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Gratlual Re-establishment of Scott's Health–Ivanhoe in Progress His Son Walter
joins the Eighteenth Regiment of Hussars-Scott's Correspondence with his
BEFORE Scott left Edinburgh, on the 12th of July, he had not only concluded his bargain with Constable for another novel, but, as will appear from some of his letters, made considerable progress in the dictation of Ivanhoe.
That he already felt great confidence on the score of his health, may be inferred from his allowing his son Walter, about the middle of the month, to join the 18th Regiment of Hussars, in which he had, shortly before, received his commission as cornet.
Scott's letters to his son, the first of his family that left the house, will merit henceforth a good deal of the reader's altention. Walter was, when he thus quitted Abbotsford to try his chances in the active world, only in the eighteenth year of his age ; and the fashion of education in Scotland is such, that he had scarcely ever slept a night under a different roof from his parents, until this separation occurred. He had been treated from his cradle with all the indulgence that a man of sense can ever permit himself to show to any of his children, and for several years he had now been his father's daily companion in all his out of doors occupations and amusements. The parting was a painful one; but Scott's ambition centered in the heir of his name, and instead of fruitless pinings and lamentings, he henceforth made it his constant business to keep up such a frank correspondence with the young man as might enable himself to exert over him, when at a distance, the gentle influence of kindness, experience, and wisdom. The series of his letters to his son is, in my opinion, by far the most interesting and valuable, as respects the personal character and temper of the writer. It will easily be supposed that, as the young officer entered fully into his father's generous views of what their correspondence ought to be, and detailed every little incident of his new career with the same easy confidence as if he had been writing to a friend or elder brother not very widely differing from himself in standing, the answers abound with opinions on subjects with which I have no right to occupy or entertain my readers; but I shall introduce, in the prosecution of this work, as many specimens of Scott's paternal advice as I can hope to
render generally intelligible without indelicate explanations—and more especially such as may prove serviceable to other young persons when first embarking under their own pilotage upon the sea of life. Scott's manly kindness to his boy, whether he is expressing approbation or censure of his conduct, can require no pointing out; and his practical wisdom was of that liberal order, based on such comprehensive views of man and the world, that I am persuaded it will often be found available to the circumstances of their own various cases, by young men of whatever station or profession.
I shall, nevertheless, adhere as usual to the chronologicalorder; and one or two miscellaneous letters must accordingly precede the first article of his correspondence with the Cornet. He alludes, however, to the youth's departure in the following
“ To Mrs Maclean Clephane of Torloisk.
“ Abbotsford, July 15th, 1819. " Dear Mrs. CLEPHANE,—Nothing could give me more pleasure than to hear you are well, and thinking of looking this way, You will find all my things in very different order from when you were here last, and plenty of room for matron and miss, man and maid. We have no engagements, except to Newton Don about the 2016 August—if we be alive—no unreasonable proviso in so long an engagement. My health, however, seems in a fair way of being perfectly restored. It is a joke to talk of any other remedy than that forceful but most unpleasant one-calomel.
I cannot say I ever felt advantage from any thing else ; and I am perfectly satisfied that, used as an alterative, and taken in very small quantities for a long time, it must correct all the inaccuracies of the biliary organs. At least it has done so in my case more radically than I could have believed possible. I have intermitted the regime for some days, but begin a new course next week for precaution. Dr Dick, of the East India Company's service, has put me on this course of cure, and says he never knew it fail unless when the liver was irreparably injured. I believe I shall go to Carlsbad next year. If I must go to a watering-place, I should like one where I might hope to see and learn something new myself, instead of being hunted down by some of the confounded lion-catchers who haunt English spas. I have not the art of being savage to those people, though few are more annoyed by them. I always think of Snug the Joiner
If I should as lion come in strife
Into such place, 'twere pity on my life.' I have been delayed answering your kind letter by Walter's departure from us to join his regiment, the 18th Dragoons. He has chosen a profession for which he is well suited, being of a calm but remarkably firm temper-fond of mathematics, engineering, and all sorts of calculation-clear-headed, and good-natured. When you add to this a good person and good manners, with great dexterity in horsemanship and all athletic exercises, and a strong constitution, one bopes you have the grounds of a good soldier. My own selfish wish would have been that he should have followed the law; but he really had no vocation that way, wanting the acuteness and liveliness of intellect indispensable to making a figure in that profession. So lam satisfied all iş for the best, only I shall miss my gamekeeper and companion in my rides and walks. But so it was, is, and must be-lhe young must part from the nest, and learn to wing their own way against the storm.
“I beg my best and kindest compliments to Lady Compton. Stooping to write hurls me, or I would have sent her a few lines. As I shall be stationary here for all this season, I shall not see her, perhaps, for long enough. Mrs Scott and the girls join in best love, and I am ever, dear Mrs Clephane, your faithful and most obedient servant,
I have had some hesitation about introducing the next letter—which refers to the then recent publication of a sort of mock-tour in Scotland, entitled "Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk." Nobody but a very young and a very thoughtless person could have dreamt of putting forth such a book; yet the Epistles of the imaginary Dr Morris have been so often denounced as a mere string of libels, that I think it fair to show how much more leniently Scott judged of them at the time. Moreover, his letter is a good specimen of the liberal courtesy with which, on all occasions, he treated the humblest aspirants in literature. Since I have alluded to Peter's Letters at all, I may as well take the opportunity of adding that they were not wholly the work of one hand.
16 7. J. G. Lockhart, Esq., Carnbroe House, Hollytown.
“Abbotsford, July 19th, 1819. “MY DEAR SIR, -Distinguendum est. When I receive a book ex dono of the author, in the general case I offer my thanks with all haste before I cut a leaf, lest peradventure I should feel more awkward in doing so afterwards, when they must not only be tendered for the well printed volumes themselves, and the attention which sent them my way, but moreover for the supposed pleasure I have received from the contents. But with respect to the learned Dr Morris, the case is totally different, and I formed the immediate resolution not to say a word about that gentleman's labours without having read thein at least twice over-a pleasant task, wbich has been interrupted partly by my being obliged to go down the country, partly by an invasion of the Southron, in the persons of Sir John Shelley, famous on the turf, and his lady. I wish Dr Morris bad been of the party, chiefly for the benefit of a little Newmarket man, called Cousins, whose whole ideas, similes, illustrations, &c. were derived from the course and training stable. He was perfectly good-humoured, and I have not laughed more this many a day.
“I think the Doctor has got over his ground admirably ;-only the general turn of the book is perhaps too favourable, both to the state of our public society, and individual character :
" His fools have their follies so lost in a crowd
Of virtues and feelings, that folly grows proud.'* But it was, in every point of view, right to take this more favourable tone, and to throw a Claude Lorraine tint over our northern landscape. We cannot bear the actual bare truth, either in conversation, or that which approaches nearest to conversation, in a work like the Doctor's, published within the circle to which it refers.
"For the rest, the Dr has fully maintained bis high character for force of expression, both serious and comic, and for acuteness of observation-rem acu tetigit :-and his scalpel has not been idle, though his lenient hand has cut sharp and clean, and poured balm into the wound. What an acquisition it would have been to our general information to have had such a work written, I do not say fifty,
but even five-and-wenty years ago ; and how much of grave and gay might then have
* Goldsmith's Retaliation.
been preserved, as it were, in amber, which have now mouldered away. When I think ibat at an age not much younger than yours I knew Black, Ferguson, Robertson, Erskine, Adam Smith, John Home, etc. etc., and at least saw Burns, I can appreciate better than any one the value of a work which, like this, would have handed them down to posterity in their living colours. Dr Morris ought, like Nourjahad, to revive every half century, to record the fleeting manners of the age, and the interesting features of those who will be only known to posterity by their works. If I am very partial to the Doctor, which I am not inclined to deny, remember I have been bribed by bis kind and delicate account of his visit to Abbotsford. Like old Cumberland, or like my own grey cat, I will e’en purr, and put up my back, and enjoy his kind flattery, even when I know it goes beyond my merits.
"I wish you would come and spend a few days here, while this delightful weather lasts. I am now so well as quite to enjoy the society of my friends, instead of the woful pickle in which I was in spring, when you last favoured me. It was, bowever, dignus vindice nodus, for no less a deity descended to my aid than the potent Mercury himself, in the shape of calomel, which I have been obliged to tako daily, though in small «quantities, for these two months past. Notwithstanding the inconveniences' of this remedy, I thrive upon it most marvellously, having recovered both sleep and ap:etite; so when you incline to come this way, you will find me looking pretty bobbishly. Yours very truly, Walter Scott."
On the same day, Scott wrote as follows, to John Ballantyne, who had started for London, on his route to Paris in quest of articles for next winter's auction-room-and whose good offices he was anxious to engage on behalf of the Cornet, in case they should happen to be in the metropolis at the same time.
“ To Mr John Ballantyne, care of Messrs Longman and Co., London.
“Abbotsford, July 19th, 1819. “Dear JOHN,-I have only to say, respecting matters here, that they are all going on quietly. The first volume is very nearly finished, and the whole will be out in the first or second week of September. It will be well if you can report yourself in Britain by that time at farthest, as something must be done on The back of this same Ivanhoe.
“Walter left us on Wednesday night, and will be in town by the time this reaches you, looking, I fancy, very like a cow in a fremd loaning. * He will be beard of at Miss Dumergue's. Pray look after him, and help him about his purchases.
“I hope you will be so successful in your foreign journey as to diddle the Edinburgh folk out of some cash this winter. But don't forget September, if you wish lo partake the advantages thereof.
“I wish you would see what good reprints of old book are come out this year at Triphook's, and send me a note of them.-Yours very truly,
" W. Scott."
John Ballantyne found the Cornet in London, and did for him what his father had requested.
To Mr John Ballantyne.
- Abbotsford, July 26, 1819. "“ DEAR JOHN, -1. have yours with the news of Walter's rattle-traps, which are abominably extravagant. But there is no help for it but submission. The things seem all such as cannot well be wanted. How the devil they mount them to such a price the tailors best know. They say it takes nine tailors to make a man-apparently one is sufficient to ruin him. We shall rub through here well enough, though James is rather glumpy and dumpy-chiefly, I believe, because his child is unwell. If you can make any more money for me in London, good and well, I have no spare cash till Ivanhoe comes forth. --Yours truly,
"W. Scott. “P.S. Enclosed are sundry letters of introduction for the ci-devant Laird of Gilnockie.” To Miss Edgeworth, Edgeworthstown.
Abbotsford, July 21, 1819. "My Deak Miss Edgeworth,—When this shall happen to reach your hands, it will be accompanied by a second edition of Walter Scott, a tall copy, as collectors say, and bound in Turkey leather; garnished with all sorts of fur and fripperynot quite so well lettered, however, as the old and vamped original edition. In other, and more intelligible phrase, the tall cornet of Hussars, whom this will introduce to you, is my eldest son, who is now just leaving me to join his regiment in Ireland. I have charged him, and he is himself sufficiently anxious, to avoid no opportunity of making your acquaintance, as to be known to the good and the wise is by far the best privilege he can derive frrom my connexion with literature. I have always felt the value of having access to persons of talent and genius to be the best part of a literary man's prerogative, and you will not wonder, I am sure, that I should be desirous this youngster should have a share of the same benefit.
“I have had dreadful bad health for many months past, and have endured more pain than I thought was consistent with life. But the thread, though frail in some respects, is tough in 'others; and here am I with renewed health, and a fair prospect of regaining my strength much exhausted by such a train of suffering.
“I do not know when this will reach you, my son's motions being uncertain. But, find you where or when it will, it comes, dear Miss Edgeworth, from the sincere admirer of your genius, and of the patriotic and excellent manner in wbich it has always been exerted. In which character I subscribe myself ever yours truly,
I believe at the time when the foregoing letter was written, Scott and Miss Edgeworth had never met. The next was addressed to a gentleman, whose acquaintance the poet had formed when collecting materials for his edition of Swist. On that occasion Mr Hartstonge was of great service to Scott—and he appears to have paid him soon afterwards a visit at Abbotsford. Mr Hartstonge was an amiable and kind hearted man, and enthusiastically devoted to literature; but his own poetical talents were undoubtedly of the sort that finds little favour either with gods or columns. He seems to have written shortly before this time to enquire about his old acquaintance's health.