Legal Activities - Family Life, 1806-1808

In 1806 Scott obtained a permanent post which relieved him of anxiety for the future. He was appointed Clerk of the Court of Session. This is the supreme court of Scotland, for Scotland to this day has her own fine legal system quite different from that of England. This post now became his 'crutch' as he said, and literature could be his 'staff'. His work in the court gave him a wonderful viewpoint to study that large and varied section of humanity which goes to law. All this was put to good use in his later writings.

He made many trips up and down Scotland, visited London and met there most of the great people in literature and politics, and was presented at Court. The Peninsular War and the Scots soldiers fighting there stirred his imagination and he longed to go there. But he had to be content with writing patriotic prose and militant verse. From 1804 till he bought Abbotsford in 1811 he spent more than six months each year at Ashiestiel and there came many friends and neighbours to enjoy his great hospitality. His next-door neighbour, a devout Presbyterian, used to come on Sundays for Scott's readings from the English prayer book. Such was the man, drawing all men to himself by his goodness. As a host he was a famous story-teller, full of wild fun, and Hogg, no mean critic, admits he never heard him tell the same story twice.

Scott was now (1812) in his early forties, strong in body, unshaken in health, with a great zest for work and play. He now began to rise at five, lit his own fire if one were needed and was at his desk at six, his dog at his feet. He worked till between nine and ten and thus in his own words had 'broken the neck of the day's work'. When it was wet he worked longer, so as to budget for picnics, etc., when the family started after breakfast at ten. He answered every letter by return and kept his papers and books in perfect order. On Sunday he read prayers to his household and to any neighbours who cared to come. If fine the family would picnic. If wet he told them Bible stories. What a lovely husband and father he must have been; we are reminded of what Burns tells us of his own father:

The tender father, and the gen'rous friend:

The pitying heart that felt for human woe,

The dauntless heart that fear'd no human pride:

The friend of man - to vice alone a foe.

His fourth and last child, Charles, was born in 1805. As soon as the children could move about, they became his companions and were allowed to run in and out of his study as they pleased. Thus they easily and early acquired that sense of being 'wanted', which as modern educational psychology stresses is perhaps the greatest asset in the physical, mental and moral development of the young. He also taught them to be brave and not to fuss. Later in his heroic effort to pay off debts he could have rightly refused to pay, he showed by the example of his own fortitude what he, by words and deeds, had inculcated in his children when they were young. The talk was rarely of books. His daughter, Sophia, was once asked what she thought of The Lady of the Lake, her father's famous Highland story in verse. She answered: 'Oh, I have not read it. Papa says there's nothing so bad for young people as reading bad poetry'.' Her father laughed heartily when he heard this: 'Out of the mouths of babes and infants.' Fortunate children of fortunate parents.

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