31 MAY 1930, Page 25

Sir Walter's . Correspondence

The Private Letter-Book of Sir Walter Scott. Selections from the Abbotsford Manuscripts. With a letter to the Reader from Hugh Walpole. Edited by Wilfred, Partington. (Hodder and Stoughton. 30s.) SIR WALTER Scow had the collector's instinct for conver- sation very strong, and, since he must have received and written as many letters as any mortal except " Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington," it is not surprising that he left a

huge mass of correspondence ; and it is delightful that one of his most successful successors in the art of novel writing should have acquired this heritage and bestowed it in Scot-

land's. National Library. All of us, who value Sir Walter, are under obligation to Mr. Partington for having made accessible his selection from that, store ; there is much here

to please our curiosity. But those who know their Lockhart will find sufficient proof that Scott's biographer left very little unused• that could have served his essential purpose. For example, he did not give us in full the Duke of Buccleuch's letter about the offer of the laureateship ; but he picked out the salient and characteristic sentences. However, Lockhart even on the lavish scale which he adopted, could not give everything, and it is pleasant to have in full a couple of letters from this head of Scott's clan, showing how genuine was the friendship between the two men. Here also is the Duchess's reply to Hogg's petition for a farm which Scott had forwarded, a letter full of charm and of common sense, very proper for Scott's " lovely chieftainess." There are also a couple of letters from her son, the fifth Duke, "to one of my oldest and best Friends." One is written in con- nexion with his approaching marriage. Yet three years later, this young man was almost the only person missed at Sir Walter's funeral.

There are several letters from Morritt of Rokeby, character- istic of the man and of the time—and not agreeably character- istic : Lockhart picked only what showed this friend of Sir Walter's at his most likeable.

Among those which tell us nothing about Scott, but a good deal about his correspondent, is a charming note from Charles Lamb ; then there are long screeds from Haydon ; for instance, when he had the bailiffs in his studio :

" My dear Sir Walter,—Reptiles intoxicated with tobacco and beer, rolling about under the Ilytsus and jesting on its naked beauty My painting room, where none but rank and talent had ever trod, was now stenched with the sleeping heat of low lived beasts, slumbering in blankets ! At the foot, too, of the Crucifixion which I had just rubbed in."

There are many miscellaneous letters. One from " the Fish House," written by the supervisor of netting, concerns a

gentleman who " went so far as to say he could take the spawn from the belly of a Salmon, after it had been killed, and I ring them to perfection. I did not relish his conversation and left him as soon as decency would permit." The authority who thus discouraged an early advocate of hatcheries adds that they had caught a salmon with two herring in its belly— unluckily, he does not say where it was caught.

These notes may give some idea of the fine promiscuous feeding among what is new in this volume. There is also a passage from a letter written by Scott to Lady Abercorn of high biographical value. He admits to her that his lovers

are apt to turn out " what the players call a walking gentleman."

" Notwithstanding this, I have had in my time melancholy cause to paint from experience, for I gained no advantage from three years constancy, except the said experience and some advan- tage to my conversation and manners. Mrs. Scott's match and mine was of our own making and proceeded from the most sincere affection on both sides which has increased rather than diminished during twelve years of marriage. But it was something short 'of love in all its forms, which I suspect people only feel once in their lives ; folks who have been nearly drowned in bathing rarely venturing a second time out of their depth."

Sir Walter's references to that early love affair are few, but they are all, like this, charged with meaning, This passage has been already printed ; but it is cited appositely from the Abercorn memoirs by Mr. Partington's industry, which never fails, and for the sake of it, we must forgive the

excessive jauntiness of his connecting notes.,