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Visit to London - Project of the Royal Society of
Literature—Affairs of the 18th Hussars-Marriage of Captain Adam Fergusson - Letters to Lord Sidmouth, Lord Montagu, Allan Cunningham, Mrs Lockhart, and Cornet Scott.
BEFORE the end of January 1821, Scott went to London at the request of the other Clerks of Session, that he might watch over the progress of an Act of Parliament, designed to relieve them from a considerable part of their drudgery, in attesting recorded deeds by signature ; and his stay was prolonged until near the beginning of the Summer term of his Court. His letters while in London are mostly to his own family, and on strictly domestic topics; but I shall extract a few of them, chiefly (for reasons which I have already sufficiently intimated) those addressed to his son the Cornet. I need not trespass on the reader's attention by any attempt to explain in detail the matters to which these letters refer. It will be seen that Sir Walter had heard some rumours of irregularity in the interior of the 18th Hussars; and that the consequent interference of the then Commander of the forces in Ireland, the late Sir David Baird, had been received in anything but a spirit of humility. The reports that reached Scott proved to have been most absurdly exaggerated; but nevertheless his observations on them seem well worth quoting. It so happened that the 18th was one of several regiments about to be reduced at this time; and as soon as that event took place, Cornet Scott was sent to travel in Germany, with a view to his improvement in the science of his profession. He afterwards spent a brief period, for the same purpose, in the Royal Military College of Sandhurst; and ere long he obtained a commission as lieutenant in the 15th or King's Hussars, in which distinguished corps his father lived to see him Major.
It will also be seen, that during this visit to London, Sir Walter was released from considerable anxiety on account of his daughter Sophia, whom he had left in a weak state of health at Edinburgh, by the intelligence of her safe accouchement of a boy, - John Hugh Lockhart, the “ Hugh Littlejohn” of the Tales of a Grandfather. The approaching marriage of Captain, now Sir Adam Fergusson, to which some jocular allusions occur, may be classed with these objects of family interest; and that event was the source of unmixed satisfaction to Scott, as it did not interrupt his enjoyment of his old friend's society in the country; for the Captain, though he then pitched a tent for himself, did so at a very short distance from Huntly Burn. I believe the ensuing extracts will need no further commentary.
“ To Mrs Lockhart, Great King Street,
“ Ditton Park, Feb. 18, 1821. “ My Dearest Sophia,
“I received as much pleasure, and was relieved from as much anxiety, as ever I felt in my life, by Lockhart's kind note, which acquainted me with the happy period that has been put to your suffering, and, as I hope and trust, to the complaints which occasioned it. You are now, my dearest girl, beginning a new course of pleasures, anxieties, and duties, and the best I can wish for you is, that your little boy may prove the same dutiful and affectionate child which you have always been to me, and that God may give him a sound and healthy mind, with a good constitution of body — the greatest blessings which this earth can bestow. Pray be extremely careful of yourself for some time. Young women are apt to injure their health by thinking themselves well too soon. I beg you to be cautious in this respect.
“ The news of the young stranger's arrival was most joyfully received here, and his health and yours toasted in a bumper. Lady Anne is quite well, and Isabella also; and Lady Charlotte, who has rejoined them, is a most beautiful creature indeed. This place is all light and splendour, compared to London, where I was forced to use candles till ten o'clock at least. I have a gay time of it. To-morrow I return to town, and dine with old Sotheby; on Tuesday, with the Duke of Wellington ; Wednesday with Croker, and so on. Love to L., the Captain, and the Violet, and give your bantling a kiss extraordinary for Grandpapa. I hope Mungo* approves of the child, for that is a serious point. There are no dogs in the hotel where I lodge, but a tolerably conversible cat, who eats a mess of cream with me in the morning. The little chief and his brother have come over from Eton to see me, so I must break off. — I am, my dear love, most affectionately yours,
* Mungo was a favourite Newfoundland dog.
“ To Walter Scott, Esq., Portobello Barracks,
“ Waterloo Hotel, Jermyn Street,
Feb. 19, 1821. “ My Dear Walter,
“I have just received your letter. I send you a draught for £50, which you must make go as far as you can.
“ There is what I have no doubt is a very idle report here, of your paying rather marked attention to one young lady in particular. I beg you would do nothing that can justify such a rumour, as it would excite my highest displeasure should you either entangle yourself or any other person. I am, and have always been, quite frank with you, and beg you will be equally so with me. One should, in justice to the young women they live with, be very cautious not to give the least countenance to such rumours. They are not easily avoided, but are always highly prejudicial to the parties concerned ; and what begins in folly ends in serious misery avis au lecteur. “ Believe me, dear Cornet, your affectionate father,
“ P.S.— I wish you could pick me up the Irish