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out, or more properly was carried out," to see a new road being made, he met a neighbouring lady, and confessed that he was ashamed of his appearance. Quoting Crabbe's
"Sir Dennis Brand, and on so poor a steed,"
he reflects that vanity is the very last folly that leaves mankind, concluding: "I write for penance what, like a fool, I actually felt." During the bitter winter days he crept on," with Laidlaw's assistance, with his novel, but felt that "it does not work clear."
On the last day of January he went up to Edinburgh to execute his will. He had to stop there, on account of impassable snow, for ten days, being most kindly entertained in his publisher's house. He never went out, except in a sedan chair to dinner; but he obtained some relief for his lame leg from a mechanical contrivance. One pathetic incident of this stay should not be omitted. Scott used to employ the mornings in writing Count Robert; and one gloomy day Ballantyne came in to ask for the heading of a chapter. Whereupon Sir Walter improvised the following beautiful lines purporting to come from a poem called The Deluge:
"The storm increases-'tis no sunny shower
On comes the flood in all its foaming horrors,
His Journal has now frequent snatches of poetry, especially pathetic passages from Shakespeare, always wonderfully to the point. A typical day in this evening of Scott's life is thus sketched by him :
"Rose at seven, dressed before eight, wrote letters, or did any little business till a quarter-past nine. Then breakfast. Mr. Laidlaw comes from ten till one. Then take the pony, and ride quantum mutatus two or three miles, John Swanston walking by my bridle-rein lest I fall off. Come home about three or four. Then to dinner on a single plain dish and half a tumbler, or by'r Lady three-fourths of a tumbler, of whisky and water. Then sit till six o'clock, when enter Mr. Laidlaw again, and work commonly till eight. After this, work usually alone till half-past nine, then sup on porridge and milk, and so to bed."
And thus the struggle still went on.
Early in the spring Scott was easily persuaded out of his resolution to keep clear of politics. But the results of his intervention were not so happy as they had been two years before, when his support of Wellington and Peel on the question of Catholic Emancipation had been found so effectual that he received a cordial letter of thanks from the latter. Then it was a question of a coalition of Moderate Tories and Whigs against Extremists; and Sir Walter found plenty of backers amongst his friends. Now, on the question of Reform, he stood isolated, even Laidlaw being a Whig. Asked to assist in drawing up a petition against the proposal in the Bill to incorporate the counties of Selkirk and Peebles, Scott spent four days upon an address which his impartial amanuensis thought the best thing he ever
wrote, and he himself considered in his best style. Unfortunately the country gentlemen assembled at Selkirk did not seem to care for his fine tirade against the Bill as a whole, and preferred a plain petition by another hand which confined itself to the local grievance, and by so doing, it may be noted in passing, for the time gained their point. Scott was nettled, and showed it next day by telling a rat-catcher who wished to do business at Abbotsford to go to the meetings of freeholders, where he would find rats in plenty!
A few weeks later, however, he once more plunged into the fray, going to Jedburgh and proposing an anti-Reform resolution, "in face of a tribune full of Reformers," who hissed and hooted. "I said something, for I could not keep quiet," notes Sir Walter, unaware that he was almost inaudible. A friend who sat by, however, supplied his biographer with some notes of what he heard, including a passage in which the proposal to reform the Constitution was compared to a new chain-bridge over the Seine which broke down for want of "the great middle bolt" replaced by "some invisible gimcrack" devised by the French engineer. The same reporter also recorded how, annoyed by the riotous artisans, the speaker exclaimed: "I regard your gabble no more than the geese on the green," and took leave of the meeting in the words of a doomed gladiator, "MORITURUS VOS SALUTO"! Next day came the news that the Bill had passed the Commons.
by a majority of one, whereupon Scott invokes the curse of Cromwell on its abettors.
Count Robert and politics continued to divide Scott's attention, but a new subject of interest now arose in the completion of the arrangements for the illustrated poems. In order to secure the services of "Mr. Turner, the first draughtsman of the period," Sir Walter wrote inviting him to his house and offering to "transport him to the places where he is to exercise his pencil," Skene undertaking to supply the great man with subjects. And then in the middle of April came "a distinct shock of paralysis, affecting nerves and spine," which the sufferer expected would have killed him within a week. A singular symptom which preceded this seizure was related by Skene's son, the great Celtic scholar and Historiographer Royal, who was then just of age. Scott unconsciously told thrice over, "with much humour," a story of a pauper lunatic who fancied he was entertaining distinguished guests with exquisite dishes, all of which he said seemed to himself to taste of oatmeal porridge. When his elder son arrived at the end of the month he had rallied considerably, though for some days he had preferred fasting to the kind of diet which was alone allowed him.
No sooner was he at work again than he got a "formal remonstrance" from Ballantyne and Cadell against the last volume of Count Robert, then within a sheet of being finished, and returned to his old notion of writing a political pamphlet-" should it cost me my life." But in