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experiment of the extremest difficulty and delicacy -one, in fact, infinitely more important than had ever before been agitated within the forms of the constitution — was perhaps regarded by most grave and retired men with feelings near akin to those of the anxious and melancholy invalid at Abbotsford. To annoy him additionally, he found many eminent persons, who had hitherto avowed politics of his own colour, renouncing all their old tenets, and joining the
cry of Reform, which to him sounded Revolution, as keenly as the keenest of those who had been through life considered apostles of Republicanism. And I must also observe, that as, notwithstanding his own steady Toryism, he had never allowed political differences to affect his private feelings towards friends and companions, so it now happened that among the few with whom he had daily intercourse there was hardly one he could look to for sympathy in his present reflections and anticipations. The affectionate Laidlaw had always been a stout Whig ; he now hailed the coming changes as the beginning of a political millenium. Ballantyne, influenced probably by his new ghostly counsellors, was by den grees leaning to a similar view of things. Cadell, his bookseller, and now the principal confidant and assistant from week to week in all his plans and speculations, was a cool, inflexible specimen of the national character, and had always, I presume, considered the Tory creed as a piece of weakness -- to be pardoned, indeed, in a poet and an antiquary, but at best pitied in men of any other class.
Towards the end of November, Sir Walter had another slight touch of apoplexy. He recovered himself without assistance; but again consulted his physicians in Edinburgh, and by their advice adopted a still greater severity of regimen.
The reader will now understand what his frame and condition of health and spirits were, at the time when he received from Ballantyne a decided protest against the novel on which he was struggling to fix the shattered energies of his memory and fancy.
“ To Mr James Ballantyne, Printer, Edinburgh.
Abbotsford, 8th Dec. 1830. “ My Dear James,
“ If I were like other authors, as I flatter myself I am not, I should send you an order on my treasurer for a hundred ducats, wishing you prosperity and a little more taste;'* but having never supposed that
abilities I ever had were of a perpetual texture, I am glad when friends tell me what I might be long in finding out myself. Mr Cadell will show you what I have written to him. My present idea is to go abroad for a few months, if I hold
Archbishop of Grenada, in Gil Blas.
together as long. So ended the Fathers of the Novel - Fielding and Smollett -- and it would be no unprofessional finish for yours, WALTER SCOTT."
“ To R. Cadell, Esq., Bookseller, Edinburgh.
“ Abbotsford, 8th Dec. 1830. My Dear Sir,
Although we are come near to a point to which every man knows he must come, yet I acknowledge I thought I might have put if off for two or three years; for it is hard to lose one's
of working when you have perfect leisure for it. I do not view James Ballantyne's criticism, although his kindness may not make him sensible of it, so much as an objection to the particular topic, which is merely fastidious, as to my having failed to please him, an anxious and favourable judge, and certainly a very good one.
It would be losing words to say that the names are really no objection, or that they might be in some degree smoothed off by adopting more modern Grecian. This is odd. I have seen when a play or novel would have been damned by introduction of Macgregors or Macgrouthers, or others, which
you used to read as a preface to Fairntosh whisky, on every spirit shop-yet these have been wrought into heroes.
James is, with many other kindly critics, perhaps in the predicament of an honest drunkard when crop-sick the next morning, who does not ascribe the malady to the wine he has drunk, but to having tasted some particular dish at dinner which disagreed with his stomach. The fact is, I have not only written a great deal, but, as Bobadil teaches his companions to fence, I have taught a hundred gentlemen to write nearly as well, if not altogether so, as myself.
“Now, such being my belief, I have lost, it is plain, the power of interesting the country, and ought, in justice to all parties, to retire, while I have some credit. But this is an important step, and I will not be obstinate about it, if necessary. I would not act hastily, and still think it right to set up at least half a volume. The subject is essentially an excellent
If it brings to my friend J. B. certain prejudices not unconnected, perhaps, with his old preceptor Mr Whale, we may find ways of obviating this ; but frankly, I cannot think of flinging aside the half finished volume, as if it were a corked bottle of wine. If there is a decisive resolution for laying aside Count Robert (which I almost wish I had named Anna Comnena), I shall not easily prevail on myself to begin another.
“ I may perhaps take a trip to the Continent for a year or two, if I find Othello's occupation gone, or rather Othello's reputation. James seems to have taken his bed upon it—yet has seen Pharsalia. I
hope your cold is getting better. I am tempted to say, as Hotspur says of his father
• Zounds! how hath he the leisure to be sick?'*
There is a very
erial consideration ow a failure of Count Robert might affect the Magnum, which is a main object. So this is all at present from, dear sir, yours, very faithfully, WALTER SCOTT.”
To the Same.
“ Abbotsford, 9th Dec. 1830. My Dear Cadell,
“ I send you sheet B of the unlucky Count it will do little harm to correct it, whether we ultimately use it or no; for the rest we must do as we dow, as my mother used to say. I could reduce many expenses in a foreign country, especially equipage and living, which in this country I could not do so well. But it is matter of serious consideration, and we have time before us to think. I write to you rather than Ballantyne, because he is not well, and I look on you as hardened against wind and weather, whereas
• Man but a rush against Othello's breast,
* 1st King Henry IV. Act IV. Scene 1.