"We laid her there, the Minstrel's darling child"...
This blog post supports the monument campaign of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club.
On the anniversary of Scott’s death, it feels like the right time to explore one of the key concerns he had regarding his legacy - the fate of his children. It is well documented that Scott died attempting to pay off the massive debts he was saddled with following the collapse of the publishing firms he had invested in. His creditors were finally appeased on 2nd February 1833, a mere six months after his death. The price of this settlement was high, sacrificing the profits accrued from the sale of all his copyrighted material. It is less well known however, that as his health failed Scott grew increasingly anxious about the fate of his four children after his death, especially his younger daughter Anne, who had stayed at home unmarried in order to look after him following the death of her mother in 1826. Anne's devotion to her father is captured strikingly in Allan’s 1834 painting ‘The Orphan,’ now owned by the Royal Collection and held at the Palace of Holyrood House.
|'The Orphan by Sir William Allan|
Although the Trust set up for the benefit of his creditors claimed most of his literary earnings, the income from his court salary, his journalistic work and the proceeds of some of his other writing, such as the Tales of a Grandfather series, were his own. Thus, Scott divided his time accordingly, redoubling his literary output in an attempt to repay his debts and provide a legacy for his children.
Sadly none of his family survived long enough to enjoy their inheritance. His much-loved grandson, Little Johnnie, for whom he wrote Tales of a Grandfather, predeceased him by eight months: ‘The boy is gone who we have made so much of’, as Scott wrote from Naples in his Journal; Anne Scott died in June 1833 of a ‘brain fever’, just nine months after her father; Sophia, his eldest child, in May 1837 aged only 38; Charles in 1841 and Walter in 1847. Inheritance through the female line is a recurring feature of the family’s fortunes down the years.
Following her father’s death, Scott's youngest daughter Anne moved to 24 Sussex Place in Regents Park, London, to live with her sister Sophia and brother-in-law John Gibson Lockhart, who had relocated to London from Scotland after becoming editor of the Quarterly Review in 1825. Together, the sisters worked on collating material for Lockhart’s Life of Scott, published in 1839.
|Sussex Place, Regents Park, overlooking the boating lake c.1827|
Both daughters died in London, and were buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, the ‘New Cemetery in the Harrow Road,’ together with Sophia’s son, John Hugh Lockhart. Sophia’s burial service was presided over by the Very Reverand Henry Hart Milman, an historian and dramatist in his spare moments and a friend of the Scott family. So moved was he by observing the mourners that day that he penned some verses to commemorate the event. On hearing the auspicious song of a lark, this particular stanza references Sophia’s spiritual home in the Borders:
We laid her there, the Minstrel's darling child.
Seem'd it then meet that, borne away
From the close city's dubious day.
Her dirge should be thy native woodnote wild ;
Nurs'd upon nature's lap, her sleep
Should be where birds may sing, and dewy flowerets weep?
|Worn inscription of the grave in Kensal Green. You can just make out the names of Charlotte Sophia Lockhart (known as Sophia) and her son, John Hugh Lockhart.|
Sophia and Anne’s forgotten monument was discovered a few years ago by a volunteer researching on behalf of Abbotsford. It is dirty, uneven, overgrown, and the inscriptions are almost illegible, bearing almost no resemblance to the graves of Sir Walter Scott, his wife Charlotte Scott, and J. G. Lockhart, buried in the north transept (or St. Mary’s Aisle) of Dryburgh Abbey.
|The north transept of Dryburgh Abbey|
|The graves of Sir Walter Scott, first baronet, and his eldest son, also Sir Walter, Lieutenant-Colonel in the Fifteenth Hussars. The commemorative stone in the foreground was erected by his son's widow, Jane Jobson.|
Lockhart died at Abbotsford in 1854 in the care of his daughter, now Mrs Charlotte Hope-Scott. This goes some way to explaining why this loving husband and wife were buried 350 miles apart even though six plots had been purchased by Lockhart at Kensal Green, presumably so that his family could be together in death. Kensal Green was consecrated in 1833, so the bodies of Anne and little Johnnie were buried prior to the purchase of the plot and were consequently exhumed and reburied with Sophia. Sophia and her little boy actually share the same grave.
Thanks for reading!
Collections and Interpretation Manager