to get to the dining-room and the drawing-room in the evening.
Talking of Wordsworth, he told Anne and me a story, the object of which
was to show that Crabbe had not imagination. He, Sir George Beaumont,
and Wordsworth were sitting together in Murray the bookseller's
back-room. Sir George, after sealing a letter, blew out the candle,
which had enabled him to do so, and, exchanging a look with Wordsworth,
began to admire in silence the undulating thread of smoke which slowly
arose from the expiring wick, when Crabbe put on the extinguisher. Anne
laughed at the instance, and inquired if the taper was wax, and being
answered in the negative, seemed to think that there was no call on Mr.
Crabbe to sacrifice his sense of smell to their admiration of beautiful
and evanescent forms. In two other men I should have said "this is
affectations," with Sir Hugh Evans; but Sir George is the man in
the world most void of affectation; and then he is an exquisite painter,
and no doubt saw where the _incident_ would have succeeded in painting.
The error is not in you yourself receiving deep impressions from slight
hints, but in supposing that precisely the same sort of impression must
arise in the mind of men otherwise of kindred feeling, or that the
commonplace folks of the world can derive such inductions at any time or
under any circumstances.
_January_ 4. - My enemy gained some strength during the watches of the
night, but has again succumbed under scalding fomentations of camomile
flowers. I still keep my state, for my knee, though it has ceased to
pain me, is very feeble. We began to fill the ice-house to-day. Dine
alone - _en famille_, that is, Jane, Anne, Walter, and I. Why, this makes
up for _aiches_, as poor John Kemble used to call them. After tea I
broke off work, and read my young folks the farce of the _Critic_, and
"merry folks were we."
_January_ 5. - I waked, or _aked_ if you please, for five or six hours I
think, then fevered a little. I am better though, God be thanked, and
can now shuffle about and help myself to what I want without ringing
every quarter of an hour. It is a fine clear sunny day; I should like to
go out, but flannel and poultices cry nay. So I drudge away with the
assisting of Pelet, who has a real French head, believing all he desires
should be true, and affirming all he wishes should be believed. Skenes
(Mr. and Mrs., with Miss Jardine) arrived about six o'clock. Skene very
rheumatic, as well as I am.
_January_ 6. - Worked till dusk, but not with much effect; my head and
mind not clear somehow. W. Laidlaw at dinner. In the evening read
Foote's farce of the _Commissary,_ said to have been levelled at Sir
Lawrence Dundas; but Sir Lawrence was a man of family. Walter and Jane
dined at Mertoun.
_January_ 7. - Wrought till twelve, then sallied and walked with Skene
for two miles; home and corrected proofs, and to a large amount. Mr.
Scrope and George Thomson dined.
_January_ 8. - Slept well last night in consequence I think of my walk,
which I will, God willing, repeat to-day. I wrote some letters too long
delayed, and sent off my packets to J.B. Letter from C. Sharpe very
pressing. I should employ my interest at Windsor to oppose the
alterations on the town of Edinburgh. "One word from you, and all that."
I don't think I shall speak that word though. I hate the alterations,
that is certain; but then _ne accesseris in consilium nisi
vocatus_, - what is the use of my volunteering an opinion? Again, the
value of many people's property may depend on this plan going forward.
Have I a right from mere views of amenity to interfere with those
serious interests? I something doubt it. Then I have always said that I
never meddle in such work, and ought I _sotto voce_ now to begin it? By
my faith I won't; there are enough to state the case besides me.
The young Duke of B. came in to bid us good-bye, as he is going off to
England. God bless him! He is a hawk of a good nest. Afterwards I walked
to the Welsh pool, Skene declining to go, for I
" - - -not over stout of limb,
Seem stronger of the two."
_January_ 9. - This morning received the long-expected news of the Duke
of York's death. I am sorry both on public and private accounts.
His R.H. was, while he occupied the situation of next in the royal
succession, a _Breakwater_ behind the throne. I fear his brother of
Clarence's opinions may be different, and that he will hoist a standard
under which will rendezvous men of desperate hopes and evil designs. I
am sorry, too, on my own account. The Duke of York was uniformly kind to
me, and though I never tasked his friendship deeply, yet I find a
powerful friend is gone. His virtues were honour, good sense, integrity;
and by exertion of these qualities he raised the British army from a
very low ebb to be the pride and dread of Europe. His errors were those
of a sanguine and social temper; he could not resist the temptation of
deep play, which was fatally allied with a disposition to the bottle.
This last is incident to his complaint, which vinous influence soothes
for the time, while it insidiously increases it in the end.
Here blows a gale of wind. I was to go to Galashiels to settle some
foolish lawsuit, and afterwards to have been with Mr. Kerr of Kippilaw
to treat about a march-dike. I shall content myself with the first duty,
for this day does not suit Bowden-moor.
Went over to Galashiels like the devil in a gale of wind, and found a
writer contesting with half-a-dozen unwashed artificers the possession
of a piece of ground the size and shape of a three-cornered
pocket-handkerchief. Tried to "gar them gree," and if I succeed, I shall
think I deserve something better than the _touch of rheumatism_, which
is like to be my only reward.
Scotts of Harden and John Pringle of Clifton dined, and we got on very
_January_ 10. - Enter rheumatism, and takes me by the knee. So much for
playing the peacemaker in a shower of rain. Nothing for it but patience,
cataplasm of camomile, and labour in my own room the whole day till
dinner-time - then company and reading in the evening.
_January_ 11. - Ditto repeated. I should have thought I would have made
more of these solitary days than I find I can do. A morning, or two or
three hours before dinner, have often done more efficient work than six
or seven of these hours of languor, I cannot say of illness, can
produce. A bow that is slackly strung will never send an arrow very far.
Heavy snow. We are engaged at Mr. Scrope's, but I think I shall not be
able to go. I remained at home accordingly, and, having nothing else to
do, worked hard and effectively. I believe my sluggishness was partly
owing to the gnawing rheumatic pain in my knee, for after all I am of
opinion pain is an evil, let Stoics say what they will. Thank God, it is
an evil which is mending with me.
_January_ 12. - All this day occupied with camomile poultices and pen and
ink. It is now four o'clock, and I have written yesterday and to-day ten
of my pages - that is, one-tenth of one of these large volumes - moreover,
I have corrected three proof-sheets. I wish it may not prove fool's
haste, yet I take as much pains too as is in my nature.
_January_ 13. - The Fergusons, with my neighbours Mr. Scrope and Mr.
Bainbridge and young Hume, eat a haunch of venison from Drummond Castle,
and seemed happy. We had music and a little dancing, and enjoyed in
others the buoyancy of spirit that we no longer possess ourselves. Yet I
do not think the young people of this age so gay as we were. There is a
turn for persiflage, a fear of ridicule among them, which stifles the
honest emotions of gaiety and lightness of spirit; and people, when they
give in the least to the expansion of their natural feelings, are always
kept under by the fear of becoming ludicrous. To restrain your feelings
and check your enthusiasm in the cause even of pleasure is now a rule
among people of fashion, as much as it used to be among philosophers.
_January_ 14. - Well - my holidays are out - and I may count my gains and
losses as honest Robinson Crusoe used to balance his accounts of good
I have not been able, during three weeks, to stir above once or twice
from the house. But then I have executed a great deal of work, which
would be otherwise unfinished.
Again I have sustained long and sleepless nights and much pain. True;
but no one is the worse of the thoughts which arise in the watches of
the night; and for pain, the complaint which brought on this rheumatism
was not so painful perhaps, but was infinitely more disagreeable and
Something there has been of dulness in our little reunions of society
which did not use to cloud them. But I have seen all my own old and kind
friends, with my dear children (Charles alone excepted); and if we did
not rejoice with perfect joy, it was overshadowed from the same sense of
Again, this new disorder seems a presage of the advance of age with its
infirmities. But age is but the cypress avenue which terminates in the
tomb, where the weary are at rest.
I have been putting my things to rights to go off to-morrow. Though I
always wonder why it should be so, I feel a dislike to order and to
task-work of all kinds - a predominating foible in my disposition. I do
not mean that it influences me in morals; for even in youth I had a
disgust at gross irregularities of any kind, and such as I ran into were
more from compliance with others and a sort of false shame, than any
pleasure I sought or found in dissipation. But what I mean is a
detestation of precise order in petty matters - in reading or answering
letters, in keeping my papers arranged and in order, and so on. Weber,
and then Gordon, used to keep my things in some order - now they are
verging to utter confusion. And then I have let my cash run ahead since
I came from the Continent - I must slump the matter as I can.
_[Shandwick Place,] January_ 15. - - Off we came, and despite of
rheumatism I got through the journey comfortably. Greeted on my arrival
by a number of small accounts whistling like grape-shot; they are of no
great avail, and incurred, I see, chiefly during the time of illness.
But I believe it will take me some hard work till I pay them, and how to
get the time to work? It will be hard purchased if, as I think not
unlikely, this bitch of a rheumatism should once more pin me to my
chair. Coming through Galashiels, we met the Laird of Torwoodlee, who,
on hearing how long I had been confined, asked how I bore it, observing
that he had once in his life (Torwoodlee must be between sixty and
seventy) been confined for five days to the house, and was like to hang
himself. I regret God's free air as much as any man, but I could amuse
myself were it in the Bastile.
_January_ 16. - Went to Court, and returned through a curious atmosphere,
half mist, half rain, famous for rheumatic joints. Yet I felt no
increase of my plaguey malady, but, on the contrary, am rather better. I
had need, otherwise a pair of crutches for life were my prettiest help.
Walter dined with us to-day, Jane remaining with her mother. The good
affectionate creatures leave us to-morrow. God send them a quick passage
through the Irish Channel! They go to Gort, where Walter's troop is
lying - a long journey for winter days.
_January_ 17. - Another proper day of mist, sleet, and rain, through
which I navigated homeward. I imagine the distance to be a mile and a
half. It is a good thing to secure as much exercise.
I observed in the papers my old friend Gifford's funeral. He was a man
of rare attainments and many excellent qualities. The translation of
Juvenal is one of the best versions ever made of a classical author, and
his satire of the Baviad and Maeviad squabashed at one blow a set of
coxcombs who might have humbugged the world long enough.
As a commentator he was capital, could he but have suppressed his
rancour against those who had preceded him in the task, but a
misconstruction or misinterpretation, nay, the misplacing of a comma,
was in Gifford's eyes a crime worthy of the most severe animadversion.
The same fault of extreme severity went through his critical labours,
and in general he flagellated with so little pity, that people lost
their sense of the criminal's guilt in dislike of the savage pleasure
which the executioner seemed to take in inflicting the punishment.
This lack of temper probably arose from indifferent health, for he was
very valetudinary, and realised two verses, wherein he says fortune
assigned him -
" - - - One eye not over good,
Two sides that to their cost have stood
A ten years' hectic cough,
Aches, stitches, all the various ills
That swell the dev'lish doctor's bills,
And sweep poor mortals off."
But he might also justly claim, as his gift, the moral qualities
expressed in the next fine stanza -
" - - - A soul
That spurns the crowd's malign control,
A firm contempt of wrong:
Spirits above afflictions' power,
And skill to soothe the lingering hour
With no inglorious song."
_January_ 18. - To go on with my subject - Gifford was a little man,
dumpled up together, and so ill-made as to seem almost deformed, but
with a singular expression of talent in his countenance. Though so
little of an athlete, he nevertheless beat off Dr. Wolcot, when that
celebrated person, the most unsparing calumniator of his time, chose to
be offended with Gifford for satirising him in his turn. Peter Pindar
made a most vehement attack, but Gifford had the best of the affray, and
remained, I think, in triumphant possession of the field of action, and
of the assailant's cane. Gifford had one singular custom. He used always
to have a duenna of a housekeeper to sit in his study with him while he
wrote. This female companion died when I was in London, and his distress
was extreme. I afterwards heard he got her place supplied. I believe
there was no scandal in all this.
This is another vile day of darkness and rain, with a heavy yellow mist
that might become Charing Cross - one of the benefits of our extended
city; for that in our atmosphere was unknown till the extent of the
buildings below Queen Street. M'Culloch of Ardwell called.
Wrought chiefly on a critique of Mrs. Charlotte Smith's novels, and
_January_ 19. - Uncle Adam, _vide Inheritance_, who retired last
year from an official situation at the age of eighty-four, although
subject to fits of giddiness, and although carefully watched by his
accomplished daughter, is still in the habit of walking by himself if he
can by possibility make an escape. The other day, in one of these
excursions, he fell against a lamp-post, cut himself much, bled a good
deal, and was carried home by two gentlemen. What said old
Rugged-and-Tough? Why, that his fall against the post was the luckiest
thing could have befallen him, for the bleeding was exactly the remedy
for his disorder.
"Lo! stout hearts of men!"
Called on said "uncle," also on David Hume, Lord Chief-Commissioner,
Will Clerk, Mrs. Jobson, and others. My knee made no allowance for my
politeness, but has begun to swell again, and to burn like a scorpion's
_January_ 20. - Scarce slept all night; scarce able to stand or move this
morning; almost an absolute fixture.
"A sleepless knight,
A weary knight,
God be the guide."
This is at the Court a blank day, being that of the poor Duke of York's
funeral. I can sit at home, luckily, and fag hard.
And so I have, pretty well; six leaves written, and four or five
proof-sheets corrected. Cadell came to breakfast, and proposes an eighth
volume for _Napoleon_. I told him he might write to Longman for their
opinion. Seven is an awkward number, and will extremely cramp the work.
Eight, too, would go into six octavos, should it ever be called for in
that shape. But it shall be as they list to have it.
_January_ 21. - A long day of some pain relieved by labour. Dr. Ross came
in and recommended some stuff, which did little good. I would like ill
to lose the use of my precious limbs. Meanwhile, Patience, cousin, and
shuffle the cards.
Missie dined with us to-day - an honest Scotch lass, lady-like and frank.
I finished about six leaves, doing indeed little else.
_January_ 22. - Work, varied with camomile; we get on, though. A visit
from Basil Hall, with Mr. Audubon the ornithologist, who has followed
that pursuit by many a long wandering in the American forests. He is an
American by naturalisation, a Frenchman by birth; but less of a
Frenchman than I have ever seen - no dash, or glimmer, or shine about
him, but great simplicity of manners and behaviour; slight in person,
and plainly dressed; wears long hair, which time has not yet tinged; his
countenance acute, handsome, and interesting, but still simplicity is
the predominant characteristic. I wish I had gone to see his drawings;
but I had heard so much about them that I resolved not to see them - "a
crazy way of mine, your honour." - Five more leaves finished.
_January_ 23. - I have got a piece of armour, a knee-cap of chamois
leather, which I think does my unlucky rheumatism some good. I begin,
too, to sleep at night, which is a great comfort. Spent this day
completely in labour; only betwixt dinner and tea, while husbanding a
tumbler of whisky and water, I read the new novel, _Elizabeth de
Bruce_ - part of it, that is.
_January_ 24. - Visit from Mr. Audubon, who brings some of his birds. The
drawings are of the first order - the attitudes of the birds of the most
animated character, and the situations appropriate; one of a snake
attacking a bird's nest, while the birds (the parents) peck at the
reptile's eyes - they usually, in the long-run, destroy him, says the
naturalist. The feathers of these gay little sylphs, most of them from
the Southern States, are most brilliant, and are represented with what,
were it [not] connected with so much spirit in the attitude, I would
call a laborious degree of execution. This extreme correctness is of
the utmost consequence to the naturalist, [but] as I think (having no
knowledge of _virtu_), rather gives a stiffness to the drawings. This
sojourner in the desert had been in the woods for months together. He
preferred associating with the Indians to the company of the Back
Settlers; very justly, I daresay, for a civilised man of the lower
order - that is, the dregs of civilisation - when thrust back on the
savage state becomes worse than a savage. They are Wordsworth's
"Deliberate and undeceived
The wild men's vices who received,
And gave them back his own."
The Indians, he says, are dying fast; they seem to pine and die whenever
the white population approaches them. The Shawanese, who amounted, Mr.
Audubon says, to some thousands within his memory, are almost extinct,
and so are various other tribes. Mr. Audubon could never hear any
tradition about the mammoth, though he made anxious inquiries. He gives
no countenance to the idea that the Red Indians were ever a more
civilised people than at this day, or that a more civilised people had
preceded them in North America. He refers the bricks, etc., occasionally
found, and appealed to in support of this opinion, to the earlier
settlers, - or, where kettles and other utensils may have been found, to
the early trade between the Indians and the Spaniards.
John Russell and Leonard Horner came to consult me about the
propriety and possibility of retaining the northern pronunciation of the
Latin in the new Edinburgh Academy. I will think of it until
to-morrow, being no great judge. We had our solitary dinner; indeed, it
is only remarkable nowadays when we have a guest.
_January_ 25. - Thought during the watches of the night and a part of the
morning about the question of Latin pronunciation, and came to the
following conclusions. That the mode of pronunciation approved by
Buchanan and by Milton, and practised by all nations, excepting the
English, assimilated in sound, too, to the Spanish, Italian, and other
languages derived from the Latin, is certainly the best, and is likewise
useful as facilitating the acquisition of sounds which the Englishman
attempts in vain. Accordingly I wish the cockneyfied pedant who first
disturbed it by reading _Emo_ for _Amo_, and _quy_ for _qui_, had choked
in the attempt. But the question is, whether a youth who has been taught
in a manner different from that used all over England will be heard, if
he presumes to use his Latin at the bar or the senate; and if he is to
be unintelligible or ludicrous, the question [arises] whether his
education is not imperfect under one important view. I am very unwilling
to sacrifice our _sumpsimus_ to their old _mumpsimus_ - still more to
humble ourselves before the Saxons while we can keep an inch of the
Scottish flag flying. But this is a question which must be decided not
on partialities or prejudices.
I got early from the Court to-day, and settled myself to work hard.
_January_ 26. - My rheumatism is almost gone. I can walk without Major
Weir, which is the name Anne gives my cane, because it is so often out
of the way that it is suspected, like the staff of that famous
wizard, to be capable of locomotion. Went to Court, and tarried
till three o'clock, after which transacted business with Mr. Gibson and
Dr. Inglis as one of Miss Hume's trustees. Then was introduced to young
Mr. Rennie, or he to me, by [Sir] James Hall, a genteel-looking
young man, and speaks well. He was called into public notice by having,
many years before, made a draught of a plan of his father's for London
Bridge. It was sought for when the building was really about to take
place, and the assistance which young Mr. Rennie gave to render it
useful raised his character so high, that his brother and he are now in
first-rate practice as civil engineers.
_January_ 27. - Read _Elizabeth de Bruce_; it is very clever, but does
not show much originality. The characters, though very entertaining, are
in the manner of other authors, and the finished and filled up portraits
of which the sketches are to be found elsewhere. One is too apt to feel
on such occasions the pettish resentment that you might entertain
against one who had poached on your manor. But the case is quite
different, and a claim set up on having been the first who betook
himself to the illustration of some particular class of characters, or
department of life, is no more a right of monopoly than that asserted by
the old buccaneers by setting up a wooden cross, and killing an Indian
or two on some new discovered island. If they can make anything of their
first discovery, the better luck theirs; if not, let others come,
penetrate further into the country, write descriptions, make drawings or
settlements at their pleasure.
We were kept in Parliament House till three. Called to return thanks to
Mr. Menzies of Pitfoddels, who lent some pamphlets about the unhappy
Duke d'Enghien. Read in the evening _Boutourlin_ and _SÃ©gur_, to
prepare for my Russian campaign.
_January_ 28. - Continued my reading with the commentary of the D. of
W. If his broad shoulders cannot carry me through, the devil must
be in the dice. Longman and Company agree to the eight volumes. It will
make the value of the book more than Â£12,000. Wrought indifferent hard.
_January_ 29. - Mr. Gibson breakfasted with Dr. Marshman, the head
of the missionaries at Serampore, a great Oriental scholar. He is a
thin, dark-featured, middle-sized man, about fifty or upwards, his eye
acute, his hair just beginning to have a touch of the grey. He spoke
well and sensibly, and seemed liberal in his ideas. He was clearly of
opinion that general information must go hand in hand, or even ought to
precede religious instruction. Thinks the influence of European manners
is gradually making changes in India. The natives, so far as their
religion will allow them, are become fond of Europeans, and invite them
to their great festivals. He has a conceit that the Afghans are the
remains of the Ten Tribes. I cannot find he has a better reason than
their own tradition, which calls them Ben-Israel, and says they are not
Ben-Judah. They have Jewish rites and ceremonies, but so have all
Mahometans; neither could I understand that their language has anything
peculiar. The worship of Bhoodah he conceives to have [been] an
original, or rather the original, of Hindu religion, until the Brahmins
introduced the doctrines respecting caste and other peculiarities. But