Sir Walter Scott And The Catalogue Of The Abbotsford Library
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
I beg leave to correct a statement in the brief biography of my late amiable and learned friend, Mr. J. G. Cochrane, librarian of the London Library, which appeared in your last number. It is therein recorded that " after the decease of Sir Walter Scott," Mr. Cochrane was selected for the important and interesting task of compiling a "Catalogue Raisonné" of the Abbotsford Library and Collection, etc. ; and that he " resided for some time at Abbotsford, fulfilling the duty entrusted to him with, we believe, entire satisfaction to all concerned, and producing a volume (privately printed) which is admitted to be a model of its kind." Now, though Mr. Cochrane was much better qualified for the task than " the undersigned," by his scholastic acquirements and bibliographical knowledge, the simple truth is that he compiled only a small portion of the printed volume, the press catalogue of books and the index having been entirely the work of my own hand, with the exception of the additions which I shall presently notice.
I am delighted to find that it has been considered as a "model," though I fear that is too flattering a term to be in this case justly applied. In one respect, indeed—rapidity of execution—I may, perhaps, be permitted to claim for it that distinction, every volume having been taken down from the shelves and replaced by me, and the four goodly tomes in quarto written, not in a rough and careless, but in a fair and painstaking hand, within the space of three months ; although at the same time I transcribed for the press large portions of one of the Waverley novels. Alas ! I can never look back without the most affectionate regret on those brilliant hours when Sir Walter was in all his glory, nor forget the dark days which so suddenly succeeded, when his character shone forth far grander and more worthy of reverence, amid clouds and tempest, than even in the calm and sunshine ; as I have seen, with admiration, from the Mer de Glace, the majestic pinnacles of Mont Blanc marvellously expanding into greater sublimity while the storm gathered around them. Heroically did Scott not only say but act up to the exalted sentiment ; "Time and I against any two !"—" Heu quanto minus est cum reliquis versari, quam tui meminisse I"
The classification of the library was entirely Sir Walter's. It is very defective, but it was the arrangement to which my illustrious friend had accustomed himself. The index was executed at my leisure at home in the course of the same year, and my willing labours were more than rewarded when Sir Walter assured me that my opus magnum, as he was pleased to call it, had on many occasions done him good service. I was also greatly gratified when he told me that Mr. Thomas Thomson, whose judgment in all that relates to a library is unequalled in Scotland and not surpassed in England, had looked through the index, and expressed his high approbation.
Mr. Cochrane's additions comprised entries of the books acquired from Sept., 1827 (the date of my final visit to Abbotsford), to 1832 ; an enlargement of the index, and the interesting references to the passages in Scott's works where the books are referred to or quoted. Now, if my worthy friend " resided for some time at Abbotsford " while transcribing and making additions to my catalogue, he must have enjoyed much more leisure than I had to " wander through the blooming heather " on " Yarrow braes," and to muse under the shade of the Mighty Magician's " pendent woods," the beloved children of his creation !
The fidelity of the present statement depends not on my 0wn or any other person's testimony, but on the incontestable evidence of my handwriting. Litera scripta manet "—and there may be seen at Abbotsford, Shelf 5, Dark Cabinet of the Study (or " den," as Sir Walter was wont jocosely to call it), the " Catalogue of the Abbots-ford Library, MS. 5 vols., 410. (the 5th volume, I presume, contains Mr. Cochrane's additions) ; and under the library table the " Alphabetical Catalogue of the Abbotsford Library, with references to the Press Catalogue, vols. 1-4, MS. fol."
These details may not, perhaps, have much public interest ; but the importance of the subject to me individually, and my warm attachment to Sir Walter Scott, will, I trust, plead my excuse with your readers for the length of this communication. Yours, etc.,