My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
A descendant of Wat of Harden, linked to the best blood of the Border, and with every phase of his life redolent of the Border feeling, history has had no difficulty in claiming Sir Walter Scott as the most representative Border man the world has seen.
Page 7 – THE EILDON HILLS AND RIVER TWEED.
Here Scott loved to linger. “I can stand on the Eildon Hill,” he said, “and point out forty-three places in war and verse.”
Melrose Abbey, the most graceful and picturesque ruin in Scotland, already so celebrated in his verse, was visible from many points in the neighbourhood.
Abbotsford from the River Tweed
‘I have fixed only two points respecting my intended cottage— one is that it shall be in my garden, or rather kailyard; the other, that the little drawing-room shall open into a little conservatory, in which conservatory there shall be a fountain. These are articles of taste which I have long since determined upon; but I hope before a stone of my paradise is begun we shall meet and collogue upon it’;
Page 12 – THE CROSS, MELROSE.
Believed to be the oldest “Mercat Cross” on the border.
Not much was done during the next two years, but in November, 1816, a new set of improvements was under consideration. Abbotsford was rapidly losing its cottage character.
Page 15 – SIR WALTER SCOTT’S DESK AND “ELBOW CHAIR,” IN THE STUDY, ABBOTSFORD.
At the desk most of the novels were written. Certainly no other article of furniture has been so intimately associated with Scott.
Page 17 – JEDBURGH ABBEY.
This grand ruin is of red sandstone, and except that it is roofless is in excellent preservation.
Such was the creation of Scott’s Abbotsford, a real ‘romance in stone and lime,’ to use the Frenchman’s hackneyed phrase. Never had Sir Walter deeper delight than when its walls were rising skywards, and the dream of his youth taking steady shape by the silvery side of the Tweed. ‘I have seen much, but nothing like my ain house,’ he cried—a broken, dying man returned to Abbotsford, only to be borne forth again. Nor has history been slow to add its Amen.
Of the Abbotsford life in the seven or eight brilliant seasons preceding the disaster of 1826 Lockhart’s exquisite word-pictures are far the finest things in the Biography.
Page 19 – SIR WALTER’S SUNDIAL, ABBOTSFORD.
The dial stone in the flower garden, inscribed with the motto “For the Night Cometh,” is an object of suggestive interest.
Scott’s habits at Abbotsford, as at Ashestiel, were delightfully simple. In the country he was a rustic of the rustics.
Page 21 – DARNICK TOWER.
One of the best preserved Peels on the border. Open to the public and well worth a visit.
From what has been said, it is not difficult to imagine the ideal relationship existing between Scott and his dependents at Abbotsford. They were surely the happiest retainers and domestics in the world. How considerate he was in the matter of dwellings, for instance!
No account of the Abbotsford life can fail to take notice of the extraordinary number of visitors, who, even at that early date, flocked to the shrine of Sir Walter. The year 1825, as has been said, must be regarded as the high-water mark in the splendours of Abbotsford. From the dawn of ‘Waverley,’ but particularly the period immediately preceding the crash, Abbotsford was the most sought-after house in the kingdom.
THE DINING-ROOM, ABBOTSFORD.
“His own great parlour” is not open to the public. It was the first room of any pretension that Scott built at Abbotsford.
Scott’s first really distinguished visitor from the other side of the Atlantic was Washington Irving. He was there in August, 1817, whilst the building operations were in progress. Following Irving, came Lady Byron for one day only. Though Scott met Byron in London, and they frequently corresponded, Lord Byron was never at Abbotsford. In that same year Sir David Wilkie visited Scott to paint his picture, the ‘Abbotsford Family.’ Sir Humphry Davy was another visitor. One of the most welcome of all was Miss Edgeworth, who stayed for a fortnight in 1823. Tom Moore came in 1825, and in 1829 Mrs. Hemans, visiting the Hamiltons at Chiefswood, was daily at Abbotsford. Susan Ferrier, author of ‘Marriage’ and ‘Inheritance,’ visited Scott twice. Wordsworth, greatest name of all, was the last. He arrived on September 21, 1831, and two days later Scott, a broken invalid, left for the Continent.
Page 26 – THE GARDEN, ABBOTSFORD.
The Courtyard was (in Mr. Hope Scott’s time) planted as a flower garden, with clipped yews at the corners of the ornamental grass-plots, and beds all ablaze with summer Bowers.
Of the ‘Bride of Lammermoor,’ and ‘Ivanhoe,’ written under the most adverse circumstances, whilst he still suffered acutely, one is surprised to find both romances in the very front rank of his creations. He was under opiates, more or less, when the ‘Bride’ was on the stocks, dictating nearly the whole of it to Laidlaw and John Ballantyne.
Page 28 – THE ENTRANCE HALL, ABBOTSFORD.
A spacious apartment, 40 feet by 20 feet, panelled to the height of 7 feet with dark oak from Dunfermline Abbey.
Returned, he finished ‘Count Robert’ and ‘Castle Dangerous.’ Both novels were really the fruit of a paralytic brain.
On September 22 all was in readiness. A round of touching adieus, one or two gatherings of old friends, the final instructions to Laidlaw, and Scott quitted Abbotsford practically for ever. He returned, to be sure, but more a dead man than a living one.
About half-past one p.m., on September 21, Sir Walter Scott breathed his last, in the presence of all his children. It was a beautiful day—so warm that every window was wide open, and so perfectly still that the sound of all others most delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around the bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes.’
Page 32 – DRYBURGH ABBEY.
Which, if it cannot boast the architectural glories of Melrose, far surpasses it for queenly situation.
Nowadays, Abbotsford is open to the public: Abbotsford – The Home of Sir Water Scott.
A video about this magnificent place can be found at You Tube.