The Great Financial Crisis - Scott's Finest Hour, 1826-1831
Then in May of this same tragic year, 1826, his beloved wife died at Abbotsford. It was a grievous blow after nearly thirty years of unclouded marital happiness. His wife's death put his material losses in their proper proportions. He would face the world again, as he said 'like the Bass Rock'. And there were days of joy too. For his forthcoming book on Napoleon he visited London, was received with great honour, breakfasted with KingGeorge IV and gave sittings to painters. In Paris he met King Charles X and other famous people and saw the opera based on Ivanhoe. All this uplifted Sir Walter and encouraged him to press on with his herculean task.
Next year, 1827, better days dawned. His health improved. He had a great reception at the celebrated Theatrical Fund dinned his first public dinner since the disaster. It was at this dinner that his friend Lord Meadowbank, with Scott's consent, announced that Scott was the author of the Waverley Novels. This year also saw the appearance of his Life of Napoleon in nine volumes which was highly praised by Goethe as already stated. In December of this same year, his Tales of a Grandfather appeared, the history of Scotland as told to his grandson, Hugh Littlejohn, son of his daughter Sophia and Lockhart. The Tales were more warmly received than any of his novels since Ivanhoe. The public appetite was insatiable, and so a second, third and fourth series of Tales appeared in 1828, 1829 and 1830. Likewise in 1829 and 1830 he brought out a first and second volume of his History of Scotland. These books and others were helping greatly to pay off his debt. His noble son-in-law Lockhart handed over all the profits of his eminent Life of Sir Walter Scott for this purpose also.
Little remains to be told. In 1830 the four years of incessant toil to pay off the debt had taken their toll. Scott had done wonders. In two years he had paid off nearly £40,000. Two years after Scott's death in 1832 nearly £90,000 had been paid off by income Tom his writings. The remainder was paid off by the income from his copyrights in the next fourteen years, and with the profits Lockhart had made from his biography of his wonderful father-in-law, as we saw above. This year Scotthad a fainting fit but he did not allow ill-health to affect his writing. His creditors asked him to accept the library and furnishings of Abbotsford 'as the best means they have of expressing their very high sense of his most honourable conduct.'