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ment of the malady which proved fatal to him, —for that from the first shook his mind; but I think they took a false measure of the man when they hesitated to tell him exactly how the matter stood, throughout 1820 and the three or four following years, when his intellect was as vigorous as it ever had been, and his heart as courageous; and I regret their scruples (among other reasons), because the years now mentioned were the most costly ones in his life; and for every twelvemonths in which any man allows himself, or is encouraged by others, to proceed in a course of unwise expenditure, it becomes proportionably more difficult for him to pull up when the mistake is at length detected or recognised.
The Visionary, The Peel of Darnick - Scott's
Saturday Excursions to Abbotsford- A Sunday there in February— Constable - John Ballantyne— Thomas Purdie, &c.— Prince Gustavus Vasa — Proclamation of King George IV.Publication of the Monastery.
In the course of December 1819 and January 1820, Scott drew up three essays, under the title of “ The Visionary," upon certain popular doctrines or delusions, the spread of which at this time filled with alarm, not only Tories like him, but many persons who had been distinguished through life for their adherence to political liberalism. These papers appeared successively in James Ballantyne’s Edinburgh Weekly Journal, and their parentage being obvious, they excited much attention in Scotland. Scott collected them into a pamphlet, which had also a large circulation; and I remember his showing very particular satisfaction when he observed a mason reading it to his comrades, as they sat at their dinner, by a new house on Leith Walk. During January, however, his thoughts continued to be chiefly occupied with the details of the proposed corps of Foresters; of which, I believe it was at last settled, as far as depended on the other gentlemen concerned in it, that he should be the Major. He wrote and spoke on this subject with undiminished zeal, until the whole fell to the ground in consequence of the Government's ultimately declining to take on itself any part of the expense; a refusal which must have been fatal to any such project when the Duke of Buccleuch was a minor. He felt the disappointment keenly; but, in the meantime, the hearty alacrity with which his neighbours of all classes gave in their adhesion, had afforded him much pleasure, and, as regarded his own immediate dependants, served to rivet the bonds of affection and confidence, which were to the end maintained between him and them. Darnick had been especially ardent in the cause, and he thenceforth considered its volunteers as persons whose individual fortunes closely concerned him. I could fill many a page with the letters which he wrote at subsequent periods, with the view of promoting the success of these spirited young fellows in their various departments of industry: they were proud of their patron, as may be supposed, and he
was highly gratified, as well as amused, when he learned that, — while the rest of the world were talking of “ The Great Unknown," — his usual sobriquet among these villagers was “the Duke of Darnick.” Already his possessions almost encircled this picturesque and thriving hamlet; and there were few things on which he had more strongly fixed his fancy than acquiring a sort of symbol of seigniory there, by becoming the purchaser of a certain then ruinous tower that predominated, with a few coeval trees, over the farm-houses and cottages of his ducal vassals. A letter, previously quoted, contains an allusion to this Peelhouse of Darnick; which is moreover exactly described in the novel which he had now in hand — the Monastery. The interest Scott seemed to take in the Peel awakened, however, the pride of its hereditary proprietor: and when that worthy person, who had made some money by trade in Edinburgh, resolved on fitting it up for the evening retreat of his own life, his Grace of Darnick was too happy to wave his pretensions.
This was a winter of uncommon severity in Scotland; and the snow lay so deep and so long as to interrupt very seriously all Scott's country operations. I find, in his letters to Laidlaw, various paragraphs expressing the concern he took in the hardships which his poor neighbours must be suffering. Thus, on the 19th of January, he says, —
“ Dear Willie,
“ I write by the post that you may receive the enclosed, or rather subjoined, cheque for £60, in perfect safety. This dreadful morning will probably stop Mercer.* It makes me shiver in the midst of superfluous comforts to think of the distress of others. £10 of the £60 I wish you to distribute among our poorer neighbours, so as may best aid them. I mean not only the actually indigent, but those who are, in our phrase, ill aff. I am sure Dr Scott † will assist you with his advice in this labour of love. I think part of the wood-moneyf too, should be given among the Abbotstown folks if the storm keeps them off work, as is like. Yours truly,
“ Deep, deep snow lying here. How do the goodwife and bairns? The little bodies will be half buried in snow drift.”
And again, on the 25th, he writes thus:
* The weekly Darnick carrier.
of Dr Scott of Darnlee. - See ante, Vol. V. p. 372. This very amiable, modest, and intelligent friend of Sir Walter Scott's, died in 1837.
Some money expected from the sale of larches.