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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Volume I (of 10)
by John Gibson Lockhart
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Transcriber's note:

Obvious printer's errors have been corrected; all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been retained.

The author used group of asterisks (*****) to replace names.

Page numbers have been retained as {p.xxx}.



MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT BART.

by

JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART

In Ten Volumes

VOLUME I



Boston and New York Houghton, Mifflin and Company The Riverside Press, Cambridge MCMI

Copyright, 1901 by Houghton, Mifflin and Company All Rights Reserved

Six Hundred Copies Printed Number, 276



PUBLISHERS' NOTE {p.v}

Lockhart's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., which divides with Boswell's Life of Johnson the honor of leading all lives of English men of letters, was first published in seven volumes in 1837-1838. A second edition, with some corrections, some slight revisions, and a few additions, mostly in the form of notes, was published in 1839, and this has remained ever since the standard edition. Later, in 1848, Lockhart prepared, at the request of the publishers of that work, a condensation of his magnum opus, and took that occasion to add a few facts bearing upon the Life which had occurred since the original publication, and a few comments which it would not have been in good taste to make in the first instance. Throughout his original work, Lockhart, with all his openness of speech, yet refrained from certain personal references, the subjects of which were too recent for remark, and he concealed many names under the disguise of initials.

Since the edition of 1839 there have been many issues of this great work on both sides of the Atlantic. As late as 1861, Messrs. Ticknor and Fields, predecessors of the present publishers of the work, issued an edition in nine volumes, and took occasion to insert some material from Lockhart's abridgment. They prefaced the edition, which they dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, with a brief sketch of Lockhart.

Neither {p.vi} these publishers nor any others, so far as we know, have ever done more than reprint the original work, save for the slight modification just mentioned. Meanwhile for the past sixty years, and more especially during the past twenty years, a crowd of books has been published throwing light on Lockhart's great subject. Memoirs, reminiscences, editions of Scott's writings, literary studies, articles in reviews and magazines have added materially to our knowledge not only of Scott, but of many others of the personages who throng the chapters of Lockhart's work. Lockhart himself has been made the subject of a generous biography, and it would seem as though, lasting as is the fame of the Life, its necessary silences were becoming every year more conspicuous.

Accordingly, the present publishers resolved to issue an edition which should repair the damage which Time had wrought, and they entrusted the editing to Miss Susan M. Francis, who through her long conversance with the original work, and her familiarity with the literature which has grown up about Scott, as well as her knowledge of the more or less obscure sources of information, was peculiarly competent not only to do the service of Old Mortality, but to set in order the inscriptions still to be added to the stones of Scott's associates.

The principle upon which Lockhart's Scott is now edited may be stated in very few words. The original work is reprinted without change, except that initials have been extended to full names in a great many instances, obvious printers' errors corrected, and Scott's journals revised to conform with the authoritative edition by Mr. David Douglas. Then, the text has been annotated by fuller accounts of many of the persons to whom Scott or Lockhart refer, and very many passages have been expanded or {p.vii} illuminated by extracts from Scott's letters and journals, and from a variety of books and articles bearing upon the subject. In a number of instances the narrative of persons who were living when Lockhart wrote has been carried forward to show their after career. All the editor's work is indicated by its enclosure in brackets. Lockhart's later notes are indicated by the years 1839, 1845, and 1848, enclosed in parentheses.

In making this annotation recourse has been had first of all to the editions of Scott's Familiar Letters and Journal, so thoroughly and admirably edited by Mr. David Douglas. No one who undertakes to work at the life of Scott fails to confess a deep obligation to this gentleman. Not only so, but Mr. Douglas has repeatedly come to the editor's aid in settling those nice points which arise in any piece of careful editing. His own notes when used always bear his initials at the close. Lang's Life and Letters of Lockhart has also been in frequent use, and of general works The Dictionary of National Biography has been in constant demand. The more one uses it the more one comes to value the accuracy of its statements, and the thoroughness with which its subjects have been treated. Of the very large number of memoirs and reminiscences consulted, mention may be made of Selections from the Manuscripts of Lady Louisa Stuart, by permission of Messrs. Harper and Brothers, the American publishers of the work; Mrs. Oliphant's William Blackwood and his Sons, and the other two works on the great publishing houses, Smiles's Memoir of John Murray and Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents; Carruthers's Abbotsford Notanda and the Catalogue of the Scott Centenary Exhibition have been referred to, and the memoirs and reminiscences connected with the names of Maria {p.viii} Edgeworth, Washington Irving, Leslie, George Ticknor, Haydon, Byron, Moore, Charles Mayne Young, Wordsworth, Crabbe, Lord Cockburn, Miss Ferrier, Mrs. Kemble, and others; while for the later history of the Scott family, the Life of James Hope-Scott has been serviceable. The attentive reader will readily understand that the editor has also gone to numberless books and magazine articles for the proper confirmation of petty facts and the assurance of accuracy.

To complete the worth of this edition, the publishers have taken pains to illustrate it abundantly with portraits and other pictures, and to obtain these they have gone as far as possible in every case to the original sources. The result is a great English classic of abiding value, faithfully reproduced, and so supplemented by editorial and artistic labor as to be brought up to date in all essential particulars.

4 PARK STREET, BOSTON. Autumn, 1901.



TABLE OF CONTENTS {p.ix}

Page Biographical Sketch of John Gibson Lockhart xiii

Lockhart's Preface xxxvii

Original Dedication xli

MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT

Chap.

I. Memoir of the Early Life of Sir Walter Scott, written by himself. 1

II. Illustrations of the Autobiographical Fragment. — Edinburgh. — Sandy-Knowe. — Bath. — Prestonpans. 1771-1778. 51

III. Illustrations of the Autobiography continued. — High School of Edinburgh. — Residence at Kelso. 1778-1783. 78

IV. Illustrations of the Autobiography continued. — Anecdotes of Scott's College Life. 1783-1786. 104

V. Illustrations continued. — Scott's Apprenticeship to his Father. — Excursions to the Highlands, etc. — Debating Societies. — Early Correspondence, etc. — Williamina Stuart. 1786-1790. 116

VI. Illustrations continued. — Studies for the Bar. — Excursion to Northumberland. — Letter on Flodden Field. — Call to the Bar. 1790-1792. 149

VII. {p.x} First Expedition into Liddesdale. — Study of German. — Political Trials, etc. — Specimen of Law Papers. — Buerger's Lenore translated. — Disappointment in Love. 1792-1796. 169

VIII. Publication of Ballads after Buerger. — Scott Quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light Horse. — Excursion to Cumberland. — Gilsland Wells. — Miss Carpenter. — Marriage. 1796-1797. 227



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS {p.xi}

Page WALTER SCOTT IN 1777 Frontispiece From the miniature by Kay, in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

DR. ALEXANDER ADAM 28 From the painting by Sir Henry Raeburn, R. A., in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

WALTER SCOTT ("Beardie"), Great-grandfather of Sir Walter Scott 60 After the painting at Abbotsford.

WALTER SCOTT, W. S., Father of Sir Walter Scott 66 After the painting at Abbotsford.

WILLIAMINA STUART 146 From the miniature by Richard Cosway, R. A. By permission of the Century Co.

SCOTT'S FATHER'S HOUSE, 25 GEORGE'S SQUARE, EDINBURGH. 160 From a photograph.



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH {p.xiii}

OF

JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART

John Gibson Lockhart was born in the manse of Cambusnethan, July 14, 1794. His father, the Rev. John Lockhart, was twice married, and of the children of his first wife only one, William, the laird of Milton-Lockhart, reached manhood. The second Mrs. Lockhart was Elizabeth, the daughter of the Rev. John Gibson, minister of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, and that clergyman's namesake was her eldest child. "Every Scottishman has his pedigree," says Scott in his fragment of Autobiography, and there is no lack of interest in the honorable one of his son-in-law, from the days of Simon Locard of the Lee, in the county of Lanark, who was knighted by Robert the Bruce, and after his king's death sailed with the good Lord James Douglas, who was bearing his master's heart to the Holy Land,—the heart which Locard rescued from the Moors, when Douglas fell fighting in Spain, and brought back to Scotland with Lord James's body. Then the Locards added to their armorial bearings a heart within a fetterlock, and took the name of Lockhart. From Sir Stephen Lockhart of Cleghorn, a man of note in the court of James III., was descended Robert Lockhart of Birkhill, who fought for the Covenant, and led the Lanarkshire Whigs at the battle of Bothwell Brig.

William {p.xiv} Lockhart, the Covenanter's grandson, married Violet Inglis, the heiress of Corehouse. The Rev. John Lockhart was the younger of their two sons. From his father Lockhart seems to have inherited his scholarly tastes, while in person he appears to have resembled his mother; to both he was always the most affectionate and devoted of sons. His warmth of feeling, even in childhood, as well as his constitutional reserve, is shown by his intense suffering at the loss of a younger brother and sister, who died within a few days of each other. He did not weep like the rest of the children, or show other sign of emotion, but fell seriously ill, and was long in recovering from the shock. From the first he was a delicate child, and the removal of the family from country to town, when he was in his second year, probably did not tend to strengthen him. Dr. Lockhart became minister of the College Kirk in Glasgow, and his son in due time entered the High School there. In after-years his schoolmates remembered him as a very clever, but hardly a diligent boy. Though frequently absent from illness (one of these childish maladies caused the deafness in one ear from which he suffered), he always kept his place at the head of his class. "He never seemed to learn anything when the class was sitting down," wrote a fellow-pupil, "and on returning after one of his illnesses, he of course went to the bottom, but we had not been five minutes up when he began to take places, and he invariably succeeded, sometimes before the class was dismissed at noon, in getting to the top of it again."

In 1805, when he had but just entered his twelfth year, Lockhart matriculated at the University of Glasgow. More than fifty years later, two of his classmates wrote their recollections of the boy student,—recollections vivid enough to show how strong an impression he made on his companions. He still was somewhat delicate in health, and {p.xv} kept a high position in his studies more from ability than assiduity. A strong sense of the ludicrous, allied with a turn for satire, was already one of his marked traits. At the close of the session of 1805-6 a little incident shows the admiration felt for him by some of his companions. He had been disappointed in not obtaining a certain Latin prize, and several of his friends, sharing his feeling, determined to present to him a testimonial. He was very fond of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, then a new book, so the lads procured a splendidly bound copy, and, at their suggestion, the Professor, at the public distribution of prizes, gave the volume with warm commendations to Johannes Lockhart, as a prize the students had themselves provided. It was not till Lockhart joined the logic class (at the age of thirteen), that he suddenly outstripped all his companions, whom he later astonished by the amount of Greek which he professed at the Blackstone examination. It was thought a profession of reasonable amount "when a student intimated his willingness to translate and be examined critically on Anacreon, two or three of Lucian's dialogues, extracts from Epictetus, Bion, and Moschus, and perhaps a book or two of Homer." "But," declares one of his former fellow-students, "Lockhart professed the whole Iliad and Odyssey and I know not how much besides." His brilliant success on this occasion led to his being offered one of the Snell Exhibitions to Oxford,—an offer which was accepted after some hesitation on account of his youth. He was not yet fifteen, and still wore the round jacket of a schoolboy when he was entered at Balliol College.

One of Lockhart's closest friends at Oxford and ever after, Mr. J. H. Christie, describes the young student at this time: "Lockhart immediately made his general talents felt by his tutor and his companions. His most remarkable characteristic, however, was the exuberant spirits {p.xvi} which found vent in constant flashes of merriment brightened and pointed with wit and satire at once droll and tormenting. Even a lecture-room was not exempt from these irrepressible sallies; and our tutor, who was formal and wished to be grave, but had not the gift of gravity, never felt safe in the presence of his mercurial pupil. Lockhart with great readiness comprehended the habits and tone of the new society in which he was placed, and was not for a moment wanting in any of its requirements; but this adaptive power never interfered with the marked individuality of his own character and bearing. He was at once a favorite and formidable. In those days he was an incessant caricaturist; his papers, his books, and the walls of his rooms were crowded with portraitures of his friends and himself—so like as to be unmistakable, with an exaggeration of any peculiarity so droll and so provoking as to make the picture anything but flattering to the self-love of its subject. This propensity was so strong in him that I was surprised when in after-life he repressed it at once and forever. In the last thirty years of his life I do not think he ever drew a caricature."[1]

[Footnote 1: Quarterly Review, vol. cxvi. p. 447.]

In these days Lockhart read not only Greek and Latin, but French, Italian, and Spanish. German interested him later. At Balliol he formed some friendships which ended only with life; no man was ever truer to his early friends than he, and few have had friends more loyal.[2] He {p.xvii} gained his first class in 1813—he was not yet nineteen—and returned to his father's house in Glasgow, which he was to leave two years later for Edinburgh, there to read law and begin the literary work which was to prove the real business of his life. He became acquainted with William Blackwood, who, when the young advocate was about to visit Germany in the vacation of 1817, enabled him to undertake the then toilsome and expensive journey by paying liberally, not less than L300, it is said, for a translation to be made later. Schlegel's Lectures on the History of Literature was the work Lockhart selected, and of this incident Mr. Gleig says: "Though seldom communicative on such subjects, he more than once alluded to the circumstance in after-life, and always in the same terms. 'It was a generous act on Ebony's part, and a bold one too; for he had only my word for it that I had any acquaintance at all with the German language!'" It was a generous act, and also one showing keen perception on the part of the publisher. At this time began Lockhart's intimacy with John Wilson, with whom he was so largely to share the achievements, glorious and inglorious, of Mr. Blackwood's magazine in its reckless youth. Unfortunately, the older and more experienced writer was no safe guide for his brilliant but very young co-worker, still with a boy's fondness for mischief and a dangerous wit, to which the almost sublime self-complacency of the dominant Whig coteries would offer abundant opportunities of exercise. Lockhart was not a sinner above others, but in the end he was made something like the scapegoat of all the offenders, whose misdeeds, occasionally serious enough, are sometimes in view of the journalistic and critical amenities then prevailing in {p.xviii} the organs of both parties hardly so heinous as to account for the excitement that attended them.

[Footnote 2: To one of these friends, the Rev. George Robert Gleig, Chaplain General of the Forces, we owe the only authoritative account of Lockhart's early life. This is to be found in the interesting article, the Life of Lockhart, in the Quarterly Review for October, 1864. Like his friend, Mr. Gleig was educated at Glasgow University, was a Snell Scholar, and was an early contributor to Blackwood and to Fraser. Later he wrote for both the great Reviews. He was long the last survivor of the early Blackwood and Fraser groups. He died in 1888, in his ninety-third year. The name which stood next to Lockhart in the alphabetical arrangement of the first class was that of Henry Hart Milman, his dear friend in later life, and one of his most constant and valued allies in the Quarterly. His correspondence with Milman forms an interesting feature of Lang's Life.]

What Lockhart thought of these youthful literary escapades in his sober and saddened middle age is shown in a letter written in 1838: "I was a raw boy who had never before had the least connection with politics or controversies of any kind, when, arriving in Edinburgh in October, 1817, I found my friend John Wilson (ten years my senior) busied in helping Blackwood out of a scrape he had got into with some editors of his Magazine, and on Wilson's asking me to try my hand at some squibberies in his aid, I sat down to do so with as little malice as if the assigned subject had been the Court of Pekin. But the row in Edinburgh, the lordly Whigs having considered persiflage as their own fee-simple, was really so extravagant that when I think of it now the whole story seems wildly incredible. Wilson and I were singled out to bear the whole burden of sin, though there were abundance of other criminals in the concern; and by and by, Wilson passing for being a very eccentric fellow, and I for a cool one, even he was allowed to get off comparatively scot-free, while I, by far the youngest and least experienced of the set, and who alone had no personal grudges against any of Blackwood's victims, remained under such an accumulation of wrath and contumely as would have crushed me utterly, unless for the buoyancy of extreme youth. I now think with deep sadness of the pain my jokes and jibes inflicted on better men than myself, and I can say that I have omitted in my mature years no opportunity of trying to make reparation where I really had been the offender. But I was not the doer of half the deeds set down to my account, nor can I, in the face of much evidence printed and unprinted, believe that, after all, our Ebony (as we used to call the man and his book) had half so much to answer for as the more regular artillery {p.xix} which the old Quarterly played incessantly, in those days, on the same parties.... I believe the only individuals whom Blackwood ever really and essentially injured were myself and Wilson."[3]

[Footnote 3: Lang's Life of Lockhart, vol. i. pp. 128-130.]

In May, 1818, occurred the day, memorable to Lockhart, when he first met Scott, who later invited him to visit Abbotsford. The meeting and visit have been described by Lockhart, as he alone could do it; but he does not tell how speedily he won the regard and confidence of the elder writer, feelings that were constantly to grow warmer and stronger as the years went on. Scott heartily welcomed Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk the next year, those clever, vivid, and apparently harmless sketches of the Edinburgh of that day,—literary, artistic, legal, clerical,—which caused an outcry not now to be understood. In April, 1820, Lockhart and Sophia Scott were married,—a perfect marriage in its mutual love and trust. How willingly Sir Walter gave the daughter, so peculiarly dear to him, to the husband of her choice, his letters to his intimate correspondents show; and how fortunate the union was to be for him in its results, he seems almost to have divined. It gave him not only the most affectionate and devoted of sons,—such love was already his,—but also the most complete comprehension and sympathy in his home circle. And all the rare literary gifts which he so early discerned and so heartily admired in his young friend, informed by delicate insight, loving knowledge, and a keen intelligence, were to be employed to make him known to the world, so that the great author should be loved even above his works.

In the next few years, spent at Edinburgh and at Chiefswood, years that Lockhart was to remember as the happiest of his life, he did much literary work, beside the occasional articles for Blackwood. Valerius was published in {p.xx} 1821,—the story of a visitor from Britain to Rome in the time of the persecution of the Christians under Trajan. It is admirably well written, and reads exactly like what it professes to be,—a translation from the Latin. "I am quite delighted with the reality of your Romans," wrote Scott to the author. But the very correctness of the studies makes them seem remote and cold to the ordinary reader.[4] A little later, appeared by far the best of Lockhart's novels, Some Passages in the Life of Mr. Adam Blair, Minister of the Gospel at Cross Meikle. A story of the temptation and fall of a good man, which his father told one day after dinner, suggested this tale, which is written with force and feeling, a passion that is still glowing, and a pathos which can still move, while there are both strength and delicacy of touch in the character-drawing. Reginald Dalton was published in 1823, and was at the time a decided success; but these somewhat exaggerated sketches of Oxford life are now chiefly interesting for the glimpses of personal experience to be found in the early chapters. Matthew Wald followed in 1824, and was the last novel written by Lockhart. Scott characterized it succinctly as "full of power, but disagreeable, and ends vilely ill," a kind of tale which had not yet become popular. There is power in the description of an ever growing selfishness and unrestrained passion ending in madness; but the story is ill constructed, and, despite some vigorous and graphic passages, has not real vitality.

[Footnote 4: It has been said of Valerius, that it "contains as much knowledge of its period, and that knowledge as accurate, as would furnish out a long and elaborate German treatise on a martyr and his time;" so that, whether the report that reached its author, that the novel had been used in Harvard College as a handbook, was correct or no, it would scarcely have been a misuse of the book. It is certain that it was speedily appropriated by an American publisher, and we have a traditional knowledge of its having been much read and admired in certain New England circles.]

Lockhart {p.xxi} edited a new edition of Don Quixote in 1822, and the next year published his Ancient Spanish Ballads, most of which had been previously printed in Blackwood's Magazine. This was the first of his books to bear his name, which the volume, winning wide and enduring success, made well known. Some competent critics have agreed with Scott in regarding the translations as "much finer than the originals," but, however this may be, there is no question whatever as to the excellence of the ballads in their English form. They have vigor and swiftness of movement, grace and picturesqueness, simplicity and spontaneity. And there are exquisite lyrics amongst them, witness The Wandering Knight's Song. Mr. Lang has made a few selections from Lockhart's scattered verse in Blackwood as further illustrations of his poetic gift,—a number of admirable stanzas (in the character of Wastle) in the ottava rima of Whistlecraft and Beppo (1819); the best known of his comic poems, Captain Paton's Lament; and some lines from a translation in hexameters of the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad, that appeared as late as 1843, which must have sent more than one reader to the magazine, and made them echo the biographer's words, that "Lockhart had precisely the due qualifications for a translator, in sympathy, poetic feeling, and severe yet genial taste, and could have left a name for a popular, yet close and spirited version of the Iliad," had he not, after this single anonymous publication, abandoned his half-formed project. As one of his friends wrote with great truth, "Lockhart was guilty of injustice to his own surpassing powers. With all his passion for letters, with all the ambition for literary fame which burnt in his youthful mind, there was still his shyness, fastidiousness, reserve. No doubt he might have taken a higher place as a poet than by the Spanish Ballads, as a writer of fiction than by his novels. These seem {p.xxii} to have been thrown off by a sudden uncontrollable impulse to relieve the mind of its fulness, rather than as works of finished art or mature study. They were the flashes of a genius which would not be suppressed; no one esteemed them more humbly than Lockhart, or, having once cast them on the world, thought less of their fame."[5]

[Footnote 5: From the interesting obituary notice in the London Times for December 9, 1854, supposed to have been written by Dean Milman and Lady Eastlake.]

The early years of Lockhart's married life were so intimately connected with the life of Scott as to need no chronicle here. The young advocate, with many of the qualities essential to the making of a great lawyer, lacked one most needful to his branch of the profession, facility as a public speaker; his extreme shyness would account for this. As he said at the farewell dinner given to him by his friends in Edinburgh: "You know as well as I, that if I had ever been able to make a speech, there would have been no cause for our present meeting." So literature had become more and more his occupation,—it became entirely so when, in the autumn of 1826, he accepted the editorship of the Quarterly Review,—a very responsible and distinguished post for so young a man, when the position of the Review at that time, in politics, literature, and society, is considered. Such newspapers as were in a few years to become powerful in the world of cultivated (and respectable) readers were as yet, relatively speaking, in an undeveloped state. Editor of the Quarterly, he was to remain, till hopelessly impaired health brought an end to his labors, nearly twenty-eight years later. During these years he contributed more than a hundred articles to the Review, on the greatest possible variety of topics,—he could write on everything, from poetry to dry-rot, it was said. He was that rare thing in our race, a born critic; but he did not use the {p.xxiii} work criticised as a text for a discourse of his own; but of deliberate choice, it would seem, kept closely to his author. So, many of his papers are simply admirable reviews written for the day, not essays for future readers. But, as one turns the pages of the Quarterly, how alive some of the most transient of these articles seem, in comparison with the often excellent matter in which they are embedded! The clear, forcible style, the keen wit, the thorough workmanship, are never wanting. As would be expected, there is permanent interest in the biographical studies; of these, one of the most interesting and impressive was fortunately republished in another form.

As a biographer this variously accomplished man of letters was to show a gift that can almost be called unique. His Life of Burns, published in 1828, was written when the Scotland of the poet was still known to all his mature countrymen, though it was too early for the thoroughgoing scrutiny into every detail of his history practised by later writers; but, setting that consideration aside, the sympathy, intelligence, good taste, fairness, and above all, the sanity of the work, to say nothing of its admirable literary quality, have given it a position by itself, which it is not likely to lose. This memoir is not an over-large book, but the Life of Theodore Hook—a reprint of a Quarterly Review article written in 1843—is one of the smallest of volumes, yet it is written with so fine an art, the presentment of its subject, if rapidly sketched, is so vivid, that the reader feels no sense either of crowded incidents or large omissions; with this biographer the story is of perfect proportion, whether it fills seven volumes or one, or does not extend beyond the limits of a brochure. Nothing Lockhart did was ever in the smallest degree slovenly or careless, but his admirable workmanship is specially evident in the Life of Scott. The skill is masterly with which the immense mass of material has been {p.xxiv} handled, making letters, diaries, extracts, and narrative one harmonious whole, with never an occasional roughness to cause the ordinary reader fully to realize the smoothness of the road he is traversing. The absolute modesty and freedom from self-consciousness of the author—the editor, he calls himself—in telling a tale of which for a number of years he formed a part, is as striking as it is rare. He is one of the actors in a great drama; if it be necessary now and then that he should come to the front, he does it simply and naturally—that is all. Always and everywhere the hero is the central figure to whose full presentation all else is subsidiary. There is no need to speak of the faultlessness of the style, or of the deep but always manly feeling with which the more intimate details of the story are told; effusiveness or sentimentality was as alien to Lockhart as to Scott, and for these reasons no familiarity or change in literary fashions can make the matchless closing pages less moving; they are of the things that remain.

In January, 1837, Lockhart wrote a letter to William Laidlaw, of singular autobiographic interest. After thanking his friend for a letter and a present of ptarmigan, "both welcome as remembrances of Scotland and old days," he says:—

"The account you give of your situation at present is, considering how the world wags, not unsatisfactory. Would it were possible to find myself placed in something of a similar locality, and with the means of enjoying the country by day and my books at night, without the necessity of dividing most of my time between labors of the desk—mere drudge labors mostly—and the harassing turmoil of worldly society, for which I never had much, and nowadays have rarely indeed any relish! But my wife and children bind me to the bit, and I am well pleased with the fetters. Walter is now a tall and very handsome {p.xxv} boy of nearly eleven years; Charlotte a very winsome gypsy of nine,—both intelligent in the extreme, and both, notwithstanding all possible spoiling, as simple, natural and unselfish as if they had been bred on a hillside and in a family of twelve. Sophia is your old friend,—fat, fair, and by and by to be forty, which I now am, and over, God bless the mark! but though I think I am wiser, at least more sober, neither richer nor more likely to be rich than I was in the days of Chiefswood and Kaeside,—after all, our best days, I still believe."

He goes on to say that he has quite forsworn politics, over which he and his correspondent used sometimes to dispute, and has satisfied himself "that the age of Toryism is by forever." He remains "a very tranquil and indifferent observer."

"Perhaps, however, much of this equanimity as to passing affairs has arisen from the call which has been made on me to live in the past, bestowing for so many months all the time I could command, and all the care I have really any heart in, upon the manuscript remains of our dear friend. I am glad that Cadell and the few others who have seen what I have done with these are pleased, but I assure you none of them can think more lightly of my own part in the matter than I do myself. My sole object is to do him justice, or rather to let him do himself justice, by so contriving it that he shall be as far as possible, from first to last, his own historiographer; and I have therefore willingly expended the time that would have sufficed for writing a dozen books on what will be no more than the compilation of one. A stern sense of duty—that kind of sense of it which is combined with the feeling of his actual presence in a serene state of elevation above all terrestrial and temporary views—will induce me to touch the few darker points in his life and character as freely as the others which were so predominant; and my {p.xxvi} chief anxiety on the appearance of the book will be, not to hear what is said by the world, but what is thought by you and the few others who can really compare the representation as a whole with the facts of the case. I shall, therefore, desire Cadell to send you the volumes as they are printed, though long before publication, in the confidence that they will be kept sacred, while unpublished, to yourself and your own household; and if you can give me encouragement on seeing the first and second, now I think nearly out of the printer's hands, it will be very serviceable to me in the completion of the others. I have waived all my own notions as to the manner of publication, and so forth, in deference to the bookseller, who is still so largely our creditor, and, I am grieved to add, will probably continue to be so for many years to come.

"Your letters of the closing period I wish you would send to me; and of these I am sure some use, and some good use, may be made, as of those addressed to myself at the same time, which all, however melancholy to compare with those of the better day, have traces of the man. Out of these confused and painful scraps I think I can contrive to put together a picture that will be highly touching of a great mind shattered, but never degraded, and always to the last noble, as his heart continued pure and warm as long as it could beat."[6]

[Footnote 6: Abbotsford Notanda, pp. 190-193.]

A few weeks after this letter was written Mrs. Lockhart was seized with an illness almost hopeless, it would seem, from the first. She died May 17, and this bereavement overclouded the rest of her husband's life, though, after a few months' retirement to Milton-Lockhart, he returned to his usual occupations, more devoted than ever to his children, their happiness and well-being having become the object of his life. Of his own rarely expressed feelings, we get a glimpse in a letter to Milman written {p.xxvii} five years later (October, 1842), after he had attended the funeral of the wife of a friend. His correspondent at this time was mourning the loss of a daughter. "I lived over the hour when you stood by me,—but indeed such an hour is eternally present. After that in every picture of life the central figure is replaced by a black blot; every train of thought terminates in the same blank gulf. I see you have been allowing yourself to dwell too near this dreary region. Escape it while the wife of your youth is still by you; in her presence no grief should be other than gentle."[7]

[Footnote 7: Lang's Life of Lockhart, vol. ii. p. 214.]

When the earlier volumes of the Life had been published, Lockhart wrote to Haydon: "Your approbation of the Life of Scott is valuable, and might well console me for all the abuse it has called forth, both on him and me. I trusted to the substantial goodness and greatness of the character, and thought I should only make it more effective in portraiture by keeping in the few specks. I despise with my heels the whole trickery of erecting an alabaster image, and calling that a Man.... The work is now done, and I leave it to its fate. I had no personal object to gratify except, indeed, that I wished and hoped to please my poor wife." From a letter to Miss Edgeworth we learn that Mrs. Lockhart, who had been her husband's secretary for years in the preparation of the Memoirs, only lived to see, not to read, the first volume.[8] It should be said here that the work was in every sense a labor of love on Lockhart's part, as all the profits of the book went towards the payment of Sir Walter's debt.

[Footnote 8: Ibid. pp. 181, 182.]

One of the friends of these years was Carlyle, who had first met Lockhart at a Fraser dinner in 1831, and "rather liked the man, and shall like to meet him again." Long afterward he was to write of him as one "whom in the {p.xxviii} distance I esteemed more than perhaps he ever knew. Seldom did I speak to him; but hardly ever without learning and gaining something." Though the two men did not meet often, Carlyle became warmly attached to Lockhart, and so much of their correspondence as has been preserved forms one of the most interesting chapters in Mr. Lang's biography. Some of the letters show Carlyle in his best mood, and are peculiarly affectionate in tone. On one occasion he writes to Lockhart, as though sure of his sympathy, in a time of sorrow, and the reply, which came quickly, contains a part of a poem which was written in one of Lockhart's diary books in June, 1841, and cannot be omitted from any sketch of his life:—

"When youthful faith has fled, Of loving take thy leave; Be constant to the dead, The dead cannot deceive.

"Sweet, modest flowers of spring, How fleet your balmy day! And man's brief year can bring No secondary May.

"No earthly burst again Of gladness out of gloom; Fond hope and vision vain, Ungrateful to the tomb!

"But 't is an old belief, That on some solemn shore, Beyond the sphere of grief, Dear friends will meet once more.

"Beyond the sphere of time, And sin, and fate's control, Serene in changeless prime Of body and of soul.

"That creed I fain would keep, That hope I'll not forego; Eternal be the sleep, Unless to waken so."[9]

[Footnote 9: "A few lines sent to him by a friend whom he rarely saw, who is seldom mentioned in connection with his history, yet who then and always was exceptionally dear to him. The lines themselves were often on his lips to the end of his own life, and will not be easily forgotten by any one who reads them." Froude's Thomas Carlyle, vol. i. p. 249.]

Carlyle {p.xxix} earnestly urged that Lockhart's memoirs should be written while his old friends were yet living. Had this been done, not only would more of his letters have been preserved, to the gain of readers, but some misapprehensions regarding him might not have hardened into conventions.[10] When the Lockharts left Scotland, Sir Walter wrote with much feeling to his good friend, Mrs. Hughes, soon to become and to remain their good friend as well, regarding the painfulness of the separation, adding: "I wish to bespeak your affection for Lockhart. When you come to know him you will not want to be solicited, for I know you will love and understand him, but he is not easy to know or to be appreciated, as he so well deserves, at first; he shrinks at a first touch, but take a good hard hammer (it need not be a sledge one), break the shell, and the kernel will repay you. Under a cold exterior, Lockhart conceals the warmest affections, and where he once professes regard he never changes."[11] Long afterwards, the son-in-law of Lockhart was to speak of the "depth {p.xxx} and tenderness of feeling which he so often hid under an almost fierce reserve." This reserve, largely the result of constitutional shyness, was intensified by the sharp sorrows of his later life. In truth, as Mr. Leslie Stephen has said: "Lockhart was one of the men who are predestined to be generally misunderstood. He was an intellectual aristocrat, fastidious and over-sensitive, with very fine perceptions, but endowed with rather too hearty a scorn of fools as well as of folly.... The shyness due to a sensitive nature, was mistaken, as is so often the case, for supercilious pride, and the unwillingness to wear his heart on his sleeve, for coldness and want of sympathy. Such men have to be content with scanty appreciation from the outside."[12] Fortunately, there were those, not a few, who did not remain outside, and when any of these have written of their friend, there is a singular agreement in their testimony. In every-day matters, in the performance of his editorial or social duties, he was unfailingly prompt, exact, and courteous. Never a rich man, nor ever extravagant in his personal expenditures, he was a most generous giver, especially to unfortunate members of his own craft. Inclined to be somewhat silent in large companies, among his friends he was a brilliant talker, though always a ready and willing listener. He asserted a power over society, Mr. Gleig has noted, "which is not generally conceded to men having only their personal merits to rely upon. He was never the lion of a season, or of two seasons, or of more. He kept his place to the last." Being a gentleman and a man of sense, he neither over-valued nor under-valued the attractions of the great world. Regarding one of his personal attributes, all who saw him were of the same mind: his quite exceptional and very striking beauty of face and distinction of bearing never failed to impress those brought into contact {p.xxxi} with him ever so slightly, even in the sad days when broken health and much sorrow had made him an old man long before his time. A proud man, he was absolutely without vanity, and had little tolerance for it in others; undoubtedly, some measure of this quality would have made him a happier man, and one more ambitious of literary success. Almost from his boyhood he could greatly admire great work even while it was yet not only caviare to the general, but under the condemnation of the critical arbiters of the day. It was said of him, that as a critic, "high over every other consideration predominated the love of letters. If any work of genius appeared, Trojan or Tyrian, it was one to him—his kindred spirit was kindled at once, his admiration and sympathy threw off all trammel. He would resist rebuke, remonstrance, to do justice to the works of political antagonists—that impartial homage was at once freely, boldly, lavishly paid."

[Footnote 10: There were untruths as well; some of them so grotesquely false as now to cause amusement rather than anger. An article on Lockhart in Temple Bar for June, 1895 (vol. cv. p. 175), touches on some of these legends, and pleads for a memoir. Gratitude is due to the anonymous writer, for he was, says Mr. Andrew Lang, "the onlie begetter" of that gentleman's biography of Lockhart, which gives so interesting a portrait of its subject, whom, it is plain, the author has learned to love. It is a book written with such sympathetic insight and genuine feeling, that it should hereafter make Lockhart known as he was. Mr. Lang was somewhat hampered (though not very seriously so) by an occasional lack of material, including want of access to the archives of the houses of Blackwood and Murray; but this is partly set right by Mrs. Oliphant's admirable history of William Blackwood and His Sons, which gives as graphic a description of the early days of Maga and of Lockhart's connection therewith, indeed of all his relations to the magazine and its publishers, as could be desired.]

[Footnote 11: Scott's Familiar Letters, vol. ii. p. 389.]

[Footnote 12: Studies of a Biographer, vol. ii. p. 1.]

"The love of children," wrote Mr. Christie, "was stronger in Lockhart than I have ever known it in any other man. I never saw so happy a father as he was with his first-born child in his arms. His first sorrow was the breaking of the health of this child." There is no need here to tell the pathetic story of that brief life; but the same devoted love which had watched over it, was given in full measure to the children who remained. Of the daughter, Mr. Gleig writes: "She was the brightest, merriest, and most affectionate of creatures; and her marriage, in 1847, to Mr. James Hope, met her father's entire approval. He was satisfied that in giving her to Mr. Hope, he entrusted his chief earthly treasure to a tender guardian, and strove, in that reflection, to overshadow the thought that he must himself henceforth be to her an object of secondary interest only. She never voluntarily caused him one moment's pain. Nevertheless, it must not be {p.xxxii} concealed that the secession of Mr. and Mrs. Hope-Scott to the Roman Catholic faith greatly distressed Lockhart, although he did full justice to the conscientious motives by which they were actuated."[13] His attitude is best shown in the letter written to Mr. Hope at this time, in which he says: "I had clung to the hope that you would not finally quit the Church of England, but am not so presumptuous as to say a word more on that step as respects yourself, who have not certainly assumed so heavy a responsibility without much study and reflection. As concerns others, I am thoroughly aware that they may count upon any mitigation which the purest intentions and the most generous and tender feelings on your part can bring. And I trust that this, the only part of your conduct that has ever given me pain, need not now, or ever, disturb the confidence in which it has been of late a principal consolation for me to live with my son-in-law."[14]

[Footnote 13: Quarterly Review, vol. cxvi. p. 475.]

[Footnote 14: Ornsby's Memoirs of J. R. Hope-Scott, vol. ii p. 138.]

Lockhart's letters show how well pleased he was with his daughter's marriage, though it left him alone in his home. His diary says of 1847: "A year to me of very indifferent health and great anxieties. Charlotte's marriage the only good thing." The beginning of the year had been saddened by the death of his brother-in-law, Sir Walter Scott; and the extravagance and waywardness of his son, now the laird of Abbotsford, had already greatly distressed the father and were to inflict more torturing anxiety and keener suffering as time went on. Walter Lockhart, in his happy, healthy boyhood, did not show the intellectual precocity of his elder brother; but he was a handsome, intelligent, and winning lad, with no foreshadowing of the recklessness of his later years. Mr. Lang, who can speak from knowledge, says: "Could all be known and told, it is not too much to say that Lockhart's fortitude {p.xxxiii} during these last years, so black with affliction, bodily and mental, was not less admirable than that of Sir Walter Scott himself. Thus, the trials from which we are tempted to avert our eyes, really brought out the noblest manly qualities of cheerful endurance, of gentle consideration for all, who, being sorry for his sorrow, must be prevented from knowing how deep and incurable were his wounds." And it should be said that in these years Lockhart had to suffer that sharpest of griefs which happily Sir Walter never knew.

Outwardly, Lockhart's life went on much as usual, save that constantly failing health made editorial labors more fatiguing, and social relaxations less and less frequent. But in his letters there is little change; nothing could overcome "a kind of intellectual high spirits when his pen was in his hand." His ill health is but slightly dwelt upon, and only to his daughter is the ever present anxiety revealed. At last came a ray of hope to the father's heart, a reconciliation, and then Walter's sudden death. Sorely tried as it had been, the father's love had never weakened; and after those inexpressibly sad days at Versailles, recorded with such self-restraint in his letters to his daughter, his health declined rapidly. On July 5, 1853, he notes that his doctors agree that he must not attempt the next Review, and a few days later, he writes, "I suppose my last number of the Quarterly Review." He had never ceased to be an occasional contributor to Blackwood; the pages in memory of its founder, which appeared in October, 1834, were from his pen, and in those days he still took pleasure in sometimes "making a Noctes." The annalist of the Blackwoods has given the last note to the publisher, written very near the end:—

"Dear B.,—If you think the enclosed worth a page, any time, they are at the service of Maga, from her very old servant, now released from all service, J. G. L."

That {p.xxxiv} service had lasted for more than the length of a generation.

Dean Boyle, in his interesting notes on Lockhart in his later life, recalls his remark: "If I had to write my Life of Scott over again, now, I should say more about his religious opinions. Some people may think passages in his novels conventional and commonplace, but he hated cant, and every word he said came from his heart." Of Lockhart's own religious opinions, Mr. Gleig writes: "A clergyman, with whom he had lived in constant intimacy from his Oxford days [probably the writer himself], was in the frequent habit, between 1851 and 1853, of calling upon Lockhart in Sussex Place, and taking short walks with him, especially in the afternoons of Sunday. With whatever topic their colloquy might begin, it invariably fell off, so to speak, of its own accord, into discussions upon the character and teachings of the Saviour; upon the influence exercised by both over the opinions and habits of mankind; upon the light thrown by them on man's future state and present destiny; and the points both of similitude and its opposite between the philosophy of Greece in its best days and the religion of Christ. Lockhart was never so charming as in these discussions. It was evident that the subject filled his whole mind, for the views which he enunciated were large, and broad, and most reverential—free at once from the bigoted dogmatism which passes current in certain circles for religion ... and from the loose, unmeaning jargon which is too often accepted as rational Christianity."[15]

[Footnote 15: Quarterly Review, vol. cxvi. p. 475.]

Lockhart spent the autumn and winter of 1853-54 in Rome, seeking too late for such amendment as rest and change might give. He was too ill to take much pleasure in his sojourn there, but his bodily feebleness did not dull his mental vigor, and it is characteristic that he at once {p.xxxv} began to read Dante with Dr. Lucentini. He knew the language well, but wished to master the difficulties of the great poet, and so turned to the most accomplished of helpers, who naturally found Lockhart a brilliant and acute pupil, the mention of whom ever after roused the teacher to enthusiasm. No one, he declared, had ever put him so on his mettle. The invalid wrote long letters, descriptive of his Roman life, to his daughter, which show that he exerted himself much beyond the little strength that remained to him, and in the spring he gladly turned his face homeward. His resignation of his editorship was now made absolute, and, with greatly diminished income (his expenses in consequence of his son's follies had been heavy), he prepared to leave the house which had been so long his, and seek some new abiding-place. But his release was at hand. In August, he went to Milton-Lockhart, to the kind care of his brother's household, always writing as cheerfully as might be of himself to his daughter. "The weather is delicious," he says in one of the last letters, "warm, very warm, but a gentle breeze keeping the leaves in motion all about, and the sun sheathed, as Wordsworth hath it, with a soft gray layer of cloud. I am glad to fancy you all enjoying yourselves (I include sweet M. M.) in this heavenly summer season. If people knew beforehand what it is to lose health, and all that can't survive health, they would in youth be what it is easy to preach; do you try? I fancy it costs none of you very much effort either to be good or happy." In October he went to Abbotsford, and it was at once seen that he was a dying man. He had gone one day in "most heavenly weather," from Milton-Lockhart to Douglas, where he had spent, in the old time, a memorable summer day with the stricken Scott, of which he has left us the record; and he now desired to be driven about to take leave of the places on Tweedside, which then had been {p.xxxvi} a part of his life. His little granddaughter was very dear to him in these last days. It is still remembered, how, as he lay ill, he loved to hear her running about the house. "It is life to me," he said. He died November 25, 1854, and was buried, as he had desired, in Dryburgh Abbey, "at the feet of Sir Walter Scott."



PREFACE {p.xxxvii}

LONDON, December 20, 1836.

In obedience to the instructions of Sir Walter Scott's last will, I had made some progress in a narrative of his personal history, before there was discovered, in an old cabinet at Abbotsford, an autobiographical fragment, composed by him in 1808—shortly after the publication of his Marmion.

This fortunate accident rendered it necessary that I should altogether remodel the work which I had commenced. The first chapter of the following Memoirs consists of the Ashestiel fragment; which gives a clear outline of his early life down to the period of his call to the Bar—July, 1792. All the notes appended to this chapter are also by himself. They are in a handwriting very different from the text, and seem, from various circumstances, to have been added in 1826.

It appeared to me, however, that the author's modesty had prevented him from telling the story of his youth with that fulness of detail which would now satisfy the public. I have therefore recast my own collections as to the period in question, and presented the substance of them, in five succeeding chapters, as illustrations of his too brief autobiography. This procedure has been attended with many obvious disadvantages; but I greatly preferred it to printing the precious fragment in an Appendix.

I foresee that some readers may be apt to accuse me of trenching {p.xxxviii} upon delicacy in certain details of the sixth and seventh chapters in this volume. Though the circumstances there treated of had no trivial influence on Sir Walter Scott's history and character, I should have been inclined, for many reasons, to omit them; but the choice was, in fact, not left to me,—for they had been mentioned, and misrepresented, in various preceding sketches of the Life which I had undertaken to illustrate. Such being the case, I considered it as my duty to tell the story truly and intelligibly; but I trust I have avoided unnecessary disclosures; and, after all, there was nothing to disclose that could have attached blame to any of the parties concerned.

For the copious materials which the friends of Sir Walter have placed at my disposal I feel just gratitude. Several of them are named in the course of the present volume; but I must take this opportunity of expressing my sense of the deep obligations under which I have been laid by the frank communications, in particular, of William Clerk, Esq., of Eldin,—John Irving, Esq., W. S.,—Sir Adam Ferguson,—James Skene, Esq., of Rubislaw,—Patrick Murray, Esq., of Simprim,—J. B. S. Morritt, Esq., of Rokeby,—William Wordsworth, Esq.,—Robert Southey, Esq., Poet Laureate,—Samuel Rogers, Esq.,—William Stewart Rose, Esq.,—Sir Alexander Wood,—the Right Hon. the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam,—the Right Hon. Sir William Rae, Bart.,—the late Right Hon. Sir William Knighton, Bart.,—the Right Hon. J. W. Croker,—Lord Jeffrey,—Sir Henry Halford, Bart., G. C. H.,—the late Major-General Sir John Malcolm, G. C. B.,—Sir Francis Chantrey, R. A.,—Sir David Wilkie, R. A.,—Thomas Thomson, Esq., P. C. S.,—Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq.,—William Scott, of Raeburn, Esq.,—John Scott, of Gala, Esq.,—Alexander Pringle, of Whytbank, Esq., M. P.,—John Swinton, {p.xxxix} of Inverleith-Place, Esq.,—John Richardson, Esq., of Fludyer Street,—John Murray, Esq., of Albemarle Street,—Robert Bruce, Esq., Sheriff of Argyle,—Robert Fergusson, Esq., M. D.,—G. P. R. James, Esq.,—William Laidlaw, Esq.,—Robert Cadell, Esq.,—John Elliot Shortreed, Esq.,—Allan Cunningham, Esq.,—Claud Russell, Esq.,—James Clarkson, Esq., of Melrose,—the late James Ballantyne, Esq.,—Joseph Train, Esq.,—Adolphus Ross, Esq., M. D.,—William Allan, Esq., R. A.,—Charles Dumergue, Esq.,—Stephen Nicholson Barber, Esq.,—James Slade, Esq.,—Mrs. Joanna Baillie,—Mrs. George Ellis,—Mrs. Thomas Scott,—Mrs. Charles Carpenter,—Miss Russell of Ashestiel,—Mrs. Sarah Nicholson,—Mrs. Duncan, Mertoun-Manse,—the Right Hon. the Lady Polwarth, and her sons, Henry, Master of Polwarth, the Hon. and Rev. William, and the Hon. Francis Scott.

I beg leave to acknowledge with equal thankfulness the courtesy of the Rev. Dr. Harwood, Thomas White, Esq., Mrs. Thomson, and the Rev. Richard Garnett, all of Lichfield, and the Rev. Thomas Henry White, of Glasgow, in forwarding to me Sir Walter Scott's early letters to Miss Seward: that of the Lord Seaford, in entrusting me with those addressed to his late cousin, George Ellis, Esq.: and the kind readiness with which whatever papers in their possession could be serviceable to my undertaking were supplied by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, and the Lord Montagu;—the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland, and the Lord Francis Egerton;—the Lord Viscount Sidmouth,—the Lord Bishop of Llandaff,—the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart.,—the Lady Louisa Stuart,—the Hon. Mrs. Warrender, and the Hon. Catharine Arden,—Lady Davy,—Miss Edgeworth,—Mrs. Maclean Clephane, of Torloisk,—Mrs. Hughes, of Uffington,—Mrs. Terry now (Richardson),—Mrs. Bartley,—Sir George {p.xl} Mackenzie of Coul, Bart.,—the late Sir Francis Freeling, Bart.,—Captain Sir Hugh Pigott, R. N.,—the late Sir William Gell,—Sir Cuthbert Sharp,—the Very Rev. Principal Baird,—the Rev. William Steven of Rotterdam,—the late Rev. James Mitchell, of Wooler—Robert William Hay, Esq., lately Under Secretary of State for the Colonial Department,—John Borthwick, of Crookstone, Esq.,—John Cay, Esq., Sheriff of Linlithgow,—Captain Basil Hall, R. N.,—Thomas Crofton Croker, Esq.,—Edward Cheney, Esq.,—Alexander Young, Esq., of Harburn,—A. J. Valpy, Esq.,—James Maidment, Esq., Advocate,—the late Donald Gregory, Esq.,—Robert Johnston, Esq., of Edinburgh,[16]—J. J. Masquerier, Esq., of Brighton,—Owen Rees, Esq., of Paternoster Row,[17]—William Miller, Esq., formerly of Albemarle Street,—David Laing, Esq., of Edinburgh—and John Smith the Youngest, Esq., of Glasgow.

J. G. LOCKHART.

[Footnote 16: Bailie Johnston died 4th April, 1838, in his 73d year.]

[Footnote 17: Mr. Rees retired from the house of Longman and Co. at Midsummer, 1837, and died 5th September following, in his 67th year.]



TO {p.xli}

JOHN BACON SAWREY MORRITT

OF ROKEBY PARK, Esq.

THESE MEMOIRS OF HIS FRIEND

ARE RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY

INSCRIBED

BY

THE AUTHOR



MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT



CHAPTER I {p.001}

Memoir of the Early Life of Sir Walter Scott, Written by Himself.

ASHESTIEL, April 26, 1808.

The present age has discovered a desire, or rather a rage, for literary anecdote and private history, that may be well permitted to alarm one who has engaged in a certain degree the attention of the public. That I have had more than my own share of popularity, my contemporaries will be as ready to admit as I am to confess that its measure has exceeded not only my hopes, but my merits, and even wishes. I may be therefore permitted, without an extraordinary degree of vanity, to take the precaution of recording a few leading circumstances (they do not merit the name of events) of a very quiet and uniform life—that, should my literary reputation survive my temporal existence, the public may know from good authority all that they are entitled to know of an individual who has contributed to their amusement.

From the lives of some poets a most important moral lesson may doubtless be derived, and few sermons can be read with so much profit as the Memoirs of Burns, of Chatterton, or of Savage. Were I conscious of anything peculiar {p.002} in my own moral character which could render such development necessary or useful, I would as readily consent to it as I would bequeath my body to dissection, if the operation could tend to point out the nature and the means of curing any peculiar malady. But as my habits of thinking and acting, as well as my rank in society, were fixed long before I had attained, or even pretended to, any poetical reputation,[18] and as it produced, when acquired, no remarkable change upon either, it is hardly to be expected that much information can be derived from minutely investigating frailties, follies, or vices, not very different in number or degree from those of other men in my situation. As I have not been blessed with the talents of Burns or Chatterton, I have been happily exempted from the influence of their violent passions, exasperated by the struggle of feelings which rose up against the unjust decrees of fortune. Yet, although I cannot tell of difficulties vanquished, and distance of rank annihilated by the strength of genius, those who shall hereafter read this little Memoir may find in it some hints to be improved, for the regulation of their own minds, or the training those of others.

[Footnote 18: I do not mean to say that my success in literature has not led me to mix familiarly in society much above my birth and original pretensions, since I have been readily received in the first circles in Britain. But there is a certain intuitive knowledge of the world, to which most well-educated Scotchmen are early trained, that prevents them from being much dazzled by this species of elevation. A man who to good nature adds the general rudiments of good breeding, provided he rest contented with a simple and unaffected manner of behaving and expressing himself, will never be ridiculous in the best society, and so far as his talents and information permit, may be an agreeable part of the company. I have therefore never felt much elevated, nor did I experience any violent change in situation, by the passport which my poetical character afforded me into higher company than my birth warranted.—(1826).]

Every Scottishman has a pedigree. It is a national prerogative as unalienable as his pride and his poverty. My birth was neither distinguished nor sordid. According to the prejudices of my country, it was esteemed gentle, {p.003} as I was connected, though remotely, with ancient families both by my father's and mother's side. My father's grandfather was Walter Scott, well known in Teviotdale by the surname of Beardie. He was the second son of Walter Scott, first Laird of Raeburn, who was third son of Sir William Scott, and the grandson of Walter Scott, commonly called in tradition Auld Watt, of Harden. I am therefore lineally descended from that ancient chieftain, whose name I have made to ring in many a ditty, and from his fair dame, the Flower of Yarrow—no bad genealogy for a Border minstrel. Beardie, my great-grandfather aforesaid, derived his cognomen from a venerable beard, which he wore unblemished by razor or scissors, in token of his regret for the banished dynasty of Stuart. It would have been well that his zeal had stopped there. But he took arms, and intrigued in their cause, until he lost all he had in the world, and, as I have heard, run a narrow risk of being hanged, had it not been for the interference of Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth. Beardie's elder brother, William Scott of Raeburn, my great-grand-uncle, was killed about the age of twenty-one, in a duel with Pringle of Crichton, grandfather of the present Mark Pringle of Clifton. They fought with swords, as was the fashion of the time, in a field near Selkirk, called from the catastrophe the Raeburn Meadow-spot. Pringle fled from Scotland to Spain, and was long a captive and slave in Barbary. Beardie became, of course, Tutor of Raeburn, as the old Scottish phrase called him—that is, guardian to his infant nephew, father of the present Walter Scott of Raeburn. He also managed the estates of Makerstoun, being nearly related to that family by his mother, Isobel MacDougal. I suppose he had some allowance for his care in either case, and subsisted upon that and the fortune which he had by his wife, a Miss Campbell of Silvercraigs, in the west, through which connection my father used to call cousin, as they say, with {p.004} the Campbells of Blythswood. Beardie was a man of some learning, and a friend of Dr. Pitcairn, to whom his politics probably made him acceptable. They had a Tory or Jacobite club in Edinburgh, in which the conversation is said to have been maintained in Latin. Old Beardie died in a house, still standing, at the northeast entrance to the Churchyard of Kelso, about ... [November 3, 1729.]

He left three sons. The eldest, Walter, had a family, of which any that now remain have been long settled in America:—the male heirs are long since extinct. The third was William, father of James Scott, well known in India as one of the original settlers of Prince of Wales Island:—he had, besides, a numerous family both of sons and daughters, and died at Lasswade, in Mid-Lothian, about....

The second, Robert Scott, was my grandfather. He was originally bred to the sea; but, being shipwrecked near Dundee in his trial voyage, he took such a sincere dislike to that element, that he could not be persuaded to a second attempt. This occasioned a quarrel between him and his father, who left him to shift for himself. Robert was one of those active spirits to whom this was no misfortune. He turned Whig upon the spot, and fairly abjured his father's politics and his learned poverty. His chief and relative, Mr. Scott of Harden, gave him a lease of the farm of Sandy-Knowe, comprehending the rocks in the centre of which Smailholm or Sandy-Knowe Tower is situated. He took for his shepherd an old man called Hogg, who willingly lent him, out of respect to his family, his whole savings, about L30, to stock the new farm. With this sum, which it seems was at the time sufficient for the purpose, the master and servant set off to purchase a stock of sheep at Whitsun-Tryste, a fair held on a hill near Wooler in Northumberland. The old shepherd went carefully from drove to drove, till he found a hirsel likely to answer their purpose, and {p.005} then returned to tell his master to come up and conclude the bargain. But what was his surprise to see him galloping a mettled hunter about the racecourse, and to find he had expended the whole stock in this extraordinary purchase!—Moses's bargain of green spectacles did not strike more dismay into the Vicar of Wakefield's family than my grandfather's rashness into the poor old shepherd. The thing, however, was irretrievable, and they returned without the sheep. In the course of a few days, however, my grandfather, who was one of the best horsemen of his time, attended John Scott of Harden's hounds on this same horse, and displayed him to such advantage that he sold him for double the original price. The farm was now stocked in earnest; and the rest of my grandfather's career was that of successful industry. He was one of the first who were active in the cattle trade, afterwards carried to such extent between the Highlands of Scotland and the leading counties in England, and by his droving transactions acquired a considerable sum of money. He was a man of middle stature, extremely active, quick, keen, and fiery in his temper, stubbornly honest, and so distinguished for his skill in country matters that he was the general referee in all points of dispute which occurred in the neighborhood. His birth being admitted as gentle gave him access to the best society in the county, and his dexterity in country sports, particularly hunting, made him an acceptable companion in the field as well as at the table.[19]

[Footnote 19: The present Lord Haddington, and other gentlemen conversant with the south country, remember my grandfather well. He was a fine, alert figure, and wore a jockey cap over his gray hair.—(1826.)]

Robert Scott of Sandy-Knowe married, in 1728, Barbara Haliburton, daughter of Thomas Haliburton of Newmains, an ancient and respectable family in Berwickshire. Among other patrimonial possessions, they enjoyed the part of Dryburgh, now the property of the Earl of Buchan, comprehending the ruins of the Abbey. My {p.006} grand-uncle, Robert Haliburton, having no male heirs, this estate, as well as the representation of the family, would have devolved upon my father, and indeed old Newmains had settled it upon him; but this was prevented by the misfortunes of my grand-uncle, a weak, silly man, who engaged in trade, for which he had neither stock nor talents, and became bankrupt. The ancient patrimony was sold for a trifle (about L3000), and my father, who might have purchased it with ease, was dissuaded by my grandfather, who at that time believed a more advantageous purchase might have been made of some lands which Raeburn thought of selling. And thus we have nothing left of Dryburgh, although my father's maternal inheritance, but the right of stretching our bones where mine may perhaps be laid ere any eye but my own glances over these pages.

Walter Scott, my father, was born in 1729, and educated to the profession of a Writer to the Signet. He was the eldest of a large family, several of whom I shall have occasion to mention with a tribute of sincere gratitude. My father was a singular instance of a man rising to eminence in a profession for which nature had in some degree unfitted him. He had indeed a turn for labor, and a pleasure in analyzing the abstruse feudal doctrines connected with conveyancing, which would probably have rendered him unrivalled in the line of a special pleader, had there been such a profession in Scotland; but in the actual business of the profession which he embraced, in that sharp and intuitive perception which is necessary in driving bargains for himself and others, in availing himself of the wants, necessities, caprices, and follies of some, and guarding against the knavery and malice of others, Uncle Toby himself could not have conducted himself with more simplicity than my father. Most attorneys have been suspected, more or less justly, of making their own fortune at the expense of their clients—my father's fate was to vindicate his calling from {p.007} the stain in one instance, for in many cases his clients contrived to ease him of considerable sums. Many worshipful and be-knighted names occur to my memory, who did him the honor to run in his debt to the amount of thousands, and to pay him with a lawsuit, or a commission of bankruptcy, as the case happened. But they are gone to a different accounting, and it would be ungenerous to visit their disgrace upon their descendants. My father was wont also to give openings, to those who were pleased to take them, to pick a quarrel with him. He had a zeal for his clients which was almost ludicrous: far from coldly discharging the duties of his employment towards them, he thought for them, felt for their honor as for his own, and rather risked disobliging them than neglecting anything to which he conceived their duty bound them. If there was an old mother or aunt to be maintained, he was, I am afraid, too apt to administer to their necessities from what the young heir had destined exclusively to his pleasures. This ready discharge of obligations which the Civilians tell us are only natural and not legal, did not, I fear, recommend him to his employers. Yet his practice was, at one period of his life, very extensive. He understood his business theoretically, and was early introduced to it by a partnership with George Chalmers, Writer to the Signet, under whom he had served his apprenticeship.

His person and face were uncommonly handsome, with an expression of sweetness of temper, which was not fallacious; his manners were rather formal, but full of genuine kindness, especially when exercising the duties of hospitality. His general habits were not only temperate, but severely abstemious; but upon a festival occasion, there were few whom a moderate glass of wine exhilarated to such a lively degree. His religion, in which he was devoutly sincere, was Calvinism of the strictest kind, and his favorite study related to church history. I suspect the good old man was often engaged with Knox and Spottiswoode's {p.008} folios, when, immured in his solitary room, he was supposed to be immersed in professional researches. In his political principles he was a steady friend to freedom, with a bias, however, to the monarchical part of our constitution, which he considered as peculiarly exposed to danger during the later years of his life. He had much of ancient Scottish prejudice respecting the forms of marriages, funerals, christenings, and so forth, and was always vexed at any neglect of etiquette upon such occasions. As his education had not been upon an enlarged plan, it could not be expected that he should be an enlightened scholar, but he had not passed through a busy life without observation; and his remarks upon times and manners often exhibited strong traits of practical though untaught philosophy. Let me conclude this sketch, which I am unconscious of having overcharged, with a few lines written by the late Mrs. Cockburn[20] upon the subject. They made one among a set of poetical characters which were given as toasts among a few friends; and we must hold them to contain a striking likeness, since the original was recognized so soon as they were read aloud:—

"To a thing that's uncommon— A youth of discretion, Who, though vastly handsome, Despises flirtation: To the friend in affliction, The heart of affection, Who may hear the last trump Without dread of detection."

[Footnote 20: Mrs. Cockburn (born Miss Rutherford of Fairnalie) was the authoress of the beautiful song—

"I have seen the smiling Of fortune beguiling."—(1826.)]

In [April, 1758] my father married Anne Rutherford, eldest daughter of Dr. John Rutherford, professor of medicine in the University of Edinburgh. He was one of those pupils of Boerhaave, to whom the school of medicine in our northern metropolis owes its rise, and a man distinguished {p.009} for professional talent, for lively wit, and for literary acquirements. Dr. Rutherford was twice married. His first wife, of whom my mother is the sole surviving child, was a daughter of Sir John Swinton of Swinton, a family which produced many distinguished warriors during the Middle Ages, and which, for antiquity and honorable alliances, may rank with any in Britain. My grandfather's second wife was Miss Mackay, by whom he had a second family, of whom are now (1808) alive, Dr. Daniel Rutherford, professor of botany in the University of Edinburgh, and Misses Janet and Christian Rutherford, amiable and accomplished women.

My father and mother had a very numerous family, no fewer, I believe, than twelve children, of whom many were highly promising, though only five survived very early youth. My eldest brother (that is, the eldest whom I remember to have seen) was Robert Scott, so called after my uncle, of whom I shall have much to say hereafter. He was bred in the King's service, under Admiral, then Captain William Dickson, and was in most of Rodney's battles. His temper was bold and haughty, and to me was often checkered with what I felt to be capricious tyranny. In other respects I loved him much, for he had a strong turn for literature, read poetry with taste and judgment, and composed verses himself, which had gained him great applause among his messmates. Witness the following elegy upon the supposed loss of the vessel, composed the night before Rodney's celebrated battle of April the 12th, 1782. It alludes to the various amusements of his mess:—

"No more the geese shall cackle on the poop, No more the bagpipe through the orlop sound, No more the midshipmen, a jovial group, Shall toast the girls, and push the bottle round. In death's dark road at anchor fast they stay, Till Heaven's loud signal shall in thunder roar; Then starting up, all hands shall quick obey, Sheet home the topsail, and with speed unmoor."

Robert {p.010} sung agreeably—(a virtue which was never seen in me)—understood the mechanical arts, and when in good humor, could regale us with many a tale of bold adventure and narrow escapes. When in bad humor, however, he gave us a practical taste of what was then man-of-war's discipline, and kicked and cuffed without mercy. I have often thought how he might have distinguished himself, had he continued in the navy until the present times, so glorious for nautical exploit. But the Peace of Paris [Versailles, 1783] cut off all hopes of promotion for those who had not great interest; and some disgust which his proud spirit had taken at harsh usage from a superior officer, combined to throw poor Robert into the East India Company's service, for which his habits were ill adapted. He made two voyages to the East, and died a victim to the climate in....

John Scott, my second brother, is about three years older than me. He addicted himself to the military service, and is now brevet-major in the 73rd regiment.[21]

[Footnote 21: He was this year made major of the second battalion, by the kind intercession of Mr. Canning at the War Office—1809. He retired from the army, and kept house with my mother. His health was totally broken, and he died, yet a young man, on 8th May, 1816.—(1826.)]

I had an only sister, Anne Scott, who seemed to be from her cradle the butt for mischance to shoot arrows at. Her childhood was marked by perilous escapes from the most extraordinary accidents. Among others, I remember an iron-railed door leading into the area in the centre of George's Square being closed by the wind, while her fingers were betwixt the hasp and staple. Her hand was thus locked in, and must have been smashed to pieces, had not the bones of her fingers been remarkably slight and thin. As it was, the hand was cruelly mangled. On another occasion she was nearly drowned in a pond, or old quarry hole, in what was then called Brown's Park, on the south side of the square. But the most unfortunate accident, and which, though it happened while she {p.011} was only six years old, proved the remote cause of her death, was her cap accidentally taking fire. The child was alone in the room, and before assistance could be obtained, her head was dreadfully scorched. After a lingering and dangerous illness, she recovered—but never to enjoy perfect health. The slightest cold occasioned swellings in her face, and other indications of a delicate constitution. At length, in [1801], poor Anne was taken ill, and died after a very short interval. Her temper, like that of her brothers, was peculiar, and in her, perhaps, it showed more odd, from the habits of indulgence which her nervous illnesses had formed. But she was at heart an affectionate and kind girl, neither void of talent nor of feeling, though living in an ideal world which she had framed to herself by the force of imagination. Anne was my junior by about a year.

A year lower in the list was my brother Thomas Scott, who is still alive.[22]

[Footnote 22: Poor Tom, a man of infinite humor and excellent parts, pursued for some time my father's profession; but he was unfortunate, from engaging in speculations respecting farms and matters out of the line of his proper business. He afterwards became paymaster of the 70th regiment, and died in Canada. Tom married Elizabeth, a daughter of the family of M'Culloch of Ardwell, an ancient Galwegian stock, by whom he left a son, Walter Scott, now second lieutenant of engineers in the East India Company's service, Bombay—and three daughters; Jessie, married to Lieutenant-Colonel Huxley; 2. Anne; 3. Eliza—the two last still unmarried.—(1826.)]

Last, and most unfortunate of our family, was my youngest brother, Daniel. With the same aversion to labor, or rather, I should say, the same determined indolence that marked us all, he had neither the vivacity of intellect which supplies the want of diligence, nor the pride which renders the most detested labor better than dependence or contempt. His career was as unfortunate as might be augured from such an unhappy combination; and after various unsuccessful attempts to establish himself in life, he died on his return from the West Indies, in [July, 1806].

Having {p.012} premised so much of my family, I return to my own story. I was born, as I believe, on the 15th August, 1771, in a house belonging to my father, at the head of the College Wynd. It was pulled down, with others, to make room for the northern front of the new College. I was an uncommonly healthy child, but had nearly died in consequence of my first nurse being ill of a consumption, a circumstance which she chose to conceal, though to do so was murder to both herself and me. She went privately to consult Dr. Black, the celebrated professor of chemistry, who put my father on his guard. The woman was dismissed, and I was consigned to a healthy peasant, who is still alive to boast of her laddie being what she calls a grand gentleman.[23] I showed every sign of health and strength until I was about eighteen months old. One night, I have been often told, I showed great reluctance to be caught and put to bed; and, after being chased about the room, was apprehended, and consigned to my dormitory with some difficulty. It was the last time I was to show such personal agility. In the morning I was discovered to be affected with the fever which often accompanies the cutting of large teeth. It held me three days. On the fourth, when they went to bathe me as usual, they discovered that I had lost the power of my right leg. My grandfather, an excellent anatomist as well as physician, the late worthy Alexander Wood, and many others of the most respectable of the faculty, were consulted. There appeared to be no dislocation or sprain; blisters and other topical remedies were applied in vain.[24] When the efforts of regular physicians had been exhausted without the slightest success, my anxious parents, during the course of many years, eagerly grasped at every prospect of cure which was held out by the promise of empirics, or of ancient ladies or gentlemen who {p.013} conceived themselves entitled to recommend various remedies, some of which were of a nature sufficiently singular. But the advice of my grandfather, Dr. Rutherford, that I should be sent to reside in the country, to give the chance of natural exertion, excited by free air and liberty, was first resorted to; and before I have the recollection of the slightest event, I was, agreeably to this friendly counsel, an inmate in the farmhouse of Sandy-Knowe.

[Footnote 23: She died in 1810.—(1826.)]

[Footnote 24: [Regarding this illness, see a medical note by Dr. Creighton to the article, "Scott," in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.]]

An odd incident is worth recording. It seems my mother had sent a maid to take charge of me, that I might be no inconvenience in the family. But the damsel sent on that important mission had left her heart behind her, in the keeping of some wild fellow, it is likely, who had done and said more to her than he was like to make good. She became extremely desirous to return to Edinburgh, and as my mother made a point of her remaining where she was, she contracted a sort of hatred at poor me, as the cause of her being detained at Sandy-Knowe. This rose, I suppose, to a sort of delirious affection, for she confessed to old Alison Wilson, the housekeeper, that she had carried me up to the Craigs, meaning, under a strong temptation of the Devil, to cut my throat with her scissors, and bury me in the moss. Alison instantly took possession of my person, and took care that her confidant should not be subject to any farther temptation so far as I was concerned. She was dismissed, of course, and I have heard became afterwards a lunatic.

It is here at Sandy-Knowe, in the residence of my paternal grandfather, already mentioned, that I have the first consciousness of existence; and I recollect distinctly that my situation and appearance were a little whimsical. Among the odd remedies recurred to to aid my lameness, some one had recommended that so often as a sheep was killed for the use of the family, I should be stripped, and swathed up in the skin, warm as it was flayed from the carcase {p.014} of the animal. In this Tartar-like habiliment I well remember lying upon the floor of the little parlor in the farmhouse, while my grandfather, a venerable old man with white hair, used every excitement to make me try to crawl. I also distinctly remember the late Sir George MacDougal of Makerstoun, father of the present Sir Henry Hay MacDougal, joining in this kindly attempt. He was, God knows how,[25] a relation of ours, and I still recollect him in his old-fashioned military habit (he had been colonel of the Greys), with a small cocked hat, deeply laced, an embroidered scarlet waistcoat, and a light-colored coat, with milk-white locks tied in a military fashion, kneeling on the ground before me, and dragging his watch along the carpet to induce me to follow it. The benevolent old soldier and the infant wrapped in his sheepskin would have afforded an odd group to uninterested spectators. This must have happened about my third year, for Sir George MacDougal and my grandfather both died shortly after that period.

[Footnote 25: He was a second cousin of my grandfather's. Isobel MacDougal, wife of Walter, the first Laird of Raeburn, and mother of Walter Scott, called Beardie, was grand-aunt, I take it, to the late Sir George MacDougal. There was always great friendship between us and the Makerstoun family. It singularly happened, that at the burial of the late Sir Henry MacDougal, my cousin William Scott younger of Raeburn, and I myself, were the nearest blood relations present, although our connection was of so old a date, and ranked as pall-bearers accordingly.—(1826.)]

My grandmother continued for some years to take charge of the farm, assisted by my father's second brother, Mr. Thomas Scott, who resided at Crailing, as factor or land steward for Mr. Scott of Danesfield, then proprietor of that estate.[26] This was during the heat of the American war, and I remember being as anxious on my uncle's weekly visits (for we heard news at no other time) {p.015} to hear of the defeat of Washington, as if I had had some deep and personal cause of antipathy to him. I know not how this was combined with a very strong prejudice in favor of the Stuart family, which I had originally imbibed from the songs and tales of the Jacobites. This latter political propensity was deeply confirmed by the stories told in my hearing of the cruelties exercised in the executions at Carlisle, and in the Highlands, after the battle of Culloden. One or two of our own distant relations had fallen on that occasion, and I remember of detesting the name of Cumberland with more than infant hatred. Mr. Curle, farmer at Yetbyre, husband of one of my aunts, had been present at their execution; and it was probably from him that I first heard these tragic tales which made so great an impression on me. The local information, which I conceive had some share in forming my future taste and pursuits, I derived from the old songs and tales which then formed the amusement of a retired country family. My grandmother, in whose youth the old Border depredations were matter of recent tradition, used to tell me many a tale of Watt of Harden, Wight Willie of Aikwood, Jamie Telfer of the fair Dodhead, and other heroes—merry men all, of the persuasion and calling of Robin Hood and Little John. A more recent hero, but not of less note, was the celebrated Diel of Littledean, whom she well remembered, as he had married her mother's sister. Of this extraordinary person I learned many a story, grave and gay, comic and warlike. Two or three old books which lay in the window seat were explored for my amusement in the tedious winter days. Automathes and Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany were my favorites, although at a later period an odd volume of Josephus's Wars of the Jews divided my partiality.

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