Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

To the Same.

“ Edinburgh, 16th May, 1818. “My dear TERRY,—Mr Nasmyth * has obligingly given me an opportunity of writing to you a few lines, as he is setting out for London. I cannot tell you how much I continue to be grieved for our kind-hearted and enthusiastic friend Bullock. I trust he has left his family comfortably settled, though with so many plans which required his active and intelligent mind to carry them through, one has natural apprehensions upon that score. When you can with propriely make enquiry how my matters stand, I should be glad to know. Hector Macdonald tells me that my doors and windows were ready packed, in which case, perhaps, the sooner they are embarked the better, not only for safety, but because they can only be in the way, and the money will now be the more acceptable. Poor Bullock had also the measures for my chimney-pieces, for grates of different kinds, and orders for beds, dining-room tables and chairs. But how far these are in progress of being executed, or whether they can now be executed, I must leave to your judgment and enquiry. Your good sense and delicacy will understand the facon de faire better than I can point it out. I shall never have the pleasure in these things that I expected.

“I have just left Abbotsford to attend the summer session--left it when the leaves were coming out—the most delightful season for a worshipper of the country

The Home-bank, which we saw at first green with turnips, will now hide a man somewhat taller than Johnnie Ballantyne in its shades. In fact, the trees cover the ground, and have a very pretty bosky effect; from six years to ten or twelve, I think wood is as beautiful as ever it is afterwards until it figures as aged and magnificent. Your hobble-de-hoy tree of twenty or twenty-five years' standing is neither so beautiful as in its infancy, nor so respectable as in its age.

“Counsellor Erskine is returned much pleased with your hospitality, and giving an excellent account of you. Were you not struck with the fantastical coincidence of our norturnal disturbance at Abbotsford with the melancholy event that followed ? I protest to you the noise resembled balf-a-dozen men hard at work putting up boards and furniture, and nothing can be more certain than that ibere was nobody on the premises at the time. With a few additional touches, the story would figure in Glanvillc or Aubrey's Collection. In the mean time, you may set it down with poor Dubisson's warnings, t as a remarkable coincidence coming under your own observation. I trust we shall see you this season. I think we could hammer a neat comédie bourgeoise out of the Heart of Mid-Lothian. Mrs Scott and family join in kind compliments to Mrs Terry; and I am, ever yours truly,

" WALTER Scott.”

like me.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

It appears from one of these letters to Terry, that, so late as the 30th of April, Scott still designed to include two separate stories in the second series of the Tales of my Landlord. But he must have changed his plan soon after that date ; since the four volumes, entirely occupied with the Heart of Mid-Lothian, were before the public in the course of June. The story thus deferred, in consequence of the extent to which that of Jeanie Deans grew on his hands, was the Bride of Lam: mermoor.

* Mr Alexander Nasmyth, an eminent landscape painter of Edinburgh--the father of Mrs Terry.

+ See ante, vol. i., p. 421.

CHAPTER XVII.

May, 1818_Dinner at Mr Home Drummond's Scott's Edinburgh Den-Details

of his domestic Life in Castle Street-His Sunday Dinners-His Evening Drives, &c.-His Conduct in the General Society of Edinburgh-Dinners at John Ballantyne's Villa--and at James Ballantyne's in St John Street on the Appearance of a new Novel-Anecdotes of the Ballantynes, and of Constable.

pen alone.

On the 12th of May, as we have seen, Scott left Abbotsford, for the summer session in Edinburgh.

At this moment, his position, take it for all in all, was, I am inclined to believe, what no other man had ever won for himself by the

His works were the daily food, not only of his countrymen, but of all educated Europe. His society was courted by whatever England could show of eminence. Station, power, wealth, beauty, and genius strove with each other in every demonstralion of respect and worship-and, a few political fanatics and envious poetasters apart, wherever he appeared in town or in country, whoever had Scotch blood in him, “gentle or simple,” selt it move more rapidly through his veins when he was in the presence of Scolt. To descend to what many looked on as higher things, he considered himself, and was considered by al! about him, as rapidly consolidating a large fortune :the annual profits, of his novels alone had, for several years, been not less than L.10,000 : his domains were daily increased his castle was rising—and perhaps few doubted that ere long he might receive from the just favour of his Prince some distinction in the way of external rank, such as had seldom before been dreamt of as the possible consequence of a mere literary celebrity. It was about this time that the compiler of these pages first had the opportunity of observing the plain easy modesty which had survived the many temptations of such a career; and the kindness of heart pervading, in all circumstances, his gentle deportment, which made him the rare, perhaps the solitary, example of a man signally elevated from humble beginnings, and loved more and more by his earliest friends and connexions, in proportion as he had fixed on himself the homage of the great, and the wonder of the world.

It was during the sitting of the General Assembly of the Kirk in May 1818, that I first had the honour of meeting him in private society: the party was not a large one, at the house of a much-valued common friend— Mr Home Drummond of Blair Drummond, the grandson of Lord Kames. Mr Scolt, ever apt to consider too favourably the literary efforts of others, and more especially of very young per

[ocr errors]

sons, received me, when I was presented to him, with a cordiality which
I had not been prepared to expect from one filling a station so exalted.
This, however, is the same story that every individual, who ever met
him under similar circumstances, has had to tell. When the ladies
retired from the dinner-table I happened to sit next him; and he,
having heard that I had lately returned from a tour in Germany, made
that country and its recent literature the subject of some conversation,
In the course of it, I told him that when, on reaching the inn at Wei-
mar, I asked the waiter, whether Goethe was then in the town, the
man stared as if he had not heard the name before; and that on my
repeating the question, adding Goethe der grosse dichter (the great poet),
he shook his head as doubtfully as before-until the landlady solved
our difficulties, by suggesting that perhaps the traveller might mean
“the Herr Geheimer-Rath (Privy-Counsellor) Von Goethe.Scott
seemed amused with this, and said, “I hope you will come one of
these days and see me at Abbotsford; and when you reach Selkirk or
Melrose, be sure you ask even the landlady for nobody but the Sheriff.
He appeared particularly interested when I described Goethe as I first
saw him alighting from a carriage, crammed with wild plants and
herbs which he had picked up in the course of his morning's botanizing
among the hills above Jena. “I am glad,” said he, “ that my old
master has pursuits somewhat akin to my own. I am no botanist,
properly speaking; and though a dweller on the banks of the Tweed,
shall never be knowing about Flora's beauties;* but how I should like
to have a talk with him about trees!" I mentioned how much any
one must be struck with the majestic beauty of Goethe's countenance
-(the noblest certainly by far that I have ever yet seen “Well,"
said he, “the grandest demigod I ever saw was Dr Carlyle, minister
of Musselburgh, commonly called Jupiter Carlyle, from having sat
more than once for the king of gods and men to Gavin Hamilton and
a shrewd, clever old carle was he, no doubt, but no more a poet than
his precenlor. As for poels, I have seen, I believe, all the best of our
own time and country-and, though Burns had the most glorious eyes
imaginable, I never thought any of them would come up to an artist's
notion of the character, except Byron." A reverend gentleman pre-
sent (I think, Principal Nicoll of St Andrews), expressed his regret
that he had never seen Lord Byron. “And the prints,” resumed
Scott, “ give one no impression of him—the lustre is there, Doctor,
but it is not lighted up. Byron's countenance is a thing to dream of.
A certain fair lady, whose name has been too often mentioned in con-
nexion with his, told a friend of mine that, when she first saw Byroņ

* “ What beauties does Flora disclose,

How sweet are her smiles upon Tweed.” &c.

-CRAWFORD.

it was in a crowded room, and she did not know who it was, but her eyes were instantly pailed, and she said to herself that pale face is my fate. And poor soul, if a godlike face and godlike powers could have made any excuse for devilry, to be sure she had one.” In the course of this talk, an old friend and schoolfellow of Scott's asked him across the table if he had any faith in the antique busts of Homer? • No, truly,” he answered, smiling, “ for if there has been either limners or stuccoyers worth their salt in those days, the owner of such a headpiece would never have had to trail the poke. They would have alimented the honest man decently among them for a lay-figure.”

A few days after this, I received a communication from the Messrs Ballantyne, to the effect that Mr Scott's various avocations had prevented him from fulfilling his agreement with them as to the historical department of the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1816, and that it would be acceptable to him as well as them, if I could undertake to supply it in the course of the autumn. This proposal was agreed to on my part, and I had consequently occasion to meet him pretty often during that summer session. He told me that if the war had gone on, he should have liked to do the historical summary as before; but that the prospect of having no events to record but radical riots, and the passing or rejecting of corn bills and poor bills, sickened him ; that his health was no longer what it had been ; and that though he did not mean to give over writing altogether-(here he smiled significantly, and glanced his eye towards a pile of MS. on the desk by him)—he thought himself now entitled to write nothing but what would rather be an 'amusement than a fatigue to him-" Juniores ad labores."

He at this time occupied as his den a square small room, behind the dining parlour in Castle Street. It had but a single Venetian window opening on a patch of turf not much larger than itsell, and the aspect of the place was on the whole sombrous. The walls were entirely clothed with books; most of them folios and quartos, and all in that complete state of repair which at a glance reveals a linge of bibliomania. A dozen volumes or so, needful for immediate purposes of refe ce, were placed close by him on a small moveable frame-something like a dumb-waiter. All the rest were in their proper niches, and wherever a volume had been lent, its room was occupied by a wooden block of the same size, having a card with the name of the borrower and date of the loan, tacked on its front. The old bindings had obviously been retouched and regilt in the most approved manner; the new, when the books were of any mark, were rich but never gaudy-a large proportion of blue morocco-all stamped with his device of the portcullis, and its motlo clausus tutus ero-being an anagram of his name in Latin. Every case and shelf was accurately lettered, and the works arranged systematically; history and biography on one side-poetry and the drama on another-law books and dictionaries behind his own chair, The only table was a massive piece of furniture which he had constructed on the model of one at Rokeby; with a desk and all its appurtenances on either side, that an amanuensis might work opposite to him when he chose; and with small tiers of drawers, reaching all round to the floor. The top displayed a goodly array of session papers, and on the desk below were, besides the MS. at which he was working, sundry parcels of letters, proof-sheets, and so forth, all neatly done up with red tape. His own writing apparatus was a very handsome old bos, richly carved, lined with crimson velvet, and containing inkbottles, taper-stand, etc. in silver—the whole in such order that it might have come from the silversmith's window half an hour before. Besides his own huge elbow chair, there were but two others in the room, and one of these seemed, from its position, to be reserved exclusively for the amanuensis. I observed, during the first evening I spent with him in this sanctum, that while he talked, his hands were hardly ever idle. Sometimes he folded leller-covers-sometimes he twisted paper into matches, performing both tasks with great mechanical expertness and nicety; and when there was no loose paper fit to be so dealt with, he snapped his fingers, and the noble Maida aroused himself from his lair on the hearth-rug, and laid his head across his master's knees, to be caressed and fondled. The room had no space for pictures except one, an original portrait of Claverhouse, which hung over the chimneypiece, with a Highland target on either side, and broadswords and dirks (each having its own story), disposed star-fashion round them. A few green lin-boxes, such as solicitors keep title-deeds in, were piled over each other on one side of the window; and on the top of these lay a fox's tail, mounted on an antique silver handle, wherewith, as often as he had occasion to take down a book, he gentis brushed the dust off the upper leaves before opening it. I think I have mentioned all the furniture of the room except a sort of ladder, low, broad, well-carpeted, and strongly guarded with oaken rails, by which he helped himself to books from his higher shelves. On the top step of this convenience, Hinse of Hinsfeldt,—(so called from one of the German Kinder-märchen)-a venerable tom-cat, fat and sleek, and no longer very locomotive, usually lay watching the proceedings of his master and Maida with an air of dignified equanimily; but when Maida chose to leave the party, he signified his inclinations by thumping the door will his huge paw, as violently as ever a fashionable footman handled a knocker in Grosvenor Square ; the Sheriff rose and opened it for him with courteous alacrity,—and then Hinse came down purring from his perch, and mounted guard by the foot-stool, vice Maida absent upon furlough. Whatever discourse might be passing was broken, every now and then, by some affectionate apostrophe lo

« AnteriorContinuar »