Слике страница
PDF
ePub

is an evil that has never mixed with my nature, nor has even unwonted good fortune rendered my love of life tenacious; and so I can look forward to the possible conclusion of these scenes of agony with reasonable equanimity, and suffer chiefly through the sympathetic distress of my family.

“Other ten days have passed away, for I would not send this Jeremiad to tease you while its termination seemed doubtful. For the present,

• The game is done-I've won, I've won,

Quoth she, and whistles thrice.' I am this day, for the first time, free from the relics of my disorder, and, except in point of weakness, perfectly well. But no broken-down hunter had ever so many sprung sinews, whelks, and bruises. I am like Sancho after the doughly affair of the Yanguesian Carriers, and all through the unnatural twisting of the muscles under the influence of that Goule the cramp. I must be swathed in Goulard and rosemary spirits--probatum est.

“ I shall not fine and renew a lease of popularity upon the stage. To write for low, ill-informed, and conceited actors, whom you must please, for your success is necessarily at their mercy, I cannot away with. How would you, or how do you think I should, relish being the object of such a letter as Kean wrote t'other day to a poor author, who, though a pedantic blockhead, had at least the right to be treated like a gentleman by a copper-laced, twopenny tear-mouth, rendered mad by conceit and success? Besides, if this objection were out of the way, I do not think the character of the audience in London is such that one could have the least pleasure in pleasing them. One half come to prosecute their debaucheries so openly that it would degrade a bagnio. Another set to snooze off their beefsteaks and port wine; a third are critics of the fourth column of the newspaper ; fashion, wit, or literature, there is not; and, on the whole, I would far rather wriie verses for mine honest friend Punch and his audience. The only thing that could tempt me to be so silly, would be to assist a friend in such a degrading task who was to have the whole profit and shame of it.

“Have you seen decidedly the most full and methodized collection of Spanish romances (ballads) published by the industry of Depping (Altenburgh, and Leipsic), 1817 ? It is quite delightful. Ticknor had set me agog to see it, without affording me any hope it could be had in London, when, by one of those fortunate chances which have often marked my life, a friend, who had been lately on the continent, came unexpectedly to enquire for me, and plucked it forth par manière de cadeau. God prosper you, my dear Southey, in your labours; but do not work 100 hard-experto crede. This conclusion, as well as the confusion of my letter, like the bishop of Grenada's sermon, savours of the apoplexy. My most respectful compliments attend Mrs. S. Yours truly,

“ WALTER SCOTT. “P. S. I shall long to see the conclusion of the Brazil history, which, as the interest comes nearer, must rise even above the last noble volume. Wesley you alone can touch ; but will you not bave the hive about you? When I was about twelve years old, I heard him preach more than once, standing on a chair, in Kelso churchyard. He was a most venerable figure, but his sermons were vastly too colloquial for the taste of Saunders. He told many excellent stories. One I remember, which he said had happened to him at Edinburgh. “A drunken dragoon (said Wesley) was commencing an assertion in military fashion, G-d eter

nally d-n me, just as I was passing. I touched the poor man on the shoulder, and, when he turned round fiercely, said calmly, you mean God bless you. In the mode of telling the story he failed not to make us sensible how much his patriarchal appearance, and mild yet bold rebuke, overawed the soldier, who touched his hat, thanked him, and, I think, came to chapel that evening."

The gradations by which Scott ascended from triumph to triumph, until he stoud on the topmost pinnacle of his ambition, we have no room to trace. His trip to London-his being lionized wherever he went—these are known; for, when he reached his eminence, every footstep had some "soft recorder." We love to note his simple and unadulterated affections, diffused with fine familiarity among his family, and to discover the paternal care with which he regarded them. There is something peculiarly admirable in the following pictures and counsels addressed to his son :“ To Cornet Walter Scott, 18th Hussars, Cork.

“ ABBOTSFORD, August 1, 1819. “Dear Walter, -I was glad to find you got safe to the hospitable quarters of Piccadilly, and were put on the way of achieving your business well and expeditiously. You would receive a packet of introductory letters by John Ballantyne, to whom I addressed ihem.

“I had a very kind letter two days ago from your colonel. Had I got it sooner, it would have saved some expense in London, but there is no help for it now. As you are very fully provided with all these appointments, you must be particular in taking care of them, otherwise the expense of replacing them will be a great burden. Colonel Murray seems disposed to show you much attention. He is, I am told, rather a reserved man, which indeed is the manner of his family. You will, therefore, be the more attentive to what he says, as well as to answer all advances he may make to you with cordiality and frankness; for, if you be shy on the one hand, and he reserved' on the other, you cannot have the benefit of his advice, which I hope and wish you may gain. I shall be guided by his opinion respecting your allowance: he stipulates that you shall have only two horses (not 10 be changed without his consent), and on no account keep a gig. You know of old how I detest that mania of driving wheelbarrows up and down, when a man has a handsome horse, and can ride him. They are both foolish and expensive things, and, in my opinion, are only fit for English bagmen; therefore gig it not, I pray you.

" In buying your horses you will be very cautious. I see Colonel Murray has delicacy about assisting you directly in the matter-for he says very truly that some gentlemen make a sort of traffic in horse flesh - from which his duty and inclination equally lead him to steer clear. But he will take care that you don't buy any that are unfit for service, as in the common course they must be approved by the commandant as chargers. Besides which, he will probably give you some private hints, of which avail yourself, as there is every chance of your needing much advice in this business. Two things I preach on my own experience. 1st, Never to buy an aged horse, however showy. He must have done work, and, at any rate, will be unserviceable in a few years. 2dly, To buy when the horse is something low in condition, thai you may the better see all his points. Six years is the oldest at which I would purchase. VOL. XXII.-NO. 43.

31

a

a

You will run risk of being jockeyed by knowing gentlemen of your own corps parting with their experienced chargers to oblige you. Take care of this. Any good-tempered horse learos the dragoon duty in a wonderfully short time, and you are rider enough not to want one quite broke in. Look well about you, and out into the country. Excellent horses are bred all through Munster, and better have a clever young one than an old regimental brute foundered by repeated charges and bolts. If you see a brother officer's horse that pleases you much, and seems reasonable, look particularly how he stands on his forelegs, and for that purpose see him in the stable. If he shifts and shakes a little, have nothing to say to him. This is the best I can advise, pot doubting you will be handsomely excised after all. The officer who leaves his corps may be disposing of good horses, and perhaps selling reasonable. 'One who continues will

not, at least should not, part with a good horse without some great advantage.

“You will remain at Cork till you have learned your regimental duty, and then probably be despatched to some outquarter. I need not say how anxious I ani that you should keep up your languages, mathematics, and other studies. To have lost that which you already in some degree possess—and that which we don't practise we soon forget-would be a subject of unceasing regrel lo you hereafter. You have good introductions, and don't neglect to avail yourself of them. Something in this respect your name may do for you-a fair advantage, if used with discretion and propriety. By the way, I suspect you did not call on John Richardson.

“ The girls were very dull after you left us; indeed the night you went away Anne had the hysterics, which lasted some time. Charles also was down in the mouth, and papa and mamma a little grave and dejected. I would not have you think yourself of too great importance neither, for the greatest personages are not always long missed, and, to make a bit of a parody,

'Down falls the rain, up gets the sun,

Just as if Walter were not gone.' We comfort ourselves with the hopes that you are to be happy in the occupation you have chosen, and in your new society. Let me know if there are any well-informed men among them, though I don't expect you to find out that for some time. Be civil to all till you can by degrees find out who are really best deserving.

“I enclose a letter from Sophia, which doubtless contains all the news. St. Boswell's Fair rained miserably and disappointed the misses. The weather has since been delightful, and harvest advances fast. All here goes its old round; the babits of age do not greatly change, though those of youth do. Mamma has been quite well, and so have I ; but I still take calomel. I was obliged to drink some claret with Sir A. Don, Sir John Shelley, and a funny little Newmarket quizzy, they called Cousins, whom they brought here with them the other day, but I was not the worse. I wish you had Sir J. S. at your elbow when you are buying your horses; he is a very knowing man on the turf. I like his lady very much. She is perfectly feminine in her manners, has good sense, and plays divinely on the barp; besides all which, she shoots wild boars, and is the boldest horsewoman I ever saw. I saw her at Paris ride like a lapwing in the inidst of all the aide-de-camps and suite of the Duke of Wellington.

“Write what your horses come to, &c. Your outfit will be an expensive matter ; but once settled it will be fairly launching you into life in the way you wished, and I trust you will see the necessity of prudence and a gentlemanlike economy, which consists chiefly in refusing oneself trifling indulgences until we can easily pay for them. Once more, I beg you to be attentive to Colonel Murray and to his lady. I hear of a disease among the moorfowl. I suppose they are dying for grief at your departure. Ever, my dear boy, your affectionate father,

“ Walter Scott.” The reader will join with us in relishing the description which ensues, of a representation of one of Sir Walter's dramatised works at the Edinburgh theatre, and the solemnly jocose letter of Cleishbotham. There is such consummate shrewdness and mock-dignity in the epistle, that its histrionic recipient should treasure it with that feeling of regard due to a manuscript leaf of a Waverly novel. The play came off on the evening of the 15th of February, 1819. Mr. Lockhart remarks,

" The drama of Rob Roy will never again be got up so well, in all its parts, as it then was by William Murray's company; the manager's own Captain Thornton was excellent-and so was the Dugald Creature of a Mr. Duff-there was also a good Mattie, (about whose equipment, by the by, Scott felt such interest that he left his box between the acts to remind Mr. Murray that "she must have a mantle with her lanthorn'); but the great and unrivaled attraction was the personification of Bailie Jarvie by Charles Mackay, who, being himself a native of Glasgow, entered into the minutest peculiarities of the character with high gusto, and gave the west country dialect in its most racy perfection. It was extremely diverting to watch the play of Scout's features during this admirable realisation of his conception ; and I must add, that the behaviour of the Edinburgh audience on all such occasions, while the secret of the novels was preserved, reflected great honour on their good taste and delicacy of feeling. He seldom, in those days, entered his box without receiving some mark of general respect and admiration; but I never heard of any pretext being laid hold of to connect these demonstrations with the piece he had come to witness, or, in short, to do or say any thing likely to interrupt his quiet enjoyment of the evening in the midst of his family and friends.

The Rob Roy had a continued run of forty-one nights, during February and March ; and it was played once a week, at least, for many years afterwards.' Mackay, of course, always selected it for his benefit; and I now print from Scott's MS. a letter, which, no doubt, reached the mimic Bailie in the handwriting of one of the Ballantynes, on the first of these occurrences. “To Mr. Charles Mackay, Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh. Private.

“Friend Mackay, My lawful occasions having brought me from my residence at Glandercleuch to this great city, it was my lot to fall into company with certain friends, who impetrated from me a consent to behold the stage-play, which hath been framed forth of an history entitled Rob (seu potius Robert) Roy, which history, although it existeth not in mine erudite work, entitled Tales of my Landlord, hath nathless a near relation in style and structure to those pleasant narrations. Wherefore, having surmounted those arguments whilk were founded upon the unseemliness of a personage in my place and profession appearing in an open stage-play house, and having buttoned the terminations of my cravat into my bosom, in order to preserve mine incognito, and indued an outer coat over mine usual garments, so that the hue thereof might

[ocr errors]

66

not betray my calling, I did place myself (much elbowed by those who little knew whom they did incommode) in that place of the theatre called the two-shilling gallery, and beheld the show with great delectation, even from the rising of the curtain unto the fall thereof.

“Chiefly, my facetious friend, was I enamoured of the very lively representation of Bailie Nicol Jarvie, in so much that I became desirous to communicate to thee my great admiration thereof, nothing doubting that it will give thee satisfaction to be apprised of the same. Yet further, in case thou shouldst be of that numerous class of persons who set less store by good words than good deeds, and understanding that there is assigned unto each stage-player a special night, called a benefit (it will do thee no harm to know that the phrase cometh from two Latin words, bene and facio), on which their friends and patrons show forth their benevolence, I now send thee mine in the sorm of a five-ell web (hoc jocose, to express a note for £5), as a meet present for the Bailie, himself a weaver, and the son of a worthy deacon of that craft. The which propine I send thee in token that it is my purpose, business and health permitting, to occupy the central place of the pit on the night of thy said beneficiary or benefit.

"Friend Mackay! from one whose profession it is to teach others, thou must excuse the freedom of a caution. I trust thou wilt remember that, as excellence in thine art cannot be attained without much labour, so neither can it be extended, or even maintained, without constant and unremitted exertion; and farther, that the decorum of a performer's private character (and it gladdeth me to hear that thine is respectable) addeth not a little to the value of his public exertions.

“Finally, in respect there is nothing perfect in this world, -at least I have never received a wholly faultless version from the very best of my pupils - I pray thee not to let Rob Roy twirl thee around in the ecstasy of thy joy, in regard it oversteps the limits of nature, which otherwise thou so sedulously preservest in thine admirable national portraiture of Bailie Nicol Jarvie. " I remain thy sincere friend and well-wisher,

"Jedeniah CLEISHBOTHAM.'' We ask a repetition of the pardon just desired, to enable us to produce a sketch of the novelist's bodily state, when the most finished novel that ever came from his pen—the Bride of Lammermoor—was written. That superior work—can it be believed ?—was dictated (as Paradise Lost was said to have been by the divine Milton to his daughters) and taken down, mot par mot, by attentive and obliging friends. This was in April, 1819. According to his biographer

"The accounts of Scott's condition, circulated in Edinburgh in the course of this April, were so alarming that I should not have thought of accepting his invitation to revisit Abbotsford, unless John Ballantyne had given me better tidings, about the end of the month. He informed me that his illustrious friend' (for so both the Ballantynes usually spoke of him) was so much recovered as to have resumed his usual literary tasks, though with this difference-that he now, for the first time in his life, found it necessary to employ the hand of another. I have now before me a letter of the 8th April, in which Scott says to Constable

Yesterday I began to dictate, and did it easily and with comfort. This is a great point-but I must proceed by little and little ; last night I had a slight return of the enemy, but baffled him; and he again writes to the bookseller on the 11th- John Ballantyne is here, and returns with

« ПретходнаНастави »