Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
12 December 1913

ALAN LASCELLES,

later secretary to George V, records in his journal:

"I am still busy with Vanity Fair, when all is said and done, it is the most enthralling novel ever written, and for all its length and elaborateness of detail, how quickly it moves by comparison with the laboured prolixities of our modern character-chemists. There's one thing about Thackeray, though, which always irritates me, and that is his attitude towards servants. To begin with, they play far too large a part in most of his novels. I never want to know what the butler says, in real life or in fiction; and I don't believe one in a thousand of that parasitic race ever says or thinks anything worth recording; they are the freedmen of modern life, and it's the slaves or the aristoi who are interesting. And, in proportion to their dullness, most of them have good, fat, worthy hearts. Thackeray never can resist making them cads and opportunists. But it's only a small point, and I'm not bringing the vulgar charge of snobbery against him."

18 December 1825

SIR WALTER SCOTT

(pictured), poet and novelist, records in his journal the

financial disaster which left him pounds 130,000 in debt

"Ballantyne called on me this morning. My extremity is come. Cadell has received letters from London which all but positively announce the failure of Hurst and Robinson, so that Constable and Co must follow, and I must go in with poor James Ballantyne for company. I suppose it will involve my all. But if they leave me pounds 500 I can still make it pounds 1,000 or pounds 1,200 a year. And if they take my salaries of pounds 1,300 and pounds 300, they cannot but give me something out of them. I have been rash in anticipating funds to buy land, but then I made from pounds 5,000 to pounds 10,000 a year, and land was my temptation. Men will think pride has had a fall. Let them indulge their own pride in thinking that my fall makes them higher. I have the satisfaction that my prosperity has been of advantage to many, and that some at least will forgive my transient wealth on account of the innocence of my intentions, and my real wish to do good to the poor. The news will make sad hearts at Darnick, and in the cottages of Abbotsford [his estate in the Borders], which I do not nourish the least hope of preserving. My children are provided; thank God for that. I must end this, or I shall lose the tone of mind with which men should meet distress."

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