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too declamatory, too much like a pamphlet, and went far too generally into opposition, to please the county gentlemen, who are timidly inclined to dwell on their own grievances, rather than the public wrongs. Must try to get something for Mr Laidlaw, for I am afraid I am twaddling. I do not think my head is weakened - yet a strange vacillation makes me suspect. Is it not thus that men begin to fail, — becoming, as it were, infirm of purpose ?
- That way madness lies — let me shun that. No more of that.':
Yet why be a child about it? What must be, will be.
“ March 11. — This day we had our meeting at Selkirk. I found Borthwickbrae (late Member) had sent the frame of an address, which was tabled by Mr Andrew Lang It was the reverse of mine in every respect. It was short, and to the point. It only contained a remonstrance against the incorporation with Selkirkshire, and left it to be inferred that they opposed the hill in other respects. As I saw that it met the ideas of the meeting (six in number) better by far than mine, I instantly put that in my pocket. But I endeavoured to add to their complaint of a private wrong, a general clause stating their sense of the hazard of passing at once a bill full of such violent innovations. But though Harden, Alva, and Torwoodlee, voted for this measure, it was refused by the rest of the meeting, to my disappointment. I was a fool to stir such a dish of skimmed milk with so honourable an action.' * If some of the gentlemen of the press, whose livelihood is lying, were to get hold of this story, what would they make of it? It gives me a right to decline future interference, and let the world wag - Transeat cum cæteris erroribus:-- I only gave way to one jest. A rat-catcher was desirous to come and complete his labours in my house, and I, who thought he only talked and laughed with the servants, recommended him to go to the head-courts and meetings of freeholders, where he would find rats in plenty.
“ I will make my opinion public at every place where I shall be called upon or expected to appear ; but I will not thrust myself forward again. May the Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this vow !”
He kept it in all its parts. Though urged to take up his pen against the ministerial Reform Bill, by
of high consequence, who, of course, little knew his real condition of health, he resolutely refused to make any such experiment again. But he was equally resolved to be absent from no meeting at which, as Sheriff or Deputy-Lieutenant, he might
Hotspur, in King Henry IV. Act II. Scene 3.
naturally be expected to appear in his place, and record his aversion to the Bill. The first of these meetings was one of the freeholders of Roxburgh, held at Jedburgh on the 21st of March, and there, to the distress and alarm of his daughter, he insisted on being present, and proposing one of the Tory resolutions, - which he did in a speech of some length, but delivered in a tone so low, and with such hesitation in utterance, that only a few detached passages were intelligible to the bulk of the audience.
“ We are told” (said he) on high authority, that France is the model for us, - that we and all the other nations ought to put ourselves to school there,—and endeavour to take out our degrees at the University of Paris*— The French are a very ingenious people; they have often tried to borrow from us, and now we should repay the obligation by borrowing a leaf from them. But I fear there is an incompatibility between the tastes and habits of France and Britain, and that we may succeed as ill in copying them, as they have hitherto done in copying us. We in this district are proud, and with reason, that the first chain-bridge was the work of a Scotchman. It still hangs where he erected it, a pretty long time ago. The French heard of our invention, and determined to introduce it, but with great improvements
See Edinburgh Review for October 1830, p. 23.
and embellishments. A friend of my own saw the thing tried. It was on the Seine, at Marly. The French chain-bridge looked lighter and airier than the prototype. Every Englishman present was disposed to confess that we had been beaten at our own trade. But by and by the gates were opened, and the multitude were to pass over. It began to swing rather formidably beneath the pressure of the good company; and by the time the architect, who led the procession in great pomp and glory, reached the middle, the whole gave way, and he-worthy, patriotic artist was the first that got a ducking. They had forgot the great middle bolt, - or rather, this ingenious person had conceived that to be a clumsy looking feature, which might safely be dispensed with, while he put some invisible gimcrack of his own to supply its place.”
Here Sir Walter was interrupted by violent hissing and hooting from the populace of the town, who had flocked in and occupied the greater part of the Court-House. He stood calmly till the storm subsided, and resumed; but the friend, whose notes are before me, could not catch what he said, until his voice rose with another illustration of the old style. “My friends," he said, “ I am old and failing, and you think me full of very silly prejudices; but I have seen a good deal of public men, and thought a good deal of public affairs in my day, and I can't help suspecting that the manufacturers
of this new constitution are like a parcel of schoolboys taking to pieces a watch which used to go tolerably well for all practical purposes, in the conceit that they can put it together again far better than the old watchmaker. I fear they will fail when they come to the reconstruction, and I should not, I confess, be much surprised if it were to turn out that their first step had been to break the main-spring."
Here he was again stopped by a confused Babel of contemptuous sounds, which seemed likely to render further attempts ineffectual. He, abruptly and unheard, proposed his Resolution, and then, turning to the riotous artisans, exclaimed - 6 I regard your gabble no more than the geese on the green.” His countenance glowed with indignation, as he resumed his seat on the bench.
But when, a few moments afterwards, the business being over, he rose to withdraw, every trace of passion was gone. He turned round at the door, and bowed to the assembly. Two or three, not more, renewed their hissing; he bowed again, and took leave in the words of the doomed gladiator, which I hope none who had joined in these insults understood—“MoRITURUS VOS SALUTO.”
Of this meeting there is but a very slight notice in one of the next extracts from his Diary: another of them refers to that remarkable circumstance in English history, the passing of the first Reform Bill