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been not unnaturally apprehended that the convulsed state of politics might have checked the sale of the Magnum Opus; but this does not seem to have been the case to any extent worth notice. The meeting was numerous — and, not contented with a renewed vote of thanks to their debtor, they passed unanimously the following resolution, which was moved by Mr (now Sir James) Gibson-Craig, and seconded by the late Mr Thomas Allan — both, by the way, leading Whigs:-—“ That Sir Walter Scott be requested to accept of his furniture, plate, linens, paintings, library, and curiosities of every description, as the best means the creditors have of expressing their very high sense of his most honourable conduct, and in grateful acknowledgment for the unparalleled and most successful exertions he has made, and continues to make, for them.”
Sir Walter's letter, in answer to the chairman's communication, was as follows:
“ To George Forbes, Esq., Edinburgh.
“ Abbotsford, December 18, 1830. My Dear Sir,
“ I was greatly delighted with the contents of your letter, which not only enables me to eat with my own spoons, and study my own books, but gives
me the still higher gratification of knowing that my conduct has been approved by those who were concerned.
“ The best thanks which I can return is by continuing my earnest and unceasing attention — which, with a moderate degree of the good fortune which has hitherto attended my efforts, may enable me to bring these affairs to a fortunate conclusion. This will be the best way in which I can show my sense of the kind and gentlemanlike manner in which the meeting have acted.
“ To yourself, my dear sir, I can only say, that good news become doubly acceptable when transmitted through a friendly channel; and considering my long and intimate acquaintance with your excellent brother and father, as well as yourself and other members of your family, your letter must be valuable in reference to the hand from which it comes, as well as to the information which it contains.
“I am sensible of your uniform kindness, and the present instance of it. Very much, my dear sir, your obliged humble servant, WALTER Scott."
On the 18th, Cadell and Ballantyne proceeded to Abbotsford, and found Sir Walter in a placid state -having evidently been much soothed and gratified with the tidings from Edinburgh. His whole appearance was greatly better than they had ventured
to anticipate; and deferring literary questions till the morning, he made this gift from his creditors the chief subject of his conversation. He said it had taken a heavy load off his mind: he apprehended that, even if his future works should produce little money, the profits of the Magnum, during a limited number of vears, with the sum which had been insured on his life, would be sufficient to obliterate the remaining moiety of the Ballantyne debt: he considered the library and museum now conveyed to him as worth at the least £10,000, and this would enable him to make some provision for his younger children. He said that he designed to execute his last, will without delay, and detailed to his friends all the particulars which the document ultimately embraced. He mentioned to them that he had recently received, through the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam, a message from the new King, intimating his Majesty's disposition to keep in mind his late brother's kind intentions with regard to Charles Scott; and altogether his talk, though grave, and on grave topics, was the reverse of melancholy.
Next morning, in Sir Walter's study, Ballantyne read aloud the political essay — which had (after the old fashion) grown to an extent far beyond what the author contemplated when he began his task. To print it in the Weekly Journal, as originally proposed, would now be hardly compatible with the limits of that paper: Sir Walter had resolved on a separate publication.
I believe no one ever saw this performance but the bookseller, the printer, and William Laidlaw; and I cannot pretend to have gathered any clear notion of its contents, except that the panacea was the re-imposition of the income tax; and that after much reasoning in support of this measure, Sir Walter attacked the principle of Parliamentary Reform in toto. We need hardly suppose that he advanced any objections which would seem new to the students of the debates in both Houses during 1831 and 1832; his logic carried no conviction to the breast of his faithful amanuensis; but Mr Laidlaw assures me, nevertheless, that in his opinion no composition of Sir Walter's happiest day contained anything more admirable than the bursts of indignant and pathetic eloquence which here and there “ set off a halting argument.”
The critical arbiters, however, concurred in condemning the production. Cadell spoke out; he assured Sir Walter, that from not being in the habit of reading the newspapers and periodical works of the day, he had fallen behind the common rate of information on questions of practical policy; that the views he was enforcing had been already expounded by many Tories, and triumphantly answered by organs of the Liberal party; but that, be the intrinsic value and merit of these political doctrines what they might, he was quite certain that to put them forth at that season would be a measure of extreme danger for the author's personal interest: that it would throw a cloud over his general popularity, array a hundred active pens against any new work of another class that might soon follow, and perhaps even intérrupt the hitherto splendid success of the Collection on which so much depended. On all these points Ballantyne, though with hesitation and diffidence, professed himself to be of Cadell's opinion. There ensued a scene of a very unpleasant sort; but by and by a kind of compromise was agreed to:the plan of a separate pamphlet, with the well-known nom de guerre of Malachi, was dropt; and Ballantyne was to stretch his columns so as find room for the lucrubation, adopting all possible means to mystify the public as to its parentage. This was the understanding when the conference broke up; but the unfortunate manuscript was soon afterwards committed to the flames. James Ballantyne accompanied the proof-sheet with many minute criticisms on the conduct as well as expression of the argument: the author's temper gave way — and the commentary shared the fate of the text.