The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the Original Manuscript at Abbotsford April, 1827
by Sir Walter Scott
April 1.—The proofs are not to be found. Applications from R.P.
G[illies]. I must do something for him; yet have the melancholy
conviction that nothing will do him any good. Then he writes letters and
expects answers. Then they are bothering me about writing in behalf of
the oil-gas light, which is going to the devil very fast. I cannot be
going a-begging for them or anybody. Please to look down with an eye of
pity—a poor distressed creature! No, not for the last morsel of bread.
A dry ditch and a speedy death is worth it all.
April 2.—Another letter from R.P.G. I shall begin to wish, like S.,
that he had been murthered and robbed in his walks between Wimbledon and
London. John [Archibald] Murray and his young wife came to dinner, and
in good time. I like her very much, and think he has been very lucky.
She is not in the vaward of youth, but John is but two or three years my
junior. She is pleasing in her manners, and totally free from
affectation; a beautiful musician, and willingly exerts her talents in
that way; is said to be very learned, but shows none of it. A large
fortune is no bad addition to such a woman's society.
April 3.—I had processes to decide; and though I arose at my usual
hour, I could not get through above two of five proofs. After breakfast
I walked with John Murray, and at twelve we went for Melrose, where I
had to show the lions. We came back by Huntly Burn, where the carriage
broke down, and gave us a pretty long walk home. Mr. Scrope dined with
his two artists, and John [Thomson?]. The last is not only the best
landscape-painter of his age and country, but is, moreover, one of the
warmest-hearted men living, with a keen and unaffected feeling of
poetry. Poor fellow! he has had many misfortunes in his family. I drank
a glass or two of wine more than usual, got into good spirits, and came
from Tripoli for the amusement of the good company. I was in good
April 4.—I think I have a little headache this morning; however, as
Othello says, "That's not much." I saw our guests go off by seven in the
morning, but was not in time to give them good-bye.
"And now again, boys, to the oar."
I did not go to the oar though, but walked a good deal.
April 5.—Heard from Lockhart; the Duke of W[ellington] and Croker are
pleased with my historical labours; so far well—for the former, as a
soldier said of him, "I would rather have his long nose on my side than
a whole brigade." Well! something good may come of it, and if it does it
will be good luck, for, as you and I know, Mother Duty, it has been a
rummily written work. I wrote hard to-day.
April 6.—Do. Do. I only took one turn about the thicket, and have
nothing to put down but to record my labours.
April 7.—The same history occurs; my desk and my exercise. I am a
perfect automaton. Bonaparte runs in my head from seven in the morning
till ten at night without intermission. I wrote six leaves to-day and
corrected four proofs.
April 8.—Ginger, being in my room, was safely delivered in her basket
of four puppies; the mother and children all doing well. Faith! that is
as important an entry as my Journal could desire. The day is so
beautiful that I long to go out. I won't, though, till I have done
something. A letter from Mr. Gibson about the trust affairs. If the
infernal bargain with Constable go on well, there will be a pretty sop
in the pan to the creditors; £35,000 at least. If I could work as
effectually for three years more, I shall stand on my feet like a man.
But who can assure success with the public?
April 9.—I wrote as hard to-day as need be, finished my neat eight
pages, and, notwithstanding, drove out and visited at Gattonside. The
devil must be in it if the matter drags out longer now.
April 10.—Some incivility from the Leith Bank, which I despise with
my heels. I have done for settling my affairs all that any man—much
more than most men—could have done, and they refuse a draught of £20,
because, in mistake, it was £8 overdrawn. But what can be expected of a
sow but a grumph? Wrought hard, hard.
April 11.—The parks were rouped for £100 a year more than they
brought last year. Poor Abbotsford will come to good after all. In the
meantime it is Sic vos non vobis—but who cares a farthing? If Boney
succeeds, we will give these affairs a blue eye, and I will wrestle
stoutly with them, although
"My banks they are covered with bees," 
See Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad, Part ii., Hope.
or rather with wasps. A very tough day's work.
April 12.—Ha-a-lt—as we used to say, my proof-sheets being still
behind. Very unhandsome conduct on the part of the Blucher  while I
was lauding it so profusely. It is necessary to halt and close up our
files—of correspondence I mean. So it is a chance if, except for
contradiction's sake, or upon getting the proof-sheets, I write a line
to-day at Boney. I did, however, correct five revised sheets and one
proof, which took me up so much of the day that I had but one turn
through the courtyard. Owing to this I had some of my flutterings, my
trembling exies, as the old people called the ague. Wrote a great many
letters—but no "copy."
The coach to Edinburgh.
April 13.—I have sometimes wondered with what regularity—that is,
for a shrew of my impatient temper—I have been able to keep this
Journal. The use of the first person being, of course, the very essence
of a diary, I conceive it is chiefly vanity, the dear pleasure of
writing about the best of good fellows, Myself, which gives me
perseverance to continue this idle task. This morning I wrote till
breakfast, then went out and marked trees to be cut for paling, and am
just returned—and what does any one care? Ay, but, Gad! I care myself,
though. We had at dinner to-day Mr. and Mrs. Cranstoun (Burns's Maria of
Ballochmyle ), Mr. Bainbridge and daughters, and Colonel Russell.
See "The Braes of Ballochmyle;" Currie's Burns, vol.
iv. p. 294.
April 14.—Went to Selkirk to try a fellow for an assault on Dr.
Clarkson—fined him seven guineas, which, with his necessary expenses,
will amount to ten guineas. It is rather too little; but as his income
does not amount to £30 a year, it will pinch him severely enough, and is
better than sending him to an ill-kept jail, where he would be idle and
drunk from morning to night. I had a dreadful headache while sitting in
the Court—rheumatism in perfection. It did not last after I got warm by
April 15.—Delightful soft morning, with mild rain. Walked out and got
wet, as a sovereign cure for the rheumatism. Was quite well, though, and
April 16.—A day of work and exercise. In the evening a letter from
L[ockhart], with the wonderful news that the Ministry has broken up, and
apparently for no cause that any one can explain. The old grudge, I
suppose, betwixt Peel and Canning, which has gone on augmenting like a
crack in the side of a house, which enlarges from day to day, till down
goes the whole. Mr. Canning has declared himself fully satisfied with
J.L., and sent Barrow to tell him so. His suspicions were indeed most
erroneous, but they were repelled with no little spirit both by L. and
myself, and Canning has not been like another Great Man I know to whom
I showed demonstrably that he had suspected an individual unjustly. "It
may be so," he said, "but his mode of defending himself was
The conduct of the Quarterly at this time was in after
years thus commented upon by John Wilson.
"North.—While we were defending the principles of the British
constitution, bearding its enemies, and administering to them the knout,
the Quarterly Review was meek and mum as a mouse.
"Tickler.—Afraid to lose the countenance and occasional assistance of
"North.—There indeed, James, was a beautiful exhibition of party
politics, a dignified exhibition of personal independence."—Noctes
It is understood that Canning, who had received the King's commands in
April 10, felt keenly the loneliness of his position—estranged from his
old comrades, and deterred by the remembrance of many bitter satires
against them from having close intimacy with his new co-adjutors.
April 17.—Went to dinner to-day to Mr. Bainbridge's Gattonside House,
and had fireworks in the evening, made by Captain Burchard, a
good-humoured kind of Will Wimble.  One nice little boy announced to
us everything that was going to be done, with the importance of a
prologue. Some of the country folks assembled, and our party was
enlivened by the squeaks of the wenches and the long-protracted Eh,
eh's! by which a Teviotdale tup testifies his wonder.
April 18.—I felt the impatience of news so much that I walked up to
Mr. Laidlaw, surely for no other purpose than to talk politics. This
interrupted Boney a little. After I returned, about twelve or one,
behold Tom Tack; he comes from Buenos Ayres with a parcel of little
curiosities he had picked up for me. As Tom Tack spins a tough yarn, I
lost the morning almost entirely—what with one thing, what with
t'other, as my friend the Laird of Raeburn says. Nor have I much to say
for the evening, only I smoked a cigar more than usual to get the box
ended, and give up the custom for a little.
April 19.—Another letter from Lockhart.  I am sorry when I think
of the goodly fellowship of vessels which are now scattered on the
ocean. There is the Duke of Wellington, the Lord Chancellor, Lord
Melville, Mr. Peel, and I wot not who besides, all turned out of office
or resigned! I wonder what they can do in the House of Lords when all
the great Tories are on the wrong side of the House. Canning seems quite
serious in his views of helping Lockhart. I hope it will come to
"... Your letter has given me the vertigo—my head turns
round like a chariot wheel, and I am on the point of asking—
'Why, how now? Am I Giles, or am I not?'
"The Duke of Wellington out?—bad news at home, and worse abroad. Lord
Anglesea in his situation?—does not much mend the matter. Duke of
Clarence in the Navy?—wild work. Lord Melville, I suppose, falls of
course—perhaps cum totâ sequelâ, about which sequela, unless Sir W.
Rae and the Solicitor, I care little. The whole is glamour to one who
reads no papers, and has none to read. I must get one, though, if this
work is to go on, for it is quite bursting in ignorance. Canning is
haughty and prejudiced—but, I think, honourable as well as able: nous
verrons. I fear Croker will shake, and heartily sorry I should feel for
that...."—Scott to Lockhart: Life, vol. ix. p. 99.
April 20.—A surly sort of day. I walked for two hours, however, and
then returned chiefly to Nap. Egad! I believe it has an end at last,
this blasted work. I have the fellow at Plymouth, or near about it.
Well, I declare, I thought the end of these beastly big eight volumes
was like the end of the world, which is always talked of and never
April. 21.—Here is a vile day—downright rain, which disconcerts an
inroad of bairns from Gattonside, and, of course, annihilates a part of
the stock of human happiness. But what says the proverb of your true
"'Tis good for book, 'tis good for work,
For cup and can, or knife and fork."
April 22.—Wrote till twelve o'clock, then sallied forth, and walked
to Huntly Burn with Tom; and so, look you, sir, I drove home in the
carriage. Wrought in the afternoon, and tried to read De Vere, a
sensible but heavy book, written by an able hand—but a great bore for
all that.  Wrote in the evening.
R. Plumer Ward.—See July 4.
April 23.—Snowy morning. White as my shirt. The little Bainbridges
came over; invited to see the armoury, etc., which I stood showman to.
It is odd how much less cubbish the English boys are than the Scotch.
Well-mannered and sensible are the southern boys. I suppose the sun
brings them forward. Here comes six o'clock at night, and it is snowing
as if it had not snowed these forty years before. Well, I'll work away a
couple of chapters—three at most will finish Napoleon.
April 24.—Still deep snow—a foot thick in the courtyard, I dare say.
Severe welcome to the poor lambs now coming into the world. But what
signifies whether they die just now, or a little while after to be
united with salad at luncheon-time? It signifies a good deal too. There
is a period, though a short one, when they dance among the gowans, and
seem happy. As for your aged sheep or wether, the sooner they pass to
the Norman side of the vocabulary the better. They are like some old
dowager ladies and gentlemen of my acquaintance,—no one cares about
them till they come to be cut up, and then we see how the tallow lies
on the kidneys and the chine.
April 25.—Snow yet, and it prevents my walking, and I grow bilious. I
wrote hard though. I have now got Boney pegg'd up in the knotty
entrails of Saint Helena, and may make a short pause.
So I finished the review of John Home's works, which, after all, are
poorer than I thought them. Good blank verse and stately sentiment, but
something lukewarmish, excepting Douglas, which is certainly a
masterpiece. Even that does not stand the closet. Its merits are for the
stage; but it is certainly one of the best acting plays going. Perhaps a
play, to act well, should not be too poetical.
There is a talk in London of bringing in the Marquis of Lansdowne, then
Lauderdale will perhaps come in here. It is certain the old Tory party
is down the wind, not from political opinions, but from personal
aversion to Canning. Perhaps his satirical temper has partly occasioned
this; but I rather consider emulation as the source of it, the head and
front of the offending. Croker no longer rhymes to joker. He has made a
good coup, it is said, by securing Lord Hertford for the new
administration. D.W. calls him their viper. After all, I cannot
sympathise with that delicacy which throws up office, because the most
eloquent man in England, and certainly the only man who can manage the
House of Commons, is named Minister. 
A fuller statement of Scott's views at this crisis will
be found in his letters to Lockhart and Morritt in Life, vol. ix.
(April, May, and June, 1827).
April 26.—The snow still profusely distributed, and the surface, as
our hair used to be in youth, after we had played at some active game,
half black, half white, all in large patches. I finished the criticism
on Home, adding a string of Jacobite anecdotes, like that which boys put
to a kite's tail. Sent off the packet to Lockhart; at the same time sent
Croker a volume of French tracts, containing La Portefeuille de
Bonaparte, which he wished to see. Received a great cargo of papers
from Bernadotte, some curious, and would have been inestimable two
months back, but now my siege is almost made. Still my feelings for poor
Count Itterburg,  the lineal and legitimate, make me averse to have
much to do with this child of the revolution.
Count Itterburg, then in his 20th year, was the name
under which Gustavus, the ex-Crown Prince of Sweden, visited Scotland in
1819. It was his intention to study at the University of Edinburgh
during the winter session, but, his real name becoming known, this was
rendered impracticable by the curiosity and attention of the public. He
devoted himself mainly to the study of military matters, and out-door
exercises, roughing it in all sorts of weather, sometimes,—to his
mentor Baron Polier's uneasiness,—setting out on dark and stormy
nights, and making his way across country from point to point. This
self-imposed training was no doubt with the secret hope that he might
some day be called upon by the Swedes to oust Bernadotte, and mount the
throne of the great Gustavus. Mr. Skene saw a good deal of him, and
gives many interesting details of his life in Edinburgh, such as the
following account of a meeting at his own house. "He was interested with
a set of portraits of the two last generations of the Royal Family of
Scotland, which hung in my dining-room, and which had been presented to
my grandfather by Prince Charles Edward, in consideration of the
sacrifices he had made for the Prince's service during the unfortunate
enterprise of the year 1745, having raised and commanded one of the
battalions of Lord Lewis Gordon's brigade. The portrait of Prince
Charles Edward, taken about the same age as Comte Itterburg, and no
doubt also the marked analogy existing in the circumstances to which
they had been each reduced, seemed much to engage his notice; and when
the ladies had retired he begged me to give him some account of the
rebellion, and of the various endeavours of the Stewarts to regain the
Scottish crown. The subject was rather a comprehensive one, but having
done my best to put him in possession of the leading features, it seemed
to have taken very strong hold of his mind, as he frequently, at our
subsequent meetings, reverted to the subject. Upon another occasion by
degrees the topic of conversation slipped into its wonted channel—the
rebellion of 1745, its final disaster, and the singular escape of the
Prince from the pursuit of his enemies. The Comte inquired what effect
the failure of the enterprise had produced upon the Prince's character,
with whose gallant bearing and enthusiasm, in the conduct of his
desperate enterprise, he evinced the strongest interest and sympathy. I
stated briefly the mortifying disappointments to which Charles Edward
was exposed in France, the hopelessness of his cause, and the
indifference generally shown to him by the continental courts, which so
much preyed on his mind as finally to stifle every spark of his former
character, so that he gave himself up to a listless indifference, which
terminated in his becoming a sot during the latter years of his life. On
turning round to the Prince, who had been listening to these details, I
perceived the big drops chasing each other down his cheeks and therefore
changed the subject, and he never again recurred to
Count Itterburg, or Prince Gustavus Vasa, to give him the title of an
old family dignity which he assumed in 1829, entered the Austrian army,
in which he attained the rank of Lieutenant Field-Marshal. His services,
it is needless to say, were never required by the Swedes, though he
never relinquished his pretensions, and claimed the throne at his
father's death in 1837. He died at Pillnitz on the 4th August 1877,
leaving one daughter, the present Queen of Saxony.
Notices of his visits to 39 Castle Street and Abbotsford are given in
the 6th vol. of Life.
April 27.—This hand of mine gets to be like a kitten's scratch, and
will require much deciphering, or, what may be as well for the writer,
cannot be deciphered at all. I am sure I cannot read it myself. Weather
better, which is well, as I shall get a walk. I have been a little
nervous, having been confined to the house for three days. Well, I may
be disabled from duty, but my tamed spirits and sense of dejection have
quelled all that freakishness of humour which made me a voluntary idler.
I present myself to the morning task, as the hack-horse patiently
trudges to the pole of his chaise, and backs, however reluctantly, to
have the traces fixed. Such are the uses of adversity.
April 28.—Wrought at continuing the Works, with some criticism on
Defoe.  I have great aversion, I cannot tell why, to stuffing the
"Border Antiquities" into what they call the Prose Works.
This refers to the Miscellaneous Prose Works, forming
24 vols., the publication of which did not commence until May 1834,
although, as is shown by the Journal, the author was busy in its
preparation. The "criticism on Defoe" will be found in the fourth
volume, pp. 247-296, forming a supplement to John Ballantyne's
Biographical Notice of Defoe in the same volume. The "Essay on Border
Antiquities" appeared, notwithstanding Scott's misgivings, in the
There is no encouragement, to be sure, for doing better, for nobody
seems to care. I cannot get an answer from J. Ballantyne, whether he
thinks the review on the Highlands would be a better substitution.
April 29.—Colonel and Captain Ferguson dined here with Mr. Laidlaw. I
wrote all the morning, then cut some wood. I think the weather gets too
warm for hard work with the axe, or I get too stiff and easily tired.
April 30.—Went to Jedburgh to circuit, where found my old friend and
schoolfellow, D. Monypenny.  Nothing to-day but a pack of riff-raff
cases of petty larceny and trash. Dined as usual with the Judge, and
slept at my old friend Mr. Shortreed's.