March 1.—At Court until two—wrote letters under cover of the
lawyers' long speeches, so paid up some of my correspondents, which I
seldom do upon any other occasion. I sometimes let letters lie for days
unopened, as if that would postpone the necessity of answering them.
Here I am at home, and to work we go—not for the first time to-day, for
I wrought hard before breakfast. So glides away Thursday 1st. By the by,
it is the anniversary of Bosworth Field. In former days Richard III.
was always acted at London on this day; now the custom, I fancy, is
disused. Walpole's Historic Doubts threw a mist about this reign. It
is very odd to see how his mind dwells upon it at first as the mere
sport of imagination, till at length they become such Delilahs of his
imagination that he deems it far worse than infidelity to doubt his
Doubts. After all, the popular tradition is so very strong and pointed
concerning the character of Richard, that it is I think in vain to doubt
the general truth of the outline. Shakespeare, we may be sure, wrote his
drama in the tone that was to suit the popular belief, although where
that did Richard wrong, his powerful scene was sure to augment the
impression. There was an action and a reaction.
March 2.—Clerk walked home with me from the Court. I was scarce able
to keep up with him; could once have done it well enough. Funny thing at
the Theatre. Among the discourse in "High Life below Stairs,"  one
of the ladies' ladies asks who wrote Shakespeare. One says, "Ben
Jonson," another, "Finis." "No," said Will Murray, "it is Sir Walter
Scott; he confessed it at a public meeting the other day." March
3.—Very severe weather, came home covered with snow. White as a
frosted-plum-cake, by jingo! No matter; I am not sorry to find I can
stand a brush of weather yet; I like to see Arthur's Seat and the stern
old Castle with their white watch-cloaks on. But, as Byron said to
Moore, "d—-n it, Tom, don't be poetical." I settled to Boney, and
wrote right long and well.
See Townley's Farce.
March 4.—I sat in by the chimney-neuk with no chance of interruption,
and "feagued it away." Sir Adam came, and had half an hour's chat and
laugh. My jaws ought to be sore, if the unwontedness of the motion could
do it. But I have little to laugh at but myself, and my own bizarreries
are more like to make me cry. Wrought hard, though—there's sense in
March 5.—Our young men of first fashion, in whom tranquillity is the
prime merit, a sort of quietism of foppery, if one can use the
expression, have one capital name for a fellow that outrés and
outroars the fashion, a sort of high-buck as they were called in my
days. They hold him a vulgarian, and call him a tiger. Mr. Gibson came
in, and we talked over my affairs; very little to the purpose I doubt.
Dined at home with Anne as usual, and despatched half-a-dozen Selkirk
processes; among others one which savours of Hamesucken.  I think
to-day I have finished a quarter of vol. viii., and last. Shall I be
happy when it is done?—Umph! I think not.
Hamesucken.—The crime of beating or assaulting a
person in his own house. A Scotch law term.
March 6.—A long seat at Court, and an early dinner, as we went to the
play. John Kemble's brother acted Benedick. He is a fine-looking man,
and a good actor, but not superior. He reminds you eternally that he is
acting; and he had got, as the devil directed it, hold of my favourite
Benedick, for which he has no power. He had not the slightest idea of
the part, particularly of the manner in which Benedick should conduct
himself in the quarrelling scene with the Prince and Claudio, in which
his character rises almost to the dignity of tragedy. The laying aside
his light and fantastic humour, and showing himself the man of feeling
and honour, was finely marked of yore by old Tom King.  I remember
particularly the high strain of grave moral feeling which he threw upon
the words—"in a false quarrel there is no true valour"—which, spoken
as he did, checked the very brutal levity of the Prince and Claudio.
There were two farces; one I wished to see, and that being the last, was
obliged to tarry for it. Perhaps the headache I contracted made me a
severe critic on Cramond Brig,  a little piece ascribed to Lockhart.
Perhaps I am unjust, but I cannot think it his;  there are so few
good things in it, and so much prosing transferred from that mine of
marrowless morality called the Miller of Mansfield.  Yet it
King had retired from the stage in 1801. He died four
March 7.—We are kept working hard during the expiring days of the
Session, but this being a blank day I wrote hard till dressing time,
when I went to Will Clerk's to dinner. As a bachelor, and keeping a
small establishment, he does not do these things often, but they are
proportionally pleasant when they come round. He had trusted Sir Adam to
bespeak his dinner, who did it con amore; so we had excellent cheer,
and the wines were various and capital. As I before hinted, it is not
every day that M'Nab  mounts on horseback, and so our landlord had a
little of that solicitude that the party should go off well, which is
very flattering to the guests. We had a very pleasant evening. The
Chief-Commissioner was there, Admiral Adam, Jo. Murray, and Thomson,
etc. etc. Sir Adam predominating at the head, and dancing what he calls
his "merry andrada" in great style. In short, we really laughed, and
real laughter is a thing as rare as real tears. I must say, too, there
was a heart,—a kindly feeling prevailed over the party. Can London
give such a dinner? It may, but I never saw one; they are too cold and
critical to be so easily pleased. In the evening I went with some others
to see the exhibition lit up for a promenade, where there were all the
fashionable folks about town; the appearance of the rooms was very gay
Cramond Brig is said to have been written by Mr. W.H.
Murray, the manager of the Theatre, and is still occasionally acted in
Marginal Note in Original MSS. "I never saw it—not
That singular personage, the late M'Nab of that ilk,
spent his life almost entirely in a district where a boat was the usual
March 8.—It snowed all night, which must render the roads impassable,
and will detain me here till Monday. Hard work at Court, as Hammie is
done up with the gout. We dine with Lord Corehouse—that's not true by
the by, for I have mistaken the day. It's to-morrow we dine there.
Wrought, but not too hard.
March 9.—An idle morning. Dalgleish being set to pack my books. Wrote
notes upon a Mr. Kinloch's Collection of Scottish Ballads,  which I
communicated to the young author in the Court this present morning. We
were detained till half-past three o'clock, so when I came home I was
fatigued and slept. I walk slow, heavily, and with pain; but perhaps the
good weather may banish the Fiend of the joints. At any rate, impatience
will do nae good at a', man. Letter from Charles for £50. Silver and
gold have I none; but that which I have I will give unto him. We dined
at the Cranstouns,—I beg his pardon, Lord Corehouse; Ferguson, Thomson,
Will Clerk, etc., were there, also the Smiths and John Murray, so we had
a pleasant evening.
Ancient Scottish Ballads, recovered from tradition, with
notes, etc., by George R. Kinloch, 8vo, London, 1827.
March 10.—The business at the Court was not so heavy as I have seen
it the last day of the Session, yet sharp enough. About three o'clock I
got to a meeting of the Bannatyne Club. I hope this institution will be
really useful and creditable. Thomson is superintending a capital
edition of Sir James Melville's Memoirs.  It is brave to see how he
wags his Scots tongue, and what a difference there is in the force and
firmness of the language, compared to the mincing English edition in
which he has hitherto been alone known. Nothing to-day but correcting
proofs; Anne went to the play, I remained at home.
Issued by the Club, June 4, 1827.
March 11.—All my books packed this morning, and this and to-morrow
will be blank days, or nearly such; but I am far ahead of the printer,
who is not done with vol. vii., while I am deep in volume viii. I hate
packing; but my servants never pack books quite to please me. James
Ballantyne dined with us. He kept up my heart about Bonaparte, which
sometimes flags; and he is such a grumbler that I think I may trust him
when he is favourable. There must be sad inaccuracies, some which might
certainly have been prevented by care; but as the Lazaroni used to say,
"Did you but know how lazy I am!"
[Abbotsford,] March 12.—Away we set, and came safely to Abbotsford
amid all the dulness of a great thaw, which has set the rivers
a-streaming in full tide. The wind is wintry, but for my part
"I like this rocking of the battlements." 
Zanga in The Revenge, Act I. Sc. 1.—J.G.L.
I was received by old Tom and the dogs, with the unsophisticated
feelings of goodwill. I have been trying to read a new novel which I
have heard praised. It is called Almacks, and the author has so well
succeeded in describing the cold selfish fopperies of the time, that the
copy is almost as dull as the original. I think I will take up my bundle
of Sheriff-Court processes instead of Almacks, as the more
entertaining avocation of the two.
March 13.—Before breakfast, prepared and forwarded the processes to
Selkirk. As I had the loan of £250 at March from Cadell I am now verging
on to the £500 which he promised to allow me in advance on second series
Canongate Chronicles. I do not like this, but unless I review or write
to some other purpose, what else can I do? My own expenses are as
limited as possible, but my house expenses are considerable, and every
now and then starts up something of old scores which I cannot turn over
to Mr. Gibson and his co-trustees. Well—time and the hour—money is the
Had a pleasant walk to the thicket, though my ideas were
olla-podrida-ish, curiously checkered between pleasure and melancholy. I
have cause enough for both humours, God knows. I expect this will not be
a day of work but of idleness, for my books are not come. Would to God I
could make it light thoughtless idleness, such as I used to have when
the silly smart fancies ran in my brain like the bubbles in a glass of
champagne,—as brilliant to my thinking, as intoxicating as evanescent.
But the wine is somewhat on the lees. Perhaps it was but indifferent
cider after all. Yet I am happy in this place, where everything looks
friendly, from old Tom to young Nym.  After all, he has little to
complain of who has left so many things that like him.
Nimrod, a staghound.—J.G.L.
March 14.—All yesterday spent in putting to rights books, and so
forth. Not a word written except interlocutors. But this won't do. I
have tow on the rock, and it must be spun off. Let us see our present
undertakings. 1. Napoleon. 2. Review Home, Cranbourne Chase,  and
the Mysteries. 3. Something for that poor faineant Gillies. 4. Essay on
Ballad and Song. 5. Something on the modern state of France. These two
last for the Prose Works. But they may
"—do a little more,
And produce a little ore."
Anecdotes of Cranbourne Chase, etc., by Chafin. 8vo,
London, 1818. Mr. Lockhart says, "I am sorry Sir Walter never redeemed
his promise to make it the subject of an article in the Quarterly
Review."—See Life, vol. vii. pp. 43-44.
Come, we must up and be doing. There is a rare scud without, which says,
"Go spin, you jade, go spin." I loitered on, and might have answered,
"My spinning-wheel is auld and stiff."
Smoked a brace of cigars after dinner as a sedative. This is the first
time I have smoked these two months. I was afraid the custom would
master me. Went to work in the afternoon, and reviewed for Lockhart
Mackenzie's edition of Home's Works.  Proceeded as far as the eighth
The article appeared in the Number for June 1827, and is
now included in the Prose Misc. Works, vol. xix. pp. 283-367.
March 15.—Kept still at the review till two o'clock; not that there
is any hurry, but because I should lose my ideas, which are not worth
preserving. Went on therefore. I drove over to Huntly Burn with Anne,
then walked through the plantations, with Tom's help to pull me through
the snow-wreaths. Returned in a glow of heat and spirits. Corrected
proof-sheets in the evening.
"A trifling day we have had here,
Begun with trifle and ended."
But I hope no otherwise so ended than to meet the rubrick of the ballad,
for it is but three o'clock. In the morning I was l'homme qui
cherche—everything fell aside,—the very pens absconded, and crept in
among a pack of letters and trumpery, where I had the devil's work
finding them. Thus the time before breakfast was idled, or rather
fidgeted, away. Afterwards it was rather worse. I had settled to finish
the review, when, behold, as I am apt to do at a set task, I jibb'd, and
my thoughts would rather have gone with Waterloo. So I dawdled, as the
women say, with both, now writing a page or two of the review, now
reading a few pages of the Battle of Waterloo by Captain Pringle, a
manuscript which is excellently-written.  Well, I will find the
advantage of it by and by. So now I will try to finish this accursed
review, for there is nothing to prevent me, save the untractable
character that hates to work on compulsion, whether of individuals or
See Captain John Pringle's remarks on the campaign of
1815 in App. to Scott's Napoleon, vol. ix. pp. 115-160.
March 17.—I wrought away at the review and nearly finished it. Was
interrupted, however, by a note from Ballantyne, demanding copy, which
brought me back from Home and Mackenzie to Boney. I had my walk as
usual, and worked nevertheless very fairly. Corrected proofs.
March 18.—Took up Boney again. I am now at writing, as I used to be
at riding, slow, heavy, and awkward at mounting, but when I did get
fixed in my saddle, could screed away with any one. I have got six pages
ready for my learned Theban  to-morrow morning. William Laidlaw and
his brother George dined with me, but I wrote in the evening all the
Lear, Act III. Sc. 4.
March 19.—Set about my labours, but enter Captain John Ferguson from
the Spanish Main, where he has been for three years. The honest tar sat
about two hours, and I was heartily glad to see him again. I had a
general sketch of his adventures, which we will hear more in detail when
we can meet at kail-time. Notwithstanding this interruption I have
pushed far into the seventh page. Well done for one day. Twenty days
should finish me at this rate, and I read hard too. But allowance must
be made for interruptions.
March 20.—To-day worked till twelve o'clock, then went with Anne on a
visit of condolence to Mrs. Pringle of Yair and her family. Mr. Pringle
was the friend both of my father and grandfather; the acquaintance of
our families is at least a century old.
March 21.—Wrote till twelve, then out upon the heights though the day
was stormy, and faced the gale bravely. Tom Purdie was not with me. He
would have obliged me to keep the sheltered ground. But, I don't know—
"Even in our ashes live our wonted fires."
There is a touch of the old spirit in me yet that bids me brave the
tempest,—the spirit that, in spite of manifold infirmities, made me a
roaring boy in my youth, a desperate climber, a bold rider, a deep
drinker, and a stout player at single-stick, of all which valuable
qualities there are now but slender remains. I worked hard when I came
in, and finished five pages.
March 22.—Yesterday I wrote to James Ballantyne, acquiescing in his
urgent request to extend the two last volumes to about 600 each. I
believe it will be no more than necessary after all, but makes one feel
like a dog in a wheel, always moving and never advancing.
March 23.—When I was a child, and indeed for some years after, my
amusement was in supposing to myself a set of persons engaged in various
scenes which contrasted them with each other, and I remember to this day
the accuracy of my childish imagination. This might be the effect of a
natural turn to fictitious narrative, or it might be the cause of it, or
there might be an action and reaction, or it does not signify a pin's
head how it is. But with a flash of this remaining spirit, I imagine my
mother Duty to be a sort of old task-mistress, like the hag of the
merchant Abudah, in the Tales of the Genii—not a hag though, by any
means; on the contrary, my old woman wears a rich old-fashioned gown of
black silk, with ruffles of triple blonde-lace, and a coif as rich as
that of Pearling Jean;  a figure and countenance something like Lady
D.S.'s twenty years ago; a clear blue eye, capable of great severity of
expression, and conforming in that with a wrinkled brow, of which the
ordinary expression is a serious approach to a frown—a cautionary and
nervous shake of the head; in her withered hand an ebony staff with a
crutch head,—a Tompion gold watch, which annoys all who know her by
striking the quarters as regularly as if one wished to hear them.
Occasionally she has a small scourge of nettles, which I feel her lay
across my fingers at this moment, and so Tace is Latin for a
candle.  I have 150 pages to write yet.
"Pearling Jean," the name of the ghost of the Spanish Nun
at Allanbank, Berwickshire. See Sharpe's Letters, vol. i. pp. 303-5,
and Ingram's Haunted Homes, Lond. 1884, vol. i. pp. 1-4.
March 24.—Does Duty not wear a pair of round old-fashioned silver
buckles? Buckles she has, but they are square ones. All belonging to
Duty is rectangular. Thus can we poor children of imagination play with
the ideas we create, like children with soap-bubbles. Pity that we pay
for it at other times by starting at our shadows.
This quaint saying, arising out of some forgotten joke,
has been thought to be Scott's own, as it was a favourite with him and
his intimates, and he introduces it in more than one of his works. [A]
But though its origin cannot be traced, Swift uses it in that very
curious collection of proverbs and saws, which he strung together under
the title of Polite Conversation, and published about 1738. [B]
Fielding also introduces it in Amelia, [C] 1752. See Notes and
Queries, first series, vol. i. p. 385; ii. p. 45; iv. p. 450; x. p.
173; sixth series, vol. iii. p. 213; iv. p. 157.
[A]e.g. Redgauntlet, ch. xii. Pate-in-Peril at Dumfries.
[B]Lord Smart—"Well, Tom, can you tell me what's Latin for
Neverout—"O, my Lord, I know that [answer]: Brandy is Latin for a
goose! and Tace is Latin for a candle."—SCOTT'S Swift, vol. ix. p.
[C]"Tace, Madam," added Murphy, "is Latin for a
candle."—Amelia, Bk. 1. cap. xi.
"Man but a rush against Othello's breast."
The hard work still proceeds, varied only by a short walk.
March 25.—Hard work still, but went to Huntly Burn on foot, and
returned in the carriage. Walked well and stoutly—God be praised!—and
prepared a whole bundle of proofs and copy for the Blucher to morrow;
that damned work will certainly end some time or other. As it drips and
dribbles out on the paper, I think of the old drunken Presbyterian
under the spout.
March 26.—Despatched packets. Colonel and Captain Ferguson arrived to
breakfast. I had previously determined to give myself a day to write
letters; and, as I expect John Thomson to dinner, this day will do as
well as another. I cannot keep up with the world without shying a letter
now and then. It is true the greatest happiness I could think of would
be to be rid of the world entirely. Excepting my own family, I have
little pleasure in the world, less business in it, and am heartily
careless about all its concerns. Mr. Thomson came accordingly—not John
Thomson of Duddingston, whom the letter led me to expect, but John
Anstruther Thomson of Charlton [Fifeshire], the son-in-law of Lord
March 27.—Wrote two leaves this morning, and gave the day after
breakfast to my visitor, who is a country gentleman of the best
description; knows the world, having been a good deal attached both to
the turf and the field; is extremely good-humoured, and a good deal of a
local antiquary. I showed him the plantations, going first round the
terrace, then to the lake, then came down by the Rhymer's Glen, and took
carriage at Huntly Burn, almost the grand tour, only we did not walk
from Huntly Burn. The Fergusons dined with us.
March 28.—Mr Thomson left us about twelve for Minto, parting a
pleased guest, I hope, from a pleased landlord. When I see a "gemman as
is a gemman," as the blackguards say, why, I know how to be civil.
After he left I set doggedly to work with Bonaparte, who had fallen a
little into arrear. I can clear the ground better now by mashing up my
old work in the Edinburgh Register with my new matter, a species of
colcannen, where cold potatoes are mixed with hot cabbage. After all,
I think Ballantyne is right, and that I have some talents for
history-writing after all. That same history in the Register reads
prettily enough. Coragio, cry Claymore. I finished five pages, but
with additions from Register they will run to more than double I hope;
like Puff in the Critic, be luxuriant. 
Sheridan's Play, Act II. Sc. 1.
Here is snow back again, a nasty, comfortless, stormy sort of a day, and
I will work it off at Boney. What shall I do when Bonaparte is done?
He engrosses me morning, noon, and night. Never mind; Komt Zeit komt
Rath, as the German says. I did not work longer than twelve, however,
but went out in as rough weather as I have seen, and stood out several
March 29, 30.—
"He walk'd and wrought, poor soul! What then?
Why, then he walk'd and wrought again."
March 31.—Day varied by dining with Mr. Scrope, where we found Mr.
Williams and Mr. Simson,  both excellent artists. We had not too
much of the palette, but made a very agreeable day out. I contrived to
mislay the proof-sheets sent me this morning, so that I must have a
revise. This frequent absence of mind becomes very exceeding
troublesome. I have the distinct recollection of laying them carefully
aside after I dressed to go to the Pavilion. Well, I have a head—the
proverb is musty.
William Simson, R.S.A., landscape painter. He died in