The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the Original Manuscript at Abbotsford February, 1829
by Sir Walter Scott
February 1.—Domum mansi, lanam feci,—stayed at home videlicet,
and laboured without interruption except from intolerable drowsiness;
finished eight leaves, however, the best day's work I have made this
long time. No interruption, and I got pleased with my work, which ends
the second volume of Anne of Geierstein. After dinner had a letter
from Lockhart, with happy tidings about the probability of the
commission on the Stewart papers being dissolved. The Duke of W. says
commissions never either did or will do any good. John will in that case
be sole editor of these papers with an apartment at St. James's cum
plurimis aliis. It will be a grand coup if it takes place.
February 2.—Sent off yesterday's work with proofs. Could I do as
toughly for a week—and many a day I have done more—I should be soon
out of the scrape. I wrote letters, and put over the day till one, when
I went down with Sir James Stuart to see Stuart of Dunearn's pictures
now on sale. I did not see much which my poor taste covets; a Hobbema
much admired is, I think, as tame a piece of work as I ever saw. I
promised to try to get a good picture or two for the young Duke.
Dined with the old Club, instituted forty years ago. There were present
Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Advocate, Sir Peter Murray, John Irving,
William Clerk, and I. It was a party such as the meeting of fellow
scholars and fellow students alone could occasion. We told old stories;
laughed and quaffed, and resolved, rashly perhaps, that we would hold
the Club at least once a year, if possible twice. We will see how this
will fudge. Our mirth was more unexpected as Sir Adam, our first
fiddle, was wanting, owing to his family loss.
February 3.—Rose at eight—felt my revel a little in my head. The
Court business light, returned by Cadell, and made one or two calls, at
Skene's especially. Dinner and evening at home; laboriously employed.
February 4.—To-day I was free from duty, and made good use of my
leisure at home, finishing the second volume of Anne, and writing
several letters, one to recommend Captain Pringle to Lord Beresford,
which I send to-morrow through Morritt. "My mother whips me and I whip
the top." The girls went to the play.
February 5.—Attended the Court as usual, got dismissed about one.
Finished and sent off volume ii. of Anne. Dined with Robert
Rutherford, my cousin, and the whole clan of Swinton.
February 6.—Corrected proofs in the morning, then to the Court;
thence to Cadell's, where I found some business cut out for me, in the
way of notes, which delayed me. Walked home, the weary way giving my
feet the ancient twinges of agony: such a journey is as severe a penance
as if I had walked the same length with peas in my shoes to atone for
some horrible crime by beating my toes into a jelly. I wrote some and
corrected a good deal. We dined alone, and I partly wrought partly slept
in the evening. It's now pretty clear that the Duke of W. intends to
have a Catholic Bill.  He probably expects to neutralise and divide
the Catholic body by bringing a few into Parliament, where they will
probably be tractable enough, rather than a large proportion of them
rioting in Ireland, where they will be to a certain degree unanimous.
 Sir Walter had written to Mr. Lockhart on October 26th,
1828, on hearing of an impending article in the Quarterly, the
"I cannot repress the strong desire I have to express my regret at some
parts of your kind letter just received. I shall lament most truly a
purple article at this moment, when a strong, plain, moderate
statement, not railing at Catholics and their religion, but reprobating
the conduct of the Irish Catholics, and pointing out the necessary
effects which that conduct must have on the Catholic Question, would
have a powerful effect, and might really serve king and country. Nothing
the agitators desire so much as to render the broil general, as a
quarrel between Catholic and Protestant; nothing so essential to the
Protestant cause as to confine it to its real causes. Southey, as much a
fanatic as e'er a Catholic of them all, will, I fear, pass this most
necessary landmark of debate. I like his person, admire his genius, and
respect his immense erudition, but—non omnia. In point of reasoning
and political judgment he is a perfect Harpado—nothing better than a
wild bull. The circumstances require the interference of vir gravis
pietate et moribus, and you bring it a Highland piper to blow a
Highland charge, the more mischievous that it possesses much wild power
of inflaming the passions.
"Your idea that you must give Southey his swing in this matter or he
will quit the Review,—this is just a pilot saying, If I do not give
the helm to such a passenger he will quit the ship. Let him quit and be
"My own confidence is, you know, entirely in the D. As Bruce said to the
Lord of the Isles at Bannockburn, 'My faith is constant in thee.' Now a
hurly-burly charge may derange his line of battle, and therein be of the
most fatal consequence. For God's sake avail yourself of the
communication I opened while in town, and do not act without it. Send
this to the D. of W. If you will, he will appreciate the motives that
dictate it. If he approves of a calm, moderate, but firm statement,
stating the unreasonable course pursued by the Catholics as the great
impediment to their own wishes, write such an article yourself; no one
can make a more impressive appeal to common sense than you can.
"The circumstances of the times are—must be—an apology for
disappointing Southey. But nothing can be an apology for indulging him
at the expense of aggravating public disturbance, which, for one, I see
with great apprehension.
"It has not yet come our length; those [to] whom you allude ought
certainly to be served, but the D. is best judge how they may be best
served. If the D. says nothing on the subject you can slip your
Derwentwater greyhound if you like. I write hastily, but most anxiously.
... I repeat that I think it possible to put the Catholic Question as it
now stands in a light which the most zealous of their supporters in this
country cannot but consider as fair, while the result would be that the
Question should not be granted at all under such guarantees; but I think
this is scarce to be done by inflaming the topic with all mutual
virulence of polemical discussion."
February 7.—Up and wrought a little. I had at breakfast a son of Sir
Thomas Dick Lauder, a very quick, smart-looking young fellow, who is on
his way to the Continent with a tutor. Dined at Mrs. George Swinton's
with the whole clan.
February 8.—I wrought the whole day and finished about six pages of
manuscript of vol. iii. [Anne of Geierstein]. Sat cito si sat bene.
The Skenes came in to supper like the olden world.
February 9.—Was up in good time (say half-past seven), and employed
the morning in correcting proofs. At twelve I went to Stuart of
Dunearn's sale of pictures. This poor man fell, like myself, a victim to
speculation. And though I had no knowledge of him personally, and
disliked him as the cause of poor Sir Alexander Boswell's death, yet
"had he been slaughterman to all my kin,"  I could but pity the
miserable sight of his splendid establishment broken up, and his
treasures of art exposed to public and unsparing sale. I wanted a
picture of the Earl of Rothes for the Duke of Buccleuch, a fine Sir
Joshua, but Balfour of Balbirnie fancied it also, and followed it to 160
guineas. Charles Sharpe's account is, that I may think myself in luck,
for the face has been repainted. There is, he says, a print taken from
the picture at Leslie House which has quite a different countenance from
 Henry VI. Act I. Sc. 4.
This job, however, took me up the whole morning to little purpose.
Captain and Mrs. Hall dined with us, also Sir James Stuart, Charles
Sharpe, John Scott of Gala, etc.
February 10.—I was up at seven this morning, and will continue the
practice, but the shoal of proofs took up all my leisure. I will not, I
think, go after these second-rate pictures again to-day. If I could get
a quiet day or two I would make a deep dint in the third volume; but
hashed and smashed as my time is, who can make anything of it? I read
over Henry's History of Henry VI. and Edward IV.; he is but a stupid
historian after all. This took me up the whole day.
February 11.—Up as usual and wrought at proofs. Mr. Hay Drummond and
Macintosh Mackay dined. The last brought me his history of the Blara
Leine or White Battle (battle of the shirts). To the Court, and
remained there till two, when we had some awkward business in the
Council of the Royal Society.
February 12.—W. Lockhart came to breakfast, full of plans for his
house, which will make a pretty and romantic habitation. After breakfast
the Court claimed its vassal.
As I came out Mr. Chambers introduced a pretty little romantic girl to
me who possessed a laudable zeal to know a live poet. I went with my
fair admirer as far as the new rooms on the Mound, where I looked into
the Royal Society's Rooms, then into the Exhibition, in mere
unwillingness to work and desire to dawdle away time. Learned that Lord
Haddington had bought the Sir Joshua. I wrought hard to-day and made out
February 13.—This morning Col. Hunter Blair breakfasted here with his
wife, a very pretty woman, with a good deal of pleasant conversation.
She had been in India, and had looked about her to purpose. I wrote for
several hours in the forenoon, but was nervous and drumlie; also I
bothered myself about geography; in short, there was trouble, as miners
say when the vein of metal is interrupted. Went out at two, and walked,
thank God, better than in the winter, which gives me hopes that the
failure of the unfortunate limb is only temporary, owing to severe
weather. We dined at John Murray's with the Mansfield family. Lady
Caroline Murray possesses, I think, the most pleasing taste for music,
and is the best singer I ever heard. No temptation to display a very
brilliant voice ever leads her aside from truth and simplicity, and
besides, she looks beautiful when she sings.
February 14.—Wrote in the morning, which begins to be a regular act
of duty. It was late ere I got home, and I did not do much. The letters
I received were numerous and craved answers, yet the third volume is
getting on hooly and fairly. I am twenty leaves before the printers;
but Ballantyne's wife is ill, and it is his nature to indulge
apprehensions of the worst, which incapacitates him for labour. I cannot
help regarding this amiable weakness of the mind with something too
nearly allied to contempt. I keep the press behind me at a good
distance, and I, like the
"Postboy's horse, am glad to miss
The lumber of the wheels." 
 John Gilpin.
February 15.—I wrought to-day, but not much—rather dawdled, and took
to reading Chambers's Beauties of Scotland,  which would be
admirable if they were more accurate. He is a clever young fellow, but
hurts himself by too much haste. I am not making too much myself I know,
and I know, too, it is time I were making it. Unhappily there is such a
thing as more haste and less speed. I can very seldom think to purpose
by lying perfectly idle, but when I take an idle book, or a walk, my
mind strays back to its task out of contradiction as it were; the things
I read become mingled with those I have been writing, and something is
concocted. I cannot compare this process of the mind to anything save
that of a woman to whom the mechanical operation of spinning serves as a
running bass to the songs she sings, or the course of ideas she pursues.
The phrase Hoc age, often quoted by my father, does not jump with my
humour. I cannot nail my mind to one subject of contemplation, and it is
by nourishing two trains of ideas that I can bring one into order.
 The Picture of Scotland by Robert Chambers, author of
Traditions of Edinburgh, etc., 8vo, 1829.
Colin Mackenzie came in to see me, poor fellow. He looks well in his
retirement. Partly I envy him—partly I am better pleased as it is.
February 16.—Stayed at home and laboured all the forenoon. Young
Invernahyle called to bid me interest myself about getting a lad of the
house of Scott a commission—how is this possible? The last I tried
for, there was about 3000 on the list—and they say the boy is too old,
being twenty-four. I scribbled three or four pages, forbore smoking and
whisky and water, and went to the Royal Society. There Sir William
Hamilton read an essay, the result of some anatomical investigations,
which contained a masked battery against the phrenologists.
February 17.—In the morning I sent off copy and proof. I received the
melancholy news that James Ballantyne has lost his wife. With his
domestic habits the blow is irretrievable. What can he do, poor fellow,
at the head of such a family of children! I should not be surprised if
he were to give way to despair.
I was at the Court, where there was little to do, but it diddled away my
time till two. I went to the library, but not a book could I get to look
at. It is, I think, a wrong system the lending books to private houses
at all, and leads to immense annual losses. I called on Skene, and
borrowed a volume of his Journal, to get some information about Burgundy
and Provence. Something may be made out of King René, but I wish I had
thought of him sooner.  Dined alone with the girls.
 Mr. Skene remarks that at this time "Sir Walter was
engaged in the composition of the Novel of Anne of Geierstein, for
which purpose he wished to see a paper which I had some time before
contributed to the Memoirs of the Society of Antiquaries on the subject
of the Secret Tribunals of Germany, and upon which, accordingly, he
grounded the scene in the novel. Upon his describing to me the scheme
which he had formed for that work, I suggested to him that he might with
advantage connect the history of René, king of Provence, which would
lead to many interesting topographical details which my residence in
that country would enable me to supply, besides the opportunity of
illustrating so eccentric a character as 'le bon roi René,' full of
traits which were admirably suited to Sir Walter's graphic style of
illustration, and that he could besides introduce the ceremonies of the
Fête Dieu with great advantage, as I had fortunately seen its revival
the first time it was celebrated after the interruption of the
revolution. He liked the idea much, and, accordingly, a Journal which I
had written during my residence in Provence, with a volume of
accompanying drawings and Papon's History of Provence was forthwith sent
for, and the whole dénouement of the story of Anne o/Geierstein was
changed, and the Provence part woven into it, in the form in which it
ultimately came forth."—Reminiscences.
February 18.—This being Teind Wednesday I had a holiday. Worked the
whole day, interrupted by calls from Dr. Ross, Sir Hugh Palliser, Sir
David Hunter Blair, and Colonel Blair. I made out about six pages before
dinner, and go to Lord Gillies's to dine with a good conscience. Hay
Drummond came in, and discharged a volley at me which Mons Meg could
hardly have equalled. I will go to work with Skene's Journal. My head
aches violently, and has done so several days. It is cold, I think.
At Lord Gillies's we found Sir John Dalrymple, Lady Dalrymple, and Miss
Ferguson, Mr. Hope Vere of Craigiehall, and Lady Elizabeth, a sister of
Lord Tweeddale, Sir Robert O'Callaghan, Captain Cathcart, and others—a
February 19.—An execrable day—half frost, half fresh, half sleet,
half rain, and wholly abominable. Having made up my packet for the
printing-house, and performed my duty at the Court, I had the firmness
to walk round by the North Bridge, and face the weather for two miles,
by way of exercise. Called on Skene, and saw some of his drawings of
Aix. It was near two before I got home, and now I hear three strike;
part of this hour has been consumed in a sound sleep by the fireside
after putting on dry things. I met Baron Hume,  and we praised each
other's hardihood for daring to take exercise in such weather, agreeing
that if a man relax the custom of his exercise in Scotland for a bad
day he is not likely to resume it in a hurry. The other moiety of the
time was employed in looking over the Mémoires de Fauche-Borel.
 This learned gentleman died in his house, 34 Moray Place,
Edinburgh, on the 30th August 1838, aged eighty-two. He had filled
various important situations with great ability during his long
life:—Sheriff of Berwick and West Lothian, Professor of Scots Law in
the University, and afterwards a Baron of Exchequer, which latter office
he held till the abolition of the court in 1830. He is best remembered
by his work on the Criminal Law of Scotland, published in 1797. He
bequeathed his uncle the historian's correspondence with Rousseau and
other distinguished foreigners to the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
 Published in four volumes, 8vo, 1829. Fauche-Borel, an
agent of the Bourbons, had just died. The book is still in the
February 20.—The Court duly took me up from eleven till about three,
but left some time for labour, which I employed to purpose, at least I
hope so. I declined going to the exhibition of paintings to-night;
neither the beauties of art nor of nature have their former charms for
me. I finished, however, about seven pages of manuscript, which is a
fair half of volume III. I wish I could command a little more time and I
would soon find you something or other, but the plague is that time is
wanting when I feel an aptitude to work, and when time abounds, the
will, at least the real efficient power of the faculties, is awanting.
Still, however, we make way by degrees. I glanced over some metrical
romances published by Hartshorne, several of which have not seen the
light. They are considerably curious, but I was surprised to see them
mingled with Blanchefleur and Florês and one or two others which
might have been spared. There is no great display of notes or
prolegomena, and there is, moreover, no glossary. But the work is well
 Ancient Metrical Tales, edited by Rev. C.H. Hartshorne.
8vo London, 1829.
February 21.—Colonel Ferguson breakfasted with us. I was detained at
the Parliament House till the hour of poor Mrs. Ballantyne's funeral,
then attended that melancholy ceremony. The husband was unable to
appear; the sight of the poor children was piteous enough. James
Ballantyne has taken his brother Sandy into the house, I mean the firm,
about which there had formerly been some misunderstanding.
I attended the Bannatyne Club. We made a very good election, bringing in
Lord Dalhousie and the Lord Clerk Register.  Our dinner went pretty
well off, but I have seen it merrier. To be sure old Dr. J., like an
immense featherbed, was burking me, as the phrase now goes, during the
whole time. I am sure that word will stick in the language for one
 The Right Hon. William Dundas, born 1762, died 1845;
appointed Lord Clerk Register in 1821.
February 22.—Very rheumatic. I e'en turned my table to the fire and
feagued it away, as Bayes says. Neither did I so much as cast my eyes
round to see what sort of a day it was—the splashing on the windows
gave all information that was necessary. Yet, with all my leisure,
during the whole day I finished only four leaves of copy—somewhat of
the least, master Matthew. 
 Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour, Act I. Sc. 4.
There was no interruption during the whole day, though the above is a
poor account of it.
February 23.—Up and at it. After breakfast Mr. Hay Drummond came in
enchanted about Mons Meg,  and roaring as loud as she could have
done for her life when she was in perfect voice.
 For notices of this gigantic cannon see ante, vol. i.
p. 43, and post, pp. 247-8; also Life, vol. vii. pp. 86-87.
James Ballantyne came in, to my surprise, about twelve o'clock. He was
very serious, and spoke as if he had some idea of sudden and speedy
death. He mentioned that he had named Cadell, Cowan, young Hughes, and
his brother to be his trustees with myself. He has settled to go to the
country, poor fellow, to Timpendean, as I think.
We dined at Skene's, where we met Mr. and Mrs. George Forbes, Colonel
and Mrs. Blair, George Bell, etc. The party was a pleasant one. Colonel
Blair said, that during the Battle of Waterloo there was at the
commencement some trouble necessary to prevent the men from breaking
their ranks. He expostulated with one man: "Why, my good fellow, you
cannot propose to beat the French alone?—better keep your ranks." The
man, who was one of the 71st, returned to his ranks, saying, "I believe
you are very right, sir, but I am a man of very hot temper." There
was much bonhomie in the reply.
February 24.—Snowy miserable morning. I corrected my proofs, but had
no time to write anything. We, i.e. myself and the two Annes, went to
breakfast with Mr. Drummond Hay, where we again met Colonel and Mrs.
Blair, with Thomas Thomson. We looked over some most beautiful
drawings  which Mrs. Blair had made in different parts of India,
exhibiting a species of architecture so gorgeous, and on a scale so
extensive, as to put to shame the magnificence of Europe. And yet, in
most cases, as little is known of the people who wrought these wonders
as of the kings who built the Pyramids. Fame depends on literature, not
on architecture. We are more eager to see a broken column of Cicero's
villa, than all those mighty labours of barbaric power. Mrs. Blair is
full of enthusiasm. She told me that when she worked with her pencil she
was glad to have some one to read to her as a sort of sedative,
otherwise her excitement made her tremble, and burst out a-crying. I can
understand this very well, having often found the necessity of doing two
things at once. She is a very pretty, dark woman too, and has been
compared to Rebecca, daughter of the Jew, Isaac of York.
 Some of these fine drawings have been engraved for
Colonel Tod's Travels in Western India. Lond., 4to, 1839.—J.G.L.
Detained in the Court till half-past two bothering about Lady Essex
Kerr's will without coming to a conclusion. I then got home too late to
do anything, as I must prepare to go to Dalmahoy. Mr. Gibson came in for
a little while; no news.
I went to Dalmahoy, where we were most kindly received. It is a point of
friendship, however, to go eight miles to dinner and return in the
evening; and my day has been cut up without a brush of work. Smoked a
cigar on my return, being very cold.
February 25.—This morning I corrected my proofs. We get on, as John
Ferguson said when they put him on a hunter. I fear there is too much
historical detail, and the catastrophe will be vilely huddled up. "And
who can help it, Dick?" Visited James Ballantyne, and found him bearing
his distress sensibly and like a man. I called in at Cadell's, and also
inquired after Lady Jane Stuart, who is complaining. Three o'clock
placed me at home, and from that hour till ten, deduct two hours for
dinner, I was feaguing it away.
February 26.—Sent off ten pages this morning, with a revise; we spy
land, but how to get my catastrophe packed into the compass allotted for
"It sticks like a pistol half out of its holster,
Or rather indeed like an obstinate bolster,
Which I think I have seen you attempting, my dear,
In vain to cram into a small pillowbeer."
There is no help for it—I must make a tour de force, and annihilate
both time and space. Dined at home; nevertheless made small progress.
But I must prepare my dough before I can light my oven. I would fain
think I am in the right road.
February 27.—The last post brought a letter from Mr. Heath, proposing
to set off his engravings for the Magnum Opus against my contributions
for the Keepsake. A pretty mode of accounting that would be; he
be——. I wrote him declining his proposal; and, as he says I am still
in his debt, I will send him the old drama of the House of Aspen,
which I wrote some thirty years ago, and offered to the stage. This will
make up my contribution, and a good deal more, if, as I recollect, there
are five acts. Besides, it will save me further trouble about Heath and
his Annual. Secondly, There are several manuscript copies of the play
abroad, and some of them will be popping out one of these days in a
contraband manner. Thirdly, If I am right as to the length of the
piece, there is £100 extra work at least which will not be inconvenient
Dined at Sir John Hay's with Ramsay of Barnton and his young bride, Sir
David and Lady Hunter Blair, etc.
I should mention that Cadell breakfasted with me, and entirely approved
of my rejecting Heath's letter. There was one funny part of it, in which
he assured me that the success of the new edition of the Waverley
Novels depended entirely on the excellence of the illustrations—vous
êtes joaillier, Mons. Josse.  He touches a point which alarms me;
he greatly undervalues the portrait which Wilkie has prepared to give me
for this edition. If it is as little of a likeness as he says, it is a
scrape. But a scrape be it. Wilkie behaved in the kindest way,
considering his very bad health, in agreeing to work for me at all, and
I will treat him with due delicacy, and not wound his feelings by
rejecting what he has given in such kindness.  And so farewell to
Mr. Heath, and the conceited vulgar Cockney his Editor.
 Molière, L'Amour Médecin, Act I. Sc. 1 (joaillier for
 The following extract from a letter by Wilkie shows how
willingly he had responded to Scott's request:—
7 TERRACE, KENSINGTON,
LONDON, Jan. 1829.
"DEAR SIR WALTER,—I pass over all those disastrous events that have
arrived to us both since our last, as you justly call it, melancholy
parting, to assure you how delighted I shall be if I can in the most
inconsiderable degree assist in the illustrations of the great work,
which we all hope may lighten or remove that load of troubles by which
your noble spirit is at this time beset; considering it as only repaying
a debt of obligation which you yourself have laid upon me when, with an
unseen hand in the Antiquary, you took me up and claimed me, the
humble painter of domestic sorrow, as your countryman."
February 28.—Finished my proofs this morning, and read part of a
curious work, called Memoirs of Vidocq; a fellow who was at the head
of Bonaparte's police. It is a pickaresque tale; in other words, a
romance of roguery. The whole seems much exaggerated, and got up; but I
suppose there is truth au fond. I came home about two o'clock, and
wrought hard and fast till night.