Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott Volume VI Part 12

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[Footnote 77: Dr. Scott of Darnlee.--See _ante_, vol. v. p. 277. This very amiable, modest, and intelligent friend of Sir Walter Scott's died in 1837.]

[Footnote 78: Some money expected from the sale of larches.]

And again, on the 25th, he writes thus:--

DEAR WILLIE,--I have yours with the news of the inundation, which, it seems, has done no damage. I hope _Mai_ will be taken care of. He should have a bed in the kitchen, and always be called indoors after it is dark, for all the kind are savage at night. Please cause Swanston to knock him up a box, and fill it with straw from time to time. I enclose a cheque for 50 to pay accounts, etc. Do not let the poor bodies want for a 5, or even a 10, more or less;--

"We'll get a blessing wi' the lave, And never miss 't."[79]


W. S.

[Footnote 79: Burns--_Lines to a Mouse._]

In the course of this month, through the kindness of Mr. Croker, Scott received from the late Earl Bathurst, then Colonial Secretary of State, the offer of an appointment in the civil service of the East India Company for his second son: and this seemed at the time too good a thing not to be gratefully accepted; though the apparently increasing prosperity of his fortunes induced him, a few years afterwards, to indulge his parental feelings by throwing it up. He thus alludes to this matter in a letter to his good old friend at Jedburgh:--


EDINBURGH, 19th January, 1820.

MY DEAR SIR,--I heartily congratulate you on getting the appointment for your son William in a manner so very pleasant to your feelings, and which is, like all Whytbank does, considerate, friendly, and generous.[80] I am not aware that I have any friends at Calcutta, but if you think letters to Sir John Malcolm and Lieut.-Colonel Russell would serve my young friend, he shall have my best commendations to them.

It is very odd that almost the same thing has happened to me; for about a week ago I was surprised by a letter, saying that an unknown friend (who since proves to be Lord Bathurst, whom I never saw or spoke with) would give my second son a Writer's situation for India. Charles is two years too young for this appointment; but I do not think I am at liberty to decline an offer so advantageous, if it can be so arranged that, by exchange or otherwise, it can be kept open for him. Ever yours faithfully,


[Footnote 80: "An India appointment, with the name blank, which the late Mr. Pringle of Whytbank sent unsolicited, believing it might be found useful to a family where there were seven sons to provide for."--_Note by Mr. A. Shortreed._]


_After the painting by William Nicholson_]

About the middle of February--it having been ere that time arranged that I should marry his eldest daughter[81] in the course of the spring--I accompanied him and part of his family on one of those flying visits to Abbotsford, with which he often indulged himself on a Saturday during term. Upon such occasions Scott appeared at the usual hour in Court, but wearing, instead of the official suit of black, his country morning dress--green jacket and so forth--under the clerk's gown; a license of which many gentlemen of the long robe had been accustomed to avail themselves in the days of his youth--it being then considered as the authentic badge that they were lairds as well as lawyers--but which, to use the dialect of the place, had fallen into _desuetude_ before I knew the Parliament House. He was, I think, one of the two or three, or at most the half dozen, who still adhered to this privilege of their order; and it has now, in all likelihood, become quite obsolete, like the ancient custom, a part of the same system, for all Scotch barristers to appear without gowns or wigs, and in colored clothes, when upon circuit. At noon, when the Court broke up, Peter Mathieson was sure to be in attendance in the Parliament Close, and five minutes after, the gown had been tossed off, and Scott, rubbing his hands for glee, was under weigh for Tweedside. On this occasion, he was, of course, in mourning; but I have thought it worth while to preserve the circumstance of his usual Saturday's costume. As we proceeded, he talked without reserve of the novel of The Monastery, of which he had the first volume with him; and mentioned, what he had probably forgotten when he wrote the Introduction of 1830, that a good deal of that volume had been composed before he concluded Ivanhoe. "It was a relief," he said, "to interlay the scenery most familiar to me with the strange world for which I had to draw so much on imagination."

[Footnote 81: [Of Miss Scott, not long before her marriage, Mr. George Ticknor writes:--

"Sophia Scott is a remarkable girl, with great simplicity and naturalness of manners, full of enthusiasm, with tact in everything, a lover of old ballads, a Jacobite, and, in short, in all respects, such a daughter as Scott ought to have and ought to be proud of. And he is proud of her, as I saw again and again when he could not conceal it.

"One evening, after dinner, he told her to take her harp and play five or six ballads he mentioned to her, as a specimen of the different ages of Scottish music. I hardly ever heard anything of the kind that moved me so much. And yet, I imagine, many sing better; but I never saw such an air and manner, such spirit and feeling, such decision and power.... I was so much excited that I turned round to Mr. Scott and said to him, probably with great emphasis, 'I never heard anything so fine;' and he, seeing how involuntarily I had said it, caught me by the hand, and replied, very earnestly, 'Everybody says so, sir,' but added in an instant, blushing a little, 'but I must not be too vain of her.'

"I was struck, too, with another little trait in her character and his, that exhibited itself the same evening. Lady Hume asked her to play _Rob Roy_, an old ballad. A good many persons were present, and she felt a little embarrassed by the recollection of how much her father's name had been mentioned in connection with this strange Highlander's; but, as upon all occasions, she took the most direct means to settle her difficulties; ... she ran across the room to her father, and, blushing pretty deeply, whispered to him. 'Yes, my dear,'

he said, loud enough to be heard, 'play it, to be sure, if you are asked, and _Waverley_ and the _Antiquary_, too, if there be any such ballads.' ... She is as perfectly right-minded as I ever saw one so young, and, indeed, perhaps right-mindedness is the prevailing feature in her character."--_Life of George Ticknor_, vol. i. pp. 281, 283.]]

Next morning there appeared at breakfast John Ballantyne, who had at this time a shooting or hunting box a few miles off, in the vale of the Leader, and with him Mr. Constable, his guest; and it being a fine clear day, as soon as Scott had read the Church service and one of Jeremy Taylor's sermons, we all sallied out, before noon, on a perambulation of his upland territories; Maida and the rest of the favorites accompanying our march. At starting we were joined by the constant henchman, Tom Purdie--and I may save myself the trouble of any attempt to describe his appearance, for his master has given us an inimitably true one in introducing a certain personage of his Redgauntlet: "He was, perhaps, sixty years old; yet his brow was not much furrowed, and his jet black hair was only grizzled, not whitened, by the advance of age. All his motions spoke strength unabated; and, though rather undersized, he had very broad shoulders, was square-made, thin-flanked, and apparently combined in his frame muscular strength and activity; the last somewhat impaired, perhaps, by years, but the first remaining in full vigor. A hard and harsh countenance; eyes far sunk under projecting eyebrows, which were grizzled like his hair: a wide mouth, furnished from ear to ear with a range of unimpaired teeth of uncommon whiteness, and a size and breadth which might have become the jaws of an ogre, completed this delightful portrait." Equip this figure in Scott's cast-off green jacket, white hat and drab trousers; and imagine that years of kind treatment, comfort, and the honest consequence of a confidential _grieve_, had softened away much of the hardness and harshness originally impressed on the visage by anxious penury and the sinister habits of a _black-fisher_,--and the Tom Purdie of 1820 stands before us.

We were all delighted to see how completely Scott had recovered his bodily vigor, and none more so than Constable, who, as he puffed and panted after him up one ravine and down another, often stopped to wipe his forehead, and remarked that "it was not every author who should lead him such a dance." But Purdie's face shone with rapture as he observed how severely the swag-bellied bookseller's activity was tasked. Scott exclaiming exultingly, though perhaps for the tenth time, "This will be a glorious spring for our trees, Tom!"--"You may say that, Shirra," quoth Tom,--and then lingering a moment for Constable--"My certy," he added, scratching his head, "and I think it will be a grand season for _our buiks_ too." But indeed Tom always talked of _our buiks_ as if they had been as regular products of the soil as _our aits_ and _our birks_.[82] Having threaded, first the Haxelcleugh, and then the Rhymer's Glen, we arrived at Huntly Burn, where the hospitality of the kind _Weird-Sisters_, as Scott called the Miss Fergusons, reanimated our exhausted Bibliopoles, and gave them courage to extend their walk a little further down the same famous brook. Here there was a small cottage in a very sequestered situation, by making some little additions to which Scott thought it might be converted into a suitable summer residence for his daughter and future son-in-law. The details of that plan were soon settled--it was agreed on all hands that a sweeter scene of seclusion could not be fancied.

He repeated some verses of Rogers's Wish, which paint the spot:--

"Mine be a cot beside the hill-- A bee-hive's hum shall soothe my ear; A willowy brook that turns a mill, With many a fall shall linger near:" etc.

[Footnote 82: [Mr. Skene, in his _Reminiscences_, says of Tom Purdie:--

"He used to talk of Sir Walter's publications as our books, and said that the reading of them was the greatest comfort to him, for whenever he was off his sleep, which sometimes happened, he had only to take one of the novels, and before he read two pages it was sure to set him asleep. Tom, with the usual shrewdness common to his countrymen in that class of life, joined a quaintness and drollery in his notions and mode of expressing himself that was very amusing; he was familiar, but at the same time perfectly respectful, although he was sometimes tempted to deal sharp cuts, particularly at Sir Adam Ferguson, whom he seemed to take a pleasure in assailing. When Sir Walter obtained the honor of knighthood for Sir Adam, upon the plea of his being Custodier of the Regalia of Scotland, Tom was very indignant, because, he said, 'It would take some of the shine out of us,' meaning Sir Walter.... He was remarkably fastidious in his care of the Library, and it was exceedingly amusing to see a clodhopper (for he was always in the garb of a ploughman) moving about in the splendid apartment, scrutinizing the state of the books, putting derangement to rights, remonstrating when he observed anything that indicated carelessness."--See _Journal_, vol. ii. p. 318, note.]]

But when he came to the stanza,--

"And Lucy at her wheel shall sing, In russet-gown and apron blue,"

he departed from the text, adding,--

"But if Bluestockings here you bring, The Great Unknown won't dine with you."

Johnny Ballantyne, a projector to the core, was particularly zealous about this embryo establishment. Foreseeing that he should have had walking enough ere he reached Huntly Burn, his dapper little Newmarket groom had been ordered to fetch Old Mortality thither, and now, mounted on his fine hunter, he capered about us, looking pallid and emaciated as a ghost, but as gay and cheerful as ever, and would fain have been permitted to ride over hedge and ditch to mark out the proper line of the future avenue. Scott admonished him that the country-people, if they saw him at such work, would take the whole party for heathens; and clapping spurs to his horse, he left us. "The deil's in the body," quoth Tom Purdie; "he'll be ower every _yett_ atween this and Turn-again, though it be the Lord's day. I wadna wonder if he were to be _ceeted_ before the Session." "Be sure, Tam,"

cries Constable, "that ye egg on the Dominie to blaw up his father--I wouldna grudge a hundred miles o' gait to see the ne'er-do-weel on the stool, and neither, I'll be sworn, would the Sheriff."--"Na, na,"

quoth the Sheriff; "we'll let sleeping dogs be, Tam."

As we walked homeward, Scott, being a little fatigued, laid his left hand on Tom's shoulder, and leaned heavily for support, chatting to his "Sunday pony," as he called the affectionate fellow, just as freely as with the rest of the party, and Tom put in his word shrewdly and manfully, and grinned and grunted whenever the joke chanced to be within his apprehension. It was easy to see that his heart swelled within him from the moment that the Sheriff got his collar in his gripe.

There arose a little dispute between them about what tree or trees ought to be cut down in a hedge-row that we passed, and Scott seemed somewhat ruffled with finding that some previous hints of his on that head had not been attended to. When we got into motion again, his hand was on Constable's shoulder--and Tom dropped a pace or two to the rear, until we approached a gate, when he jumped forward and opened it. "Give us a pinch of your snuff, Tom," quoth the Sheriff. Tom's mull was produced, and the hand resumed its position. I was much diverted with Tom's behavior when we at length reached Abbotsford.

There were some garden chairs on the green in front of the cottage porch. Scott sat down on one of them to enjoy the view of his new tower as it gleamed in the sunset, and Constable and I did the like.

Mr. Purdie remained lounging near us for a few minutes, and then asked the Sheriff "to speak a word." They withdrew together into the garden--and Scott presently rejoined us with a particularly comical expression of face. As soon as Tom was out of sight, he said--"Will ye guess what he has been saying, now?--Well, this is a great satisfaction! Tom assures me that he has thought the matter over, and _will take my advice_ about the thinning of that clump behind Captain Ferguson's."[83]

[Footnote 83: I am obliged to my friend Mr. Scott of Gala for reminding me of the following trait of Tom Purdie. The first time Mr.

John Richardson of Fludyer Street came to Abbotsford, Tom (who took him for a Southron) was sent to attend upon him while he tried for a _fish_ (_i. e._, a salmon) in the neighborhood of Melrose Bridge. As they walked thither, Tom boasted grandly of the size of the fish he had himself caught there, evidently giving the stranger no credit for much skill in the Waltonian craft. By and by, however, Richardson, who is an admirable angler, hooked a vigorous fellow, and after a beautiful exhibition of the art, landed him in safety. "A fine _fish_, Tom."--"Oo, aye, Sir," quoth Tom, "it's a bonny grilse." "A _grilse_, Tom!" says Mr. R., "it's as heavy a _salmon_ as the heaviest you were telling me about." Tom showed his teeth in a smile of bitter incredulity; but while they were still debating, Lord Somerville's fisherman came up with scales in his basket, and Richardson insisted on having his victim weighed. The result was triumphant for the captor. "Weel," says Tom, letting the salmon drop on the turf, "weel, ye _are_ a meikle fish, mon--and a meikle _fule_, too" (he added in a lower key), "to let yoursell be kilt by an Englander."--(1839.)

[Mr. Richardson's own account of this incident can be found in the memorial sketch of him in the _North British Review_ for November, 1864. The scene was not Abbotsford, but Ashestiel, in September, 1810.]]

I must not forget that, whoever might be at Abbotsford, Tom always appeared at his master's elbow on Sunday, when dinner was over, and drank long life to the Laird and the Lady and all the good company, in a quaigh of whiskey, or a tumbler of wine, according to his fancy. I believe Scott has somewhere expressed in print his satisfaction that, among all the changes of our manners, the ancient freedom of personal intercourse may still be indulged between a master and an _out-of-doors_ servant; but in truth he kept by the old fashion even with domestic servants, to an extent which I have hardly seen practised by any other gentleman. He conversed with his coachman if he sat by him, as he often did on the box--with his footman, if he happened to be in the rumble; and when there was any very young lad in the household, he held it a point of duty to see that his employments were so arranged as to leave time for advancing his education, made him bring his copy-book once a week to the library, and examined him as to all that he was doing. Indeed he did not confine this humanity to his own people. Any steady servant of a friend of his was soon considered as a sort of friend too, and was sure to have a kind little colloquy to himself at coming and going. With all this, Scott was a very rigid enforcer of discipline--contrived to make it thoroughly understood by all about him, that they must do their part by him as he did his by them; and the result was happy. I never knew any man so well served as he was--so carefully, so respectfully, and so silently; and I cannot help doubting if, in any department of human operations, real kindness ever compromised real dignity.

In a letter, already quoted, there occurs some mention of the Prince Gustavus Vasa, who was spending this winter in Edinburgh, and his Royal Highness's accomplished attendant, the Baron Polier. I met them frequently in Castle Street, and remember as especially interesting the first evening that they dined there. The only portrait in Scott's Edinburgh dining-room was one of Charles XII. of Sweden, and he was struck, as indeed every one must have been, with the remarkable resemblance which the exiled Prince's air and features presented to the hero of his race. Young Gustavus, on his part, hung with keen and melancholy enthusiasm on Scott's anecdotes of the expedition of Charles Edward Stewart.--The Prince, accompanied by Scott and myself, witnessed the ceremonial of the proclamation of King George IV. on the 2d of February at the Cross of Edinburgh, from a window over Mr.

Constable's shop in the High Street; and on that occasion, also, the air of sadness that mixed in his features with eager curiosity was very affecting. Scott explained all the details to him, not without many lamentations over the barbarity of the Auld Reekie bailies, who had removed the beautiful Gothic Cross itself, for the sake of widening the thoroughfare. The weather was fine, the sun shone bright; and the antique tabards of the heralds, the trumpet notes of _God save the King_, and the hearty cheerings of the immense uncovered multitude that filled the noble old street, produced altogether a scene of great splendor and solemnity. The Royal Exile surveyed it with a flushed cheek and a watery eye, and Scott, observing his emotion, withdrew with me to another window, whispering: "Poor lad! poor lad! God help him." Later in the season, the Prince spent a few days at Abbotsford; but I have said enough to explain some allusions in the next letter to Lord Montagu, in which Scott also adverts to several public events of January and February, 1820,--the assassination of the Duke of Berri, the death of King George III., the general election which followed the royal demise, and its more unhappy consequence, the reagitation of the old disagreement between George IV. and his wife, who, as soon as she learned his accession to the throne, announced her resolution of returning from the Continent (where she had been leading for some years a wandering life), and asserting her rights as Queen. The Tory gentleman, in whose canvass of the Selkirk boroughs Scott was now earnestly concerned, was his worthy friend, Mr. Henry Monteith of Carstairs, who ultimately carried the election.


EDINBURGH, 22d February, 1820.

MY DEAR LORD,--I have nothing to say, except that Selkirk has declared decidedly for Monteith, and that his calling and election seem to be sure. Roxburghshire is right and tight.

Harden will not stir for Berwickshire. In short, within my sphere of observation, there is nothing which need make you regret your personal absence; and I hope my dear young namesake and chief will not find his influence abated while he is unable to head it himself. It is but little I can do, but it shall always be done with a good will--and merits no thanks, for I owe much more to his father's memory than ever I can pay a tittle of. I often think what he would have said or wished, and, within my limited sphere, _that_ will always be a rule to me while I have the means of advancing in any respect the interest of his son;--certainly, if anything could increase this desire, it would be the banner being at present in your Lordship's hand. I can do little but look out ahead, but that is always something. When I look back on the house of Buccleuch, as I once knew it, it is a sad retrospect. But we must look forward, and hope for the young blossom of so goodly a tree. I think your Lordship judged quite right in carrying Walter in his place to the funeral.[84] He will long remember it, and may survive many occasions of the same kind, to all human appearance.--Here is a horrid business of the Duke de Berri. It was first told me yesterday by Count Itterburg (_i. e._, Prince Gustavus of Sweden, son of the ex-King), who comes to see me very often. No fairy tale could match the extravagance of such a tale being told to a private Scotch gentleman by such a narrator, his own grandfather having perished in the same manner. But our age has been one of complete revolution, baffling all argument and expectation. As to the King and Queen, or, to use the abbreviation of an old Jacobite of my acquaintance, who, not loving to hear them so called at full length, and yet desirous to have the newspapers read to him, commanded these words always to be pronounced as the letters K.

and Q.--I say then, as to the K. and the Q., I venture to think, that whichever strikes the first blow will lose the battle. The sound, well-judging, and well-principled body of the people will be much shocked at the stirring such a hateful and disgraceful question. If the K. urges it unprovoked, the public feeling will put him in the wrong; if he lets her alone, her own imprudence, and that of her hot-headed adviser Harry Brougham, will push on the discussion; and, take a fool's word for it, as Sancho says, the country will never bear her coming back, foul with the various kinds of infamy she has been stained with, to force herself into the throne. On the whole, it is a discussion most devoutly to be deprecated by those who wish well to the Royal family.

Now for a very different subject. I have a report that there is found on the farm of Melsington, in a bog, the limb of a bronze figure, full size, with a spur on the heel. This has been reported to Mr. Riddell, as Commissioner, and to me as Antiquary in chief, on the estate. I wish your Lordship would permit it to be sent provisionally to Abbotsford, and also allow me, if it shall seem really curious, to make search for the rest of the statue. Clarkson[85] has sent me a curious account of it; and that a Roman statue (for such it seems) of that size should be found in so wild a place, has something very irritating to the curiosity. I do not of course desire to have anything more than the opportunity of examining the relique. It may be the foundation of a set of bronzes, if stout Lord Walter should turn to _virtu_.

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott Volume VI Part 12

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