12 JULY 1957, Page 26

Unsensational Revelations

Reminiscences of Sir Walter Scott's Residence in Italy, 1832. By Sir William Gell. Edited with Notes by James C. Corson. (Nelson, 10s. 6d.)

SIR William Gell, the topographical writer who lived in Naples, acted as host and guide to the dying Sir Walter Scott on his visit to Italy from December, 1831, to May, 1832. Lockhart pub- lished three-fifths of Gell's Reminiscences after Gell's death without mentioning the omissions, and the full text, here reprinted, was first pub- lished in Canada in 1953, from Gell's own copy, with an introduction by Professor G. H. Needier. It is hard to know on what principle Lockhart made his omissions, since there was nothing in the reminiscences to cause embarrassment, except perhaps Scott's remark that 'his losses proceeded from the improper use of his name by a person on whom he relied' (presumably John or James Ballantyne).

It is amusing to learn that Scott abandoned a projected romance on the Cenci because their history was `too atrocious and too disgusting to be rendered available in the drawing room at the present day.' Even more revealing is Scott's con- fession that he gave up poetry for a time because Byron had beaten him at it, as though he were a prudent businessman switching over to a more profitable line.

Apart from such anecdotes this is a dullish book, though of interest to those who share Gell's belief that it was worth recording the most trifling circumstances about Sir Walter Scott. The editorial notes and the illustrations are admirable.