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“ To Walter Scott, Esq., 18th Hussars, Cappoquin.
“Abbotsford, 10th May 1821. “ Dear Walter,
“ I wrote yesterday, but I am induced immediately to answer your letter, because I think you expect from it an effect upon my mind different from what it produces. A man may be violent and outrageous in his liquor, but wine seldom makes a gentleman a blackguard, or instigates a loyal man to utter sedition. Wine unveils the passions and throws away restraint, but it does not create habits or opinions which did not previously exist in the mind. Besides, what sort of defence is this of intemperance ? I suppose if a private commits riot, or is disobedient in his cups, his officers do not admit whisky to be an excuse. I have seen enough of that sort of society where habitual indulgence drowned at last every distinction between what is worthy and unworthy, and I have seen young men with the fairest prospects turn out degraded miserable outcasts before their life was half spent, merely from soaking and sotting, and the bad habits these naturally lead to. You tell me * * * and * * * frequent good society and are well received in it, and I am very glad to hear this is the case. But such stories as these will soon occasion their seclusion from the best company. There may remain, indeed, a large enough circle, where ladies, who are either desirous to fill their rooms or to marry their daughters, will continue to receive any young man in a showy uniform, however irregular in private life ; but if these cannot be called bad company, they are certainly any. thing but very good, and the facility of access makes the entrée of little consequence.
“ I mentioned in my last that you were to continue in the 18th until the regiment went to India, and that I trusted you would get the step within the twelve months that the corps yet remains in Europe, which will make your exchange easier. But it is of far more importance that you learn to command yourself, than that you should be raised higher in commanding others. It gives me pain to write to you in terms of censure, but my duty must be done, else I cannot expect you to do yours. All here are well and send love.— I am your affectionate father,
“ To the Same.
“ Edinburgh, 15th May 1821. 6 Dear Walter,
“I have your letter of May 6th, to which it is unnecessary to reply very particularly. I would only insinuate to you that the lawyers and gossips of Edinburgh, whom your military politeness bandsomely classes together in writing to a lawyer, know
and care as little about the 18th as they do about the 19th, 20th, or 21st, or any other regimental number which does not happen for the time to be at Piershill, or in the Castle. Do not fall into the error and pedantry of young military men, who, living much together, are apt to think themselves and their actions the subject of much talk and rumour among the public at large. — I will transcribe Fielding's account of such a person, whom he met with on his voyage to Lisbon, which will give two or three hours' excellent amusement when you choose to peruse it:
'In his conversation it is true there was something military enough, as it consisted chiefly of oaths, and of the great actions and wise sayings of Jack, Will, and Tom of ours, a phrase eternally in his mouth, and he seemed to conclude that it conveyed to all the officers such a degree of public notoriety and importance that it entitled him, like the head of a profession, or a first minister, to be the subject of conversation amongst those who had not the least personal acquaintance with him.'
Avoid this silly narrowness of mind, my dear boy, which only makes men be looked on in the world with ridicule and contempt. Lawyer and gossip as I may be, I suppose you will allow I have seen something of life in most of its varieties; as much at least as if I had been, like you, eighteen months in a cavalry regiment, or, like Beau Jackson in Roderick Random, had cruized for half-a-year in the chops of the Channel. Now, I have never remarked
any one, be he soldier, or divine, or lawyer, that was exclusively attached to the narrow habits of his own profession, but what such person became a great twaddle in good society, besides what is of much more importance, becoming narrow-minded and ignorant of all general information.
“ That this letter may not be unacceptable in all its parts, I enclose your allowance without stopping anything for the hackney. Take notice, however, my dear Walter, that this is to last you till midsummer. We came from Abbotsford yesterday, and left all well, excepting that Mr Laidlaw lost his youngest child, an infant, very unexpectedly. We found Sophia, Lockhart, and their child, in good health, and all send love. I remain your affectionate
“ To Walter Scott, Esq., 18th Hussars.
“Edinburgh, 26th May 1821. “ My Dear Walter,
“ I see you are of the mind of the irritable prophet Jonah, who persisted in maintaining "he did well to be angry,' even when disputing with Omnipotence. I am aware that Sir David is considered as a severe and ill-tempered man; and I remember a story that, when report came to Europe that Tippoo's prisoners (of whom Baird was one) were chained together two and two, his mother said, · God pity the poor lad that's chained to our Davie? But though it may be very true that he may have acted towards you with caprice and severity, yet you are always to remember, - 1st, That in becoming a soldier you have subjected yourself to the caprice and severity of superior officers, and have no comfort except in contemplating the prospect of commanding others in your turn. In the meanwhile, you have in most cases no remedy so useful as patience and submission. But, 2dly, As you seem disposed to admit that you yourselves have been partly to blame, I submit to you, that in turning the magnifying end of the telescope on Sir D.’s faults, and the diminishing one on your own, you take the least useful mode of considering the matter. By studying his errors, you can acquire no knowledge that will be useful to you till you become Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, whereas, by reflecting on your own, Cornet Scott and his companions may reap some immediate moral advantage. Your fine of a dozen of claret, upon any one who shall introduce females into your mess in future, reminds me of the rule of a country club, that whoever “ behaved ungenteel,' should be fined in a pot of porter. Seriously, I think there was bad taste in the style of the forfeiture.