The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the Original Manuscript at Abbotsford August, 1827
by Sir Walter Scott
August 1.—My guests left me and I thought of turning to work again
seriously. Finished five pages. Dined alone, excepting Huntly Gordon,
who is come on a visit, poor lad. I hope he is well fixed under Mr.
Planta's  patronage. Smoked a cigar after dinner. Laughed with my
daughters, and read them the review of Hoffmann's production out of
Gillies's new Foreign Review.
 Right Hon. Joseph Planta (son of Joseph Planta, Principal
Librarian of the British Museum from 1799) was at this time one of the
Secretaries to the Treasury. He died in 1847.
The undertaking would do, I am convinced, in any other person's hands
than those of the improvident editor; but I hear he is living as
thoughtlessly as ever in London, has hired a large house, and gives
Burgundy to his guests. This will hardly suit £500 a year.
August 2.—Got off my proofs. Went over to breakfast at Huntly Burn;
the great object was to see my cascade in the Glen suitably repaired. I
have had it put to rights by puddling and damming. What says the frog in
the Fairy Tale?—
"Stuff with moss, and clog with clay,
And that will weize the water away."
Having seen the job pretty tightly done, walked deliciously home through
the woods. But no work all this while. Then for up and at it. But in
spite of good resolutions I trifled with my children after dinner, and
read to them in the evening, and did just nothing at all.
August 3.—Wrote five pages and upwards—scarce amends for past
laziness. Huntly Gordon lent me a volume of his father's manuscript
memoirs.  They are not without interest, for Pryse Gordon, though a
bit of a roué, is a clever fellow in his way. One thing struck me,
being the story of an Irish swindler, who called himself Henry King
Edgeworth, an impudent gawsey fellow, who deserted from Gordon's
recruiting party, enlisted again, and became so great a favourite with
the Colonel of the regiment which he joined, that he was made
pay-sergeant. Here he deserted to purpose with £200 or £300, escaped to
France, got a commission in the Corps sent to invade Ireland, was taken,
recognised, and hanged. What would Mr. Theobald Wolfe Tone have said to
such an associate in his regenerating expedition? These are thy gods, O
Israel! The other was the displeasure of the present Cameron of Lochiel,
on finding that the forty Camerons, with whom he joined the Duke of
Gordon's Northern Fencible regiment, were to be dispersed. He had
wellnigh mutinied and marched back with them. This would be a good
anecdote for Garth. 
 Personal Memoirs by P.L. Gordon, 2 vols. 8vo, Lond.
 General David Stewart of Garth, author of Sketches of the
Highlanders. 2 vols. 8vo, Edin. 1822. General Stewart died in St. Lucia
in 1829. Sir Walter said of him that no man was "more regretted, or
perhaps by a wider circle of friends and acquaintance."
August 4.—Spent the morning at Selkirk, examining people about an
assault. When I returned I found Charlotte Kerr here with a clever
little boy, Charles Scott, grandson of Charles of the Woll, and son of
William, and grand-nephew of John of Midgehope. He seems a smart boy,
and, considering that he is an only son with expectations, not too
much spoiled. General Yermoloff called with a letter from a Dr. Knox,
whom I do not know. If it be Vicesimus, we met nearly twenty-five years
ago and did not agree. But General Yermoloff's name was luckily known to
me. He is a man in the flower of life, about thirty, handsome, bold, and
enthusiastic; a great admirer of poetry, and all that. He had been in
the Moscow campaign, and those which followed, but must have been very
young. He made not the least doubt that Moscow was burned by Rostopchin,
and said that there was a general rumour before the French entered the
town, and while the inhabitants were leaving it, that persons were left
to destroy it. I asked him why the magazine of gunpowder had not been
set fire to in the first instance. He answered that he believed the
explosion of that magazine would have endangered the retreating
Russians. This seemed unsatisfactory. The march of the Russians was too
distant from Moscow to be annoyed by the circumstance. I pressed him as
well as I could about the slowness of Koutousoff's operations; and he
frankly owned that the Russians were so much rejoiced and surprised to
see the French in retreat, that it was long ere they could credit the
extent of the advantage which they had acquired. This has been but an
idle day, so far as composition is concerned, but I was detained late at
August 5.—Wrote near six pages. General Yermoloff left me with many
expressions of enthusiastic regard, as foreigners use to do. He is a
kinsman of Princess Galitzin, whom I saw at Paris. I walked with Tom
after one o'clock. Dined en famille with Miss Todd, a pretty girl, and
wrote after dinner.
August 6.—This morning finished proofs and was bang up with
everything. When I was about to sit down to write, I have the agreeable
tidings that Henderson, the fellow who committed the assault at Selkirk,
and who made his escape from the officers on Saturday, was retaken, and
that it became necessary that I should go up to examine him. Returned at
four, and found Mrs. George Swinton from Calcutta, to whose husband I
have been much obliged, with Archie and cousin Peggie Swinton, arrived.
So the evening was done up.
August 7.—Cousins still continuing, we went to Melrose. I finished,
however, in the first place, a pretty smart task, which is so far well,
as we expect the Skenes to-morrow. Lockhart arrived from London. The
news are that Canning is dangerously ill. This is the bowl being broken
at the cistern with a vengeance. If he dies now, it will be pity it was
not five months ago. The time has been enough to do much evil, but not
to do any-permanent good.
August 8.—Huntly Gordon proposed to me that I should give him my
correspondence, which we had begun to arrange last year. I resolved not
to lose the opportunity, and began to look out and arrange the letters
from about 1810, throwing out letters of business and such as are
private. They are of little consequence, generally speaking, yet will be
one day curious. I propose to have them bound up, to save trouble. It is
a sad task; how many dead, absent, estranged, and altered! I wrought
till the Skenes came at four o'clock. I love them well; yet I wish their
visit had been made last week, when other people were here. It kills
time, or rather murders it, this company-keeping. Yet what remains on
earth that I like so well as a little society? I wrote not a line
August 9.—I finished the arrangement of the letters so as to put them
into Mr. Gordon's hands. It will be a great job done. But, in the
meanwhile, it interrupts my work sadly, for I kept busy till one o'clock
to-day with this idle man's labour. Still, however, it might have been
long enough ere I got a confidential person like Gordon to arrange these
confidential papers. They are all in his hands now. Walked after one.
August 10.—This is a morning of fidgety, nervous confusion. I sought
successively my box of Bramah pens, my proof-sheets, and last, not least
anxiously, my spectacles. I am convinced I lost a full hour in these
various chases. I collected all my insubordinate movables at once, but
had scarce corrected the proof and written half-a-score of lines, than
enter Dalgleish, declaring the Blucher hour is come. The weather,
however, is rainy, and fitted for a day of pure work, but I was able
only to finish my task of three pages.
The death of the Premier is announced. Late George Canning, the witty,
the accomplished, the ambitious; he who had toiled thirty years, and
involved himself in the most harassing discussions to attain this dizzy
height; he who had held it for three months of intrigue and obloquy—and
now a heap of dust, and that is all. He was an early and familiar friend
of mine, through my intimacy with George Ellis. No man possessed a gayer
and more playful wit in society; no one, since Pitt's time, had more
commanding sarcasm in debate; in the House of Commons he was the terror
of that species of orators called the Yelpers. His lash fetched away
both skin and flesh, and would have penetrated the hide of a rhinoceros.
In his conduct as a statesman he had a great fault: he lent himself too
willingly to intrigue. Thus he got into his quarrel with Lord
Castlereagh,  and lost credit with the country for want of openness.
Thus too, he got involved with the Queen's party to such an extent that
it fettered him upon that memorable quarrel, and obliged him to butter
Sir Robert Wilson with dear friend, and gallant general, and so forth.
The last composition with the Whigs was a sacrifice of principle on both
sides. I have some reason to think they counted on getting rid of him in
two or three years. To me Canning was always personally most kind. I
saw, with pain, a great change in his health when I met him at Colonel
Bolton's at Stors in 1825. In London I thought him looking better.
 Resulting in the duel of 21st September 1809.—See
Croker's Correspondence, vol. i. p. 20; and Life, vol. iii. ch.
August 11.—Wrote nearly five pages; then walked. A visit from Henry
Scott;  nothing known as yet about politics. A high Tory
Administration would be a great evil at this time. There are repairs in
the structure of our constitution which ought to be made at this season,
and without which the people will not long be silent. A pure Whig
Administration would probably play the devil by attempting a thorough
repair. As to a compound, or melo-dramatic, Ministry, the parts out of
which such a one could be organised just now are at a terrible discount
in public estimation, nor will they be at par in a hurry again. The
public were generally shocked at the complete lack of principle
testified by public men on the late occasion, and by some who till then
had some credit with the public. The Duke of W. has risen by his
firmness on the one side, Earl Grey on the other.
 Afterwards Lord Polwarth.
August 12.—Wrote my task and no more. Walked with Lockhart from one
o'clock to four. Took in our way the Glen, which looks beautiful. I
walked with extreme pain and feebleness until we began to turn
homewards, when the relaxation of the ankle sinews seemed to be removed,
and I trode merrily home. This is strange; that exercise should restore
the nerves from the chill or numbness which is allied to palsy, I am
well aware, but how it should restore elasticity to sinews that are too
much relaxed, I for one cannot comprehend. Colonel Russell came to
dinner with us, and to consult me about some family matters. He has the
spirit of a gentleman; that is certain.
August 13.—A letter from booksellers at Brussels informs me of the
pleasant tidings that Napoleon is a total failure; that they have lost
much money on a version which they were at great expense in preparing,
and modestly propose that I should write a novel to make them amends for
loss on a speculation which I knew nothing about. "Have you nothing else
to ask?" as Sancho says to the farmer, who asks him to stock a farm for
his son, portion off his daughters, etc. etc. They state themselves to
be young booksellers; certes, they must hold me to be a very young
author! Napoleon, however, has failed on the Continent—and perhaps in
England also; for, from the mumbling, half-grumbling tone of Longman and
Co., dissatisfaction may be apprehended. Well, I can set my face to it
boldly. I live not in the public opinion, not I; but egad! I live by
it, and that is worse. Tu ne cede malis, sed contra, etc.
I corrected and transmitted sheets before breakfast; afterwards went and
cut wood with Tom, but returned about twelve in rather a melancholy
humour. I fear this failure may be followed by others; and then what
chance of extricating my affairs. But they that look to freits, freits
will follow them. Hussards en avant,—care killed a cat. I finished
three pages—that is, a full task of the Chronicles—after I returned.
Mr. and Mrs. Philips of Manchester came to dinner.
August 14.—Finished my task before breakfast. A bad rainy day, for
which I should not have cared but for my guests. However, being
good-humoured persons and gifted with taste, we got on very well, by
dint of showing prints, curiosities; finally the house up stairs and
down; and at length by undertaking a pilgrimage to Melrose in the rain,
which pilgrimage we accomplished, but never entered the Abbey Church,
having just had wetting enough to induce us, when we arrived at the
gate, to "Turn again, Whittington."
August 15.—Wrote in the morning. After breakfast walked with Mr.
Philips, who is about to build and plan himself, and therefore seemed to
enter con amore into all I had been doing, asked questions, and seemed
really interested to learn what I thought myself not ill-qualified to
teach. The little feeling of superior information in such cases is
extremely agreeable. On the contrary, it is a great scrape to find you
have been boring some one who did not care a d—— about the matter, so
to speak; and that you might have been as well employed in buttering a
whin-stone. Mr. and Mrs. Philips left us about twelve—day bad. I wrote
nearly five pages of Chronicles.
August 16.—A wet, disagreeable, sulky day, but such things may be
carried to account. I wrote upwards of seven pages, and placed myself
rectus in curia with Madam Duty, who was beginning to lift up her
throat against me. Nothing remarkable except that Huntly Gordon left
August 17.—Wrote my task in the morning. After breakfast went out and
cut wood with Tom and John Swanston, and hewed away with my own hand;
remained on foot from eleven o'clock till past three, doing, in my
opinion, a great deal of good in plantations above the house, where the
firs had been permitted to predominate too much over the oak and
hardwood. The day was rough and stormy—not the worst for working, and I
could do it with a good conscience, all being well forward in the duty
line. After tea I worked a little longer. On the whole finished four
leaves and upwards—about a printed sheet—which is enough for one day.
August 18.—Finished about five leaves, and then out to the wood,
where I chopped away among the trees, laying the foundation for future
scenery. These woods will one day occupy a great number of hands. Four
years hence they will employ ten stout woodsmen almost every day of the
year. Henry and William Scott (Harden) came to dinner.
August 19.—Wrote till about one, then walked for an hour or two by
myself entirely; finished five pages before dinner, when we had Captain
and Mrs. Hamilton and young Davidoff, who is their guest. They remained
with us all night.
August 20.—I corrected proofs and wrote one leaf before breakfast;
then went up to Selkirk to try a fellow for an assault. The people there
get rather riotous. This is a turbulent fierce fellow. Some of his
attitudes were good during the trial. This dissipated my attention for
the day, although I was back by half-past two. I did not work any more,
so am behind in my reckoning.
August 21.—Wrote four pages, then set out to make a call at
Sunderland Hall and Yair, but the old sociable broke down before we had
got past the thicket, so we trudged all back on foot, and I wrote
another page. This makes up the deficiency of yesterday.
August 22.—I wrote four or five leaves, but begin to get aground for
want of Indian localities. Colonel Ferguson's absence is unlucky, and
half-a-dozen Qui Hi's besides, willing to write chits,  eat tiffin,
and vent all their Pagan jargon when one does not want to hear it; and
now that I want a touch of their slang, lo! there is not one near me.
Mr. Adolphus, son of the celebrated counsel, and author of a work on the
Waverley Novels,  came to make me a visit. He is a modest as well
as an able man, and I am obliged to him for the delicacy with which he
treated a matter in which I was personally so much concerned. Mr. and
Mrs. Hamilton asked us to breakfast to-morrow.
 Persian chitty = a short note.
 Letters to Richard Heber, Esq., containing Critical
Remarks on the Series of Novels beginning with "Waverley," and an
Attempt to ascertain their Author. 8vo, London, 1821.
August 23.—Went to breakfast at Chiefswood, which, with a circuitous
walk, have consumed the day. Found, in the first place, my friend Allan,
the painter, busy about a picture, into which he intends introducing
living characters—a kind of revel at Abbotsford. Second, a whimsical
party, consisting of John Stevenson, the bookseller, Peter Buchan from
Peterhead, a quiz of a poetical creature, and a bookbinder, a friend of
theirs. The plan was to consult me about publishing a great quantity of
ballads which this Mr. Buchan has collected. I glanced them over. He has
been very successful, for they are obviously genuine, and many of them
very curious. Others are various editions of well-known ballads. I could
not make the man comprehend that these last were of little value, being
generally worse readings of what was already published. A small edition
published by subscription may possibly succeed. It is a great pity that
few of these ballads are historical, almost all being of the romantic
cast. They certainly ought to be preserved, after striking out one or
two which have been sophisticated, I suppose by Mr. Buchan himself,
which are easily distinguishable from the genuine ballads.  No one
but Burns ever succeeded in patching up old Scottish songs with any good
 They were published under the title Ancient Ballads and
Songs, 2 vols. 8vo, 1828.
August 24.—Corrected proofs and wrote letters in the morning. Began a
review upon Monteath's Planter for Lockhart.  Other matters at a
stand. A drive down to Mertoun, and engaged to dine there on Sunday
first. This consumed the day.
 The Forester's Guide and Profitable Planter, reviewed in
the Quarterly, Oct. 1827. See also "On Planting Waste Lands," in
Misc. Prose Works, vol. xxi. pp. 1-76.
August 25.—Mr. Adolphus left us this morning after a very agreeable
visit. We all dined at Dr. Brewster's. Met Sir John Wright, Miss Haig,
etc. Slandered our neighbours, and were good company. Major John Scott
there. I did a little more at the review to-day. But I cannot go on with
the tale without I could speak a little Hindostanee—a small seasoning
of curry-powder. Ferguson will do it if I can screw it out of him.
August 26.—Encore review. Walked from twelve till three, then drove
to Mertoun with Lockhart and Allan. Dined en famille, and home by
half-past ten. We thought of adding a third volume to the Chronicles,
but Gibson is afraid it would give grounds for a pretext to seize this
work on the part of Constable's creditors, who seem determined to take
any advantage of me, but they can only show their teeth I trust; though
I wish the arbitration was ended.
August 27.—Sent off proofs in morning, revised in afternoon. Walked
from one till four. What a life of uniformity! Yet I never wish to
change it. I even regret I must go to town to meet Lady Compton  next
 Daughter of Mrs. Maclean Clephane, and afterwards
Marchioness of Northampton.
A singular letter from a lady, requesting I would father a novel of
hers. That won't pass. 
 Scott's indorsation of this letter is
characteristic—"Prodigious, bold request, Tom Thumb."
Cadell writes me, transmitting a notice from the French papers that
Gourgaud has gone, or is going, to London to verify the facts alleged in
my history of Napoleon, and the bibliopolist is in a great funk. I lack
some part of his instinct. I have done Gourgaud no wrong: every word
imputed to him exists in the papers submitted to me as historical
documents , and I should have been a shameful coward if I had shunned
using them. At my years it is somewhat late for an affair of honour, and
as a reasonable man I would avoid such an arbitrament, but will not
plead privilege of literature. The country shall not be disgraced in my
person, and having stated why I think I owe him no satisfaction, I will
at the same time most willingly give it to him.
"Il sera reçu,
A la façon de Barbaru,
 Among the documents laid before Scott in the Colonial
Office, when he was in London at the close of 1826, "were some which
represented one of Bonaparte's attendants at St. Helena, General
Gourgaud, as having been guilty of gross unfairness, giving the English
Government private information that the Emperor's complaints of
ill-usage were utterly unfounded, and yet then and afterwards aiding and
assisting the delusion in France as to the harshness of Sir Hudson
Lowe's conduct towards his captive. Sir Walter, when using these
remarkable documents, guessed that Gourgaud might be inclined to fix a
personal quarrel on himself; and there now appeared in the newspapers a
succession of hints that the General was seriously bent on this purpose.
He applied as Colonel Grogg would have done forty years before to The
Baronet" [W. Clerk].—Life, vol. ix. pp. 142-3.
A short time previously Gourgaud had had a quarrel with Count Ségur
regarding the latter's History of the Russian Campaign, to which he
wrote a reply in 1825, and then fought a duel with the author in support
of his allegations. In Scott's case, however, it came to nothing beyond
a paper war, which Sir Walter declined to prolong, leaving the question
to be decided by the general public. It is due to Gourgaud to state that
on two occasions he saved Napoleon's life, though his subsequent
information to the British Government did not tend to increase his
popularity with the Bonapartists. He died at Paris in his sixty-ninth
year on July 25th, 1852.
I have written to Will Clerk to stand my friend if necessary. He has
mettle in him, and thinks of my honour as well as my safety.
August 28.—I am still bothering with the review, but gave Lockhart
fifteen leaves, which is something. Learned with regret that Williams
leaves his situation of Rector of the New Academy. It is a shot in the
wing of the institution; for he is a heaven-born teacher. Walked at two
till four along the thicket, and by the river-side, where I go seldom; I
can't say why, unless that the walk is less private than those more
distant. Lockhart, Allan, and I, talk of an excursion to Kelso
to-morrow. I have no friends there now. Yet once how many!
August 29.—Went on our little expedition, breakfasting at Mertoun.
Called at Fleurs, where we found Sir John S. and his whole family. The
great lady received us well, though we had been very remiss in our duty.
From that we went to Kelso, where I saw not a soul to acknowledge former
acquaintance. How should I, when my residence there was before 1783, I
fancy? The little cottage in which I lived with poor Aunt Jenny is
still standing, but the great garden is divided betwixt three
proprietors. Its huge platanus tree withered, I was told, in the same
season which was fatal to so many of the species. It was cut down. The
yew-hedges, labyrinths, wildernesses, and other marks that it had once
been the abode of one of the Millers connected with the author of the
Gardener's Dictionary (they were a Quaker family), are all
obliterated, and the place is as common and vulgar as may be. The lady
the cottage belongs to was very civil. Allan, as a man of taste, was
much delighted with what he saw. When we returned, we found our party at
home increased by Lady Anna Maria Elliot, who had been showing Melrose
to two friends, Miss Drinkwaters. Lady M.'s wit and good-humour made the
evening go pleasantly off. There were also two friends of Charles's, by
name Paley (a nephew of the archdeacon) and Ashworth. They seem nice
young men, with modesty and good-breeding. I am glad, as my mother used
to say, that his friends are so presentable. Moreover, there came my
old, right trusty, and well-beloved friend, John Richardson, so we were
a full party. Lady Anna Maria returned in the evening. Francis Scott
also dined with us.
 Life, vol. i. pp. 47, 155-156.
August 30.—Disposed of my party as I best might, and worked at my
review. Walked out at one, and remained till near five. Mr. Scott of
Harden and David Thomson, W.S., dined with us. Walked with Mr. Allan
through Haxel Cleugh.
August 31.—Went on with my review; but I have got Sir Henry's
original pamphlet,  which is very cleverly written. I find I cannot
touch on his mode of transplantation at all in this article. It involves
many questions, and some of importance, so I will make another article
for January. Walked up the Rhymer's Glen with John Richardson. 
 The Planters' Guide, by Sir Henry Seton Steuart.
 In the North British Review, No. 82, there is an
extremely interesting sketch of this learned Peerage lawyer. He died in
his 85th year, in 1864, at his country seat, Kirklands in Roxburghshire,
which he had purchased by Sir Walter's advice.
The following amusing narrative of what took place on Tweedside when
these two old friends were in their prime is given in Mr. Richardson's
"On a beautiful morning in September 1810 I started with Sir Walter from
Ashiestiel. We began nearly under the ruins of Elibank, and in sight of
the 'Hanging Tree.' I only had a rod, but Sir Walter walked by my side,
now quoting Izaak Walton, as, 'Fish me this stream by inches,' and now
delighting me with a profusion of Border stories. After the capture of
numerous fine trout, I hooked something greater and unseen, which
powerfully ran out my line. Sir Walter got into a state of great
excitement, exclaiming, 'It's a fish! It's a fish! Hold up your rod!
Give him line!' and so on. The rod, which belonged to one of his boys,
broke, and put us both into great alarm; but I contrived, by ascending
the steep bank and holding down the rod, still to give play to the reel,
till, after a good quarter of an hour's struggle, a trout, for so it
turned out to be, was conducted round a little peninsula. Sir Walter
jumped into the water, seized him, and threw him out on the grass. Tom
Purdie came up a little time after, and was certainly rather discomposed
at my success. 'It will be some sea brute,' he observed; but he became
satisfied that it was a fine river-trout, and such as, he afterwards
admitted, had not been killed in Tweed for twenty years; and when I
moved down the water, he went, as Sir Walter afterwards observed, and
gave it a kick on the head, exclaiming, 'To be ta'en by the like o' him