Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott Volume VI Part 10

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MY DEAR WALTER,--I hope your servant proves careful and trusty.

Pray let me know this. At any rate, do not trust him a bit further than you can help it, for in buying anything you will get it much cheaper yourself than he will. We are now settled for the winter; that is, all of them excepting myself, who must soon look southwards. On Saturday we had a grand visitor, _i. e._, the Crown Prince of Sweden, under the name of Count Itterburg. His travelling companion or tutor is Baron de Polier, a Swiss of eminence in literature and rank. They took a long look at King Charles XII., who, you cannot have forgotten, keeps his post over the dining-room chimney; and we were all struck with the resemblance betwixt old Ironhead, as the janissaries called him, and his descendant. The said descendant is a very fine lad, with very soft and mild manners, and we passed the day very pleasantly. They were much diverted with Captain Adam,[59] who outdid his usual outdoings, and, like the Barber of Bagdad, danced the dance and sung the song of every person he spoke of.

I am concerned I cannot give a very pleasant account of things here. Glasgow is in a terrible state. The Radicals had a plan to seize on 1000 stand of arms, as well as a depot of ammunition, which had been sent from Edinburgh Castle for the use of the volunteers. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Thomas Bradford, went to Glasgow in person, and the whole city was occupied with patrols of horse and foot, to deter them from the meditated attack on the barracks. The arms were then delivered to the volunteers, who are said to be 4000 on paper; how many effective and trustworthy, I know not. But it was a new sight in Scotland on a Sunday to see all the inhabitants in arms, soldiers patrolling the streets, and the utmost precaution of military service exacted and observed in an apparently peaceful city.

The Old Blue Regiment of volunteers was again summoned together yesterday. They did not muster very numerous, and looked most of them a little _ancient_. However, they are getting recruits fast, and then the veterans may fall out of the ranks. The Commander-in-Chief has told the President that he may soon be obliged to leave the charge of the Castle to these armed citizens. This looks serious. The President[60] made one of the most eloquent addresses that ever was heard, to the Old Blues.

The Highland Chiefs have offered to raise their clans, and march them to any point in Scotland where their services shall be required. To be sure, the Glasgow folks would be a little surprised at the arrival of Dugald Dhu, "brogues an' brochan an'

a'." I shall, I think, bid Ballantyne send you a copy of his weekly paper, which often contains things you would like to see, and will keep you in mind of Old Scotland.

They are embodying a troop of cavalry in Edinburgh--nice young men and good horses. They have paid me the compliment to make me an honorary member of the corps, as my days of active service have been long over. Pray take care, however, of my sabre, in case the time comes which must turn out all.

I have almost settled that, if things look moderately tranquil in Britain in spring and summer, I will go abroad, and take Charles, with the purpose of leaving him, for two or three years, at the famous institution of Fellenborg, near Berne, of which I hear very highly. Two of Fraser Tytler's sons are there, and he makes a very favorable report of the whole establishment. I think that such a residence abroad will not only make him well acquainted with French and German, as indeed he will hear nothing else, but also prevent his becoming an Edinburgh _petit-maitre_ of fourteen or fifteen, which he could otherwise scarce avoid. I mentioned to you that I should be particularly glad to get you leave of absence, providing it does not interfere with your duty, in order that you may go with us. If I have cash enough, I will also take your sister and mamma, and you might return home with them by Paris, in case I went on to Italy. All this is doubtful, but I think it is almost certain that Charles and I go, and hope to have you with us. This will be probably about July next, and I wish you particularly to keep it in view. If these dark prospects become darker, which God forbid! neither you nor I will have it in our power to leave the post to which duty calls us.

Mamma and the girls are quite well, and so is Master Charles, who is of course more magnificent, as being the only specimen of youthhead at home. He has got an old broadsword hanging up at his bed-head, which, to be the more ready for service, hath no sheath. To this I understand we are to trust for our defence against the Radicals. Anne (notwithstanding the assurance) is so much afraid of the disaffected, that last night, returning with Sophia from Portobello, where they had been dancing with the Scotts of Harden, she saw a Radical in every man that the carriage passed. Sophia is of course wise and philosophical, and mamma has not yet been able to conceive why we do not catch and hang the whole of them, untried and unconvicted. Amidst all their various emotions, they join in best love to you; and I always am very truly yours,

W. SCOTT.

P. S.--I shall set off for London on the 25th.

[Footnote 59: Sir Adam Ferguson.]

[Footnote 60: The Right Honorable Charles Hope, Lord President of the Court of Session, was Colonel-commandant of the Old Blues, or First Regiment of Edinburgh Volunteers.]

TO THE SAME.

EDINBURGH, 17th December, 1819.

MY DEAR WALTER,--I have a train of most melancholy news to acquaint you with. On Saturday I saw your grandmother perfectly well, and on Sunday the girls drank tea with her, when the good old lady was more than usually in spirits; and, as if she had wished to impress many things on their memory, told over a number of her old stories with her usual alertness and vivacity. On Monday she had an indisposition, which proved to be a paralytic affection, and on Tuesday she was speechless, and had lost the power of one side, without any hope of recovery, although she may linger some days. But what is very remarkable, and no less shocking, Dr. Rutherford, who attended his sister in perfect health upon Tuesday, died himself upon the Wednesday morning. He had breakfasted without intimating the least illness, and was dressed to go out, and particularly to visit my mother, when he sunk backwards, and died in his daughter Anne's arms, almost without a groan. To add to this melancholy list, our poor friend, Miss Christie, is despaired of. She was much affected by my mother's fatal indisposition, but does not know as yet of her brother's death.

Dr. Rutherford was a very ingenious as well as an excellent man, more of a gentleman than his profession too often are, for he could not take the back-stairs mode of rising in it, otherwise he might have been much more wealthy. He ought to have had the Chemistry class, as he was one of the best chemists in Europe;[61] but superior interest assigned it to another, who, though a neat experimentalist, is not to be compared to poor Daniel for originality of genius. Since you knew him, his health was broken and his spirits dejected, which may be traced to the loss of his eldest son on board an East Indiaman, and also, I think, to a slight paralytic touch which he had some years ago.

To all this domestic distress I have to add the fearful and unsettled state of the country. All the regular troops are gone to Glasgow. The Mid-Lothian Yeomanry and other corps of volunteers went there on Monday, and about 5000 men occupied the town. In the mean while, we were under considerable apprehension here, the Castle being left in the charge of the city volunteers and a few veterans.

All our corner, high and low, is loyal. Torwoodlee, Gala, and I, have offered to raise a corps, to be called the Loyal Foresters, to act anywhere south of the Forth. If matters get worse, I will ask leave of absence for you from the Commander-in-Chief, because your presence will be materially useful to levy men, and you can only be idle where you are, unless Ireland should be disturbed.

Your old corps of the Selkirkshire Yeomanry have been under orders, and expect to be sent either to Dumfries or Carlisle.

Berwick is dismantled, and they are removing the stores, cannon, etc., from one of the strongest places here, for I defy the devil to pass the bridge at Berwick, if reasonably well kept by 100 men. But there is a spirit of consternation implied in many of the orders, which, _entre nous_, I like worse than what I see or know of the circumstances which infer real danger. For myself I am too old to fight, but nobody is too old to die, like a man of virtue and honor, in defence of the principles he has always maintained.

I would have you to keep yourself ready to return here suddenly, in case the Duke of York should permit your temporary services in your own country, which, if things grow worse, I will certainly ask. The fearful thing is the secret and steady silence observed by the Radicals in all they do. Yet, without anything like effective arms or useful discipline, without money and without a commissariat, what can they do, but, according to their favorite toast, have blood and plunder? Mamma and the girls, as well as Charles, send kind love. Your affectionate father,

WALTER SCOTT.

[Footnote 61: "The subject of his _Thesis_ is singular, and entitles Rutherford to rank very high among the chemical philosophers of modern times. Its title is _De Aere Mephitico_, etc.--It is universally admitted that Dr. Rutherford first discovered this gas--the reputation of his discovery being speedily spread through Europe, his character as a chemist of the first eminence was firmly established, and much was augured from a young man in his twenty-second year having distinguished himself so remarkably."--Bower's _History of the University of Edinburgh_, vol. iii. (1830), pp. 260, 261.]

TO MR. WILLIAM LAIDLAW, KAESIDE.

EDINBURGH, December 20, 1819.

MY DEAR WILLIE,--Distress has been very busy with me since I wrote to you. I have lost, in the course of one week, my valued relations, Dr. and Miss Rutherford--happy in this, that neither knew of the other's dissolution. My dear mother has offered me deeper subject of affliction, having been struck with the palsy, and being now in such a state that I scarce hope to see her again.

But the strange times compel me, under this pressure of domestic distress, to attend to public business. I find Mr. Scott of Gala agrees with me in thinking we should appeal at this crisis to the good sense and loyalty of the lower orders, and we have resolved to break the ice, and be the first in the Lowlands, so far as I have yet heard of, to invite our laborers and those over whom circumstances and fortune give us influence, to rise with us in arms, and share our fate. You know, as well as any one, that I have always spent twice the income of my property in giving work to my neighbors, and I hope they will not be behind the Galashiels people, who are very zealous. Gala and I go hand in hand, and propose to raise at least a company each of men, to be drilled as sharpshooters or infantry, which will be a lively and interesting amusement for the young fellows. The dress we propose to be as simple, and at the same time as serviceable, as possible;--a jacket and trousers of Galashiels gray cloth, and a smart bonnet with a small feather, or, to save even that expense, a sprig of holly. And we will have shooting at the mark, and prizes, and fun, and a little whiskey, and daily pay when on duty or drill. I beg of you, dear Willie, to communicate my wish to all who have received a good turn at my hand, or may expect one, or may be desirous of doing me one--(for I should be sorry Darnick and Brigend were beat)--and to all other free and honest fellows who will take share with me on this occasion. I do not wish to take any command farther than such as shall entitle me to go with the corps, for I wish it to be distinctly understood that, in whatever capacity, _I go with them_, and take a share in good or bad as it casts up. I cannot doubt that I will have your support, and I hope you will use all your enthusiasm in our behalf. Morrison volunteers as our engineer. Those who I think should be spoke to are the following, among the higher class:--

John Usher.[62] He should be lieutenant, or his son ensign.

Sam Somerville.[63] I will speak to him--he may be lieutenant, if Usher declines; but I think, in that case, Usher should give us his son.

Young Nicol Milne[64] is rather young, but I will offer to his father to take him in.

Harper[65] is a _sine qua non_. Tell him I depend on him for the honor of Darnick. I should propose to him to take a gallant halbert.

Adam Ferguson thinks you should be our adjutant. John Ferguson I propose for captain. He is steady, right bold, and has seen much fire. The auld captain will help us in one shape or other. For myself, I know not what they propose to make of me, but it cannot be anything very active. However, I should like to have a steady quiet horse, drilled to stand fire well, and if he has these properties, no matter how stupid, so he does not stumble. In this case the price of such a horse will be no object.

These, my dear friend, are your beating orders. I would propose to raise about sixty men, and not to take old men. John the Turk[66] will be a capital corporal; and I hope in general that all my young fellows will go with me, leaving the older men to go through necessary labor. Sound Tom what he would like. I think, perhaps, he would prefer managing matters at home in your absence and mine at drill.

John of Skye is cock-a-hoop upon the occasion, and I suppose has made fifty blunders about it by this time. You must warn Tom Jamieson, Gordon Winness, John Swanston (who will carry off all the prizes at shooting), Davidson, and so forth.

If you think it necessary, a little handbill might be circulated. But it may be better to see if Government will accept our services; and I think, in the situation of the country, when work is scarce, and we offer pay for their playing themselves, we should have choice of men. But I would urge no one to do what he did not like.

The very precarious state of my poor mother detains me here, and makes me devolve this troublesome duty upon you. All you have to do, however, is to sound the men, and mark down those who seem zealous. They will perhaps have to fight with the pitmen and colliers of Northumberland for defence of their firesides, for these literal _blackguards_ are got beyond the management of their own people. And if such is the case, better keep them from coming into Scotland, than encounter the mischief they might do there.

Yours always most truly,

WALTER SCOTT.

[Footnote 62: Mr. Usher has already been mentioned as Scott's predecessor in the property of Toftfield. He now resided near those lands, and was Scott's tenant on the greater part of them.]

[Footnote 63: Samuel Somerville, W. S. (a son of the historian of Queen Anne), had a pretty villa at Lowood, on the Tweed, immediately opposite the seat of his relation, Lord Somerville, of whose estate he had the management.]

[Footnote 64: Nicol Milne, Esq. (now advocate), eldest son of the Laird of Faldonside.]

[Footnote 65: Harper, keeper of a little inn at Darnick, was a gallant and spirited yeoman--uniformly the gainer of the prizes at every contest of strength and agility in that district.]

[Footnote 66: One of Scott's foresters--thus designated as being, in all senses of the word, a _gallant_ fellow.]

TO THOMAS SCOTT, ESQ., 70th REGIMENT, KINGSTON, CANADA.

EDINBURGH, 22d December, 1819.

MY DEAR TOM,--I wrote you about ten days since, stating that we were all well here. In that very short space a change so sudden and so universal has taken place among your friends here, that I have to communicate to you a most miserable catalogue of losses.

Our dear mother was on Sunday the 12th December in all her usual strength and alertness of mind. I had seen and conversed with her on the Saturday preceding, and never saw her better in my life of late years. My two daughters drank tea with her on Sunday, when she was uncommonly lively, telling them a number of stories, and being in rather unusual spirits, probably from the degree of excitation which sometimes is remarked to precede a paralytic affection. In the course of Monday she received that fatal summons, which at first seemed slight; but in the night betwixt Monday and Tuesday our mother lost the use both of speech and of one side. Since that time she has lain in bed constantly, yet so sensible as to see me and express her earnest blessing on all of us. The power of speech is totally lost; nor is there any hope, at her advanced age, that the scene can last long. Probably a few hours will terminate it. At any rate, life is not to be wished, even for our nearest and dearest, in those circumstances. But this heavy calamity was only the commencement of our family losses. Dr. Rutherford, who had seemed perfectly well, and had visited my mother upon Tuesday the 14th, was suddenly affected with gout in his stomach, or some disease equally rapid, on Wednesday the 15th, and, without a moment's warning or complaint, fell down a dead man, almost without a single groan. You are aware of his fondness for animals: he was just stroking his cat after eating his breakfast, as usual, when, without more warning than a half-uttered exclamation, he sunk on the ground, and died in the arms of his daughter Anne. Though the Doctor had no formed complaint, yet I have thought him looking poorly for some months; and though there was no failure whatever in intellect, or anything which approached it, yet his memory was not so good; and I thought he paused during the last time he attended me, and had difficulty in recollecting the precise terms of his recipe.

Certainly there was a great decay of outward strength. We were very anxious about the effect this fatal news was likely to produce on the mind and decayed health of our aunt, Miss C.

Rutherford, and resolved, as her health had been gradually falling off ever since she returned from Abbotsford, that she should never learn anything of it until it was impossible to conceal it longer. But God had so ordered it that she was never to know the loss she had sustained, and which she would have felt so deeply. On Friday the 17th December, the second day after her brother's death, she expired, without a groan and without suffering, about six in the morning. And so we lost an excellent and warm-hearted relation, one of the few women I ever knew whose strength of mental faculties enabled her, at a mature period of life, to supply the defects of an imperfect education.

It is a most uncommon and afflicting circumstance, that a brother and two sisters should be taken ill the same day--that two of them should die, without any rational possibility of the survivance of the third--and that no one of the three could be affected by learning the loss of the other. The Doctor was buried on Monday the 20th, and Miss Rutherford this day (Wednesday the 22d), in the burial-place adjoining to and surrounding one of the new Episcopal chapels,[67] where Robert Rutherford[68] had purchased a burial-ground of some extent, and parted with one half to the Russells. It is surrounded with a very high wall, and all the separate burial-grounds (five, I think, in number) are separated by party-walls going down to the depth of twelve feet, so as to prevent the possibility either of encroachment, or of disturbing the relics of the dead. I have purchased one half of Miss Russell's interest in this sad spot, moved by its extreme seclusion, privacy, and security. When poor Jack was buried in the Greyfriars' Churchyard, where my father and Anne lie,[69] I thought their graves more encroached upon than I liked to witness; and in this new place I intend to lay our poor mother when the scene shall close; so that the brother and the two sisters, whose fate has been so very closely entwined in death, may not be divided in the grave,--and this I hope you will approve of.

_Thursday, December 23d._--My mother still lingers this morning, and as her constitution is so excellent, she may perhaps continue to exist some time, or till another stroke. It is a great consolation that she is perfectly easy. All her affairs of every sort have been very long arranged for this great change, and with the assistance of Donaldson and Macculloch, you may depend, when the event takes place, that your interest will be attended to most pointedly.--I hope our civil tumults here are like to be ended by the measures of Parliament. I mentioned in my last that Kinloch of Kinloch was to be tried for sedition. He has forfeited his bail, and was yesterday laid under outlawry for non-appearance. Our neighbors in Northumberland are in a deplorable state; upwards of 50,000 blackguards are ready to rise between Tyne and Wear.[70] On the other hand, the Scottish frontiers are steady and loyal, and arming fast. Scott of Gala and I have offered 200 men, all fine strapping young fellows, and good marksmen, willing to go anywhere with us. We could easily double the number. So the necessity of the times has made me get on horseback once more. Our mother has at different times been perfectly conscious of her situation, and knew every one, though totally unable to speak. She seemed to take a very affectionate farewell of me the last time I saw her, which was the day before yesterday; and as she was much agitated, Dr. Keith advised I should not see her again, unless she seemed to desire it, which hitherto she has not done. She sleeps constantly, and will probably be so removed. Our family sends love to yours. Yours most affectionately:--

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott Volume VI Part 10

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