £40,000 in hand or in sight for distribution among the creditors, only awaiting the result of the arbitration upon the Constable claim. He calculated also that he could see a sufficiency of the smaller sums which he was making at this time by miscellaneous writing for his own use, and the manner in which he interpreted his resolutions of future economy is illuminated by a Journal entry which says:

        "A distressing letter from Haydon; imprudent, probably, but who is not? A man of rare genius. What a pity I gave that £10 to Craig! But I have plenty of ten pounds sure, and I will make it something."

        In July, Constable died. He is said to have succumbed to the weight of his misfortunes, but his health was already ruined by self-indulgence. He died at fifty-two, and Scott had written of him as "the old gentleman" in an earlier year. Yet his death was probably hastened by the strain and grief of the events which had destroyed his business, scattered has assets for a fraction of their proper value, and left him poor and discredited. He may have found an additional cause for depression in the fact that Scott had preferred Cadell to himself in the recent publishing arrangements which he had made, but there was no ill-feeling underlying this arrangement, and it is improbable, had he lived, that Scott would have refused him some share in his future favours. But, in any case, he had brought the position upon himself, having forced the quarrel upon Cadell by which they were parted, at a time when it was of the first importance that they should have held firmly together. Scott may have felt an obligation of equity, as well as a greater confidence in the energy of the younger man. But his final feeling is best expressed in his own words:

        "Constable's death might have been a most important thing to me if it had happened some years ago, and I should then have lamented it much. He has lived to do me some injury; yet, excepting the last £5,000, I think most unintentionally. He was a prince of booksellers . . . he knew, I think, more of the business of a bookseller in planning and executing popular works than any man of his time . . . I have no great reason to regret him, yet I do. If he deceived me, he also deceived himself.''

        The paragraph appears to state the position with equitable moderation. Lockhart's random allegation that Scott was ruined by the Ballantynes will not endure examination and would probably never have been suggested by anyone but himself. To say that Constable ruined Scott has a more literal accuracy, but to say that it was by his fault would be to go much further, and would be more disputable. Ultimately, they were all ruined by Hurst, Robinson & Co.'s failure. The bulk of Scott's income, the bulk of the gross turnover of the printing works, a large part of Constable's turnover, all came through Hurst, Robinson & Co.'s hands, and should have been paid over by them. The whole disaster was fundamentally due to their default. But Constable was the one who had chosen them as his agents, who conducted all financial and other transactions with them, and who assured Scott from time to time that all was well, when he had good reason to doubt it. Hurst, Robinson & Co. had acted with most culpable imprudence in their speculations, but, if they could be heard in their own defense, they would call themselves the victims of a world-wide financial crisis - and a fall in the price of hops.

        Scott blamed Constable specifically for persuading him to undertake the final £5,000 of responsibility, which added that amount to his liabilities, without any gain whatever. It was, at the worst, an error of judgement, by a man whose instinct was to fight, and who saw that the alternative was a final ruin. Scott did not blame him (as is commonly said) for the £10,000 which he raised on the security of Abbotsford shortly after the signing of the £5,000 bond. He would not have thought of doing so, for the £10,000 was intended, and was applied (so far as it was paid out at all) to the reduction of the Ballantyne & Co. liabilities. But the fact that he had so raised, and so applied it, did enable him to say that the catastrophe was not due in any degree to himself or to the printing business. Had Hurst, Robinson & Co. and Constable & Co. continued to meet their liabilities, there is not the smallest doubt that James Ballantyne & Co. and Sir Walter Scott would have done the same.

        Almost immediately after Constable's death, the arbitration regarding the copyrights was substantially decided. The earlier ones were declared to be the absolute property of the Constable estate, but those of Woodstock and Napoleon to belong to Sir Walter Scott. This was a victory for Scott's Trustees, and Scott called himself a feather-headed gull because the good news kept him awake in the night. He reflected that he could now clear off about a third of his debts. And as to the other two-thirds? Well, he was in no worse health than he had been a year ago. "Tomorrow I will resume on the Chronicles, tooth and nail."

        So he resolved; but we may doubt whether his heart was ever in these tales in a continuous or embracing way. There are passages, and one or two characters, one or two scenes, which are of the authentic Waverley pattern, but if the bulk of The Surgeon's Daughter, the Highland Widow, and the Two Drovers were consumed in the same fire, would their author's reputation be any lower, the work he has left be appreciably diminished? Doubtless, he was conscious of this approach to failure, and James made no secret of his feelings when he came, with George Hogarth, to talk business at Abbotsford. James missed the old glitter, the old pageantry of the historical romances. He pleaded for something more in the same style. Scott thought he under-estimated the importance of novelty. He had not made his greatest successes in the past by imitation of earlier efforts, but by bold adventures upon difficult backgrounds.

        Whichever were right, their difference was irrelevant. The trouble was not in the themes, but in the quality of the telling, which was not sustained at a high level, though it might be reached occasionally. It would be wrong to say that Scott could not write a short story. Wandering Willie's Tale is a classic of its kind. But it was a bad sign when a longer effort showed a tendency to finish early. Scott's method of composition, which did not work to a set plot, but let it develop as the inter-play of characters, and the invention of incident led, resulted in a tale which spread vigorously, as a plant grows, if it were from a seed of sufficient vitality, and nourished by a sufficient vigour of imagination. The fault with these Canongate Chronicles was that they were the driven work of a tired brain. Reading them, James might well doubt himself if the debts could be ever paid. Woodstock and Napoleon had realised an immense sum, but the novel had been projected and partly written before the crisis came, and the biography was a special, unrepeatable thing. - Now, on the return to the fiction which had supplied the steady golden fountain of the past, - well, James couldn't imagine that there would be any enthusiasm about these tales. Scott may have felt the same doubt; but what use was there in regarding that? They were the way out. Besides, he had contracted to write them. He thought of that £40,000 already in Gibson's hands, and

"Fresh vigour with the hope returned."

He went at them 'tooth and nail'.

        There is no doubt - it is his own testimony - that the desire to free his beloved Abbotsford from the control of strangers was a driving force at this time, which would renew its strength as he walked through the woods that he had caused to be. He was already, as his power recovered and his hope grew, reasserting his will as to the spirit in which the estate should be administered, - a standard of high efficiency, with very liberal treatment of those who served it. William Laidlaw, when the first fury of the storm descended, had been turned out of Kaeside, and his salary stopped. Scott had agreed to this at the time; but that fund now in Gibson's hands, the larger half of which had been produced by his own subsequent toil, and was of the nature of a gift to his creditors, gave him a good right to dictate the terms on which he should continue to serve them. The Laidlaws would soon be back in their former home.

        But if we recognise that the desire to ransom Abbotsford from alien control was a driving and inspiring force at this time, we must not therefore conclude that Scott's attitude regarding the discharge of his liabilities had been determined by this consideration. We must observe that his decision had been the same from the first, and at a time when it had not been clear to his own mind that he would be able to return to Abbotsford at all, nor even, in the shock of the first realisation of ruin, that he would desire to do so.

        In broad outline, the record of this closing period of his life is one of a stubborn continual effort, which met with undespairing courage the implacable verdict of the years. Brain and body failed beneath the efforts by which the fund in Gibson's hands was augmented, and it was hard to guess on which side victory would lie at the last. Looked at in outline thus, it is a sombre heroic tale, but it would be wrong to think of it as being without its periods of quiet happiness, its times that were free from any sense of physical disability or discomfort. The record of such a Journal as Scott wrote during these years may be the best indication of his fundamental feelings, but there is much of happiness there, as well as of sorrow and ever-increasing physical infirmity, and the courage that overcame. There is evidence of a different kind, but a no less certain value, in the observations of others, at times which were free from the self-consciousness that the entering of such a Journal requires.

        Mr. J. L. Adolphus came to see him this autumn. His previous visit to Abbotsford had been in 1824 when Scott was at the height of his prosperity. His credential had been the Letters to Richard Heber in which, apart from the discussion of their authorship, the Waverley novels had received one of the best criticisms and appreciations that they are ever likely to have. Now he was asked to stay three days in a house to which few visitors came. Scott recorded that it was a "very agreeable" visit. "He is a modest, as well as an able man."

        Mr. Adolphus has left us his own impression of that visit, which he had approached with "painful and anxious" apprehensions of the changes which adversity might have produced. He says that these feelings "gave way at once to the unassumed serenity of his manner. There were some signs of age about him which the mere lapse of time would scarcely have accounted for; but his spirits were abated only, not broken; if they had sunk, they had sunk equably and gently. It was a declining, not a clouded sun." He went on:

        "One morning a party was made to breakfast at Chiefswood; and anyone who on that occasion looked at and heard Sir Walter Scott, in the midst of his children and grandchildren and friends, must have rejoiced to see that life still yielded him a store of pleasures, and that his heart was as open to their influence as ever. I was much struck by a few words which fell from him on this subject a short time afterwards. After mentioning an incident which had spoiled the promised pleasure of a visit to his daughter in London, he then added - "I have had as much happiness in my time as most men, and I must not complain now." I said, that whatever had been his share of happiness, no man could have laboured better for it. He answered - "I consider the capacity to labour as part of the happiness I have enjoyed"."

        It was about this time that he recorded the depression produced by 'my loneliness, and the increased disability to walk,' and gave complement to Mr. Adolphus's observation, when he wrote:

        "I generally affect good spirits in company of my family, whether I am enjoying them or not. It is too severe to sadden the harmless mirth of others by suffering your own causeless melancholy to be seen; and this species of exertion is, like virtue, its own reward; for the good spirits, which are at first simulated, become at length real."

        The summer quietude at Abbotsford was briefly interluded by a visit to Glasgow, and several friends in its neighbourhood.

        Edinburgh, taken on the way, gave opportunity for a call on Gibson, who had the welcome news that the firm of Dickinson (papermakers, of London) would be satisfied with 10/- in the £ on the bills they held. Scott noted on this:

        "These debts, for which I am legally responsible, though no party to their contraction, amount to £30,000 odd. Now if they can be cleared for £15,000 it is just so much gained. That would be a giant step to freedom."

        It was Hurst & Robinson's debt, and Dickinson's would, of course, receive additional dividends from their and Constable's estates, so that the difference which their offer made would be nearer £10,000 than £15,000; but even so, it was a substantial reduction in the confronting total, and good cause for a cheerful holiday.

        There was good hope, too, in a project which had been in Constable's mind, and which Cadell was maturing - that of an edition of the complete Waverley novels, to which Scott should write new introductions and notes. It will be remembered that a plan to bring them out in a cheaper form had been put aside because there were still substantial quantities of existing editions in the hands of the trade. Now Cadell thought that these stocks would nearly be exhausted. He said that, at his own shop, he sold a novel or two, and two or three Napoleons almost every day, and his stocks must soon be replenished from London. His brothers were now supporting him with ample capital. It was a large project, needing careful planning, and with some copyright difficulties at the threshold, but it had the possibilities of a great success.

        Scott stayed the night at 10, Walker Street, which he now hired when in Edinburgh, and observed for the first time that, by some ironic chance, some of his old Castle Street furniture had found a resting place in the house. It gave him 'rather queer feelings . . . I remember poor Charlotte and I having so much thought about buying these things. Well, they are in kind and friendly hands.'

        The next morning he drove to Glasgow, with his one-time ward, the young Marchioness of Northampton, for company, whom he had once rebuked at Abbotsford for lack of respect for his guest, and the journey was made pleasant by her kindness and vivacity. After that, there were many invitations on arrival to be refused or accepted, and a few happy days with George Cranston (Lord Corehouse) and other friends of earlier days at Corehouse Castle, with a return to Abbotsford a week later, and the final comment:

        "Thus ends a pleasant expedition among the people I like most. Drawback only one. It has cost me £15, including two gowns for Sophia and Anne; and I have lost six days' labour. Both may be soon made up."

        The next day he was on the bench at Selkirk, and fined a man for assault. "He pleaded guilty, which made short work." Crimes of assault and violence, mostly of a political character, were becoming very common over all the country, and the agitation for a reform of the franchise threatened the foundations of the existing order.


        Lockhart, recording the experiences of the visit which Sophia and he paid to Abbotsford during this autumn of 1827, throws a pleasant light upon the conditions of its new economy:

        "I admired," he says, "the manner in which all his dependents appeared to have met the reverse of his misfortunes - a reverse which inferred very considerable alteration in the circumstances of every one of them. The butler, Dalgleish, had been told, when the distress came, that a servant of his class would no longer be required - but the man burst into tears, and said, rather than go he would stay without any wages. So he remained - and instead of being the easy chief of a large establishment, was now doing half the work of the house, at probably half his former salary. Old Peter, who had been for five-and-twenty years a dignified coachman, was now ploughman in ordinary, only putting his horses to the carriage upon high and rare occasions; and so on with all the rest that remained of the ancient train. And all, to my view, seemed happier than they had ever done before.

        ". . . All this warm and respectful solicitude must have had a salutary influence on the mind of Scott, who may be said to have lived upon love. No man cared less about popular admiration and applause; but for the least chill on the affection of any near and dear to him he had the sensitiveness of a maiden. I cannot forget, in particular, how his eyes sparkled when he first pointed out to me Peter Mathieson guiding the plough on the haugh: "Egad," said he, "auld Pepe" (this was the children's name for their good friend) - "auld Pepe's whistling at his darg. The honest fellow said, a yoking in a deep field would do baith him and the blackies good. If things get round with me, easy shall be Pepe's cushion"."

        At the beginning of October, there was another brief interlude in the routine of work, when Scott accepted, with some reluctance, an invitation from Lord and Lady Ravensworth to meet the Duke of Wellington at Ravensworth Castle, and to attend a grand dinner in the Episcopal Castle at Durham. He returned to make rapid progress with the Tales of a Grand-father. On one day he wrote the equivalent of forty pages of print. "But then the theme was so familiar, being the Scottish history, that my pen never rested."

        A few days later, he received a letter from Lady Jane Stuart, Williamina's mother, with whom he had had no communication since he had ridden away from Invermay when her daughter had finally refused him, thirty-one years ago.

        Lady Jane, now a widow of seventy-four, wrote that there were some ballads in Scott's handwriting in an album of Williamina's which a friend was anxious to print. Would he give permission? He replied with a request that he might see the album.

        Lady Jane, in a second letter, made clear the warmth of affection which she had always felt for her daughter's wooer, and which thirty years had not been sufficient to weaken. The

letter is of the kind which whoever finds should place quietly upon the fire, as an obviously personal and private document, but it has been printed already.

        "Were I to lay open my heart," she wrote, "(of which you know little indeed) you would find how it has and ever shall be warm towards you. My age encourages me, and I have longed to tell you. Not the mother who bore you followed you more anxiously (though secretly) with her blessing than I! Age has tales to tell, and sorrows to unfold."

        Scott's Journal-record of the receipt of this letter reads:

        "A surprise amounting nearly to a shock reached me in another letter from L.J.S. Methinks this explains the gloom which hung about me yesterday. I own that the recurrence to these matters seems like a summons from the grave. It fascinates me. I ought perhaps to have stopped it at once, but I have not nerve to do so! Alas! - alas! - But why alas? Humana perpessi sumus."

        The beginning of November brought trouble of a different kind.

        It will be remembered that when Scott had been desirous of visiting London it had been necessary to obtain an undertaking from Messrs. Abud & Sons, one of Hurst Robinson & Co.'s creditors, that they would not use the opportunity for any legal process. They had consistently refused to assent to the Assignment which Scott had made. They said they required payment, or desired bankruptcy.

        On the last day of October, when Scott says that he was 'merrily cutting away,' among his trees, Mr Gibson suddenly appeared at Abbotsford with the news that Messrs. Abud were taking action in the Scottish court.

        The law of imprisonment for debt was simpler, being less hypocritical, than it is now; but it was used, then as now, as a form of legal blackmail by which money could often be extracted from a debtor's friends. Messrs. Abud had chosen their time well. They had waited till there was a good sum in Mr. Gibson's hands, and a distribution was about to be made.

        As they had not assented to the Deed, they had no claim to any part in that distribution. But their rights of legal action remained. Let Mr. Gibson distribute the money among other creditors, if he would. Meanwhile, Scott should find himself in a debtor's prison. What was the remedy? Let their account be paid in full. It had been £1,500 originally. Interest and costs had brought it up to nearly £2,000 now.

        There were three courses from which a choice must be made. Scott could cut the knot at any time by consenting to bankruptcy, and this was the course which Mr. Gibson was disposed to advise. Scott had, by his industry after the date of the financial catastrophe, created a fund from which a dividend of 6/- could be paid. He had done enough for honour. It could always be said that he would have continued that course, had not Abud's action rendered it impossible.

        Or their debt might be paid in full from the funds in hand, if the other creditors would agree.

        Or, finally, he might defy them to do their worst, which would be to confine him in the Canongate jail, till they got tired of such a barren remedy, and agreed to take their place with the other creditors.

        To escape the last evil, he might withdraw to the Isle of Man, as his brother Tom had done when in a similar difficulty, or take sanctuary in Holyrood, for the Church still had this privilege of protection against the inhumanity of the law.

        Scott's Journal shows that his first impulse was to accept Mr. Gibson's advice: to give up the fight and consent to bankruptcy, unless the creditors should resolve to relieve him of the difficulty by giving preferential payment to these pertinacious pursuers. But the entries that follow during the week before, in response to a letter from Gibson, he went to Edinburgh, show a hardening of resolution, of which he scarcely seems himself aware until his decision forms itself. He had some changes of mood. He waked in the night, and lay two hours in feverish meditation, resulting in the reflection that 'it is no purpose being angry with Ehud or Ahab, or whatever name he delights in. He is seeking his own; and thinks by these harsh measures to render his road to it more speedy."

        Three days later he concludes that

        "Our hope, heavenly and earthly, is poorly anchored, if the cable parts upon the strain. I believe in God, who can change evil into good; and I am confident that what befalls us is always ultimately for the best."

        But it would be a profound misjudgement of Scott's character to suppose that this mild reflection indicates that he is now in a mood to surrender. He concludes his entry with the resolution that: 'If I can prevent it, he shall not take a shilling by his hard-hearted conduct."

        In fact, he had resolved, as Mr. Pickwick did on a later day, that he would end his days in the Canongate Jail rather than be defeated by such manoeuvres. The next morning he put his papers in order, congratulated himself that the First Series of the Chronicles of the Canongate had been completed two days ago, and 'firm as a piece of granite' (but for Anne's doleful looks) he set out for Edinburgh.


        Things seldom happen according to plan, except on the battlefield, and then most often only by the mendacity of bulletins. Scott arrived in Edinburgh to find that the scene had changed.

        The Trustees, being lawyers, and as much interested as himself, though from a different angle, in frustrating this interference in an arrangement by which the assenting creditors were already benefiting very largely, had been examining Messrs. Abud's judgement. The interest which had been charged to Hurst, Robinson & Co. was certainly calculated with liberality. If usury could be established, the judgement would be worthless, as against Scott, in the Scottish courts. Anyway, if evidence could be obtained sufficient to allow of a case being entertained, it would mean delay. It was resolved that the attempt should be made. Cadell was despatched to find Robinson, and gather material for the application. Scott's judgement, on leaving the conference, was that, as far as he was concerned, the danger was past.

        "This much I think I can see, that the trustees will rather pay the debt than break off the trust, and go into a sequestration. They are clearly right for themselves, and I believe for me also. Whether it is in human possibility that I can clear off these obligations or not, is very doubtful. But I would rather have it written on my monument that I died at the desk; than live under the recollection of having neglected it. . . . Were I shirking exertion, I should lose heart, under a sense of general contempt, and so die like a poisoned rat in a hole."

        The twelfth of November - fourteen days after the issuing of the process which had started Mr. Gibson hurrying to Abbotsford - was the date on which Abud & Sons would be able to obtain their committal of Sir Walter, unless it could be stayed by the legal process in contemplation, and, under the circumstances, he decided not to go back to Abbotsford. He was not intending to return to Walker Street. Mrs. Jobson had a more comfortable furnished house, 6, Shandwick Place, which the family were anxious that Sir Walter should have while in Edinburgh. It was a consideration which, with that £40,000 in hand, and the hope of future favours, the Trustees could not refuse. They had agreed to pay £100 for the house for the four months that the Court would be sitting, and, from this time, it was Scott's regular residence when in the city. He now made an easy arrangement, by paying an extra £5, that he could have immediate possession. He had brought a man servant, John Nicholson, with him, who got fires in the house, and 'all snug' while he slept one night with his friend, John Home, and wrote to Anne that he should not be returning to Abbotsford.

        No. 6, Shandwick Place was opposite to Maitland Street, from which address Lady Jane Stuart had written, and on the same day (Nov. 6th.) that Scott took possession he asked Mrs. Skene to accompany him to make a call upon her. Lockhart says that Mrs. Skene said afterwards that the result was 'a very painful scene'. The Journal contains no more than the brief entry: 'I waited on L.J.S., an affecting meeting.'

        There is no better evidence of the depth and tenacity of Scott's affections than the profound mental disturbance which was occasioned by the renewal of this acquaintance. The fact - mere coincidence though it was - that Sir William Forbes called in the evening, being concerned about the Abud matter, and anxious to give counsel and sympathy, could do nothing to turn Scott's mind from the duel in which Sir William had defeated his hopes thirty years before. The Journal shows how warmly he appreciated the attitude of the man with whom his friendship had survived the severest of all possible tests, but he cared nothing for Abud now.

        He rose next morning with a determination not 'to leave the mind leisure to recoil on itself,' and commenced the essay on Ornamental Gardening which subsequently appeared in the Quarterly. But he found himself blocked almost at once by the need for books of reference which were not available in this new house which he had entered before his time. At that, he made an attempt to commence a second series of the Chronicles, but the starting of a new tale, on which the imagination was slow to move, did not supply the kind of labour which might have enabled him to control his thoughts. He gave up the attempt at last, and walked over to make another call on Lady Jane, of which he has left his own record:

        "I went to make another visit, and fairly softened myself, like an old fool, with recalling old stories till I was fit for nothing but shedding tears and repeating verses for the whole night. This is sad work. The very grave gives up its dead, and time rolls back thirty years to add to my perplexites. I don't care. I begin to grow over hardened, and like a stag turning at bay, my naturally good temper grows fierce and dangerous. Yet what a romance to tell, and told I fear it will one day be. And then my three years of dreaming and my two of waking will be chronicled doubtless. But the dead will feel no pain."

        He worked steadily for the next two days, and then:

        "Nov. 10th. Wrote out my task and little more. At twelve o'clock I went to poor Lady J. S., to talk over old stories. I am not clear that it is right or healthful indulgence to be ripping up old sorrows, but it seems to give her deep-seated sorrow words, and that is a mental blood-letting. To me these things are now matter of calm and solemn recollection, never to be forgotten, yet scarce to be remembered with pain."

        Yet he was glad to remember (this being Saturday) that he had an invitation to spend the weekend with Sir William Rae, where society might assist him to bring these haunting memories under control. And so he went to St. Catherine's, and after prayers next morning he sauntered about with Sir William, exchanging recollections of the old days of the Yeomanry regiment which they had been united to raise, and then drove over to see Lord Melville and his family in the afternoon, and came back through the early November twilight beneath a sky of topaz and vermilion that glowed above the amethysts of the Pentland Hills.


        On Monday morning it was necessary to return to Edinburgh to face Abud & Sons' action, on the delaying of which Scott's immediate liberty depended, and his spirits rose almost to gaiety as the moment of crisis came.

        "I cannot say," he wrote, "I lost a minute's sleep on account of what the day might bring forth; though it was that on which we must settle with Abud in his Jewish demand, or stand to the consequences. I breakfasted with an excellent appetite, laughed in real genuine easy fun, and went to Edinburgh, resolved to do what should best become me."

        He got back to Shandwick Place to find that Anne was there, and Walter also awaiting him. How Walter had heard of the coming trouble does not appear. Perhaps Anne, who had taken the news of her father's coming jeopardy more quietly than might have been expected, had been using an urgent pen. Anyway, Walter had got sudden leave, and hurried to Abbotsford and then on to Edinburgh in time to be on the scene at the day of crisis. . . . And then there was the realisation that the crisis was postponed again, and neither Walter's military assistance, nor that of Jane's money would be required.

        Mr. Gibson had had an anxious time, for Cadell had not returned, and the affidavit from Robinson, on which he had relied to support his application, was not available. Yet, without that, he had obtained the suspension that he required.

        And in the afternoon, which would have been an hour too late, there was a letter from Cadell, enclosing another from Robinson, who would do all that might be required . . . Abud would have to prove to the Court of Session that his usury had not been beyond the limit of Scottish law, and, until he should have done this, his teeth were drawn.

        It may be convenient to follow this incident to its end, rather than to revert to it on a later page. It might be thought, after the result of this preliminary skirmish, that Abud & Sons would have been in a mood to abandon the fight, and join the other creditors, rather than contest such an action in Edinburgh. But they proved to be of a more obstinate temper. They not only fought: they won. They secured from the Edinburgh court, which would certainly have preferred to render a different decision, a verdict that they had not burdened Hurst, Robinson & Co. with an excessive usury.

        After that, Sir Walter was informed that an arrangement had been made by which the debt would rank with those of the other creditors, and the trouble was over. He did not know, until after the death of Sir William Forbes, that this was not the result of any legal compromise. Sir William had bought the debt, paying Abud's claim and costs in full, to a total of nearly £2,000.

        It deserves chronicle that this was not the only instance in which friends who had offered direct assistance, which Scott had refused to accept, had facilitated, without his knowledge, the operation of the scheme of settlement on which his heart was set.

        Abud & Sons had not been the only creditors who had declined to assent to the deed, in the shrewd opinion that a different attitude might result in a full and much speedier settlement.

        Three of the Clerks of Session, who had been his life-long friends - Colin Mackenzie Sir Robert Dundas, and Macdonald Buchanan - had united in the provision of a secret fund from which such debts were bought up. Only Mr. Gibson knew that they had become the actual creditors, in place of those whose names appeared on the schedule of liabilities. Sir Walter Scott never knew this. All his life, he had good friends.


        The next day Cadell came. He was in good spirits at his successful chase of the elusive Robinson, but on another matter he had heard a disturbing report.

        The sale of the Waverley copyrights, together with most of those of the poems - in fact, of all that had been purchased by Constable, or which remained the property of Scott's estate, had been fixed for Dec. l9th. It had been agreed that the amount realised should be held until the Arbiter's award should be fully given, but that nothing could be gained by further delaying the sale.

        Cadell had come to a clear agreement with Scott as to the terms on which a new edition of the novels should be produced, but this was dependent upon the copyrights remaining under their control. The amount which they would realise at such an auction could only be vaguely guessed, but it had been hoped that it would not be beyond their capacity to arrange it, and that it was a matter in which the Trustees could be induced to co-operate. Now, talking among the trade in London, Cadell had realised that the competition for these copyrights might be more serious than he had anticipated.

        So fresh reckonings were made and plans were discussed anew. Scott planned in a bold way, as he always would. It did not follow that he was wrong. He had projected great plans in the past, and had been equal to their realisation. There was to be a new complete edition say - thirty volumes. Suppose one were published each month, in an edition of 5,000? He reckoned that there should be a clear £10,000 profit within three years, after all costs had been paid. Work for James's presses: profit for Cadell's publishing business: and £10,000 for his own creditors - less whatever the copyrights would cost - and the copyrights would be a continuing asset. He would write new introductions and notes to earn that £10,000 for his estate. 'I must urge these things to Gibson,' he noted; 'for, except these copyrights be saved, our plans will go for nothing.'

        There were further conferences during the following weeks of a rather complicated kind. Gibson was persuaded that the scheme to purchase the copyrights was sound, and that they must be secured at 'almost any' price. The other Trustees were disposed to concur.

        The position was simplified by the formal issue of the Arbiter's final award, which was substantially in favour of Scott's estate. It cleared the way for the distribution of the money now in the bank. A meeting of creditors was held on Dec. 4th, at which a dividend of 6/- in the £ was voted, together with the thanks of the meeting for the successful efforts which Sir Walter had made.

        There was the right atmosphere, and a concrete plan. Cadell had contracted for a second series of the Canongate Chronicles, and had offered to pay £4,000 cash down, which he was in a position to do. Scott was to hand this sum over to the Trustees, and they were to apply it, so far as might be required, toward the purchase of a half-share in the copyrights. Cadell was to finance the other half of a purchase which was to be jointly made.

        Cadell might be supposed to be about the last man who would do anything to disturb the smooth working of this programme, yet disturb it he did, after anxious consultations with James, finally writing a letter to him, which it was agreed that he should send on to Scott with a covering letter of his own. He was, in fact, in a very difficult position, confronting a choice of evils.

        The first volume of the Canongate Chronicles had been published a few weeks earlier, and had been received in a lukewarm way. The intention of anonymity had been abandoned by Scott's own decision, for a reason which he gives at some length in his Journal, and which shows that he had less than his usual confidence in the quality of these volumes. He had considered that if the publication should pass unnoticed, and it should subsequently become necessary to stimulate sales by announcing the authorship, criticism would be certain to defend its previous indifference by asserting that the fault was in the Tales themselves - that they showed a declining power - even though that should not be a true explanation.

        There is substance in this argument, and it was certainly the wiser course to publish in his own name, but it was not one which would have entered his mind ten or twenty years earlier, nor would it have had a decisive weight at this time had he faced the event with the consciousness that a new Ivanhoe or Midlothian was being launched on its career of triumph.

        Anyway, published in his name they had been, and criticism was cold, and the sales were poor. That was not all. A considerable proportion of the MS. of the second series had been supplied, and James and Cadell were of one mind about it. It was worse than the first.

        They both saw that if, as this MS. appeared to indicate, Scott's power as a novelist had declined, it became all the more important that the copyrights should be secured, and that he should be occupied upon the notes and introductions which he, and only he, would be competent to write. It would become an absolutely vital matter for James (who was aiming to re-establish himself in the ownership of the works) that the printing of whatever new editions of the Waverley novels might be required should come into his hands, if there should be no more new ones to keep him busy.

        Yet, even so, Cadell was not willing to pay £4,000 for a MS. of less than doubtful value, even though the money might be applied in a direction which he desired. He would do better to keep it in his own pocket, and buy the copyrights (if that should become necessary) entirely himself. Not that he desired to do this. He appears to have acted honourably in a very delicate position.

        So the letter to James was written, and James sent it on to Scott, making his own agreement clear. In fact, My Aunt Margaret's Mirror, which was the (subsequent) title of the commencing tale of the second series, was not worth printing.

        The letters were awaiting Scott when he came back from Court on December 11th. He had been in a particularly happy and confident mood since the meeting of creditors on the 4th. The long-drawn dispute over the ownership of the copyrights was ended; and the method of their purchase had been arranged. The Tales of a Grandfather had been finished, and he had a well-founded confidence in their success. His health was better than it had been last winter.

        Beyond these things, after a period of hesitation, he had got a theme for a new novel which pleased his mind. Not one of these stop-gap tales, but one on which his genius could expand in its old prodigal style. The germ of it had come to him in the form of an anecdote he had heard a few weeks ago. Now he saw it in a setting of time and place in which it could be brought to a natural flower. And it had the spiritual theme that his genius required before it could rouse itself to the exercise of its full capacity. It was the latest and most difficult lesson that Scott's comprehensive sympathies had enabled him to learn - that a man may be a physical coward, and yet not deserve contempt. He had conceived the idea of the Fair Maid of Perth. Two days ago he had recorded: "I set hard to work, and had a long day with my new Tale."

        From this mood he was violently roused by the reading of Cadell's letter. Promptly adjusting his mind, he wrote back that afternoon, saying that he would release him from the contract, rather than that further loss should be incurred. He noted:

        "I can shift for myself amid this failure of prospects; but I think both Cadell and J. B. will be probable sufferers."

        It appears that Cadell and J.B. thought the same. They received Scott's letters, and read them with consternation. Cadell had got all he asked, and more than he had a right to expect. He was offered at once the cancellation of the contract, without argument or condition. He was released from an obligation to pay £4,000 on a doubtful bargain; and having got that release, he was at once aware that that was not what he had been wanting at all.

        In their hearts, neither James nor Cadell had believed - or would be willing to believe - that the old power, the old glamour, had gone; that they were asking gold from an exhausted mine. They had called out in their distress, as a man calls to a god, and had expected that a different provision would be made, which would equal their need.

        Meanwhile, Scott had been considering the position. In his own heart he knew that the first series of Canongate Chronicles had experienced the reception it deserved. He had been watchful for several years to detect any slackening of his power of writing fiction. He was not one who would easily admit defeat, but he would always face facts. If it were now as it seemed to be well, he must find another method of victory. He wrote that morning:

        "December 12th. Reconsidered the probable downfall of my literary reputation. I am so constitutionally indifferent to the censure or praise of the world, that never having abandoned myself to the feelings of self-conceit which my great success was calculated to inspire, I can look with the most unshaken firmness upon the event as far as my own feelings are concerned. If there be any great advantage in literary reputation, I have had it. and I certainly do not care for losing it.

        "They cannot say but what I had the crown. It is unhappily inconvenient for my affairs to lay by my (work) just now, and that is the only reason why I do not give up literary labour; but, at least, I will not push the losing game of novel-writing. I will take back the sheets now objected to, but it cannot be expected that I am to write upon return. I cannot but think that a little thought will open some plan of composition which may promise novelty at the least. I suppose I shall hear from or see these gentlemen today; if not, I must send for them tomorrow. How will this affect the plan of going shares with Cadell in the novels of earlier and happier days? Very much, I doubt, seeing I cannot lay down the cash. But surely the Trustees may find some mode of providing this, or else with cash to secure these copyrights. At any rate, I will gain a little time for thought and discussion."

        He made no mistake in supposing that he might "hear from or see these gentlemen today". They had spent the morning in anxious conference, and in the afternoon they were side by side on the doorstep at Shandwick Place. They entered with a waving of white flags, a bending of abject knees. They had convinced themselves that they hadn't said anything, - or, if they had, they hadn't meant it at all; and when Scott told them that he was disposed to lay fiction aside for six months or twelve, having plenty of other literary work on hand, or which he could obtain, they were voluble in protest. Such an interval, they exclaimed (it was no longer than that which had preceded the publication of The Pirate) would raise public anticipation to such a pitch of intensity that no book which might then appear could be sufficient to satisfy it! What they had really meant (whatever they might have said) was no more than that a deletion of part of the introduction to the second series might improve the volume for which it had been intended! "So" Scott wrote that night, "the word is 'as you were'."

        So the word might be, but the fact was different. Scott was too sensible to disregard a warning the truth of which was echoed in his own mind. He threw My Aunt Margaret's Mirror aside. He treated The Laird's Jock, which was to have followed, in the same way. When the next three volumes of the Canongate Chronicles should appear, they would be occupied by a single novel - The Fair Maid of Perth.


        When Scott quieted that friendly rebellion of publisher and printer by telling them that he could find plenty of occupation for his pen without resorting to fiction, he spoke no more than was plainly true. He had been writing some well-paid review articles in the midst of the occupations and distractions of recent months, and it was only the next day that the London post brought two substantial offers such as it was a frequent necessity to decline with the degree of courtesy that their substance might merit. And even in these mental and financial extremities, he could not break himself of the habit of doing charities with his pen.

        His unstable, thriftless acquaintance, R. P. Gillies, always a shameless beggar, as those who waste their own substance most often are, had already successfully solicited a free article for a review which he had been founding. Recently, in an effort to keep it alive, he asked for another. Each of these requests may be compared to soliciting a gift of £100, at which price Scott could have sold them easily. In view of the position in which he was known to be placed, the requests were entirely impudent. The second did move him, to whom it was so natural to give aid to others, to a momentary indignation. "I am pulling for life," he noted, "and it is hard to ask me to pull another man's oar." But the other man got his oar pulled, all the same.

        There was another incident of about this time, which belongs to the same category. Years before, under circumstances which have been detailed at greater length than their interest merits, Scott had drafted two sermons for a nervous protégé who desired to enter the ministry, but who had not used them. Now, this man, Huntley Gordon, wrote that he was in desperate difficulties, which it would require £180 to relieve. It must have been an exceptional morning when Scott opened his letters without becoming better acquainted with someone's financial troubles than he had been on the previous day. Mr. Gordon did not ask for a loan. He wanted permission to sell the sermons, which he thought would realise enough to relieve his difficulties.

        Scott's first inclination was to refuse. He knew that the price of the sermons would be conditional upon the appearance of his name upon them, -

        "and that is at present out of the question. People would cry out against the undesired and unwelcome zeal of him who stretched out his hands to help the ark with the best intentions, and cry sacrilege. And yet they would do me gross injustice; for I would, if called upon, die a martyr for the Christian religion . . . "

        It was a causeless humility, for there are few men who have ruled their lives more closely to the vital principles of Christianity; but it is indicative of the inferior status of imaginative literature a century ago, if not absolutely, yet as compared with religious writings. It was about a quarter of a century later that Tennyson approached the priest's dominion in a similar spirit of diffidence.

    "Urania speaks with darkened brow
    'Thou pratest now where thou art least.
    This faith has many a purer priest,
    And many an abler voice than thou.'

    And my Melpomene replies,
    A touch of shame upon her cheek,
    'I am not worthy even to speak
    Of thy prevailing mysteries.'"

        A world-famous novelist or poet of today would be more likely to expect gratitude from the churches, if he should use his pen to preach their religion, or support their doctrines.

        But Scott's reluctance to appear before the public as a writer of sermons gave way as he considered the urgency of Huntley Gordon's debts, and, a few days later, he wrote

"Dear Gordon,

        As I have no money to spare at present, I find it necessary to make a sacrifice of my own scruples to relieve you from serious difficulties. The enclosed will entitle you to deal with any respectable bookseller. You must tell the history in your own way as shortly as possible. All that is necessary to say is that the discourses were written to oblige a young friend. It is understood that my name is not to be put in the title-page, or blazed at full length in the preface. You may trust that to the newspapers.

        Pray do not think of returning any thanks about this; it is enough that I know it is likely to serve your purpose. But use the funds arising from this unexpected source with prudence, for such fountains do not spring up at every place of the desert. I am, in haste, ever yours most truly,


        The issue appears from a Journal note six weeks later - January 25th, 1828.

        "Huntley Gordon has disposed of the two sermons to the bookseller Colburn for £250 - well sold I think- and is (sic) to go forth immediately. The man is a puffing quack; but though I would rather the thing had not gone there, and far rather it had gone nowhere, yet, hang it! if it makes the poor lad easy."

        On February 29th, there is a note that the proofs had been passed for the press: "A foolish scrape, but what could I do? It involved the poor lad's relief from something very like ruin."

        The 'puffing quack' was, of course, not Huntley Gordon, but the publisher, who was not one who had a reputation for the publication of sermons; but the Religious Discourses were soon in a second edition, and had a large sale .

        But apart from such generosities, Scott had ample opportunities of using his pen to profit, without the writing of fiction. On the morning after Cadell and Ballantyne called, there was a letter from Lockhart saying that Murray would contract for a book on Landscape Gardening on whatever terms Scott might consider satisfactory. It would have been congenial work, as is shown by his essays on that and kindred subjects. Scott's knowledge of landscape gardening and arboriculture was only obscured by more popular aspects of his many-sided genius. But his thoughts were fixed continually upon the remaining balance of debt which must be cleared, if ever, in the few remaining years of life which, his judgement told him, were all that he could hope to have. It was a race against time. Well-paid editorial work, or such sums as could be made by essay-writing of any kind, might be affluence for others, but they were of no use to him.

        In the same spirit, but with a readier decision, he refused an offer which came this same morning from the publisher of the Religious Discourses, Colburn, that he should edit the Garrick papers, and preface them with a biography, for which £1,000 had been refused already, and for which he could now have any price he would like to ask. 'My name,' he said, ' would be only useful in the way of puff, for I really know nothing of the subject. So I will refuse; that's flat.'

        And having decided to decline these alternative occupations, his mind went back to the doubt of whether he could still write such fiction as would command the old sales, and he ended with these reflections:

        "Having turned over my thoughts with some anxiety about the important subject of yesterday, I think we have done for the best. If I can rally this time, as I did in the Crusaders, why, there is the old trade open yet. If not, retirement will come gracefully after my failure. I must get the return of the sales of the three or four last novels, so as to judge what style of composition has best answered. Add to this, giving up just now loses £4,000 to the trustees, which they would not understand, whatever may be my nice authorial feelings. And moreover, it ensures the purchase of the copyrights - i.e. almost ensures them."

        A couple of days later there was a call from Cowan, one of the Constable Trustees. Alexander Cowan, the paper merchant, was of a friendly disposition. It was he who assisted James Ballantyne by becoming the medium through which the printing business was ultimately purchased from Scott's Trustees, and became James's own property. But his present business was one in which his interests and Sir Walter's were not at one. For the benefit of the Constable estate, he wished the Waverley copyrights to be sold at the highest possible price: he was aware that Cadell and Scott were aiming to buy them. Whether there would be competition from the London trade, or to what height it might go, could be no more than guessed. Now the Trustees had to agree on a reserve price. It was a delicate negotiation, for, if there were no serious competition, the reserve would be the price at which they would be knocked down to Cadell's bid: on the other hand, it might make the whole proceeding abortive to fix it higher than Cadell and Scott were prepared to go. This 'upset' price had been tentatively fixed at £4,750.

        Scott followed his usual business method, which was at once frank, bold and capable. He said he was anxious that the copyrights should not be lost. They were worth more to him than to anyone else, because he held the more recent ones, and only he could re-issue the works in a complete edition. He was willing that the reserve should be increased. He named £5,500. This could be considered a firm offer, on one condition. If that amount were not reached at the auction, there should be no private bargaining afterwards. The sale should be made to Cadell and himself at that price.

        The condition attached to the offer, though it made no ultimate difference, might easily have been of a vital importance, as the event proved; and the fact that Scott foresaw so clearly the probable course that the sale would take, may be commended to the consideration of those who think they can supply a key to the enigma of his life by the assertion that he was of less than average business capacity.

        Mr. Cowan accepted the offer, and Scott was left to think over the new responsibility which he was proposing to undertake. That night he summarised his thoughts in this cautious and yet confident paragraph:

        "This speculation may be for good or for evil, but it tends incalculably to increase the value of such copyrights as remain in my own person; and, if a handsome and cheap edition of the whole, with notes, can be instituted in conformity with Cadell's plan, it must prove a mine of wealth, three-fourths of which will belong to me or my creditors. It is possible, no doubt, that the works may lose their effect on the public mind; but this must be risked, and I think the chances are greatly in our favour. Death (my own, I mean) would improve the property, since an edition with a Life would sell like wild-fire. Perhaps those who read this prophecy may shake their heads and say, "Poor fellow, he little thought how he should see the public interest in him and his extinguished even during his natural existence." It may be so, but I will hope better. This I know, that no literary speculation ever succeeded with me but where my own works were concerned; and that, on the other hand, these have rarely failed. And so - Vogue la galère!"


        The copyrights were not destined to be bought in at the reserve figure. There were a number of publishers present who had travelled from London with the determination to purchase, and who did not intend that a thousand pounds, more or less, should deter them. If they had heard that Cadell was in the market, they had probably heard also the "upset" price, which might be taken to indicate the height to which he was prepared to go. It looked as though they might have to pay anything up to £6,000, and, huge as the figure sounded, they were prepared to do it; or more, if necessary. The real competition seemed likely to be among themselves, when Cadell should be left behind.

        So they thought, and when the bidding passed the reserve they were not deterred. "They came on briskly, four or five abreast." The bidding passed £6,000. It passed £7,000. More slowly, it went up to £8,000. But Cadell had not ceased to bid. At £8,400 the copyrights were knocked down to him. Hurrying from the auction-room, to take the news to Scott, he encountered him in the street, on his way to the Bannatyne Club. He had been delayed in setting forth by the visit of a young lady who would not give her name, but who desired his advice in dealing with an uncle and aunt with whom she lived. He recorded this casual incident in a novelist's life in his Journal that night, together with particulars of the old friends (the Abercrombys, and Buchanan of Cambusmore) with whom he dined. But of that purchase of copyrights he did not know what to write. He must consider it till the following day.

        . . . It was no use blaming Cadell. There was a sufficient answer to that in the fact that the copyrights could be sold at a profit forthwith, if the price should be thought too high. For the position had developed exactly upon the lines which Scott had visualised in his talk with Cowan, though on a higher level. No-one had thought before the auction of such a price being reached. They had gone up, hundred by hundred, rather than lose that which they had each come resolved to buy, and had hesitated at last at the £8,400 at which the hammer had come down. But when they thought it over, and realised that Cadell had been bold enough for such a purchase, they wished that they had bid more. Rather than go back defeated to London, they would give him a profit upon a transaction which might, perhaps frighten him by its magnitude in the cold blood of the following day. So they went to Cadell to know at what price he would sell.

        But he did not want to sell. Neither did Scott, who thought it over, and decided that it was a good day's work.

        "I think the loss would have been very great had we suffered these copyrights to go from those which we possessed . . . Even if they were worth only £8,400 to others, they were £10,000 to us. The largeness of the price, arising from the activity of the contest, only serves to show the value of the property. . . . On the whole, I am greatly pleased with the acquisition."

        Having recorded a considered opinion, which time has justified Scott reviewed his position. How far was he from a final victory? If the copyrights had been fairly valued, those which he possessed personally, including Napoleon, must have a large value also. He estimated a gross total of £24,200. His life was insured for £20,000. He added a valuation of books, plates and other property. In addition to that 6/- in the £ already paid, he reckoned that his death at any moment would place £50,000 at the disposal of his creditors. He concluded:

        "There will still remain upwards of £35,000. Heaven's arm strike with us, 'tis a fearful odds, yet with health, and continued popularity, there are chances in my favour."

        He went to dine with James Ballantyne, in the little suburban house into which he and his family were now crowded. It was a happy day for James. The purchase of those copyrights meant several years of busy profitable work for him. It meant a recovery of something of the old prosperity, from which the old worries would have been pruned away. It meant that he would be able to leave about £5,000 to his family at his death.

        The next day, Scott returned to the subject in his Journal:

        "Called at Cadell's, who is still enamoured of his bargain, and with good reason, as the London booksellers were offering him £1,000 or £2,000 to give it up to them. He also ascertained that all the copies with which Hurst & Robinson loaded the market would be off in a half year. Make us thankful! the weather is clearing to windward. Cadell is cautious, steady, and hears good counsel; and Gibson quite inclined, were I too confident, to keep a good look-out ahead."

        On December 24th, having stayed a few days at Arniston, on the way from Edinburgh, Scott returned to Abbotsford, which he had left only six weeks before with his mind upon the alternatives of bankruptcy or a debtor's prison. He considered that his financial position might already have been on the way to re-establishment, had he then consented to bankruptcy, for which he would have had good excuse in the eyes of all.

        "But," he reflected, "I could not have slept sound, as I now can. . . . I see before me a long, tedious and dark path . . . If I die in the harrows, as is very likely, I shall die with honour. . . . And so I think I can fairly face the return of Christmas day."

        The old lavish Abbotsford hospitality might be impossible now, but there was a gathering of neighbours, and a few old Edinburgh friends - William Clerk, and the Lord Chief Baron, and the Lord Chief Commissioner, and some ladies, both old and young, so that there was a Christmas party full of mirth and harmony.

        And two days later, there was a good letter from Cadell. It said that the Tales of a Grandfather, which had just been published, were going so well that he would like a revised or extended edition to be prepared at once.

        So Scott turned to this congenial work while his guests went off to an inspection of Dryburgh Abbey - a regular feature of a visit to Abbotsford, from which he would excuse himself, since Charlotte had been buried there; and, when the last day of the year came, he was able to contrast it with that of twelve months earlier in a spirit of cheerfulness, if not of optimism.

        ". . . though I am still on troubled waters, I am now rowing with the tide, and less than the continuation of my exertions of 1827 may, with God's blessing, carry me successfully through 1828, when we may gain a more open sea, if not exactly a safe port. Above all, my children are well. Sophia's situation excites some natural anxiety, but it is only the accomplishment of the burthen imposed on her sex. Walter is happy in the view of his majority, on which matter we have favourable hopes from the Duke of Wellington. Anne is well and happy. Charles' entry upon life under the highest patronage, and in a line for which I hope he is qualified, is about to take place presently.

        For all these great blessings it becomes me well to be thankful to God, who in his good time and good pleasure sends us good as well as evil."

        Sophia was expecting her third and last child, which was born early in January. Charles was entering the diplomatic service, to a career which was to continue honourably for fourteen years, when it would be ended by fever at Teheran.


        The demand for the Tales of a Grandfather was so much beyond anticipation that Cadell proposed to distribute the printing of a second edition among three firms, of which Ballantyne was, of course, to be one; but this suggestion was met by Scott with an emphatic veto. "I will not have poor James Ballantyne driven off the plank to which we are all three clinging."

        It was a generous metaphor, the plank being entirely his, but it may be doubted whether there was much practical disadvantage from the decision, for James could do rapid work when the need came.

        The news generally was good; Longmans, always reticent with information, admitted that Napoleon was going well. Confident in control of the copyrights, Scott began, in the intervals of other work, the preparation of notes for the great edition which was contemplated. Cadell thought it worth while to order 1000 copies of St. Ronan's Well to be printed-immediately, on the presumption that they would be sold before the announcement of the collected edition would spoil the market. Scott settled to the completion of The Fair Maid of Perth. He did this with some reluctance. He would have preferred to be engaged on revision of Napoleon, if he could have persuaded himself that another edition of the Life was an immediate requirement, and though he worked with an unremitting diligence he was not always satisfied with the result. James was silent, which he interpreted as disapproval, thinking he only waited to be asked, to express his disfavour. "But he may wait long enough, for I am discouraged enough."

        When the criticism came, it was not welcomed. James said the characters were too monotonously Ossianic, which Scott disputed. When James objected to the death of Oliver Proudfute, Scott said that he was outrageous, and he would alter nothing. He had 'a humour to be cruel'. Cadell was better satisfied. He thought James was too hard on the book.

        Cadell had good reason to be content. He told James that he had balanced his books, and showed from £3,000 to £4,000 to the good. Not a profit in book-debts, or doubtful bills: he had cash in the bank. As he had confined his publishing to Scott's own work, it was news to please them all three. It was a good augury for the Magnum Opus, as Scott called the new comprehensive edition which was in contemplation.

        Scott rejected more than one offer of well-paid editorial work at this time, including one of from £1,500 to £2,000 annually if he would take charge of the Keepsake, an annual volume which was beautifully produced, but filled with literary trash of a sentimentally popular kind. And though he politely declined this doubtful honour, he sold My Aunt Margaret's Mirror to the Keepsake proprietors for £500, so it didn't go absolutely to the waste-paper-basket after all.

        The weather was bitterly cold during the first two months of the year in Edinburgh, and Scott had some return of rheumatism with swelling of his better knee, but otherwise he had little reason to complain of his health, or he did not record his troubles.

        With the close of the season, he returned as usual to Abbotsford, where the Fair Maid was finished, for good or evil, on March 29th, and on the same afternoon Mr. Cadell, with James and Alexander Ballantyne, got down from the Edinburgh coach, and that evening a comprehensive scheme of action - and of work for Sir Walter, including the immediate starting of a new novel - which Cadell had outlined in a previous letter, was discussed in detail.

        Cadell wanted the new edition of the novels, from Waverley to Woodstock, to be published in 32 volumes, at 5/- each, or £8. 0. 0. for the set. He proposed that they should be well produced with good frontispieces, and on a scale which would involve expenditure of anything from £4,000 to £8,000 before any return could be expected. To reconcile the Trustees to this outlay, and to provide the required funds, he offered to contract for three further novels, at £4,200 each, to be delivered at intervals of six months, and to make advances against this contract in cash, sufficiently to enable the Magnum Opus to be put in hand at once, or as soon as Scott should have the introduction and notes for the first volume ready.

        There was a sharp difference of opinion between Cadell and James as to the quality of The Fair Maid of Perth. James's opinion was 'low'. That of Cadell was 'equally uppish'.

        Scott thought James the better judge, but he recognised that the book was not the kind which he was quickest to appreciate. Cadell's opinion was more gratifying to an author's ears. Anyway, if the man who was to find the money was content to offer a fortune for three more of the same brand, and it was the one remaining purpose of Scott's life to earn it, the refusal could not come from him. He listened to a 'a long discourse' from Cadell, elaborating his scheme, and wrote to Gibson recommending its adoption.

        It is not necessary to doubt that Cadell was genuine in his praise of The Fair Maid of Perth. He was backing up his opinion with his own cash, which was a good test. Yet, we may observe that he had much to incline him to the adoption of that opinion, and the course of action which he proposed. He owned a half-share of the copyrights. It was as important to him as to Scott that the new edition should be brought out. Scott could not finance it. Neither could James. The Trustees would be strange specimens of their kind if they would be prepared to do so. Only Cadell remained. If he had to find the money he could not easily do better than to stipulate for works of fiction against it. He had learnt already that Scott would be quickly willing to cancel a contract which was not satisfactory to the other side. A new novel from him was a valuable property, at the worst. At the best, it was an incalculable thing. It might be a gold-mine, indeed.

        And, in fact, the one just finished deserved something better than the gloomy looks which James turned in its direction. There were passages in it in which imagination rose to the old vigour, the old vividness. It could not be said against it that it was a dull book. Yet its light was that of a setting sun. Scott had known the highest joy of humanity, the joy of work, to a degree which few men have been blessed to equal. But he did not now talk of the joy of work. He spoke of the daily task, counting the pages done.

        Cadell went back to Edinburgh with James and Alexander feeling that he had done good business. Scott felt the same. He wrote:

        "The Ballantynes and Cadell left us in high spirits, expecting much from the new undertaking, and I believe they are not wrong. As for me, I became torpid . . . I was main stupid, indeed, and much disposed to sleep, though my dinner was very moderate."

        It was only a fortnight ago, when overworking upon the conclusion of the book, that he had had a return of 'that vile palpitation of the heart - that tremor cordis - that hysterical passion which forces unbidden sighs and tears,' which had troubled him before, but seemed to have been overcome during recent months. How long - and to what further purpose - would courage and stubborn will drive the tired brain, and control the exhausted body?

        Three days later, with Anne for company, he set off for London.


        The visit to London, which meant a delay of two months before there could be an active commencement of the ambitious programme which had been agreed, was undertaken with reluctance, and for a number of reasons, each of which might have seemed separately insufficient. For its results, we have the advantage of a summary in the Journal, entered on the day of departure from London, which affords curious illustration of how large was the number of 'other men's oars' which Scott would still find occasion to pull.

        "1st. I have been able to place Lockhart on the right footing in the right quarter, leaving the improvement of his place of vantage to himself as circumstances should occur.

        2nd. I have put the Chancery suit in the right train, which without me could not have been done.

        3rd. I picked up some knowledge of the state of existing matters, which is interesting and may be useful.

        4th. I have succeeded in helping to get a commission for James Skene.

        5th. I have got two cadetships for the sons of Allan Cunningham.

        6th. I have got leave to Andrew Shortreed to go out to India.

        7th. I have put John Eckford into correspondence with Mr. Loch. who thinks he can do something for his claim.

        8th. I have been of material assistance to poor Terry in his affairs.

        9th. I have effectually protected my Darnick neighbours and myself against the new Road Bill.

        Other advantages there are, besides the great one of scouring up one's own mind a little and renewing intercourse with old friends bringing one's-self nearer in short to the currency of the time.

        All this may weigh against the expenditure of £200 or £250, when money is fortunately not very scarce with me.''

        Most of these items require no explanation. The Chancery suit was for the recovery, for his children's benefit, of the sum of Charlotte's money which had now been located in the hands of that Court.

        Scott had arrived in London to receive the unexpected news that though the Adelphi Theatre, of which he had assisted Daniel Terry to obtain control, was (said to be) doing well, Terry himself was in a condition of total bankruptcy. It was a severe loss to one to whom money had become a serious consideration, for he had helped Terry to the extent of £500 in cash, in addition to the larger guarantees which would fall due during the next two years; but that was his least concern. He had hurried to Terry's solicitor on hearing the news to see what succour might still be possible. He examined the books, and decided that nothing could be done to defeat the crisis. It was an accumulation of old debts which had been his friend's undoing, 'with principal and interest accruing, and all the items which load a falling man'. The catastrophe occasioned an entry in the Journal which requires a pause of consideration:

        "It is written that nothing shall flourish under my shadow - the Ballantynes, Terry, Weber, Nelson, all came to distress. Nature has written on my brow, "Your shade shall be broad, but there shall be no protection derived from it to aught you favour."

        Considering the number of people whom Scott had been active to help during the last half-century, it was beyond reasonable expectation that they would all have subsequently become wise and prosperous citizens, especially as so many of them had been first encountered when fallen beside the way. In the three (otherwise different) cases of Weber, Nelson and Terry, habits of personal dissipation were, in differing degrees, responsible for their final catastrophes. The inclusion of Nelson's name is almost fantastic, he having been a man to whom, when 'down and out', Scott gave secretarial employment, and who left him of his own will to take up some form of military service, after which he was reported to have fallen ill, as a result of his own irregularities, and to have died in a Liverpool hospital. It will be seen, from a consideration of these cases, including that of Weber, how much - or how little - may be implied by the inclusion of Ballantyne's name in such a lamentation. But it is worth observation that Constable's name is not here. Constable had been utterly ruined by the same catastrophe from which Ballantyne was now emerging to a recovered prosperity. Had Scott recognised any measure of responsibility for his troubles, he could hardly have thought of Ballantyne without thinking also of the major tragedy. But Scott, who was always ready both to accept responsibility and to impute blame to himself, never did this, even in the self-revealing privacy of his own Journal. Neither did he write a single line to defend himself from such an imputation. It does not appear to have ever occurred to him that it could be made.

        Yet it had been made, at the time of Constable's failure, in a letter from Sir James (then Mr.) Gibson-Craig, to Miss Edgeworth, of which Scott would not be likely to hear, and it has been repeated more or less uncertainly since, largely on the assertion which that letter contains, though an examination of it is sufficient to show that it would be deserving of little credence, even if we were not in possession of a more complete knowledge of the whole circumstances than Sir James was ever likely to have had the opportunity of acquiring.

        Sir James alleged to Miss Edgeworth, in reply to a letter from her asking for information regarding Sir Walter's difficulties, that, to his own knowledge, Constable in anxiety to save Scott had commenced to exchange accommodation bills with him as far back as about 1813, which had produced, as it could not fail ultimately to do, the ruin of both.

        It was the letter of a man who was antipathetic to Scott, and who probably had little liking for him. Sir James was of the opposite political party, which does not imply much in itself, for Scott had many friends in their ranks, but there is a significant note in his Journal at a time when (under a plan that came to nothing) the Directors of the Gas Co. elected Mr. Gibson-Craig and himself to represent them jointly in London:

        "Agreed to go to parliament a second time. James Gibson and I to go up as our solicitors. So curiously does interest couple up individuals, though I am sure I have no objection to Mr. James Gibson-Craig.'

        It is an entry which, coming from Scott, implies more than it says. But Sir James's letter might still be true, though it were not written with a friendly pen. In fact, it contained that percentage of truth which a lie needs, but no more.

        It is doubtless true that Scott and Constable exchanged accommodation bills in 1813, but it is obvious that anxiety to help Scott could not have necessitated a transaction of that nature. Constable might give bills with such an object: he could only take them to help himself. Actually, the transactions of 1813 had scarcely anything to do with the catastrophe of 1826.

        Sir James, in his letter, omitted to give Miss Edgeworth the two fundamental facts of the position which are of an invincible quality, and which the persistent distortion to which it has been subjected make it necessary to emphasise and repeat. - That the final catastrophe did not occur through any act or default either of Constable, Ballantyne, or Scott, but through the failure of Constable's London agents to meet their engagements; and that, when this crisis came, Constable was found to be indebted to Scott personally, as well as to the printing house, for very large sums, and not Scott to him. Had Hurst, Robinson & Co paid their debts, Constable could have paid his; and had he paid his, Scott could have done the same with no difficulty at all. It may seem needless to repeat this after what has been said previously, but we are dealing with a lie that dies hard. . .

        In Scott's decision to make this journey to London, he had been influenced, or at least encouraged, by the prospect of seeing his children and grandchildren, very probably for the last time, in a happy and complete assembly; for, besides the Lockharts, who were now living at Regent's Park, Walter and Jane were in London, stationed at Hampton Court, and Charles was living with the Lockharts. But that which might have been an occasion of glad re-union was darkened by a relapse in the condition of Johnnie Hugh, which co-incided with Scott's arrival in London. In a last vain effort to save the life of a slowly-dying child, Sophia took him to Brighton, and her father and Anne were left in a house from which its mistress, and all its gaiety had departed. . .

        The 'New Road Bill' was one which was then in the hands of a Parliamentary committee. Its provisions would have taken a turnpike road through one of Scott's own fields, and swept away the dwellings of a number of cottagers at Darnick, who had a strong preference for remaining in their own homes. We may observe one of the first motions of the tide of parliamentary government which has since risen, in the course of the intervening century, to the destruction of all individual freedom, and the substitution of the servile comforts and securities of bureaucratic control. Even then, it is unlikely that anyone would have listened to the protests of the Darnick cottagers, or that they would have had enough manhood to make a useless effort to defend their homes. But Scott appeared before the committee on their behalf, and the officious road-makers discovered that they could go by a different way. . .

        As to the old friends with whom Scott was able to renew acquaintance during this six-weeks' holiday in London, merely to record their names would be to show how vain it would be to attempt to follow him into all his friendships. To make a list of all who were most prominent, or most deserving of prominence, in art, in science, in religion, in civil government or military affairs, would be to arrive at the same place by a shorter path. He encountered, in more than casual meeting, the Duke of Wellington, Mr. Robert Peel, Sir James Macintosh, Lord John Russell, Samuel Rogers, Coleridge, Tom Moore, the Wordsworths, Tom Campbell, Joanna Baillie, Dr. Phillpotts, Morritt, Sir George Phillips, Theodore Hook, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sydney Smith, the Duchess of Kent, the child-princess Victoria ('she is fair, but does not look as though she would be pretty'), and a host of others from whom it would be arbitrary to make selection, and tedious to detail. The old difference with Lord Holland was so completely forgotten that, on Scott visiting Holland House, Lady Holland prevailed upon him to stay the night, which he would usually be reluctant to do.

        He met Mrs. Arkwright, and heard her on several occasions, experiencing as much delight "as sound could ever give me" from that lady's singing.

        Scott had a love of music - particularly of vocal music - which may easily be misrepresented, and has been denied. Yet of the fact there is no doubt. Music, by his constant desire, was a regular feature of the evenings at Ashestiel and at Abbotsford, where cards seldom appeared. When Sophia married, Anne practised an art in which she was less naturally proficient, so that her father might not be deprived of hearing his favourite songs; her own preference being for foreign instrumental music.

        But, in common with most poets, he had little appreciation of music merely as a demonstration of vocal or instrumental gymnastics. This is a natural distinction, because poetry, though it aims in a kindred way to produce intricate and sustained beauties of sound, does this to the definite end of expressing its content more adequately than is possible by inferior prosaic constructions.

        Music attempts the same end by a lower road. It may rouse the heights and stir the depths of emotion, but it is still a beast's cry, rather than a man's speech. Yet, if it cannot be equally articulate, it can at least try.

        Wedded to words, it has reached its highest possibility but it is not an equality of marriage, or, if it he so, it is an equality which can be reached by submission only. Music must subordinate itself to words as a condition of its final triumph. If it will do this, there may be something greater begotten from such a union than either alone can give.

        This may not be a complete statement of the case. Certainly, no musician would allow it to be so. But, whether consciously or not, it is the poet's attitude, with the few exceptions of those (such as Milton or Campion) who are musicians also. Scott expressed it when he praised Mrs. Arkwright for 'marrying music to immortal verse', and added that most people place them on separate maintenance. . . .

        He had wandered down England by a winding road, taking Carlisle, Penrith, Tamworth, Stratford, Warwick, and the beauties of Buckinghamshire on the way, that he might show them to Anne, and doubtless for his own pleasure also, but he returned in impatience for Abbotsford, doing more than a hundred miles a day on the Great North Road, which he called the dullest in England, and solacing its monotony by reading the first volume of Napier's War in the Peninsular, which had just been published. He could observer that it was not free from error, but noted that the defence of Sir John Moore (to whom his own Napoleon does less than justice) was 'spirited and well-argued'. He read also Lockhart's Life of Burns, concerning which he made a very disputable note in his Journal.

        "He has judiciously slurred over his vices and follies; for although Currie, I myself, and others, have not said a word more on this subject than is true, yet as the dead corpse is straightened, swathed, and made decent, so ought the character of such an inimitable genius as Burns to be tenderly handled after death. The knowledge of his vicious weaknesses or vices is only a subject of sorrow to the well-disposed, and of triumph to the profligate."

        It is a curious judgement, because it advocates that which was contrary to his own method, the kindliness and penetrating sympathy of which was never allowed to pervert the truth, or obscure it. To understand might be to forgive, but it was not to deny. Even the sterner Dante was not more uncompromising in calling evil by its own name, though it had made its dwelling in those who were loved and admired on other grounds. Indeed this very note, which he must at least have half-intended to leave to posterity, is a defiance of that which it expressly condones.

        Even if we accept with sympathy the idea that we should treat with a tender reticence the vices of one to whom we are so deeply in debt, it is of an obvious futility, for no probing into the events of any poet's life can reveal him so justly, or so deeply, as he will have done already by his own work; and a complete collection of the verse of Robert Burns exposes him, both in his baseness and his nobility, as nakedly as the most unreserved of biographies could ever do. How far, if at all, such a life should be written, or is worth writing, is another matter and Scott's proposition is, at least, of a better quality than is the practice to which much modern biography has fallen - that of seeking diligently for dirt, even when it is not there.


        They stopped one night at Rokeby, and left after breakfast, reaching Carlisle in the dusk of a rainy evening. It was a well-known road to Scott, who had ridden or driven it under many varying circumstances. He had halted here sufficiently long on the way south to visit the Cathedral, so that he might stand on the spot where he had married Charlotte more than thirty years before. Now he fought against the sombre memories of the past, and the realisation of his own decay in animal strength and mental energy, as the rain fell without, and he would gladly have pushed on in the early morning to the expected welcome of Abbotsford; but he had to wait to secure a certificate from the parish register, to support the claim in the Chancery Court, and it was approaching noon before they left the Carlisle walls, and pushed on rapidly enough for a late lunch at Hawick, and to rouse the joyful barking of the dogs as they drove through the gates of Abbotsford, in the late dusk of the long June day.

        For the two months that Scott had been away, he had scarcely written a line for publication, or corrected twenty pages of proof-sheets. He had spent the time in congenial friendly intercourse, and a rigid moderation of physical indulgence, and though it had not been without its sorrow, it had been a time of peace to mind and body, such as he had not often experienced. He recorded, as he looked back, that the two months had passed without a single attack of the depression of spirits against which he was so often obliged to struggle, or the tremor cordis which was its resulting physical penalty. He waked to spend one idle happy day in the plantations he loved.

        "I waked to walk about my beautiful young woods with old Tom and the dogs. The sun shone bright, and the wind fanned my cheek as if it were a welcoming. I did not do the least right thing, except packing a few books necessary for the completion of the Tales. In this merry mood I wandered as far as Huntley Burn, where I found the Miss Fergussons well and happy: then I sauntered back to Abbotsford, sitting on every bench by the way. . . . I cannot afford to spend many such days nor would they seem so pleasant."

        The next day he went on to Edinburgh. . .

        The brief happiness of these June days of 1828, and the measure of recovered health which they record, suggest what difference of vigour and longevity might have resulted had Hurst, Robinson & Co.- not speculated in hops. Different they would doubtless have been. Happier, probably. Better is a harder word.

        The first morning in Edinburgh was cheered by Cadell's presence at breakfast, with the news that the Fair Maid of Perth was going well. Yet Scott knew the truth of the lessening of his intellectual vitality, and it was with courage rather than confidence that he wrote that night:

        "A disappointment being always to be apprehended, I too am greatly pleased that the evil day is adjourned, for the time must come - and yet I can spin a tough yarn still with anyone now going."

        There was good news also of the Tales of a Grandfather, for which the demand continued. This meant financial ease in personal expenditure, for there was now a vaguely agreed plan that he should give the proceeds of his major fiction, and of the editing of the new projected edition, to the Trustees, and support himself and the reduced Abbotsford establishment on his official salaries, and the bye-products of his pen, of which the Tales had provided an unexpectedly liberal fund. It was this revenue, and the fact that Cadell's rejection of My Aunt Margaret's Mirror, and The Laird's Jock had left him free to sell the serial rights of these two tales to the Keepsake, which had enabled him to finance the London holiday with a quiet mind, and to indulge in at least a shadow of the generosities which had been one of the major pleasures of earlier years. He had arranged a system of dealing with his accounts similar to that which he had had with Ballantyne in the old affluent days. They were sent to Cadell, who paid them for him, and debited them against the royalties which the Tales were earning. But Cadell kept his books with care. Three days after they had breakfasted together:

        "Cadell rendered me report of accounts paid for me, with vouchers, which very nearly puts me out of all shop debts. God grant me grace to keep so!"

        Mr. Gibson had called in the meantime, and though the Trustees were disposed to some argumentative reluctance concerning the scale of the proposed expenditure upon the magnum opus, yet it was evident that they only required firm handling to be brought to heel. And Scott, refreshed with rest and animated with new hope, set steadily to work again.

        On June 6th, he 'wrought both before and after dinner, and finished five pages, which is two above bargain.' It may be well to mention again that these 'pages' amounted each to several of type. June 7th, being Saturday, was 'another working day, and nothing occurred to disturb me'. On Sunday, he did five sheets again.

        On Monday, he 'laboured till one', when he was obliged to go out on business errands. The record of the next five days, when the Court was sitting, is grouped together in a single entry, such as his Journal had not previously contained:

        "June 10-14. During these five days almost nothing occurred to diversify the ordinary task of the day, which, I must own, was dull enough. I rose to my task by seven, wrought it out in the course of the day, far exceeding the ordinary average of three leaves per day. I have attended the Parliament House with the most strict regularity, and returned to dine alone with Anne."

        On June 17th, there is this ominous entry:

        "Violent rheumatic headache all day. Wrought, however. But what difference this troublesome addition may make on the quality of the stuff produced truly I do not know. I finished five leaves."

        On the next day:

        "My head aches . . . well, I have finished my task, and have the right to sleep if I have a mind."

        The headache continued, as did the work, during the following day, and on the next he "scribbled very lustily", and then went to Court. On his return:

        "Wrote when I came home, both before and after dinner - that's all, I think. I am become a sort of writing automaton, and truly the joints of my knees, especially the left, are so stiff and painful in rising and sitting down that I can hardly help screaming - I that was so robust and active. I get into a carriage with great difficulty. My head, too, is bothered with rheumatic headaches. . . .

        June 20th. - My course is still the same.

        June 22nd.- Wrought. Had a note from Ballantyne complaining of my manuscript, and requesting me to read it over. I would give £1,000 if I could; but it would take me longer to read than write. . . . I will look at his proof, however, and then be quiet and idle for the rest of the evening. . . ."

        After the plain warning of the manuscript which James was unable to interpret, Scott took things more easily for a couple of days, though he wrote many letters: "So on the whole I am no bad boy."

        The next day he again did more than the allotted 'task' which he now aimed to put forth with a monotonous regularity. A few days later he was recording the return of the rheumatic headaches, and on the 8th of July the Journal abruptly ceased until the January of the following year.


        Lockhart spent the Christmas of 1828 at Abbotsford. With the commencement of the new year, there came a quiet, congenial little group of other visitors - Morritt and his niece, Skene, and Sir James Stewart of Allanbank among them, and the Fergussons and others were coming in frequently. Lockhart thought that 'except that he suffered from rheumatism' Sir Walter was well in health. How he felt himself was (as we shall see) a somewhat different matter.

        He had had six months of hard, monotonous work, for the results of which he must wait in doubt, (except only that he had added much to the Tales of a Grandfather, and that these children's tales were proving to be a mine of unexpected richness), and in the depression of this unrelieved alternation of the Court-room and his own desk, his Journal had lain neglected from day to day, till he had lacked heart to enter its arrears, and had let it cease.

        Much had been done upon the magnum opus, from which so much was hoped, but there was much more still to do. It was nine months since the contract had been signed with Cadell for three further novels at six-monthly intervals, against which the funds were to be provided to finance the major enterprise, but no novel had been delivered.

        It was a day of deep snow early in January when Scott's guests sat in the library at Abbotsford, and he gave them the proof-sheets of about half a new novel to read. He went into the next room, to his own work, but came in at intervals as the morning passed, to enquire how they liked the tale.

        With the old boldness of conception, he had chosen a new period, a new background; and with the old fertility of invention he was constructing a good tale. It had moved forward slowly, for the magnum opus was an immense and urgent work, and he had often felt more inclined to pursue it than to add to the manuscript of the novel, but it was about half done now, and he felt, rather doubtfully - well, that it might be worse.

        "All," Lockhart assures us, "were highly gratified with those vivid and picturesque pages." Both Morritt and Stewart gave particular approbation to the descriptions of Swiss scenery, with which they were familiar, but which their author had never seen. Naturally, Scott was pleased by the praise. Lockhart says that he had never seen him more gently and tranquilly happy.

        'Tranquil' is a significant word. It is not one which would have occurred to anyone to apply to Scott in earlier years, even for his serener moods. The praise given to this first half of Anne of Geierstein seems to have been quite genuine, though it was not coming from impartial critics. The pleasure it gave may have shown the depth of the doubt in its author's mind.

        Scott had hesitated about resuming his Journal at the commencement of the year. When his guests left on January 10th, and there would still be three days before he must return to Edinburgh, he overcame his reluctance, and opened it again. He did not record that he had had any happiness, tranquil or otherwise, during the past three weeks. He wrote:

        "I cannot say I have been happy, for the feeling of increasing weakness in my lame leg is a great affliction. I walk now with pain and difficulty at all times, and it sinks my soul to think how soon I may be altogether a disabled cripple. I am tedious to my friends, and I doubt the sense of it makes me fretful.

        Everything else goes off well enough. My cash affairs are clearing, and though last year was an expensive one, I have been paying debt. Yet I have a dull contest before me, which will probably outlast my life. . . ."

        In fact, the six months interval had been sufficient to show how certainly the night was falling. There is not only the increasing failure of physical powers: there is less capacity for concentration, less ability to perform long hours of literary labour, though the will is unweakened, and drives forward with a remorseless monotony.

        On the 13th, Scott travelled back to Edinburgh over frozen roads, and the next day he recorded:

        "This morning I got back some of the last copy, and tugged as hard as ever did Soutar to make ends meet. Then I will be reconciled to my task, which at present disgusts me. . . . Lockhart dined with us, which made the evening a pleasant but an idle one. Well! I must rouse myself.

        "Awake! Arise, or be for ever fallen."

        A few days later, he went with Lockhart on a two days' excursion to Milton, to see a new property that William Lockhart had purchased there. The fight against a growing disability to walk abroad was being undertaken with the same obstinate spirit that calculated the remaining balance of mental energy against the total of debts that were still unpaid.

        "During this excursion, I walked very ill - with more pain, in fact, than I ever remember to have felt - and, even leaning on John Lockhart, could hardly get on.

        January 24th. - Heavy fall of snow. . . . The day bitter cold. I went to the Court and with great difficulty returned along the slippery street. I ought to have taken the carriage, but I have a superstitious dread of giving up the habit of walking, and would willingly stick to the last by my own hardy customs. . . . My hands are so covered with chillblains that I can hardly use a pen - my feet ditto.

        January 26th.- I muzzed on - I can call it little better - with Anne of Geierstein. The materials are excellent, but the power of using them is failing. Yet I wrote out about three pages sleeping at intervals.

        January 29th.- I wrote only two or three pages of Anne. I am as one

      "who in a darksome way
    Doth walk with fear and dread."

But walk I must, and walk forward too, or I shall be benighted with a vengeance."

        So Anne moved forward with effort enough, and at no great pace, though there was a day at the beginning of February which saw eight pages done - and the second volume finished. The momentary sense of recovered power made the work pleasant again; and though there were several days of violent headache to follow, there was some reduction in the disability of the lamer leg, and on the 19th, it being an execrable day "half sleet, half rain, and wholly abominable", he walked round by the North Bridge, and "faced the weather for two miles".

        He had a settled determination to finish Anne before the time should come, in the middle of March, for returning to Abbotsford, and had the encouragement of the knowledge that the heavy expenditure of money and time upon the magnum opus was to be justified by results. A preliminary prospectus, sent out by Cadell to the trade, had resulted in such a total of orders that it was resolved that the quantity of the first edition should be increased from 7,000 to 10,000 copies - for which the price to the public would be £80,000.

        So he worked on with a fresh hope, and had a feeling of unworthy irritation when he found that his manuscript of Anne was being sent to the printers somewhat more rapidly than proofs were coming back to him, and learnt that it was because James was neglecting business on the pretext of his wife's illness. James 'had a nature to indulge apprehensions of the worst'. To neglect business on such excuse was an amiable weakness, for which it was quite easy to feel contempt. But two days later he heard that Mrs. Ballantyne was dead.

        The first effect of his wife's death on James Ballantyne was that he broke down completely. Scott realised this probability, for he noted:

        "With his domestic habits the blow is irretrievable. What can he do, poor fellow, at the head of such a family of children! I should not be surprised if he were to give way to despair."

        James was unable to attend the funeral, and he came to Shandwick Place a few days later in a mood suggestive of religious mania, to announce that he was retiring to the country to await his end.

        He had at this time acquired possession of the printing business, to which he had admitted his brother Alexander to partnership, and was re-establishing his commercial position, with the essential assistance of the orders which were being placed with him for the magnum opus, and Scott's other publications.

        To enable him to arrive securely at this position it had been essential for him, according to the Scottish law of that time, to obtain letters of consent from his creditors to the discharge of the sequestration of his estate. Such letters, if there be sufficient goodwill or business interest to obtain that they be written at all, are about as valuable as tombstones for authentic evidence of character; yet there may be significance in their omissions or in the assertions which they contain; and in view of Lockhart's allegations against James Ballantyne, it is interesting to observe the kind of documents with which he was able to support his application.

        That from Scott himself, worded with an appropriate formality, reads:

Dear Sir,

        I am favoured with your letter, and, so far as I am concerned, give my consent with great pleasure to your discharge, being satisfied that, in all your transactions with me, you have acted with the utmost candour and integrity. I am, dear sir,

Your most obedient servant,
Walter Scott.

        From a firm of Edinburgh bill-discounters, he received this:


        We deeply regret that you should have been exposed to such great affliction from an over-confidence in others, knowing, as we do, that your integrity and correct business habits should have led to a far different result.

        We have much pleasure in signing your discharge, accompanied by our best wishes for your continued prosperity. We remain, dear sir,

Your very obedient servants,
Alex, Allan & Co

        If James had really brought a flourishing business to ruin by a career of reckless extravagance, in which he had deceived and cheated his partner and defrauded his creditors, they are remarkable letters to have been written under whatever circumstances.

        It is a curious fact that Cadell experienced much greater difficulty than Ballantyne in obtaining the discharges which he required, probably because there was money among his relatives that it was hoped to reach; and, even at this time, the Old Bank were still standing out, and Scott had to use the argument that Cadell's ambiguous position, while proving to be of no profit to them, was detrimental to his own (Scott's) interests, to influence them in the right direction.

        But now James was to give Scott a degree of trouble which had no relation to finance. The melancholia which threatened to overwhelm him was a form of weakness against which Scott would have made a better fight than the printer was likely to do, and he was too clear-sighted not to recognise with some contempt the mixture of egotism and cowardice which religious mania requires for sustenance. For the moment, and under the immediate influence of the stronger man, James 'bore his distress sensibly' in Scott's phrase, continuing at his desk, and rewarding Scott's efforts in his own way by writing a letter to Cadell in which he expressed the decided opinion that Anne was no better than unprintable rubbish. Cadell sent the letter to Scott, who called him into immediate conference. The result was a decision to put the book aside for a few weeks, and then approach it again with a fresh mind. Cadell said that nothing could be lost by that, for it would have been a mistake, even had it been ready, to publish it while the Catholic Emancipation struggle was at its height.

        That was a question which was agitating the country with an extremity of bitterness which it is no longer easy to realise. After a hesitation which may have shown practical sagacity beyond that of the policy of either of the political parties which were divided on this issue, Scott had decided to give the measure his support, and had signed a petition to Parliament in its favour. Peel wrote to him: "The mention of your name as attached to the Edinburgh petition was received with loud cheers."

        Scott's view was that it was a demand of justice which must be granted, and must be done generously, but he had no belief in the argument of its advocates that it would pacify Ireland. He thought that the absentee landlords were the major political evil there. Now he wrote:

        "I am not confident that the measure will disarm the Catholic spleen. And not entirely easy at finding myself allied to the Whigs, even in this instance, where I agree with them. This is witless prejudice, however."

        So it was agreed to put Anne aside for a few weeks, and Scott went to Abbotsford, and turned to review-articles, and the magnum opus, and miscellaneous writing, and found that, though his strength might have diminished, he could still make better efforts at walking on the softer country paths than he had been able upon the streets of Edinburgh. It was April 14th when he noted that he

        "set a stout heart to a stay brae, and took up Anne of Geierstein. I had five sheets standing by me, which I read with care, and satisfied myself that worse had succeeded, but it was while the fashion of the thing was new. I retrenched a good deal about the Troubadours, which was really hors de place. As to King René, I retained him as a historical character. In short, I will let the sheets go nearly as they are, for though J.B. be an excellent judge of this species of composition, he is not infallible, and has been in circumstances which may bias his mind. I might have taken this determination a month since, and I wish I had. But I thought I might strike out something better by the braes and burn-sides. Alas! I walk along them with painful and feeble steps, and invoke their influence in vain. But my health is excellent, and it were ungrateful to complain either of mental or bodily decay."

        But no reflection could alter his feeling towards the unfinished novel, which was now one of actual hostility. "I don't know why or wherefore, but I hate Anne. I mean Anne of Geierstein, the other two Annes are good girls." - It should have been mentioned before this that his niece (Tom's daughter) was now living at Abbotsford again, as a companion to the daughter who was giving up her youth to her father's care, and was only destined to survive him by a few months.

        Yet, having recommenced upon the book, he completed it stubbornly: "Whether I succeed or not, it would be dastardly to give in." It was finished on April 29th, and published by the middle of May. Both Scott and Cadell watched its advent with minds which were prepared for failure, but, in fact, it was well received. It had taken twelve months to write, and had been the product of prolonged mental effort, as its texture shows. Had the same time and care been bestowed upon it five or ten years earlier, it might well have had its place among the very first of the Waverley novels. As it was, Scott's utmost efforts could not make it more than a respectable member of that goodly company. It begins flatly, and ends in a dull way, but there are better pastures among its very numerous pages. . .

        While Scott was at Abbotsford, he had bad news of James, who showed a disposition to neglect his business entirely for the contemplation of his religious uncertainties. James never owed more to Scott at any time of his life than he did now for the letters he received in which, in Scott's own phrase, the earlier pity gave place to anger, till he sent at last an ultimatum which brought James back to the desk which he should not have left.

        Having been persuaded to return, he was roused to alarm by finding that Cadell was on the point of placing orders for part of the magnum opus elsewhere, and wrote in haste to Scott to interpose on his behalf, as he had done at similar issues before. But Scott thought it best to send him a stiff reply that 'he' must be his own friend, set shoulder to the wheel, and remain at the head of his business'. . . .

        The funeral of Lord Buchan took Scott this April into Dryburgh Abbey, where he had not been since Charlotte was buried there, and which he had not thought to enter again till he should be laid beside her. A consideration of the records of Lord Buchan, and some other of the Erskine family led him to make a note in his Journal that "it is saving not getting which is the mother of riches". But it is possible to observe a result without admiring the process from which it comes. There had been an occasion, eighteen months before, when Scott had been in conversation with the Lord Chief-Commissioner, as they returned from an enquiry respecting Lord Melville's collar-bone (which he had had the misfortune to break), and the L.C-C. had quoted a dictum of Sir Gilbert Elliot: "No chance of opulence is worth the risk of a competence." Scott recorded it with this pregnant comment: "It was not the thought of a great man, but perhaps that of a wise one."

        Scott might admire caution or thrift: there might even be occasions on which he would deliberately observe them. But he worshipped at other shrines.


        The days that saw the completion of Anne of Geierstein had brought an offer from Sir James Macintosh of £1,000 for a one-volume history of Scotland to be included in Longmans' Encyclopaedia. It was a work which Scott felt could be completed in a few weeks, and from the resources of his own mind, and after a short pause of consideration he wrote accepting the offer. He actually commenced the work before the conclusion of Anne, and before the contract had been formally ratified.

        The notes he makes in reference to this offer show how difficult he found the task of restricting expenditure, with perhaps some lukewarmness in those around him towards his more economical proposals, it being the common knowledge of all that they made no difference except to the total of the Trusteeship Fund.

        "It is the sum I have been wishing for, sufficient to enable me to break the invisible but magic circle which petty debts of myself and others have placed around me. With common prudence I need no longer go from hand to mouth, or what is worse, anticipate my means. I may also pay off some small shop-debts &c belong to the Trust, clear off all Anne's embarrassments, and even make some foundations of a provision for her. . . . If fine, within six weeks I am sure that I can do the work and secure the independence I sigh for. Must I not make hay while the sun shines? Who can tell what leisure, health, and life may be destined to me? . . . I have been of late in a great degree free from wafered letters, sums to make up, notes of hand wanted, and all the worry of an embarrassed man's life. This last struggle will free me entirely, and so help Heaven it shall be made! . . . Besides my large debts, I have paid since I was in trouble at least £2,000 of personal encumbrances. . . . I really believe the sense of this apparently unending struggle, schemes for retrenchment in which I am unseconded, made me low-spirited, for the sun seems to shine brighter upon me as a free man."

        So he took a walk, with the help of Tom Purdie's shoulder, and turned in earnest to the writing of the one-volume history which became a two-volume one in the end, appearing in the Cabinet Cyclopedia, and bringing in £1,500 in place of the smaller amount of the original bargain.

        With his more personal financial necessities relieved by this contract, Scott went back to Edinburgh to learn from Cadell that the labour upon the magnum opus was not being made in vain. Orders continued to come in, and the quantities of the first printing were being increased at every estimate. It would be tiresome to record these figures as they were revised and extended. It was on May 20th that Cadell came to breakfast, and submitted calculations from which it appeared that in the course of three or four years there must be a gross profit of not less than £50,000 to divide. If that were so, ten years of life and work would see the end of every confronting difficulty. Scott noted cheerfully that it might be too soon for the counting of chickens, but that they were certainly chipping the shell.

        The collected edition was to be issued in monthly parts, of which eight appeared during this year. The first printing of Waverley was increased from 7,000 to 10,000, then to 12,000, and on June 5th to 15,000 copies. Calculations of divisible gross profit in sight rose to £18,000 a year on that day.

        It became a matter of urgent importance to secure the copyrights of poetry which were still in the hands of Longmans and Murray, so that the edition should be extended into a complete and unencumbered property.

        Murray held a fourth share of Marmion. Being approached, he declined to place a value upon it, but, with a fine generosity, he gave it back to its author.

        Longmans were willing to deal, but they had a substantial stock of books on hand. They said that they would hand these over, and surrender their copyrights, for an inclusive payment of £8,000. There was some delay over the conclusion of this bargain, which required a rather difficult understanding between Scott and Cadell as to the apportionment of any resulting deficiency. Cadell made a proposal which Scott rightly rejected as unfair to himself. Then, with equal shrewdness and goodwill, Cadell agreed to leave the matter for Scott himself to decide when the loss upon the stock (if any) should have been ascertained. In the end, Longmans came down to £7,000, to be paid in bills at from one to three years, Cadell being free to realise the stock in the meantime. So the bargain was made - a fair one on either side.

        Scott had Cadell to dinner on June 5th, the two Annes having gone out for the evening, and it was the delivery of letters during this meal which caused the final decision to increase the printing of the first volume to 15,000 copies. They sat calculating fortunes, and discussing the purchase of those remaining copyrights, and when Cadell got up to go Scott remembered that his pocket was empty, and that he was without any instant means of refilling it, and had to borrow ten pounds.

        He had been staying quietly at home for a day or two before this, under his doctor's urgent orders, for he had had some fresh symptoms of physical trouble since his return to Edinburgh, with attacks of hemorrhage, for which cupping had been prescribed, and appeared to be a satisfactory remedy; for, after a quiet week in his own rooms, and one or two gentle strolls in the gardens of Princes Street, he made a note on June 10th: "My complaint quite gone," and took his place at the Court of Session again that day. On June 12th there was an apparent necessity that the first printing of Waverley must be increased to l7,000 - a 'monstrous number' - and as Scott was leaving for a week of recuperation at Abbotsford, he heard that it was to be 3,000 more.

        He returned to Edinburgh, where he was expecting Charles, with Sophia and her children - including John Hugh, who still got weaker, but did not die - to arrive by one of the new steamboats. Cadell came to breakfast again on the first morning, looking overworked, and saying that he had actually ordered new steel plates, though those which were now in use were supposed to print up to 30,000 without deterioration.

        There is no evidence that there was any relaxation of work at this period, during which the Scottish history was on hand and the editing of the magnum opus was always able to provide occupation for what might otherwise have been a leisure hour, but it is significant that there was no talk of completing the contract for the three novels, of which only one had been supplied. It is evident that such undertakings could not be commenced again in the old confident spirit, nor pursued with the rapid ease of more vigorous days. If Scott thought of such an enterprise now, it was as of a labour of doubtful issue. He hesitated and deferred. Cadell may have hesitated too. Why should he stake another £4,200, when the last amount had seemed to be so hazardously risked, and hardly, as it were, dragged with difficulty over the borderline of success? Besides, he was more than busy with orders for the new editions. And there was no longer need for a novel-fund with which to finance these printings. In every way, the torrent of orders which was pouring in tended to sweep away the thought of that dormant contract.

        So Scott went back to Abbotsford at the Session's end, well content with the progress of his affairs, talking of better health since he had recovered from that disconcerting attack of a month ago, and happy in the company of children and grandchildren, in a circle from which Walter only was absent. . .

        Visitors were beginning to come to Abbotsford again now, though not in the old numbers, nor with the old half-invited freedom. Mrs. Hemans came this July. Scott liked her, and her talk of her five children. She was 'a clever person, and has been pretty'. Sophia and the Annes were more critical. They said she was too 'blue'.

        She went a walk with Scott, and discoursed to him upon the peculiar melancholy attached to the words 'no more'. He agreed about that. He should have replied by reciting Where shall the lover rest?, or A weary lot is thine, but he re-acted differently. He gave her one of his inexhaustible anecdotes. It was of a man who had ridden home over Cockenzie sands, with his wife behind him. Being drunk, she fell off the pillion into the arms of the advancing tide. Being in the same condition he arrived at Prestonpans before he noticed his loss. When he returned with neighbours, they found her with the waves lapping her mouth, while she murmured drowsily: 'No mair! I thank you kindly, not a drap mair.'

        The two poets each talked after their own kinds, and the subject of no more was comprehensively considered in all its aspects. They returned amicably from their walk together - 'dined in family, and all well'.

        Mr. Hallam came to Abbotsford also, during this autumn, bringing his young son Arthur. We might know more of this visit but, after Mrs. Hemans left, the Journal abruptly ceased. On July 20th Scott wrote: "A rainy day, and I am very drowsy, and would give the world to - ."

        But he left the sentence unfinished, and what he wished we shall never know.


        The curtain did not fall after that cryptic entry, but the shadows gathered during the autumn. One by one actors and audience are leaving, and the stir of departure draws attention, rather than the last scenes upon the darkening stage.

        In October, rather suddenly, Lady Jane Stuart died. It was, to Scott, the close to what he regarded as the major grief of his life, for he had developed a habit of calling at 12, Maitland Street when in Edinburgh, and talking of those events of which only they two were alive to know - for Sir William Forbes had died a year earlier.

        Tom Purdie also died as October ended. "There is a heart cold," Scott wrote to William Laidlaw, "that loved me well." Tom had even read the Waverley novels - 'our books' - as he called them from love of their author, and had not been unrewarded, for he said they sent him to sleep as nothing else could.

        Now there had come a day when he felt unwell, being out with his master at the time, and when the weather broke into storm Scott told him to leave him, and hurry home, which he refused to do. The next morning he got up without complaint, went to the table, and sat with his head resting on his arm. . . . His daughter spoke to him, and found that he was dead. . .

        The sales of the new edition continued to increase, and by December they had reached a monthly total of 35,000. Scott talked no more of fiction, but he was busily occupied with further Tales of a Grandfather, which also seemed to be an unbottomed mine, though of a smaller yield. And he had on hand also a series of Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft for Murray's Family Library. Working to the limit of physical power, and counting always the length of his remaining days against the reducing total of debt for which provision must still be made, he went on until the middle of February (1830), when there came a day on which he attended Court as usual, and found a lady waiting his return whose father's Memoirs he had promised to look through and prepare for the press.

        He took the MS. from her, and sat silently for half-an-hour, as though occupied with the papers before him. Then he tried to rise, failed, and sat down. He made a second effort, and walked unsteadily to the drawing-room, were Anne and Violet Lockhart were sitting, and fell forward across the floor.

        Later, he wrote to Walter:

        "Anne would tell you of an awkward sort of fit I had on Monday last: it lasted about five minutes, during which I lost the power of articulation, or rather of speaking what I wished to say. I revived instantly, but submitted to be bled, and to keep the house for a week, except exercising walks. They seem to say it is from the stomach. It may or may not be a paralytic affection. We must do the best we can in either event. I think by hard work I will have all my affairs regulated within five or six years, and leave the means of clearing them in case of my death . . . I feel, thank God, no mental injury, which is most of all to be deprecated. Still, I am a good deal failed in body within these two or three last years, and the singula praedantur come by degrees to make up a sum. They say 'do not work', but my habits are such that it is not easily managed, for I would be driven mad with idleness."

        For the time, it seemed that Scott recovered almost absolutely from this attack. He submitted for a considerable period to the strictest diet of 'pulse and water' which the medical faculty was accustomed to prescribe (rather late in the day) for such conditions; and, as had happened in the sequel of more than one previous illness, his constitution responded to the treatment, and, being compulsorily slowed down, it appeared to renew its strength. When he went about again, people noticed little difference in his appearance. The dreaded word paralysis, the disease of which father and brother had died, was scarcely whispered, even in his own family, was only half-admitted to his own mind.

        Three months later, when about to return from Abbotsford to Edinburgh, he opened his Journal again, and commenced regular entries. They give no immediate evidence of failing health - indeed show more of serenity and vigour than is in the record of some previous periods. On May 24th he 'walked in very bad day to George Square from the Parliament House'. And he was still writing incessantly, under the pressure of the old urgency:

        "Wrought with proofs &c at the Demonology, which is a cursed business to do neatly. I must finish it though, for I need money. . . . I was frightened by a species of fit which I had in February, which took from me my power of speaking. I am told it is from the stomach. It looked woundy like palsy or apoplexy. Well, be it what it will, I can stand it."

        But the next day records his intention to retire from the long-held office of Clerk of Session. There was a projected reform by which the number of these clerks was to be reduced from six to four, giving a favourable opportunity for superannuation, and though it must mean some reduction of income, there was the cost of the Edinburgh house to be put against that, and 'I think the difference will be infinite in point of health and happiness'. The magnum opus was still going well, and 'if this can last for five or six years longer we may clear our hands of debt'.

        So he still laboured, calculated, planned; doing three hours work in the morning before he left for the Court ('God bless that habit of being up at seven! I could do nothing without it.'), and recording the results with a general cheerfulness, and filling his Journal for the most part with the affairs of others, and reminiscence and anecdote, but with the strain showing clearly at times, as in the brief following entries:

        June 12th. - A day of general labour, and much weariness.

        June 13th. - The same may be said of this day.

        June 14th. - And of this, only I went out for an hour and a half.

and then, two days later, there comes the result of this concentration in the more cheerful note:

        "June 16th. - I wrought this forenoon till I completed the 100 pages, which is well done."

        And that night he went to the theatre to see Fanny Kemble play Isabella, as he had surely earned the right to do, but had a sense of exhaustion next day, which kept him half-reluctantly at home, not caring much for the play that would be on that night, but remembering that Miss Kemble ought to be supported, because she had given 'her active support to her father at his need'. So he rested at the fire-side, and feeling better as the evening advanced, he turned to work again, and wrote three pages before he went to bed, blaming himself that he had 'lost a day' by the morning's headache.

        He went home at the commencement of the long vacation, still in uncertainty as to whether it would be necessary for him to return to Edinburgh, but his application was formally granted a few weeks later, the salary of £1,300 being reduced to a retiring allowance of £840. Sir Robert Peel offered, on behalf of the Government, to add a pension sufficient to cover the difference, but Scott, after discussing the matter with his Trustees, rightly refused this. He was receiving an adequate retiring allowance, and was making a large income, however he might feel obliged to apply it. Such a pension would have been without moral justification. It would have been accepting a donation from the national purse toward the debts which he was still resolute that no-one should assist him to pay.

        The Lockharts came to Abbotsford that summer, and observed that there were more visitors coming than there had been during the previous year. Scott seemed in good spirits, for the most part, though of an obviously reduced vitality. He ate abstemiously, according to the strict medical directions he had received. He wrote regularly, and continued at his desk for as long hours as ever, but with more evident signs of fatigue as the evening came. He was cheered by the news that, though the issue of the novels had reached the point at which some of those which had been less popular on publication were appearing, yet the sales were maintained - were even increased. The Trustees, on whom he had been urging for some time the payment of a second dividend, had agreed to this, and the debts were to be reduced by a further 3/- in the £ before the year closed.

        He contrived (Lockhart thought) to entertain his guests so that they saw little change, but his mouth would twitch uncontrollably at times when he was agitated, and this was noticed when he was reading letters from James Ballantyne, for the printer would hint that the quality of the copy he was receiving was not quite what it had once been.

        Tom Purdie's shoulder was no longer available for the daily walks among the plantations, but Scott could still ride Douce Davie, if he were helped to mount, and he often did so in the summer weather, amid a retinue of grandchildren and others on ponies and donkeys. And William Laidlaw - back at Kaeside since Tom died - would be walking beside him to take instructions regarding the care of the woods. . . . And in the autumn, when he was back in Edinburgh (for he did not actually cease attendance at the Parliament House till the middle of November) he told Cadell that he was writing another novel.

        After that, the first chapters of Count Robert of Paris began to arrive on James Ballantyne's desk. It was a difficult position, both for printer and publisher. Neither of them was able to believe in the book. Yet, when they talked it over together, they could not say definitely that Scott's power had failed. There were times when his mind seemed as clear, his intellect as vigorous as ever. Could they tell him that he was no longer fit to write? James tried to get over the difficulty by arguing that he had chosen a hopeless period, concerning which a popular success would be impossible. Scott read the letters, and his mouth twitched, and he went back to his desk. It was a good tale, let James say what he would, and he was not dead yet. But he knew that he sometimes spoke with difficulty: that he sometimes wrote the wrong word. . . . And in November he had another slight stroke.

        In younger, more self-confident days, he might have rejected James's remonstrances, as he had done more than once before, and continued on his own way, but now the doubt in his own mind and the urgent warnings of his physicians united to discourage the effort of his failing powers. On December 8th he had a letter from James which caused him to write to Cadell proposing to abandon Count Robert, and cancel the contract. He wrote to James also:

        "Having never supposed that any abilities I ever had were of a permanent texture, I am glad when friends tell me what I might be long in finding out myself. Mr. Cadell will show you what I have written to him. My present idea is to go abroad for a few months, if I hold together as long. So ended the fathers of the novel - Fielding and Smollett - and it would be no unprofessional finish for yours - W. S"

        Cadell and Ballantyne read their letters, and were not happy. They consulted together, and decided to go over to Abbotsford, with what programme is less than clear, but they wisely deferred the journey till a meeting of creditors, which had been convened for the 17th to approve the further dividend, should have been held. When they went on the next day they were able to take the news that not only had the dividend been approved, but that the creditors had unanimously passed a resolution restoring to Sir Walter the 'furniture, plate, linens, paintings, library, and curiosities of every description' at Abbotsford, in recognition of 'his most honourable conduct, and in grateful acknowledgement for the unparalleled and most successful exertions he has made and continues to make for them.'

        Scott had actually had this information before they arrived, in a letter from Mr. George Forbes, who had succeeded his brother, Sir William, as Chairman of these meetings. They found him in better spirits, and apparently in better health than they had expected. He was satisfied to talk business that evening, and it was not until they met in the library next morning that they found that they had a fresh trouble to face.

        It had been one of their first desires at this time, and that of his own family, to keep him clear of the political arena, where the storm of the Reform agitation was at its height. It was not easy to do, for he was not of a disposition to stand aside from a fight of whatever kind, and he could not be ignorant that he had an enormous personal influence, as had, indeed, been demonstrated only two months before, when it had become known that the Government had offered the hospitality of Holyrood to the dethroned king, Charles X.

        The refugee was not popular in Edinburgh, which had given him an earlier asylum, and personal and political animosities had combined to threaten him with a hostile reception. But Scott had issued an appeal in the press from "one who was leaving his native city never to return as a permanent resident," and who was "proud of distinctions received from his fellow citizens," that the ancient reputation of Edinburgh for hospitality should not be disgraced, and discords and animosities had sunk to silence at his desire.

        Now he told Ballantyne and Cadell that, whether it were right or wrong, he had decided to accept their verdict, and, for the time, he had laid Count Robert aside, but he was not therefore admitting, nor was he conscious of, any failure of mental power. The political situation demanded the attention of every patriotic mind. He had been occupied during the past week with another Epistle of Malachi, dealing not with currency but with the more vital political issues which now divided the country. He gave Ballantyne the essay to read.

        It is extremely difficult to judge fairly of what followed, because the subject of the discussion is not before us. James, with diffidence, opposed its publication.

        Cadell spoke more plainly. He said (doubtless in politer language) that Scott did not understand the subjects on which he wrote, that he was behind the times, and, finally, that such an expression of his political views would do nobody any good, and the magnum opus a great deal of harm.

        Lockhart states that a 'scene of a very unpleasant sort' followed this declaration. Scott would not give way, and the immediate issue was a compromise. The name of Malachi and the idea of a pamphlet were to be dropped, and the article was to appear anonymously in Ballantyne's newspaper.

        In due course, James sent the proofs, which he had annotated with many arguments and objections. Scott read them, pondered the matter, and threw the whole thing on to the fire.

        Cadell afterwards wrote to Lockhart that Sir Walter 'never recovered' from this incident, for which he blamed himself. Lockhart assumes that this self-condemnation was causeless. He says that Cadell 'did only what was his duty by his venerated friend; and he did it, I doubt not, as kindly in manner as in spirit'. All this may be true but, without knowledge of what the essay contained, how can we - or how could Lockhart - have material on which to judge? The only three whose witnesses we have on the matter - Ballantyne, Cadell, and William Laidlaw - were all Scott's political opponents. The pamphlet was an attack upon their own convictions, and they were not likely to admire its arguments. Had it been in favour of the policy of Lord Grey's government, they might have thought better of its quality, or that it would not be beyond human ingenuity to strengthen its weaker clauses. It is also apparent that Cadell's idea (which was probably groundless) that its publication would injure the sale of the novels, ought not to have influenced the decision. and Scott would certainly not have been moved by such a fear.

        There is nothing in the general standard of Scott's literary output at this time to suggest that he was mentally incapable of writing a political pamphlet of a high standard. It was a very grave responsibility for his friends, who were also his political opponents, to take, to oppose its publication in such a spirit as to raise the doubt of mental instability in his own mind, and it is not surprising that Cadell did not feel very comfortable about it afterwards. Yet he may have had the courage to do the right thing in a difficult position. We cannot tell. But we may be sure that neither his opposition, nor that of James, would have prevailed but for that knowledge in Scott's own mind that his speech was sometimes difficult to control, that his hand would not always write the word which he had meant it to do. And so there came that moment, whether of insight or despair, when he destroyed the MS. which his friends condemned.

        After that, the history of Anne of Geierstein was repeated. Cadell and Ballantyne combined to say that they had condemned Count Robert too hastily. Why not go on with it in a quiet way? There would be no hurry about completing it while men's minds were distracted by politics, as they then were.


        It is no part of our present subject to consider the political conditions of Europe at this time, except as far as is necessary to enable us to understand Scott's attitude towards them, and the degree to which they darkened his closing days.

        We look back at the record of the last century, we observe the forces which overcame, and we may conclude that they were of an invincible strength, so that resistance was foolish, and condemnation vain. But their aspect was different then. Nor is it possible for us to do more than guess what might have happened had they been controlled by a different wisdom.

        Yet even those who are best satisfied with the course of the prevailing current may recognise that its smoothness was largely due to those who were unmoved by the surrounding clamour, who thought more of the brake than the steering-wheel.

        Scott saw France and Belgium in revolution, and his own country sick with social disorders and discontents. There were tales of riot and violence from every quarter. Men clamoured for a wider franchise, as the remedy for every evil. Scott doubted that bad government could be so easily turned into good, and feared that the last state might be worse than that which he lamented around him. He watched politicians who dodged and compromised and gave way to the storm.

        His own opinion was that those on whom the responsibility lay should have the courage to govern, and that they should do it in such a spirit, and with such wisdom, as would bring content to a prosperous land. He saw the beginning of the exodus from rural to urban life, and the squalor of the new slums, and he recorded his opinion that it was an evil thing. A healthy population, he said, should be distributed over the land. Who can say that his fears were not justified by the appalling conditions of the towns of the next half-century? Who can say that a government, however autocratic, animated by such a spirit as his, would not have averted many of the worst features of the coming industrial slavery, as the polling-booth proved incompetent, or too slowly competent to do?

        Now, as Christmas approached, he had a reluctant duty to perform at the Selkirk Court. A new Act had been passed to foster the salmon fishing in the Tweed, and to this end it had been considered necessary to repress poaching with severe penalties. The fact was that poaching had been practically permitted for many years, and the Tweed salmon-fishing was being rapidly destroyed in consequence. To protect the spawning fish during the close season was an essential condition of any improvement. Scott did not disagree about that; but when he heard that six men were in custody charged with destroying the fish, and were to be brought before him on December 23rd, he recorded his opinion that he 'would have counselled the matter to be delayed a little season'. He thought that there was trouble enough at that time, without making more. There was a 'reform' meeting to be held in Selkirk on the same day.

        He saw that, to many of those who would be there, reform meant no more nor less than 'the privilege of obeying such laws as please them'. His own political sagacity would have concentrated attention upon the major social evils of the moment, and let the poaching go on. But, all the same, and first of all, he would have order in Selkirkshire so long as he were its sheriff.

        On December 20th, he had noted 'the constant increase of my lameness: the thigh-joint, knee-joint, and ankle-joint,' and the next day he had walked 'with great pain in the whole limb, and am at every minute, during an hour's walk, reminded of my mortality".

        But on the 23rd he was on the bench of the Selkirk court, tried the six men, and convicted four. As the decision was given, one of the convicted men made a sudden rush from the dock to the door, and would have escaped, but that Scott alone had foreseen his purpose and left the bench so quickly that, in spite of all his lameness, he was first at the entrance. For a moment, before slower-witted men had run forward to help, sheriff and prisoner confronted one another in the narrow doorway. 'Never!' an onlooker heard the Sheriff say, 'unless it be over the body of an old man.' But the prisoner would not lift his hand against the man who had sentenced him, and was secured in a moment. It is pleasant to know that he broke away successfully at a later hour.


        "If I were worthy, I would pray God for a sudden death." So Scott wrote on the first of January, 1831. He had calculated that he had already secured that the final purpose of his life was reached, and that, with £30,000 of profit to come from the publications now proceeding, more than £20,000 of insurance money which his death would make available for his creditors, and £10,000 that might be raised on the remaining value of the copyrights, the payment of the balance still outstanding would, at his death, become a speedily possible thing.

        With this feeling in his mind, and with a dread that he might at any time be incapacitated from speech or motion, though life should continue, he went into Edinburgh at the end of January, with the purpose of consulting his physicians there, and making the will which he had deferred till there should be something tangible to leave.

        He had ascertained in correspondence with Walter that he would be able, and would prefer to make some monetary provision for Charles and his sisters, rather than that the library and other effects at Abbotsford should be realised for their benefit, and he now left them to Walter, subject to the payment of £1,000 to Sophia, and £2,000 each to Charles and Anne. Beyond that, all his copyrights and other properties were to be devoted to the payment of his debts, and the residue, if any, was to be for the benefit of his children equally.

        He had been obliged to take this journey alone, Anne being too unwell to accompany him, and, for the first time in his life, he must put up at an hotel in his native city; but, next day, Cadell appeared on the scene, and persuaded him to accept the quieter hospitality of his own home. That was a fortunate thing, for the deep snow through which Scott had driven from Abbotsford was followed by a further fall, making the roads impassable, and for ten days he was weather-bound in Cadell's house in Atholl Crescent.

        The time was not lost, for the physicians resorted to further bleeding and other remedies, which appear to have been justified by their results, for he returned to Abbotsford with a clearer mind, and without the giddiness which had been annoying him before he set out.

        He had also got an ingenious mechanical contrivance made for the resting of the lamer leg, which gave great relief for a time, though not permanently.

        He had been very quiet at Cadell's, retiring each morning to continue Count Robert, and resting during the later day, with the company of a single friend to dinner - Skene, or Thompson, or William Clerk - and had ventured out to dinner twice through the snow in a sedan chair.

        So he went back feeling better, but with an increased consciousness of infirmity, for he had been using Laidlaw at Abbotsford as an amanuensis, and when he had been obliged to resume writing himself, he had been aware of an increased difficulty in controlling the pen. . .

        The next three months were spent quietly at Abbotsford, while Count Robert, among other literary occupations, made progress which was steady, if not rapid. The days passed in a monotonous regularity, of which a complete picture is given in one Journal entry:

        "March 16.- The affair with Mr. Cadell being settled, I have only to arrange a set of regular employment for my time, without over-fatiguing myself. What I at present practice seems active enough for my capacity, and even if I should reach the threescore and ten from which I am thrice three years distant or nearer ten, the time may pass honourably, usefully and profitably, both to myself and other people. My ordinary for action runs thus - Rise at a quarter before seven: at a quarter after nine breakfast, with eggs, or in the singular number at least: before breakfast private letters &c.; after breakfast Mr. Laidlaw comes at ten, and we write together till one. I am greatly helped by this excellent man, who takes pains to write a good hand, and supplies the want of my own fingers as far as another person can. We work seriously at the task of the day till one o'clock, when I sometimes walk - not often, however, having failed in strength, and suffering great pain even from a very short walk. Oftener I take the pony for an hour or two and ride about the doors; the exercise is humbling enough, for I require to be lifted on horseback by two servants, and one goes with me to take care I do not fall off and break my bones, a catastrophe very like to happen. My proud promenade a pied or a cheval, as it happens, concludes by three o'clock. An hour intervenes for making up my Journal and such light work. At four comes dinner, - a plate of broth or soup, much condemned by the doctors, a bit of plain meat, no liquors stronger than small beer, and so I sit quiet to six o'clock, when Mr. Laidlaw returns, and remains with me till nine or three quarters past, as it happens. Then I have a bowl of porridge and milk, which I eat with the appetite of a child. I forgot to say that after dinner I am allowed half a glass of whisky or gin made into weak grog. I never wish for any more, nor do I in my secret soul long for cigars, though once so fond of them. About six hours per day is good working, if I can keep at it."

        It was a few days before this entry that Scott had received an offer from Robert Cadell of £6,000 for a half-share of the copyrights of the later novels (those from St. Ronan's Well onwards) which were still entirely his own property. The intention was that the whole series should then be owned on equal terms, which might have some advantages of convenience, but Scott rejected the proposal after two days consideration, for reasons which there is no need to detail, but which show that he had no disability to analyse a business proposition in an exhaustive and logical manner. Nor were his physical infirmities sufficient to keep him away from a Jedburgh meeting at which it was proposed to pass public resolutions against the policy of the Whig Government.

        He appeared on the platform there, but his speech was only partly audible, and was shouted down by an influx of 'unwashed artificers' who had burst into the Court House. He resumed his speech after a time, and was shouted down again. Then he proposed a resolution which no-one heard. He turned, a few minutes later, as he left the platform, to face the hisses of the audience. We may see in it, if we will, the old order facing the new, but the difference was deeper than that. "Moriturus vos saluto," he said, audibly to those around him, as he bowed farewell to the shouting mob.


        It was a fortnight after the Jedburgh meeting that James Skene went on a visit to Abbotsford, taking with him his son, a young man of twenty-one, who afterwards held the position of Historiographer Royal for Scotland. Lord Meadowbank and his son, and Colonel Russell and his sister, were there also.

        Lockhart says that Scott, "feeling his strength and spirits flagging "was" tempted to violate his physician's directions, and took two or three glasses of champagne, not having tasted wine for several months before. On retiring to his dressing-room he had a severe shock of apoplectic paralysis, and kept his bed under the surgeon's hands for several days."

        That is a circumstantial account, and Lockhart is definite that it was at the dinner at which he entertained Lord Meadowbank, and in an endeavour to be adequate to his duties as host, that this alleged indiscretion took place. The only objection which need be made is that it cannot possibly be true. It is disproved by Scott's Journal, which broke off, with his illness, two days after the dinner in question, and by the quite separate record of Mr. Skene's son.

        There may still be some different basis of fact for Lockhart's account - or there may not. His journalistic looseness, and his habit of filling in deficiencies of fact with guesses to which he gives a circumstantial plausibility, are maddening to anyone who may be tempted to place reliance upon him. To check Lockhart is almost always to find him wrong, and we are left to think what we will of a hundred statements which he gives in the same way, and which are beyond verification.

        Young Skene recorded his memory of this visit, and it supports the Journal dates. He remembered the dinner, at which Mr. Pringle was also present (which the Journal confirms) and the carriage-drive up the Yarrow, when Sir Walter got out, and walked up the side of the river, 'pouring forth a continuous stream of anecdotes, traditions, and scraps of ballads' as he leaned on his arm. - Lord Meadowbank having gone on circuit that day.

        The dinner was on Thursday evening. The walk was on Saturday. It was on Sunday morning that Sir Walter did not come down to breakfast, sending a message that he had caught cold, but at a later meal he came down and sat silently, without eating. Then he roused himself, and told an anecdote with much humour. There was a short interval of silence, after which he told it again. When he commenced it for a third time, Anne motioned her guests to rise from the table, and persuaded her father to return to his own room.

        The next day, at the doctor's suggestion, the Skenes left. He said that Sir Walter was seriously ill, and the house must be kept as quiet as possible. There was the usual process of bleeding, the usual interval of lying quiet, and a week later he was able to write with an unsteady hand in his Journal: "I think I will be in the Secret next week, unless I recruit greatly."

        But the next entry was more cheerful:

        "I walked out, and found the day delightful. . . . I have been whistling on my wits like so many chickens, and cannot miss any of them. I feel on the whole better than I have yet done."

        The next day Walter appeared, having got leave on hearing of his father's illness, but Sir Walter said that he was recovered. He went back to Count Robert of Paris.

        Sophia came with the children a few days later and then Lockhart joined his family, and they settled at Chiefswood for the season, of which Anne must have been glad.

        On May 7th, Count Robert was within a page of being finished, and the same day there was a 'formal remonstrance' from Cadell and Ballantyne against the portion of the third volume which had reached their hands.

        "I suspect," Scott noted, "their opinion will be found to coincide with that of the public; at least it is not very different from my own. The blow is a stunning one, I suppose for I scarcely feel it. It is singular, but it comes with as little surprise as though I had a remedy ready. Yet, God knows I am at sea in the dark, and the vessel leaky I think, into the bargain. . . . I will right and left at these unlucky proof-sheets, and alter at least what I cannot mend. . . . I have suffered terribly, that is the truth, rather in body than in mind, and I often wish I could lie down and sleep without waking. But I will fight it out if I can. . . . My bodily strength is terribly gone; perhaps my mental too?"

        But on the days that followed, the weather was 'uncommonly beautiful', and though 'very weak, scarce able to crawl about without the pony' he turned his thoughts again to the thinning of plantations, and, finding that his head swam when he took up those hateful proof-sheets, in what he knew to be a dangerous way, he resolved to put them aside, and see what could be done with Count Robert when he should feel able to work again.

        But there could be no peace for Sir Walter while there was still power of mind or muscle in the exhausted body. The day of the elections of 1831 was approaching.

        On May 13th he was knocked up at midnight 'to sign a warrant against some delinquents'. He heard after that the officers of the law were pursued by a mob from Galashiels for many miles, but lodged their prisoners at last in Jedburgh Castle. What levity of mis-government, his Journal asked, could have brought a peaceful and virtuous population to such a pass? All the elections, it was said, were being held amid the shouting of violent mobs. . . And on the 18th there was the polling-day at Jedburgh, and he said that he must be there.

        There were about half-a-hundred freeholders of Roxburghshire in whose hands the election of the county member lay. The opinions of most electors were known in advance, and the result could usually be foretold with certainty, under the conditions of such a limited franchise. But the wide-spread determination that this franchise should be extended was being supported by a large body of opinion within the privileged ranks of those who had it already. The remainder of the population could influence results only by making it as difficult as possible, by arguments of stone and stick, for any voter who did not show the reform colours to fight his way to the polling-place.

        In Roxburghshire there was no doubt that Henry Scott of Harden would secure election, and he had himself joined in the efforts which were made by Scott's family to persuade him to keep away from the scene of contest.

        On the previous evening, it was thought that these endeavours had been successful, but Lockhart, coming down at seven next morning, with the intention of riding to Jedburgh, was told that Sir Walter had countermanded his horse, and ordered the carriage for both. The carriage was at the door already, and Scott was waiting impatiently to set off.

        They entered Jedburgh through a riotous crowd, and drove with some difficulty to the Shortreeds' house. Stones were thrown at the carriage as it passed, and some fell harmlessly within it. Robert Shortreed, who had led the way of the first Liddesdale raid, nearly forty years ago, had been dead for two years past, but he had left sons, and with a young Shortreed on one side, and Lockhart on the other, Sir Walter set out on foot for the hustings.

        The crowd had gathered from all the county to make trouble for those who did not wear the reform colours. A thousand weavers from Hawick paraded the streets in an organised body of rowdyism, only held in check from the grosser forms of violence by the two troops of dragoons who were drawn up, a silent menace, on Ancrum Bridge.

        Scott was too well known not to be recognised: he moved too slowly not to gain the full attention of the mob: the mere fact that he did not wear the Whig colours invited insult. There was a cry of 'Burke Sir Walter' as the three pushed their way slowly through the cursing, jostling crowd: from a window a woman spat. Yet he gained the platform at last, and appeared to speak, but even those who were nearest could hear nothing through the roar of the mob. . . . As the hours passed, the condition of the streets became more menacing, and when the election was over the leaders of both parties united in their efforts to get him safely out of the town.

        One of the leading Whigs, Captain Russell Elliot, R.N., owned a villa at the rear of the Spread Eagle, and offered its hospitality, which was reached by some back alleys, such as were too frequent a feature of the Scottish towns of that day. Peter Mathieson brought the carriage there by a twisting route. Joseph Shillinglaw, a Darnick carpenter, got some of his cottage neighbours together to form a rearguard, and in this protection, and with no worse experience than the shower of stones which came over the heads of his protectors, Sir Walter drove out of Jedburgh for the last time. He noted that evening:

        "The day passed off with much clamour and no mischief. Henry Scott was re-elected - for the last time, I suppose. Troja fuit. I left the borough in the midst of abuse, and the gentle hint of Burke Sir Walter. Much obliged to the brave lads of Jeddart"

        The Selkirkshire election was two days later, and his family made no attempt to dissuade him from driving into Selkirk on that occasion, for he was still Sheriff of the county, and it was his duty to go. . .

        There was a man in Selkirk that morning who was conspicuous among the mob that jostled a voter who strove to make his way to the polling-booth. Conscious that the crowd had fallen quiet, he looked round to see the Sheriff descending slowly and painfully from his carriage. . . . He was coming toward him through the silent, watchful crowd. . . . Now the Sheriff's hand was upon him. . . . The man made no effort to escape. Scott called for a constable, and gave instructions that he should be locked up. There might be no dragoons in Selkirk, but there were special constables, men he could trust, whom he had sworn in for that day. While he was Sheriff, he would have order in his own county, though there were chaos in all the world beside.

        It may not be a barren thought to consider how far that incident justified his own theories, his own ideals. He had kept order in Selkirk through thirty difficult years, and was still able to do so, by the powers of courage, justice, and love.


        The excitement of the election died, and Scott, now remaining quietly at Abbotsford, with occasional short visits to his closer friends, found his health improve somewhat, in what could be no more than a final flicker, as the June days lengthened.

        He turned his mind to the thought of creative work again, and, with a pale imitation of the spirit of the old buoyant vigorous years, when he would find it sufficient recreation to turn from one novel to another, and back again as the overcrowding imaginations competed, he did not immediately complete Count Robert, but commenced the telling of another tale, Castle Dangerous, which had been in his mind ever since he outlined it in his Essay on Chivalry, twenty-seven years before. He wrote to Cadell, informing him of his new occupation, but said that he should not take James, nor, perhaps Lockhart, into his confidence on this occasion. Let them think that he was doing no more than to finish Count Robert in a drawling way. . . . Yet he found that he must tell Lockhart, for he doubted his memory of the topography of the tale, and must have his company to visit Lanarkshire. And when it came to the point of commencing to put the book into type, he decided that James must know also, for, though there had been a shadow of estrangement between them during recent months, he could not bear to wound his friend with the ultimate knowledge that he had given work to another printer.

        Lockhart thinks, with probability on his side, that Scott had been hurt by some of James's strictures upon Count Robert of Paris, but it might be wrong to assume that this feeling was a dominating impulse towards the intended secrecy.

        Scott was proposing to himself to make a last test of his , failing powers, and he might reasonably feel that he would prefer to do it without the discouragement of a running fire of depreciatory criticism. He intended to do the best he could, and if it were failure he would know soon enough.

        But there was probably a deeper motive still in that love of adventure which was fundamental to Scott, which Lockhart could never understand, and to which he alludes from time to time with a most causeless apology. It underlay the procession of anonymities with which Scott, from time to time, had thrown aside the protecting shield of past prestige, and would needlessly risk the financial harvest, for which, to the superficial observer, it might seem that his work was done.

        To take a risk for a risk's sake, was, to Lockhart's mind, an almost incomprehensible thing. He searches diligently for the concealed motive which he feels that there must be, and if he cannot find it, imagination supplies the deficiency. To understand his attitude, we may turn to the adulatory paragraphs of his closing chapter, and observe the nature of the one spot which he feels that he must admit upon the sun of Sir Walter's excellence which he describes as his 'initiation in the practice of mystery a thing at first sight so alien from the frank, open, generous nature of the man, than whom none ever had or deserved to have more real friends.' He continues thus:

        "The indulgence cost him very dear. It ruined his fortunes - but I can have no doubt that it did worse than that. I cannot suppose that a nature like his was fettered and shut up in this way without suffering very severely from the 'cold obstruction'. There must have been a continual insurrection' in his 'state of man'; and, above all. I doubt not that what gave him the bitterest pain in the hour of his calamities was the feeling of compunction with which he then found himself obliged to stand before those with whom he had through life, cultivated brotherly friendship, convicted of having kept his heart closed to them on what they could not but suppose to have been the chief subjects of his thought and anxiety in times when they withheld nothing from him. These, perhaps, were the 'written troubles' that had been cut deepest into his brain. I think they were, and believe it the more, because it was never acknowledged.'

        How even Lockhart could 'believe it the more because it was never acknowledged', unless he would have believed it less if it had been, we need not waste space to consider, because this is no more than an empty concluding flourish to a paragraph of baseless nonsense.

        Scott may, or may not, have 'ruined his fortunes' by being a partner in a printing business, but that ruin was not occasioned, nor materially affected by the fact (so far as it may have been a fact at all) that many people were ignorant of that partnership. That there is not the faintest trace in his correspondence at the time, or in the privacy of his Journal, of any compunction whatever on any such grounds, nor even of there being any grounds for such compunction, is exactly what we should expect to find. If Scott wished to talk or write to his friends about his own affairs, so he would, and often with great frankness, but it would not have crossed his mind that he was under an obligation to do so.

        Lockhart's curious assumption that our neighbours have a natural right to know what we are doing, and that there is a taint of moral turpitude in any deliberate privacy, is an illogical fiction of weaker and smaller minds, finding its extreme illustration in the half-witted criminal who makes himself a nuisance to the community by insisting upon the confession of some ancient half-forgotten misdeed.

        But just as Lockhart believes the more in his assumption because he can observe no evidence in its support, so he is able to strengthen his conviction that Scott was disposed to lean upon others even from the fact that he now made a deliberate attempt to avoid their interference. It sounds a difficult proposition to maintain, but what he says is:

        "Sir Walter's misgivings about himself, if I read him aright, now rendered him desirous of external support, but this his spirit would fain suppress and disguise even from himself."

        So Scott decided to go his own way, and whether it were in an effort to disguise from himself his desire to do otherwise, or from a less childish motive, we may each think as we will. And when Lockhart arrived at Abbotsford after an absence of a few weeks in London, he showed him the earlier portion of Castle Dangerous, and asked him to accompany him by carriage to the Douglas country. He also mentioned that he should let James print the book, but should not invite his opinions upon it. In fact, he spoke in accordance with his first letter to Cadell on this subject. He was making a deliberate and possibly final test of his remaining powers, and he did not intend that it should be subject to disconcerting criticism as it proceeded.

        This attitude of mind is confirmed by Lockhart's witness that, during their journey together,

        "he seemed constantly to be setting tasks to his own memory. It was not as of old, when, if anyone quoted a verse, he, from the fullness of his heart, could not help repeating the context. He was obviously in fear that this prodigious engine was losing its tenacity, and taking every occasion to rub and stretch it. He sometimes failed, and gave it up with miseria cogitandi in his eye. At other times he succeeded to admiration, and smiled as he closed his recital."

        It was in the third week of July that this carriage journey was made from Tweed to Clyde, renewing some old acquaintances on the way, obtaining the required topographical details, and ending at the home of William Lockhart, where a neighbour, who was too old a friend of Scott's to be denied - Elliot Lockhart of Cleghorn - came over to see him.

        Elliot Lockhart had had an attack of paralysis some time previously, but had made a good recovery. He made this visit the occasion of a convivial evening, at the end of which he left with the understanding that Scott would look in upon him at Cleghorn on the way back.

        But next morning there came a messenger with the news that he had had another stroke after he got home and was in no condition to see anyone.

        Lockhart thinks that Scott took this incident as a warning to himself, as he well might. He had agreed to stay two days longer, but he now asked William Lockhart to lend him horses, so that he could start home at once.

        "We started accordingly, and, making rather a forced march, reached Abbotsford the same night. During the journey he was more silent than I ever before found him; he seemed to be wrapped in thought, and was but seldom roused to take notice of any object we passed. The little he said was mostly about Castle Dangerous, which he now seemed to feel sure he could finish in a fortnight."

        Putting everything else, even his Journal, aside, he did in fact finish that book and Count Robert within a month of that date, and, having done them, he rested, as he had previously declined to do. The thought of wintering abroad, which had been in his mind for several years, now became a definite plan. If anything could yet prolong life, and restore a sufficient degree of health to make it worth having, it was agreed that it was the climate of Italy.

        The fact that Charles was now attached to the British Legation at Naples made that destination a natural choice; and when Captain Basil Hall heard of the plan he wrote privately to the First Lord of the Admiralty, with the result that the Government offered to place a frigate at Sir Walter's disposal for the outward voyage.

        For the next six weeks - until the last days of September - he rested quietly at Abbotsford, making no effort to commence any new literary labour, and allowing the idea to prevail that he would spend the winter abroad in the same idle way, but, all the time, the plan of a new romance must have been forming. He would go to Malta on the way to Naples. If the more genial climate could do all that was hoped, there should yet be another Waverley novel. The Knights of Malta should be its name. Meanwhile he must rest as placidly as he could, and conserve his remaining strength. This change of climate was the last hope - but hope of what? Life meant work to him.

        So he rested and planned. And Lockhart observed that he was 'always tranquil, sometimes cheerful'.

        He had a few guests during these weeks - old intimate friends, for the most part - and the Lockharts being at Chiefswood, the two families used to dine there or at Abbotsford on alternate days.

        The artist Turner came to see him at this time, in Cadell's company, in reference to the illustration of the poems in the collected edition, and was entertained for a few days. He was taken to see Dryburgh Abbey, in the old routine of Abbotsford guests, Skene and Lockhart, with Scott himself, making up the party; but Scott found that he was still unable to enter the place where Charlotte was buried, and his friends had the good sense to leave him alone outside.

        Cadell had arranged that the printing of the two last novels should not be commenced till Scott should sail, so that his correction of the proofs, and any alterations he might like to make could be undertaken at leisure. He also came to Abbotsford to discuss questions in relation to the Trust accounts, and to arrange for the provision of funds which would be needed for the journey, and for the maintenance of Abbotsford while Scott would be absent. Lockhart thought that "he probably strained a point to make things appear still better than they really were. He certainly spoke so as to satisfy his friend that he need give himself no sort of uneasiness about the pecuniary results of illness and travel".

        That may be true. Cadell's conduct throughout in the business transactions of these last years (from which he made a fortune for himself) was exemplary. But it is difficult to observe that there was any occasion for straining points. The truth was good enough, and there were ample resources for the expenses in question.

        Lockhart goes on to make a more serious statement which has been frequently quoted without the comment which it deserves. He says:

        "It was about this time that we observed Sir Walter beginning to entertain the notion that his debts were paid off. By degrees, dwelling on this fancy, he believed in it fully and implicitly. It was a gross delusion but - neither Cadell nor any one else had the heart to disturb it by any formal statement of figures."

        Such evidence, coming from a biographer who wrote of that which was under his own observation, cannot be lightly challenged. Yet there is substantial documentary evidence to discredit it. To some of this we must come in its own place, and it is sufficient here to observe that if at any time before his death Sir Walter thought that his debts were fully and literally discharged it was a mistake. But it could not properly be described as a gross delusion, for the battle was practically won.

        We have seen from a Journal entry previously quoted that he had estimated that he had already made such provision that at his death, and with the assistance of the insurance monies that would then fall due, it would be possible for the debts to be cleared, and that conviction doubtless enabled him to relax his efforts without self-reproach at this time. But this was not the delusion of a brain-sick man. It was a sound business estimate, as the event proved.

        He may have spoken in general terms at this time as of a struggle already won, without going into explanations with a son-in-law who did not understand business, and who appears to have been blandly unconscious of his deficiencies in that direction. It is the kindest suggestion as regards Lockhart which can be made, in view of the evidence which is to come, but the essential point of accuracy is that whatever Scott may have thought or imagined, there could be no gross delusion on the part of anyone in thinking or speaking of those debts as paid. There was only the difference of actual payment, or of provision having been made therefor.


        As the day of departure from Abbotsford drew near Scott decided to resume his Journal, apparently with the feeling that there would be more of interest to record during his journey than had been the case during the monotony of his recent days.

        He re-commenced it with an undated entry, probably written about the middle of September, which does not suggest that he had been conscious of any improvement in his general state of health, nor that he was under any delusions respecting the condition of his financial affairs. This is what he wrote:

        "I have been very ill, and if not quite unable to write, I have been unfit to do so. I have wrought, however, at two Waverley things, but not well, and, what is worse, past mending. A total prostration of bodily strength is my chief complaint. I cannot walk half a mile. There is, besides, some mental confusion, with the extent of which I am not, perhaps, fully acquainted. I am perhaps setting. I am myself inclined to think so, and like a day that has been admired as a fine one, the light of it sets down amid mists and storms. I neither regret nor fear the approach of death if it is coming. I would compound for a little pain instead of this heartless muddiness of mind which renders me incapable of anything rational. The expense of my journey will be something considerable, which I can provide against by borrowing £500 from Mr. Gibson. To Mr. Cadell I owe already, with the cancels on these apoplectic books, about £200, and must run it up to £500 more at least; yet this heavy burthen would be easily borne if I were to be the Walter Scott I once was; but the change is great. This would be nothing, providing that I could count on these two books having a sale equal to their predecessors; but as they do not deserve the same countenance, they will not and cannot have such a share of favour, and I have only to hope that they will not involve the Waverley, which are now selling 30,000 volumes a month in their displeasure."

        There is no suggestion here that he thought that the debts were paid. Had that been the case, the Trust would have been wound, or winding, up and the question of 'borrowing' from Mr. Gibson would not arise. We may observe also that Scott had a clear opinion as to the quality of the last two books he had written, and there is an implication that he had cancelled his contract with Cadell in consequence, and had substituted an arrangement much more favourable to the publisher by which his remuneration would depend upon the sales of the books. The result of this was that instead of drawing 4,000 guineas against the manuscript in the old way, he 'owed' £200 to Cadell, which might have to be increased to £500 against the uncertainty of these sales, and he could not regard the expense of the winter in Italy with entire equanimity until he should know what the sales of these books, which were not to be published until after his departure, would be.

        This entry was made in September, at the very time at which Lockhart says the 'gross delusion' began to be observed. We cannot place it later, because Scott left Abbotsford on September 23rd, and Lockhart did not accompany him beyond London. We shall see that later entries in the Journal show the same clear grasp of the financial position, and the entries, which were continued with frequency and approximate regularity during the winter months, do not contain a single line to suggest that he was under such a delusion at any time.


        A 'long and painful journey' to London did little to encourage a course, which, if it would ever have been radically beneficial, was being tried too late. Scott observed during this journey that the weakness of his limbs was 'palpably increasing', and though he doubtless assisted his own condition by the cheerful courage with which he endured it, yet he was not of the disposition which deceives itself with an easy optimism. No-one could undertake a forlorn hope with a cooler valour, but few would judge it more accurately for its likely end: 'have not warm hopes of being myself again'.

        So he came to London for the last time - to a city that was 'in a foam with politics', to see the windows of the Duke of Wellington's house smashed by a mob which made lawless havoc of London when the second Reform Bill was thrown out, and to be told that the christening of the new heir to the Buccleuch dukedom must be postponed because it was not considered safe for the King to drive through the streets of London.

        During his last days at Abbotsford the Wordsworths had come for a final visit; on his way to London he had paused a day at Rokeby to say what was to be a last farewell to his lifelong friend there; one by one, as he remained in London during the next three weeks, old friends came to him at the Lockharts' house in Regent's Park. He went out two or three times to breakfast, but made no further effort to dine abroad.

        Doctors gathered around him, and withdrew for consultation. When they returned, his chair was withdrawn to a shadowed corner of the room. They spoke favourably; and he told them that he had not wished them to see how he would take their verdict: "I feared insanity, and I feared you."

        Dr. Robert Fergusson gives this description of his appearance on his arrival in London. It is the witness both of a physician and a friend:

        "The alterations which had taken place in his mind and person since I had seen him, three years before, were very apparent. The expression of the countenance and the play of features were changed by slight palsy of one cheek. His utterance was so thick and indistinct as to make it very difficult for any but those accustomed to hear it to gather his meaning. His gait was less firm and assured than ever; but his power of self-command, his social tact, and his benevolent courtesy, the habits of a life, remained untouched by a malady which had obscured the higher powers of his intellect."

        The 'higher powers of his intellect' might be obscured by the physical weakness which had assailed them, but the soul, the individual, which is separate from the brain and muscle which it controls, was the same which had laughed at the lightning in the heather of Sandy-Knowe, and overcome with stubborn courage in those childhood years the infirmity of the dragging limb.

        We do not understand the nature of the ordeal of these closing years if we emphasise the sometime 'muddiness of mind' of which Scott was conscious when he tried, not only to weave new fancies within it, but to translate them to written form. For the most part, his mind was clear, and though it might be a diminished force, it was still of a great activity. His Journal throughout the winter shows no sign of any mental confusion whatever. But the writing of the palsied hand is very hard to decipher. His speech must have been often difficult to understand. When he tried to walk by himself he could only move with a painful slowness; yet he would not cease the attempt, and when, on the way to Portsmouth, his carriage stopped to change horses at Guildford, he descended unobserved and was nearly knocked down by a stage-coach in the narrow street.

        The tragedy of such existence is not that of insanity, it is that there is still active life in the isolation within, though the blinds fall; and with Scott there was still a restless intellectual vigour which he restrained with difficulty under the urgent medical advice he had received. But he restrained it with a different purpose than that of those who advised him. They thought only of prolonging life; he thought only of using that life to some further purpose, apart from which possibility, to conserve it would be a vain thing. He thought that he might yet add one more to the Waverley novels that men would be glad to have. Or, if the hope was faint, the indomitable purpose held. And who can doubt that he was right in this, and his physicians wrong? Wrong, even though their advice might have somewhat prolonged his years? He did not want to exist, but to live. And as he obeyed them during those weeks in London, writing only a few final notes for the magnum opus, an introduction to Count Robert, a few pages in the Journal, a few letters to friends, he was strengthened to this control by that faint enduring hope that the Italian climate might yet restore him, not to a prolonged passivity, but to ride out a final tilt with fate before the darkness fell.


        The Barham (Captain Pigot) lying at anchor at Portsmouth, had few companions, for the most part of the fleet was making the voice of England audible amid the disorders of Europe by a demonstration of force in the Baltic. She was one of the finest frigates in the service, and exceptional in her accommodation by the standards of those days, for she had once been a seventy-four, and cut down to a frigate of fifty guns when the peace left England with a larger line-of-battle fleet than she was likely to need again, and at a time when battle-ships did not become obsolescent as rapidly as they do now.

        Yet the accommodation was crude and cramped enough, and the discomforts more than an invalid landsman would lightly face, as the Barham - after some delay owing to adverse weather, during which Scott had remained in readiness to embark at the Fountain Inn, and the naval officers had shown Anne and Jane the sights of Portsmouth (for Walter had got a long leave, and he and his wife were of the party) - moved slowly down the channel, wooing uncertain winds, and then took to 'terrible tossing' as she passed Plymouth, and would beat southwards for Finnisterre against a rising gale.

        For three days they tossed vainly, with the Lizard and Land's End always in sight through the squalls. On the fifth day out Scott kept "the deck the whole day, though bitter cold". It was nine o'clock of the November night before he turned in to his coffin-like berth; and next morning, having overcome the sickness of the earlier days, though the night had been 'far from voluptuous', he established himself in the after-cabin to read, and write as well as he could, with the plunging of the ship and the unsteadiness of his own hand.

        After that, there came fair but variable winds, and the frigate set her course and made good progress enough, and so continued until the Bay of Biscay was left behind, so that they passed Lisbon during the night when they had been a fortnight out; after which the weather changed again to the south-west, and it was three days more before, with the wind 'in gentle opposition, like a well-drilled spouse', they wore slowly toward Gibraltar, and Scott felt his heart 'beat faster and fuller' as they passed the battle-sites of St. Vincent and Trafalgar, though with the humility of one who had not been accounted physically worthy to share the struggle; and the older sailors told of the battles in which they had taken part, but which were already no more than hearsay to the younger members of the crew.

        Was he better already in the milder air? The officers thought he was. He thought himself that his spirits were better, that he could write more easily. "The difficulty will be to abstain from working hard, but we will try". So he recorded, after writing to Cadell to catch the Gibraltar mail. The spirit of discovery and adventure stirred again, and whatever benefit there might be in the milder air he 'would put up with a good rough gale which would force us into Tangiers and keep us there for a week'.

        But the winds continued light and variable, so that they glided quietly along the barren African coast, a greater mystery then than it is now, and saw a French schooner of 18 guns tacking backwards and forwards as it blockaded Oran, and had a good view of the high white, incurving crescent of buildings which was Tangiers, looking less formidable than its reputation, and passed the cape where the Mediterranean fleet used to trade for cattle in those endless war-years when it blockaded Toulon, and then came to the lower Tunisian coast, and watched for an appearance of Arabian cavalry, and saw nothing more formidable than a red cow. And at this time, the winds being light, they were passed by the steam mail-packet which had left Portsmouth at the same time as themselves, and was destined to beat them by a day or two, which, in better weather, it would have been unable to do.

        And on November 20th, when they had been nearly a month out, they sighted Graham's Island, a product of submarine volcanic disturbance which had appeared above the sea about four months before, and was destined to disappear a few days later. It was already greatly diminished in extent, and its substance was so loose and soft that those who trod it must be prepared to sink 'to the knee' at each difficult step, but Scott would not content himself without landing upon it, and finding progress impossible to one of his weight and infirmity, he mounted upon the shoulders of a willing seaman, and proceeded almost to the top of the Island. He sent a very long letter to Skene, descriptive of this natural curiosity, with one of the largest blocks of lava which he could find, for the information of the Royal Society; and neither this letter, nor the long entries in his Journal during the voyage, show any failure of observation, confusion of thought, or inability to describe with the old vividness, or the old power. It is only the writing which is hard to read.

        So he landed at Malta, and after some strictness of quarantine (for there was an active dread of cholera at the time) he settled in Beverley's Hotel in the Strada Ponente.

        It is difficult to suppose that he could have gone to any part of the English-speaking world and not found himself among friends. Here Sir John Stoddart, who will be remembered to have called at Lasswade about thirty years ago, was the Chief Judge: Colonel Bathurst, the Lieutenant-Governor, had often met him before leaving his father's home: William Erskine's (Lord Kinnedder's) eldest daughter was now the wife of an officer of the garrison, Captain Dawson: his old friend, John Hookam Frere, was now a permanent resident.

        On the day after landing, while still in the confines of Fort Manuel, which the courtesy of the Governor had substituted for the ordinary quarantine quarters, he had studied the architecture of the town sufficiently to get a new idea for extending Abbotsford "by a screen on the west side of the old barn, and with a fanciful wall"; and the next day, in the quietude of those quarantine walls (but he was allowed to receive visitors of consideration so long as they kept at a yard's distance from members of his party, and many came) he recorded:

        "I am getting on with this Siege of Malta very well. I think, if I continue, it will be ready in a very short time, and I will get the opinion of others, and if my charm hold I will be able to get home through Italy - and take up my old trade again."

        But when quarantine was over, there was much pressure of hospitality, and much carriage-driving to survey the land, and libraries to be viewed, and church vaults to be descended; and at the end of that time Captain Pigot said that he was sailing for Naples, and would Sir Walter like to be taken on there?

        And though it would mean delay in receipt of the expected letter from Cadell, which was to tell how the new novels were going, and what funds would be available from that source, which Scott was anxious to have, he decided that the offer of free transportation was too good to be declined; and no more had been done for the Siege of Malta, beyond the collection of some old legends and some old prints.

        It was Christmas Day at Naples when Sir Walter and his party were released from a week's quarantine there, and went ashore to establish themselves in an apartment of the Palazzo Caramanico which had been taken for their reception. There was the 'great joy' of seeing Charles again; and there were acquaintances to be renewed or formed with many English residents 'of most of whom' Scott noted that he had some knowledge already.

        By the 26th December, the absence of the expected letter, or any remittance from Cadell, was becoming an active anxiety. The money which Scott had brought with him had been rapidly disappearing, as money in his hands had always been likely to do, and he noted now:

        "Walter has some money left, which we must use or try a begging-box, for I see no other resource, since they seem to have abandoned me so."

        But the crisis cannot have been very acute, for after this rather querulous sentence there is no allusion to any financial need till the mail came a fortnight later, and anxiety ended.

        Cadell wrote cheerfully about the novels, which had not been long published when he wrote, on December 2nd., and made it clear that there would be no occasion to worry about remittances. "I think," Sir Walter noted, "£200 a month, or thereby, will do very well, and it is no great advance."

        By this time he had written a large part of The Siege of Malta, and felt more confident of its success than had been the case with the two previous novels. The book was never published, and Lockhart brushes it aside with the remark that it is 'hardly to be deciphered with any effort', but he dismisses the Journal of this period in the same way, and that writing has been deciphered since, and does not show any lack of clear thinking or narrative power.

        Early in January, Scott was busy with the contents of the libraries and museums of Naples, to which the King had given him unrestricted access. He had found an old copy of Sir Bevis of Hampton, and engaged an amanuensis to transcribe it for him.

        On the 26th he had another letter from Cadell, in greater detail than before, announcing that Count Robert and Castle Dangerous had succeeded beyond expectations. At least, so the Journal records; and Sir William Gell noted that on the morning when the letter arrived, Scott called upon him in a mood of unusual elation, saying: 'I could never have slept straight in my coffin till I had satisfied every claim against me; and now,' turning to a favourite dog of Sir William's, 'my poor boy I shall have my house and my estate round it free, and I may keep my dogs as big and as many as I choose without fear of reproach.'

        Lockhart says that in talking in such a manner Sir Walter 'was haunted with a mere delusion, on the origin of which' he would 'form no guess'. It is difficult to understand what he means, unless it be that no such letter arrived, which is against probability. The entry in the Journal for that day shows no lack of clear thinking, though it may be sanguine in spirit. This is what he says:

        January 26. This day arrived (for the first time indeed) answer to last post end of December, an epistle from Cadell full of good tidings. Castle Dangerous and Sir Robert of Paris, neither of whom I deemed seaworthy, have performed two voyages - that is, each sold about 3,400, and the same of the current year. It proves, what I have thought almost impossible, that I might right myself. But as yet my spell holds fast. I have besides two or three good things on which I may advance with spirit, and with palmy hopes on the part of Cadell and myself. He thinks he will soon cry victoria on the bet about his hat. He was to get a new one when I had paid off all my debts. I can hardly, now that I am assured all is well again, form an idea to myself that I could think it was otherwise.

        And yet I think it is the public that are mad for passing those two volumes: but I will not be the first to cry them down in the market, for I have others in hand, which, judged with equal favour, will make fortunes of themselves. Let me see what I have on the stocks -

Castle Dangerous (supposed future Editions) . . 1,000

Robert of Paris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,000

Lady Louisa Stuart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500

Knights of Malta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,500

Trotcosianae Reliquiae . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,500

I have returned to my old hopes, and think of giving, Milne an offer for his estate.

Letters or Tour of Paul in 3 vols. . . . . . . . . . . . .3,000

Reprint of Bevis of Hampton for Roxburghe Club

Essay on the Neapolitan dialect

        Now, whatever criticism may be made upon these reflections, they are not those of one who had deceived himself in the previous September into thinking that his debts were paid in full, and had ever since (as Lockhart explicitly asserts) been getting this idea more firmly fixed in his mind. It is obvious both that he knew that they were not paid, and that Cadell made no mystery of the true position in his correspondence. He had not yet bought the hat, though he thought that he might soon be able to do so.

        Nor did Scott deceive himself as to the quality of the last two books. He thought the public were mad to receive them as well as they had done.

        Nor can we say that his estimate of the proceeds of these or of future books if he should be able to write them, was unreasonably optimistic. Cadell had given him £4,200 for Anne of Geierstein and had not regretted the bargain. He estimates that the Knights of Malta may bring in £2,500.

        Yet he did regard it as substantially true that the success of the magnum opus had relieved him from the burden of debt, and that if he could still make money by fiction with the old magical ease he would be able to fulfil the dream of many years by adding Faldonside to the Abbotsford estate. We have come to a dream that is no bolder nor wilder than had been many of earlier days, but we have come at last to one which will not come true.

        The Knights (or Siege) of Malta would not be published, would earn nothing; the other books on the list would be no better, or less than that; the new idea to go on to Rhodes and write a romantic poem there would be all imagination, and nothing more. Lockhart looks at these dreams and sees only a 'painful' thing. Why would he not sit quietly by the fire, and drowse till his life should end? Why did he not realise that he was so soon to die? Simply because he was not Lockhart, but Walter Scott; and he would have thought such an end, accepted in such a spirit, to be a more 'painful' thing.

        Yet he did not deceive himself as to his physical peril, for it was only in the previous entry that he had parodied Wordsworth:

    "For as my body's growing worse
    My mind is growing better".

        And as to the 'gross delusion' about the debts, let us have the facts as they finally proved to be. This is Lockhart's account:

        "In the winter succeeding the poet's death, his sons and myself, as his executors, endeavoured to make such arrangements as were within our power for completing the great object of his own wishes and fatal exertions. We found the remaining principal sum of commercial debt to be nearly £54,000. £22,000 had been insured upon his life; there were some monies in the hands of the trustees, and Mr. Cadell very handsomely offered to advance to us the balance, about £30,000, that we might without further delay settle with the body of creditors. This was effected accordingly on the 2nd day of February 1833; Mr. Cadell accepting as his only security, the right to the profits accruing from Sir Walter's copyright property and literary remains, until such time as this new and consolidated obligation should be discharged."

        This position was allowed to continue until the death of Sir Walter's eldest son, fourteen years later, on which we may have Lockhart's account also:

        "Mr. Cadell then offered to relieve the guardians of the young inheritor of that great name from much anxiety and embarrassment by accepting, in full payment of the sum due to himself, and also in recompense for his taking on himself the final obliteration of the heritable bond, a transference to him of the remaining claims of the family over Sir Walter's writings, together with the result of some literary exertions of the only surviving executor. This arrangement was completed in May 1847; and the estate, as well as the house and its appendages, became at last unfettered."

        Now the plain facts half-concealed in this verbiage are that Sir Walter was right in estimating that his exertions during the last five years had been sufficient to provide for the payment of all his liabilities (in strict English, most of them were not debts) at his death, and that the final settlement resulted also in the removal of the £10,000 mortgage upon the Abbotsford property. It must be added, and it is no disparagement of Robert Cadell to say, that the three executors - Lockhart and Scott's two sons - were no match for him in a business deal. When the final bargain was made, Lockhart was the only surviving executor. If the real value of the copyrights which were still the property of the estate was exactly the same as the balance of the mortgage upon the property, it was an extraordinary coincidence. It was the kind of bargain which executors make, and people who are acting for themselves very seldom do. The estate which Scott left did not merely discharge in full the liabilities which had fallen upon him, it also provided a second fortune for Robert Cadell, in addition to that which Scott's own contracts had allowed and intended him to make.


        It was early April 1832 when Scott gave up the intention to visit Rhodes, and decided to return to Abbotsford for the summer. About the reason for the abandonment of the Rhodes project there is no doubt. The intention had been formed some months earlier; for it was mentioned in an undated letter to Lockhart which cannot have been written long after the receipt of the news of the death of his grandson, John Hugh, which occurred in the previous December. The object was to collect material for a poem in the old six-canto style, the subject of which was to be a chivalrous legend connected with that Island. To Rhodes he would certainly have gone, on the invitation of his old friend, Sir Frederick Adam, who was then the Governor of the Ionian Islands, had he not been transferred to an Indian appointment, so that the frigate which he had promised could not be sent.

        On hearing that, Scott altered his intention, and decided to go home. The picture that Lockhart draws - and it is right to remember that he had the advantage of hearing the accounts of Anne and Charles (who obtained special leave to accompany his father), is that of the desperate haste of a consciously dying man to reach his home while he yet lived.

        He says further that the news of the death of Goethe, whom Scott had intended to visit on returning through Germany (which death occurred on March 22nd) "seemed to act upon Scott exactly as the illness of Borthwickbrae" (Lockhart of Cleghorn) "had done in the August before. His impatience redoubled; all his fine dreams of recovery seemed to vanish at once - 'Alas for Goethe!' he exclaimed: 'but he at least died at home. Let us to Abbotsford.'"

        There may be an element of fact in this presentation, but it must be modified by recognition of Lockhart's tendency to represent Scott as always being influenced by surrounding people and circumstances much more than he actually was, and by the Journal itself, which shows a substantially different mood.

        "April 15 th. Naples. I am on the eve of leaving Naples, after a residence of three or four months, my strength strongly returning, though the weather has been very uncertain."

        He goes on to record that he has packed two chests of books, and the means he is taking to get them safely home by sea (as they must have been beyond the capacity of the carriage in which the party would travel), and that is hardly the act of a dying man, or one who anticipates dissolution.

        He also records that he had sent home the complete three volumes of the Siege of Malta, and the "letters by L.L. Stuart", in the charge of Lord Cowper's son; which shows how steadily he had worked, for he had rarely completed a novel (of whatever quality) in a shorter time.

        After these notes he goes on to enter in extenso a Calabrian legend which he had heard on 'respectable authority' though he would not vouch for its truth.

        On the morning after these entries were made, the party, consisting of Sir Walter, Anne, Charles, and two servants, started from Naples, but got no further than St. Agatha, for after breakfasting there, and driving about half a mile onward, a wheel came off the carriage. With sufficient difficulty it was conveyed back to that place, and the party had to put up with the wretched accommodation that St. Agatha could provide, till it could be repaired, and a new start made at seven of the following morning.

        The day's journey was long and fatiguing. Scott attributed a severe headache to the bad air of the Pontine marshes through which the road lay. It was moonlight when they arrived in Rome. Charles had asked Sir William Gell to engage a lodging for their arrival, but had omitted to make any arrangement for obtaining its address. Anne had made the same request to another friend, Mrs. Ashley, but had also made the same omission. They were in the absurd position of having two lodgings and not knowing the address of either. They drove about in the moonlight till they met with a servant (presumably of Sir William Gell's) who guided them to the lodging they needed. Scott entered a detailed record in his Journal of the scenes they passed, with a regret that he had been too tired to inspect the ancient chateau of Velletri when they rested there, as he would have liked to do. On arrival at their lodgings at last, he wrote: "We slept reasonably, but on the next morning - ". And with that unfinished sentence the Journal ends.


        Having arrived in Rome, the return journey paused. Scott was in good spirits, and confident in the hope that years of work and new successes were still before him. He believed that his health had been permanently improved by the Italian winter. He was glad to be returning to Abbotsford, but content to remain for a time in Rome, and its neighbourhood, where he was entertained by Mr. Edward Cheney (a close friend of the Maclean Clephanes, and so very ready to be his own) at a villa in Frascati, which had once been the residence of the Cardinal of York regarding this delay at Rome, Lockhart says:

        "The certainty that he was on his way home for the time soothed and composed him; and amidst the agreeable society which again surrounded him on his arrival in Rome, he seemed perhaps as much of himself as he had ever been in Malta or in Naples. For a moment even his literary hope and ardour appear to have revived. But still his daughter entertained no doubt, that his consenting to pause for even a few days in Rome was dictated mainly by considerations of her natural curiosity."

        There is sufficient difference between the tone and substance of this statement to prepare anyone familiar with Lockhart's inaccuracies for the fact that the duration of the stay in Rome was between three and four weeks.

        On the 11th May, Rome was left, with the definite intention of returning to Abbotsford. Scott, we are told, was anxious to be home again, as can easily be understood, and seemed impatient to his younger companions, who would gladly have turned aside or lingered at a score of places.

        "His companions could with difficulty prevail on him to see even the falls of Terni, or the church of Santa Croce at Florence. On the 17th, a cold and dreary day, they passed the Apennines, and dined on the top of the mountains. The snow and the pines recalled Scotland, and he expressed pleasure at the sight of them. That night they reached Bologna, but he would see none of the interesting objects there: - and next day, hurrying in like manner through Ferrara, he proceeded as far as Monselice.'

        Yet the 'hurried' journey had occupied eight days on the road to Venice, where there was a four-days' pause, during which Scott insisted on descending into the dungeons beneath the Bridge of Sighs, though it was an 'exceedingly painful' effort; and it was actually June 5th when he entered a bookseller's shop at Frankfort, and a shop assistant, hearing English voices, but not knowing who the party were, offered them some views of Abbotsford.

        Up to this point, although we are assured that Scott had been in such haste that 'though in some parts of the journey they had very severe weather, he repeatedly wished to travel all the night as well as the day', yet the dates are conclusive in proof that the journey had been taken in a quite leisurely manner, with many pauses besides that at the Frankfort shop, unless Europe was a substantially larger continent than it is now.

        But it had become evident by this time that the fatigues of travel, the changes of climate, the uncertainties of diet, or other obscurer causes, were proving gravely detrimental, and it is probable that a consciousness of this physical condition caused a natural impatience and anxiety as the weeks passed and the endless-seeming journey continued.

        More than once, we are told, his servant Nicholson, who had been instructed in the art of bleeding, had attempted that remedy before, on the evening of June 11th, when descending the Rhine and in the neighbourhood of Nimeguen, he had a further stroke of paralysis. He rallied sufficiently to be able, and to insist upon resuming his journey on the next day, and was transferred two days later from the Rhine boat to an English steamer at Rotterdam.

        The party arrived in London without having been able to advise anyone of their coming, owing to the speed at which the journey had been completed (showing incidentally that, till that stroke decided the matter, it had been the intention to linger, even over the final stages) and they drove to an hotel in Jermyn Street.

        Within a few hours Dr. Fergusson was with him. Other doctors followed. They decided that he was unfit to be moved again, and for three weeks he lay in a condition between life and death in the St. James's Hotel.

        Dr. Fergusson's account is this:

        "When I saw Sir Walter, he was lying in the second floor back room of the St. James's Hotel, in a state of stupor, from which, however, he could be roused for a moment by being addressed, well then he recognised those about him, but immediately relapsed. I think I never saw anything more magnificent than the symmetry of his colossal bust, as he lay on the pillow with his chest and neck exposed . During the time he was in Jermyn Street he was calm but never collected, and in general either in absolute stupor or in a waking dream. He never seemed to know where he was, but imagined himself to be still in the steam-boat. The rattling of carriages, and the noises of the street, sometimes disturbed this illusion - and then he fancied himself at the polling-booth of Jedburgh, where he had been insulted and stoned. During the whole of this period of apparent helplessness, the great features of his character could not be mistaken. He always exhibited great self-possession, and acted his part with wonderful power whenever visited, though he relapsed the next moment into the stupor from which strange voices had roused him. A gentleman (Mr. Richardson) stumbled over a chair in his dark room; - he immediately started up, and though unconscious that it was a friend, expressed as much concern and feeling as if he had never been labouring under the irritability of disease. It was impossible even for those who most constantly saw and waited on him in his then deplorable condition to relax from the habitual deference which he had always inspired. He expressed his will as determinedly as ever, and enforced it with the same apt and good natured irony as he was wont to use.

        At length his constant yearning to return to Abbotsford induced his physicians to consent to his removal; and the moment this was notified to him, it seemed to infuse new vigour into his frame. It was on a calm, clear afternoon on the 7th July, that every preparation was made for his embarkation on board the steam boat. He was placed on a chair by his faithful servant Nicholson, half dressed, and loosely wrapped in a quilted dressing gown. He requested Lockhart and myself to wheel him towards the light of the open window, and we both remarked the vigorous lustre of his eye. He sat there silently gazing on space for more than half an hour, apparently wholly occupied with his own thoughts, and having no distinct perception of where he was, or how he came there. He suffered himself to be lifted into his carriage, which was surrounded by a crowd among whom were many gentlemen on horseback, who had loitered about to gaze on the scene. His children were deeply affected, and Mrs. Lockhart trembled from head to foot, and wept bitterly. Thus surrounded by those nearest to him, he alone was unconscious of the cause or the depth of their grief, and while yet alive seemed to be carried to his grave."

        But who knows of what the mind is conscious under such conditions? He remained in that apparent passivity, letting others do as they would, throughout the voyage to Edinburgh, and in the hotel in St. Andrews Square, and on the first two stages of the carriage journey to Abbotsford, but he stirred and looked round as they turned into the Gala vale, and when 'his eye caught at length his own towers at the distance of a mile, he sprang up with a cry of delight'.

        But the Tweed was in flood from a summer storm, and it was necessary to drive to Melrose, and cross by the bridge there, and (Lockhart says) it required the combined persuasions of himself and Nicolson and Dr. Watson, and sometimes their combined strength also, to restrain him from attempting to leave the carriage. . . . and so they wheeled him at last into the Abbotsford dining-room, where he sobbed over the fawning dogs.

        During the next few days there was an uncertain flicker of hope among those who watched, for he showed some revival of mental, if not of physical vigour, and a quiet happiness in being wheeled through the rooms and gardens that he had made to be what they were. He must be read to - from St. John's Gospel, and Crabbe - and clearly appreciated what he heard, though it seemed that well-known passages of Crabbe were regarded as though heard for a first time.

        But if he had forgotten Crabbe, his thoughts must have gone back during these long silent weeks over a hundred things that are recorded here, and a thousand others that have gone from human record or memory now . . . and there came a day when he said that he must be wheeled to his desk, for he was well enough to begin writing again.

        "Now give me the pen," he said, "and leave me a little to myself." So Sophia put it to his hand; but his fingers refused to close, and the pen fell.

        He looked up with eyes from which the tears were falling. "Friends," he said, "don't let me expose myself . . . get me to bed."

        For though there might still be the two months' detail of dying, he knew then that his life was done.

The End