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I hope you will soon come down—a sight of you would do me good at the worst turn I have yet had.
The Baronet* is very kind, and comes and sits by me. Everybody likes the Regalia, and I have heard of no one grudging their hogt—but you must get something better. I have been writing to the Commiet about this. He has been inexpressibly kind in Walter's matter, and the Duke of York has promised an early commission. When you see our friend, you can talk over this, and may perhaps save him the trouble of writing particular directions what further is to be done. Iago's rule, I suppose — put money in thy purse. I wish in passing you would ask how the ladies are in Piccadilly. Yours ever,
The Bride of Lammermoor, and the Legend of Montrose, would have been read with indulgence had they needed it; for the painful circumstances under which they must have been produced were known wherever an English newspaper made its way; but I believe that, except in numerous typical errors, which sprung of necessity from the author's inability to correct any proof-sheets, no one ever affected to perceive in either tale the slightest symptom of his malady. Dugald Dalgetty was placed by acclamation in the same rank with Bailie Jarvie—a conception equally * Mr William Clerk.
of A shilling The Lord Chief-Commissioner Adam.
new, just, and humorous, and worked out in all the details, as if it had formed the luxurious entertainment of a chair as easy as was ever shaken by Rabelais ; and though the character of Montrose himself seemed hardly to have been treated so fully as the subject merited, the accustomed rapidity of the novelist's execution would have been enough to account for any such defect. Of Caleb Balderstone (the hero of one of the many ludicrous delineations which he owed to the late Lord Haddington, a man of rare pleasantry, and one of the best tellers of old Scotch stories that I ever heard) -- I cannot say that the general opinion was then, nor do believe it ever since has been, very favourable. It was pronounced at the time, by more than one critic, a mere caricature; and though Scott himself would never in after days admit this censure to be just, he allowed that “ he might have sprinkled rather too much parsley over his chicken.” But even that blemish, for I grant that I think it a serious one, could not disturb the profound interest and pathos of the Bride of Lammermoor — to my fancy the most pure and powerful of all the tragedies that Scott ever penned. The reader will be well pleased, however, to have, in place of any critical observations on this work, the following particulars of its composition from the notes which its printer dictated when stretched on the bed from which he well knew he was never to rise.
“ The book” (says James Ballantyne) “ was not only written, but published, before Mr Scott was able to rise from his bed; and he assured me, that when it was first put into his hands in a complete shape, he did not recollect one single incident, character, or conversation it contained! He did not desire me to understand, nor did I understand, that his illness had erased from his memory the original incidents of the story, with which he had been acquainted from his boyhood. These remained rooted where they had ever been ; or, to speak more explicitly, he remembered the general facts of the existence of the father and mother, of the son and daughter, of the rival lovers, of the compulsory marriage, and the attack made by the bride upon the hapless bridegroom, with the general catastrophe of the whole. All these things he recollected, just as he did before he took to his bed; but he literally recollected nothing else :— not a single character woven by the romancer, not one of the many scenes and points of humour, nor anything with which he was connected as the writer of the work. • For a long time,' he said, I felt myself very uneasy in the course of my reading, lest I should be startled by meeting something altogether glaring and fantastic. However, I recollected that you had been the printer, and I felt sure that you would not have permitted anything of this sort to pass.Well,' I said, “ upon the whole, how did you like it?' • Why,' he said, as a whole, I felt it monstrous gross and grotesque; but still the worst of it made me laugh, and I trusted the good-natured public would not be less indulgent. I do not think I ever ventured to lead to the discussion of this singular phenomenon again ; but you may depend upon it, that what I have now said is as distinctly reported as if it had been taken down in short-hand at the moment; I should not otherwise have ventured to allude to the matter at all. I believe you will agree with me in thinking that the history of the human mind contains nothing more wonderful."
Soon after Scott re-appeared in the Parliamenthouse, he came down one Saturday to the vaulted chambers below, where the Advocates' Library was then kept, to attend a meeting of the Faculty, and as the assembly was breaking up he asked me to walk home with him, taking Ballantyne's printing office in our way. He moved languidly, and said, if he were to stay in town many days, he must send for Sybil Grey; but his conversation was heart-whole; and, in particular, he laughed till, despite his weakness, the stick was flourishing in his hand, over the following almost incredible specimen of that most absurd personage the late Earl of Buchan.
Hearing one morning shortly before this time, that Scott was actually in extremis, the Earl proceeded to Castle Street, and found the knocker tied up. He then descended to the door in the area, and was there received by honest Peter Mathieson, whose face seemed to confirm the woful tidings, for in truth his master was ill enough. Peter told his Lordship that he had the strictest orders to admit no visiter ; but the Earl would take no denial, pushed the bashful coachman aside, and elbowed his way up stairs to the door of Scott's bedchamber. He had his fingers upon the handle before Peter could give warning to Miss Scott; and when she appeared to remonstrate against such an intrusion, he patted her on the head like a child, and persisted in his purpose of entering the sick-room so strenuously, that the young lady found it necessary to bid Peter see the Earl down stairs again, at whatever damage to his dignity. Peter accordingly, after trying all his eloquence in vain, gave the tottering, bustling, old, meddlesome coxcomb a single shove, -as respectful, doubt not, as a shove can ever be, — and he accepted that hint, and made a rapid exit. Scott, meanwhile, had heard the confusion, and at length it was explained to him; when, fearing that Peter's gripe might have injured Lord Buchan's feeble person, he desired James Ballantyne, who had been sitting by his bed, to follow the old man home — make him comprehend, if he could, that the family were in such bewilderment of alarm, that the ordinary rules of civility were out of the question — and, in fine, enquire what had been the object of his lordship’s intended visit. James proceeded forthwith to the Earl's house in George