- The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the Original Manuscript at Abbotsford (September, 1827) by Sir Walter Scott
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The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the Original Manuscript at Abbotsford
September, 1827

by Sir Walter Scott

September 1.—Colonel Ferguson and Colonel Byers breakfasted; the latter from India, the nephew of the old antiquarian; [32] but I had not an opportunity to speak to him about the Eastern information required for the Chronicles. Besides, my review is not finished, though I wrought hard to-day. Sir William Hamilton and his brother, Captain Hamilton, called; also young Davidoff. I am somewhat sorry for my young friend. His friends permit him to remain too long in Britain to be happy in Russia. Yet this [is a] prejudice of those who suppose that when the institutions and habits by which they are governed come to be known to strangers, they must become exclusively attached to them. This is not so. The Hottentot returns from civilisation to the wild manners of his kraal, and wherefore should not a Russian resume his despotic ideas when returned to his country?
[32] James Byers, 1733-1817.
September 2.—This was a very warm day. I remained at home, chiefly engaged in arranging papers, as I go away to-morrow. It is lucky these starts happen from time to time as I should otherwise never get my table clear. At five o'clock the air became cooler, and I sat out of doors and played with the children. Anne, who had been at Mertoun the day before, brought up Anne and Elizabeth Scott [33] with her, and Francis has been with us since yesterday. Richardson left us.
[33] Anne Scott of Harden, afterwards wife of Lord Jerviswoode, and Elizabeth of Colonel Charles Wyndham.
September 3.—Went on with my arranging of papers till twelve, when I took chaise and arrived at Melville Castle.

Found Lord and Lady M. and the two young ladies. Dr. Hope, my old school-fellow James Hope [34] and his son, made up our party, which was very pleasant. After they went away we had some private conversation about politics. The Whigs and Tories of the Cabinet are strangely divided, the former desiring to have Mr. Herries for Chancellor of the Exchequer, the latter to have Lord Palmerston, that Calcraft may be Secretary of War. The King has declared firmly for Herries, on which Lord Goderich with tears entreated Herries to remove the bone of contention by declining to accept. The King called him a blubbering fool. That the King does not like or trust the Whigs is obvious from his passing over Lord Lansdowne, a man who, I should suppose, is infinitely better fitted for a Premier than Goderich. But he probably looks with no greater [favour] on the return of the High Tories. I fear he may wish to govern by the system of bascule, or balancing the two parties, a perilous game [35]. The Advocate [36] also dined with us.
[34] James Hope, W.S., Scott's school-fellow, died in Edinburgh 14th November 1842.

[35] Greville, vol. i. pp. 110-113.

[36] Sir W. Rae, who was Lord Advocate from 1819 to 1830.
September 4, [Edinburgh].—Came into town after breakfast, and saw Gibson, whose account of affairs is comfortable. Also William Clerk, whom I found quite ready and willing to stand my friend if Gourgaud should come my road. He agrees with me that there is no reason why he should turn on me, but that if he does, reason or none, it is best to stand buff to him. It is clear to me that what is least forgiven in a man of any mark or likelihood is want of that article blackguardly called pluck. All the fine qualities of genius cannot make amends for it. We are told the genius of poets especially is irreconcilable with this species of grenadier accomplishment [37]. If so, quel chien de génie! Saw Lady Compton. I dine with her to-day, and go to Glasgow with her to-morrow.
[37] See letter to Duke of Buccleuch on James Hogg at p. 40.
September 5.—Dined with Lady Compton yesterday, and talked over old stories until nine, our tête-à-tête being a very agreeable one. Then hence to my good friend John Gibson's, and talked with him of sundries. I had an odd dream last night. It seemed to me that I was at a panorama, when a vulgar little man behind me was making some very clever but impudent remarks on the picture, and at the same time seemed desirous of information, which no one would give him. I turned round and saw a young fellow dressed like a common carter, with a blue coat and red waistcoat, and a whip tied across him. He was young, with a hatchet-face, which was turned to a brick colour by exposure to the weather, sharp eyes, and in manner and voice not unlike John Leyden. I was so much struck with his countenance and talents that I asked him about his situation, and expressed a wish to mend it. He followed me, from the hopes which I excited, and we had a dreadful walk among ruins, and afterwards I found myself on horseback, and in front of a roaring torrent. I plunged in as I have formerly done in good sad earnest, and got to the other side. Then I got home among my children and grandchildren, and there also was my genius. Now this would defy Daniel and the soothsayers to boot; nor do I know why I should now put it down, except that I have seldom seen a portrait in life which was more strongly marked on my memory than that man's. Perhaps my genius was Mr. Dickinson, papermaker, who has undertaken that the London creditors who hold Constable's bills will be satisfied with 10s. in the pound. This would be turning a genius to purpose, for 6s. 8d. is provided, and they can have no difficulty about 3s. 4d. These debts, for which I am legally responsible, though no party to their contraction, amount to £30,000 odds. Now if they can be cleared for £15,000 it is just so much gained. This would be a giant step to freedom. I see in my present comfortable quarters [38] some of my own old furniture in Castle St., which gives me 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.
[38] No. 10 Walker Street.
September 6.—Went with Lady Compton to Glasgow, and had as pleasant a journey as the kindness, wit, and accomplishment of my companion could make it. Lady C. gives an admirable account of Rome, and the various strange characters she has met in foreign parts. I was much taken with some stories out of a romance called Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse, by a certain Count John Polowsky [Potocki?], a Pole. It seems betwixt the style of Cazotti, Count Hamilton and Le Sage. The Count was a toiler after supernatural secrets, an adept, and understood the cabbala. He put himself to death, with many odd circumstances, inferring derangement. I am to get a sight of the book if it be possible. At Glasgow (Buck's Head) we met Mrs. Maclean Clephane and her two daughters, and there was much joy. After the dinner the ladies sung, particularly Anna Jane, who has more taste and talent of every kind than half the people going with great reputations on their backs.

A very pleasant day was paid for by a restless night.

September 7.—This day had calls from Lord Provost and Mr. Rutherford (William) with invitations, which I declined. Read in manuscript a very clever play (comedy) by Miss A.J. Clephane in the old style, which was very happily imitated. The plot was confused—too much taking and retaking of prisoners, but the dialogue was excellent.

Took leave of these dear friends, never perhaps to meet all together again, for two of us are old. Went down by steam to Colonel Campbell's, Blythswood House, where I was most courteously received by him and his sisters. We are kinsfolk and very old acquaintance. His seat here is a fine one; the house is both grand and comfortable.

We walked to Lawrence Lockhart's of Inchinnan, within a mile of Blythswood House. It is extremely nice and comfortable, far beyond the style of a Scotch clergyman; but Lawrence is wealthy. I found John Lockhart and Sophia there, returned from Largs. We all dined at Colonel Campbell's on turtle, and all manner of good things. Miss A. and H. Walker were there. The sleep at night made amends for the Buck's Head.

September 8.—Colonel Campbell carried me to breakfast in Glasgow, and at ten I took chaise for Corehouse, where I found my old friend George Cranstoun rejoiced to see me, and glad when I told him what Lord Newton had determined in my affairs. I should observe I saw the banks of the Clyde above Hamilton much denuded of its copse, untimely cut; and the stools ill cut, and worse kept. Cranstoun and I walked before dinner. I never saw the great fall of Corehouse from this side before, and I think it the best point, perhaps; at all events, it is not that from which it is usually seen; so Lord Corehouse has the sight and escapes the tourists. Dined with him, his sister Mrs. Cunningham, and Corehouse.

I omitted to mention in yesterday's note that within Blythswood plantation, near to the Bridge of Inchinnan, the unfortunate Earl of Argyle was taken in 1685, at a stone called Argyle's Stone. Blythswood says the Highland drovers break down his fences in order to pay a visit to the place. The Earl had passed the Cart river, and was taken on the Renfrew side.

September 9.—This is a superb place of Corehouse's. Cranstoun has as much feeling about improvement as other things. Like all new improvers, he is at more expense than is necessary, plants too thick, and trenches where trenching is superfluous. But this is the eagerness of a young artist. Besides the grand lion, the Fall of Clyde, he has more than one lion's whelp; a fall of a brook in a cleugh called Mill's Gill must be superb in rainy weather. The old Castle of Corehouse is much more castle-like on this than from the other side.

Left Corehouse at eight in the morning, and reached Lanark by half-past nine. I was thus long in travelling three miles because the postilion chose to suppose I was bound for Biggar, and was two miles ere I discovered what he was doing. I thought he aimed at crossing the Clyde by some new bridge above Bonnington. Breakfasted at Lanark with the Lockharts, and reached Abbotsford this evening by nine o'clock.

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.

N.B.—We lunched (dined, videlicet) with Professor Wilson at Inverleithen, and met James Hogg, [39]
[39] Scott's unwearied interest in James Hogg, despite the waywardness of this imaginative genius, is one of the most beautiful traits in his character. Readers of Mr. Lockhart's Life, do not require to be reminded of the active part he took in promoting the welfare of the "Ettrick Shepherd" on many occasions, from the outset of their acquaintance in 1801 until the end of his life.
Hogg was a strange compound of boisterous roughness and refinement in expression, and these odd contrasts surprised strangers such as Moore and Ticknor. The former was shocked, and the latter said his conversation was a perpetual contradiction to the exquisite delicacy of Kilmeny.
The critics of the day, headed by Professor Wilson, declared he was Burns's rival as a song-writer, and his superior in anything relating to external nature! indeed they wrote of him as unsurpassed by poet or painter in his fairy tales of ancient time, dubbing him Poet Laureate to the Queen of Elfland; and yet his unrefined manner tempted these friends to speak of him familiarly as the greatest hog in all Apollo's herd, or the Boar of the Forest, etc. etc.
Wordsworth, however, on November 21, 1835, when his brother bard had just left the sunshine for the sunless land, wrote from his heart the noble lines ending—
"Death upon the Braes of Yarrow
Closed the Poet Shepherd's eyes."
September 10, [Abbotsford].—Gourgaud's wrath has burst forth in a very distant clap of thunder, in which he accuses me of combining with the ministry to slander his rag of a reputation. He be d——d for a fool, to make his case worse by stirring. I shall only revenge myself by publishing the whole extracts I made from the records of the Colonial Office, in which he will find enough to make him bite his nails. Still I wonder he did not come over and try his manhood otherwise. I would not have shunned him nor any Frenchman who ever kissed Bonaparte's breech.

September 11.—Went to Huntly Burn and breakfasted with Colonel Ferguson, who has promised to have some Indian memoranda ready for me. After breakfast went to choose the ground for a new plantation, to be added next week to the end of Jane's Wood. Came to dinner Lord Carnarvon and his son and daughter; also Lord Francis Leveson Gower, the translator of Faust.

September 12.—Walk with Lord Francis. When we return, behold ye! enter Lady Hampden and Lady Wedderburn. In the days of George Square, Jane and Maria Brown [40], beauties and toasts. There was much pleasure on my side, and some, I suppose, on theirs; and there was a riding, and a running, and a chattering, and an asking, and a showing—a real scene of confusion, yet mirth and good spirits. Our guests quit us next day.
[40] Another, sister Georgiana, married General the Honourable Sir Alexander Hope, G.C.B., grandfather of Mrs. Maxwell Scott.
September 13.—Fined a man for an assault at Selkirk. He pleaded guilty, which made short work. The beggarly appearance of the Jury in the new system is very worthy of note. One was a menial servant. When I returned, James Ballantyne and Mr. Cadell arrived. They bring a good account of matters in general. Cadell explained to me a plan for securing the copyright of the novels, which has a very good face. It appears they are going off fast; and if the glut of the market is once reduced by sales, the property will be excellent, and may be increased by notes. James B. brought his son. Robert Rutherford also here, and Miss Russells.

September 14.—In the morning wrote my answer to Gourgaud, rather too keen perhaps, but I owe him nothing; and as for exciting his resentment, I will neither seek nor avoid it.

Cadell's views seem fair, and he is open and explicit. His brothers support him, and he has no want of cash. He sells two or three copies of Bonaparte and one of the novels, or two, almost every day. He must soon, he says, apply to London for copies. Read a Refutation, as it calls itself, of Napoleon's history. It is so very polite and accommodating that every third word is a concession—the work of a man able to judge distinctly on specific facts, but erroneous in his general results. He will say the same of me, perhaps. Ballantyne and Cadell leave us. Enter Miss Sinclairs, two in number, also a translator, and a little Flemish woman, his wife—very good-humoured, rather a little given to compliment; name Fauconpret. They are to return at night in a gig as far as Kelso—a bold undertaking.

September 16.—The ladies went to Church; I, God forgive me, finished the Chronicles [41] with a good deal of assistance from Colonel Ferguson's notes about Indian affairs. The patch is, I suspect, too glaring to be pleasing; but the Colonel's sketches are capitally good. I understand, too, there are one or two East Indian novels which have lately appeared. Naboclish! vogue la galère!
[41] Chronicles of the Canongate. First Series, ending with the story of The Surgeon's Daughter.
September 17.—Received from James B. the proofs of my reply to General Gourgaud, with some cautious balaam from mine honest friend, alarmed by a Highland Colonel, who had described Gourgaud as a mauvais garçon, famous fencer, marksman, and so forth. I wrote in answer, which is true, that I would hope all my friends would trust to my acting with proper caution and advice; but that if I were capable, in a moment of weakness, of doing anything short of what my honour demanded, I would die the death of a poisoned rat in hole, out of mere sense of my own degradation. God knows, that, though life is placid enough with me, I do not feel anything to attach me to it so strongly as to occasion my avoiding any risk which duty to my character may demand from me.

I set to work with the Tales of a Grandfather, second volume, and finished four pages.

September 18.—Wrote five pages of the Tales. Walked from Huntly Burn, having gone in the carriage. Smoked my cigar with Lockhart after dinner, and then whiled away the evening over one of Miss Austen's novels. There is a truth of painting in her writings which always delights me. They do not, it is true, get above the middle classes of society, but there she is inimitable.

September 19.—Wrote three pages, but dawdled a good deal; yet the Tales get on, although I feel bilious, and vapourish, I believe I must call it. At such times my loneliness, and the increasing inability to walk, come dark over me, but surely these mulligrubs belong to the mind more than the body.

September 22.—Captain and Colonel Ferguson, the last returned from Ireland, dined here. Prayer of the minister of the Cumbrays, two miserable islands in the mouth of the Clyde: "O Lord, bless and be gracious to the Greater and the Lesser Cumbrays, and in thy mercy do not forget the adjacent islands of Great Britain and Ireland."

September 23.—Worked in the morning; then drove over to Huntly Burn, chiefly to get from the good-humoured Colonel the accurate spelling of certain Hindu words which I have been using under his instructions. By the way, the sketches he gave me of Indian manners are highly picturesque. I have made up my Journal, which was three days in arrear. Also I wrought a little, so that the second volume of Grandfather's Tales is nearly half finished.

September 24.—Worked in the morning as usual, and sent off the proofs and copy. Something of the black dog still hanging about me; but I will shake him off. 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. [42]
[42] Mr. Lockhart justly remarks that this entry "paints the man in his tenderness, his fortitude, and happy wisdom."
September 25, [Edinburgh],—Got into town by one o'clock, the purpose being to give my deposition before Lord Newton in a case betwixt me and Constable's creditors. My oath seemed satisfactory; but new reasons were alleged for additional discussion, which is, I trust, to end this wearisome matter. I dined with Mr. Gibson, and slept there. J.B. dined with us, and we had thoughts how to save our copyright by a bargain with Cadell. I hope it will turn to good, as I could add notes to a future edition, and give them some value.

September 26, [Abbotsford].—Set off in mail coach, and my horses met me at Yair Bridge. I travelled with rather a pleasant man, an agent, I found, on Lord Seaford's [43] West Indian Estates. Got home by twelve o'clock, and might have been here earlier if the Tweed had not been too large for fording. I must note down my cash lest it gets out of my head; "may the foul fa' the gear, and the blathrie o't," [44] and yet there's no doing either with it or without it.
[43] Charles Rose Ellis had been created Baron Seaford in 1826.

[44] See Cromek's Reliques of Burns, p. 210.
September 27.—The morning was damp, dripping, and unpleasant; so I even made a work of necessity, and set to the Tales like a dragon. I murdered M'Lellan of Bomby at Thrieve Castle; stabbed the Black Douglas in the town of Stirling; astonished King James before Roxburgh; and stifled the Earl of Mar in his bath in the Canongate. A wild world, my masters, this Scotland of ours must have been. No fear of want of interest; no lassitude in those days for want of work,
"For treason, d' ye see,
Was to them a dish of tea,
And murther bread and butter."
We dined at Gattonside with Mr. Bainbridge, who kindly presented me with six bottles of super-excellent Jamaica rum, and with a manuscript collection of poetry, said to be Swift's handwriting, which it resembles. It is, I think, poor Stella's. Nothing very new in it.

September 28.—Another dropping and busy day. I wrought hard at the Historical Tales, which get on fast.

September 29.—I went on with the little history which now (i.e. vol. ii.) doth appropinque an end. Received in the evening [Nos. 37 to 41?] of the Roxburghe publications. They are very curious, and, generally speaking, well selected. The following struck me:—An Italian poem on the subject of Floddenfield; the legend of St. Robert of Knaresborough; two plays, printed from MS. by Mr. Haslewood. It does not appear that Mr. H. fully appreciated the light which he was throwing on the theatrical history by this valuable communication. It appears that the change of place, or of scene as we term it, was intimated in the following manner.

In the middle of the stage was placed Colchester, and the sign of Pigot's tavern—called the Tarlton—intimated what part of the town was represented. The name was painted above. On one side of the stage was, in like manner, painted a town, which the name announced to be Maldon; on the other side a ranger's lodge. The scene lay through the piece in one or other of these three places, and the entrance of the characters determined where each scene lay. If they came in from Colchester, then Colchester was for the time the scene of action. When that scene was shifted to Maldon, it was intimated by the approach of the actors from the side where it was painted—a clumsy contrivance, doubtless, compared to changeable scenery; yet sufficient to impress the audience with a sense of what was meant.

September 30.—Wet, drizzling, dismal day. I finished odds and ends, scarce stirring out of my room, yet doing little to the purpose. Wrote to Sir Henry [Seton Steuart] about his queries concerning transplanted trees, and to Mr. Freeling concerning the Roxburghe Club books. I have settled to print the manuscript concerning the murder of the two Shaws by the Master of Sinclair. I dallied with the precious time rather than used it. Read the two Roxburghe plays; they are by William Percy, a son of the eighth Earl of Northumberland; worthless and very gross, but abounding with matter concerning scenery, and so forth, highly interesting to the dramatic antiquary.
NOTE on the "grenadier accomplishment" mentioned in p. 30.

In a letter to the Duke of Buccleuch, of May 1818, Scott gives the following amusing account of an incident in the life of the Ettrick Shepherd:—

"Our poor friend Hogg has had an affair of honour.... Two mornings ago, about seven in the morning, my servant announced, while I was shaving in my dressing-room, that Mr. Hogg wished earnestly to speak with me. He was ushered in, and I cannot describe the half-startled, half-humorous air with which he said, scratching his head most vehemently, 'Odd, Scott, here's twae fo'k's come frae Glasgow to provoke mey to fecht a duel.' 'A duel,' answered I, in great astonishment, 'and what do you intend to do?' 'Odd, I just locket them up in my room and sent the lassie for twae o' the police, and just gie'd the men ower to their chairge, and I thocht I wad come and ask you what I should do....' He had already settled for himself the question whether he was to fight or not, and all that he had to do was to go to the Police Office and tell the charge he had to bring against the two Glasgow gentlemen.... The Glaswegians were greatly too many for him [in Court].... They returned in all triumph and glory, and Hogg took the wings of the morning and fled to his cottage at Altrive, not deeming himself altogether safe in the streets of Edinburgh! Now, although I do not hold valour to be an essential article in the composition of a man like Hogg, yet I heartily wish he could have prevailed on himself to swagger a little.... But considering his failure in the field and the Sheriff Office, I am afraid we must apply to Hogg the apology which is made for Waller by his biographer: 'Let us not condemn him with untempered severity because he was not such a prodigy as the world has seldom seen—because his character included not the poet, the orator, and the hero.'"
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