Mr. Prescott, who have grown out of this state of things, and Mr. Webster, and others, who could have been produced in no other than this state of things, are men who would be valued in any state of society in the world, and contribute materially to render its daily intercourse agreeable. . . . . . . . . Among the books republished here, and of which more copies have been sold in America than were sold of the original edition in England, is Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter, about which you ask. It is a most interesting book, and has greatly interested the multitudes here, who feel that Scott belongs to us as he does to you, and who thank God that Milton's language is our mother-tongue, and Shakespeare's name compatriot with our own. But the ocean that rolls between us operates like the grave on all personal and party feelings; and our thoughts and feelings towards such as Sir Walter and yourself are as impartial, at least, if not as wise and decisive, as the voice of posterity. We were, therefore, pained by some parts of this book . . . . To the admirers of Sir Walter in America, who knew him only as they know Shakespeare, part of what is in Lockhart was an unwelcome surprise, much more so than it was in England, where the weaknesses of his character were known to many. Sir Walter, therefore, does not stand, in the moral estimation of this country, where he did. Perhaps Lockhart could not avoid this, certainly he could not avoid it entirely, but there is one thing he could have avoided; I mean printing some of the letters, and some parts of the private journal. No doubt the letters, generally, are the most delightful part of the whole work, and if all had been like those to you, they would have given only pleasure. But in some of them Sir Walter is made to expose himself. There was no need of this, and it has given great pain. Some day I hope we shall see all the letters you were so kind as to show us at Edgeworthtown. Two or three of them do him more honor, than any in Lockhart. Nothing, however, can prevent the book from being a painful one. I felt, in reading it, as if I were witnessing the vain and cruel struggles of one driven forward by the irresistible fate of the old Greek tragedians. . . .
To H. R. H. Prince John, Duke of Saxony.
Boston, U. S. A., May 17, 1839.my dear Lord,—I received in the summer of year before last a kind letter from you, in reply to mine from Florence about Carlo