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The Sheriff told with peculiar unction the following anecdote of this spark. The first time he went over to pick up curiosities at Paris, it happened that he met, in the course of his traffickings, a certain brother bookseller of Edinburgh, as unlike him as one man could well be to another-a grave, dry Presbyterian, rigid in all his ņotions as the buckle of his wig. This precise worthy having ascertained John's address, went to call on him, a day or two afterwards, with the news of some richly illuminated missal, which he might possibly be glad to make prize of. On asking for his friend, a smiling lacquais de place informed him that Monsieur had gone out, but that Madame was at home. Not doubting that Mrs Ballantyne had accompanied her husband on his trip, he desired to pay his respects io Madame, and was ushered in accordingly. “But oh, Mr Scott !” said, or rather groaned, the austere elder, on his return from this modern Babylon--"oh, MrScott, there was nae Mrs John yonder, but a painted Jezabel sittin' up in her bed, wi' a wheen impudent French limmers like herseľ, and twa or three whiskered blackguards, takin' their collation o' picknacks and champagne wine! I ran out o' the house as if I had been shot. What judgment will this wicked warld come to! The Lord pity us!” Scott was a severe enough censor in the general of such levities, but somehow, in the case of Rigdumfunnidos, he seemed to regard them with much the same toleration as the naughty tricks of a monkey in the "Jardin des Plantes."
Why did Scolt persist in mixing up all his most important concerns with such people as I have been describing? I asked himself that question too unceremoniously at a long sulusequent period, and in due time the reader shall see the answer I received. But it left the main question, to my apprehension, as much in the dark as ever. I shall return to the sad subject hereafter more seriously; but in the meantime let it suffice to say, that he was the most patient, long-suffering, affectionate, and charitable of mankind; that in the case of both the Ballantynes he could count, after all, on a sincerely, nay, a passionately devoted attachment to his person; that, with the greatest of human beings, use is in all but unconquerable power; and that he who so loftily tossed aside the seemingly most dangerous assaults of flattery, the blandishment.of dames, the condescension of princes, the enthusiasm of crowds
-had still his weak point upon which two or three humble besiegers, and one unwearied, though most frivolous underminer, well knew how to direct their approaches. It was a favourite saw of his own, that the wisest of our race often reserve the average stock of folly to be all expended upon some one flagrant absurdity.
Publication of the Heart of Mid Lothian-Its Reception in Edinburgh and in England
-Abbotsford in October-Melrose Abbey-Dryburgh, &c.—Lion-Hunters from America - Tragedy of the Cherokee Lovers-Scott's Dinner to the Selkirkshire Yeomen-1818.
HOPING to be forgiven for a long digression, the biographer willingly returns to the thread of Scott's story. The Heart of Mid-Lothian appeared, as has been mentioned, before the close of June, 1818; and among the letters which he received soon afterwards from the friends by this time in the secret, there is one which (though I do not venture to name the writer) I am tempted to take the liberty of quoting:
. Now for it .... I can speak to the purpose, as I have not only read it myself, but am in a house where every body is tearing it out of each other's hands, and talking of nothing else. So much for its success the more flattering, because it overcomes a prejudice. People were beginning to say the author would wear himself out; it was going on too long in the same key, and no striking notes could possibly be produced. On the contrary, I think the interest is stronger here than in any of the former ones-(always excepting my first-love Waverley) -and one may congratulate you upon having effected what many have tried to do, and nobody yet succeeded in, making the perfectly good character the most interesting. Of late days, especially since it has been the fashion to write moral and even religious novels, one might almost say of some of the wise good heroines, what a lively girl once said to ***** of her well-meaning aunt-Upon my word she is enough to make any body wicked.', And though beauty and talents are heaped on the right side, the writer, in spite of himself, is sure to put agreeableness on the wrong; the person, from whose errors he means you should take warning, runs away with your secret partiality in the mean time. Had this very story been conducted by a common hand, Effie would have attracted all our concern and sympathy, Jeanie, only cold approbation. , Whereas Jeanie, without youth, beauty, genius, warm passions, or any other novel-perfection, is here our object from beginning to end. This is
enlisting the affections in the cause of virtue, ten times more than ever Richardson did; for whose male and female pedants, all-excelling as they are, I never could care half so much as I found myself inclined to do for Jeanie before I finished the first volume.
“You know I tell you 'my opinion just as I should do to a third person, and I trust the freedom is not unwelcome. I was a little tired of your Edinburgh lawyers in the introduction ; English people in general will be more so, as well as impatient of the passages alluding to Scotch law throughout. Mr Saddletree will not entertain them. The latter part of the fourth volume unavoidably flags to a certain degree; after Jeanie is happily settled at Roseneath, we have no more to wish for. But the chief fault I have to find relates to the reappearance and shocking fate of the boy. I hear on all sides Oh, I do not like that!'I cannot say what I would have had instead; but I do not like it either; it is a lame, huddled conclusion. I know you so well in it by the by !-you grow tired yourself, want to get rid of the story, and hardly care how. Sir George Staunton finishes his career ởery fitly; he ought not to die in his bed, and for Jeanie's sake one would not have him hanged.
It is unnatural, though, that he should ever have gone within twenty miles of the Tolbooth, or shown his face in the streets of Edinburgh, or dined at a public meeting, if the Lord Commissioner had been his brother. Here ends my per contra account. The opposite gage would make my letter too long, if I entered equally into particulars. Carlisle and Corby-castles in Waverley did not affect me more deeply than the prison
and trial scenes. The end of poor Madge Wildfire is also most pathetic. The meeting at Muschat's Cairn tremendous. Dumbiedykes and Rory Bean are delightful. And I shall own that my prejudices were secretly gratified by the light in which you place John of Argyle, whom Mr Coxe co ran down to please Lord Orford. You have drawn him to the very life. I heard so much of him in my youth, so many anecdotes, so often as the Duke of Argyle used to say'--that I really believe I am almost as good a judge as if I had seen and lived with him. The late Lady ****** told me, that when she married, he was still remarkably handsome; with manners more graceful and engaging than she ever saw in any one else; the most agreeable person in conversation, the best teller of a story. When fisty-seven thus captives eighteen, the natural powers of pleasing must be extraordinary. You have likewise coloured Queen Caroline exactly right-but I was bred up in another creed about Lady Suffolk, of whom, as a very old deaf woman, I have some faint recollection. Lady ****** knew her intimately, and never would allow she had been the King's mistress, though she owned it was currently believed.. She said he had just enough liking for her to make the Queen very civil to her, and very jealous and spiteful; the rest remained always uncertain at most, like a similar scandal in our days, where 1, for one, imagine love of seeming influence on one side, and love of lounging, of an easy house and a good dinner on the other, to be all the criminal passions concerned. However, I'confess, Lady that in herself which made her not ready to think the worst of her fellow-women.
“ Did you ever hear the history of John Duke of Argyle's marriage, and constant attachment, before and after, to a woman not handsomer or much more elegant than Jeanie Deans, though very unlike her in understanding? I can give it you, if you wish it, for it is at my finger's ends. Now I am ancient myself
, I should be a great treasure of anecdocte to any body who had the same humour,—but I meet with few who have. They read vulgar tales in books, Wraxall, and so forth, what the footmen and maids only gave credit to at the moment, but they desire no farther information. I dare swear many of your readers never heard of the Duke of Argyle before. Pray, who was Sir Robert Walpole,' they ask me, “and when did he live ?' -or perhaps—Was not the great Lord Chatham in Queen Anne's days ?*
“We have, to help us, an exemplification on two legs in our country apothecary, whom you have painted over and over without the honour of knowing him; an old, dry, arguing, prosing, obstinate Scotchman, very shrewd, rather sarcastic, a sturdy Whig and Presbyterian, tirant un peu sur le démocrat. Your books are birdline to him, however; he hovers about the house to obtain a volume when others have done with it. I long to ask him whether douce Davie was any way sib to him. He acknowledges he would not now go to Muschat's Caira at night for any money he had such a horror of it 'sixty years ago' when a laddie. But I am come to the end of my fourth page, and will not tire you with any more scribbling.”
“P.S.-)f I had known nothing, and the whole world had told me the contrary, I should have found you out in that one parenthesis,-' for the man was mortal, and had been a schoolmaster.?"
This letter was addressed from a great country house in the south; and may, I presume, be accepted as a fair index of the instantaneous English popularity of Jeanie Deans. From the choice of localities, and the splendid blazoning of tragical circumstances that had left the strongest impression on the memory and imagination of every inhabitant, the reception of this tale in Edinburgh was a scene of allengrossing enthusiasm, such as I never witnessed there on the appearance of any other literary novelty. But the admiration and delight were the same all over Scotland. Never before had he seized such really noble features of the national character as were canonized in the person of his homely heroine : no art had ever devised a happier running contrast than that of her and her sister-or interwoven a portraiture of lowly manners and simple virtues, with more graceful delineations of polished life, or with bolder shadows of terror, guilt, crime, remorse, madness, and all the agony of the passions.
In the introduction and notes to the Heart of Mid-Lothian, drawn up in 1830, we are presented with details concerning the suggestion of the main plot, and the chief historical incidents made use of, to which I can add nothing of any moment.
The 12th of July restored the author as usual to the supervision of his trees and carpenters; but he had already told the Ballantynes, that the story which he had found it impossible to include in the recent series of Jedediah should be forth with taken up as the opening one of a third ; and instructed Jolin to embrace the first favourable opportunity of offering Constable the publication of this, on the footing of 10,000 copies again forming the first edition; but now at length without any more stipulations connected with the unfortunate "old stock” of the Hanover Street Company.
Before he settled himself to his work, however, he made a little tour of the favourite description with his wife and children-halling for a few days at Drumlanrig, thence crossing the Border to Carlisle and Rokeby, and returning by way of Alnwick. On the 17th August. he writes thus to John Ballantyne from Drumlanrig :-"This is heavenly weather, and I am making the most of it, as I shall have a laborious autumn before me. I
may say of my head and fingers as the farmer of his mare, when he indulged her with an extra feed
'Ye ken that Maggie winna sleep
We have taken our own horses with us, and I have my poney, and ride when I find it convenient.”
The following seems to have been among the first letters he wrote after his return.
“ T.J. B. S. Morritt, Esq., M.P. Rokeby.
Abbotsford, 10th Sept. 1818. MY DÉAR MOŘRITT, -We have been cruising to and fro since we left your land of woods and streams. Lord Melville wished me to come and stay two days will him at Melville Castle, which has broken in upon my time a little, and interrupted my purpose of telling you as how we arrived safe at. Abbotsford, without a drop of rain, thus completing a tour of three weeks in the same fine weather in which we commenced it a thing which never fell to my lot before. Captain Ferguson is inducted into the office of Keeper of the Regalia, to the great joy, I think, of all Edinburgh. He has entered upon a farm (of eleven acres) in consequence of this advancement, for you know it is a general rule, that whenever a Scotsman gets his head above water, he immediately turns it to land. As he has already taken all the advice of all the notables in and about the good village of Darnick, we expect to sec his farm look like a tailor's book of paiterns, a snip of cvery several opinion which he has received' occupying its appropriate corner. He is truly what the French call un drôle de corps. “I wish you would allow your coachman to look out for me among your neighBours a.couple of young colts (rising three would be the best age) that would match for a carriage some two years hence. I have plenty of grass for them in the mean while, and should never know the expense of their keep at Abbotsford. He seemed to think he could pick then up at from L.25 to. L:30, which would make an immense saving hereafter. Peter Matheson and be had arranged some sort of plan of this kind. For a pair of very ordinary carriage-horses in Edinburgh they ask L. 140 or more ; so it is worth while to be a little provident. Even then you only get one good horse, the other being usually a brute. Pray you excuse all this palavera
'These little things are great to little men.' Our harvest is almost all in, but as farmers always grumble about something, they are now growling about the lightness of the crop. All the young part of our household are wrapt up in uncertainty concerning the Queen's illness-for-if her Majesty parts cable, there will be no Forest Ball, and that is a terrible prospect. On Wednesday (when no post arrives from London) Lord Melville chanced to receive a letter with a black seal by express, and as it was of course argued to. contain the expected intelligence of poor Charloite, it sold a good many ells of black cloth and stuffs before it was ascertained to contain no such information. Surely this came within the line of high treason, being an imagining of the Queen’s death. Ever yours truly,
WALTER Scott. "P.S. -Once more anent the colls. 'I am indifferent about colour; but, cæteris paribus, would prefer black or brown to bright bay or grey. I mention two off--as the age at which they can be best judged of by the buyer.”
Of the same date I find written in pencil, on what must have been the envelope of some sheriff's-process, this note addressed to Mr Charles Erskine, the sheriff-substitute of Selkirkshire :-,
September 10, '1818. “DEAR CHARLES, I have read these papers with all attention this morningbut think you will agree with me that there must be an Eke to the Condescendence. Order the Eke against next day. Tom leaves with this packet a blackcock, and (more's the pity) å grey hen. Yours,
W.S." and again he thus writes by post to James Ballantyne :
Abbotsford, September 10, 1818. “Dear JAMES, I am quite satisfied with what has been done as to the London bills. I am glad the presses móve. I have been interrupted sadly since my return by tourist gazers—this day a confounded pair of Cambridge boys have robbed me of two good hours, and you of a sheet of copy—though whether a good sheet or no, deponent saith not. The story is a dismal one, and I doubt sometimes whether it will bear working out to much length after all. Query, if I shall make it so effective in two volumes as my mother does in her quarter of an hour's crack by the fireside. But nil desperandum. You shall bave a bunch tomorrow or next day--and when the proofs come in my pen must and shall step out. By the by, I want a supply of pens—and ditto of ink. Adieu for the present, for I must go over to Toftfield, to give orders anent the dam and the footpath, and see item as to what should be done anent steps at the Rhymer's Waterfall, which I think may be made to turn out a decent bit of a linn, as would set True Thomas his worth and dignity. Ever yours,
W.S.” It must, I think, be allowed that these careless scraps, when combined, give a curious picture of the man who was brooding over the