When I view the painting, “Sir Walter Scott and His Friends at Abbotsford” by Thomas Faed, I try to imagine the discussion. It seems that Sir Walter Scott is reading from one of his novels to a group of friends eager to hear what comes next. Some lean forward, while others sit back in contemplation.
We come to know writers through their stories, and find our connection to them via words, plots, characters and themes. And yet, we do not have a full understanding of their life, which is demonstrated by Thomas Faed’s paintings. Who was Sir Walter Scott? Who were his friends? How did he spend his days when he was not writing?
This painting prompted an exploration into the life of Sir Walter Scott. My search was brilliantly rewarded when I found Sir Walter Scott’s Journal on Gutenberg.org. Here is the beginning of Sir Walter Scott’s Journal.
In his words:
“ I have all my life regretted that I did not keep a regular Journal. I have myself lost recollection of much that was interesting, and I have deprived my family and the public of some curious information, by not carrying this resolution into effect. I have bethought me, on seeing lately some volumes of Byron’s notes, that he probably had hit upon the right way of keeping such a memorandum-book, by throwing aside all pretence to regularity and order, and marking down events just as they occurred to recollection. I will try this plan; and behold I have a handsome locked volume, such as might serve for a lady’s album.” Sir Walter Scott’s Journal (Gutenberg.org)
Who were these friends in Thomas Faed’s painting? According to the Edinburgh University Library: Sir Walter Scott’s friends are portrayed from left to right are listed as follows:
Seated: Thomas Thomson, James Ballantyne, Archibald Constable, Thomas Campbell, Tom Moore, Sir Adam Fergusson, Francis Jeffrey, William Wordsworth, John Gibson Lockhart, George Crabbe, Henry Mackenzie, Scott, and (on footstool) James Hogg.
Standing: Sir Humphrey Davy, Sir David Wilkie, Sir William Allan, Prof. John Wilson.