Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trouble and Travel


In a July 3rd letter to John Richardson, Sir Walter discusses a subject of personal difficulty, involving his brother Thomas’ situation.  He also announces his intention to follow in Samuel Johnson and James Boswell’s footsteps, in traveling the Western Highlands.  The letter is published in Lockhart’s “Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott”.

“Edinburgh, 3d July, 1810
“My dear Richardson,

“I ought before now to have written you my particular thanks for your kind attention to the interest which I came so strangely and unexpectedly to have in the passing of the Judicature Bill. The only purpose which I suppose Lord Lauderdale had in view was to state charges which could neither be understood nor refuted, and to give me a little pain by dragging my brother’s misfortunes into public notice. If the last was his aim, I am happy to say it has most absolutely miscarried, for I have too much contempt for the motive which dictated his Lordship’s eloquence to feel much for its thunders. My brother loses by the bill from L.150 to L.200, which no power short of an act of Parliament could have taken from him, and far from having a view to the compensation, he is a considerable loser by its being substituted for the actual receipts of his office. I assure you I am very sensible of your kind and friendly activity and zeal in my brother’s behalf…I propose, on the 12th, setting forth for the West Highlands, with the desperate purpose of investigating the caves of Staffa, Egg, and Skye. There was a time when this was a heroic undertaking, and when the return of Samuel Johnson from achieving it was hailed by the Edinburgh literati with ‘per varios casus,’ and other scraps of classical gratulation equally new and elegant. But the harvest of glory has been entirely reaped by the early discoverers; and in an age when every London citizen makes Lochlomond his wash-pot, and throws his shoe over Ben-Nevis, a man may endure every hardship and expose himself to every danger of the Highland seas, from sea-sickness to the jaws of the great sea-snake, without gaining a single leaf of laurel for his pains…’

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