December 1.—This morning again I was idle. But I must work, and so I
will to-morrow whether the missing sheets arrive, ay or no, by goles!
After Court I went with Lord Wriothesley Russell,  to Dalkeith House,
to see the pictures; Charles K. Sharpe alongst with us. We satisfied
ourselves that they have actually frames, and that, I think, was all we
could be sure of. Lord Wriothesley, who is a very pleasant young man,
well-informed, and with some turn for humour, dined with us, and Mr.
Davidoff met him. The Misses Kerr also dined and spent the evening with
us in that sort of society which I like best. Charles Sharpe came in and
we laughed over oysters and sherry,
"And a fig for your Sultan and Sophi."
 The Duchess of Bedford's eldest son.
December 2.—Laboured to make lee-way, and finished nearly seven pages
to eke on to the end of the missing sheets when returned. I have yoked
Charles to Monsieur Surenne, an old soldier in Napoleon's Italian army,
and I think a clever little fellow, with good general ideas of
etymology. Signor Bugnie is a good Italian teacher; and for a German,
why, I must look about. It is not the least useful language of the
December 3.—A day of petty business, which killed a holiday. Finished
my tale of the Mirror;  went with Tom Allan to see his building at
Lauriston, where he has displayed good taste—supporting instead of
tearing down or destroying the old chateau, which once belonged to the
famous Mississippi Law. The additions are in very good taste, and will
make a most comfortable house. Mr. Burn, architect, would fain have had
the old house pulled down, which I wonder at in him,  though it would
have been the practice of most of his brethren. When I came up to town I
was just in time for the Bannatyne Club, where things are going on
reasonably well. I hope we may get out some good historical documents in
the course of the winter. Dined at the Royal Society Club. At the
society had some essays upon the specific weight of the ore of
manganese, which was caviare to the President, and I think most of the
members. But it seemed extremely accurate, and I have little doubt was
intelligible to those who had the requisite key. We supped at Mr.
Russell's, where the conversation was as gay as usual. Lieut-Col.
Ferguson was my guest at the dinner.
 My Aunt Margaret's Mirror.
December 4.—Had the agreeable intelligence that Lord Newton had
finally issued his decree in my favour, for all the money in the bank,
amounting to £32,000. This will make a dividend of six shillings in the
pound, which is presently to be paid. A meeting of the creditors was
held to-day, at which they gave unanimous approbation of all that has
been done, and seemed struck by the exertions which had produced £22,000
within so short a space. They all separated well pleased. So far so
good. Heaven grant the talisman break not! I sent copy to Ballantyne
this morning, having got back the missing sheets from John Lockhart last
night. I feel a little puzzled about the character and style of the next
tale. The world has had so much of chivalry. Well, I will dine merrily,
and thank God, and bid care rest till to-morrow. How suddenly things are
overcast, and how suddenly the sun can break out again! On the 31st
October I was dreaming as little of such a thing as at present, when
behold there came tidings which threatened a total interruption of the
amicable settlement of my affairs, and menaced my own personal liberty.
In less than a month we are enabled to turn chase on my persecutors, who
seem in a fair way of losing their recourse upon us. Non nobis,
 Sir Walter need have expressed no surprise at this
architect's desire to pull down the old house of Lauriston! The present
generation can judge of Mr. Burn's appreciation of ancient Architecture
by looking at the outside of St. Giles, Edinburgh.—It was given over to
his tender mercies in 1829, a picturesque old building, and it left his
hands in 1834 a bit of solid well-jointed mason-work with all Andrew
Fairservice's "whigmaleeries, curliewurlies, and open steek hems" most
thoroughly removed!—Rob Roy, vol. viii. pp. 29-30. Fortunately the
tower and crown were untouched, and the interior, which was injured in a
less degree, has, through the liberality and good taste of the late
William Chambers, been restored to its original stateliness.
December 5.—I did a good deal in the way of preparing my new tale,
and resolved to make something out of the story of Harry Wynd. The North
Inch of Perth would be no bad name, and it may be possible to make a
difference betwixt the old Highlander and him of modern date. The fellow
that swam the Tay, and escaped, would be a good ludicrous character. But
I have a mind to try him in the serious line of tragedy. Miss Baillie
has made the Ethling  a coward by temperament, and a hero when
touched by filial affection. Suppose a man's nerves supported by
feelings of honour, or say by the spur of jealousy supporting him
against constitutional timidity to a certain point, then suddenly giving
way,—I think something tragic might be produced. James Ballantyne's
criticism is too much moulded upon the general taste of novels to admit,
I fear, this species of reasoning. But what can one do? I am hard up as
far as imagination is concerned, yet the world calls for novelty. Well,
I'll try my brave coward or cowardly brave man. Valeat quantum. Being
a teind day, remained at home, adjusting my ideas on this point until
one o'clock, then walked as far as Mr. Cadell's. Finally, went to dine
at Hawkhill with Lord and Lady Binning. Party were Lord
Chief-Commissioner, Lord Chief-Baron, Solicitor, John Wilson, Lord
Corehouse. The night was so dark and stormy that I was glad when we got
upon the paved streets.
 See Ethwald, Plays on the Passions, vol. ii., Lond.
December 6.—Corrected proofs and went to Court. Bad news of Ahab's
case. I hope he won't beat us after all. It would be mortifying to have
them paid in full, as they must be while better men must lie by. Spero
I think that copy of Beard's Judgments is the first book which I have
voluntarily purchased for nearly two years. So I am cured of one folly
at least. 
 Alluding to an entry in the Journal, that he had
expended 30s. in the purchase of the Theatre of God's Judgment, 1612,
a book which is still in the Abbotsford Library.
December 7.—Being a blank day in the rolls, I stayed at home and
wrote four leaves—not very freely or happily; I was not in the vein.
Plague on it! Stayed at home the whole day. There is one thing I believe
peculiar to me—I work, that is, meditate for the purpose of working,
best, when I have a quasi engagement with some other book for example.
When I find myself doing ill, or like to come to a stand-still in
writing, I take up some slight book, a novel or the like, and usually
have not read far ere my difficulties are removed, and I am ready to
write again. There must be two currents of ideas going on in my mind at
the same time,  or perhaps the slighter occupation serves like a
woman's wheel or stocking to ballast the mind, as it were, by preventing
the thoughts from wandering, and so give the deeper current the power to
flow undisturbed. I always laugh when I hear people say, Do one thing at
once. I have done a dozen things at once all my life. Dined with the
family. After dinner Lockhart's proofs came in and occupied me for the
evening. I wish I have not made that article too long, and Lockhart will
not snip away.
 See note to May 30, 1827, vol. i. p. 398.
December 8.—Went to Court and stayed there a good while. Made some
consultations in the Advocates' Library, not furiously to the purpose.
Court in the morning. Sent off Lockhart's proof, which I hope will do
him some good. A precatory letter from Gillies. I must do Molière for
him, I suppose; but it is wonderful that knowing the situation I am in,
the poor fellow presses so hard. Sure, I am pulling for life, and it is
hard to ask me to pull another man's oar as well as my own. Yet, if I
can give a little help,
"We'll get a blessing wi' the lave,
And never miss 't." 
 Burns's lines To a Mouse.
Went to John Murray's, where were Sir John Dalrymple and Lady, Sir John
Cayley, Mr. Hope Vere, and Lady Elizabeth Vere, a sister of the Marquis
of Tweeddale, and a pleasant sensible woman. Some turn for antiquity too
she shows—and spoke a good deal of the pictures at Yester. Henderland
was there too. Mrs. John Murray made some very agreeable music.
December 9.—I set hard to work, and had a long day with my new tale.
I did about twelve leaves. Cadell came in, and we talked upon the great
project of buying in the copyrights. He is disposed to finesse a
little about it, but I do not think it will do much good; all the fine
arguments will fly off and people just bid or not bid as the report of
the trade may represent the speculation as a good or bad one. I daresay
they will reach £7000; but £8000 won't stop us, and that for books
over-printed so lately and to such an extent is a pro-di-gi-ous price!
December 10.—I corrected proofs and forwarded copy. Went out for an
hour to Lady J.S. Home and dozed a little, half stupefied with a cold in
my head—made up this Journal, however. Settled I would go to Abbotsford
on the 24th from Arniston. Before that time I trust the business of the
copyrights will be finally settled. If they can be had on anything like
fair terms, they will give the greatest chance I can see of extricating
my affairs. Cadell seems to be quite confident in the advantage of
making the purchase upon almost any terms, and truly I am of his
opinion. If they get out of Scotland it will not be all I can do that
will enable me to write myself a free man during the space I have to
remain in this world.
I smoked a couple of cigars for the first time since I came from the
country; and as Anne and Charles went to the play, I muddled away the
evening over my Sheriff-Court processes, and despatched a hugeous parcel
to Will Scott at Selkirk. It is always something off hand.
December 11.—Wrote a little, and seemed to myself to get on. I went
also to Court. On return, had a formal communication from Ballantyne,
enclosing a letter from Cadell of an unpleasant tenor. It seems Mr.
Cadell is dissatisfied with the moderate success of the First Series of
Chronicles;  and disapproves of about half the volume already
written of the Second Series, obviously rueing his engagement. I have
replied that I was not fool enough to suppose that my favour with the
public could last for ever, and was neither shocked nor alarmed to find
that it had ceased now, as cease it must one day soon; it might he
inconvenient for me in some respects, but I would be quite contented to
resign the bargain rather than that more loss should be incurred. I saw,
I told them, no other receipt than lying lea for a little, while taking
a fallow-break to relieve my imagination, which may be esteemed nearly
cropped out. I can make shift for myself amid this failure of prospects;
but I think both Cadell and J.B. will be probable sufferers. However,
they are very right to speak their mind, and may be esteemed tolerably
good representatives of the popular taste. So I really think their
censure may be a good reason for laying aside this work, though I may
preserve some part of it till another day.
 Ante, p. 60. The book had only been published two
months. "The Second Series," when published in the following year,
contained St. Valentine's Eve, or the Fair Maid of Perth; the two
stories objected to, viz.: My Aunt Margaret's Mirror and the Laird's
Jock appeared in the Keepsake of 1828, and were afterwards included
in vol. xli. of the Magnum Opus.
December 12.—Reconsidered the probable downfall of my literary
reputation. I am so constitutionally indifferent to the censure or
praise of the world, that never having abandoned myself to the feelings
of self-conceit which my great success was calculated to inspire, I can
look with the most unshaken firmness upon the event as far as my own
feelings are concerned. If there be any great advantage in literary
reputation, I have had it, and I certainly do not care for losing it.
They cannot say but what I had the crown. It is unhappily
inconvenient for my affairs to lay by my [work] just now, and that is
the only reason why I do not give up literary labour; but, at least, I
will not push the losing game of novel-writing. I will take back the
sheets now objected to, but it cannot be expected that I am to write
upon return. I cannot but think that a little thought will open some
plan of composition which may promise novelty at the least. I suppose I
shall hear from or see these gentlemen to-day; if not, I must send for
them to-morrow. How will this affect the plan of going shares with
Cadell in the novels of earlier and happier date? Very-much, I doubt,
seeing I cannot lay down the cash. But surely the trustees may find some
mode of providing this, or else with cash to secure these copyrights. At
any rate, I will gain a little time for thought and discussion.
Went to Court. At returning settled with Chief-Commissioner that I
should receive him on 26th December at Abbotsford.
After all, may there not be, in this failure to please, some reliques of
the very unfavourable matters in which I have been engaged of late,—the
threat of imprisonment, the resolution to become insolvent? I cannot
feel that there is. What I suffer by is the difficulty of not setting my
foot upon such ground as I have trod before, and thus instead of
attaining novelty I lose spirit and nature. On the other hand, who
would 'thank me for "repented sheets"? Here is a good joke enough, lost
to all who have not known the Clerk's table before the Jurisdiction Act.
My two learned Thebans are arrived, and departed after a long
consultation. They deprecated a fallow-break as ruin. I set before them
my own sense of the difficulties and risks in which I must be involved
by perseverance, and showed them I could occupy my own time as well for
six months or a twelvemonth, and let the public gather an appetite. They
replied (and therein was some risk) that the expectation would in that
case be so much augmented that it would be impossible for any mortal to
gratify it. To this is to be added what they did not touch upon—the
risk of being thrust aside altogether, which is the case with the horses
that neglect keeping the lead when once they have got it. Finally, we
resolved the present work should go on, leaving out some parts of the
Introduction which they object to. They are good specimens of the public
taste in general; and it is far best to indulge and yield to them,
unless I was very, very certain that I was right and they wrong.
Besides, I am not afraid of their being hypercritical in the
circumstances, being both sensible men, and not inclined to sacrifice
chance of solid profit to the vagaries of critical taste. So the word is
"as you were."
December 13.—A letter from Lockhart announcing that Murray of
Albemarle Street would willingly give me my own terms for a volume on
the subject of planting and landscape gardening. This will amuse me very
much indeed. Another proposal invites me, on the part of Colburn, to
take charge of the Garrick papers. The papers are to be edited by
Colman, and then it is proposed to me to write a life of Garrick in
quarto.  Lockhart refused a thousand pounds which were offered, and
carte blanche was then sent. But I will not budge. My book and
Colman's would run each other down. It is an attempt to get more from
the public out of the subject than they will endure. Besides, my name
would be only useful in the way of puff, for I really know nothing of
the subject. So I will refuse; that's flat.
 The Garrick papers were published under the title Private
Correspondence, of David Garrick, illustrated with notes and Memoir. 2
vols. 4to, London, 1831-32. [Edited by James Boaden.]
Having turned over my thoughts with some anxiety about the important
subject of yesterday, I think we have done for the best. If I can rally
this time, as I did in the Crusaders, why, there is the old trade open
yet. If not, retirement will come gracefully after my failure. I must
get the return of the sales of the three or four last novels so as to
judge what style of composition has best answered. Add to this, giving
up just now loses £4000 to the trustees, which they would not
understand, whatever may be my nice authorial feelings. And moreover, it
ensures the purchase of the copyrights—i.e. almost ensures them.
December 14.—Summoned to pay arrears of our unhappy Oil Gas
concern—£140—which I performed by draft on Mr. Cadell. This will pinch
a little close, but it is a debt of honour, and must be paid. The public
will never bear a public man who shuns either to draw his purse or his
sword when there is an open and honest demand on him.
December 15.—Worked in the morning on the sheets which are to be
cancelled, and on the Tale of St. Valentine's Eve—a good title, by
the way. Had the usual quantum sufficit of the Court, which, if it did
not dissipate one's attention so much, is rather an amusement than
otherwise. But the plague is to fix one's attention to the sticking
point, after it has been squandered about for two or three hours in such
a way. It keeps one, however, in the course and stream of actual life,
which is a great advantage to a literary man.
I missed an appointment, for which I am very sorry. It was about our
Advocates' Library, which is to be rebuilt. During all my life we have
mismanaged the large funds expended on the rooms of our library,
totally mistaking the objects for which a library is built; and instead
of taking a general and steady view of the subject, patching up
disconnected and ill-sized rooms, totally unequal to answer the
accommodation demanded, and bestowing an absurd degree of ornament and
finery upon the internal finishing. All this should be reversed: the new
library should be calculated upon a plan which ought to suffice for all
the nineteenth century at least, and for that purpose should admit of
being executed progressively; then there should be no ornament other
than that of strict architectural proportion, and the rooms should be
accessible one through another, but divided with so many partitions, as
to give ample room for shelves. These small rooms would also facilitate
the purposes of study. Something of a lounging room would not be amiss,
which might serve for meetings of Faculty occasionally. I ought to take
some interest in all this, and I do. So I will attend the next meeting
of committee. Dined at Baron Hume's, and met General Campbell of
Lochnell, and his lady.
December 16.—Worked hard to-day and only took a half hour's walk with
Hector Macdonald! Colin Mackenzie unwell; his asthma seems rather to
increase, notwithstanding his foreign trip! Alas! long-seated complaints
defy Italian climate. We had a small party to dinner. Captain and Mrs.
Hamilton, Davidoff, Frank Scott, Harden, and his chum Charles Baillie,
second son of Mellerstain, who seems a clever young man.  Two or
three of the party stayed to take wine and water.
 Afterwards Judge in the Court of Session under the title
of Lord Jerviswoode.
December 17.—Sent off the beginning of the Chronicles to
Ballantyne. I hate cancels; they are a double labour.
Mr. Cowan, Trustee for Constable's creditors, called in the morning by
appointment, and we talked about the upset price of the copyrights of
Waverley, etc. I frankly told him that I was so much concerned that
they should remain more or less under my control, that I was willing,
with the advice of my trustees, to offer a larger upset than that of
£4750, which had been fixed, and that I proposed the price set up should
be £250 for the poetry, Paul's letters, etc., and £5250 for the novels,
in all £5500; but that I made this proposal under the condition, that in
case no bidding should ensue, then the copyrights should be mine so soon
as the sale was adjourned, without any one being permitted to bid after
the sale. It is to be hoped this high upset price will
"Fright the fuds
Of the pock-puds."
This speculation may be for good or for evil, but it tends incalculably
to increase the value of such copyrights as remain in my own person;
and, if a handsome and cheap edition of the whole, with notes, can be
instituted in conformity with Cadell's plan, it must prove a mine of
wealth, three-fourths of which will belong to me or my creditors. It is
possible, no doubt, that the works may lose their effect on the public
mind; but this must be risked, and I think the chances are greatly in
our favour. Death (my own I mean) would improve the property, since an
edition with a Life would sell like wildfire. Perhaps those who read
this prophecy may shake their heads and say, "Poor fellow, he little
thought how he should see the public interest in him and his
extinguished even during his natural existence." It may be so, but I
will hope better. This I know, that no literary speculation ever
succeeded with me but where my own works were concerned; and that, on
the other hand, these have rarely failed. And so—Vogue la galère!
Dined with the Lord Chief-Commissioner, and met Lord and Lady Binning,
Lord and Lady Abercromby, Sir Robert O'Callaghan, etc. These dinners put
off time well enough, and I write so painfully by candle-light that they
do not greatly interfere with business.
December 18.—Poor Huntly Gordon writes me in despair about £180 of
debt which he has incurred. He wishes to publish two sermons which I
wrote for him when he was taking orders; but he would get little money
for them without my name, and that is at present out of the question.
People would cry out against the undesired and unwelcome zeal of him who
stretched out his hands to help the ark with the best intentions, and
cry sacrilege. And yet they would do me gross injustice, for I would, if
called upon, die a martyr for the Christian religion, so completely is
(in my poor opinion) its divine origin proved by its beneficial effects
on the state of society. Were we but to name the abolition of slavery
and of polygamy, how much has in these two words been granted to mankind
by the lessons of our Saviour! 
 A few days later, however, the following reply was
sent:—"Dear Gordon,—As I have no money to spare at present, I find it
necessary to make a sacrifice of my own scruples to relieve you from
serious difficulties. The enclosed will entitle you to deal with any
respectable bookseller. You must tell the history in your own way as
shortly as possible. All that is necessary to say is that the discourses
were written to oblige a young friend. It is understood my name is not
to be put in the title-page, or blazed at full length in the preface.
You may trust that to the newspapers.
December 19.—Wrought upon an introduction to the notices which have
been recovered of George Bannatyne,  author, or rather transcriber,
of the famous Repository of Scottish Poetry, generally known by the
Bannatyne MS. They are very jejune these same notices—a mere record
of matters of business, putting forth and calling in of sums of money,
and such like. Yet it is a satisfaction to learn that this great
benefactor to the literature of Scotland lived a prosperous life, and
enjoyed the pleasures of domestic society, and, in a time peculiarly
perilous, lived unmolested and died in quiet.
"Pray do not think of returning any thanks about this; it is enough that
I know it is likely to serve your purpose. But use the funds arising
from this unexpected source with prudence, for such fountains do not
spring up at every place of the desert. I am, in haste, ever yours most
truly, Walter Scott"—Life, vol. ix. p. 205.
 Issued in 1829 as No. 33 of the Bannatyne Club Books.
Memorials of George Bannatyne, 1545-1608, with Memoir by Sir Walter
At eleven o'clock I had an appointment with a person unknown. A youth
had written me, demanding an audience. I excused myself by alleging the
want of leisure, and my dislike to communicate with a person perfectly
unknown on unknown business. The application was renewed, and with an
ardour which left me no alternative, so I named eleven this day. I am
too much accustomed to the usual cant of the followers of the muses who
endeavour by flattery to make their bad stale butter make amends for
their stinking fish. I am pretty well acquainted with that sort of
thing. I have had madmen on my hands too, and once nearly was Kotzebued
by a lad of the name of Sharpe. All this gave me some curiosity, but it
was lost in attending to the task I was engaged in; when the door opened
and in walked a young woman of middling rank and rather good address,
but something resembling our secretary David Laing, if dressed in female
habiliments. There was the awkwardness of a moment in endeavouring to
make me understand that she was the visitor to whom I had given the
assignation. Then there were a few tears and sighs. "I fear, Madam, this
relates to some tale of great distress." "By no means, sir;" and her
countenance cleared up. Still there was a pause; at last she asked if it
were possible for her to see the king. I apprehended then that she was a
little mad, and proceeded to assure her that the king's secretary
received all such applications as were made to his Majesty, and disposed
of them. Then came the mystery. She wished to relieve herself from a
state of bondage, and to be rendered capable of maintaining herself by
acquiring knowledge. I inquired what were her immediate circumstances,
and found she resided with an uncle and aunt. Not thinking the case
without hope, I preached the old doctrine of patience and resignation, I
suppose with the usual effect.
Went to the Bannatyne Club; and on the way met Cadell out of breath,
coming to say he had bought the copyrights after a smart contention. Of
this to-morrow. There was little to do at the club.
Afterwards dined with Lord and Lady Abercromby, where I met my old and
kind friend, Major Buchanan of Cambusmore. His father was one of those
from whom I gained much information about the old Highlanders, and at
whose house I spent many merry days in my youth.  The last time I saw
old Cambusmore was in——. He sat up an hour later on the occasion,
though then eighty-five. I shall never forget him, and was delighted to
see the Major, who comes seldom to town.
 It was thus that the scenery of Loch Katrine came to be so
associated with the recollection of many a dear friend and merry
expedition of former days, that to compose the Lady of the Lake was a
labour of love, and no less so to recall the manners and incidents
introduced.—Life, vol. i. p. 296.
December 20.—Anent the copyrights—the pock-puds were not frightened
by our high price. They came on briskly, four or five bidders abreast,
and went on till the lot was knocked down to Cadell at £8400; a very
large sum certainly, yet he has been offered profit on it already. For
my part I think the loss would have been very great had we suffered
these copyrights to go from those which we possessed. They would have
been instantly stereotyped and forced on the market to bring home the
price, and by this means depreciated for ever, and all ours must have
shared the same fate. Whereas, husbanded and brought out with care, they
cannot fail to draw in the others in the same series, and thus to be a
sure and respectable source of profit. Considered in this point of view,
even if they were worth only the £8400 to others, they were £10,000 to
us. The largeness of the price arising from the activity of the contest
only serves to show the value of the property.  Had at the same time
the agreeable intelligence that the octavo sets, which were bought by
Hurst and Company at a depreciated rate, are now rising in the market,
and that instead of 1500 sold, they have sold upwards of 2000 copies.
This mass will therefore in all probability be worn away in a few months
and then our operations may commence. On the whole, I am greatly pleased
with the acquisition. If this first series be worth £8400, the remaining
books must be worth £10,000, and then there is Napoleon, which is
gliding away daily, for which I would not take the same sum, which would
come to £24,200 in all for copyrights; besides £20,000 payable by
insurance.  Add the value of my books and furniture, plate, etc.,
there would be £50,000. So this may be considered my present progress.
There will still remain upwards of £35,000.
"Heaven's arm strike with us—'tis a fearful odds." 
 See note, Jan. 8, 1828, pp. 107-8.
Yet with health and continued popularity there are chances in my favour.
 On his own life.
 See Henry V., Act IV. Sc. 3.
Dine at James Ballantyne's, and happy man is he at the result of the
sale; indeed it must have been the making or marring of him. Sir Henry
Steuart there, who "fooled me to the top of my bent."
December 21.—A very sweet pretty-looking young lady, the Prima Donna
of the Italian Opera, now performing here, by name Miss Ayton,  came
to breakfast this morning, with her father, (a bore, after the manner of
all fathers, mothers, aunts, and other chaperons of pretty actresses)!
Miss Ayton talks very prettily, and, I dare say, sings beautifully,
though too much in the Italian manner, I fear, to be a great favourite
of mine. But I did not hear her, being called away by the Clerk's coach.
I am like Jeremy in Love for Love —have a reasonable good ear for
a jig, but your solos and sonatas give me the spleen.
 The Edinburgh play-bills of the day intimate the "Second
appearance of Miss Fanny Ayton, Prima Donna of the King's Theatre."
Called at Cadell's, who is still enamoured of his bargain, and with
good reason, as the London booksellers were offering him £1000 or £2000
to give it up to them. He also ascertained that all the copies with
which Hurst and Robinson loaded the market would be off in a half year.
Make us thankful! the weather is clearing to windward. Cadell is
cautious, steady, and hears good counsel; and Gibson quite inclined,
were I too confident, to keep a good look-out ahead.
 By Congreve—Act II. Sc. 7.
December 22.—Public affairs look awkward. The present Ministry are
neither Whig nor Tory, and, divested of the support of either of the
great parties of the State, stand supported by the will of the sovereign
alone. This is not constitutional, and though it may be a temporary
augmentation of the sovereign's personal influence, yet it cannot but
prove hurtful to the Crown upon the whole, by tending to throw that
responsibility on the Sovereign of which the law has deprived him. I
pray to God I may be wrong, but an attempt to govern par bascule—by
trimming betwixt the opposite parties—is equally unsafe for the crown
and detrimental to the country, and cannot do for a long time. The fact
seems to be that Lord Goderich, a well-meaning and timid man, finds
himself on a precipice—that his head is grown dizzy and he endeavours
to cling to the person next him. This person is Lord Lansdowne, who he
hopes may support him in the House of Lords against Lord Grey, so he
proposes to bring Lord Lansdowne into the Cabinet. Lord G. resigns, and
his resignation is accepted. Lord Harrowby is then asked to place
himself at the head of a new Administration,—declines. The tried
abilities of Marquis Wellesley are next applied to; it seems he also
declines, and then Lord Goderich comes back, his point about Lord
Lansdowne having failed, and his threatened resignation goes for
nothing. This must lower the Premier in the eyes of every one. It is
plain the K. will not accept the Whigs; it is equally plain that he has
not made a move towards the Tories, and that with a neutral
administration, this country, hard ruled at anytime, can he long
governed, I, for one, cannot believe. God send the good King, to whom I
owe so much, as safe and honourable extrication as the circumstances
render possible. 
 The dissolution of the Goderich Cabinet confirmed very
soon these shrewd guesses; and Sir Walter anticipated nothing but good
from the Premiership of the Duke of Wellington.—Life, vol. ix. p.
After Court Anne set out for Abbotsford with the Miss Kerrs. I came off
at three o'clock to Arniston, where I found Lord Register and lady, R.
Dundas and lady, Robt. Adam Dundas, Durham of Calderwood and lady, old
and young friends. Charles came with me.
December 23.—Went to church to Borthwick with the family, and heard a
well-composed, well-delivered, sensible discourse from Mr. Wright, 
the clergyman—a different sort of person, I wot, from my old half-mad,
half-drunken, little hump-back acquaintance Clunie,  renowned for
singing "The Auld Man's Mear's dead," and from the circumstance of his
being once interrupted in his minstrelsy by the information that his own
horse had died in the stable.
 The Rev. Thomas Wright was minister of Borthwick from
1817 to 1841, when he was deposed on the ground of alleged heresy. His
works, The True Plan of a Living Temple, Morning and Evening
Sacrifice, Farewell to Time, My Old House, etc., were published
anonymously. Mr. Wright lived in Edinburgh for fourteen years after his
deposition, much beloved and respected; he died on 13th March 1855 in
his seventy-first year.
After sermon we looked at the old castle, which made me an old man. The
castle was not a bit older for the twenty-five years which had passed
away, but the ruins of the visitor were very apparent; to climb up round
staircases, to creep through vaults and into dungeons, were not the
easy labours but the positive sports of my younger years; but that time
is gone by, and I thought it convenient to attempt no more than the
access to the large and beautiful hall in which, as it is somewhere
described, an armed horseman might brandish his lance. The feeling of
growing and increasing inability is painful to one like me, who boasted,
in spite of my infirmity, great boldness and dexterity in such feats;
the boldness remains, but hand and foot, grip and accuracy of step, have
altogether failed me; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and
so I must retreat into the invalided corps and tell them of my former
exploits, which may very likely pass for lies. We drove to Dalhousie
Castle, where the gallant Earl, who had done so much to distinguish the
British name in all and every quarter of the globe, is repairing the
castle of his ancestors, which of yore stood a siege against John of
Gaunt. I was Lord Dalhousie's companion at school, where he was as much
beloved by his companions as he has been ever respected by his
companions-in-arms, and the people over whom he has been deputed to
exercise the authority of his sovereign. He was always steady, wise, and
generous. The old Castle of Dalhousie—potius Dalwolsey—was mangled
by a fellow called, I believe, Douglas, who destroyed, as far as in him
lay, its military and baronial character, and roofed it after the
fashion of a poor-house. The architect, Burn, is now restoring and
repairing in the old taste, and I think creditably to his own feeling.
God bless the roof-tree!
 Rev. John Clunie, Mr. Wright's predecessor in the parish,
of whom, many absurd stories were told, appears to have been an
enthusiastic lover of Scottish songs, as Burns in 1794 says it was owing
to his singing Ca' the yowes to the knowes so charmingly that he took
it down from his voice, and sent it to Mr. Thomson.—Currie's Burns,
vol. iv. p. 100, and Chambers's Scottish Songs, 2 vols. Edin. 1829, p.
We returned home through the Temple banks by the side of the South Esk,
where I had the pleasure to see that Robert Dundas is laying out his
woods with taste, and managing them with care. His father and uncle took
notice of me when I was a "fellow of no mark or likelihood," and I am
always happy in finding myself in the old oak room at Arniston, where I
have drunk many a merry bottle, and in the fields where I have seen many
a hare killed.
December 24.—Left Arniston after breakfast and arrived to dinner at
My reflections on entering my own gate were of a very different and more
pleasing cast than those with which I left my house about six weeks ago.
I was then in doubt whether I should fly my country or become avowedly
bankrupt, and surrender my library and household furniture, with the
liferent of my estate, to sale. A man of the world will say I had better
done so. No doubt had I taken this course at once, I might have employed
the £25,000 which I made since the insolvency of Constable and
Robinson's houses in compounding my debts. But I could not have slept
sound as I now can, under the comfortable impression of receiving the
thanks of my creditors and the conscious feeling of discharging my duty
like a man of honour and honesty. I see before me a long tedious and
dark path, but it leads to true fame and stainless reputation. If I die
in the harrows, as is very likely, I shall die with honour; if I achieve
my task I shall have the thanks of all concerned, and the approbation of
my own conscience. And so I think I can fairly face the return of
December 25.—- I drove over to Huntly Burn, and saw the plantation
which is to be called Janeswood, in honour of my daughter-in-law. All
looking well and in order. Before dinner, arrived Mrs. George Ellis and
her nephew and niece, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ellis, whom I was delighted
to see, as there are a thousand kind recollections of old days. Mrs.
George Ellis is less changed in manner and appearance than any one I
know. The gay and light-hearted have in that respect superiority over
those who are of a deeper mould and a heavier. There is something even
in the slightness and elasticity of person which outlasts the ponderous
strength which is borne down by its own weight. Colonel Ellis is an
enthusiastic soldier: and, though young, served in Spain and at
"And so we held our Christmastide
With mirth and burly cheer."
December 26.—Colonel Ellis and I took a pretty long walk round by the
glen, etc., where I had an extraordinary escape from the breaking down
of a foot-bridge as I put my foot upon it. I luckily escaped either
breaking my leg by its passing through the bridge in so awkward a
manner, or tearing it by some one of the hundred rusty nails through
which it fell. However, I was not, thanks to Heaven, hurt in the
slightest degree. Tom Purdie, who had orders to repair the bridge long
since, was so scandalised at the consequence of his negligence that the
bridge is repaired by the time I am writing this. But how the noiseless
step of Fate dogs us in our most seeming safe and innocent sports.
On returning home we were joined by the Lord Chief-Commissioner, the
Lord Chief Baron, and William Clerk, of gentlemen; and of ladies, Miss
Adam and young Miss Thomson of Charlton. Also the two Miss Kerrs, Lord
Robert's daughters, and so behold us a gallant Christmas party, full of
mirth and harmony. Moreover, Captain John Ferguson came over from Huntly
Burn, so we spent the day jocundly. I intend to take a holiday or two
while these friends are about us. I have worked hard enough to merit it,
"... Maggie will not sleep
For that, ere summer."
 See Burns's "Auld Farmer's New-year Salutation."
December 27.—This morning we took a drive up the Yarrow in great
force, and perambulated the Duchess's Walk with all the force of our
company. The weather was delightful, the season being considered; and
Newark Castle, amid its leafless trees, resembled a dear old man who
smiles upon the ruins which time has spread around him. It is looking
more venerable than formerly, for the repairs judiciously undertaken
have now assumed colouring congenial with the old walls; formerly, they
had a raw and patchy appearance. I have seldom seen the scene look
better even when summer smiled upon it.
I have a letter from James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, asking me to
intercede with the Duke of Buccleuch about his farm.  He took this
burthen upon himself without the advice of his best friends, and
certainly contrary to mine. From the badness of the times it would have
been a poor speculation in any hands, especially in those of a man of
letters, whose occupation, as well as the society in which it involves
him, [are so different]. But I hope this great family will be kind to
him; if not, cela ne vaudra pas à moi. But I cannot and ought not to
look for having the same interest with this gentleman which I exercised
in the days of Duke Charles.
 "Mount Benger," of which Hogg had taken a lease on his
marriage, in 1820, and found that he could not make it pay.
December 28.—A demand from Cadell to prepare a revised copy of the
Tales of my Grandfather for the press.  I received it with great
pleasure, for I always had private hopes of that work. If I have a knack
for anything it is for selecting the striking and interesting points out
of dull details, and hence, I myself receive so much pleasure and
instruction from volumes which are generally reputed dull and
uninteresting. Give me facts, I will find fancy for myself. The first
two volumes of these little tales are shorter than the third by seventy
or eighty pages. Cadell proposes to equalise them by adding part of vol.
ii. to vol. i., and of vol. iii. to vol. ii. But then vol. i. ends with
the reign of Robert Bruce, vol. ii. with the defeat of Flodden; happy
points of pause which I cannot think of disturbing, the first in
particular, for surely we ought to close one volume at least of Scottish
history at a point which leaves the kingdom triumphant and happy; and,
alas! where do her annals present us with such an era excepting after
Bannockburn? So I will set about to fill up the volumes, which are too
short, with some additional matter, and so diminish at least, if we
cannot altogether remove, their unsightly inequality in size. The rest
of the party went to Dryburgh—too painful a place of pilgrimage for
me.  I walked with the Lord Chief Commissioner through our grounds
at Huntly Burn, and by taking the carriage now and then I succeeded in
giving my excellent old friend enough of exercise without any fatigue.
We made our visit at Huntly Burn.
 The first series had just been published under the
following title: Tales of a Grandfather, being stories taken from
Scottish History. Humbly inscribed to Hugh Littlejohn, Esq., in three
volumes. Printed for Cadell and Co., Edinburgh, Simpkin and Marshall,
London, and John Cumming, Dublin, 1828.
December 29.—Lord Chief-Baron, Lord Chief-Commissioner, Miss Adam,
Miss Anstruther Thomson, and William Clerk left us. We read prayers, and
afterwards walked round the terrace.
 During Sir Walter's illness in 1818-19 Mr. Skene was with
him at Abbotsford, and he records a curious incident regarding Dryburgh
which may be given here:—"For nearly two years he had to struggle for
his life with that severe illness, which the natural strength of his
constitution at length proved sufficient to throw off. With its
disappearance, although restored to health, disappeared also much of his
former vigour of body, activity, and power of undergoing fatigue, while
in personal appearance he had advanced twenty years in the downward
course of life; his hair had become bleached to pure white and scanty
locks; the fire of his eye quenched; and his step, more uncertain, had
lost the vigorous swinging gait with which he was used to proceed; in
fact, old age had by many years anticipated its usual progress and
marked how severely he had suffered. The complaint, that of gall-stones,
was one of extreme bodily suffering. During his severest attack he had
been alone at Abbotsford with his daughter Sophia, before her marriage
to Mr. Lockhart, and had sent to say that he was desirous I should come
to him, which I did, and remained for ten days till the attack had
subsided. During its course the extreme violence of the pain end
spasmodic contraction of the muscles of the stomach were such that I
scarcely expected the powers of endurance could sustain him through the
trial, and so much at times was he exhausted by it as to leave us in
alarm as to what the result had actually been. One night I shall not
soon forget: he had been frequently and severely ill during the day, and
having been summoned to his room in the middle of the night, where his
daughter was already standing, the picture of deep despair, at his
bed-side, the attack seemed intense, and we followed the directions left
by the physician to assuage it. At length it seemed to subside, and he
fell back exhausted on the pillow, his eyes were closed, and his
countenance wan and livid. Apparently with corresponding misgivings, his
daughter at one side of the bed and I at the other gazed for some time
intently and in silence on his countenance, and then glanced with
anxious inquiring looks to each other, till, at length, having placed my
finger on his pulse, to ascertain whether it had actually ceased to
throb, I shall never forget the sudden beam which again brightened his
daughter's countenance, and for a moment dispelled the intense
expression of anxiety which had for some time overspread it, when Sir
Walter, aware of my feeling his pulse, and the probable purpose,
whispered, with a faint voice, but without opening his eyes, 'I am not
yet gone.' After some time he revived, and gave us a proof of the
mastery of his mind over the sufferings of the body. 'Do you recollect,'
he said to me, 'a small round turret near the gate of the Monastery of
Aberbrothwick, and placed so as to overhang the street?' Upon answering
that I did perfectly, and that a picturesque little morsel it was, he
said, 'Well, I was over there when a mob had assembled, excited by some
purpose, which I do not recollect, but failing of their original
intention, they took umbrage at the little venerable emblem of
aristocracy, which still bore its weather-stained head so conspicuously
aloft, and, resolving to humble it with the dust, they got a stout
hawser from a vessel in the adjoining harbour, which a sailor lad,
climbing up, coiled round the body of the little turret, and the rabble
seizing the rope by both ends tugged and pulled, and laboured long to
strangle and overthrow the poor old turret, but in vain, for it
withstood all their endeavours. Now that is exactly the condition of my
poor stomach: there is a rope twisted round it, and the malicious devils
are straining and tugging at it, and, faith, I could almost think that I
sometimes hear them shouting and cheering each other to their task, and
when they are at it I always have the little turret and its tormentors
before my eyes.' He complained that particular ideas fixed themselves
down upon his mind, which he had not the power of shaking off; but this
was, in fact, the obvious consequence of the quantity of laudanum which
it was necessary for him to swallow to allay the spasms.
"After he had got some repose, and had become rather better in the
morning, he said, with a smile on his countenance, 'If you will promise
not to laugh at me I have a favour to ask. Do you know I have taken a
childish desire to see the place where I am to be laid when I go home,
which there is some probability may not now be long delayed. Now, as I
cannot go to Dryburgh Abbey—that is out of the question at present—it
would give me much pleasure if you would take a ride down and bring me a
drawing of that spot, which he minutely described the position of, and
mentioned the exact point where he wished it drawn, that the site of his
future grave might appear. His wish was accordingly complied
I had also time to work hard on the additions to the Tales of a
Grandfather, vols. 1 and 2. The day passed pleasantly over.
December 30.—The Fergusons came over, and we welcomed in the New Year
with the usual forms of song and flagon.
Looking back to the conclusion of 1826, I observe that the last year
ended in trouble and sickness, with pressures for the present and gloomy
prospects for the future. The sense of a great privation so lately
sustained, together with the very doubtful and clouded nature of my
private affairs, pressed hard upon my mind. I am now perfectly well in
constitution; and though I am still on troubled waters, yet I am rowing
with the tide, and less than the continuation of my exertions of 1827
may, with God's blessing, carry me successfully through 1828, when we
may gain a more open sea, if not exactly a safe port. Above all, my
children are well. Sophia's situation excites some natural anxiety; but
it is only the accomplishment of the burthen imposed on her sex. Walter
is happy in the view of his majority, on which matter we have favourable
hopes from the Duke of Wellington. Anne is well and happy. Charles's
entry upon life under the highest patronage, and in a line for which I
hope he is qualified, is about to take place presently.
For all these great blessings it becomes me well to be thankful to God,
who in his good time and good pleasure sends us good as well as evil.