December 1st.—Colonel R[ussell] told me that the European Government
had discovered an ingenious mode of diminishing the number of burnings
of widows. It seems the Shaster positively enjoins that the pile shall
be so constructed that, if the victim should repent even at the moment
when it is set on fire, she may still have the means of saving herself.
The Brahmins soon found it was necessary to assist the resolution of the
sufferers, by means of a little pit into which they contrive to let the
poor widow sink, so as to prevent her reaping any benefit from a late
repentance. But the Government has brought them back to the regard of
their law, and only permit the burning to go on when the pile is
constructed with full opportunity of a locus penitentiæ. Yet the widow
is so degraded if she dare to survive, that the number of burnings is
still great. The quantity of female children destroyed by the Rajput
tribes Colonel R. describes as very great indeed. They are strangled by
the mother. The principle is the aristocratic pride of these high
castes, who breed up no more daughters than they can reasonably hope to
find matches for in their own tribe. Singular how artificial systems of
feeling can be made to overcome that love of offspring which seems
instinctive in the females, not of the human race only, but of the lower
animals. This is the reverse of our system of increasing game by
shooting the old cock-birds. It is a system would aid Malthus rarely.
Nota bene, the day before yesterday I signed the bond for £5000, with
Constable, for relief of Robinson's house.  I am to be secured by
See ante, p. 12. Mr. James Ballantyne and Mr. Cadell
concurred with Mr. Constable and Sir Walter in the propriety of
I think this journal will suit me well. If I can coax myself into an
idea that it is purely voluntary, it may go on—Nulla dies sine lineâ.
But never a being, from my infancy upwards, hated task-work as I hate
it; and yet I have done a great deal in my day. It is not that I am idle
in my nature neither. But propose to me to do one thing, and it is
inconceivable the desire I have to do something else—not that it is
more easy or more pleasant, but just because it is escaping from an
imposed task. I cannot trace this love of contradiction to any distinct
source, but it has haunted me all my life. I could almost suppose it was
mechanical, and that the imposition of a piece of duty-labour operated
on me like the mace of a bad billiard-player, which gives an impulse to
the ball indeed, but sends it off at a tangent different from the course
designed by the player. Now, if I expend such eccentric movements on
this journal, it will be turning this wretched propensity to some
tolerable account. If I had thus employed the hours and half-hours which
I have whiled away in putting off something that must needs be done at
last, "My Conscience!" I should have had a journal with a witness.
Sophia and Lockhart came to Edinburgh to-day and dined with us, meeting
Hector Macdonald Buchanan, his lady, and Missie, James Skene and his
lady, Lockhart's friend Cay, etc. They are lucky to be able to assemble
so many real friends, whose good wishes, I am sure, will follow them in
their new undertaking.
December 2.—Rather a blank day for the Gurnal. Correcting proofs in
the morning. Court from half-past ten till two; poor dear Colin
Mackenzie, one of the wisest, kindest, and best men of his time, in the
country,—I fear with very indifferent health. From two till three
transacting business with J.B.; all seems to go smoothly. Sophia dined
with us alone, Lockhart being gone to the west to bid farewell to his
father and brothers. Evening spent in talking with Sophia on their
future prospects. God bless her, poor girl! she never gave me a moment's
reason to complain of her. But, O my God! that poor delicate child, so
clever, so animated, yet holding by this earth with so fearfully slight
a tenure. Never out of his mother's thoughts, almost never out of his
father's arms when he has but a single moment to give to anything. Deus
December 3.—R.P.G.  came to call last night to excuse himself from
dining with Lockhart's friends to-day. I really fear he is near an
actual standstill. He has been extremely improvident. When I first knew
him he had an excellent estate, and now he is deprived, I fear, of the
whole reversion of the price, and this from no vice or extreme, except a
wasteful mode of buying pictures and other costly trifles at high
prices, and selling them again for nothing, besides an extravagant
housekeeping and profuse hospitality. An excellent disposition, with a
considerable fund of acquired knowledge, would have rendered him an
agreeable companion, had he not affected singularity, and rendered
himself accordingly singularly affected. He was very near being a
poet—but a miss is as good as a mile, and he always fell short of the
mark. I knew him first, many years ago, when he was desirous of my
acquaintance; but he was too poetical for me, or I was not poetical
enough for him, so that we continued only ordinary acquaintance, with
goodwill on either side, which R.P.G. really deserves, as a more
friendly, generous creature never lived. Lockhart hopes to get something
done for him, being sincerely attached to him, but says he has no hopes
till he is utterly ruined. That point, I fear, is not far distant; but
what Lockhart can do for him then I cannot guess. His last effort
failed, owing to a curious reason. He had made some translations from
the German, which he does extremely [well]—for give him ideas and he
never wants choice of good words—and Lockhart had got Constable to
offer some sort of terms for them. R.P.G. has always, though possessing
a beautiful power of handwriting, had some whim or other about imitating
that of some other person, and has written for months in the imitation
of one or other of his friends. At present he has renounced this
amusement, and chooses to write with a brush upon large cartridge paper,
somewhat in the Chinese fashion,—so when his work, which was only to
extend to one or two volumes, arrived on the shoulders of two porters,
in immense bales, our jolly bibliopolist backed out of the treaty, and
would have nothing more to do with R.P.  He is a creature that is, or
would be thought, of imagination all compact, and is influenced by
strange whims. But he is a kind, harmless, friendly soul, and I fear has
been cruelly plundered of money, which he now wants sadly.
Robert Pierce Gillies, once proprietor of a good estate in
Kincardineshire, and member of the Scotch Bar. It is pleasant to find
Mr. Gillies expressing his gratitude for what Sir Walter had done for
him more than twenty-five years after this paragraph was written. "He
was," says R.P.G., "not only among the earliest but most persevering of
my friends—persevering in spite of my waywardness."—Memoirs of a
Literary Veteran, including Sketches and Anecdotes of the most
distinguished Literary Characters from 1794 to 1849 (3 vols., London,
1851), vol. i. p. 321. Mr. Gillies died in 1861.
Dined with Lockhart's friends, about fifty in number, who gave him a
parting entertainment. John Hope, Solicitor-General, in the chair, and
Robert Dundas [of Arniston], croupier. The company most highly
respectable, and any man might be proud of such an indication of the
interest they take in his progress in life. Tory principles rather too
violently upheld by some speakers. I came home about ten; the party sat
Mr. Gillies was, however, warmly welcomed by another
publisher in Edinburgh, who paid him £100 for his bulky MSS., and issued
the book in 1825 under the title of The Magic Ring, 3 vols. Its
failure with the public prevented a repetition of the experiment!
December 4.—Lockhart and Sophia, with his brother William, dined with
us, and talked over our separation, and the mode of their settling in
London, and other family topics.
December 5.—This morning Lockhart and Sophia left us early, and
without leave-taking; when I rose at eight o'clock they were gone.
This was very right. I hate red eyes and blowing of noses. Agere et
pati Romanum est. Of all schools commend me to the Stoics. We cannot
indeed overcome our affections, nor ought we if we could, but we may
repress them within due bounds, and avoid coaxing them to make fools of
those who should be their masters. I have lost some of the comforts to
which I chiefly looked for enjoyment. Well, I must make the more of such
as remain—God bless them. And so "I will unto my holy work again," 
which at present is the description of that heilige Kleeblatt, that
worshipful triumvirate, Danton, Robespierre, and Marat.
King Richard III., Act III. Sc. 7.—J.G.L.
I cannot conceive what possesses me, over every person besides, to
mislay papers. I received a letter Saturday at e'en, enclosing a bill
for £750; no deaf nuts. Well, I read it, and note the contents; and
this day, as if it had been a wind-bill in the literal sense of the
words, I search everywhere, and lose three hours of my morning—turn
over all my confusion in the writing-desk—break open one or two
letters, lest I should have enclosed the sweet and quickly convertible
document in them,—send for a joiner, and disorganise my scrutoire, lest
it should have fallen aside by mistake. I find it at last—the place
where is of little consequence; but this trick must be amended.
Dined at the Royal Society Club, where, as usual, was a pleasant meeting
of from twenty to twenty-five. It is a very good institution; we pay two
guineas only for six dinners in the year, present or absent. Dine at
five, or rather half-past five, at the Royal Hotel, where we have an
excellent dinner, with soups, fish, etc., and all in good order; port
and sherry till half-past seven, then coffee, and we go to the Society.
This has great influence in keeping up the attendance, it being found
that this preface of a good dinner, to be paid for whether you partake
or not, brings out many a philosopher who might not otherwise have
attended the Society. Harry Mackenzie, now in his eighty-second or third
year, read part of an Essay on Dreams. Supped at Dr. Russell's usual
party,  which shall serve for one while.
Of the many Edinburgh suppers of this period, commemorated
by Lord Cockburn, not the least pleasant were the friendly gatherings in
30 Abercromby Place, the town house of Dr. James Russell, Professor of
Clinical Surgery. They were given fortnightly after the meetings of the
Royal Society during the Session, and are occasionally mentioned in the
Journal. Dr. Russell died in 1836.
December 6.—A rare thing this literature, or love of fame or
notoriety which accompanies it. Here is Mr. H[enry] M[ackenzie] on the
very brink of human dissolution, as actively anxious about it as if the
curtain must not soon be closed on that and everything else.  He
calls me his literary confessor; and I am sure I am glad to return the
kindnesses which he showed me long since in George Square. No man is
less known from his writings. We would suppose a retired, modest,
somewhat affected man, with a white handkerchief, and a sigh ready for
every sentiment. No such thing: H.M. is alert as a contracting tailor's
needle in every sort of business—a politician and a sportsman—shoots
and fishes in a sort even to this day—and is the life of the company
with anecdote and fun. Sometimes, his daughter tells me, he is in low
spirits at home, but really I never see anything of it in society.
Mr. Mackenzie had been consulting Sir Walter about
collecting his own juvenile poetry.—J.G.L. Though the venerable author
of The Man of Feeling did not die till 1831, he does not appear to
have carried out his intention.
There is a maxim almost universal in Scotland, which I should like much
to see controlled. Every youth, of every temper and almost every
description of character, is sent either to study for the bar, or to a
writer's office as an apprentice. The Scottish seem to conceive Themis
the most powerful of goddesses. Is a lad stupid, the law will sharpen
him;—is he too mercurial, the law will make him sedate;—has he an
estate, he may get a sheriffdom;—is he poor, the richest lawyers have
emerged from poverty;—is he a Tory, he may become a
depute-advocate;—is he a Whig, he may with far better hope expect to
become, in reputation at least, that rising counsel Mr.——, when in
fact he only rises at tavern dinners. Upon some such wild views lawyers
and writers multiply till there is no life for them, and men give up the
chase, hopeless and exhausted, and go into the army at five-and-twenty,
instead of eighteen, with a turn for expense perhaps—almost certainly
for profligacy, and with a heart embittered against the loving parents
or friends who compelled them to lose six or seven years in dusting the
rails of the stair with their black gowns, or scribbling nonsense for
twopence a page all day, and laying out twice their earnings at night in
whisky-punch. Here is R.L. now. Four or five years ago, from certain
indications, I assured his friends he would never be a writer.
Good-natured lad, too, when Bacchus is out of the question; but at other
times so pugnacious, that it was wished he could only be properly placed
where fighting was to be a part of his duty, regulated by time and
place, and paid for accordingly. Well, time, money, and instruction have
been thrown away, and now, after fighting two regular boxing matches and
a duel with pistols in the course of one week, he tells them roundly he
will be no writer, which common-sense might have told them before. He
has now perhaps acquired habits of insubordination, unfitting him for
the army, where he might have been tamed at an earlier period. He is too
old for the navy, and so he must go to India, a guinea-pig on board a
Chinaman, with what hope or view it is melancholy to guess. His elder
brother did all man could to get his friends to consent to his going
into the army in time. The lad has good-humour, courage, and most
gentlemanlike feelings, but he is incurably dissipated, I hear; so goes
to die in youth in a foreign land. Thank God, I let Walter take his own
way; and I trust he will be a useful, honoured soldier, being, for his
time, high in the service; whereas at home he would probably have been a
wine-bibbing, moorfowl-shooting, fox-hunting Fife squire—living at
Lochore without either aim or end—and well if he were no worse. Dined
at home with Lady S. and Anne. Wrote in the evening.
December 7.—Teind day; —at home of course. Wrote answers to one
or two letters which have been lying on my desk like snakes, hissing at
me for my dilatoriness. Bespoke a tun of palm-oil for Sir John Forbes.
Received a letter from Sir W. Knighton, mentioning that the King
acquiesced in my proposal that Constable's Miscellany should be
dedicated to him. Enjoined, however, not to make this public, till the
draft of dedication shall be approved. This letter tarried so long, I
thought some one had insinuated the proposal was infra dig. I don't
think so. The purpose is to bring all the standard works, both in
sciences and the liberal arts, within the reach of the lower classes,
and enable them thus to use with advantage the education which is given
them at every hand. To make boys learn to read, and then place no good
books within their reach, is to give men an appetite, and leave nothing
in the pantry save unwholesome and poisonous food, which, depend upon
it, they will eat rather than starve. Sir William, it seems, has been in
Every alternate Wednesday during the Winter and Summer
sessions, the Lords Commissioners of Teinds (Tithes), consisting of a
certain number of the judges, held a "Teind Court"—for hearing cases
relating to the secular affairs of the Church of Scotland. As the Teind
Court has a separate establishment of clerks and officers, Sir Walter
was freed from duty at the Parliament House on these days. The Court now
sits on alternate Mondays only.
Mighty dark this morning; it is past ten, and I am using my lamp. The
vast number of houses built beneath us to the north certainly render our
street darker during the days when frost or haze prevents the smoke from
rising. After all, it may be my older eyes. I remember two years ago,
when Lord H. began to fail somewhat in his limbs, he observed that Lord
S.  came to Court at a more early hour than usual, whereas it was he
himself who took longer time to walk the usual distance betwixt his
house and the Parliament Square. I suspect old gentlemen often make such
mistakes. A letter from Southey in a very pleasant strain as to Lockhart
and myself. Of Murray he has perhaps ground to complain as well for
consulting him late in the business, as for the manner in which he
intimated to young Coleridge, who had no reason to think himself
handsomely treated, though he has acquiesced in the arrangement in a
very gentlemanlike tone. With these matters we, of course, have nothing
to do; having no doubt that the situation was vacant when M. offered it
as such. Southey says, in alteration of Byron's phrase, that M. is the
most timorous, not of God's, but of the devil's, booksellers. The truth
I take to be that Murray was pushed in the change of Editor (which was
really become necessary) probably by Gifford, Canning, Ellis, etc.; and
when he had fixed with Lockhart by their advice his constitutional
nervousness made him delay entering upon a full explanation with
Coleridge. But it is all settled now—I hope Lockhart will be able to
mitigate their High Church bigotry. It is not for the present day,
savouring too much of jure divino.
Mr. Lockhart suggests Lords Hermand and Succoth, the
former living at 124 George Street, and the latter at 1 Park Place.
Dined quiet with Lady S. and Anne. Anne is practising Scots songs, which
I take as a kind compliment to my own taste, as hers leads her chiefly
to foreign music. I think the good girl sees that I want and must miss
her sister's peculiar talent in singing the airs of our native country,
which, imperfect as my musical ear is, make, and always have made, the
most pleasing impression on me. And so if she puts a constraint on
herself for my sake, I can only say, in requital, God bless her.
I have much to comfort me in the present aspect of my family. My eldest
son, independent in fortune, united to an affectionate wife—and of good
hopes in his profession; my second, with a good deal of talent, and in
the way, I trust, of cultivating it to good purpose; Anne, an honest,
downright, good Scots lass, in whom I would only wish to correct a
spirit of satire; and Lockhart is Lockhart, to whom I can most willingly
confide the happiness of the daughter who chose him, and whom he has
chosen. My dear wife, the partner of early cares and successes, is, I
fear, frail in health—though I trust and pray she may see me out.
Indeed, if this troublesome complaint goes on—it bodes no long
existence. My brother was affected with the same weakness, which, before
he was fifty, brought on mortal symptoms. The poor Major had been rather
a free liver. But my father, the most abstemious of men, save when the
duties of hospitality required him to be very moderately free with his
bottle, and that was very seldom, had the same weakness which now annoys
me, and he, I think, was not above seventy when cut off. Square the
odds, and good-night Sir Walter about sixty. I care not, if I leave my
name unstained, and my family properly settled. Sat est vixisse.
December 8.—Talking of the vixisse, it may not be impertinent to
notice that Knox, a young poet of considerable talent, died here a week
or two since. His father was a respectable yeoman, and he himself,
succeeding to good farms under the Duke of Buccleuch, became too soon
his own master, and plunged into dissipation and ruin. His poetical
talent, a very fine one, then showed itself in a fine strain of pensive
poetry, called, I think, The Lonely Hearth, far superior to those of
Michael Bruce, whose consumption, by the way, has been the life of his
verses. But poetry, nay, good poetry, is a drug in the present day. I am
a wretched patron. I cannot go with a subscription-paper, like a
pocket-pistol about me, and draw unawares on some honest
country-gentleman, who has as much alarm as if I had used the phrase
"stand and deliver," and parts with his money with a grimace, indicating
some suspicion that the crown-piece thus levied goes ultimately into the
collector's own pocket. This I see daily done; and I have seen such
collectors, when they have exhausted Papa and Mamma, continue their
trade among the misses, and conjure out of their pockets those little
funds which should carry them to a play or an assembly. It is well
people will go through this—it does some good, I suppose, and they have
great merit who can sacrifice their pride so far as to attempt it in
this way. For my part I am a bad promoter of subscriptions; but I wished
to do what I could for this lad, whose talent I really admired; and I am
not addicted to admire heaven-born poets, or poetry that is reckoned
very good considering. I had him, Knox,  at Abbotsford, about ten
years ago, but found him unfit for that sort of society. I tried to help
him, but there were temptations he could never resist. He scrambled on,
writing for the booksellers and magazines, and living like the Otways,
and Savages, and Chattertons of former days, though I do not know that
he was in actual want. His connection with me terminated in begging a
subscription or a guinea now and then. His last works were spiritual
hymns, and which he wrote very well. In his own line of society he was
said to exhibit infinite humour; but all his works are grave and
pensive, a style perhaps, like Master Stephen's melancholy, 
affected for the nonce.
William Knox died 12th November. He had published Songs
of Israel, 1824, A Visit to Dublin, 1824, The Harp of Zion, 1825,
etc., besides The Lonely Hearth. His publisher (Mr. Anderson, junior,
of Edinburgh) remembers that Sir Walter occasionally wrote to Knox and
sent him money—£10 at a time.—J.G.L.
Mrs. G[rant] of L. intimates that she will take her pudding—her
pension, I mean (see 30th November), and is contrite, as H[enry]
M[ackenzie] vouches. I am glad the stout old girl is not foreclosed;
faith, cabbing a pension in these times is like hunting a pig with a
soap'd tail, monstrous apt to slip through your fingers.  Dined at
home with Lady S. and Anne.
In Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour.
Providence was kinder to the venerable lady than the
Government, as at this juncture a handsome legacy came to her from an
unexpected quarter. Memoir and Correspondence, Lond. 1845, vol. iii.
December 9.—Yesterday I read and wrote the whole day and evening.
To-day I shall not be so happy. Having Gas-Light Company to attend at
two, I must be brief in journalising.
The gay world has been kept in hot water lately by the impudent
publication of the celebrated Harriet Wilson, —— from earliest
possibility, I suppose, who lived with half the gay world at hack and
manger, and now obliges such as will not pay hush-money with a history
of whatever she knows or can invent about them. She must have been
assisted in the style, spelling, and diction, though the attempt at wit
is very poor, that at pathos sickening. But there is some good retailing
of conversations, in which the style of the speakers, so far as known to
me, is exactly imitated, and some things told, as said by individuals of
each other, which will sound unpleasantly in each other's ears. I admire
the address of Lord A——y, himself very severely handled from time to
time. Some one asked him if H.W. had been pretty correct on the whole.
"Why, faith," he replied, "I believe so"—when, raising his eyes, he saw
Quentin Dick, whom the little jilt had treated atrociously—"what
concerns the present company always excepted, you know," added Lord
A——y, with infinite presence of mind. As he was in pari casu with
Q.D. no more could be said. After all, H.W. beats Con Philips, Anne
Bellamy, and all former demireps out and out. I think I supped once in
her company, more than twenty years since, at Mat Lewis's in Argyle
Street, where the company, as the Duke says to Lucio, chanced to be
"fairer than honest."  She was far from beautiful, if it be the same
chiffonne, but a smart saucy girl, with good eyes and dark hair, and
the manners of a wild schoolboy. I am glad this accidental meeting has
escaped her memory—or, perhaps, is not accurately recorded in
mine—for, being a sort of French falconer, who hawk at all they see, I
might have had a distinction which I am far from desiring.
Measure for Measure, Act iv. Sc. 3.—J.G.L.
Dined at Sir John Hay's—a large party; Skenes there, the Newenhams and
others, strangers. In the morning a meeting of Oil Gas Committee. The
concern lingers a little;
"It may do weel, for ought it's done yet,
But only—it's no just begun yet." 
Burns's Dedication to Gavin Hamilton.—J.G.L.
December 10.—A stormy and rainy day. Walked from the Court through
the rain. I don't dislike this. Egad, I rather like it; for no man that
ever stepped on heather has 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,—the boughs groaning and cracking over my
head, the good horse free to the road and impatient for home, and
feeling the weather as little as I did.
"The storm around might roar and rustle,
We didna mind the storm a whistle."
Answered two letters—one, answer to a schoolboy, who writes himself
Captain of Giggleswick School (a most imposing title), entreating the
youngster not to commence editor of a magazine to be entitled the
"Yorkshire Muffin," I think, at seventeen years old; second, to a
soldier of the 79th, showing why I cannot oblige him by getting his
discharge, and exhorting him rather to bear with the wickedness and
profanity of the service, than take the very precarious step of
desertion. This is the old receipt of Durandarte—Patience, cousin, and
shuffle the cards;  and I suppose the correspondents will think I
have been too busy in offering my counsel where I was asked for
Don Quixote, Pt. II. ch. 23.
A third rogue writes to tell me—rather of the latest, if the matter was
of consequence—that he approves of the first three volumes of the
H[eart] of Midlothian, but totally condemns the fourth. Doubtless he
thinks his opinion worth the sevenpence sterling which his letter costs.
However, authors should be reasonably well pleased when three-fourths of
their work are acceptable to the reader. The knave demands of me in a
postscript, to get back the sword of Sir W[illiam] Wallace from England,
where it was carried from Dumbarton Castle. I am not Master-General of
the Ordnance, that I know. It was wrong, however, to take away that and
Mons Meg. If I go to town this spring, I will renew my negotiation with
the Great Duke for recovery of Mons Meg.
There is no theme more awful than to attempt to cast a glance among the
clouds and mists which hide the broken extremity of the celebrated
bridge of Mirza.  Yet, when every day brings us nearer that
termination, one would almost think that our views should become
clearer, as the regions we are approaching are brought nigher. Alas! it
is not so: there is a curtain to be withdrawn, a veil to be rent, before
we shall see things as they really are. There are few, I trust, who
disbelieve the existence of a God; nay, I doubt if at all times, and in
all moods, any single individual ever adopted that hideous creed, though
some have professed it. With the belief of a Deity, that of the
immortality of the soul and of the state of future rewards and
punishments is indissolubly linked. More we are not to know; but neither
are we prohibited from our attempts, however vain, to pierce the solemn
sacred gloom. The expressions used in Scripture are doubtless
metaphorical, for penal fires and heavenly melody are only applicable to
bodies endowed with senses; and, at least till the period of the
resurrection of the body, the spirits of men, whether entering into the
perfection of the just, or committed to the regions of punishment, are
incorporeal. Neither is it to be supposed that the glorified bodies
which shall arise in the last day will be capable of the same gross
indulgences with which they are now solaced. That the idea of Mahomet's
paradise is inconsistent with the purity of our heavenly religion will
be readily granted; and see Mark xii. 25. Harmony is obviously chosen as
the least corporeal of all gratifications of the sense, and as the type
of love, unity, and a state of peace and perfect happiness. But they
have a poor idea of the Deity, and the rewards which are destined for
the just made perfect, who can only adopt the literal sense of an
eternal concert—a never-ending Birthday Ode. I rather suppose there
should be understood some commission from the Highest, some duty to
discharge with the applause of a satisfied conscience. That the Deity,
who himself must be supposed to feel love and affection for the beings
he has called into existence, should delegate a portion of those powers,
I for one cannot conceive altogether so wrong a conjecture. We would
then find reality in Milton's sublime machinery of the guardian saints
or genii of kingdoms. Nay, we would approach to the Catholic idea of the
employment of saints, though without approaching the absurdity of
saint-worship, which degrades their religion. There would be, we must
suppose, in these employments difficulties to be overcome, and exertions
to be made, for all which the celestial beings employed would have
certain appropriate powers. I cannot help thinking that a life of active
benevolence is more consistent with my ideas than an eternity of music.
But it is all speculation, and it is impossible even to guess what we
shall [do], unless we could ascertain the equally difficult previous
question, what we are to be. But there is a God, and a just God—a
judgment and a future life—and all who own so much let them act
according to the faith that is in them. I would [not], of course, limit
the range of my genii to this confined earth. There is the universe,
with all its endless extent of worlds.
Spectator, No. 159.—J.G.L.
Company at home—Sir Adam Ferguson and his Lady; Colonel and Miss
Russell; Count Davidoff, and Mr. Collyer. By the by, I observe that all
men whose names are obviously derived from some mechanical trade,
endeavour to disguise and antiquate, as it were, their names, by
spelling them after some quaint manner or other. Thus we have Collyer,
Smythe, Tailleure; as much as to say, My ancestor was indeed a mechanic,
but it was a world of time ago, when the word was spelled very
[differently]. Then we had young Whytbank and Will Allan the artist ,
a very agreeable, simple-mannered, and pleasant man.
Sir William Allan, President of the Royal Scottish Academy
from 1838: he died at Edinburgh in 1850.
December 11.—A touch of the morbus eruditorum, to which I am as
little subject as most folks, and have it less now than when young. It
is a tremor of the heart, the pulsation of which becomes painfully
sensible—a disposition to causeless alarm—much lassitude—and decay of
vigour of mind and activity of intellect. The reins feel weary and
painful, and the mind is apt to receive and encourage gloomy
apprehensions and causeless fears. Fighting with this fiend is not
always the best way to conquer him. I have always found exercise and the
open air better than reasoning. But such weather as is now without doors
does not encourage la petite guerre, so we must give him battle in
form, by letting both mind and body know that, supposing one the House
of Commons and the other the House of Peers, my will is sovereign over
both. There is a good description of this species of mental weakness in
the fine play of Beaumont and Fletcher called The Lover's Progress,
where the man, warned that his death is approaching, works himself into
an agony of fear, and calls for assistance, though there is no apparent
danger. The apparition of the innkeeper's ghost, in the same play,
hovers between the ludicrous and [the terrible]. To me the touches of
the former quality which it contains seem to augment the effect of the
latter—they seem to give reality to the supernatural, as being
circumstances with which an inventor would hardly have garnished his
Beaumont and Fletcher, 8vo, Lond. 1788, vol. v. pp.
Will Clerk says he has a theory on the vitrified forts. I wonder if he
and I agree. I think accidental conflagration is the cause.
December 12.—Hogg came to breakfast this morning, having taken and
brought for his companion the Galashiels bard, David Thomson,  as to
a meeting of "huzz Tividale poets." The honest grunter opines with a
delightful naïveté that Moore's verses are far owre sweet—answered by
Thomson that Moore's ear or notes, I forget which, were finely strung.
"They are far owre finely strung," replied he of the Forest, "for mine
are just reeght." It reminded me of Queen Bess, when questioning
Melville sharply and closely whether Queen [Mary] was taller than her,
and, extracting an answer in the affirmative, she replied, "Then your
Queen is too tall, for I am just the proper height."
For notices of David Thomson, see Life, October 1822,
and T. Craig Brown's History of Selkirkshire, 2 vols. 4to, Edin. 1886,
vol. i. pp. 505, 507, and 519.
Was engaged the whole day with Sheriff Court processes. There is
something sickening in seeing poor devils drawn into great expense
about trifles by interested attorneys. But too cheap access to
litigation has its evils on the other hand, for the proneness of the
lower class to gratify spite and revenge in this way would be a dreadful
evil were they able to endure the expense. Very few cases come before
the Sheriff-court of Selkirkshire that ought to come anywhere. Wretched
wranglings about a few pounds, begun in spleen, and carried on from
obstinacy, and at length from fear of the conclusion to the banquet of
ill-humour, "D—n—n of expenses."  I try to check it as well as I
can; "but so 'twill be when I am gone."
Burns's Address to the Unco Guid.—J.G.L.
December 12.—Dined at home, and spent the evening in writing—Anne
and Lady Scott at the theatre to see Mathews; a very clever man my
friend Mathews; but it is tiresome to be funny for a whole evening, so I
was content and stupid at home.
An odd optical delusion has amused me these two last nights. I have been
of late, for the first time, condemned to the constant use of
spectacles. Now, when I have laid them aside to step into a room dimly
lighted, out of the strong light which I use for writing, I have seen,
or seemed to see, through the rims of the same spectacles which I have
left behind me. At first the impression was so lively that I put my hand
to my eyes believing I had the actual spectacles on at the moment. But
what I saw was only the eidolon or image of said useful servants. This
fortifies some of Dr. Hibbert's positions about spectral appearances.
December 13.—Letter from Lady Stafford—kind and friendly after the
wont of Banzu-Mohr-ar-chat.  This is wrong spelled, I know. Her
countenance is something for Sophia, whose company should be—as ladies
are said to choose their liquor—little and good. To be acquainted with
persons of mere ton is a nuisance and a scrape—to be known to persons
of real fashion and fortune is in London a very great advantage. She is
besides sure of the hereditary and constant friendship of the Buccleuch
ladies, as well as those of Montagu and of the Harden family, of the
Marchioness of Northampton, Lady Melville, and others, also the Miss
Ardens, upon whose kind offices I have some claim, and would count upon
them whether such claim existed or no. So she is well enough established
among the Right-hand file, which is very necessary in London where
second-rate fashion is like false jewels.
Banamhorar-Chat, i.e. the Great Lady of the Cat, is the
Gaelic title of the Countess-Duchess of Sutherland. The county of
Sutherland itself is in that dialect Cattey, and in the English name
of the neighbouring one, Caithness, we have another trace of the early
settlement of the Clan Chattan, whose chiefs bear the cognisance of a
Wild Cat. The Duchess-Countess died in 1838.—J.G.L.
Went to the yearly court of the Edinburgh Assurance Company, to which I
am one of those graceful and useless appendages, called Directors
Extraordinary—an extraordinary director I should prove had they elected
me an ordinary one. There were there moneyers and great oneyers , men
of metal—discounters and counters—sharp, grave, prudential faces—eyes
weak with ciphering by lamplight—men who say to gold, Be thou paper,
and to paper, Be thou turned into fine gold. Many a bustling,
sharp-faced, keen-eyed writer too—some perhaps speculating with their
clients' property. My reverend seigniors had expected a motion for
printing their contract, which I, as a piece of light artillery, was
brought down and got into battery to oppose. I should certainly have
done this on the general ground, that while each partner could at any
time obtain sight of the contract at a call on the directors or
managers, it would be absurd to print it for the use of the Company—and
that exposing it to the world at large was in all respects unnecessary,
and might teach novel companies to avail themselves of our rules and
calculations—if false, for the purpose of exposing our errors—if
correct, for the purpose of improving their own schemes on our model.
But my eloquence was not required, no one renewing the motion under
question; so off I came, my ears still ringing with the sounds of
thousands and tens of thousands, and my eyes dazzled with the golden
gleam offered by so many capitalists.
See 1 King Henry IV., Act II. Sc. 1.
Walked home with the Solicitor —decidedly the most hopeful young man
of his time; high connection, great talent, spirited ambition, a ready
and prompt elocution, with a good voice and dignified manner, prompt and
steady courage, vigilant and constant assiduity, popularity with the
young men, and the good opinion of the old, will, if I mistake not,
carry him as [high as] any man who has been since the days of old Hal
Dundas.  He is hot though, and rather hasty: this should be amended.
They who would play at single-stick must bear with patience a rap over
the knuckles. Dined quietly with Lady Scott and Anne.
John Hope, Esq., was at this time Solicitor-General for
Scotland, afterwards Lord Justice-Clerk from 1841 until his death in
December 14.—Affairs very bad in the money-market in London. It must
come here, and I have far too many engagements not to feel it. To end
the matter at once, I intend to borrow £10,000, with which my son's
marriage-contract allows me to charge my estate. At Whitsunday and
Martinmas I will have enough to pay up the incumbrance of £3000 due to
old Moss's daughter, and £5000 to Misses Ferguson, in whole or part.
This will enable us to dispense in a great measure with bank assistance,
and sleep in spite of thunder. I do not know whether it is this business
which makes me a little bilious, or rather the want of exercise during
the season of late, and change of the weather to too much heat. Thank
God, my circumstances are good,—upon a fair balance which I have made,
certainly not less than £40,000 or nearly £50,000 above the world. But
the sun and moon shall dance on the green ere carelessness, or hope of
gain, or facility of getting cash, shall make me go too deep again, were
it but for the disquiet of the thing. Dined: Lady Scott and Anne
Henry Dundas, the first Viscount Melville, first appeared
in Parliament as Lord Advocate of Scotland.—J.G.L.
December 15.—R.P. G[illies] came sicut mos est at five o'clock to
make me confidant of the extremities of his distress. It is clear all he
has to do is to make the best agreement he can with his creditors. I
remember many years since the poor fellow told me he thought there was
something interesting in having difficulties. Poor lad, he will have
enough of them now. He talks about writing translations for the
booksellers from the German to the amount of five or six hundred pounds,
but this is like a man proposing to run a whole day at top speed. Yet,
if he had good subjects, R.P.G. is one of the best translators I know,
and something must be done for him certainly, though, I fear, it will be
necessary to go to the bottom of the ulcer; palliatives won't do. He is
terribly imprudent, yet a worthy and benevolent creature—a great bore
withal. Dined alone with family. I am determined not to stand mine host
to all Scotland and England as I have done. This shall be a saving,
since it must be a borrowing, year. We heard from Sophia; they are got
safe to town; but as Johnnie had a little bag of meal with him, to make
his porridge on the road, the whole inn-yard assembled to see the
operation. Junor, his maid, was of opinion that England was an "awfu'
country to make parritch in." God bless the poor baby, and restore his
December 16.—R.P.G. and his friend Robert Wilson  came—the former
at five, as usual—the latter at three, as appointed. R[obert] W[ilson]
frankly said that R.P.G.'s case was quite desperate, that he was
insolvent, and that any attempt to save him at present would be just so
much cash thrown away. God knows, at this moment I have none to throw
away uselessly. For poor Gillies there was a melancholy mixture of
pathos and affectation in his statement, which really affected me; while
it told me that it would be useless to help him to money on such very
empty plans. I endeavoured to persuade him to make a virtue of
necessity, resign all to his creditors, and begin the world on a new
leaf. 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!
Went again to the Solicitor on a wrong night, being asked for to-morrow.
Lady Scott undertakes to keep my engagements recorded in future. Sed
quis custodiet ipsam custodem?
Robert Sym Wilson, Esq., W.S., Secretary to the Royal Bank
December 17.—Dined with the Solicitor—Lord Chief-Baron —Sir
William Boothby, nephew of old Sir Brooke, the dandy poet, etc. Annoyed
with anxious presentiments, which the night's post must dispel or
confirm—all in London as bad as possible.
The Right Hon. Sir Samuel Shepherd, who had been at the
head of the Court of Exchequer since 1819, was then living at 16 Coates
Crescent; he retired in 1830, and resided afterwards in England, where
he died, aged 80, on the 30th November 1840. Before coming to Scotland,
Sir Samuel had been Solicitor-General in 1814, and Attorney-General in
December 18.—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 and
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 £1000 or £1200 a year. And if
they take my salaries of £1300 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 £5000 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 wring 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
some one, 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 and Robinson have been so intimate
that they must be largely involved. This is the worst of the concern;
our own is comparatively plain sailing.
Poor Gillies called yesterday to tell me he was in extremity. God knows
I had every cause to have returned him the same answer. I must think his
situation worse than mine, as through his incoherent, miserable tale, I
could see that he had exhausted each access to credit, and yet fondly
imagines that, bereft of all his accustomed indulgences, he can work
with a literary zeal unknown to his happier days. I hope he may labour
enough to gain the mere support of his family. For myself, the magic
wand of the Unknown is shivered in his grasp. He must henceforth be
termed the Too-well-known. The feast of fancy is over with the feeling
of independence. I can no longer have the delight of waking in the
morning with bright ideas in my mind, haste to commit them to paper, and
count them monthly, as the means of planting such groves, and purchasing
such wastes; replacing my dreams of fiction by other prospective visions
of walks by
"Fountain heads, and pathless groves
Places which pale passion loves." 
See Nice Valour, by John Fletcher; Beaumont and
Footnote to page 44 in the original MS.:—"Turn back to page
41 and 42. I turned the page accidentally, and the partner of a bankrupt
concern ought not to waste two leaves of paper."
This cannot be; but I may work substantial husbandry, work history, and
such concerns. They will not be received with the same enthusiasm; at
least I much doubt the general knowledge that an author must write for
his bread, at least for improving his pittance, degrades him and his
productions in the public eye. He falls into the second-rate rank of
"While the harness sore galls, and the spurs his sides goad,
The high-mettled racer's a hack on the road."
From Charles Dibdin's song, The Racehorse.
It is a bitter thought; but if tears start at it, let them flow. 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 could 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."
I have endeavoured at times to give vent to thoughts naturally so
painful, by writing these notices, partly to keep them at bay by busying
myself with the history of the French Convention. I thank God I can do
both with reasonable composure. I wonder how Anne will bear this
affliction? She is passionate, but stout-hearted and courageous in
important matters, though irritable in trifles. I am glad Lockhart and
his wife are gone. Why? I cannot tell; but I am pleased to be left to
my own regrets without being melted by condolences, though of the most
sincere and affectionate kind.
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.
Oddly enough, it happened. Mine honest friend Hector came in before
dinner to ask a copy of my seal of Arms, with a sly kindliness of
intimation that it was for some agreeable purpose.
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 and 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 was a mistake.
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, my resolutions hold.
I shall always think the better of Cadell for this, not merely because
his feet are beautiful on 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 19.—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 and
Robinson's stopping. He talks of going up to London next week and making
sales of our interest in W[oodstock] and Boney, which would put a
hedge round his finances. He is a very clever fellow, and will, I think,
bear us through.
Dined at Lord Chief-Baron's. Lord Justice-Clerk; Lord President;
Captain Scarlett, a gentlemanlike young man, the son of the great
Counsel, and a friend of my son Walter; Lady Charlotte Hope, and
other woman-kind; R. Dundas of Arniston, and his pleasant and
good-humoured little wife, whose quick intelligent look pleases me more,
though her face be plain, than a hundred mechanical beauties.
Sir Samuel Shepherd.
December 20.—I like Ch. Ba. Shepherd very much—as much, I think,
as any man I have learned to know of late years. There is a neatness and
precision, a closeness and truth, in the tone of his conversation, which
shows what a lawyer he must have been. Perfect good-humour and suavity
of manner, with a little warmth of temper on suitable occasions. His
great deafness alone prevented him from being Lord Chief-Justice. I
never saw a man so patient under such a malady. He loves society, and
converses excellently; yet is often obliged, in a mixed company
particularly, to lay aside his trumpet, retire into himself, and
withdraw from the talk. He does this with an expression of patience on
his countenance which touches one much. He has occasion for patience
otherwise, I should think, for Lady S. is fine and fidgety, and too
anxious to have everything pointe devise.
The Right Hon. Charles Hope, who held the office of Lord
President of the Court of Session for thirty years; he died in 1851 aged
Afterwards Sir James Yorke Scarlett, G.C.B.
Sir James Scarlett, first Lord Abinger.
Constable's licence for the Dedication is come, which will make him
The Dedication of Constable's Miscellany was penned by
Sir Walter—"To His Majesty King George IV., the most generous Patron
even of the most humble attempts towards the advantage of his subjects,
this Miscellany, designed to extend useful knowledge and elegant
literature, by placing works of standard merit within the attainment of
every class of readers, is most humbly inscribed by His Majesty's
dutiful and devoted subject—Archibald Constable."—J.G.L.
Dined with James Ballantyne, and met my old friend Mathews, the
comedian, with his son, now grown up a clever, rather forward lad, who
makes songs in the style of James Smith or Colman, and sings them with
spirit; rather lengthy though.
December 21.—There have been odd associations attending my two last
meetings with Mathews. The last time I saw him, before yesterday
evening, he dined with me in company with poor Sir Alexander Boswell,
who was killed within two or three months.  I never saw Sir Alexander
more.  The time before was in 1815, when John Scott of Gala and I
were returning from France, and passed through London, when we brought
Mathews down as far as Leamington. Poor Byron lunched, or rather made an
early dinner, with us at Long's, and a most brilliant day we had of it.
I never saw Byron so full of fun, frolic, wit, and whim: he was as
playful as a kitten. Well, I never saw him again.  So this man of
mirth, with his merry meetings, has brought me no luck. I like better
that he should throw in his talent of mimicry and humour into the
present current tone of the company, than that he should be required to
give this, that, and t'other bit selected from his public recitations.
They are good certainly—excellent; but then you must laugh, and that
is always severe to me. When I do laugh in sincerity, the joke must be
or seem unpremeditated. I could not help thinking, in the midst of the
glee, what gloom had lately been over the minds of three of the company,
Cadell, J.B., and the Journalist. What a strange scene if the surge of
conversation could suddenly ebb like the tide, and [show] us the state
of people's real minds! Savary  might have been gay in such a party
with all his forgeries in his heart.
"No eyes the rooks discover
Which lurk beneath the deep." 
Probably a slip of the pen for "weeks," as Mathews was in
London in March (1822), and we know that he dined with Scott in Castle
Street on the 10th of February. Memoirs, vol. iii. p. 262. Mr.
Lockhart says, "within a week," and at p. 33 vol. vii. gives an account
of a dinner party. Writing so many years after the event he may have
mistaken the date. James Boswell died in London 24th February 1822; his
brother, Sir Alexander, was at the funeral, and did not return to
Edinburgh till Saturday 23d March. James Stuart of Dunearn challenged
him on Monday; they fought on Tuesday, and Boswell died on the following
day, March 27. Mr. Lockhart says that "several circumstances of Sir
Alexander's death are exactly reproduced in the duel scene in St.
Life could not be endured were it seen in reality.
In a letter to Skene written late in 1821, Scott, in
expressing his regret at not being able to meet Boswell, adds, "I hope
J. Boz comes to make some stay, but I shall scarce forgive him for not
coming at the fine season." The brothers Boswell had been Mr. Skene's
schoolfellows and intimate friends; and he had lived much with them both
in England and Scotland.
Mr. Skene says, in a note to Letter 28, that "they were men of
remarkable talents, and James of great learning, both evincing a dash of
their father's eccentricity, but joined to greater talent. Sir Walter
took great pleasure in their society, but James being resident in
London, the opportunity of enjoying his company had of late been rare.
Upon the present occasion he had dined with me in the greatest health
and spirits the evening before his departure for London, and in a week
we had accounts of his having been seized by a sudden illness which
carried him off. In a few weeks more his brother, Sir Alexander, was
killed in a duel occasioned by a foolish political lampoon which he had
written, and in a thoughtless manner suffered to find its way to a
See Life, vol. v. p. 87.
Henry Savary, son of a banker in Bristol, had been tried
for forgery a few months before.
From What d'ye call it? by John Gay.
Things are mending in town, and H[urst] and R[obinson] 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. This
being Teind Wednesday must be a day of leisure and labour. Sophia has
got a house, 25 Pall Mall. Dined at home with Lady Scott and Anne.
December 22.—I wrote six of my close pages yesterday, which is about
twenty-four pages in print. What is more, I think it comes off
twangingly. The story is so very interesting in itself, that there is no
fear of the book answering.  Superficial it must be, but I do not
disown the charge. Better a superficial book, which brings well and
strikingly together the known and acknowledged facts, than a dull boring
narrative, pausing to see further into a mill-stone at every moment than
the nature of the mill-stone admits. Nothing is so tiresome as walking
through some beautiful scene with a minute philosopher, a botanist, or
pebble-gatherer, who is eternally calling your attention from the grand
features of the natural scenery to look at grasses and chucky-stones.
Yet, in their way, they give useful information; and so does the minute
historian. Gad, I think that will look well in the preface. My bile is
quite gone. I really believe it arose from mere anxiety. What a
wonderful connection between the mind and body!
Life of Napoleon.—J.G.L.
The air of "Bonnie Dundee" running in my head to-day, I [wrote] a few
verses to it before dinner, taking the key-note from the story of
Clavers leaving the Scottish Convention of Estates in 1688-9.  I
wonder if they are good. Ah! poor Will Erskine!  thou couldst and
wouldst have told me. I must consult J.B., who is as honest as was W.E.
But then, though he has good taste too, there is a little of Big Bow-wow
about it. Can't say what made me take a frisk so uncommon of late years,
as to write verses of freewill. I suppose the same impulse which makes
birds sing when the storm seems blown over.
See Scott's Poetical Works, vol. xii. pp.
Dined at Lord Minto's. There were Lord and Lady Ruthven, Will Clerk, and
Thomas Thomson,—a right choice party. There was also my very old friend
Mrs. Brydone, the relict of the traveller,  and daughter of Principal
Robertson, and really worthy of such a connection—Lady Minto, who is
also peculiarly agreeable—and her sister, Mrs. Admiral Adam, in the
William Erskine of Kinnedder was Scott's senior by two
years at the bar, having passed Advocate in 1790. He became Sheriff of
Orkney in 1809, and took his seat on the Bench as Lord Kinnedder, 29
January 1822; he died on the 14th of August following. Scott and he met
first in 1792, and, as is well known, he afterwards "became the nearest
and most confidential of all his Edinburgh associates." In 1796 he
arranged with the publishers for Scott's earliest literary venture, a
thin 4to of some 48 pages entitled The Chase, etc. See Life
throughout, more particularly vol. i. pp. 279-80, 333-4, 338-9; ii. pp.
103-4; iv. pp. 12, 166, 369; v. p. 174; vi. p. 393; vii. pp. 1, 5, 6,
70-74. See Appendix for Mr. Skene's account of the destruction of the
letters from Scott to Erskine.
Patrick Brydone, author of A Tour through Sicily and
Malta, 2 vols. 8vo, 1773.
December 23.—The present Lord Minto is a very agreeable,
well-informed, and sensible man, but he possesses neither the high
breeding, ease of manner, nor eloquence of his father, the first Earl.
That Sir Gilbert was indeed a man among a thousand. I knew him very
intimately in the beginning of the century, and, which was very
agreeable, was much at his house on very easy terms. He loved the Muses,
and worshipped them in secret, and used to read some of his poetry,
which was but middling.
Tom Campbell lived at Minto, but it was in a state of dependence which
he brooked very ill. He was kindly treated, but would not see it in the
right view, and suspected slights, and so on, where no such thing was
meant. There was a turn of Savage about Tom though without his
blackguardism—a kind of waywardness of mind and irritability that must
have made a man of his genius truly unhappy. Lord Minto, with the
mildest manners, was very tenacious of his opinions, although he changed
them twice in the crisis of politics. He was the early friend of Fox,
and made a figure towards the end of the American war, or during the
struggles betwixt Fox and Pitt. Then came the Revolution, and he joined
the Anti-Gallican party so keenly, that he declared against Addington's
peace with France, and was for a time, I believe, a Wyndhamite. He was
reconciled to the Whigs on the Fox and Grenville coalition; but I have
heard that Fox, contrary to his wont, retained such personal feelings as
made him object to Sir Gilbert Elliot's having a seat in the Cabinet; so
he was sent as Governor-General to India—a better thing, I take it, for
his fortune. He died shortly after his return,  at Hatfield or
Barnet, on his way down to his native country. He was a most pleasing
and amiable man. I was very sorry for his death, though I do not know
how we should have met, for the contested election in 1805 [in
Roxburghshire] had placed some coldness betwixt the present Lord and me.
I was certainly anxious for Sir Alexander Don, both as friend of my most
kind friend Charles, Duke of Buccleuch, and on political accounts; and
those thwartings are what men in public life do not like to endure.
After a cessation of friendship for some years, we have come about
again. We never had the slightest personal dispute or disagreement. But
politics are the blowpipe beneath whose influence the best cemented
friendships too often dissever; and ours, after all, was only a very
Gilbert, Earl of Minto, died in June 1814.—J.G.L.
It is very odd that the common people at Minto and the neighbourhood
will not believe to this hour that the first Earl is dead. They think he
had done something in India which he could not answer for—that the
house was rebuilt on a scale unusually large to give him a suite of
secret apartments, and that he often walks about the woods and crags of
Minto at night, with a white nightcap, and long white beard. The
circumstance of his having died on the road down to Scotland is the sole
foundation of this absurd legend, which shows how willing the vulgar are
to gull themselves when they can find no one else to take the trouble. I
have seen people who could read, write, and cipher, shrug their
shoulders and look mysterious when this subject was mentioned. One very
absurd addition was made on occasion of a great ball at Minto House,
which it was said was given to draw all people away from the grounds,
that the concealed Earl might have leisure for his exercise. This was on
the principle in the German play,  where, to hide their conspiracy,
the associates join in a chorus song.
See Canning's German Play, in the
We dined at home; Mr. Davidoff and his tutor kept an engagement with us
to dinner notwithstanding the death of the Emperor Alexander. They went
to the play with the womankind; I stayed at home to write.
December 24.—Wrote Walter and Jane, and gave the former an account of
how things had been in the money market, and the loan of £10,000.
Constable has a scheme of publishing the works of the Author of
W[averley] in a superior style, at £1, 1s. volume. He says he will
answer for making £20,000 of this, and liberally offered me any share of
the profit. I have no great claim to any, as I have only to contribute
the notes, which are light work; yet a few thousands coming in will be a
good thing—besides the P[rinting] Office. Constable, though
valetudinary, and cross with his partner, is certainly as good a pilot
in these rough seas as ever man put faith in. His rally has put me in
mind of the old song:—
"The tailor raise and shook his duds,
He gar'd the BILLS flee aff in cluds,
And they that stayed gat fearfu' thuds—
The tailor proved a man, O." 
See Johnson's Musical Museum, No. 490, slightly
We are for Abbotsford to-day, with a light heart.
Abbotsford, December 25.—Arrived here last night at seven. Our halls
are silent compared to last year, but let us be thankful—when we think
how near the chance appeared but a week since that these halls would
have been ours no longer. Barbarus has segetes? Nullum numen abest, si
sit prudentia. There shall be no lack of wisdom. But come—il faut
cultiver notre jardin.  Let us see: I will write out the "Bonnets of
Bonnie Dundee"; I will sketch a preface to La Rochejacquelin for
Constable's Miscellany, and try about a specimen of notes for the
W[averley Novels]. Together with letters and by-business, it will be a
good day's work.
"I make a vow,
And keep it true."
I will accept no invitation for dinner, save one to Newton-Don, and
Mertoun to-morrow, instead of Christmas Day. On this day of general
devotion I have a particular call for gratitude!!
My God! what poor creatures we are! After all my fair proposals
yesterday, I was seized with a most violent pain in the right kidney and
parts adjacent, which, joined to deadly sickness which it brought on,
forced me instantly to go to bed and send for Clarkson.  He came and
inquired, pronouncing the complaint to be gravel augmented by bile. I
was in great agony till about two o'clock, but awoke with the pain gone.
I got up, had a fire in my dressing-closet, and had Dalgleish to shave
me—two trifles, which I only mention, because they are contrary to my
hardy and independent personal habits. But although a man cannot be a
hero to his valet, his valet in sickness becomes of great use to him. I
cannot expect that this first will be the last visit of this cruel
complaint; but shall we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive
James Clarkson, Esq., surgeon, Melrose, son to Scott's old
friend, Dr. Clarkson of Selkirk.—J.G.L.
December 27th.—Slept twelve hours at a stretch, being much exhausted.
Totally without pain to-day, but uncomfortable from the effects of
calomel, which, with me at least, is like the assistance of an auxiliary
army, just one degree more tolerable than the enemy it chases away.
Calomel contemplations are not worth recording. I wrote an introduction
and a few notes to the Memoirs of Madame La Rochejacquelin,  being
all that I was equal to.
See Constable's Miscellany, vol. v.—J.G.L.
Sir Adam Ferguson came over and tried to marry my verses to the tune of
"Bonnie Dundee." They seem well adapted to each other. Dined with Lady
Scott and Anne.
Worked at Pepys in the evening, with the purpose of review for
Lockhart.  Notwithstanding the depressing effects of the calomel, I
feel the pleasure of being alone and uninterrupted. Few men, leading a
quiet life, and without any strong or highly varied change of
circumstances, have seen more variety of society than I—few have
enjoyed it more, or been bored, as it is called, less by the company
of tiresome people. I have rarely, if ever, found any one, out of whom I
could not extract amusement or edification; and were I obliged to
account for hints afforded on such occasions, I should make an ample
deduction from my inventive powers. Still, however, from the earliest
time I can remember, I preferred the pleasure of being alone to waiting
for visitors, and have often taken a bannock and a bit of cheese to the
wood or hill, to avoid dining with company. As I grew from boyhood to
manhood I saw this would not do; and that to gain a place in men's
esteem I must mix and bustle with them. Pride and an excitation of
spirits supplied the real pleasure which others seem to feel in society,
and certainly upon many occasions it was real. Still, if the question
was, eternal company, without the power of retiring within yourself, or
solitary confinement for life, I should say, "Turnkey, lock the cell!"
My life, though not without its fits of waking and strong exertion, has
been a sort of dream, spent in
"Chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancy." 
See the Quarterly Review for January 1820—or Scott's
Miscellaneous Prose Works.—J.G.L.
I have worn a wishing-cap, the power of which has been to divert present
griefs by a touch of the wand of imagination, and gild over the future
prospect by prospects more fair than can ever be realised. Somewhere it
is said that this castle-building—this wielding of the aërial
trowel—is fatal to exertions in actual life. I cannot tell, I have not
found it so. I cannot, indeed, say like Madame Genlis, that in the
imaginary scenes in which I have acted a part I ever prepared myself for
anything which actually befell me; but I have certainly fashioned out
much that made the present hour pass pleasantly away, and much that has
enabled me to contribute to the amusement of the public. Since I was
five years old I cannot remember the time when I had not some ideal part
to play for my own solitary amusement.
As You Like it, Act IV. Sc. 3.—J.G.L.
December 28.—Somehow I think the attack on Christmas Day has been of
a critical kind, and, having gone off so well, may be productive rather
of health than continued indisposition. If one is to get a renewal of
health in his fifty-fourth year, he must look to pay fine for it. Last
night George Thomson  came to see how I was, poor fellow. He has
talent, is well informed, and has an excellent heart; but there is an
eccentricity about him that defies description. I wish to God I saw him
provided in a country kirk. That, with a rational wife—that is, if
there is such a thing to be gotten for him,—would, I think, bring him
to a steady temper. At present he is between the tyning and the winning.
If I could get him to set to any hard study, he would do something
Formerly tutor at Abbotsford. Mr. Lockhart says: "I
observe, as the sheet is passing through the press, the death of the
Rev. George Thomson—the happy 'Dominie Thomson' of the happy days of
Abbotsford: he died at Edinburgh on the 8th of January 1838."
How to make a critic.—A sly rogue, sheltering himself under the
generic name of Mr. Campbell, requested of me, through the penny-post,
the loan of £50 for two years, having an impulse, as he said, to make
this demand. As I felt no corresponding impulse, I begged to decline a
demand which might have been as reasonably made by any Campbell on
earth; and another impulse has determined the man of fifty pounds to
send me anonymous abuse of my works and temper and selfish disposition.
The severity of the joke lies in 14d. for postage, to avoid which his
next epistle shall go back to the clerks of the Post Office, as not for
S.W.S. How the severe rogue would be disappointed, if he knew I never
looked at more than the first and last lines of his satirical effusion!
When I first saw that a literary profession was to be my fate, I
endeavoured by all efforts of stoicism to divest myself of that
irritable degree of sensibility—or, to speak plainly, of vanity—which
makes the poetical race miserable and ridiculous. The anxiety of a poet
for praise and for compliments I have always endeavoured [to keep down].
December 29.—Base feelings this same calomel gives one—mean, poor,
and abject—a wretch, as Will Rose says:—
"Fie, fie, on silly coward man,
That he should be the slave o't." 
Burns's "O poortith cauld and restless love."
Then it makes one "wofully dogged and snappish," as Dr. Rutty, the
Quaker, says in his Gurnal. 
John Rutty, M.D., a physician of some eminence in Dublin,
died in 1775, and his executors published his very curious and absurd
"Spiritual Diary and Soliloquies." Boswell describes Johnson as being
much amused with the Quaker doctor's minute confessions. See the Life of
Johnson sub anno 1777.—J.G.L.
Sent Lockhart four pages on Sheridan's plays; not very good, I think,
but the demand came sudden. Must go to W——k!  yet am vexed by that
humour of contradiction which makes me incline to do anything else in
preference. Commenced preface for new edition of my Novels. The city of
Cork send my freedom in a silver box. I thought I was out of their grace
for going to see Blarney rather than the Cove, for which I was attacked
and defended in the papers when in Ireland. I am sure they are so civil
that I would have gone wherever they wished me to go if I had had any
one to have told me what I ought to be most inquisitive about.
"For if I should as lion come in strife
Into such place, 't were pity of my life." 
Woodstock—contracted for in 1823.
December 30.—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 C[onstable] & 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.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III. Sc. 1.
George Huntly Gordon, amanuensis to Scott.
December 31.—Took a good sharp walk the first time since my illness,
and found myself the better in health and spirits. Being Hogmanay, there
dined with us Colonel Russell and his sisters, Sir Adam Ferguson and
Lady, Colonel Ferguson, with Mary and Margaret; an auld-warld party, who
made themselves happy in the auld fashion. I felt so tired about eleven
that I was forced to steal to bed.