Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

submit to the public. He is now on the eve of visiting foreign parts; a ship of war is commissioned by its Royal Master to carry the Author of Waverley to climates in which he may possibly obtain such a restoration of health as may serve him to spin his thread to an end in his own country. Had be continued to prosecute his usual literary labours, it seems indeed probable, that at the term of years he has already attained, the bowl, to use the pathetic language of Scripture, would have been broken at the fountain ; and little can one, who has enjoyed on the whole an uncommon share of the most inestimable of worldly blessings, be entitled to complain, that life, advancing to its period, should be attended with its usual proportions of shadows and storms. They have affected him at least in no more painful manner than is inseparable from the discharge of this part of the debt of humanity. Of those whose relation to him in the ranks of life might have ensured him their sympathy under indisposition, many are now no more; and those who may yet follow in his wake, are entitled to expect, in bearing inevitable evils, an example of firmness and patience, more especially on the part of one who has enjoyed no small good fortune during the course of his pilgrimage.

“ The public have claims on his gratitude, for which the Author of Waverley has no adequate means of expression; but he may be permitted to hope, that the powers of his mind, such as they are, may not have a different date from those of his body; and that he may again meet his patronising friends, if not exactly in his old fashion of literature, at least in some branch, which may not call forth the remark, that

“ Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage."

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

66

Duncan, R. N., who was at this time store-keeper of the Ordnance, and who had taken a great deal of trouble in arranging matters for the voyage, called on Sir Walter to introduce to him Captain, now Sir Hugh Pigot, the commanding officer of the Barham. The Diary says-“ October 19. Captain H. Duncan called with Captain Pigot, a smart-looking gentlemanlike man,

who
announces his

purpose of sailing on Monday. I have made my preparations for being on board on Sunday, which is the day appointed.

Captain Duncan told me jocularly never to take a naval Captain's word on shore, and quoted Sir William Scott, who used to say waggishly, that there was nothing so accommodating on shore, but when on board, he became a peremptory lion. Henry Duncan has behaved very kindly, and says he only discharges the wishes of his service in making me as easy as possible, which is very handsome — too high a compliment for me. * No danger of feud, except about politics, which would be impolitic on my part, and though it bars out one great subject of discussion, it leaves enough besides. Walter arrives ready to sail. So what little remains must be done without loss of time.

“ I leave this country uncertain if it has got a

* The Hon. Captain Duncan, youngest son of Lord Duncan, received the honour of Knighthood in 1834, and died in November 1835, aged 49.

total pardon or only a reprieve. I won't think of it, as I can do no good. It seems to be in one of those crises by which Providence reduces nations to their original elements. If I had my health, I should take no worldly fee, not to be in the bustle ; but I am as weak as water, and I shall be glad when I have put the Mediterranean between the island and me.

October 23. — Misty morning - looks like a yellow fog, which is the curse of London. I would hardly take my share of it for a share of its wealth and its curiosity - a vile double-distilled fog, of the most intolerable kind. Children scarce stirring yet, but Baby and Macao beginning their Macao notes

[ocr errors]

Dr Fergusson found Sir Walter with this

page

of his Diary before him, when he called to pay his farewell visit. “ As he was still working at his MSS.,” says the Doctor, “ I offered to retire, but was not permitted. On my saying I had come to take leave of him before he quitted England, he exclaimed, with much excitement — England is no longer a place for an honest man. I shall not live to find it so; you may. He then broke out into the details of a very favourite superstition of his, that the middle of every century had always been marked by some great convulsion or calamity in this island. Already the state of politics preyed much on his mind and in

deed that continued to form a part of the delirious dreams of his last illness. On the whole, the alterations which had taken place in his mind and person since I had seen him, three years before, were very apparent. The expression of the countenance and the play of features were changed by slight palsy of one cheek. His utterance was so thick and indistinct as to make it very difficult for any but those accustomed to hear it, to gather his meaning. His gait was less firm and assured than ever; but his power of self-command, his social tact, and his benevolent courtesy, the habits of a life, remained untouched by a malady which had obscured the higher powers of his intellect.”

After breakfast, Sir Walter, accompanied by his son and both his daughters, set off for Portsmouth; and Captain Basil Hall had the kindness to precede them by an early coach, and prepare everything for their reception at the hotel. They expected that the embarkation would take place next day, and the Captain had considered that his professional tact and experience might be serviceable, which they were eminently. In changing horses at Guilford, Sir Walter got out of his carriage, and very narrowly escaped being run over by a stage-coach. Of all “ the habits of a life,” none clung longer to him than his extreme repugnance to being helped in anything. It was late before he came to lean, as a matter of course, when walking, upon any one but Tom Purdie; and the reader will see, in the sequel, that this proud feeling, coupled with increasing tendency to abstraction of mind, often exposed him to imminent hazard.

The Barham could not sail for a week. During this interval, Sir Walter scarcely stirred from his hotel, being unwilling to display his infirmities to the crowd of gazers who besieged him whenever he appeared. He received, however, deputations of the literary and scientific societies of the town, and all other visiters, with his usual ease and courtesy: and he might well be gratified with the extraordinary marks of deference paid him by the official persons who could in any way contribute to his ease and comfort. The first Lord of the Admiralty, Sir James Graham, and the Secretary, Sir John Barrow, both appeared in person, to ascertain that nothing had been neglected for his accommodation on board the frigate. The Admiral, Sir Thomas Foley, placed his barge at his disposal; the Governor, Sir Colin Campbell, and all the chief officers, naval and military, seemed to strive with each other in attention to him and his companions. In Captain Hall's Third Series of Fragments of Voyages and Travels (vol. ïï. p. 280), some interesting details have long since been made public. But it may be sufficient to say here,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »