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Scott. We could not conceive who was meant, when in walked Walter as large as life. He is positively a new edition of the Irish giant. I beg my kind respects to Mr Williams. At his leisure I should be happy to have a line from him.--I am, my dear little boy, always your affectionate father,
The next letter contains a brief allusion to an affair, which in the life of any other man of letters would have deserved to be considered as of some consequence. The late Sir James Hall of Dunglass resigned, in November 1820, the Presidency of the Royal Society of Edinburgh ; and the Fellows, though they had on all former occasions selected a man of science to fill that post, paid Sir Walter the compliment of unanimously requesting him to be Sir James's successor in it. He felt and expressed a natural hesitation about accepting this honour – which at first sight seemed like invading the proper department of another order of scholars. But when it was urged upon him that the Society is really a double one — embracing a section for literature as well as one of science, — and that it was only due to the former to let it occasionally supply the chief of the whole body, Scott acquiesced in the flattering proposal ; and his gentle skill was found effective, so long as he held the Chair, in maintaining and strengthening the tone of good feeling and good manners
which can alone render the meetings of such a Society either agreeable or useful. The new President himself soon began to take a lively interest in many of their discussions — those at least which pointed to any discovery of practical use ;—and he by and by added some eminent men of science, with whom his acquaintance had hitherto been slight, to the list of his most valued friends :-I may mention in particular Dr, now Sir David, Brewster.
Sir Walter also alludes to an institution of a far different description, — that called “ The Celtic Society of Edinburgh ;” a club established mainly for the patronage of ancient Highland manners and customs, especially the use of “ the Garb of Old Gaul” —though part of their funds have always been applied to the really important object of extending education in the wilder districts of the north. At their annual meetings Scott was, as may be supposed, a regular attendant. He appeared, as in duty bound, in the costume of the Fraternity, and was usually followed by “ John of Skye,” in a still more complete, or rather incomplete, style of equipment.
“ To the Lord Montagu, Ditton Park.
“Edinburgh, 17th January 1821. “ My Dear Lord,
“We had a tight day of it on Monday last, both dry and wet. The dry part was as dry as may be,
consisting in rehearsing the whole lands of the Buccleuch estate for five mortal hours, although Donaldson had kindly selected a clerk whose tongue went over baronies, lordships, and regalities, at as high a rate of top speed as ever Eclipse displayed in clearing the course at Newmarket. The evening went off very well — considering that while looking forward with the natural feelings of hope and expectation on behalf of our young friend, most of us who were present could not help casting looks of sad remembrance on the days we had seen. However, we did very well, and I kept the chair till eleven, when we had coffee, and departed, “ no very fou, but gaily yet.” Besides the law gentlemen, and immediate agents of the family, I picked up on my own account Tom Ogilvie, * Sir Harry Hay Macdougal, Harden and his son, Gala, and Captain John Fergusson, whom I asked as from myself, stating that the party was to be quite private. I suppose there was no harm in this, and it helped us well on. I believe your nephew and my young chief enters life with as favourable auspices as could well attend him, for to few youths can attach so many good wishes, and none can look back to more estimable examples both in his father and grandfather. I think he will succeed to the warm and social affections of his relatives, which, if they sometimes occasion pain to those who possess them, contain also the purest sources of happiness as well as of virtue.
* The late Thomas Elliot Ogilvie, Esq. of Chesters, in Roxburghshire -- one of Sir Walter's good friends among his country neighbours.
“ Our late Pitt meeting amounted to about 800, a most tremendous multitude. I had charge of a separate room, containing a detachment of about 250, and gained a headach of two days, by roaring to them for five or six hours almost incessantly. The Foxites had also a very numerous meeting, 500 at least, but sad scamps. We had a most formidable band of young men, almost all born gentlemen and zealous proselytes. We shall now begin to look anxiously to London for news. I suppose they will go by the ears in the House of Commons: but I trust Ministers will have a great majority. If not, they should go out, and let the others make the best of it with their acquitted Queen, who will be a ticklish card in their hand, for she is by nature intrigante more ways than one. The loss of Canning is a serious disadvantage. Many of our friends have good talents and good taste; but I think he alone has that higher order of parts which we call genius. I wish he had had more prudence to guide it. He has been a most unlucky politician. Adieu. Best love to all at Ditton, and great respect withal. My best compliments attend my young chief, now seated, to use an Oriental phrase, upon the Musnud. I am almost knocked up with public meetings, for the triple Hecate was a joke to my plurality of offices this week. On Friday I had my Pittite steward
ship; on Monday my chancellorship; yesterday my presidentship of the Royal Society; for I had a meeting of that learned body at my house last night, where mulled wine and punch were manufactured and consumed according to the latest philosophical discoveries. Besides all this, I have before my eyes the terrors of a certain Highland Association, who dine bonnetted and kilted in the old fashion (all save myself, of course), and armed to the teeth. This is rather severe service; but men who wear broadswords, dirks, and pistols, are not to be neglected in these days; and the Gael are very loyal lads, so it is as well to keep up an influence with them. Once more, my dear Lord, farewell, and believe me always most truly yours,
In the course of the riotous week commemorated in the preceding letter, appeared Kenilworth, in 3 vols. post 8vo, like Ivanhoe, which form was adhered to with all the subsequent novels of the series. Kenilworth was one of the most successful of them all at the time of publication; and it continues, and, I doubt not, will ever continue to be placed in the very highest rank of prose fiction. The rich variety of character, and scenery, and incident in this novel, has never indeed been surpassed ; nor, with the one exception of the Bride of Lammermoor, has Scott bequeathed us a deeper and more affecting tragedy than that of Amy Robsart.