Monday, January 11, 2010

Hiring an Amanuensis

Scott found writing difficult toward the end of his life, and dictated to an amanuensis; his old friend William Laidlaw.  According to biographer John Buchan, Scott met the farmer William Laidlaw around 1803, when he (Scott) was living part-time in Lasswade.  Laidlaw helped Scott collect border ballads.  It was Laidlaw who introduced Scott to James Hogg, who was herding sheep at Ettrick House.

From Scott's Journal of January 11, 1831:

Wrote and sent off three of my own pages in the morning, then walked with Swanston. I tried to write before dinner, but, with drowsiness and pain in my head, made little way. My friend Will Laidlaw came in to dinner, and after dinner kindly offered his services as amanuensis. Too happy was I, and I immediately plunged him into the depths of Count Robert, so we got on three or four pages, worth perhaps double the number of print. I hope it did not take him too short, but after all to keep the press going without an amanuensis is impossible, and the publishers may well pay a sponsible person. He comes back to-morrow. It eases many of my anxieties, and I will stick to it. I really think Mr. Laidlaw is pleased with the engagement for the time. Sent off six close pages.

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