supposing I write, as is proposed, six new volumes, will run the
collection to fifty, when it is time to close it. Between cash advanced
on this property, and a profit on the sale of the second part, Mr.
Cadell thinks, having taken a year or two years' time, to gather a
little wind into the bag, I will be able to pay, on my part, a further
sum of £30,000, or the moiety remaining of the whole debts, amounting
now to less than £60,000.
Should this happy period arrive in or about the year 1832 the heavy work
will be wellnigh finished. Tor, although £30,000 will still remain, yet
there is £20,000 actually secured upon my life, and the remaining
£10,000 is set against the sale of _Waverley_, which shall have been
issued; besides which there is the whole Poetry, _Bonaparte_, and
several other articles, equally [available] in a short time to pay up
the balance, and afford a very large reversion.
This view cannot be absolutely certain, but it is highly probable, and
is calculated in the manner in which Building Schemes [are dealt with],
and is not merely visionary. The year 1833 may probably see me again in
possession of my estate.
A circumstance of great consequence to my habits and comforts was my
being released from the Court of Session on November 1830 (18th day). My
salary, which was £1300, was reduced to £840. My friends, just then
leaving office, were desirous to patch up the deficiency with a pension.
I do not see well how they could do this without being exposed to
obloquy, which they shall not be on my account. Besides, though £500 a
year is a round sum, yet I would rather be independent than I would have
My kind friend the Lord Chief Commissioner offered to interfere to have
me named a Privy Councillor; but besides that when one is poor he ought
to avoid taking rank, I would be much happier if I thought any act of
kindness was done to help forward Charles; and, having said so much, I
made my bow, and declared my purpose of remaining satisfied with the
article of my knighthood. And here I am, for the rest of my life I
suppose, with a competent income, which I can [increase].
All this is rather pleasing, nor have I the least doubt that I could
make myself easy by literary labour. But much of it looks like winding
up my bottom for the rest of my life. But there is a worse symptom of
settling accounts, of which I have felt some signs.
Last spring, Miss Young, the daughter of Dr. Young, had occasion to call
on me on some business, in which I had hopes of serving her. As I
endeavoured to explain to her what I had to say, I had the horror to
find I could not make myself understood. I stammered, stuttered, said
one word in place of another - did all but speak; Miss Young went away
frightened enough, poor thing; and Anne and Violet Lockhart were much
alarmed. I was bled with cupping-glasses, took medicine, and lived on
panada; but in two or three days I was well again. The physicians
thought, or said at least, that the evil was from the stomach. It is
very certain that I have seemed to speak with an impediment, and I was,
or it might be fancied myself, troubled with a mispronouncing and
hesitation. I felt this particularly at the Election, and sometimes in
society. This went on till last November, when Lord - - - came out to
make me a visit. I had for a long time taken only one tumbler of whisky
and water without the slightest reinforcement. This night I took a very
little drop, not so much as a bumper glass, of whisky altogether. It
made no difference on my head that I could discover, but when I went to
the dressing-room I sank stupefied on the floor. I lay a minute or
two - was not found, luckily, gathered myself up, and got to my bed. I
was alarmed at this second warning, consulted Abercrombie and Ross, and
got a few restrictive orders as to diet. I am forced to attend to them;
for, as Mrs. Cole says, "Lack-a-day! a thimbleful oversets me."
To add to these feelings I have the constant increase of my lameness:
the thigh-joint, knee-joint, and ankle-joint.
_December_ 21. - I walk with great pain in the whole limb, and am at
every minute, during an hour's walk, reminded of my mortality. I should
not care for all this, if I was sure of dying handsomely. Cadell's
calculations would be sufficiently firm though the author of _Waverly_
had pulled on his last nightcap. Nay, they might be even more
trustworthy, if Remains, and Memoirs, and such like, were to give a zest
to the posthumous. But the fear is the blow be not sufficient to destroy
life, and that I should linger on an idiot and a show.....
We parted on good terms and hopes. But, fall back, fall edge,
nothing shall induce me to publish what I do not think advantageous to
the community, or suppress what is.
_December_ 23. - To add for this day to the evil thereof, I am obliged to
hold a Black-fishing Court at Selkirk. This is always a very unpopular
matter in one of our counties, as the salmon never do get up to the
heads of the waters in wholesome season, and are there in numbers in
spawning-time. So that for several years during the late period, the
gentry, finding no advantage from preserving the spawning fish,
neglected the matter altogether in a kind of dudgeon, and the peasantry
laid them waste at their will. As the property is very valuable, the
proprietors down the country agreed to afford some additional passage
for fish when the river is open, providing they will protect the
spawning fish during close-time. A new Act has been passed, with heavy
penalties and summary powers of recovery. Some persons are cited under
it to-day; and a peculiar licence of poaching having distinguished the
district of late years, we shall be likely to have some disturbance.
They have been holding a meeting for reform in Selkirk, and it will be
difficult to teach them that this consists in anything else save the
privilege of obeying only such laws as please them. We shall see, but I
would have counselled the matter to have been delayed for a little
season. I shall do my duty, however. Do what is right, come what will.
Six black-fishers were tried, four were condemned. All went very quietly
till the conclusion, when one of the criminals attempted to break out. I
stopped him for the time with my own hand. But after removing him
from the Court-house to the jail he broke from the officers, who are
poor feeble old men, the very caricature of peace officers.
_December_ 24. - This morning my old acquaintance and good friend Miss
Bell Ferguson died after a short illness: an old friend, and a woman of
the most excellent condition. The last two or almost three years were
A bitter cold day. Anne drove me over to Huntly Burn to see the family.
I found Colonel Ferguson and Captain John, R.N., in deep affliction,
expecting Sir Adam hourly. Anne sets off to Mertoun, and I remain alone.
I wrote to Walter about the project of making my succession in movables.
J.B. sent me praises of the work I am busy with. But I suspect a
little _supercherie_, though he protests not. He is going to the country
without sending me the political article. But he shall either set up or
return it, as I won't be tutored by any one in what I do or forbear.
_December_ 25. - I have sketched a political article on a union of Tories
and an Income Tax. But I will not show my teeth if I find I cannot bite.
Arrived at Mertoun, and found with the family Sir John Pringle, Major
Pringle, and Charles Baillie. Very pleasant music by the Miss Pringles.
_December_ 26, [_Mertoun_]. - Prayers after breakfast, being Sunday.
Afterwards I shut myself up in Mr. Scott's room.
He has lately become purchaser of his grandfather's valuable library,
which was collected by Pope's Lord Marchmont. Part of it is a very
valuable collection of tracts during the great Civil War. I spent
several hours in turning them over, but I could not look them through
with any accuracy. I passed my time very pleasantly, and made some
extracts, however, and will resume my research another day.
Major Pringle repeated some pretty verses of his own composing.
I had never a more decided inclination to go loose, yet I know I had
better keep quiet.
_December_ 27, [_Abbotsford_]. - Commences snow, and extremely bitter
cold. When I returned from Mertoun, half-frozen, I took up the _Magnum_,
and began to notify the romance called _Woodstock_, in which I got some
assistance from Harden's ancient tracts. I ought rather to get on with
_Robert of Paris_; but I have had all my life a longing to do something
else when I am called to particular labour, - a vile contradictory humour
which I cannot get rid of. Well, I can work at something, so at the
_Magnum_ work I. The day was indeed broken, great part having been
employed in the return from Mertoun.
_December_ 28. - Drove down to Huntly Burn. Sir Adam very melancholy, the
death of his sister having come with a particular and shocking surprise
upon him. After half-an-hour's visit I returned and resumed the
_December_ 29. - Attended poor Miss Bell Ferguson's funeral. I sat by the
Rev. Mr. Thomson. Though ten years younger than me, I found the barrier
between him and me much broken down. We remember it though with more or
less accuracy. We took the same old persons for subjects of
correspondence of feeling and sentiment. The difference of ten years is
little after sixty has passed. In a cold day I saw poor Bell laid in her
cold bed. Life never parted with a less effort. Letter from Cadell
offering to advance on second series French Tales. This will come in
good time, and keep me easy. He proposes views for the _Magnum_. I fear
politics may disappoint them.
_December_ 30. - Meeting at Selkirk to-day about the new road to
Galashiels. It was the largest meeting I ever saw in Selkirkshire. We
gain the victory by no less than 14 to 4. I was named one of the
committee to carry the matter on, so in gaining my victory I think I
have caught a Tartar, for I have taken on trouble enough. Some
company, - Lord Napier, Scotts of Harden, Johnstone of Alva, Major
Pringle. In the evening had some private conversation with H.F.S. and
R.J., and think there is life in a mussel. More of this hereafter.
_December_ 31. - My two young friends left this morning, but not without
renewing our conversation of last night. We carried on the little
amusements of the day, and spent our Hogmanay pleasantly enough, in
spite of very bad auguries.
 See _Life_, vol. x. pp. 10-25.
"From Marlborough's eyes the streams of dotage flow, And Swift expires a
driveller and a show." - Johnson's _Vanity of Human Wishes_.
 Mr. Cadell and Mr. Ballantyne had arrived at Abbotsford on the
18th, bringing with them the good news from Edinburgh of the payment of
the second dividend, and of the handsome conduct of the creditors. There
had been a painful discussion between them and Sir Walter during the
early part of the winter on _Count Robert of Paris_, particulars of
which are given in _the Life_ (vol. x. pp. 6, 10-17, 21-23), but they
found their host much better than they had ventured to anticipate, and
he made the gift of his library the chief subject of conversation during
the evening. Next morning Mr. Ballantyne was asked to read aloud a
political essay on Reform - intended to be a _Fourth Epistle of Malachi_.
After careful consideration, the critical arbiters concurred in
condemning the production, but suggested a compromise. His friends left
him on the 21st, and the essay, though put in type, was never published.
Proof and MS. were finally consigned to the flames! - _Life_, vol. x. pp.
 An account of this incident is given by an eye-witness, Mr. Peter
Rodger, Procurator-Fiscal, who says: "The prisoner, thinking it a good
chance of escaping, made a movement in direction of the door. This Sir
Walter detected in time to descend from the Bench and place himself in
the desperate man's path. 'Never!' said he; 'if you do, it will be over
the body of an old man.' Whereupon the other officials of the Court came
to the Sheriff's assistance and the prisoner was
secured." - Craig-Brown's _Selkirkshire_, vol. ii. p. 141.
 _Count Robert of Paris_.
_January_ 1, 1831. - I cannot say the world opens pleasantly with me this
new year. I will strike the balance. There are many things for which I
have reason to be thankful.
_First_. - Cadell's plans seem to have succeeded, and he augurs well as
to the next two years, reckoning £30,000 on the stuff now on hand, and
£20,000 on the insurance money, and £10,000 to be borrowed somehow. This
will bring us wonderfully home.
_Second_. - Cadell is of opinion if I meddle in politics, and I am
strongly tempted to do so, I shall break the milk-pail, and threatens me
with the fate of Basil Hall, who, as he says, destroyed his reputation
by writing impolitic politics. Well, it would be my risk, and if I can
do some good, which I rather think I can, is it right or manly to keep
_Third_. - I feel myself decidedly weaker in point of health, and am now
confirmed I have had a paralytic touch. I speak and read with
embarrassment, and even my handwriting seems to stammer. This general
"With mortal crisis doth portend,
My days to appropinque an end."
I am not solicitous about this, only if I were worthy I would pray God
for a sudden death, and no interregnum between I cease to exercise
reason and I cease to exist.
The Scotts of Harden, Pringles of Stitchill, and Russells of Ashestiel,
are all here; I am scarce fit for company though.
_January_ 2. - Held a great palaver with the Scotts, etc.
I find my language apt to fail me; but this is very like to be fancy,
and I must be cautious of giving way to it. This cautions me against
public exertion much more than Cadell's prognostications, which my blood
rises against, and which are ill calculated to keep me in restraint. We
dozed through a gloomy day, being the dullest of all possible thaws.
_January_ 3. - I had a letter from the Lord Chief Commissioner,
mentioning the King's intention to take care of Charles's interests and
promotion in the Foreign Office, an additional reason why I should not
plunge rashly into politics, yet not one which I can understand as
putting a padlock on my lips neither. I may write to L.C.C. that I may
be called on to express an opinion on the impending changes, that I have
an opinion, and a strong one, and that I hope this fresh favour [may not
be regarded] as padlocking my lips at a time when it would otherwise be
proper to me to speak or write. I am shocked to find that I have not the
faculty of delivering myself with facility - an embarrassment which may
be fanciful, but is altogether as annoying as if real.
_January_ 4. - A base, gloomy day, and dispiriting in proportion. I
walked out with Swanston for about an hour: everything gloomy as
the back of the chimney when there is no fire in it. My walk was a
melancholy one, feeling myself weaker at every step and not very able to
speak. This surely cannot be fancy, yet it looks something like it. If I
knew but the extent at which my inability was like to stop, but every
day is worse than another. I have trifled much time, too much; I must
try to get afloat to-morrow, perhaps getting an amanuensis might spur me
on, for one-half is nerves. It is a sad business though.
_January_ 5. - Very indifferent, with more awkward feelings than I can
well bear up against. My voice sunk and my head strangely confused. When
I begin to form my ideas for conversation expressions fail me, even in
private conversation, yet in solitude they are sufficiently arranged. I
incline to hold that these ugly symptoms are the work of imagination;
but, as Dr. Adam Ferguson, a firm man if ever there was one in the
world, said on such an occasion, What is worse than imagination? As Anne
was vexed and frightened, I allowed her to send for young Clarkson. Of
course he could tell but little, save what I knew before.
_January_ 6. - A letter from Henry Scott about the taking ground for
keeping the reform in Scotland upon the Scottish principles. I will
write him my private sentiments, but avoid being a _boute-feu_.
Go this day to Selkirk, where I found about 120 and more persons of that
burgh and Galashiels, who were sworn in as special constables, enough to
maintain the peace. What shocked me particularly was the weakness of my
voice and the confusion of my head attempting to address them, which was
really a poor affair. On my return I found the Rev. Mr. Milne of Quebec,
a friend of my sister-in-law. Another time would have been better for
company, but Captain John Ferguson and Mr. Laidlaw coming in to dinner,
we got over the day well enough.
_January_ 7. - A fine frosty day, and my spirits lighter. I have a letter
of great comfort from Walter, who in a manly, handsome, and dutiful
manner expressed his desire to possess the library and movables of every
kind at Abbotsford, with such a valuation laid upon them as I choose to
impose. This removes the only delay to making my will. Supposing the
literary property to clear the debts by aid of insurances and other
things, about 1835 it will come into my person, and I will appoint the
whole to work off the heritable debt of £10,000. If the literary
property can produce that sum, besides what it has already done, I would
convey it to the three younger children.
_January_ 8. - Spent much time in writing instructions for my last will
and testament. Sent off parcel by Dr. Milne, who leaves to-day. Have up
two boys for shop-lifting. Remained at Galashiels till four o'clock, and
returned starved. Could work none, and was idle all evening - try
to-morrow for a work-day; so loiter on.
_January_ 10. - Went over to Galashiels, and was busied the whole time
till three o'clock about a petty thieving affair, and had before me a
pair of gallows'-birds, to whom I could say nothing for total want of
proof, except, like the sapient Elbow, Thou shalt continue there; know
thou, thou shalt continue. A little gallow brood they were, and
their fate will catch them. Sleepy, idle, and exhausted on this. Wrought
little or none in the evening.
Wrote a long letter to Henry [Scott], who is a fine fellow, and what I
call a heart of gold. He has sound parts, good sense, and is a true man.
Also, I wrote to my excellent friend the Lord Chief [Commissioner]. I
thought it right to say that I accepted with gratitude his Majesty's
goodness, but trusted it was not to bind me to keep my fingers from pen
and ink should a notion impress me that I could help the country. I
walked a little, to my exceeding refreshment. I am using that family
ungratefully. But I will not, for a punctilio, avoid binding, if I can,
a strong party together for the King and country, and if I see I can do
anything, or have a chance of it, I will not fear for the skin-cutting.
It is the selfishness of this generation that drives me mad.
"A hundred pounds?
Ha! thou hast touched me nearly."
I will get a parcel copied to-morrow; wrote several letters at night.
_January_ 11. - Wrote and sent off three of my own pages in the morning,
then walked with Swanston. I tried to write before dinner, but, with
drowsiness and pain in my head, made little way. My friend Will Laidlaw
came in to dinner, and after dinner kindly offered his services as
amanuensis. Too happy was I, and I immediately plunged him into the
depths of _Count Robert_, so we got on three or four pages, worth
perhaps double the number of print. I hope it did not take him too
short, but after all to keep the press going without an amanuensis is
impossible, and the publishers may well pay a sponsible person. He comes
back to-morrow. It eases many of my anxieties, and I will stick to it. I
really think Mr. Laidlaw is pleased with the engagement for the time.
Sent off six close pages.
_January_ 12. - I have a visit from Mr. Macdonald the sculptor, who
wishes to model a head of me. He is a gentlemanlike man, and pleasant as
most sculptors and artists of reputation are, yet it is an awful tax
upon time. I must manage to dictate while he models, which will do well
So there we sat for three hours or four, I sitting on a stool mounted on
a packing-box, for the greater advantage; Macdonald modelling and
plastering away, and I dictating, without interval, to good-natured Will
Laidlaw, who wrought without intermission. It is natural to ask, Do I
progress? but this is too feverish a question. A man carries no scales
about him to ascertain his own value. I always remember the prayer of
Virgil's sailor in extremity: -
"Non jam prima peto Mnestheus, neque vincere certo;
Quamquam O! - Sed superent quibus hoc, Neptune, dedisti!
Extremos pudeat rediisse: hoc vincite, cives,
Et prohibete nefas!"
We must to our oar; but I think this and another are all that even
success would prompt me to write; and surely those that have been my
"Have they so long held out with me untired,
And stop they now for breath? Well, be it so."
_January_ 13. - Went to Selkirk on the business of the new high road. I
perceive Whytbank and my cousin Colonel Russell of Ashestiel are
disposed to peep into the expenses of next year's outlay, which must be
provided by loan. This will probably breed strife. Wrote a hint of this
to Charles Balfour. Agreed with Smith so far as contracting for the
Bridges at £1200 each. I suspect we are something like the good manager
who distressed herself with buying bargains.
_January_ 15. - Gave the morning from ten till near two to Mr. Macdonald,
who is proceeding admirably with his bust. It is bloody cold work, but
he is an enthusiast and much interested; besides, I can sit and dictate
owing to Mr. Laidlaw, and so get forward, while I am advancing Lorenzo
di Guasco, which is his travelling name. I wrote several letters too,
and got through some business. Walked, and took some exercise between
one and three.
_January_ 16. - Being Sunday, read prayers. Mr. and Mrs. James go to
look for a house, which they desire to take in this country. As Anne is
ill, the presence of strangers, though they are pleasant, is rather
annoying. Macdonald continues working to form a new bust out of my old
scalp. I think it will be the last sitting which I will be enticed to.
Thanks to Heaven, the work finishes to-morrow.
_January_ 17. - This morning, when I came down-stairs, I found Mr.
Macdonald slabbering away at the model. He has certainly great
enthusiasm about his profession, which is a _sine qua non_. It was not
till twelve that a post-chaise carried off my three friends.
I had wrote two hours when Dr. Turner came in, and I had to unfold my
own complaints. I was sick of these interruptions, and dismissed Mr.
Laidlaw, having no hope of resuming my theme with spirit. God send me
more leisure and fewer friends to peck it away by tea-spoonfuls!
Another fool sends to entreat an autograph, which he should be ashamed
in civility to ask, as I am to deny it. I got notice of poor Henry
Mackenzie's death. He has long maintained a niche in Scottish
Literature - gayest of the gay, though most sensitive of the sentimental.
_January_ 18. - Came down from my bedroom at eight, and took a rummage in
the way of putting things to rights. Dictated to Laidlaw till about one
o'clock, during which time it was rainy. Afterwards I walked, sliding
about in the mud, and very uncomfortable. In fact, there is no mistaking
the three sufficients, and Fate is now straitening its
circumvallations round me. Little likely to be better than I am. I am
heart-whole as a biscuit, and may last on as now for eight or ten years;
the thing is not uncommon, considering I am only in my sixtieth year. I
cannot walk; but the intense cold weather may be to blame in this. My
riding is but a scramble, but it may do well enough for exercise; and
though it is unpleasant to find one's enjoyment of hill and vale so much
abridged, yet still when I enjoy my books, and am without acute pain, I
have but little to complain of, considering the life I have led so long.
"So hap what may;
Time and the hour run through the roughest day."
Mr. Laidlaw came down at ten, and we wrought till one. This should be a
good thing for an excellent man, and is an important thing to me, as it
saves both my eyesight and nerves, which last are cruelly affected by
finding those "who look out of the windows" grow gradually darker and
darker. Rode out, or more properly, was carried out, into the woods