« AnteriorContinuar »
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 good will." 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," he said, “I have been watching it--it fascinates my eye—it never stops - page after page is finished and thrown on that heap of MS., 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 niglit-I can't stand the sight of it when I am not at my books."-"Some stupid, dogged, engrossing clerk, probably," exclaimed myself, or some other giddy youth in our society. “No boys,” said our host, “ I well know what hand it is—'tis Walter Scott's.” This was the hand that, in the evenings of three summer wecks, wrote the two last volumes of Waverley. Would that all who that night watched it, had profiled by its example of diligence as largely as William Menzies !
In the next of these lollers Scolt enclosed to Mr Morrilt the Prom spectus of a new edition of the old poems of the Bruce and the Wallace, undertaken by the learned lexicographer, Dr John Jamieson, and he announces his departure on a sailing excursion round the north of Scotland. It will be observed, that when Scott began his loller, he had only had Mr Morritt's opinion of the first volume of Waverley, and that before he closed it, he had received his friend's honest erilicism on the work as a whole, with the expression of an earnest hope that he would drop his incognito on the title-page of a second edition.
“J. B. S. Morritt, Esq.M.P. Portland Place, London.
«Abbotsford, July 24, 1814. "My Dear MORRITT, -I am going to say my vales to you for some weeks, having accepted an invitation from a committee of the Commissioners for the Northern Lights (I don't mean the Edinburgh Reviewers, but the bona fide commissioners for the beacons), to accompany them upon a nautical tour round Scotland, visiling all that is curious on continent and islc. The party are three gent! nen with whom I am very well acquainted, William Erskine being one. We have a stout cutter, well fitted up and manned for the service by Government; and to make assurance
the admiral has sent a sloop of war to cruise in the dangerous points of our tour, and sweep the sea of the Yankce privalcers, which sometimes annoy. our northern latitudes. I shall visit the Clephanes in their solitude and let you know all that I see that is rare and entertaining, which, as we are masters of our time and vessel, should add much to my stock of kuowledge.
“ As to Waverley, I will play Sir Frelful for once, and assure you that I left the story to flag in the first volume on purpose; the second and third have rather more bustle and interest. I wished (with what success Heaven knows) to avoid the ordinary error of novel-writers, whose first volume is usually their best. But since it has served to amuse Mrs Morritt and you usque ab initio, 1 haxe no doubt you will tolerate it even unto the end. It may really boast to be a tolerably faithful portrait of Scottish manners, and has been recognised as such in Edinburgh. The first edition of a thousand instantly disappeared, and the bookseller informs me
that the second, of double the quantity, will not supply the market for long. As I shall be very anxious to know how Mrs Morritt is, I hope to have a few lines from you on my return, which will be about the end of August or beginning of September. I should bave mentioned that we have the celebrated engiucer, Steven-' son, along with us. I delight in these professional men of talent; they always give you some new lights by the peculiarity of their habils and studies, so different from the people who are rounded, and smoothed, and ground down for conversation, and who can say. all that every other person says, and nothing more.
“What a miserable thing it is that our royal family cannot be quiet and decent at least, if not correct and moral in their deportment. Old farmer Gcorge's manly siinplicity, modesty of expense, and domestic virtue, saved this country at its most perilous crisis ; for it is inconceivable the number of persons whom these qualities united in his behalf, who would have felt but feebly the absiract duly of supporting a crown less wortbily worn.
*- had just procecded thus far when your kind favour of the 21st reached Abbotsford. I am heartily glad you centinued to like Waverley to the end. The hero is a sneaking piece of imbecility; and if he had married Flora, she would have set him up upon the chimney-piece, as Count Borowlaski's wife used to do with him. I am a bad hand at depicting a hero properly so called, and have an unfortunate propensity for the dubious characters of borderers, buccaneers, Highland robbers, and all others of a Robin Hood description. I do not know why it should be, as I am myself, like Hamlet, indifferent honest ; but I suppose the blood of the old callle-drivers of Tevioldale continues to stir in my veins.
“I shall not own Waverley ; my chief reason is, that it would prevent me of the pleasure of writing again. David Hume, nephew of the historian, says the author must be of a jacobite family and predilections, a yeoman-cavalry man, and a Scottish lawyer, and desires me to guess in whom these happy attributes are united. I shall not plead guilty, however; and as such seems to be the fashion of the day, I hope charitable people will believe my asidavit in contradiction to all olber evidence. The Edinburgh faith now is, that Waverley is written by Jeffrey, having been composed to lighten the tedium of his laté Transatlantic voyage. So you see the unknown infant is like to come to preferment. In truth, I am not sure it would be considered quite decorous for me, as a Clerk of Session, to write novels. Judges being monks, Clerks are a sort of lay brethren, from whom some solemnity of walk and conduct may be expected. So, whatever I may do of this kind, I shall whistle it down the wind to prey on forlune. I will take care, in the next edition, to make the corrections you recommend. The second is, I believe, nearly through the press. It will hardly be printed faster than it was written ; for though the first volume was begun long ago, and actually lost for a time, yet the other two were begun and finished between the 4ih June and the Ist July, during all which I attended my duty in Court, and proceeded without loss of lime or hinderance of business.
“I wish, for poor auld Scotland's sake, and for the Manes of Bruce and Wallace, and for the living comfort of a very worthy and ingenious dissenting clergyman, who has collected a library and medals of some value, and brought up, I believe, sixteen or seventeen children (his wife's ambition extended to twenty) upon about L. 150 a-year-I say I wish, for all these reasons, you could get me among your wealthy friends a name or two for the enclosed proposals. The price is, I think,
* Count Borowlaski was a Polish dwarf, who, after realizing some money as an itinerant object of exhibition, settled, married, and died at Durham. He was a well-bred creature, and much noticed by the clergy and other gentry of that city. Indeed, even when travelling the country as a show, he had always maintained a sort of dignity. I remember him as going from house to house, when I was a child, in a sedan chair, with a servant in livery following him, who took the fee-M. le Comte himself (dressed in a scarlet coat and bag wig) being ushered into the room like any ordinary visitor,
too high ; but the booksellers fixed it iwo guineas above what I proposed. I trust it will be yet lowered to five guineas, which is' a more comeatable sum than six. The poems themselves are great curiosities, both to the philologist and antiquary; and that of Bruce is invaluable, even to the historian. They have been hitherto wretchedly edited. “I am glad you are not to pay for this scrawl.
“WALTER SCOTT." "P.S. I do not see how my silence can be considered as imposing on the public. If I give my name to a book without writing it, unquestionably 'that would be a trick. But, unless in the case of his averring facts which he may be called upon to defend or justify, I think an author may use his own discretion in giving or withholding his pame. Harry Mackenzie never put his name in a title-page till the last edition of his works; and Swift only owned one out of his thousand and one publications. In point of emolument, every body knows that I sacrifice much money by withholding my name'; and what should I gain by it, that any human being has a right to consider as an unfair advantage? In fact, only the freedom of writing trifles with less personal responsibility, and perhaps no more frequently than I otherwise might do.
I am not able to give the exact date of the following reply to one of John Ballantyne's expostulations on the subject of the secret :
“ No, John, I will not own the book -
I won't, you Picaroon.
And flat-fish bite as soon,
Voyage to the Shetland Isles, &c.—Scott's Diary kept on Board the Lighthouse
Yacht-July and August, 1814.
THE gallant composure with which Scott, when he had dismissed a work from his desk, awaited the decision of the public—and the healthy elasticity of spirit with which he could meanwhile turn his whole zeal upon new or different objects—are among the features in his character which will aways, I believe, strike the student of literary history as most remarkable. We have now seen him before the fate of Waverley had been determined-before he had heard a word about its reception in England, except from one partial confidant-preparing to start on a voyage to the northern isles, which was likely to occupy the best part of two months, and in the course of which he could hardly expect to receive any intelligence from his friends in Edinburgh. The diary
which he kept during this expedition, is—thanks to the leisure of a landsman on board—a very full one; and written without the least notion probably that it would ever be perused except in his own family circle, it-affords such a complete and artless portraiture of the man, as he was in himself, and as he mingled with his friends and companions, at one of the most interesting periods of his life, that I am persuaded every reader will be pleased to see it printed in its original state. A few extracts from it were published by himself, in one of the Edinburgh Annual Registers—he also drew from it some of the notes to his Lord of the Isles, and the substance of several others, for his romance of the Pirate. But the recurrence of these detached passages will not be complained of-expounded and illustrated as the reader will find them by the personal details of the context.
I have been often told by one of the companions of this voyage, that heartily as Scoit entered throughout into their social enjoyments, they all perceived him, when inspecting for the first time scenes of remarkable grandeur, to be in such an abstracted and excited mood, that they felt it would be the kindest and discreetest plan to leave him to himself. “I often,” said Lord Kinnedder, “ on coming up from the cabin at night, found him pacing the deck rapidly, muttering to himself—and went to the forecastle, lest my presence should disturb him. I remember that at Loch Corriskin, in particular, he seemed quite overwhelmed with his feelings ; and we all saw il, and retiring unnoticed, left him to roam and gaze about by himself, until it was time to muster the party and be gone.". Scolt used to mention the surprise wilh which he himself wilnessed Erskine's emotion on first entering the cave of Staffa—“Would you believe it ?” he said"my poor Willie sat down and wept like a woman!" Yet his own sensibilities, though betrayed in a more masculine and sterner guise, were perhaps as keen as well as deeper than his amiable friend's.
The poet's Diary, contained in five little paper books, is as fol
« VOYAGES IN THE LIGHTHOUSE Yacht ro Nova ZEMBLA, AND THE
LORD KNOWS WHERE.
“JULY 29th, 1814.--Sailed from Leith about one o'clock on board the Lighthouse Yacht, conveying six guns, and ten men, commanded by Mr Wilson. The company Commissioners of the Northern Lights; Robert Hamilton, Sheriff of Lanarkshire; William Erskine, Sheriff of Orkney and Zetland; Adam Duff, Sheriff of Forfarshire. Non-commissioners—Ipse Ego; Mr David Marjoribanks, son to John Marjoribanks, Provost of Edinburgh, a young gentleman; Rev. Mr Turnbull, Minister of Tingwall, in the presbytery of Shetland. But the official chief of the expedition is Mr Stevenson, the Surveyor-Viceroy over the commissioners-a most gentlemanlike and molest man, and well known by his scientific skill.
.“ Reached the Isle of May in the evening; went ashore, and saw the light an old tower, and much in the form of a border-keep, with a beacon-grate on the top. It is to be abolished for an oil revolving-light, the gratefire only being ignited upon the leeward side when the wind is very high. Quære Might not the grate' revolve?. The isle had once a cell or two upon it: The vestiges of the chapel are still visible. Mr Stevenson proposed demolishing the old tower, and I recommended ruininy it à la picturesque-i. e. demolishing it partially. The island might be made a delightful residence for seabathers.
“On board again in the evening : watched the progress of the ship round Fifeness, and the revolving motion of the now distant Bell-Rock light until the wind grew rough, and the landsmen sick. To bed at eleven, and slept sound.
“30th July.—Waked at six by the steward : summoned to visit the BellRock, where the beacon is well worthy attention.
Its dimensions are well known; but no description can give tħe idea of this slight, solitary, round tower, trembling amid the billows, and fifteen miles from Arbroath, the nearest shore. The fitting up within is not only handsome, but elegant. All work of wood (almost) is wainscot; all hammer-work brass; in short, exquisitely fitted up. You enter by a ladder of rope with wooden steps, about thirty feet from the bottom, where the mason-work ceases to be solid, and admits of round apartments. The lowest is a storehouse for the people's provisions, water, etc. ; above that a storehouse for the lights, of oil, etc.;
then the kitchen of the people, three in number; then their sleeping-chamber; * then the saloon or parlour, a neat litile room; above all, the lighthouse; all communicating by oaken ladders, with brass rails, most handsomely and conveniently executed. Breakfasted in the parlour.*. On board again at pine, and run down, through a rough sea, to Aberbrothock, vulgarly called Arbroath. All sick, 'even Mr Stevenson. God grant this occur seldom ! Landed and dined at' Arbroath,' where we were to take up Adam Duff. We visited the appointments of the light house establishment-a handsome tower, with two wings. These contain the lodgings of the keepers of the light very handsome, indeed, and very clean. They might be thought too handsome, were it not of consequence to give those men, intrusted with a duty so laborious and slavish, a consequence in the eyes of the public and in their own. The central part of the building forms a single tower, corresponding with the lighthouse. As the keepers' families live here, they are apprised each morning by a signal that all is well. If this signal be not made, a tender sails for the rock directly. I visited the abbey church for the third time, the first being-eheu!t—the second with T. Thomson. Dined at Arbroath, and came on board at night, where I made up this foolish journal, and now beg for wine and water. So the vessel is once more in motion.
31st July.— Waked at seven ; vessel of Fowlsheugh and Dunnottar. Fair wind, and delightful day; glide enchantingly along the coast of Kincardineshire, and open the bay of Nigg about ten. At eleyen, off Aberdeen; the gentlemen go ashore to Girdle-Ness, a projecting point of rock to the east of the harbour of Fort-Dee. There the magistrates of Aberdeen wish to have 2 fort and beacon-light. The Oscar, whaler, was lost here last year, with all her hands, excepting two; about forty perished. Dreadful, to be wrecked so near a large and populous town! The view of Old and New Aberdeen
On being requiested while at breakfast to’inscribe his name in the album of the ower, Scott penned immediately the lines “ Pharos Loquitur," which may be seen itn the last edition of his Poetical Works.
+ This is, without doubt, an allusion to soine happy day's excursion when his first love was of the party.