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A GAELIC AIR
The critics (I mean the 'professional critics) among all judges. They were borrowed of me have not I understand been so favourable as by a musical friend and never returned. Will to the Lay, but with this I laid my account you be so good as to make my best Complifor many causes.
ments to Mr. Atwood and at once thank him It would give me great pleasure could I for the personal attention of sending me the hope to see Miss Hayman and you this sum- copies and for thinking the poetry at all worthy mer but the chance which there was of this of his beautiful music. taking place seems daily more uncertain. I Believe me my dear Madam that the first believe now that my autumn will be spent in time I return to London it will give me the Ettrick Forest. I wish you could come there greatest pleasure to avail myself of your perand make our hills vocal with your melody. mission to visit Amen Corner and tire your Mrs. Scott would be delighted to see you, and goodness with my demands on your musical so should I to receive Dr. Hughes at my farm. powers. I am with great respect and regard Make my kindest compliments to him and Your very faithful humble believe me Dear Madam
servant Your obliged humble servant
Walter Scott Walter Scott 4th May Edin ist June 1801
After that there is a desert of silence for I hear with regret that Miss Hayman has
more than a decade, –a silence that surely been much affected by the loss of a relation.
must mean the loss of the letters, not the cessation of thecorrespondence,- with a sol
itary little oasis of a letter in 1813, begging Lamentevoli.
Mrs. Hughes to convey the writer's thanks 56
to Mr. Atwood for the music to some other glee of his (Sir Walter's) writing. From the tone of this letter it is evident that it was no picking up, after many years, of the dropped threads of intercourse, but was a part, the only part preserved, of a continued correspondence; and the same observation applies to the letter of 1821, which is the beginning of such part of the correspondence as is preserved for us with any continuity.
This is the letter of 1813:
MY DEAR MRS. HUGHES I am extremely sorry to hear you have been so very unwell, & that your indisposition should have interfered with your delightful musical talents is a general loss to your friends. I assure you I feel the very idea of it severely though it may be a very long time if indeed I ever again have the pleasure of hearing them exercised. A number of little personal concerns which made an occa
sional journey to London necessary have been The next is of date May 4, 1809, or
last year arranged and I do not foresee any
circumstance (unless my brother in law return nearly a year later. The “Glee” that he
from India) which is likely to bring me far speaks of here is “In Peace Love Tunes the
south of the Tweed. London for itself I do not Shepherd's Reed,” which Mr. Atwood set
like very much and the distance & bustle & to music.
discomfort of lodgings prevents me from see
ing very much of the few friends whose society MY DEAR MRS. HUGHES Ten thousand is its greatest charm. So that I fear it will be thanks for Mr. Atwood's Glee and the kind long before I can profit by your kind invitation. expressions which make your attention more You will be interested to learn that the author valuable. I do now perfectly remember that of the note on Littlecote Hall is Lord Webb either one or two copies reached me through Seymour, brother of the Duke of Somerset; it Mr. Longman's house, but as they reached us is certainly an admirable description of the old at our fa we had no means of ascertaining mansion. Mr. Hawes is at the most perfect their merit which I understand stands high liberty to print any part of Rokeby which he
chuses to set to music. My publishers have of the beginning of the regular series of had large offers from musical composers to the letters to Mrs. Hughes that have been make a monopoly of these things by granting preserved. the privilege of publication to one Composer
These dates are the dates of publication only, but I have always set my face against such
of the various works. Besides these there proposals as an unhandsome thing from the professors of one fine art to those of another.
were of course an immense number of more Of Mr. Hawes's qualifications I am no judge, or less interesting publications that I have but I am sure your voice and taste will make not mentioned, notably the delightful his music appear to an advantage which “Tales of my Landlord,” in three series, neither the notes or the words could have by and contributions to the “Edinburgh Rethemselves.
view" and other magazines. Mrs. Scott begs me to offer her best compli
Among the most noteworthy incidents of ments; we should be truly happy could we flatter ourselves with a prospect of meeting by occurred in this interval was his removal
his life, other than literary publication, that your taking a Northern trip. In the summer
from Ashestiel to Abbotsford in 1812 ; the our country is pleasant & I need not say how happy we should be to see you.
offer of the poet-laureateship, which he Believe me my dear Mrs. Hughes
declined, by the prince regent in 1813; his Your most respectful
acceptance of a baronetcy in 1818; and his & much obliged humble servant election to the presidency of the Royal So
Walter Scott ciety of Edinburgh in 1820. Edinb 25 January
Such may be taken as the title-headings
of a few of the more important chapters in And after this there is a blank till 1821. his life from 1807 to 1821. He had not
In the desert interval relieved by this sol- yet revealed his authorship of the unrivaled itary oasis, the writer had grown out of a novels to more than a select one or two, lion strong and vigorous indeed, but still who kept the secret with a faithfulness that young and of more promise than perform- is not a little remarkable. Nevertheless, the ance (though of the latter there had been identity of the Great Unknown was very more than a little and of remarkable qual- shrewdly suspected in many quarters. Mrs. ity), into so big a lion that he had only Hughes, indeed, took the liberty, on which to get up and roar himself out as the au- perhaps only a very intimate friend, and thor of the “Waverley Novels” to become one of the other sex, could venture without at once the biggest lion in all the world. impertinence, of asking him in so many There were not wanting, as is well known, words whether he had in truth a hand in those who suspected him of this authorship the authorship of the “Waverley Novels." long before the roar was given, and among In 1821 had already appeared Mr. Adolthem, as is very evident from the first pre- phus's “ Letters to Richard Heber, Esq.," served of the connected series of these let- being criticisms on the earlier novels of the ters, was his old friend Mrs. Hughes. But Waverley series, with a very shrewd indictbefore we go on to have a look at the ment of Sir Walter Scott as their author. series I will jot down a few brief notes of Sir Walter, while slyly commending the inthe literary chronology of Sir Walter Scott, genuity and criticisms of the writer, in the in order to give an idea of the growth of introduction to “The Fortunes of Nigel" the lion during these years.
(published the following year), still preserves There was “The Lay” in 1805, “Mar- his incognito and wishes “the wit, genius, mion” in 1808, “The Lady of the Lake” and delicacy of the author engaged on a in 1810, “The Vision of Don Roderick" in subject of more importance," and adds: "I 1811, “Rokeby” in 1812, “ The Bridal of shall continue to be silent on a subject Triermain” in 1813,“Waverley” in 1814, which, in my opinion, is very undeserving “ The Lord of the Isles" in 1815,"The the noise that has been made about it, and Antiquary” in 1816, “Rob Roy” in 1817, still more unworthy of the serious employ“The Heart of Midlothian" in 1818, “The ?
ment of such real ingenuity as has been Bride of Lammermoor,” “The Legend of displayed by the young letter-writer.” Montrose,” and “Ivanhoe” in 1819, “The Certainly the most interesting point in Monastery” and “The Abbot” in 1820, the following letter is Sir Walter's distinct "Kenilworth” and “The Pirate” in 1821; disavowal — denial even is not too strong a which brings us pretty well up to the date word for it-of the charge or suggestion that
he had written the “Waverley Novels.” that I must have seemed very ungrateful in Whenever put to the question, he unblush- leaving your kind remembrances unacknowingly denied that he had anything whatever ledged. You mistake when you give me any to do with the novels.
credit for being concerned with these far famed There are many who express surprise
novels, but I am not the less amused with the that he should act as he did. The ethics of hasty dexterity of the good folks of Cumnor
and its vicinity getting all their traditionary the case are between a man and his own
lore into such order as to meet the taste of the conscience. More than one man has said public. I could have wished the author had to me: “Well, I suppose that if I wanted chosen a more heroical death for his fair victo keep a secret I should do as Sir Walter tim. It is some time since I received and acScott did; but I should not have suspected knowledged your young student's very spirited him, having the transparently simple and verses. I am truly glad that Oxford breeds such perfectly veracious character that he had, nightingales and that you have an interest in
them. I sent my letter to my friend Longman to do it."
and as it did not reach you can only repeat my He probably said to himself: "It is ab
kindest and best thanks. I would be most surd if a man may not keep his own secret.
happy to know your son and hope you will The only way I can keep this secret is to contrive to afford me that pleasure. deny that I wrote the novels. Therefore I With best compliments to Dr. Hughes and am going to deny it.”
sincere regret that I have so often found Amen This is a position that another great Corner untenanted I am with sincerity literary man, of equally deep religious sen
Dear Mrs. Hughes timents, equally strong natural sense, but
Your much obliged humble servant
Walter Scott with much more of the habit of analysis of ethical points, has asserted and upheld. It is, of course, the novel of “KenilDr. Samuel Johnson's argument is that worth” to which he refers in this letter. whereas you may tell a lie to keep the se- How far he was sincere in his wish th cret that another has confided to you "the author had chosen a more heroical under promise that you will not reveal it, death for his fair victim” it is not very easy so you may lie to keep your own secret, on to say. The death of Amy Robsart, falling the ground that you have implied to your- through the trap-door left unfastened by the self a previous promise not to tell it. That villains Foster and Varney, as she rushes this is a theory liable to abuse, it is not out of the chamber in response to Varney's possible to deny. At the same time it is an imitation of Essex's summons, is dramatic ingenious justification of the maxim, which enough, if not precisely “heroical.” It is common sense tells us is a just one, that a a more pathetic ending to the pathetic life, man is at full liberty to keep his own secrets more touching and more terrible, than if the safe from impertinent inquiries. It is not heroine had met her death struggling like impossible that Sir Walter may have taken an Amazon with her captors. Possibly Sir for his own justification the argument of the Walter's critical speech is meant merely by great doctor.
way of maintaining his character as a memFurther, I do think that if Sir Walter ber of the general public reading the work once made up his mind to deceive the of the unknown author. world in the matter, it was really more in As for his note about the good people of accordance with his character-more hon- Cumnor getting their legendary lore into est, if the word is not out of place in the order to fit the book, this is in reference connection- to tell a straightforward, un- to Mrs. Hughes's telling him in her previhesitating lie than to beat about the bush ous letter that the landlord of the Red Lion with evasions that would not have served in Cumnor had put up a new sign—“The their purpose and could seem more like Black Bear, late Giles Gosling." truth only to a feeble judgment and a con- In Chapter XIII of "Kenilworth" this science prone to self-deception.
Wayland Smith legend is most explicitly re
ferred to. Sir Walter in his letter to Mrs. Waterloo Hotel Tuesday. March 7
Hughes implies that the latter had spoken 1821
of a general clearing and polishing up of MY DEAR MRS. HUGHES I have been so their old traditions by the people of Cumcompletely harassed by business and engage- nor and its neighborhood, with a little dovements since I came to this wilderness of houses tailing to fit the story of “Kenilworth,”
as we know that they had polished up the In both these letters he speaks of the Wayland Smith monument.
well-doing at the university of Mr. John When “Kenilworth” "on the Hughes, son of his correspondent. The stocks" it had been the author's intention book referred to in the first letter is the to send it out under the name of “ Cumnor “Itinerary of Provence and the Rhone,” Hall,” and it was only under persuasion of honorably mentioned in the preface to Constable, the publisher, that he adopted “Quentin Durward.” His reference to his the title under which it won its favor. work in laying out Abbotsford, as “finish
ing a sort of a romance of a house,” well MY DEAR MRS. HUGHES I heartily con- describes it in a phrase. Of course he was gratulate you on the rising reputation of your continually making improvements and adson, which has spread from Oxford to this side
ditions. In his next letter he refers to of the Tweed. The book you so kindly design
Abbotsford in like manner as “this whimfor me will reach me safely if sent under cover to Francis Freeling Esq, Post Office, who will
sical place which I have christened Conun
drum Castle." forward it under an official frank. I have been busied all this season in finishing a sort of a romance of a house here, built in imitation of MY DEAR MRS. HUGHES I have this moan old Scottish manor house, and I think I ment your letter promising me the very great have attained not unsuccessfully the scram- pleasure of seeing Dr. Hughes and you in Scotbling stile of these venerable edifices. I beg my land, and write in haste to say that I hope you best respects to Dr. Hughes, and am with a will come to Abbotsford for a day or two at great sense of your kindness in thinking of me least before roth May when I have to go to Dear Madam
town to attend our courts officially for two very much your obliged months. Remember town in Scotland means. servant
Edinb. If you come the East road you should
Walter Scott not go by Alnwick but by Wooler Cornhill and Abbotsford 14th Novr.
Kelso, the last town is about fifteen miles from 1822
me-the country beautiful. I sincerely hope My address becomes next week Edinburgh
you will make your visit a little more early than alas! alas!
you propose, for I should like to show
you the lions of our own country myself. Had you
come the west road by Carlisle you pass SelMY DEAR MRS. HUGHES Amidst much less
kirk which is only four miles from Abbotsford. agreeable employment I have the great pleasure of perusing my young friend's very enter
Should it be impossible for you to come in taining account of his tour. It is not only
the beginning of May I would recommend that written with talent but with the taste and feel
you postpone your journey till towards the ing of an elegant scholar and the ideas and
middle of June. You will then have the best sentiments of a gentleman and greatly in
weather for the Highlands for which May is creases the personal wish I feel to take him by
rather too early there being no leaves on the
oak. We would then do the honours of Edinthe hand especially in my own country. Abbotsford is now a good deal more than doubled
burgh and supposing you to return by Carlisle
about 12 July we should form your first stage in point of [accommodation) and will I trust by next summer be ready for the occupation of all
from Edinb as we go to Abbotsford for four
months at that time. You really must see this of you when you are disposed to venture to the land of cakes. ...
whimsical place which I have christened Co
nundrum Castle. Your son should certainly visit our land of
I will sincerely be glad to see the young heath and mountain, with so fine an eye and
Oxonian when his leisure permits, but young talent for describing natural beauty. We can
fol vel lighter than words. I shall have not certainly compare to Switzerland yet I have heard people of taste say that the Scots scenery
hopes of showing you my eldest hope six feet
two inches high and “bearded like the pard.” from being brought nearer to the eye was in
At worst you will be sure of us in Edinb some places fully as imposing though not in
after the uth May but I hope in that case you fact on the same enormous scale. But all this
will stay till we go back to Tweedside in July. Mr. Hughes must explain to me when he comes
With best respects to Dr. Hughes I am always to see me. In the meantime with kindest com
Yours with most sincere regard & respect pliments to Dr. Hughes and the said tourist
Walter Scott I am ever my dear Madam
1823 Edinh 11 Dec 1822
Lady Scott joins in kind compliments
The proposed visit, however, had to be autumns excellent. But we must be thankful deferred in consequence of Dr. Hughes's to take you when duty and health permit. Our ill health, as the following letter shows. In motions are regulated by my official attenthis letter he denies in the most emphatic dance at the court which carry me to Edinway that he wrote the novels. He suggests till 12 May therefore, and beg you to come as
burgh from 12 May to 12 July. I shall be here an alternative line of travel to the east coast route which he had advised in the previous to see the young tourist and hope for that plea
soon as you can. I would have been delighted letter.
sure another day. Lady Scott joins in compli
ments to the Doctor and I always am Dear Mrs. DEAR MRS. HUGHES I received with much Hughes concern your melancholy account of Dr.
Most truly yours Hughes's health which threatens to deprive
Walter Scott Scotland of our promised pleasure in a visit
All the world knows Abbotsford is four miles
from the capital city of Selkirk, lying on the I really assure you that I am not the author
north west road to Carlisle. We hope you will of the novels which the world ascribe to me so
make your visit a week at the very least. pertinaciously. If I were, what good reason should I have for concealing, being such a hackneyd scribbler as I am?
In the next (omitted here) he briefly Permit me to hope that your visit may pro
sketches for them some details of the northceed. If it does not, Lady Scott and I will re- ern part of their route. Then follow two gret both the disappointment and the cause. short notes (omitted), the one to Mr. You are now in a delightful country, Warwick Blackwood, the publisher, introducing Dr. and Kenilworth within reach and the North and Mrs. Hughes, and the other to Mrs. road free before you. But what is all this when Hughes, appointing a meeting in Parliaindisposition makes us alike weary of motion
ment Square. and of rest. I am always Dear Mrs. Hughes
The visit went off with utmost satisfacwith best regards to Dr. Hughes most truly yours
tion on the one side as on the other, as is Walter Scott
shown both by the entries in Mrs. Hughes's Edinburgh 16 May
diaries written by her while at Abbotsford, 1823
and also by the length and tenor of the letWe are stationary here till 12 July.
ters that Sir Walter writes from the date of
this visit until near the end of his life. Note by Mrs. Hughes.— Addressed to me at Leamington, where we were staying for the bene
In spite of Sir Walter Scott's double fit of your Grandfather's health which was in a denial to her, in previous letters, of his austate too precarious to allow of our putting our de. thorship of “the far famed novels,” it is sign of visiting Scotland in execution that year. certain that Mrs. Hughes kept her suspi
have amounted to virtual By the next letter in the series by Sir Walter, with its dissertation on the literary fail, in her Abbotsford journal of 1824, to lion (omitted here as already published), it fail
, in her Abbotsford journal of 1824, to
notice several occasions on which some would seem that all hope had been given up that the Hugheses would be able to suggestion about the novels was received make the Scotch tour that year.
with an “arch smile," and so on. The fact
is, as Lockhart says, that the mask grew to The following letter indicates that a rapid and unexpected improvement had
be worn more carelessly as time went on, taken place in the health of Dr. Hughes avowal of the authorship, he seldom took
so that at the last, before his distinct and that the journey to Scotland was again much trouble to repel any side hint conmooted.
cerning it. A brief extract or two from Abbotsford April 1st
Mrs. Hughes's journal will show the man1824
ner in which he received from his friends MY DEAR MRS. HUGHES I write in haste at that time a hint that they suspected his to say I have received your very acceptable authorship. letter. I rejoice in Dr. Hughes' recovered health and in the renew'd prospect of your May 4th. Abbotsford. Tom Purdie made the northern journey. I would almost have advised speech given to Andrew Fairservice during a the delay for a month or six weeks for our continuance of rainy weather in harvest time: Scotch springs are very chilly matters though “If there is one fine day in seven, Sunday is our summers are like our neighbours' and our sure to come and lick it up.” This Sir Walter