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hart's Life of Scott. Captain Hall was a most accomplished naval officer—one of that class now happily so common, who unite a taste for science and literature with their professional knowledge. He has described some of his travels and adventures with remarkable spirit, in various popular works. He was born in 1788, and died in 1844.]
A hundred and fifty years hence, when his works have become old classical authorities, it may interest some fervent lover of his writings to know what this great genius was about on Saturday the 10th of June, 1826—five months after the total ruin of his pecuniary fortunes, and twenty-six days after the death of his wife.
In the days of his good luck he used to live at No. 39 in North Castle Street, in a house befitting a rich baronet; but on reaching the door, I found the plate on it covered with rust (so soon is glory obscured), the windows shuttered up, dusty, and comfortless; and from the side of one projected a board, with this inscription, 'To Sell ;' the stairs were unwashed, and not a foot-mark told of the ancient hospitality which reigned within. In all nations with which I am acquainted the fashionable world move westward, in imitation, perhaps, of the great tide of civilization; and, vice versá, those persons who decline in fortune, which is mostly equivalent to declining in fashion, shape their course eastward. Accordingly, by an involuntary impulse, I turned my head that way, and inquiring at the clubs in Prince's Street, learned that he now resided in St. David Street, No. 6.
I was rather glad to recognise my old friend the Abbotsford butler, who answered the door—the saying about heroes and valets-de-chambre comes to one's recollection on such occasions; and nothing, we may be sure, is more likely to be satisfactory to a man whose fortune is reduced than the stanch adherence of a mere servant, whose wages must be altered for the worse. At the top of the stair we saw a small tray, with a single plate and glasses for one solitary person's dinner. Some few months ago Sir Walter was surrounded by his family, and wherever he moved, his head-quarters were the focus of fashion. Travellers from all nations crowded round, and like the recorded honours of Lord Chatham, 'thickened over him.' Lady and Miss Scott were his constant companions; the Lockharts were his neighbours both in town and in Roxburghshire; his eldest son was his frequent guest; and in short, what with his own family and the clouds of tourists, who, like so many hordes of Cossacks, pressed upon him, there was not, perhaps, out of a palace, any man so attended, I had almost said over. powered, by company.
His wife is now dead his son-in-law and favourite daughter gone to London, and his grandchild, I fear, just staggering, poor little fellow, on the edge of the grave, which, perhaps, is the securest refuge for him-his eldest son is married, and at a distance, and report speaks of no probability of the title descending; in short, all are dispersed, and the tourists, those curiosos impertinentes,' drive past Abbotsford gate, and curse their folly in baving delayed for a year too late their long projected jaunt to the north. Meanwhile, not to mince the matter, the great man had, somehow or other, managed to involve himself with printers, publishers, bankers, gasmakers, wool-staplers, and all the fraternity of speculators, accommodation-bill manufacturers, land-jobbers, and so on, till, at a season of distrust in money-matters, the hour of reckoning came, like a thief in the night; and as our friend, like the unthrifty virgins, had no oil in his lamp, all his affairs went to wreck and ruin, and landed him, after the gale was over, in the predicament of Robinson Crusoe, with little more than a shirt to his back. But like that able navigator, he is not cast away upon a barren rock. The tide has ebbed, indeed, and left him on the beach, but the hull of his fortunes is above water still, and it will go hard indeed with him if he does not shape a raft that shall bring to shore much of the cargo that an ordinary mind would leave in despair, to be swept away by the next change of the moon. The distinction between man and the rest of the living creation, certainly, is in nothing more remarkable than in the power which he possesses over them, of turning to varied account the means with which the world is stocked. But it has always struck me, that there is a far greater distinction between man and man than between many men and most other animals; and it is from a familiarity with the practical operation of this marvellous difference that I venture to predict, that our Crusoe will cultivate his own island, and build himself a bark in which, in process of time, he will sail back to his friends and fortune in greater triumph than if he had never been driven amongst the breakers.
Sir Walter Scott, then, was sitting at a writing-desk covered with papers, and on the top was a pile of bound volumes of the Moniteur, — one, which he was leaning over as my brother and I entered, was open on a chair, and two others were lying on the floor. As he rose to receive us he closed the volume which he had been extracting from, and came forward to shake hands. He was, of course, in deep mourning, with weepers and the other trappings of wo, but his countenance, though certainly a little wo-begonish, was not cast into any very deep furrows. His tone and manner were as friendly as heretofore, and when he saw that we had no intention of making any attempt at sympathy or moanification, but spoke to him as of old, he gradually contracted the length of his countenance, and allowed the corners of his mouth to curl almost imperceptibly upwards, and a renewed lustre came into his eye, if not exactly indicative of cheerfulness, at all events of well-regulated, patient, Christian resignation. My meaning will be misunderstood if it be imagined from this picture that I suspected any hypocrisy, or an affectation of grief in the first instance. I have no doubt, indeed, that he feels, and most acutely, the bereavements which have come upon him; but we may very fairly suppose, that among the many visitors he must have, there may be some who cannot understand that it is proper, decent, or even possible to hide those finer emotions deep in the heart. He immediately began conversing in his usual style--the chief topic being Captain Denham (whom I had recently seen in London) and his book of African Travels, which Sir Walter had evidently read with much attention.
After sitting a quarter of an hour, we came away, well pleased to see our friend quite unbroken in spirit—and though bowed down a little by the blast, and here and there a branch the less, as sturdy in the trunk as ever, and very possibly all the better for the discipline-better, I mean, for the public, inasmuch as he bas now a vast additional stimulus for exertion and one which all the world must admit to be thoroughly noble and generous.
Davy. [Sir HUMPHRY Davy, the great chemist, may fairly take his place amongst
“ the best authors.” The qualities by which he raised himself to his professional eminence were the very qualities that make a great writer--a vivid imagination subjected to the discipline of accurate reasoning, and both working with unwearied industry. Davy took the largest views of science; but he worked them out by the most
diligent examination of the minutest facts. We trace the same genius in his lighter writings. The extract which we are about to give is from his little book on fly-fishing, entitled Salmonia,'-a book full of the most charming pictures of external nature, seen through the brilliant atmosphere of a poetical philosophy. Davy was born in Penzance, in 1778.
His father was a carver in wood; and, while an apprentice to a surgeon and apothecary, the future President of the Royal Society was laying up materials for his career in diligent study. In 1801 he came to London, and became a Lecturer at the Royal Institution; from this time his life was one continued series of brilliant discoveries and beautiful exposition. The Miner's Safety Lamp is one of the most signal examples of the practical benefit of the highest theoretical science. He died, in the maturity of his fame, at the comparatively early age of fifty-one.]
Poict. I hope we shall have another good day to-morrow, for the clouds are red in the west.
Phys. I have no doubt of it, for the red has a tint of purple.
Phys. The air when dry, I believe, refracts more red, or heat-making, rays; and as dry air is not perfectly transparent, they are again reflected in the horizon. I have observed generally a coppery or yellow sunset to foretel rain; but, as an indication of wet weather approaching, nothing is more certain than a halo round the moon, which is produced by the precipitated water; and the larger the circle, the nearer the clouds, and, consequently, the more ready to fall. Hal. I have often observed that the old proverb is correct,
A rainbow in the morning is the shepherd's warning :
A rainbow at night is the shepherd's delight. Can you explain this omen?
Phys. A rainbow can only occur when the clouds containing, or depositing the rain are opposite to the sun,--and in the evening the rainbow is in the east, and in the morning in the west; and as our heavy rains, in this climate, are usually brought by the westerly wind, a westerly wind indicates that the bad weather is on the road, by the wind, to us; whereas the rainbow in the east proves that the rain in these clouds is passing from us.
Poict. I have often observed that when the swallows fly high, fine weather is to be expected or continued; but when they fly low, and close to the ground, rain is almost surely approaching. Can you ac count for this?
Hal. Swallows follow the flies and gnats, and flies and gnats usually delight in warm strata of air; and, as warm air is lighter, and usually moister than cold air, when the warm strata of air are higher, there is less chance of moisture being thrown down from them by the mixture with cold air; but when the warm and moist air is close to the surface, it is almost certain that, as the cold air flows down into it, a deposition of water will take place.
Poict. I have often seen sea gulls assemble on the land, and have almost always observed that very stormy and rainy weather was approaching. I conclude that these animals, sensible of a current of air approaching from the ocean, retire to the land to shelter themselves from the storm.
Orn. No such thing. The storm is their element; and the little petrel enjoys the heaviest gale, because, living on the smaller sea insects, he is sure to find his food in the spray of a heavy wave, and you may see him flitting above the edge of the highest surge. I believe that the reason of this migration of sea-gulls, and other sea birds to the land, is their security of finding food; and they may be observed, at this time, feeding greedily on the earth worms and larvæ, driven out of the ground by severe floods; and the fish, on which they prey
in fine weather in the sea, leave the surface and go deeper in storms. The search after food, as we agreed on a former occasion, is the principal cause why animals change their places. The different tribes of the wading birds always migrate when rain is about to take place; and I remember once, in Italy, having been long waiting, in the end of March, for the arrival of the double snipe in the Campagna of Rome, a great flight appeared on the 3rd of April, and the day after heavy rain set in, which greatly interfered with my sport. The vulture, upon the same principle, follows armies; and I have no doubt that the augury of the ancients was a good deal founded upon the observation of the instincts of birds. There are many superstitions of the vulgar owing to the same source. For anglers, in spring, it is always unlucky to see single magpies, but two may be always regarded as a favourable omen; and the reason is, that in cold and stormy weather one magpie alone leaves the nest in search of food, the other remaining sitting upon the eggs or the young ones; but when two go