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“THE ANTIQUARY” AND “OLD MORTALITY"
YEAR of quiet work both upon paper and amongst the Abbotsford plantations followed
that made eventful by the visit to London and the Continental tour. It saw the publication of the third of the Waverley series in May, and of the fourththe first series of Tales of My Landlord—in December; while in addition to contributions to the Quarterly, there came from the same indefatigable pen the “History of Europe for 1814,” in the Edinburgh Annual Register, and Paul's Letters duly revised. By way of diversion Scott finished his last long poem, Harold the Dauntless, issued early in January, 1817, as by the author of The Bridal of Triermain ; and he also wrote some songs (for the benefit of Albyn's Anthology, edited by Alexander Campbell, “who tried to teach me music "), including the Pibroch of Donuil Dhu, so highly praised by the compiler of the Golden Treasury. The habit of throwing his ideas into rhyme was not, he confessed, easily conquered; and he hardly knew any other reason than habit why he went on writing at all, since he was sated with fame, and found money tumbling in fast. Two substantial reasons, however, presented themselves
for continued literary work: Abbotsford was still growing, and the publishing business still pinching.
The original farm on the Tweed had been increased two years later by the purchase of the Cauldshiels Loch; and soon after his return from the Continent the acquisition of the Kaeside Thornhedges enabled Scott to sign himself playfully “Abbotsford and Kaeside.” Then in 1816 he bought part of Huntly Wood, which he called the Rhymer's Glen, because it was the scene of the fabled meetings between Thomas the Rhymer (the great soothsayer of Scottish tradition) and the Queen of the Fairies. All this meant considerable outlay, particularly as the small holders, or “cock-lairds,” were not slow to take advantage of the land-hunger of the purchaser, who was also gradually converting his own “cottage” into a mansion. He was now planning to connect the two parts of the existing house by building a conservatory, a boudoir for his bust of Shakespeare (the admiration of Edinburgh), “a good eating-room,” and a small “den” for himself, besides two comfortable bedrooms and a front in the style of an old-fashioned English hall. For the ornamentation of the last-named he had been promised “certain canopies” of the old Edinburgh Tolbooth, or “Heart of Midlothian " which had just been pulled down.
So we are not surprised to find the author of Old Mortality and The Black Dwarf telling Lady Louisa Stuart that he had written them “chiefly that I might
not ruin myself or do injustice to my family by this same rage of improving like any mad”; and assuring another friend that he had every chance of “ruining himself genteelly”—which, alas! proved to be a sadly accurate description of what he was doing. John Ballantyne, moreover,
ever, and instead of coming to a complete understanding with Constable, who had done so much to keep him afloat, was playing off other publishers against him because he would do no more. Rigdumfunnidos was trying his best to put off the evil day when he should again be reduced to a mere clerk. Meanwhile Scott was not at all informed as to his affairs. So it was that though "The Crafty” published The Antiquary, it suited Ballantyne that the first Tales of My Landlord should be launched by another house; and it was not until two years later that the remainder of the unsold (and almost unsaleable) stock of “John Ballantyne and Co.” was at length taken over by Constable in his eagerness to obtain the monopoly of Scott's business.
The Antiquary was of all his novels the author's own favourite ; and the public, in spite of James Ballantyne's headshakings, bought it readily enough. It was the third of a series which was intended to illustrate Scottish manners in the eighteenth century. As Waverley dealt with the times of Scott's contemporaries' fathers, and Guy Mannering with those of his own youth, so The Antiquary depicted a period only some twenty years back, which was still remembered
by reason of its political unrest and alarms of French invasion. And if this last wanted the romance of the Jacobite tale of sixty years since and the interest excited by the gipsies and smugglers of the second novel, the writer was at least entitled to claim for it that it was painted directly from nature. The scene is laid among the fishing villages of the southern coast of the Firth of Forth, where Scott had bathed for his health in boyhood and exercised with the Yeomanry when a young
Fairport is but a thin disguise for the equivalent Portobello, and the Musselcrags more than suggest Musselburgh. With regard to the question as to the model from which Jonathan Oldbuck, the antiquary of antiquaries, was drawn, there can be little doubt. The likeness, disguised as it was intended to be and altered in several notable particulars, was so unmistakably that of "the old friend of my youth," George Constable, that an old crony of the latter not only immediately recognised the portrait, but also the hand of the unknown artist whom he had known as a youth.
Still it is a not unpleasing fancy of Lockhart's to make Scott, in some important respects and in spite of significant differences, the half-conscious delineator of himself. The thesis is a plausible one; for in answer to the apparent objections that aversion from womankind and meanness in money matters were the last faults wherewith the author of Waverley could be charged, several pleas might be urged. In the first place, in Monkbarns himself these faults were more apparent