The Journal of Sir Walter Scott from the Original Manuscript at Abbotsford April, 1831
by Sir Walter Scott
April 2.—Mr. Henry Liddell, eldest son of Lord Ravensworth, arrived
here. I like him and his brother Tom very much. They are what may be
termed fine men. Young Mackenzie of Cromarty came with him, who is a
fine lad and sings very beautifully. I knew his father and mother, and
was very glad to see him. They had been at Mertoun fishing salmon, with
April 3.—A letter from the Lord Chief Commissioner, reporting Lord
Palmerston and Sir Herbert Taylor's letters in Charles's favour. Wrote a
grateful answer, and resolved, that as I have made my opinion public at
every place where I could be called on or expected to appear, I will not
throw myself forward when I have nothing to say. May the Lord have mercy
upon us and incline our hearts to keep this vow!
April 4.—Mr. Liddell and Hay Mackenzie left us this morning. Liddell
showed me yesterday a very good poem, worthy of Pope or Churchill, in
old-fashioned hexameters, called the [illegible]. He has promised me a
copy, for it is still being printed. There are some characters very well
drawn. The force of it belies the character of a Dandie, too hastily
ascribed to the author. He is accomplished as an artist and musician,
and certainly has a fine taste for poetry, though he may never cultivate
it.  He promises to bring his lady—who is very clever, but pretty
high, they say, in the temper—to spend a day or two with us after
 Henry Liddell, second Baron Ravensworth, author of a
translation of the Odes of Horace, a volume of Latin Poems, etc.
April 5.—This fifth day of April is the March fair at Selkirk. Almost
every one of the family goes there, Mr. Laidlaw among others. I have a
hideous paralytic custom of stuttering with my pen, and cannot write
without strange blunders; yet I cannot find any failure in my intellect.
Being unable to write to purpose with my own hand, this forenoon was a
sort of holiday to me. The third volume of Count Robert is fairly
begun, but I fear I shall want stuff to fill it, for I would not
willingly bombast it with things inappropriate. If I could fix my mind
to the task to-day, my temper, notwithstanding my oath, sets strong
towards politics, where I would be sure of making a figure, and feel I
could carry with me a great part of the middle-class, who wait for a
shot between wind and water—half comic, half serious, which is a better
argument than most which are going. The regard of my health is what
chiefly keeps me in check. The provoking odium I should mind much less;
for there will always be as many for as against me, but it would be a
foolish thing to take flight to the next world in a political gale of
wind. If Cadell gave me the least encouragement I would give way to the
temptation. Meantime I am tugging at the chain for very eagerness. I
have done enough to incense people against me, without, perhaps, doing
so much as I could, would, or should have done.
April 6.—I have written to Alva and Lord Elgin, explaining why I
cannot, as they encourage me to do, take upon me the cause of the
public, and bell-the-cat with the reformers. I think I have done enough
for an individual.
I have more than half dictated the third volume to Mr. Laidlaw; but I
feel the subject wants action, and that a little repose will be very
necessary. Resolve to-morrow shall be a resting-day. I have not had one
this long time. I had a letter from Croker, advising a literary
adventure—the personal history of Charles Edward.  I think it will
do. Rode to Melrose and brought home the letters from the post-office.
 In a letter from Sir Walter to his son-in-law, of April
11th, he says:—
"When you can take an hour to think of this, I will be glad to hear from
you.... I am in possession of five or six manuscripts, copies, or large
extracts, taken under my own eyes. Croker thinks, and I am of his
opinion, that if there was room for a personal narrative of the
character, it would answer admirably."
April 8,—I took leave of poor Major John Scott,  who, being
afflicted with a distressing asthma, has resolved upon selling his house
in Ravenswood, which he had dressed up with much neatness, and going
abroad to Jamaica. Without having been intimate friends, we were always
affectionate relations, and now we part, probably never to meet in this
world. He has a good deal of the character said to belong to the family.
Our parting with mutual feeling may be easily supposed.
 This gentleman, a brother to the Laird of Raeburn, had
made some fortune in the East Indies, and bestowed the name of
Ravenswood on a villa which he built near Melrose. He died in
April 9.—This being Saturday, I expect the bibliopolist and
typographer about two o'clock, I suppose, when I shall have much to
journalise. Failures among the trade are alarming, yet not if we act
with prudence. Nous verrons.
Mr. Cadell and J. Ballantyne, with the son of the latter. Their courage
is much stouter than I apprehended. Cadell says he has lost £1000 by bad
debts, which is less than he expected, by bad times coming on at this
time. We have been obliged to publish the less popular part of the
Waverley Novels. At present I incline to draw a period after 48 volumes,
and so close the publication. About nine or ten volumes will then
conclude our Magnum Opus, so called, and Mr. Cadell thinks we shall
then begin the Poetical Works, in twelve volumes, with illustrations by
Turner, which he expects to rise as far as 12,000. The size is to be
that of the Waverley Novels.
April 10.—I had a letter from Mr. Cowan, Trustee for
Constable's creditors, telling that the manuscripts of the Waverley
Novels had been adjudged to him, and offering them to me, or rather
asking my advice about the disposal of them. Answered that I considered
myself as swindled out of my property, and therefore will give no
consent to any sale of the pillage.  Cadell says he is determined to
get the MSS. from Cowan. I told him I would give him the rest of the
MSS., which are in my own hand, for Mr. Cadell has been very friendly to
me in not suffering me to want money in difficult times. We are not
pushed by our creditors, so can take our own time; and as our plans
prosper, we can pay off debt. About two o'clock enter two gentlemen in
an open carriage, both from Makerstoun, and both Captains in the Navy.
Captain Blair, a son of the member for Ayrshire, my old friend the Laird
of Blair. Just as they retreat, Mr. Pontey is announced. I was glad to
see this great forester. He is a little man, and gets along with an air
of talent, something like Gifford, the famous editor of the Quarterly.
As in his case mental acuteness gave animation to that species of
countenance which attends personal deformity. The whole of his face was
bizarre and odd, yet singularly impressive. We walked round, I with
great pain, by the Hooded Corbies' seat, and this great Lord of the
woodland gave the plantation great approbation. He seems rather
systematic in pruning, yet he is in a great measure right. He is
tolerably obstinate in his opinions. He dined, leaving me flattered with
his applause, and pleased with having seen him.
 The Manuscripts were sold by auction in London on August
19th, 1831, and the prices realised fell far short of what might have
been expected, e.g. (1) Monastery, £18; (2) Guy Mannering, £27,
10s.; (3) Old Mortality, £33; (4) Antiquary, £42; (5) Rob Roy,
£50; (6) Peveril of the Peak, £42; (7) Waverley, £18; (8) Abbot,
£14; (9) Ivanhoe, £12; (10) Pirate, £12; (11) Nigel, £16, 16s.;
(12) Kenilworth, £17; (13) Bride of Lammermoor, £14, 14s.—Total
£317.—See David Laing's Catalogue, pp. 99-108, for an account of the
dispersion and sales of the original MSS., prose and poetry.
April 11.—This day I went, with Anne and Miss Jane Erskine,  to
see the laying of the stones of foundation of two bridges in my
neighbourhood over Tweed and the Ettrick. There was a great many people
assembled. The day was beautiful, the scene romantic, and the people in
good spirits and good-humour. Mr. Paterson  of Galashiels made a
most excellent prayer; Mr. Smith  gave a proper repast to the
workmen, and we subscribed sovereigns apiece to provide for any
casualty. I laid the foundation-stone of the bridge over Tweed, and Mr.
C.B. Scott  of Woll that of Ettrick. The general spirit of
good-humour made the scene, though without parade, extremely
 Miss J. Erskine, a daughter of Lord Kinnedder's. She died
 The Rev. N. Paterson, author of The Manse Garden;
afterwards minister of St. Andrew's, Glasgow. He died in 1871. Mr.
Paterson was a grandson of Robert Paterson, "Old Mortality," and brother
of the Rev. Walter Paterson, minister of Kirkurd, author of the Legend
of Iona—a poem written in imitation of the style of Scott, and in
which he recognises his obligations to Sir Walter in the following
terms:—"From him I derived courage to persevere in an undertaking on
which I had often reflected with terror and distrust."—Legend, notes,
 Mr. John Smith of Darnick, the builder of Abbotsford, and
architect of these bridges.—J.G.L.
 This gentleman died in Edinburgh on the 4th February
April 12.—We breakfasted with the Fergusons, after which Anne and
Miss Erskine walked up the Rhymer's Glen. I could as easily have made a
pilgrimage to Rome with pease in my shoes unboiled. I drove home, and
began to work about ten o'clock. At one o'clock I rode, and sent off
what I had finished. Mr. Laidlaw dined with me. In the afternoon we
wrote five or six pages more. I am, I fear, sinking a little, from
having too much space to fill, and a want of the usual inspiration which
makes me, like the chariot wheels of Pharaoh in the sands of the Red
Sea, drive heavily. It is the less matter if this prove, as I suspect,
the last of this fruitful family.
April 13.—Corrected a proof in the morning. At ten o'clock began
where I had left off at my romance. Mr. Laidlaw agrees as to the portion
of what we are presently busy with. Laidlaw begins to smite the rock for
not giving forth the water in quantity sufficient. I remarked to him
that this would not profit much. Doing, perhaps, twelve pages a day will
easily finish us, and if it prove dull, why, dull it must be. I shall,
perhaps, have half a dozen to make up this night. I have against me the
disadvantage of being called the Just, and every one of course is
willing to worry me. But they have been long at it, and even those works
which have been worst received at their appearance now keep their ground
fairly enough. So we'll try our old luck another voyage.
It is a close, thick rain, and I cannot ride, and I am too dead lame to
walk in the house. So, feeling really exhausted, I will try to sleep a
My nap was a very short one, and was agreeably replaced by Basil Hall's
Fragments of Voyages. Everything about the inside of a vessel is
interesting, and my friend has the great sense to know this is the case.
I remember when my eldest brother took the humour of going to sea, James
Watson  used to be invited to George Square to tell him such tales
of hardships as might disgust him with the service. Such were my poor
mother's instructions. But Captain Watson could not render a sea life
disgusting to the young midshipman or to his brother, who looked on and
listened. The account of assistance given to the Spaniards at Cape
Finisterre, and the absurd behaviour of the Junta, are highly
interesting—a more inefficient, yet a more resolved class of men than
the Spaniards were never conceived.
 The late Captain Watson, R.N., was distantly related to
Sir Walter's mother. His son, Sir John Watson Gordon, rose to great
eminence as a painter; and his portraits of Scott and Hogg rank among
his best pieces. He became President of the Royal Scottish Academy in
1850, died in 1864, leaving funds to endow a Chair of Fine Arts in the
April 14.—Advised by Mr. Cadell that he has agreed with Mr. Turner,
the first draughtsman of the period, to furnish to the poetical works
two decorations to each of the proposed twelve volumes, to wit, a
frontispiece and vignette to each, at the rate of £25 for each, which is
cheap enough considering these are the finest specimens of art going.
The difficulty is to make him come here to take drawings. I have written
to the man of art, inviting him to my house, though, if I remember, he
is not very agreeable, and offered to transport him to the places where
he is to exercise his pencil. His method is to take various drawings of
remarkable places and towns and stick them all together. He can
therefore derive his subjects from good accurate drawings, so with
Skene's assistance we can equip him. We can put him at home on all the
subjects. Lord Meadowbank and his son, Skene and his son, Colonel
Russell and his sister, dined with us.
 Mr. W.F. Skene, Historiographer Royal for Scotland, and
son of Scott's dear friend, has been good enough to give me his
recollections of these days:—
"On referring to my Diary for the year 1831 I find the following entry:
'This Spring, on 31st April, I went with my father to Abbotsford and
left on Sir Walter Scott being taken ill.' The date here given for my
visit does not correspond with that in Sir Walter's Diary, but, as there
are only thirty days in April it has evidently been written by mistake
for the 13th. I had just attained my twenty-first year, and as such a
visit at that early age was a great event in my life, I retain a very
distinct recollection of the main features of it. I recollect that Lord
Meadowbank and his eldest son Alan came at the same time, and the dinner
party, at which Mr. Pringle of the Haining and his brother were present.
The day after our arrival Sir Walter asked me to drive with him. We went
in his open carriage to the Yarrow, where we got out, and Sir Walter,
leaning on my arm, walked up the side of the river, pouring forth a
continuous stream of anecdotes, traditions, and scraps of ballads. I was
in the seventh heaven of delight, and thought I had never spent such a
day. On Sunday Sir Walter did not come down to breakfast, but sent a
message to say that he had caught cold and had taken some medicine for
it the night before, which had made him ill, and would remain in bed.
When we sat at either lunch or dinner, I do not recollect which, Sir
Walter walked into the room and sat down near the table, but ate
nothing. He seemed in a dazed state, and took no notice of any one, but
after a few minutes' silence, during which his daughter Anne, who was at
table, and was watching him with some anxiety, motioned to us to take no
notice, he began in a quiet voice to tell us a story of a pauper
lunatic, who, fancying he was a rich man, and was entertaining all sorts
of high persons to the most splendid banquets, communicated to his
doctor in confidence that there was one thing that troubled him much,
and which he could not account for, and that was that all these
exquisite dishes seemed to him to taste of oatmeal porridge. Sir Walter
told this with much humour, and after a few minutes' silence began
again, and told the same story over a second time, and then again a
third time. [E] His daughter, who was watching him with increasing
anxiety, then motioned to us to rise from table, and persuaded her
father to return to his bedroom. Next day the doctor, who had been sent
for, told us that he was seriously ill, and advised that his guests
should leave at once, so that the house might be kept quiet and his
daughter devote herself entirely to the care of her father. We
accordingly left at once, and I never saw Sir Walter again. I still,
however, retain a memorial of my visit. I had fallen into indifferent
health in the previous year, and been recommended Highland air. By Sir
Walter's advice I was sent to live with a friend of his, the Reverend
Doctor Macintosh Mackay, then minister of Laggan, in the Inverness-shire
Highlands, and had passed my time learning from him the Gaelic language.
This excited in me a taste for Celtic Antiquities, and finding in Sir
Walter's Library a copy of O'Connor's Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores
veteres, I sat up one night transcribing from it the Annals of
Tighernac. This transcript is still in my library.—WILLIAM F. SKENE.
"27 INVERLEITH ROW,
[E] An echo of one of his own singular illustrations (see
Letters on Demonology) of the occasional collision between a disturbed
imagination and the organs of sense.
April 15.—Lord Meadowbank, etc., went to Newark with me, and returned
to dine with the foregoing. Charming day.
April 16.—Lord Meadowbank went to the circuit and our party to their
various homes. By the bye, John Pringle and his brother of Haining dined
with us yesterday. Skene walks with me and undertakes readily to supply
Turner with subjects. Weather enchanting. About 100 leaves will now
complete Robert of Paris. Query, will it answer? Not knowing, can't
say. I think it will.
Sunday 16th [17th] April to Sunday 24th of the same month
unpleasantly occupied by ill [health], and its consequences, a distinct
shock of paralysis affecting both my nerves and spine, though beginning
only on Monday with a very bad cold. Dr. [Abercrombie] was brought out
by the friendly care of Cadell, but young Clarkson had already done the
needful—that is, had bled and blistered severely, and placed me on a
very restricted diet. Whether these precautions have been taken in time
I cannot tell. I think they have, though severe in themselves, beat the
disease. But I am alike prepared,
"Seu versare dolos, seu certæ occumbere morti." 
 Æneid II. 62.
I only know that to live as I am just now is a gift little worth having.
I think I will be in the Secret next week unless I recruit greatly.
April 27.—They have cut me off from animal food and fermented liquor
of every kind, and would press upon me such trash as panada and the
like, which affect my stomach.
This I will none of, but quietly wait till my ordinary diet is
permitted, and thank God I can fast with any one. I walked out and found
the day delightful; the woods are looking charming, just bursting forth
to the tune of the birds. I have been whistling on my wits like so many
chickens, and cannot miss any of them. I feel, on the whole, better than
I have yet done. I believe I have fined and recovered, and so may be
April 28 and 29.—Walter made his appearance, well and stout, and
completely recovered of his stomach complaints by abstinence. He has
youth on his side, and I in age must submit to be a Lazarus. The medical
men persist in recommending a seton. I am no friend to these risky
remedies, and will be sure of the necessity before I yield consent. The
dying like an Indian under torture is no joke, and, as Commodore
Trunnion says, I feel heart-whole as a biscuit. My mind turns to
politics. I feel better just now, and so I am. I will wait till Lockhart
comes, but that may be too late.