Many and wonderful as are the romances which Sir Walter Scott wrote, there are none of them so wonderful as the romance of his own life. It is not that from a simple son of a Writer to the Signet, he raised himself to wealth and title — that many have done before him, and far more than that. That many a man of most ordinary brain can achieve can, as it were, almost stumble into, he knows not how. That many a scrivener, a paviour, or a pawnbroker, has accomplished, and been still deemed no miracle. The city of London, from the days of Dick Whittington to those of Sir Peter Laurie, can show a legion of such culminations. But Sir Walter Scott won his wealth and title in fields more renowned for starvation and "Calamities," than for making of fortunes — those of literature. It was from the barren hills of Parnassus that he drew down wealth in quantities that struck the whole world with astonishment, and made those famous mountains, trodden bare with the feet of glorious paupers, rivals of the teeming heights of Mexico and Peru. At a period when the sources of literature appeared to have exhausted themselves; when it was declared that nothing original could be again expected in poetry, that all its secret places were rifled, all its fashions outworn, all its imagery beaten into triteness; when romance was grown mawkish and even childish; when Mrs. Radcliffe and Horace Walpole had exhausted its terrors, and the novelist's path through common life, it was thought, had been gleaned of all possible discovery by Fielding, Richardson and Smollett, Goldsmith and Sterne, — when this was confirmed in public opinion by the sentimentalities of Henry Mackenzie, forth started Scott as a giant of the first magnitude, and demolished all the fond ideas of such dusty-brained dreamers. He opened up on every side new scenes of invention, in poetry and romance, he showed that there was not a corner of these islands which was not, so far from being exhausted, standing thick with the richest materials for the most wonderful and beautiful creations. The reign of the schoolmen and the copyists was at an end. Nature, history, tradition, life, everything and every place, were shown by this new and vigorous spirit to be full to overflowing with what had been, in the dim eyes of former soi-disant geniuses, only dry bones; but which, at the touch of this bold necromancer, sprung up living forms of the most fascinating grace. The whole public opened eyes of wonder, and in breathless amazement and delight saw this active and unweariable agent call round him, from the brooks and mountains of his native land, troop after troop of kings, queens, warriors, women of regal forms and more regal spirits; visions of purity and loveliness; and lowly creations of no less glorious virtues. The whole land seemed astir with armies, insurrections, pageantries of love, and passages of sorrow, that for twenty years kept the enraptured public in a trance, as it were, of one accumulating marvel and joy. There seemed no bounds to his powers, or the field of his operations. From Scotland he descended into England, stepped over into France, Germany, Switzerland, nay, even into Palestine and India; and people asked, as volumes, any one of which would have established a first-rate reputation, were poured out, year after year, with the rapid prodigality of a mountain stream, — is there no limit to the wondrous powers of this man's imagination and creative faculty? There really seemed none. Fresh stories, of totally novel construction, fresh characters, of the most startling originality, were continually coming forwards, as from an inexhaustible world of soul. Not only did the loftiest and most marked characters of our history, either the Scotch or English, again move before us in all their vitality of passions and of crimes, of virtue and of heroism, — as Bruce, James V. and VI., Richard Coeur de Lion, Elizabeth, Mary of Scots, Leicester, James I. of England, Montrose, Claverhouse, Cumberland the butcher; not only did the covenanters preach and fight anew, and the highland clans rise in aid of the Stuart, but new personages, of the rarest beauty, the haughtiest command, or the most curious humour, swarmed out upon the stage of life, thick, as if their creation had cost no effort. Flora M'Ivor, Rose Bradwardine, Rebecca the high-souled Jewess, the unhappy Lucy Ashton and Amy Robsart, the lowly Effie Deans, and her homely yet glorious sister Jenny, the bewitching Di Vernon, and Minna and Brenda Troil of the northern isles, stand radiant amid a host of lesser beauties; while Rob Roy, the Robin Hood of the hills, treads in manly dignity his native heather; Balfour of Burley issues a stalwart apparition from his hiding-places; and for infinitude of humour, and strangeness of aspect and mood, where are the pages that can present a troop like these: the Baron of Bradwardine, Dominie Sampson, Meg Merrilies, Monkbarns, Edie Ochiltree, Dugald Dalgetty, Old Mortality, Bailie Nicol Jarvie, Andrew Fairservice, Caleb Balderstone, Flibbertigibbet, Norna of the Fitful Head, and that fine fellow, the farmer of Liddesdale, with whom every one feels a desire to shake hands, honest Dandie Dinmont, with all his Peppers and Mustards yaffling at his heels?
It may be safely said that, in twenty years, one man enriched the literature of his country with more story of intense beauty, and more original character, than all its literati together for two hundred years before. And this is only part of the wonder with Sir Walter Scott; he was all this time a man of business, of grave and various business — a Clerk of Session, sitting in the Parliament-house of Edinburgh daily, during term, from ten to four o'clock — the Sheriff of Selkirk, with its calls — an active cavalry volunteer — a sitter on gas and other committees — a zealous politician and reviewer — mixed up in a world of printing and publishing concerns, and ready to run off and traverse as diligently sea and land, in all directions, at every possible interval. Besides all this, he was a buyer of lands, a planter of extensive woods, a raiser of a fairy castle, a keen sportsman with greyhound and fish-spear. Amidst all these avocations and amusements, his writing appeared the produce of his odd hours; and this mass of romance, on which his fame chiefly rests, after all, but a fragment of his literary labour. In the enormous list of his works, to be found at the end of his Life by Lockhart, his novels and poems appear but a slight sprinkling amid his heavier toils: — reviews, translations, essays, six volumes; Tales of a Grandfather, twelve volumes; sermons, memoirs, a multitude; editions of Swift and Dryden, in nineteen volumes and eighteen volumes; Somers' Tracts, in thirteen volumes; antiquities, lives, etc., etc. The array of works, written and edited, is astounding: and when we recollect that little of this was done before forty, and that he died at the age of sixty-one, our astonishment becomes boundless. It is in vain to look for another such life of gigantic literary labour, performed by a man of the world, and no exclusive, unmitigated bookworm; much less of such an affluent produce of originality. In these particulars, Scott stands alone.
But though the wonder of his life is seen in this, the romance of it yet remains. He arose to fill a great and remarkable point of time. A new era was commencing, which was to be enriched out of the neglected matter of the old. The suppression of the rebellion of 1745 was the really vitalizing act of the union of Scotland and England. By it the old clan life and spirit were extinguished. The spirit which maintained a multitude of old forms, costumes, and modes of life, was by that event annihilated; and the rapid amalgamation of the two nations in a time of internal peace, would soon have obliterated much that was extremely picturesque and hill of character, were it not seized and made permanent by some mighty and comprehensive mind. That mind was Scott's! He stood on the threshold of a new world, with the falling fabric of the past close beneath his view.
Every circumstance which was necessary to make him the preserver of the memory and life of this past world met in him, as by a marked decree of the Almighty. He had all the sensibility and imagination of the past, with the keenest relish of everything that was prominent in living character amongst his fellow-men. He was inspired with the love of nature, as all undying passion, by having been, in his earliest years, suffered to run wild amid the rocks of Smailholm, and the beautiful scenery of Kelso. The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry — that herald of nature to all that were capable of loving her at that period, and which, without saying a word about the false taste of the age, at once awoke in it the true one, — was to him but the revelation of still further relics of the like kind ill his own country. He had heard similar strains from his nurses, — from the country people amongst whom he had been cast, from the ladies of his family; and Percy's volume was but as a trumpet note, awakening him to a consciousness of poetic wealth, that lay all around him thick as the dews of a spring morning. In highland and in lowland, but especially along that wild border-land which had become the delight of his boyhood, the lays and the traditions of the past were in every mouth, and awaited some fortunate hand to gather them. His was the hand destined to do that and more. Every step that he made in the pursuit of the old ballad literature of his country, only showed him more and more of the immense mass of the materials of poetry and romance which the past ages had neglected as vulgar. The so-called poets of two or three generations had gone about on the stilts of classical pride; and had overlooked, nay, had scorned to touch even with their shoe-toes, the golden ore of romantic character and deed, that lay in actual heaps on every mountain, and along every mountain stream. Young Scott, transported at the sight, flew east and west: traversed mountain and heath, with all the buoyancy of youth and the throbbing pulse of poetry. He went amongst the common people and amidst shepherds, and with housewives at their wheels, and milkmaids over their pails, he heard the songs and ballads which had been flashed forth amid the clash of swords, or hymned mournfully over the fallen, in wild days of wrong and strife, and still stirred the blood of their descendants when they were become but the solace of the long watch on the brae with the flock, or the excitement of the winter fireside. Nay, he found not only poetry and romance, but poets and romancers. Hogg and Leyden, Laidlaw and Shortreed, all men of genius, all glowing with love of their native land, became his friends, companions, and fellow-gatherers. The romance of his life had now begun. Full of youth and the delicious buoyancy of its enjoyment, full of expanding hopes and aspirations, dreams of power came upon him. He put forth his volumes of The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and found them realized. His horizon was at once wonderfully widened. The brightest spirits of England, as well as of his own country, hailed him as a true brother. The dawn of this new era was kindling apace. The hearts which had caught the same impulse from the same source as himself, and owned the native charms of nature, were now becoming vocal with the burden of this new music. Campbell, Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge, and others, were sending forth new strains of poetry, such as had not been heard since Shakspeare, and Spenser, and Milton had lived. But Walter Scott was to become something more than a poet. His destiny was to become the great romance writer of his age; to gather up and mould into a new form the life and spirit of the past many-coloured ages of his country, and to leave them as a legacy of delight to the world for ever. For this purpose he was qualified, by sundry accomplishments and experiences. He studied the literature of Germany, and drew thence a love of the wild and wonderful; he became a lawyer, and thus was brought into closer contact with the inner workings of society, its forms and formalities. He was brought to a close gaze upon family history, upon the passions that agitate men in the transitions of property, and in the committal of crime, or the process of its arrest and punishment. He was made to study men, both as they were and had been, and was enriched with a knowledge of the technicalities which are so essential to him who will describe, with accuracy, trials and transactions in which both life and property are at stake, and the crooked arts of villains, especially the villains of the law. To these most auspicious preparations for his great task — a task not yet revealed to him — he added a keen relish for antiquities; and a memory as gigantic as his frame was robust. Did there yet want anything? It was a genial humour, which rejoiced in the social pleasures of life, and that, while it lived amid the open hearts of his fellow-men, in the hours of domestic freedom and convivial gaiety, saw deep into their hearts, and hoarded up without knowing it theories of the actuality of existence, and of original character. This too was eminently his.
His Border Minstrelsy published, he turned his views northward, and a still more stirring scene presented itself. The Highlands, with their beautiful mountains and lakes, their clan life, their thrilling traditions and stories of but recently-past conflicts, bloodshed, and sorrow; — their striking costume, their pipers blowing strains that, amid the rocks, and forests, and dark heather of that romantic region, kindled even in the heart of the stranger a strange enthusiasm, — all was to him full of the fire of poetry, and of a romance too large, with all its quick and passionate characters, and its vivid details, for poetry itself. First came forth his Metrical Romances — themselves a new and inspiriting species of poetry, founded indeed on an old basis, but quickened with the soul of modern knowledge, and handled with the harmonious freedom of a modern master. These, however now we may regard them as somewhat overstepped by the more impassioned lays of Byron, and by the more expansive. wonders of the author's own prose romances, were, at the time, an actual infusion of new life-blood into the public. They were the opening up of a totally new world, fresh and beautiful as the imagination could conceive. They actually seemed to smell of the heather. Every rock, hung with its dark pines, or graceful birches; every romantic lake, bosomed in its lonely mountains; the hunt careering along its richly-coloured glens; the warrior, full of a martial and chivalrous spirit; the lithe Highlander, with dirk and philibeg, crouching in the heath, like the Indian in his forest, or speeding from clan to clan with the fiery cross of war, — every one of these vivid images was as new to the English public as if they had been brought from the farthest regions of Japan. Then the whole of these newly-discovered regions, the Highlands, for such they were, was covered with traditions of strangest exploits; the people were a wild, irritable, vengeful, but still high-minded people, exhibiting the equally prominent virtues and crimes of a demi-civilized race. How refreshing was the contemplation of such scenes and people to the jaded minds of the English, so long doomed to mediocre monotony! I well remember, then a youth, with what avidity a new poem of Walter Scott's was awaited for and devoured. It was a poetry welcome to all, because it had not merely the qualities of good poetry, which would have been lost on the majority of readers, but it had all this novelty of scenery and character, and the excitement of brilliant story, to recommend it. Then it was perpetually shifting its ground. It was now amid the lonely regions of the south of Scotland; now high up amid heaths, and lochs, and pine-hung mountains, the shepherds sheiling, the roar of the cataract, and the cry of the eagle, mixing with the wild sound of the distant pibroch; and now amid the green, naked mountains and islands of the west, and savage rocks, and thundering seas, and the cries of sea-birds, as they were roused by the wandering Bruce and his followers, on their way to win back the crown of Scotland from the English invader.
The sensation which these poems produced is now forgotten, and can only be conceived by those who can remember their coming out; but these were soon to be eclipsed by the prose romances of the same author. The ground, the spirit, and the machinery were the same; but these were now allowed to work in broad, unfettered prose, and a thousand traits and personages were introduced, which could by no possibility have found a place in verse. The variety of grotesque characters, the full country dialect and dialogues of all sorts of actors in the scenes, thus gave an infinite superiority to the prose over the poetry. The first reading of Waverley was an era in the existence of every man of taste. There was a life, a colour, a feeling given to his mind, which he had never before experienced. To have lived at that period when, ever and anon, it was announced that a new novel by the Author of Waverley was coining out; to have sate down the moment it could be laid hold of, and have entered through it into another new world, full of new objects of admiration, new friends, and new subjects of delight and discussion, — was, in truth, a real privilege. The fame of Scott, before great, now became unbounded. It flew over sea and land. His novels were translated into every language which could boast of a printing-press; and the glory of two such men as himself and Byron made still more proud the renown of that invincible island, which stood against all the assaults of Napoleon, and had now even chained that terrible conqueror, as its captive, on a far sea-rock.
I say the fame of Scott was thus augmented by the Waverley Novels. Yes, they were, long before they were owned to he his, felt by the public to be nobody else's. The question might be, and was agitated, but still there was a tacit feeling that Scott was their author, far and wide diffused. Dense, indeed, must they have been who could doubt it. What were they but prose amplifications of his Lady of the Lake, his Marmion, and his Lord of the Isles? So early as 1820, rambling on foot with Mrs. Howitt in the Highlands, we came to Aberfoil, where the minister, Mr. Graham, who had written Sketches of the Scenery of Perthshire, accompanied us to spots in that neighbourhood which are marked ones in the novel of Bob Roy. It was he who had first turned the attention of Scott to the scenery of Lock Katrine and the Trosachs. Can there be any doubt," we asked, "that Scott is the author of Waverley?" "Could it possibly he anybody else?" he replied. "If the whole spirit and essence of those stories did not show it, his visits here during the writing of Rob Roy would have been decisive enough. He came here, and inquired out all the traditionary haunts of Rob. I accompanied him upon Loch Ard, and at a particular spot I saw his attention fixed; he observed my notice, but desired his daughter to sing something to divert it; but I felt assured that before long I should see that spot described — and there, indeed, was Helen Macgregor made to give her celebrated breakfast." Long before the formal acknowledgment was made, few, in fact, were they who were not as fully satisfied of the identity of Walter Scott and the author of Waverley, as was the shrewd Ettrick Shepherd, who from the first had had the Waverley Novels bound and labelled, "Scott's Novels." No one could have seen Abbotsford itself without being at once convinced of it, if he had never been so before. Without, the very stones of the old gateway of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh stared the fact in his face; within, it was a perfect collection of testimonies to the fact. The gun of Rob Roy; the pistols of Claverhouse; the thumbikins which had tortured the covenanters; nay, a whole host of things cried out — "We belong to the author of Waverley."
And never did fame so richly follow the accomplishment of deeds of immortality as in the case of Sir Walter. From the monarch to the meanest reader; from Edinburgh to the farthest wilds of Russia and America, the enthusiastic admiration of "The Great Northern Magician," as he was called, was one universal sentiment. Wherever he went he was made to feel it; and from every quarter streamed crowds on crowds to Abbotsford to see him. He was on the kindliest terms of friendship with almost every known writer; to his most distinguished cotemporaries, especially Byron, Miss Edgeworth, and Miss Joanna Baillie, he seemed as though he could not testify sufficient honour; and, on the other hand, the highest nobility, nay, royalty itself, felt the pride of his presence and acquaintance. Never had the glory of any literary man, not even of those who, like Petrarch, had been crowned publicly as the poetic monarchs of the age, reached such a pitch of intense and universal splendour. The field of this glory was not one country, — it was that of the vast civilized world, in which almost every man was a reader. No evidences more striking of this were ever given than on his tour in Ireland, where the play was not allowed to go on in Dublin till he showed himself to the eager people; and on his return from whence, he declared that his whole journey had been an ovation. It was the same on his last going on the Continent. But the fact mentioned by Lockhart as occurring daring his attendance in London at the coronation of George IV. in 1821, is worth a thousand others, as it shows how truly he was held in honour by the common people. He was returning from the coronation banquet in Westminster Hall. He had missed his carriage, and "had to return on foot between two and three in the morning, when he and a young gentleman, his companion, found themselves looked in the crowd, somewhere near Whitehall; and the hustle and tumult were such, that his friend was afraid some accident might happen to the lame limb. A space for the dignitaries was kept clear at that point by the Scots Greys. Sir Walter addressed a sergeant of this celebrated regiment, begging to be allowed to pass by him into the open ground in the middle of the street. The man answered shortly, that his orders were strict — that the thing was impossible. While he was endeavouring to persuade the sergeant to relent, some new wave of turbulence approached from behind, and his young companion exclaimed, in a loud voice — 'Take care, Sir Walter Scott, take care!' The stalwart dragoon hearing the name, said — 'What! Sir Walter Scott? he shall get through anyhow.' He then addressed the soldiers near him — 'Make room, men, for Sir Walter Scott, our illustrious countryman!' The men answered — 'Sir Walter Scott! God bless him!' and he was in a moment within the guarded line of safety."
This is beautiful. Sir Walter had won a proud immortality, and lived now in the very noon of its living radiance. But the romance is still behind. When about six and twenty, at the pleasant little watering place of Gilsland, in Cumberland, he fell in love with a young French lady, Charlotte Margaret Charpentier. The meeting was like one of those in his own novels. He was riding with his friend Adam Fergusson — the joyous, genial friend of his whole life — one day in that neighbourhood, when they met a young lady taking all airing on horseback, whom neither of them had before seen. They were so much struck with her appearance, as to keep her in view till they were sure that she was a visitor at the wells. The same evening they met her at a ball, and so much was Scott charmed with her that he soon made her a proposal, and she became his wife. All who knew her in her youth speak of her as a very charming person, though I confess that her portrait at Abbotsford does not give me much idea of her personal charms. But, says Mr. Lockhart, who had the best opportunity of knowing, "Without the features of a regular beauty, she was rich in personal attractions; 'a form that was fashioned as light as a fairy's;' a complexion of the clearest and the brightest olive; eyes large, deep-set and dazzling, of the finest Italian brown; and a profusion of silken tresses, black as the raven's wing: her address hovering between the reserve of a pretty Englishwoman who has not mingled largely in general society, and a certain natural archness and gaiety that suited well with the accompaniment of a French accent. A lovelier vision, as all who remember her in the bloom of her days have assured me, could hardly have been imagined."
With his charming voting wife, Scott settled at Lasswade, about seven miles from Edinburgh. Here he had a lonely and retired cottage in a most beautiful neighbourhood, and was within an easy distance of Edinburgh and his practice there as an advocate. Here he busied himself in his literary pursuits, and made those excursions into Liddesdale, and Ettrick forest, and other parts of the border country, in quest of materials for his Border Minstrelsy, in which he found such exquisite delight. Here he found Shortreed, Hogg, Laidlaw, men all enthusiastic in the same pursuits and tastes. At this time too he became acquainted in Edinburgh with Leyden, also a border man, full of ballad and poetry, and with powers as gigantic as Scott himself, though uncouth as a colt from the moors. There is nothing in any biography which strikes me, so full of the enjoyment of life as Scott's raids, as he called them, into Liddesdale, and other border wildernesses, at that period. He found everywhere a new country, untrodden by tourists, unknown to fame, but richly deserving of it. There was it new land discovered, full from end to end of wild scenery, and strange, rude, but original character, rich in native wit, humour, and fun. Down Liddesdale there was no road, in it there was no inn. Scott's gig, on the last of seven years' raids, was the first wheel carriage that ever entered it. "The travellers passed from the shepherd's hut to the minister's manse; and again from the cheerful hospitality of the manse, to the rough and jolly welcome of the homestead." "To these rambles," says Lockhart, "Scott owed much of the material of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and not less of that intimate acquaintance with the living manners of those unsophisticated regions, which constitutes the chief charm of one of the most charming of his prose works." "He was makin' himsel' a' the time," said Mr. Shortreed, "but he did na ken, may be, what he was about till years had passed. At first he thought o' little, I dare say, but the queerness and the fun." That overflowing enjoyment of life which so much distinguished Scott at all periods, except the short melancholy one of his decline, now exhibited itself in all its exuberance. "Eh me!" says Mr. Shiortreed, "sic all endless fund o' humour and drollery as he then had wi' him! Never ten yards but we were either laughing, or roaring and singing. Wherever we stopped, how brawlie he suited himsel' to everybody! He aye did as the lave did; never made himsel' the great man, or took any airs in the company." It was in one of these raids that they fell in with the original of Dandie Dinmont.
His Border Minstrelsy came out; his fame spread. His Metrical Romances followed; and he was the most popular man of the day. In matters of business he rapidly advanced. He was made Clerk of Session and Sheriff of Selkirk. He quitted his cottage at Lasswade, for the still more beautiful, but more solitary farm of Ashestiel, on the banks of the Tweed. Lord Byron's poetry blazed out; but Scott took another flight, in the Historical Novel, and was still, if not the greatest poet, the most popular man of his age. Never had there been any evidence of such pecuniary success in the literary world, He made about £15,000 by his poetry; but by his prose he made, by a single work, his £5000, his £10,000, his £12,000. His facility was equal to his success; it was no long and laborious task to complete one of these truly golden volumes, they were thrown off as fast as he could write; and in three months a novel, worth eight or ten thousand pounds in the market, was finished! Well might his hopes and views tower to an unprecedented height. The spirit of poetry and romance revelled in his brain, and began to show itself not only in the construction of volumes, but in the building of a castle, an estate, a family to stand amid the aristocratic families for ever. The name of Walter Scott should not only descend with his children as that of an illustrious writer, but should clothe them with the world — honoured mantle of titular rank. And everything was auspicious. The tide and the wind of fortune and public favour blew wondrously. Work after work was thrown off; enormous sums often were netted. Publishers and printers struggled for his patronage; but Constable and the Ballantynes, acquaintances of his youth, were selected for his favour, — and great became their standing and business. There seemed not one fortune, but three secure of accomplishment. The poet, in the romantic solitude of Ashestiel, or galloping over the heathy hills in the neighbourhood, as he mused on new and ever-succeeding visions of romances amongst them, conceived the most fascinating scheme of all. It was to purchase lands, to raise himself a fairy castle, to become, not the minstrel of a lord, as were many of those of old, but a minstrel-lord himself. The practical romance grew. On the banks of the Tweed, then, began to rise the fairy castle. Quaint and beautiful as one of his descriptions, it arose; lands were added to lands; over hill and dale spread the dark embossment of future woods; and Abbotsford began to be spoken of far and wide. The poet had chosen his seat in the midst of the very land of ancient poetry itself. At three miles' distance stood the fair pile of Melrose, which he had made so attractive by his Lay of the Last Minstrel to the whole world. Near that showed themselves the Eildon hills, the haunt of True Thomas; at their feet ran the classic stream of Huntly burn. The Cowdenknows lifted its black summit further down the Tweed; and upwards was a whole fairyland — Carterhaugh, Newark tower, Ettrick forest, St. Mary's lake, and the Dowie Dens of Yarrow. There was scarcely an object in the whole country round — neither hill, nor wood, nor stream, nor single rock — which was not full of the associations of ballad fame. Here, then, he lived like an old feudal lord, with his hounds and his trusty vassals; some of the latter, as Laidlaw and Tom Purdie, occupying the station of those humble, faithful friends, who tend so much to complete the happiness of life. In truth, never did the poet himself dream a fairer dream beneath a summer oak than he had now realised around him. His lovely wife, the lady of the domain his children shooting fast up into beautiful manhood and womanhood his castle and domain built, and won, as they were, front the regions of enchantment: and friends and worshippers flocking from every country, to behold the far-famed minstrel. Princes, and nobles, and men of high name in every walk of life were his guests.
Every man of any note called him friend. The most splendid equipages crowded the way towards his house; the feast was spread continually as it were the feast of a king; while on the balcony ranging along the whole front, stalked to and fro, in his tartans, the wild piper, and made the air quiver with the tempestuous music of the hills. Arms and armour were ranged along the walls and galleries of his hall. There were portraits of some of the most noted persons who had figured in his lays and stories — as of Claverhouse, Monmouth, the Pretender, the severed head of the Queen of Scots; with those of brother poets, Dryden, Thomson, Prior, and Gay. There were the escutcheons of all the great clan chieftains blazoned round the ceiling of his hall; and swords, daggers, pistols, and instruments of torture, from the times and the scenes he had celebrated.
Such was the scene of splendour which had sprung from the pen of one man. If it were wonderful, the streams of wealth which continued to pour from the same enchanted goose quill were still more astounding. From Lockhart's Life we see that, independent of what these works have made since, he had pretty early netted above £13,000 by his poems, though he had sold some of them in their first edition.
£ s. d.
Border Minstrel, 1st and 2d vol. 1st edit. 78 10 0
Copyright of the same work 500 0 0
Lay of the Last Minstrel, copyright sold 769 6 0
Marmion ditto 1,000 0 0
Lady of the Lake ditto 2,100 0 0
Rokeby ditto 5,000 0 0
Lord of the Isles 3,000 0 0
Halidan Hill 1,000 0 0
£13,447 16 0
But this was nothing to the produce of his romances. Of Waverley, 51,000 copies had been sold when that Life was published, and Scott tells us that he cleared £400 by each 1,000 copies, that is ... £20,000
Guy Mannering, 60,000, or £24,000 0 0
Rob Roy, 53,000, or 21,300 0 0
Of the rest we have no total amount given but at a similar rate, his twenty-one novels would make an amount of £460,000! Besides this, he received for the Life of Napoleon above £18,000. In three months he wrote Woodstock, for which he tells us that he received £8,100 at once. Then there are his Tales of a Grandfather, 12 volumes, a most popular work, but of which no proceeds ire given. For his History of Scotland for Lardner's Cyclopaedia, £1,500 for editing Dryden, £736 for seven Essays for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, £300; Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk, £1,330; for a contribution to the Keepsake, £400 which he says he considered poor pay. Then he wrote thirtyfive Reviews for the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, for which such a writer could not, on an average, receive less than £50 each, probably £100; but say, £50, that is £1,750. And these items are exclusive of the vast mass of edited editions of Swift, of Memoirs, Antiquities, etc. etc. They do not either, except in the three novels specified, include the proceeds of the collective editions of either his prose or his poetry. It appears certain that his works must have produced to the author or his trustees, at the very least, half a million of money!!
Truly this was the revenue of a monarch in the realm of letters! Popular as Lord Byron was, I suppose the whole which he received for his writings did not realise £30,000. Scott cleared that by any two of his novels. He could clear a third of it in three months. Well might he think to lay field to field, and house to house, and plant his children in the land as lords of the soil, and titled magnates for ever!
But, as the fabric of this glorious estate had risen as by the spell of a necromancer, so it fell. It was like one of those palaces, with its fairy gardens, and lawns scattered with diamonds instead of dews, in the Arabian Nights, which, with the destruction of the spell, passed away in a crash of thunder. A house of cards is proverbial, and thus house of books fell at one shock, and struck the world with a terrible astonishment. It was found that the great minstrel was not carefully receiving his profit, and investing them; but was engaged as partner in the printing and publishing of his works. His publisher and his printers, drained on the one hand by the vast outlay for castle-building, land-buying, and the maintenance of all comers; and, on the other, infected with the monstrous scene of acquisition which was revealed to their eyes — were moving on a slippery course, and at the shock of the great panic in 1826, went to the ground leaving Scott debtor to the amount of £120,000, besides a mortgage of £10,000 on his estate!
In some instances the darkness and the difficulty come in the early stages, and wind up in light and happiness in others, the light comes first, and the darkness at the end. These latter are tragedies, and the romance of Scott's life was a tragedy. How sad and piteous is the winding up here to contemplate! The thunder-bolt of fate had fallen on the "Great Magician." The glory of his outward estate was over, but never did that of his inner soul show so brilliantly. Gentle, and genial, and kindly to all men, had he shown himself in his most prosperous days; but now the giant strength of his fortitude, and the nobility of his moral principle, came into magnificent play. He was smitten, sorely smitten, but he was not subdued. Not a hero which he had described could match him in his contest with the rudeness of adversity. He could have paid his dividend, as is usual in such cases, and his prolific pen would have raised him a second fortune. But then his honour! no, he would pay to the uttermost farthing! And so, with a sorrowful but not murmuring or desponding heart, he went to work again on his giant's work, and in six years with his own hand, with his single pen, paid off £16,000 a year! That is an achievement which has no parallel. With failing health, with all his brilliant hopes of establishing a great family dashed to the ground, with the dearest objects of his heart and health dropping and perishing before him; he went on, and won £60,000, resolved to pay all or perish. And he did perish! His wife, shattered by the shock, died; he was left with a widowed heart still to labour on. Awful pangs and full of presage seized his own frame; a son and a daughter failed too in health; his old man, Tom Purdie, died suddenly; his great publisher, and one of his printers, died too, of the fatal malady of ruined hopes. All these old connexions, formed in the bright morning of life, and which had made his ascent so cheering and his toil so easy, seemed now to be giving way; and how dark was become that life which had exceeded all others in its joyous lustre!
Yet, in the darkness, how the invincible soul of the heroic old man went on rousing himself to fight against the most violent shocks of fortune, and of his own constitution. "I have walked the last on the domains I have planted; sat the last in the halls I have built; but death would have taken them front me if misfortune had spared them. My poor people whom I loved so well! There is just another die to turn against me in this run of ill-luck; i.e. if I should break my magic wand in the fall from this elephant, and lose my popularity with my fortune! ... But I find my eyes moistening, and that will not do; I will not yield without a fight for it." "Well, exertion, exertion. O invention, rouse thyself! May man be kind! may God be propitious! The worst is, I never quite know when I am right or wrong." "Slept ill, not having been abroad these eight days; now a dead sleep in the morning, and when the awaking comes, a strong feeling how well I could dispense with it for once and for ever. This passes away, however, as better and mere dutiful thoughts arise in my mind." Poor man! and that worst which he feared came. His publisher told him, though reluctantly, that his power had departed, and that he had better lay by his pen! To a man like Scott, who had done such wonders, and still doggedly laboured on to do others as great, that was the last and the bitterest feeling that could remain with life.
Is there anything in language more pathetic than the words of Sir Walter, when at Abbotsford he looked round him after his wife's death, and wrote thus in his journal? — "When I contrast what this place now is, with what it has been not long since, I think my heart will bleak. Lonely, aged, deprived of my family — all but poor Anne; an impoverished, an embarrassed man, deprived of the sharer of my thoughts and counsels, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone."
Sir Walter was the Job of modern times. His wealth and prosperity had been like his, and the fabric of his fortune was smitten at the flour corners at once by the tempest of calamity; but his patience and resignation rivalled even those of the ancient patriarch. In no period of his life, though he was admirable in all, did he display so lofty a nobility of nature as in that of his adversity. Let us, who have derived such boundless enjoyment from his labours, praise with a fitting honour his memory. How descriptive are the words of Prior, which in his last days he applied to himself:—
Whate'er thy countrymen have done,
By law and wit, by sword and gun,
In thee is faithfully recited;
And all the living world that view
Thy works, give thee the praises due
At once instructed add delighted.
That tragic reverse which bowed down himself and so many of those who had shared with hint in his happiness, did not stop with his death. his daughters and one of his sons soon followed him. His eldest and only surviving child, the present Sir Walter, has no family; there is no heir of his name, though, I believe, there are two of his blood, the son and daughter of Mr. Lockhart, of the third generation. As in the greatest geniuses in general, in Milton, Shakspeare, Byron, the direct male line has failed in Sir Walter Scott. "The hope of founding a family," says Lockhart, "died with him."
Such is the wonderful and touching romance of the life of Sir Walter Scott. We might pause and point to many a high teaching in it, — but enough; in the beautiful words of Sir Egerton Bridges, quoted by Lockhart, — "The glory dies not, and the grief is past."
We will now visit seriatim the homes and haunts of this extraordinary man.
Sir Walter has pointed out himself in his autobiography the place of his birth. He says, "I was born, I believe, on the 15th of 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 part of the new college." In ascending the Wynd, it occupied the left-hand corner at the top, and it projected into what is now North College-street. According to the account of my friend, Mr. Robert Chambers, in his Reekiana, it has been pulled down upwards of sixty years. "The site," he says, "is now partly occupied as a wood-yard, and partly used in the line of North College-street. Mr. Walter Scott, W. S., father of the poet, here lived au troisieme, according to the simple fashion of our fathers, the flat which he occupied being accessible by a stair leading up from the little court behind. It was a house of what would now be considered humble aspect, but at that time neither humble from its individual appearance, nor from its vicinage. When required to be destroyed for the public conveniency, Mr. Scott received a good price for it; he had some time before removed to a house on the west side of George's-square, where Sir Walter spent all his schoolboy and college days. At the same time that Mr. Scott lived in the third flat, the two lower floors were occupied as one house by Mr. Keith, W. S., grandfather to the late Sir Alexander Keith, knight-marischal of Scotland.
"In the course of a walk through this part of the town in 1825, Sir Walter did the present writer the honour to point out the site of the house in which he had been born. On Sir Walter mentioning that his father had got a good price for his share of it, in order that it might he taken down for the public convenience, the individual who accompanied him took the liberty of expressing his belief that more money might have been made of it, and the public much more gratified, if it had remained to be shown as the birth-place of a man who had written so many popular books. 'Ay, ay,' said Sir Walter, that is very well; but I am afraid it would have been necessary for me to die first, and that, you know, would not have been so comfortable.'"
Thus the birth-place of Scott remains to this hour exactly in the condition described above, being used for a wood-yard, and separated from North College-street merely by a wooden fence.
The other spots in Edinburgh connected with Scott, are his father's house in George's-square; his own house, 39, North Castle-street; 19, South Castle-street, the second flat, which he occupied immediately after his marriage; the High school, and the Parliament house. We may as well notice these at once, as it will then leave us at liberty to take his country residences in consecutive order.
George's-square is a quiet and respectable square, lying not far from Heriot's hospital, and opposite to Watson's hospital, on the left hand of the Meadows-walk. Mr. Robert Chambers — my great informant in these matters in Edinburgh, and who is an actual walking history of the place — every house, and almost every stone, appearing to suggest to him, some memorable fact connected with, it — stated that this was the first square built, when Edinburgh began to extend itself, and the nobility and wealthy merchants to think of coming down from their lofty stations in flats of the old town ten-storied houses, and seeking quieter and still more airy residences in the suburbs. It was the first sign of the new life and growth before the new town was thought of. No doubt, when Scott's father removed to it, it was the very centre of fashion, and still it bears traces of the old gentility. Ancient families still linger about it, and you see door-plates bearing some aristocratic title. At the top, or north side of the square, lived Lord Duncan, at the time that he set out to take command of the fleet, and fight the battle of Camperdown. Before his setting out, he walked to and fro on the pavement here before his house, and, with a friend, talked of his plans; so that the victory of Camperdown may be said to have been planned in this square. The house still belongs to the family. Many other remarkable people have lived just about here. Blacklock, the blind poet, lived near; and Anderson, the publisher of the series of The Poets, under his name, lived near also, in Windmill-street. A quieter square now could not, perhaps, be found; the grass was growing greenly amongst the stones when I visited it. The houses are capacious and good, and from the upper windows many of them look out over the green fields, and have a full view of the Pentland hills. The new town, however, has now taken precedence in public favour, and this square is thought to be on the wrong side of the city. The house which Scott's father occupied, is No. 25.
On the window of a small back room, on the ground floor, the name of Walter Scott still remains written on a pane of glass, with a diamond, in a schoolboy's hand. The present occupiers of the house told us, that not only the name, but verses had been found on several of the windows, undoubtedly by Walter Scott, and that they had had the panes taken out, and sent to London to admirers of the great author.
The room in which this name is written on the glass, used to be his own apartment. To this he himself, in his autobiography, particularly refers; and Lord Jeffrey relates, that, on his first call on young Walter Scott, "he found him in a small den, on the sunk floor of his father's house, in George's-square, surrounded with dingy books." Mr. Lockhart says, "I may here add the description of that early den, with which I am favoured by a lady of Scott's family: — 'Walter had soon begun to collect out-of-the-way things of all sorts. He had more books than shelves; a small painted cabinet, with Scotch and Roman coins in it, and so forth. A claymore and Lochabar axe, given him by Mr. Invernahyle, mounted guard on a little print of Prince Charlie; and Broughton's Saucer was hooked up against the wall below it.' Such was the germ of the magnificent library and museum at Abbotsford; and such were the 'new realms' in which he, on taking possession, had arranged his little paraphernalia about him, 'with all the feelings of novelty and liberty.'" "Since those days," says Mr. Lockhart, "the habits of life in Edinburgh, as elsewhere, have undergone many changes; and 'the convenient parlour' in which Scott first showed Jeffrey his collection of minstrelsy, is now, in all probability, thought hardly good enough for a menial's sleeping room." This is very much the fact; such a poor little damp den did this appear, on our visit, being evidently used by the cook, as it was behind the kitchen, for a sort of little lumber-room of her own, that my companion contended that Scott's room must have been the one over this. The evidence here is, however, too strong as to its identity; and, indeed, who does not know what little dingy nooks children, and even youths, with ardent imaginations, can convert into very palaces.
This house will always be one of the most truly interesting spots connected with Scott's history. It was here that he lived, from a very child to his marriage. Here passed all that happy boyhood and youth which are described with so much beautiful detail in his Life, both from his own autobiography and from added materials collected by Lockhart. These show in his case how truly and entirely "The child was father of the man" or, as Milton had it long before,
The childhood shows the man
As morning shows the day."
Paradise Regained, Book iv. p. 63.
Here it was that he led his happy boyhood, in the midst of that beautiful family life which he has so attractively described: the grave, careful, but kind father; the sweet, sensible, lady-like, and religious mother; the three brothers, various in their fortunes as in their dispositions; and that one unfortunate sister, Anne Scott, whom he terms from her cradle the butt for mischance to shoot arrows at. She who had her hand caught by the iron gate leading into the area of the square in a high wind, and nearly crushed to pieces; who next fell into a pond, and narrowly escaped drowning; and was finally, at six years of age, so burnt by her cap taking fire, that she soon after died. Here, as schoolboy, college student, and law student, he made his early friendships, often to continue for life, with John Irvine; George Abercrombie, son of the famous general, and now Lord Abercrombie; William Clerk, afterwards of Eldin, son of Sir John Clerk, of Pennycuick house; Adam Fergusson, the son of the celebrated professor Fergusson; the present Earl of Selkirk, David Boyle, present Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Jeffrey, Mr. Claude Russell, Sir William Rae, David Monypenny, afterwards Lord Pitmilly; Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth, Bart.; the Earl of Dalhousie, George Cranstoun (Lord Corehouse), John James Edmonstone, of Newton; Patrick Murray, of Simprim; Sir Patrick Murray, of Ochtertyre; David Douglas (Lord Preston); Thomas Thompson, the celebrated legal antiquary; William Erskine (Lord Kinedder), Alexander Frazer Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee), and other celebrated men, with many of whom he was connected in a literary club.
Here it was that, with one intimate or another, and sometimes in a jovial troop, he set out on those country excursions which were to render him so affluent in knowledge of life and varied character; commencing with their almost daily strolls about Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, repeating poetry and ballads; then to Preston-Pans, Pennycuick, and so extending their rambles to Roslyn, Lasswade, the Pentlands, down into Roxburghshire, into Fife, to Flodden, Chevy Chase, Otterburn, and many another scene of border renown, Liddesdale being, as we have stated, one of the most fascinating and finally away into the Highlands, where, as the attorney's clerk, his business led him amongst those old Highland chiefs who had been out in the '15 and '45, and where the veteran Invernahyle set him on fire with his stories of Rob Roy, Mar, and Prince Charlie; and where the Baron of Bradwardine and Tullyveolan, and all the scenes of Waverley, and others of his Scotch romances, were impressed on his soul for ever. Here it was, too, that he had for tutor that good-hearted, but formal clergyman, Mr. Mitchell, who was afterwards so startled when Sir Walter, calling on him at his manse in Montrose, told him he was "collecting stories of fairies, witches, and ghosts:" "intelligence," said the pious old presbyterian minister, "which proved to me an electric shock;" adding, that moreover, "these ideal beings, the subjects of his inquiry," were not objects on which he had himself wasted his time. And here, finally, it was that, in the ballads he read, — as in that of Cumnor hall, the germ of Kenilworth, of which he used as a boy to be continually repeating the first verse,
The dews of summer night did fall—
The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
Silvered the walls of Cumnor hall,
And many an oak that grew thereby;—
in the lays of Tasso, Ariosto, etc. he laid up so much of the food of future romance, and where Edie Ochiltrees and Dugald Dalgetties were crossing his every-day path.
It was here that occurred that singular scene, in which his mother bringing in a cup of coffee to a gentleman who was transacting business with her husband, when the stranger was gone, Mr. Scott told his wife that this man was Murray of Broughton, who had been a traitor to Prince Charles Stuart; and saying that his lip should never touch the cup which a traitor had drank out of; flung it out of the window. The saucer, however, being preserved, was secured by Scott, and became a conspicuous object in his juvenile museum.
Such to Scott was No. 23, George's-square. Is it not the secret charm of these old and precious associations which has recently led his old and most intimate friend, Sir Adam Fergusson, to take a house in this square, and within, I believe, one door of Scott's old residence?
We may dismiss in a few words No. 19, South Castle-street, the house where he occupied a flat immediately on his marriage, and the Parliament house, where he sat, as a clerk of session, and the Outer house, where he might, in his earlier career, be seen often making his acquaintance merry over his stories; — these places will always be viewed with interest by strangers but it is his house, 39, North Castle-street, around which gather the most lively associations connected with his mature life in Edinburgh.
Here it was that he lived when in town, from soon after his marriage till the great break up of his affairs in 1826. Here a great portion of the best of his life was passed. Here he lived, enjoyed, worked, saw his friends, and felt, in the midst of his happy family, the sense of the great name and affection that he had won amongst his fellow-men. It is evident, from what he says in his journal, when it had to be sold, that he was greatly attached to it. It was his pride very often when he took strangers home with him, to stop at the crossing of George-street, and point out to them the beauty and airiness of the situation. In one direction was St. George's church, in another the whole length of George-street, with the monuments of Pitt and Dundas. In one direction, the castle on its commanding rock, in the other the Frith of Forth, and the shores of Fife beyond. It was in this house that "the vision of the hand" was seen from a neighbouring one in George-street, which is related in Lockhart's Life. A party was met in this house, which was situated near to, and at right angles with, George-street. "It was a party," says the relater, "of very young persons, most of them, like Menzies and myself destined for the bar of Scotland. The weather being hot, we adjourned to a library, which had one large window looking northwards. After carousing here an hour or more, I observed that a shade had come over the aspect of my friend, who happened to be placed immediately opposite to myself, and said something that intimated a fear of his being unwell. 'No,' said he, 'I shall be well enough presently, if you will only let me sit where you are, and take my chair; for there is a confounded hand in sight of me here, which has often bothered me before, and now it won't let me fill my glass with a goodwill.' I rose to change places with him accordingly, and he pointed out to me this hand, which, like the writing on Belshazzar's wall, disturbed his hour of hilarity. 'Since we sat down,' said he, 'I have been watching it — it fascinates my eye — it never stops — page after page is finished and thrown on that heap of manuscript, and still it goes on unwearied, and so it will be till candles are brought in, and God knows how long after that. It is the same every night — I can't stand a sight of it when I am not at my books.' 'Some stupid, dogged, engrossing clerk, probably,' exclaimed myself, or some other giddy youth of our society. 'No, boys,' said our host, 'I well know what hand it is — 'tis Sir Walter Scott's.' This was the hand that in the evenings of three summer weeks, wrote the two last volumes of Waverley."
I went with Mr. Robert Chambers into this house, to get a sight of this window, but some back wall or other had been built up and had shut out the view. In the next house, occupied I think by a tailor, we, however, obtained the desired sight of this window on the second story at the back of Scott's house, and could very well have seen any hand at work in the same situation. The house is now inhabited by Professor Napier, the editor of the Edinburgh Review.
The houses and places of business of the Ballantynes and Constable, are not devoid of interest, as connected with Scott. In all these he was frequently for business or dining. The place of business of Constable, was at one time that which is now the Crown hotel, at the east end of Princes-street. That which is now the commercial room, or the first floor, was Constable's book depot, and where he sat a good deal; and a door near the window, looking out towards the Register Office, entered a lesser room, now altered, where Scott used to go and write occasionally. The private residence of Constable was at Palton, six or seven miles from Edinburgh. James Ballantyne's was in St. John-street, a row of good, old-fashioned, and spacious houses, adjoining the Canongate and Holyrood, and at no great distance from his printing establishment. John Ballantyne's auction rooms were in Hanover-street, and his country house, styled by him Harmony-hall, was near the Frith of Forth by Trinity. Of both the private and convivial entertainments at these places we have full accounts given by Lockhart. Sometimes, he says, Scott was there alone with only two or three intimate friends; at others, there were great and jovial dinners, and that all guests with whom Scott did not wish to be burdened were feasted here by John Ballantyne, in splendid style; and many were the scenes of uproarious merriment amid his "perfumed conversations," and over the Parisian delicacies of the repast.
But, in fact, the buildings and sites in and around Edinburgh, with which associations of Scott are connected, are innumerable, almost universal. His Marmion, his Heart of Mid-Lothian, his Tales of the Canongate, have peopled almost every part of the city and neighbourhood with the vivid characters of his creation. The Canongate, the Cowgate, the Nether and West Bows, the Grass-market, the site of the old Tolbooth, Holyrood, the Park, Muschat's cairn, Salisbury-craig, Davie Dean's cottage, Liberton, the abode of Dominie Butler, Craigmillar castle, and a thousand other places, are all alive with them. We are astonished, on visiting Edinburgh, to find how much more intense is the interest cast over different spots by his genius than by ordinary history.
A superb monument to his memory, a lofty and peculiarly beautiful gothic cross, now stands in Princes-street, within which stands his statue.
The first place in the country which Scott resided at, is the scene of a sojourn at a very early age, and of subsequent visits — Sandy-knowe, near Kelso. In his Autobiography he gives a most picturesque account of his life here. He says that it was here that he came soon after the commencement of his lameness, which was attributed to a fever, consequent on severe teething when he was about eighteen months old. He dates his first consciousness of life from this place. He came here to be strengthened by country air, and was suffered to scramble about amongst the crags to his heart's content. His father, Walter Scott, was the first of his family who entered on a town life. His grandfather, Robert Scott, then very old, was living at this Sandy-knowe. The place is some five or six miles from Kelso. The spot lies high, and is still very wild, but in the time of Scott's childhood would be far wilder. It was then surrounded, far and wide, with brown moorlands. These are now, for the most part, reclaimed by the plough; but the country is open, naked, and solitary. The old tower of Smailholm, which stands on the spot, is seen afar off as a tall, square, and stern old border keep. In his preface to the Eve of St. John, Scott says, "The circuit of the outer court being defended on three sides by a precipice and a morass, is accessible only from the west by a steep and rocky path. The apartments, as usual in a border keep or fortress, are placed one above another, and communicate by a narrow stair. On the roof are two bartizans, or platforms, for defence or pleasure. The inner door of the tower is wood, the outer an iron grate; the distance between them being nine feet, the thickness, namely, of the walls. Among the crags by which it is surrounded, one more eminent is called the Watchfold; and is said to have been the station of a beacon in the times of war with England."
Stern and steadfast as is this old tower, being, as Scott himself says, nine feet thick in the wall, each room arched with stone, and the roof an arch of stone, with other stones piled into a steep ridge upon it; and being built of the iron-like whinstone of the rocks around, it seems as if it were a solid and time-proof portion of the crag on which it stands. The windows are small holes, and the feeling of grim strength which it gives you is intense. Since Scott's day, the inner door and the outer iron grate are gone. The place is open, and the cattle and the winds make it their resort. All around the black crags start out of the ground; it is all iron wilderness. There are a few laborious cotters just below it, and not far off is the spot where stood the old house, of Scott's grandfather, a good modern farm-house and its buildings. This savage and solitary monument of the ages of feud and bloodshed, stands no longer part of a waste where
The bittern clamoured from the moss,
The wind blew loud and shrill,
but in the midst of a well-cultivated corn farm, where the farmer looks with a jealous eye on visitors, wondering what they can want with the naked old keep, and complaining that they leave his gates open. He had been thus venting his chagrin to the driver of my chaise, and wishing the tower were down — a stiff business to accomplish — but withdrew into his house at my approach.
Sterile and bare as is this wild scene, Scott dates from it, and no doubt correctly, his deep love of nature and ballad romance. In the Introduction to the third canto of Marmion, he thus refers to it:—
It was a barren scene and wild,
Where naked cliffs were rudely piled;
But ever and anon between
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green;
And well the lonely infant knew
Recesses where the wall-flower grew,
And honeysuckle loved to crawl
Up the low crag and ruined wall.
I deemed such nooks site sweetest shade
The sun in all his rounds surveyed;
And still I thought the shattered tower
The mightiest work of human power:
And marvelled as the aged hind
With same strange tale bewitched my mind—
Of forayers who, with headlong force,
Down that same strength had spurred their horse,
Their southern rapine to renew,
Far in the distant Cheviots blue;
And home returning, filled the hall
With revel, wassal-rout, and brawl.
Methought that still with trump and clang
The gateway's broken arches rang;
Methought grim features, seamed with scars,
Glanced through the window's rusty bars.
And I even, by the winter hearth
Old tales I heard of woe and mirth,
Of lover's slights, of lady's charms;
Of witches' spells, of warrior's arms;
Of patriot battles won of old
By Wallace wight and Bruce the bold;
Of later fields of feud and fight,
When, pouring from their Highland height,
The Scottish clan, in headlong sway,
Had swept the scarlet ranks away.
While stretched at length upon the floor,
Again I fought each battle o'er;
Pebbles and shells in order laid,
The mimic works of war displayed;
And onward still the Scottish lion bore,
And still the scattered southron fled before.
Here we have the elements of Waverley at work in the child of four or five years old. In fact, the years that he spent here were crowded with the impressions of romance and the excitement of the imagination, He was surrounded by singular and picturesque characters. The recluse old clergyman; — old Mac Dougal, of Makerstoun, in his little laced cocked hat, embroidered scarlet waistcoat, light-coloured coat, and white hair tied military fashion, kneeling on the carpet before the child, and drawing his watch along to induce him to follow it. Old Ormistoun, the herdsman, that used to carry him out into the moorlands, telling him all sorts of stories, and blew his whistle when the nurse was to fetch him home. The nurse herself, who went mad, and to escape from this solitude, confessed that she had carried the child up among the crags, under a temptation of the devil, to cut his throat with her scissors, and bury him in the moss; and was therefore dismissed at once, but found to be a maniac. All these things were certain of sinking deep into the child's mind, amid the solitude and wildness of the place; but all this time too he was stuffed daily with all sorts of border and other ballads: Watt of Harden, Wight Willie of Aikwood, Jamie Telfer of the fair Dodhead, Hardyknute, and the like; and the stories of the cruelties practised on the rebels at Carlisle, and in the highlands, after the battle of Culloden, related to him by a farmer of Yethyn who had witnessed them — "tragic tales which," said Scott, "made so great an impression upon me." In fact, here again were future materials of Waverley. Before quitting the stern old tower of Smailholm, and Sandy-knowe, why so called, and why not rather Whinstone-knowe, it were difficult to say, — we may, in the eloquent words of Mr. Lockhart, point out the celebrated scenes which he in view from it. "Nearly in front of it, across the Tweed, Lessudden, the comparatively small, but still venerable and stately abode of the lairds of Raeburn; and the hoary abbey of Dryburgh, surrounded with yew-trees as ancient as itself, seem to lie almost at the feet of the spectator. Opposite him rise the purple peaks of Eildon, the traditional scene of Thomas the Rhymer's interview with the Queen of Faerie; behind are the blasted peel which the seer of Erceldoun himself inhabited, 'The Broom of the Cowdenknowes,' the pastoral valley of the Leader, and the bleak wilderness of Lammermoor. To the eastward, the desolate grandeur of Hume castle breaks the horizon, as the eye travels towards the range of the Cheviot. A few miles westward, Melrose, 'like some tall rock with lichens grey,' appears clasped amidst the windings of the Tweed; and the distance presents the serrated mountains of the Gala, the Ettrick, and the Yarrow, all famous in song. Such were the objects that had painted the earliest images on the eye of the last and greatest of the border minstrels."
The next place which became a haunt of the boyhood of Scott was Kelso. Here he had an uncle, Captain Robert Scott, and an aunt, Miss Janet Scott, under whose care he had spent the latter part of his time at Sandy-knowe. Scott, as I have observed, was one of the most fortunate men that ever lived in the circumstance of his early life, in which every possible event which could prepare him for the office of a gnat and original novelist concurred, as if by appointment of Providence. He was led to visit and explore all the most beautiful scenery of his country — the Borders, the Highlands, those around Edinburgh; and in every place at that time existed multitudes of singular characters, many of them still retaining the quaint garb and habits of a former day. We have seen that his school and college fellows comprised almost all the afterwards distinguished men of their age, no trivial advantage to him in his own progress. At Sandy-knowe, besides the characters we have referred to, his old grandfather and grandmother, and their quiet life — "Old Mrs. Scott sitting, with her spinning-wheel, at one side of the fire, in a clean, clean parlour; the grandfather, a good deal felled, in his elbow-chair opposite; and the little boy lying on the carpet at the old man's feet, listening to the Bible, or whatever good book Miss Jenny was reading to them." He was away sometimes at Prestonpans, and there, as fortune would have it, for he must be enriched with all such treasure, he saw in George Constable the original of Monkbarns, and also the original Dalgetty. Kelso now added to the number of his original characters and scenes for future painting. Miss Janet Scott lived, he tells us, in a small house in a large garden to the eastward of the churchyard of Kelso, which extended down to the Tweed. This fine old garden of seven or eight acres, had winding walks, mounds, and a banquetting house. It was laid out in the old style with high pleached hornbeam hedges, and had a fine plane-tree. In many parts of the garden were fine yews and other trees, and there was also a goodly old orchard. Here, as in a very paradise, he used to read and devour heaps of poetry. Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, Percy's Reliques, and the works of Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Mackenzie, and other of the great novelists. The features of this garden remained deeply imprinted in his mind, and have been reproduced in different descriptions of his works. Like the garden of Eden itself; this charming oh garden has now vanished. Indeed, he himself relates with what chagrin he found, on revisiting the place many years afterwards, the good old plane-tree gone, the hedges pulled up, and the bearing trees felled! I searched for some trace of it on my visit there in vain, though its locality is so well defined. There was, however, the old grammar school not far off to which he used to go, and where he found, in Lancelot Whale, the prototype of Dominie Sampson, and in two of the boys, his future printers, James and John Ballantyne. The neighbourhood of Kelso, the town itself quiet and old-fashioned, was well calculated to charm a boy of his dreaming and poetry-absorbing age. The Tweed here is a fine broad stream, the banks are steep and magnificently hung with splendid woods. The adjoining park and old castle, the ruins of the fine abbey in the town, and charming walks by the Tweed or the Teviot, which here unite, with their occasional broad sandy beach, and anglers wading in huge boots; all made their delightful impressions upon him. He speaks with rapture of the long walks along the river with James Ballantyne, repeating poetry and telling stories. His uncle, Captain Robert Scott, lived somewhat further out on the same side as his aunt, at a villa called Rosebank, which still stands unchanged amidst much fine lofty timber, and with its lawn running down to the Tweed.
Kelso was the last country abode of the boyhood of Scott. Edinburgh, with his occasional flights into the Highlands, and his raids into Liddesdale, kept him till his manhood. That found him with his blithe little wife in his cottage at Lasswade.
Lasswade is a lovely neighbourhood. It is thrown up with lofty ridges all finely wooded. The country there is rich, and the noble woods, the fine views down into the fertile valleys, and the Esk coming sounding along its channel from Rosslyn and Hawthornden, make it very charming. It is in the immediate neighbourhood not only of Rosslyn with its beaufiful chapel, and the classic cliffs and woods of Hawthornden, but of Dalkeith; and Lord Melville's park is at Lasswade itself.
The cottage of Scott is still called Lasswade cottage. Every one still knows the house as the one where he lived. A miller near said, "He minded him weel. He was an advocate then, and his wife a little dark Frenchwoman." The house is now occupied as a ladies' school, kept by two Miss Mutters. It looks somewhat neglected, and wants painting and keeping in more perfect order; but it is itself a very sweet secluded place. It is before you come to the village of Lasswade, about half way down the hill, from an ordinary hamlet called Loanhead. It stands about fifty yards from the road-side; and, in fact, the road divides at the projecting corner of its higher paddock; the main highway descending to the left to Lasswade, and the other to the right proceeding past several pleasant villas to the Esk. There are two roads leading from the highway up to the house; one being the carriage drive up to the front, and the other to the back, past some labourers' cottages. It is a somewhat singular-looking house, having one end tall, and thatched in a remarkably steep manner; and then a long, low range, running away from it. The whole is thatched, whitewashed, and covered with Ayrshire roses, evergreen plants, and masses of ivy. When you get round to the front, for it turns its back on the road, you find the lofty part projecting much beyond the low range, and having a sort of circular front. A gravel walk or drive goes quite round to this side, and is divided from a paddock by laurels. There are three paddocks. One opposite to the tall end, and extending down to the road, one in front, and one behind the house, in which stands, near the house, in a still smaller enclosure, a remarkably large sycamore tree. The paddocks are all surrounded by tall, full-grown trees, and they shut in the place to perfect retirement. At the end of the low range lies a capital large kitchen garden, with plenty of fruit trees; and this extends to the back lane, proceeding towards the valley of the Esk. The neighbourhood is full of the houses of people of wealth and taste. Here for many years lived Henry Mackenzie, the Man of Feeling. Here, at this cottage, however secluded, Scott found plenty of literary society. He was busy with his German translations of Lenore, Gotz von Berlichingen, etc.; and his Border Minstrelsy. Here Mat. Lewis, and Heber, the collector of rare books, visited him; as well as the crabbed Ritson, whom the rough and impatient Leyden put to flight. Then came Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, from a tour in the Highlands; and Scott set off on a ramble down to Melrose and Teviotdale. He had here partly written the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and edited and published Sir Tristram. These facts are enough to give a lasting interest to the cottage of Lasswade. The duties of his sheriffdom now called him frequently to the forest of Ettrick, and he fixed his abode at the lovely but solitary Ashestiel.
Ashestiel occupied as an abode a marked and joyous period of Scott's life. He was now a happy husband, the happy father of a lovely young family. Fortune was smiling on him. He held an honourable, and to him delightful office, that of the sheriff of the county of Selkirk which bound him up with almost all that border ballad country, in which he revelled as in a perfect fairy land. He was fast rising into fame, and in writing out the visions of poetry which were now warmly and rapidly opening upon his mind, he was located in a spot most auspicious to their development. The solitude of Ashestiel was only felt by him as a refreshing calm, for his spirit was teeming with life and action, and his rides over hill and dale, his coursing with his favourite dogs and friends, along the hills of Yair, "his burning of the water," in the deep and dark Tweed, which rolled sounding on beneath the forest banks below his house — that is, spearing salmon by torch-light: these were all but healthy and joyous set-offs to the hustle of inward life in the composition of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, The Lord of the Isles, of Waverley, and the active labours on Dryden, and a host of other literary undertakings. I believe Scott resided about seven years at Ashestiel; and it is amazing what a mass of new and beautiful compositions he worked off there. It was here that his poetic fame grew to its full height; and he was acknowledged, though Southey, Wordsworth, Campbell, and Coleridge, were now pouring out their finest productions, to he the most original and popular writer of the day. There was to he one fresh and higher flight even by him, that of "The Great Unknown," and this was reserved for Abbotsford. There the fame of his romances began, here grew into its full-blown greatness; but here the sun of his poetic reputation ascended to its zenith. In particular, the poem of Marmion will for ever recall the memory and the scenery of Ashestiel. The introductions to the different cantos, than which there are no poems in the English language more beautiful of this kind, are all imbued with the spirit of the place. They breathe at once the solitary beauty of the hills, the lovely charm of river, wood, and heath, and the genial blaze of the domestic hearth; on which love, and friendship, and gladsome spirits of childhood, and the admiration of eager visitors to the secluded abode of "The Last Minstrel," had made an earthly paradise. The summer rambles lip the Ettrick or Yarrow, by Newark tower, St. Mary's Loch, or into the wilds of Moffatdale, when
The lavroch whistled from the cloud:
The stream was lively, but not loud;
From the white-thorn the May-flower shed
Its dewy fragrance round our head:
Not Ariel lived more merrily
Under the blossomed bough than we.
Then how the time flew by in the brighter season of the year, by dale and stream, in wood and wold, till the approach of winter and the Edinburgh session, called them to town. How vividly are these days of storm and cloud depicted.
When dark December glooms the day,
And takes our autumn joys away:
When short and scant the sunbeam throws
Upon the weary waste of snows,
A cold and profitless regard,
Like patron on a needy bard—
When sylvan occupation's done,
And o'er the chimney rests the gun,
And hang, in idle trophy near,
The game-pouch, fishing-rod, and spear;
When wiry terrier, rough and grim,
And greyhound with its length of limb,
And pointer, now employed no more,
Cumber our narrow parlour floor;
When in his stall the impatient steed
Is long condemned to rest and feed:
When from our snow-encircled home
Scarce cares the hardiest seep to roam,
Since path is none, save that to bring
The needful water front the spring:
When wrinkled news-page, thrice conned o'er,
Beguiles the dreary hour no more,
And darkling politician, crossed,
Inveighs against the lingering post,
And answering housewife sore complains.
Of carriers' snow-impeded wains:
When such the country cheer, I come,
Well pleased to seek our city home;
For converse, and for books, to change
The forests melancholy range;
And welcome, with renewed delight,
The busy day and social night.
Introduction to Canto v.
It was on a fine, fresh morning, after much rain, that, with a smart lad as driver, I sped in a gig from Galashiels up the valley on the way to Ashestiel. The sweet stream of the Gala water ran on our left, murmuring deliciously, and noble woods right and left, amongst them the mansion of Torwoodlee, and wood-crowned banks, made the day beautiful. Anon we came out to the open country, bare but pleasant hills, and small light streams careering along the valleys, and shepherds, with their dogs at their heels, setting out on their long rounds for the day. There was an inspiriting life and freshness in everything — air, earth, and sky. The way is about six miles in length, from Galashiels to Ashestiel. About three parts of this was passed, when we came to Clovenfoot, a few houses amongst the green hills, where Scott used often to lodge for days and weeks at the little inn, before he got to Ashestiel. The country about Ashestiel consists of moorland hills, still showing the darkness of the heather upon them, it is wilder, and has an air of greater loneliness than the pastoral mountains of Ettrick and Moffittdale; and the pleasant surprise is the more lively, when at once, in the midst of this brown and treeless region, after going on wondering where this Ashestiel can have hidden itself, not a house or a trace of existence being visible, but bare hill beyond hill, you suddenly see before you, down in a deep valley, a mass of beautiful woodlands emerging into view; the Tweed displays its broad and rapid stream at the foot of this richly wooded scene, and a tasteful house on the elevated bank beyond the river shows its long front and gables over the tree tops. This is Ashestiel, the residence of Scott, where he wrote Marmion, and commenced Waverley. We descended to the Tweed, where there is no bridge, but a ford, called by Scott "none of the best," "that ugly ford," which after long rains is sometimes carried away, and instead of a ford becomes a gulf. I remembered the incident of Scott himself being once pushed into it, when his horse found no bottom, and had to swim across; and of a cart bringing the new kitchen-range being upset, and leaving the much desired fireplace at the bottom. The river was now much swollen, but my stouthearted lad said he did not fear it; he often went there; and so we passed boldly through the powerful stream, and up the woodland bank to the house. The proprietor and present occupant, Major General Sir James Russell, a relative of Sir Walter's, was just about to mount his horse to go out, but very kindly turned back and introduced me to Lady Russell, an elegant and very agreeable woman, the sister of Sir James and Captain Basil Hall. They showed me the house with the greatest pleasure, and pressed me to stay luncheon. The house, Sir James said, was in Scott's time much less than at present. It was a farm-house made out of an old border tower, by his father, and in the room looking down the Tweed, a beautiful view, Scott wrote Marmion, and the first part of Waverley, as well as the conclusion of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and the whole of the Lady of the Lake. That room is now the centre sitting-room, and Sir Walter's little drawing-room is Sir James's bed-room. Sir James has greatly enlarged and improved the house. He has built a wing at each end, running at right angles with the old front, and his dining-room now enjoys the view which Scott's sitting-room had before. The house is very elegantly furnished, as well as beautifully situated. The busts of Sir Walter Scott and Captain Basil Hall occupy conspicuous places in the dining-room, and recall the associations of the past and the present. The grounds which face the front that is turned from the river and looks up the hill, are very charming; and at a distance of a field is the mound in the wood called "The Shirra's knowe," because Scott was fond of sitting there. Its views are now obstructed by the growth of the trees, but if they were opened again would be wildly woodland, looking down on the Tweed, and on a brook which rushes down a deep glen close by, called the Stiel burn. The knowe has all the character of a cairn or barrow, and I should think there is little doubt that it is one. It does not, however, stand on Sir James's property, and therefore it is not kept in order. Above the knowe, and Sir James's gardens, stretch away the uplands, and on the distant hill lies the mound and trench called Wallace's trench.
One would have thought that Scott was sufficiently withdrawn from the world at Ashestiel; but the world poured in upon him even here, and besides the visits of Southey, Heber, John Murray, and other of his distant friends, the fashionable and far-wandering tribes found him out. "In this little drawing-room of his," said Sir James Russell, "he entertained three duchesses at once." Adding, "Happy had it been for him had he been contented to remain here, and have left unbuilt the castle of Abbotsford, so much more in the highway of the tourist, and offering so much more accommodation." That is too true. The present house is good enough for a lord, and yet not too good for a private gentleman; while its situation is, in some respects, more beautiful than that of Abbotsford. The site of the house is more elevated, standing amid its fine woods, and yet commanding the course of the bold river deep beneath it, with its one bank dark with hanging forests, and that beyond open to the bare and moorland hills. But Scott would to Abbotsford, and so must we.
I have, somewhere else, expressed how greatly the landlords of Scotland are indebted to Scott. It is to him that thousands of them owe not merely subsistence, but ample fortunes. In every part of the country where be has touched the earth with his magic wand, roads have run along the heretofore impassable morass, rocks have given way for men, and houses have sprung up full of the necessary "entertainment for man and horse." Steamers convey troops of summer tourists to the farthest west and north of the Scottish coast and every lake and mountain swarms with them. On arriving at Melrose, I was greatly struck with the growth of this traffic of picturesque and romantic travel. It was twenty years since I was in that village before. Scott was then living at Abbotsford, and drew up to the inn door to take post horses on to Kelso. While these were got out we had a full and fair view of him as he sat, without his hat, in the carriage reading, as we ourselves were breakfasting near the window of a room just opposite. Then, there was one small inn in the place, and very few people in it; now, there were two or three and these, besides lodging-houses, all crammed full of guests. The inn-yards stood full of travelling carriages, and servants in livery were lounging about in motley throngs. The ruins of the abbey were like a fair for people, and the intelligent and very obliging woman who shows them said that every year the numbers increased, and that every year foreigners seemed to arrive from more and more distant regions.
At Abbotsford it was the same. It must he recollected that there had been a summer of incessant rain, yet both at the inn and at the abbey the people said that it had appeared to make no difference, they had been constantly full. As I drove up towards Abbotsford it was getting towards evening, and I feared I might be almost too late to be allowed to see through the house, but I met three or four equipages returning thence, and as many fresh ones arrived whilst I was there. Some of these were obliged to wait a long time, as the housekeeper would not admit above a dozen or persons so at once; and carriages stood about the court as though it were some great visiting day there. That visiting day endures the whole summer through; and the money received for inspection alone must he a handsome income. If the housekeeper gets it all, as she receives it all, she will eventually match the old housekeeper of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, who is said to have died a few years ago, worth £120,000! and was still most anxious to secure the reversion of the post for her niece, but in vain; the duke probably and very justly thinking that there should be turn about even in the office of such liberal door-keeping.
Abbotsford, after twenty years' interval, and having then been seen under the doubly exaggerating influence of youth and the recent influence of Scott's poetry, in some degree disappointed me. I had imagined the house itself larger, its towers more lofty, its whole exterior more imposing. The plantations are a good deal grown, and almost bury the house from the distant view, but they still preserve all their formality of outline, as seen from the Galashiels road. Every field has a thick, black belt of fir trees, which run about, forming on the long hill side the most fantastic figures. The house is, however, a very interesting house. At first you come to the front next to the road, which you do by a steep descent down the plantation. You are struck, having a great castle in your imagination, with the smallness of the place. It is neither large nor lofty. Your ideal Gothic castle shrinks into a miniature. The house is quite hidden till you are at it, and then you find yourself at a small, castellated gateway, with its crosses cut into the stone pillars on each side, and the little window over it, as for the warden to look out at you. Then comes the view of this side of the house with its portico, its bay windows with painted glass, its tall, battlemented gables, and turrets with their lantern terminations; the armorial escutcheon over the door, and the corbels, and then another escutcheon aloft on the wall of stars and crescents. All these have a good effect; and not less so the light screen of freestone finely worked and carved with its elliptic arches and iron lattice-work, through which the garden is seen with its espalier trees, high brick walls, and greenhouse, with a doorway at the end leading into a second garden of the same sort. The house has a dark look, being built of the native whinstone, or grau-wacke, as the Germans call it, relieved by the quoins and projections of the windows and turrets in freestone. All looks classic, and not too large for the poet and antiquarian builder. The dog Maida lies in stone on the right hand of the door in the court, with the well-known inscription. The house can neither be said to be Gothic nor castellated. It is a combination of the poet's, drawn from many sources, but all united by good taste, and forming a unique style more approaching to the Elizabethan than any other. Round the court, of which the open-work screen just mentioned is the farther boundary, runs a covered walk, that is, along the two sides not occupied by the house and the screen; and in the wall beneath the arcade thus formed, are numerous niches, containing a medley of old figures brought from various places. There are Indian gods, old figures out of churches, and heads of Roman emperors. In the corner of the court, on the opposite side of the portico to the dog Maida, is a fountain, with some similar relics reared on the stone-work round it.
The other front gives you a much greater idea of the size. It has a more continuous range of facade. Here at one end is Scott's square tower, ascended by outside steps, and a round or octagon tower, at the other; — you cannot tell, certainly, which shape it is, as it is covered with ivy. On this the flag-staff stands. At the end next to the square tower, i.e. at the right-hand end as you face it, you pass into the outer court, which allows you to go round the end of the house from one front to the other, by the old gateway, which once belonged to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. Along the whole of this front runs a gallery, in which the piper used to stalk to and fro while they were at dinner. This man still comes about the place, though he has been long discharged. He is a great vagabond.
Such is the exterior of Abbotsford. The interior is far more interesting. The porch, copied from that of the old palace of Linlithgow, is finely groined, and there are stags' horns nailed up in it. When the door opens, you find yourselves in the entrance hail, which is, in fact, a complete museum of antiquities and other matters. It is, as described in Lockhart's Life of Scott, wainscotted with old wainscot from the kirk of Dumfermline, and the pulpit of John Knox is cut in two, and placed as chiffonniers between the windows. The whole walls are covered with suits of armour, and arms, horns of moose deer, the head of a Musk bull, etc. At your left hand, and close to the door, are two cuirasses, some standards, eagles, etc., collected at Waterloo. At the opposite end of the room are two full suits of armour, one Italian, and one English of the time of Henry V, the latter holding in its hands a stupendous two-handed sword, I suppose six feet long, and said to have been found on Bosworth field. Opposite to the door is the fire-place of freestone, imitated from an arch in the cloister at Melrose, with a peculiarly graceful spandrel. In it stands the iron grate of Archbishop Sharpe, who was murdered by the covenanters; and before it stands a most massive Roman camp kettle. On the roof, at the centre of the pointed arches, runs a row of escutcheons of Scott's family, two or three at one end being empty, the poet not being able to trace the maternal lineage so high as the paternal. These were painted accordingly in nubibus, with the motto, — "Nox alta velat." Round the door at one end are emblazoned the shields of his most intimate friends, as Erskine, Moritt, Rose, etc., and all round the cornice ran the emblazoned shields of the old chieftains of the Border, with this motto, in old English letters: — "THESE BE THE COAT ARMOURIES OF THE CLANNIS AND CHIEF MEN OF NAME WHO KEEPIT THE MARCHYS OF SCOTLAND IN THE AULDE TYME OF THE KING. TREWE WEARE THEY IN THEIR TYME, AND IN THEIR DEFENCE, GOD THEM DEFENDIT."
The chairs are from Scone palace. On the wall hangs the chain shirt of Cromwell; and on a table at the window where visitors sign their names, lies the huge tawny lion skin, sent by Thomas Pringle from South Africa.
A passage leading from the entrance hall to the breakfast-room has a fine groined ceiling, copied from Melrose, and the open space at the end, two small hill-length paintings of Miss Scott, and Miss Anne Scott.
In the breakfast-room where Scott often used to read, there is a table, constructed something like a pyramid, which turns round. On each side of this he laid books of reference, and turned the table as he wanted one or the other. Here is also a small oak table, at which he breakfasted. His daughter Anne used generally to join him at it; but if she did not come, he made breakfast himself, and went to work again without waiting. In this room — a charming little room, with the most cheerful views up the valley — there is such a collection of books as might serve for casual reading, or to refresh the mind when weary of writing, poetry and general literature besides a fine oil painting over the fireplace of the Wolf's craig, in Lammermoor, i.e. Fast castle, by Thomson, and numbers of sweet water-colour pictures. Also a bust of Mackenzie, the Man of Feeling, in a niche.
Then there is the library, a noble room, with a fine cedar ceiling, with beautiful compartments, and most lovely carved pendants, where you see hunches of grapes, human figures, leaves, etc. It is copied from Rosslyn or Melrose. There are three busts in this room; the first, one of Sir Walter, by Chantrey; one of Wordsworth; and in the great bay window, on a table, a cast of that of Shakspeare, from Stratford. There is a full-length painting of the poet's son, the present Sir Walter, in his hussar uniform, with his horse. The work-table in the space of the bay window, and the fine carved ceiling in this part of the room, as well as the brass hanging lamp brought from Herculaneum, are particularly worthy of notice. There is a pair of most splendidly carved box-wood chairs, brought from, Italy, and once belonging to some cardinal. The other chairs are of ebony, presented by George IV. There is a tall silver urn, standing on a porphyry table, filled with bones from the Piraeus, and inscribed as the gift of Lord Byron. The books in this room, many of which are secured from hurt by wire-work doors, are said to amount to twenty thousand. Many, of course, are very valuable, having been collected with great care by Scott, for the purpose of enabling him to write his different works. Then, there is a large collection of both printed and MS. matter, relative to the rebellions of '15 and '45; and others connected with magic and demonology. Altogether the books, many of which are presentation copies, from authors, not only of this but various other countries, make a goodly show, and the room is a noble one.
In the drawing-room, the wood also is of cedar; and here hangs the large painting by Raeburn, containing the full-length portrait of Sir Walter, as he sits under a wall, and of his two dogs. This, one often sees engraved. It is said to be most like him, and is certainly very like Chantrey's bust when you examine them together. There is a portrait of Lady Scott, too. Oh such a round-faced little blackamoor of a woman! One instantly asks — where was Sir Walter's taste? Where was the judgment which guided him in describing Di Vernon, Flora Maclvor, or Rebecca? "But," said the housekeeper, "she was a very brilliant little woman;" and this is also said by those who knew her. How greatly, then, must the artist have sinned against her! The portrait of Miss Anne Scott is lovely, and you see a strong likeness to her hither. Scott's mother is a very good, amiable, motherly-looking woman, in an old-fashioned lady's cap. Besides these articles, there is a table of verd antique, presented by Lord Byron. Thus is placed between the front windows, and bears a vase of what resembles purple glass, a transparent marble, inlaid beautifully with gold. There is also a black ebony cabinet, which was presented by George IV. with the chairs now in the library.
The armoury is a most remarkable room; it is the collection of the author of Waverley; and to enumerate all the articles which are here assembled, would require a volume. Take a few particulars. The old wooden lock, of the Tolbooth of Selkirk; Queen Mary's offering-box, a small iron ark or coffer, with a circular lid, found in Holyrood house. Then Hofer's rifle — a short, stout gun, given hum by Sir Humphry Davy, or rather by Hofer's widow to Sir Humphry for Sir Walter. The housekeeper said, that Sir Humphry had done some service for the widow of Hofer, and in her gratitude she offered him this precious relic, which he accepted for Sir Walter, and delighted the poor woman with the certainty that it would be preserved to posterity in such a place as Abbotsford. There is an old white hat, worn by the burgesses of Stowe when installed. Rob Boy's purse and his gun; a very long one, with the initials R. M. C., Robert Macgregor Campbell, round the touch-hole. A rich sword in a silver sheath, presented to Sir Walter by the people of Edinburgh, for the pains he took when George IV. was there. The sword of Charles I, afterwards belonging to the Marquis of Montrose. A collection of claymores, and of the swords of German executioners, of the very kind still used in that semi-barbarous, though soi-disant philosophical country; a country of private trials without juries, of torture in prison, and of the bloodiest mode of execution possible. There the criminal, if not — as was a poor tailor of Koningsberg, in 1841 — broken on the wheel inch by inch for killing a bishop, is seated in a chair on the platform, with his head against a post, and the executioner strikes off his head. The head falls, the blood spouts like fountains from the struggling trunk, and falls in a crimson shower all over the figure, — a horrible spectacle!
On the blades of one of these swords is an inscription thus translated by Scott himself:
Dust, when I strike, to dust; from sleepless grave,
Sweet Jesu, stoop a sin stained soul to save.
The hunting-bottle of James I; the thumbikins with which the covenanters were tortured; the iron crown of the martyr Wishart; Buonaparte's pistols, found in his carriage at Waterloo; the pistols of Claverhouse, all of steel, according to the fashion of that time, and inlaid with silver. Two great keys of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, found after the doors were burnt by the mob who seized and hanged Captain Porteus; and innumerable other objects of the like kind.
In the dining-room, the most curious thing is the painting of the head of Mary Queen of Scots, immediately after decapitation. Of this, it is said, Sir Walter took great pains to establish the authenticity. It is by Amias Cawood, and, to my fancy, strange as it may seem, gives a better notion of the beauty of Mary than any of her living portraits. But the hair is still black, not grey, or rather white, as stated by the historians. There are a considerable number of good portraits in this room. A fine one of Nell Gwynn, also much handsomer than we generally see her; it is a fellow to the one in Glammis castle. An equestrian portrait of Lord Essex, the parliament general. Thomson, the poet, who must likewise have been handsome, if like this. John Dryden. Oliver Cromwell when young. The Duke of Monmouth. The marriage of Scott of Harden, to Muckle-mouthed Meg, who is making the widest mouth possible, with a very arch expression, as much as to say, "As you will be obliged to have me, I will, for this once, have the pleasure of giving you a fright." Charles XII. of Sweden. Walter Raleigh, in a broad hat, very different to any other portrait I have seen of him — more common looking. Small full-lengths of Henrietta, queen of Charles I, and of Ann Hyde, queen of James II. Prior and Gay, by Jervas. Hogarth, by himself: Old Beardie, Scott's great grandfather. Lucy Walters, first mistress of Charles II, and mother of the Duke of Monmouth; with the Duchess of Buccleugh, Monmouth's wife.
Lastly, and on our way back to the entrance hall, we enter the writing-room of Sir Walter, which is surrounded by bookshelves, and a gallery, by which Scott not only could get at his books, but by which he could get to and from his bed-room, and so be at work when his visitors thought him in bed. He had only to lock his door, and he was safe. Here are his easy leathern chair and desk, at which he used to work, and, in a little closet, is the last suit that he ever wore — a bottle-green coat, plaid waistcoat, of small pattern, grey plaid trousers, and white hat. Near these hang his walking stick, and his boots and walking shoes. Here are also his tools, with which he used to prune his trees in the plantations, and his yeoman-cavalry accoutrements. On the chimney-piece stands a German light-machine, where he used to get a light, and light his own fire. There is a chair made of the wood of the house at Robroyston, in which William Wallace was betrayed; having a brass plate in the back, stating that it is from this house, where "Wallace was done to death by Traitors." The writing-room is connected with the library, and this little closet had a door issuing into the garden; so that Scott had all his books at immediate command, and could not only work early and late without anybody's knowledge, but, at will, slip away to wood and field, if he pleased, unobserved. In his writing-room, there is a full-length portrait of Rob Roy, and a head of Claverhouse. The writing-room is the only sitting-room facing the south. It ranges with the entrance hall, and between them lies a little sort of armoury, where stand two figures, one presenting a specimen of chain armour, and the other, one of wadded armour — that is, silk stuffed with cotton.
Here, then, is a tolerable account of the interior of Abbotsford. I perceive that Mr. Lockhart, in his recent People's Edition of his Life of Scott, has given an account said to have been furnished by Scott himself to an annual. If it were correct at the time it was written, there must have been a general rearrangement of paintings and other articles. Mr. Lockhart says he suspects its inaccuracy; but what makes me doubt that Scott drew up the account is, that some of the most ornamental ceilings, which can not have been changed, are stated to be of dark oak, whereas they are of pencil cedar.
I again walked up the mile-long plantation, running along the hill-side from the house up the valley, and found it again merely a walk through a plantation — nothing more. It is true that, as you get a good way up, you arrive at some high ground, and can look out up the valley towards Selkirk, and get some views of the Tweed, coming down between its moorland hills, which are very sweet. But the fault of Abbotsford is, that it is not laid out to the advantage that it might be. The ground in front of the house, highly capable of being laid out in beautiful lawn and shrubbery, is cut up with trees that shut out the noblest feature of the scene — the river. One side of the house is elbowed up with square brick garden walls, which ought to be at a distance, and concealed; the other with an unsightly laundry-yard, with its posts and lines. Just down before the house, where the sweet and rich verdure of lawn should be, is set the farm-yard; and then comes the long, monotonous wood. This, in some degree, might be altered, and probably sometime will. At present, the fault of the whole estate is stiffness and formality. The plantations of fir have, necessarily, a stiff, formal look; but this, too, will mend with time. They are now felling out the fir timber; and then what is called the hard-wood, that is, the deciduous trees, will, in coarse of time, present a softer and more agreeable look.
I ranged all through these plantations, from the house to the foot of the Eildon hills, down by the Rhymer's glen and Huntley burn. It is amazing what a large stretch of poor land Sir Walter had got together. It is not particularly romantic, except for the fine back-ground of the Eildon Hills; but Sir Walter saw the scene with the eyes of poetic tradition. He saw things which had been done there, and sung of; and all was beautiful to him: and in time, when the trees are better grown, and have a more varied aspect, and the plantations are more broken up, it will be beautiful. The views from the higher grounds are so now. Down at the house the trees have so grown and closed up the prospects, that you can scarcely get a single glimpse of the river; but when you ascend the woods, and come to an opening on the hills, you see up and down the valley, far and wide. Near a mount in the plantations, on which an old carved stone is reared, and held upright by iron stays, probably marking the scene of some border skirmish, there are seats of turf; from which you have fine views. You see below Abbotsford, where the Gala water comes sweeping into the Tweed, and where Galashiels lies smoking beyond, all compact, like a busy little town as it is. And in another direction, the towers and town of Melrose are discerned at the foot of the bare but airy Eildon Hills; and, still farther, the black summit of the Cowdenknowes.
Something beyond this spot, after issuing out of the first mass of plantations, and ascending a narrow lane, I came to a farm-house. I asked a boy in the yard what the farm was called; and a thrill went through me when he answered — KAESIDE. It was the farm of William Laidlaw, the steward and the friend of Sir Walter. We have seen how, in his earlier, joyous days, Sir Walter fell in with Laidlaw, Hogg, and Leyden. The expeditions into Ettrick and Yarrow, in quest of old border ballads, brought Scott into contact with the two former. He found, not only poetry, but actual living poets, amongst the shepherds and sheep farmers of the hills. I know of nothing more beautiful than the relation of these circumstances in Lockhart's Life of Scott. In Chambers' Edinburgh Journal of July and August, 1845, there is also a very interesting account of Laidlaw, and especially of the coming of Scott and Leyden to Blackhouse farm, in Yarrow, and Laidlaw's farm, and of their strolling over all the classic ground of the neighbourhood; to St. Mary's Loch, to the thorn of Whitehope, Dryhope tower, the former abode of "the Flower of Yarrow," Yarrow church, and the Seven Stones, which mark the graves of the Seven Brothers, slain in "The Douglas Tragedy." How Laidlaw produced the famous ballad of "Auld Maitland," and how Leyden walked about in the highest excitement while Scott read it aloud. Then follows the equally interesting account of the visit of Scott and Laidlaw to Hogg, in Ettrick. These were golden days. Laidlaw and Hogg were relatives, and old friends. Hogg had been shepherd at Blackhouse, with Laidlaw's father. The young men had grown poets, from the inspiration of the scenes they lived amongst, and their mutual conversation. Then comes the great minstrel of the time, seeking up the scattered and unedited treasures of antiquity, and finds these rustic poets of the hills, and they become friends for life. It is a romance. Laidlaw was of an old and famous, but decayed family. The line had been cursed by a maternal ancestress, and they believed that the curse took effect: they all became lawless men. But Laidlaw went to live at Abbotsford, as the factor or steward of Scott; and in him Scott found one of the most faithful, intelligent, and sympathizing friends, ready either to plant his trees or write down his novels at his dictation, when his evil days came upon him. In our day-dreams we imagine such things as these. We lay out estates, and settle on them our friends and faithful adherents, and make about us a paradise of affection, truth, and intellect; but it was the fortune of Scott only to do this actually. Here, at his little farm of Kaeside, lived Laidlaw, and after Scott's death went to superintend estates in Rosshire; and his health at length giving way, he retired to the farm of his brother, a sheep-farmer of Contin; and there, in as beautiful scenery as Scotland or almost any country has to show, the true poet of nature, this true-hearted roan, breathed his last on the 18th of May, 1845.
Those who wander through the woods of Abbotsford, and find their senses regaled by the rich odour of sweet-briar and woodbines, with shrubs oftener found in gardens, as I did with some degree of surprise, will read with interest the following direction of Scott to Laidlaw, in which he explains the mystery: — "George must stick in a few wild roses, honeysuckles, and sweetbriars in suitable places, so as to produce the luxuriance we see in the woods which nature plants herself. We injure the effects of our plantings, so far as beauty is concerned, very much by neglecting underwood." In the woods of Abbotsford the memory of Laidlaw will be often recalled by the sight and odour of these fragrant plants.
Descending into a valley beyond Kaeside, I came to the forester's lodge, on the edge of a little solitary loch. Was this cottage formerly the abode of another worthy — Tom Purdie, whom Scott has, on his grave-stone in Melrose abbey-yard, styled "Wood-forester of Abbotsford?" — a double epithet which may be accounted for by foresters being often now-a-days keepers of forests where there is no wood, as in Ettrick, etc. Whether this was Torn Purdie's abode or not, however, I found it inhabited by a very obliging and intelligent fellow, as porter there. The little loch here I understood him to be called Abbotsford loch, in contradiction to Cauldshiels loch, which is still further up the hills. This Cauldshiels loch was a favourite resort of Scott's at first, it had its traditions, and he had a boat upon it; but finding that it did not belong to his estate, as he supposed, by one of his purchases, he would never go upon it again, though requested to use it at his pleasure by the proprietor. By the direction of the forester, I now steered my way onward from wood to wood, towards the Eildon hills, in quest of the glen of Thomas the Rhymer. The evening was now drawing on, and there was a deep solitude and solemnity over the dark pine woods through which I passed. The trees which Scott had planted were now in active process of being thinned out, and piles of them lay here and there by the cart tracks through the woods, and heaps of the peeled bark of the larch for sale. I thought with what pleasure would Scott have now surveyed these operations, and the beginning of the marketable profit of the woods of his own planting. But that day was past. I went on over fields embosomed in the black forest, where the grazing herds gazed wildly at me, as if a stranger were not often seen there; crossed the deep glen, where the little stream roared on, lost in the thick growth of now lofty trees; and then passed onward down the Rhymer's glen to Huntly burn: every step bearing fresh evidence of the vanished romance of Abbotsford. How long was it since Miss Edgeworth sate by the little waterfall in the Rhymer's glen, and gave her name to the stone on which she was seated? The house at Huntly burn, which Scott had purchased to locate his old friend Sir Adam Fergusson near him, was now the house of the wood-factor; and piles of timber, and sawn hoards on all sides, marked its present use. Lockhart was gone from the lovely cottage just by at Chiefswood. And Scott himself, after his glory and his troubles, slept soundly at Dryburgh. The darkness that had now closed thickly on my way, seemed to my excited imagination to have fallen on the world. What a day of broad hearts and broad intellects was that which had just passed! How the spirit of power, and of creative beauty, had been poured abroad amongst men, and especially in our own country, as with a measureless opening of the Divine hand; and how rapidly and extensively had then the favoured ministers of this intellectual diffusion been withdrawn from the darkened earth! Scott, and almost all his family who had rejoiced with him — Abbotsford was an empty abode — the very woods had yielded up their faithful spirits — Laidlaw and Purdie were in the earth — Hogg, the shepherd-poet, had disappeared from the hills. And of the great lights from England how many were put out! — Crabbe, Southey, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Campbell, Mrs. Hemans, Miss Landon, Hood, and Lamb, many of them bidding farewell to earth amid clouds and melancholy, intense as was the contrasting brightness of their noon-day fame. "Sic transit gloria mundi." The thought passed through me — but a second followed it, saving, "Not so — they only by whom the glory is created travel onward in the track of their eternal destiny. "Won is the glory, and the grief is past."
The next morning I took my way to Dryburgh, the closing scene of the present paper. Dryburgh abbey lies on the Tweed, about four miles from Melrose. You turn off — when you have left the Eildon hills on your right, and have seen on your left in the course of the river the Cowdenknowes, Bemerside, and other classic spots — down a steep and woody lane, and suddenly come out at a wide bend of the river, where on your side, the gravel brought down by the floods spreads a considerable strand, and the lofty banks all round on the other are finely wooded. Few are the rivers which can show more beautiful scenery in their course than the Tweed. But what strikes you strangely are the ruins of a chain bridge, which some time ago was carried away by the wind. There stand aloft the tall white frames of wood to which the bridge was attached at each end, like great skeletons; and the two main chains stretch across, and fragments of others dangle in the air — iron rags of ruin. It has a most desolate and singular look. This, I suppose, was put up by the late whimsical Earl of Buchan, to whom Dryburgh belonged, as now to his nephew. At the opposite end of the bridge peeps out of the trees the top of a little temple. It is a temple of the Muses, where the nine sisters are represented consecrating Thomson the poet. Aloft at some distance in a wood you descry a gigantic figure of stone; and this, on inquiry, you find to be William Wallace, who, I believe, was never here, any more than Thomson. It was intended for Burns, but as the block was got out of the quarry on the opposite side of the river, close to where you land from the ferry-boat, the fantastic old fellow took it into his head that, as it was so large a block, it should be Wallace.
As you ascend a lane from the ferry to go to the abbey, you find a few cottages, and a great gate built in the style of an old castle gateway, with round stone pillars with lantern summits, and the cross displayed on each — a sort of poor parody on the gateway at Abbotsford. This castle gateway is the entrance, however, to no castle, but to a large orchard, and over the gate is inscribed — "Hoc Pomarium sua manus satum Parentibus suis optimis sac: D. S. Buchaniae Comes." That is, "This orchard, sown by his own hands, the Earl of Buchan dedicates to his best of parents." The whole is worthy of the man. If there be any sense in it, the orchard was sown by this silly old lord, not the trees; and these were merely sown by him, and not planted. And why dedicate an orchard to his deceased parents? Were they so excessively fond of apples? Why not satisfy himself with some rational monument? But then he must have been rational himself; and it must be recollected that this was the man who, when Scott was once very ill, forced himself into the house in order to get at the invalid, and arrange with him in his last moments the honours of a great heraldic funeral procession; the same man that Scott afterwards congratulated himself was dead first, lest he should have made some foolish extravagance of the sort over his remains.
But to return to the orchard gateway — it is droll enough, immediately under the pious and tender inscription to his parents, in Latin, to see standing this sentence in plain English — "MANTRAPS AND SPRING-GUNS PLACED IN THIS ORCHARD." Quere? Are they too dedicated to his best of parents, or only to his poor brethren of mankind?
Dryburgh is a sweet old monastic seclusion. Here, lying deep below the surrounding country, the river sweeps on between high, rocky banks, overhung with that fine growth of trees which no river presents in more beauty, abundance, and luxuriance. A hush prevails over the spot, which tells you that some ancient sanctity is there. You feel that there is some hidden glory of religious art and piety somewhere about, though you do not see it. As you advance, it is up a lane overhung with old ashes. There are primitive-looking cottages, also overshadowed by great trees. There are crofts, with thick, tall hedges, and cattle lying in them with a sybaritic luxury of indolence. You are still, as you proceed, surrounded by an ocean of foliage, and ancient stems; and a dream-like feeling of past ages seems to pervade not only the air but the ground. I do not know how it is, but I think it must be by a mesmeric influence that the monks and the holy dreamers of old have left on the spots which they inhabited their peculiar character. You could not construct such a place now, taking the most favourable materials for it. Take a low, sequestered spot, full of old timber and cottages, and old grey walls; and employ all the art that you could, to give it a monastic character — it would be in vain. You would feel it at once; the mind would not admit it to be genuine. No, the old monastic spots are full of the old monastic spirit. The very ground, and the rich old turf, are saturated with it. Dig up the soil, it has a monastery look. It is fat, and black, and crumbling. The trees are actual monks themselves. They stand and dream of the Middle Ages. With the present age and doings they have no feelings, no sympathies, They keep a perpetual vigil, and the sound of anthems has entered into their very substance. They are solemn piles of the condensed silence of ages, of cloistered musings; and the very whisperings of their leaves seemed to be muttered aves and ora pro nobises.
This feeling lies all over Dryburgh like a living trance; and the arrangements of these odd Buchans for admitting you to the tomb of Scott, enable you to see the most of it. You perceive a guide-post, and this tells you to go on to the house where the keys are kept. You descend a long lane amid these old trees and crofts, and arrive at a gate and lodge, which seem the entrance to some gentleman's grounds. Here probably you see too a gentleman's carriage waiting, and present yourself to go in. But you are told that, though this is the place, you must not enter there. You must go on still further to the house where the keys are kept. At length you find yourself at the bottom of another stretch of lane, and here you stop, for the simple reason that you can go no further — you have arrived at the bank of the river. Necessarily then looking about you, you see on one side a gate in a tall wall, which looks into an orchard, and on the other a cottage in a garden. On this cottage there is a board hearing this long-sought-after inscription — "The abbey keys kept here." You knock and ask if you can see the abbey; and a very careless "Yes," assures you that you can. The people appointed to show the ruins and Scott's grave are become notorious for their lumpish, uncivil behaviour. It would seem as if the owner of the place had ordered them to make it as unpleasant to visitors as possible; a thing very impolitic in them, for they are making a fortune by it. Indeed Scott is the grand benefactor of all the neighbourhood, Dryburgh, Melrose, and Abbotsford. At Abbotsford and Melrose they are civil, at Dryburgh the very reverse. They seem as though they would make you feel that it was a favour to be admitted to the grounds of Lord Buchan; and you are pointed away at the gate of exit with a manner which seems to say, "There! — begone!"
The woman of the cottage was already showing a party; and her sister, just as sulky, ungracious a sort of body as you could meet with, was my guide. The gate in the wall was thrown open, and she said, "You must go across the grass there." I saw a track across the grass, and obediently pursued it; but it was some time before I could see anything but a very large orchard of young trees, and I began to suppose this another Pomarium dedicated by old Lord Buchan to his parents, and to wish him and his Pomaria under the care of a certain old gentleman; but, anon! — the ruins of the abbey began to tower magnificently above the trees, and I forgot the planter of orchards and his gracious guides. The ruins are certainly very fine, and finely relieved by the tall, rich trees which have sprung up in and around them. The interior of the church is now greensward, and two rows of cedars grow where formerly stood the pillars of the aisles. The cloisters and south transept are more entire, and display much fine workmanship. There is a window aloft, I think in the south transept, peculiarly lovely. It is formed of, I believe, five stars cut in stone, so that the open centre within them forms a rose. The light seen through this window gives it a beautiful effect. There is the old chapterhouse also entire, with an earthen floor, and a circle drawn in the centre, where the bodies of the founder and his lady are said to lie. But even here the old lord has been with his absurdities; and at one end, by the window, stands a fantastic statue of Locke, reading in an open book, and pointing to his own forehead with his finger. The damp of the place has blackened and mildewed this figure, and it is to be hoped will speedily eat it quite up. What has Locke to do in the chapter-house of a set of ancient friars?
The grave of Scott, for a tomb he has not yet got, is a beautiful fragment of the ruined pile, the lady aisle. The square from one pillar of the aisle to the next, which in many churches, as in Melrose, formed a confessional, forms here a burial-place. It is that of the Scotts of Haliburton, from whom Scott descended; and that was probably one reason why he chose this place, though its monastic beauty and associations were, no doubt, the main causes. The fragment consists of two arches' length, and the adjoining one is the family burial-place of the Erskines. The whole, with its tier of small Norman sectional arches above, forms, in fact, a glorious tomb, much resembling one of the chapel tombs in Winchester; and the trees about it are dispersed by nature and art so as to give it the utmost picturesque effect. It is a mausoleum well befitting the author of the Lay of the Last Minstrel; and, though many wonder that he should have chosen to be interred in another man's ground and property, yet, independent of all such considerations, we must say that it would be difficult to select a spot more in keeping with Scott's character, genius, and feelings. But that which surprises every one, is the neglect in which the grave itself remains. After thirteen years it is still a mere dusty and slovenly heap of earth. His mother lies on his right hand, that is, in front of him, and his wife on his left. His mother has a stone laid on her grave, but neither Scott nor his wife has anything but the earth which covers them; and lying under the arched ruin, nature herself is not allowed, as she otherwise would, to fling over the poet the verdant mantle with which she shrouds the grave of the lowliest of her children. The contrast is the stranger now that so splendid a monument is raised to his honour in Edinburgh; and that both Glasgow and Selkirk have their statue-crowned column to the author of Waverley. The answer to inquiries is, that his son has been out of the country; but a plain slab, bearing the name, and the date of his death, would confer a neatness and an air of respectful attention on the spot, which would accord far more gratefully with the feelings of its thousands and tens of thousands of visitors than its present condition.
As this goes to press, I hear that at length a stone is preparing for Sir Walter's grave.