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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, nec vincere certo,
We must to our oar; but I think this and another are all that even success would tempt me to write.
“ January 17.— I had written two hours, when various visiters began to drop in. 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. 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. — 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 around me.
* Æneid. V.
• Come what come may,
January 19.— Mr Laidlaw came down at ten, and we wrote till one. This is an important help 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 to see the course of a new road, which may serve to carry off the thinnings of the trees, and for rides. It is very well lined, and will serve both for beauty and convenience.
Mr Laidlaw engages to come back to dinner, and finish two or three more pages. Met my agreeable and lady-like neighbour, Mrs Brewster, on my pony, and I was actually ashamed to be seen by her.
• Sir Dennis Brand! and on so poor a steed!'*
“ I believe detestable folly of this kind is the very last that leaves us. One would have thought I ought to have little vanity at this time o’day ; but it is an
* Sir W. alludes to Mrs Piozzi's Tale of The Three Warnings. | Macbeth, Act I. Scene 3.
Crabbe's Borough, Letter xüi.
abiding appurtenance of the old Adam, and I write for penance what, like a fool, I actually felt. I think the peep, real or imaginary, at the gates of death should have given me firmness not to mind little afflictions.”.
On the 31st of January, Miss Scott being too unwell for a journey, Sir Walter went alone to Edinburgh for the purpose of executing his last will. He (for the first time in his native town) took up
his quarters at a hotel; but the noise of the street disturbed him during the night (another evidence how much his nervous system had been shattered), and next day he was persuaded to remove to his bookseller's house in Athol Crescent. In the apartment allotted to him there, he found several little pieces of furniture which some kind person had purchased for him at the sale in Castle Street, and which he presented to Mrs Cadell.“ Here,” says his letter to Mrs Lockhart, “ I saw various things that belonged to poor No. 39. I had many sad thoughts on seeing and handling them— but they are in kind keeping, and I was glad they had not gone to strangers.”
There came on, next day, a storm of such severity that he had to remain under this friendly roof until the 9th of February. His host perceived that he was unfit for any company but the quietest, and had sometimes one old friend, Mr Thomson, Mr Clerk, or Mr Skene, to dinner - but no more. He seemed glad to see them — but they all observed him with pain. He never took the lead in conversation, and often remained altogether silent. In the mornings he wrote usually for several hours at Count Robert ; and Mr Cadell remembers in particular, that on Ballantyne's reminding him that a motto was wanted for one of the chapters already finished, he looked out for a moment at the gloomy weather, and penned these lines
“ The storm increases— 'tis no sunny shower,
Foster'd in the moist breast of March or April,
The Deluge: a Poem."
On the 4th February, the will was signed, and attested by Nicolson, to whom Sir Walter explained the nature of the document, adding, “ I deposit it for safety in Mr Cadell's hands, and I still hope it may be long before he has occasion to produce it.” Poor Nicolson was much agitated, but stammered out a deep amen.
Another object of this journey was to consult, on the advice of Dr Ebenezer Clarkson, a skilful mechanist, by name Fortune, about a contrivance for the support of the lame limb, which had of late given him much pain, as well as inconvenience. Mr Fortune produced a clever piece of handiwork, and Sir Walter felt at first great relief from the use of it: insomuch that his spirits rose to quite the old pitch, and his letter to me upon the occasion overflows with merry applications of sundry maxims and verses about Fortune. “ Fortes Fortuna adjuvat”- he says —
never more sing I
* Fortune, my Foe, why dost thou frown on me?
“ No— let my ditty be henceforth
• Fortune, my Friend, how well thou favourest me!
A kinder Fortune man did never see !
This expedient was undoubtedly of considerable service; but the use of it was not, after a short interval, so easy as at first: it often needed some little repair, too, and then in its absence he felt himself
* I believe this is the only verse of the old song (often alluded to by Shakspeare and his contemporaries) that has as yet been recovered.