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While at Naples, Sir Walter wrote frequently to his daughter Sophia, Mr Cadell, Mr Laidlaw, and myself. Some of these letters were of a very melancholy cast ; for the dream about his debts being all settled was occasionally broken; and probably it was when that left him that he worked hardest at his Novels — though the habit of working had become so fixed that I may be wrong in this conjecture. In general, however, these last letters tell the same story of delusive hopes both as to health and wealth, of satisfaction in the resumption of his pen, of eagerness to be once more at Abbotsford, and of affectionate anxiety about the friends he was there to rejoin. Every one of those to Laidlaw has something about the poor people and the dogs. One to myself conveyed his desire that he might be set down for “ something as handsome as I liked” in a subscription then thought of for the Ettrick Shepherd; who that spring visited London, and was in no respect improved by his visit. Another to my wife bade her purchase a grand pianoforte which he wished to present to Miss Cadell, his bookseller's daughter. The same generous spirit was shown in many other communications.
I must transcribe one of Sir Walter's letters from Naples. It was addressed to Mrs Scott of Harden, on the marriage of her daughter Anne to Charles Baillie, Esq., a son of her neighbour in the country, Mr Baillie of Jerviswoode.
“ Naples, Palazzo Caramanico, 6th March 1832. “ My Dearest Mrs Scott, — Your kind letter of 8th October, addressed to Malta, reached me only yesterday with a number of others which had been tarrying at Jericho till their beards grew. This was in one respect inconvenient, as I did not gain the benefit of your advice with regard to my travels, which would have had a great influence with me. Moreover, I did not learn the happy event in your own family till a newspaper told it me by accident long ago. But as my good wishes are most sincere, it is of less consequence when they reach the parties concerned, and I flatter myself I possess so much interest with my young friends as to give me credit for most warmly wishing them all the happiness which this auspicious event promises. The connexion must be in every respect agreeable to the feelings of both families, and not less so to those of a former generation, provided they are permitted, as I flatter myself, to take interest in the affairs of this life.
“ I envied your management of the pencil when at Malta, as frequently elsewhere; it is quite a place made to be illustrated; by the way, I have got an esquisse of Old Smailholm Tower from the pencil of Mr Turner. Besides the other advantages of Malta, it possesses John Hookham Frere, who is one of the most entertaining men I know, and with whom I spent much of my time..
“ Although I rather prefer Malta, I have no reason to complain of Naples. The society is very numerous and gay, and somewhat too frivolous for my time of life and infirmities : however, there are exceptions ; especially poor Sir William Gell, a very accomplished scholar, who is lamer than I am, and never out of humour, though worried perpetually by the gout, which he bears with the greatest complaisance. He is engaged in vindicating, from the remains of the various public works in Italy, the truth, which Bryant and others have disputed, concerning the Roman History, as given by Livy and other authors, whom it has been of late fashionable to discredit. The Dilletante Society have, greatly to their credit, resolved to bring out this interesting book.
“ It has been Carnival time, and the balls are without number, besides being pelted to death with sugar-plums, which is quite the rage. But now Lent is approaching to sober us after all our gaiety, and
every one seems ashamed of being happy, and preparing to look grave with all his might.
“ I should have said something of my health, but have nothing to say, except that I am pretty well, and take exercise regularly, though as Parson Adams says, it must be of the vehicular kind. I think I shall never ride or walk again. But I must not complain, for my plan of paying my debts, which you know gave me so much trouble some years since, has been, thank God, completely successful; and, what I think worth telling, I have paid very near £120,000, without owing any one a halfpenny —at least I am sure this will be the case by midsummer. I know the laird will give me much joy on this occasion, which, considering the scale upon which I have accomplished it, is a great feat. I wish I were better worthy the kindness of the public; but I am at least entitled to say
''Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me.'
Also some industry and some steadiness were necessary. I believe, indeed, I made too great an exertion ; but if I get better, as seems likely, it is little enough for so happy a result. The young people have been very happy, which makes me think that about next spring I will give your young couple a neighbourly dance. It will be about this time that I take the management of my affairs again. You must patronise me.