Изображения страниц

But we must brave bad weather as well as bear it.

“ I send a volume of the interleaved Magnum. I know not whether you will carry on that scheme or not at present. I am yours sincerely,


“ P.S.-I expect Marshal Bourmont and a French Minister, Baron d'Haussez, here to-day, to my no small discomfort, as you may believe; for I would rather be alone.”

To the Same.

Abbotsford, 12th Dec. 1830. “ My Dear Sir,

“I am much obliged for your kind letter, and have taken a more full review of the whole affair than I was able to do at first. There were many circumstances in the matter which you and J. B. could not be aware of, and which, if you were aware of, might have influenced your judgment, which had, and yet have a most powerful effect upon mine. The deaths of both my father and mother have been preceded by a paralytic shock. My father survived it for nearly two years—a melancholy respite, and not to be desired. I was alarmed with Miss Young's morning visit, when, as you know, I lost my speech. The medical people said it was from the stomach, which might be ; but while there is a doubt on a point so alarming, you will not wonder that the subject, or, to use Hare's lingo, the shot, should be a little anxious. I restricted all my creature comforts, which were never excessive, within a single cigar and a small wine-glass of spirits per day. But one night last month, when I had a friend with me, I had a slight vertigo when going to bed, and fell down in my dressing-room, though but for one instant. Upon this I wrote to Dr Abercrombie, and in consequence of his advice, I have restricted myself yet farther, and have cut off the cigar, and almost half of the mountain-dew. Now, in the midst of all this, I began my work with as much attention as I could ; and having taken pains with my story, I find it is not relished, nor indeed tolerated, by those who have no interest in condemning it, but a strong interest in putting even a face upon their consciences. Was not this, in the circumstances, a damper to an invalid, already afraid that the sharp edge might be taken off his intellect, though he was not himself sensible of that? and did it not seem, of course, that nature was rather calling for repose than for further efforts in a very exciting and feverish style of composition ? It would have been the height of injustice and cruelty to impute want of friendship or sympathy to J. B's discharge of a doubtful, and I am sensible, a perilous task. True,

The first bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but a losing office'_ *

and it is a failing in the temper of the most equalminded men, that we find them liable to be less pleased with the tidings that they have fallen short of their aim, than if they had been told they had hit the mark; but I never had the least thought of blaming him, and indeed my confidence in his judgment is the most forcible part of the whole affair. It is the consciousness of his sincerity which makes me doubt whether I can proceed with the County Paris. I am most anxious to do justice to all concerned, and yet, for the soul of me, I cannot see what is likely to turn out for the best. I might attempt the Perilous Castle of Douglas, but I fear the subject is too much used, and that I might again fail in it. Then being idle will never do, for a thousand reasons: All this I am thinking of till I am half sick. I wish James, who gives such stout advice when he thinks we are wrong, would tell us how to put things right. One is tempted to cry, · Wo worth thee! is there no help in thee?' Perhaps it may be better to take no resolution till we all meet together.

“ I certainly am quite decided to fulfill all my engagements, and, so far as I can, discharge the part of an honest man; and if anything can be done meantime for the Magnum, I shall be glad to do it.

* 2d King Henry IV. Act I. Scene l.

“ I trust James and you will get afloat next Saturday. You will think me like Murray in the farce· I eat well, drink well, and sleep well, but that's all, Tom, that's all.'* We will wear the thing through one way or other if we were once afloat ; but you see all this is a scrape. Yours truly,

W. Scott."

This letter, Mr Cadell says, “ struck both James B. and myself with dismay.” They resolved to go out to Abbotsford, but not for a few days, because a general meeting of the creditors was at hand, and there was reason to hope that its results would enable them to appear as the bearers of sundry pieces of good news. Meantime, Sir Walter himself rallied considerably, and resolved, by way of testing his powers, while the novel hung suspended, to write a fourth epistle of Malachi Malagrowther on the public affairs of the period. The announcement of a political dissertation, at such a moment of universal excitement, and from a hand already trembling under the misgivings of a fatal malady, might well have filled Cadell and Ballantyne with new “ dismay,” even had they both been prepared to adopt, in the fullest extent, such views of the dangers of our state, and the remedies for them, as their friend was likely to dwell upon. They agreed that whatever they could * Sir Mark Chace, in the farce of “ A Roland for an Oliver."

[ocr errors]

safely do to avert this experiment must be done. Indeed they were both equally anxious to find, if it could be found, the means of withdrawing him from all literary labour, save only that of annotating his former novels. But they were not the only persons who had been, and then were, exerting all their art for that same purpose. His kind and skilful physicians, Doctors Abercrombie and Ross of Edinburgh had over and over preached the same doctrine, and assured him, that if he persisted in working his brain, nothing could prevent his malady from recurring, ere long, in redoubled severity. He answered—“ As for bidding me not work, Molly might as well put the kettle on the fire, and say, now, don't boil.To myself, when I ventured to address him in a similar strain, he replied —- I understand you, and I thank you from my heart, but I must tell you at once how it is with me. I am not sure that I am quite myself in all things; but I am sure that in one point there is no change. I mean, that I foresee distinctly that if I were to be idle I should go mad. In comparison to this, death is no risk to shrink from.”

The meeting of trustees and creditors took place on the 17th -- Mr George Forbes (brother to the late Sir William) in the chair. There was then announced another dividend on the Ballantyne estate of three shillings in the pound—thus reducing the original amount of the debt to about £54,000. It had

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »