William Taylor of Norwich

Walter Scott to John Taylor of Norwich, 25 November 1796; J. W. Robberds, Memoir of the Life and Writings of William Taylor (1843) 1:94-95.


Though I have not the honour of your acquaintance, I find myself under the necessity of intruding upon you with a double request: it is to entreat that you will do me the favour of accepting a copy of two Ballads, translated from Burger, with an elegant version of one of which the world has been favoured from your hand; and that you will further have the goodness to pardon a plagiary which I have committed in borrowing two energetic and expressive lines from your translation.

You will find the theft fully acknowledged to the public in the preface; but I should but ill satisfy my own feelings, without the present further personal apology to yourself.

My friend Mr. Cranstoun, brother-in-law to Professor Stuart, who heard your translation read by a lady in manuscript, is the gentleman alluded to in the preface to my Ballads, to whose recollection I am indebted for the two lines which I took the liberty to borrow, as a happy assistance in my own attempt. As I had not at that time seen your translation, I hope the circumstance will prove some apology for my bold effort to bend the bow of Ulysses.

Long afterwards, when I had the pleasure of reading Leonora, I found it so rich in beauties, that I could not consider a robbery in a very heinous light, where the plunder could so easily be spared, and really could not find in my heart to relinquish what formed so brilliant an ornament to my own little essay. I am very sensible that you are entitled to consider me as a hardened criminal, since I venture at once to claim forgiveness and justify my theft. Still, however, I have the courage to throw myself upon your mercy, and to hope you will pardon the present intrusion, which, had I been in town, you would have been troubled with much earlier.

I remain respectfully,

Your most obedient Servant,

Walter Scott.

P.S. — The book I have directed to be sent, per the coach, from London, and hope it will come safe. My address is W. S., Advocate, George-Square, Edinburgh.