Daniel Terry ~ 1789 - 1829   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

The Doom of Devorgoil, and Auchindrane, or the Ayrshire Tragedy, by Sir Walter Scott

We shall of course recur to this volume. The preface informs us that the Doom of Devorgoil was originally written for poor Terry, to whose talents the great novelist pays the highest compliment, in saying that he had for him a particular regard.

Devorgoil is a melodrama — 'I have called it a melodrama,' says Sir Walter, in his quiet way, 'for want of a better name; but, as I learn from the unquestionable authority of Mr. Colman's Random Records, that one species of the drama is termed an Extravaganza, I am sorry I was not sooner aware of a more appropriate name than that which I had selected for Devorgoil.'

George has his uses after all. The Ayrshire Tragedy is a dark story of murder arising out of the heathenish practice of the deadly feud.

[From The Reviewer's Table, The Spectator, 8th May, 1839]

The title page of 'Doom of Devorgoil' by Sir Walter Scott.  Published in 1830 but written much earlier for Daniel Terry.

Letter from Sir Walter Scott to Daniel Terry (November, 1816).

November 12th, 1816.

My Dear Terry,

I have been shockingly negligent in acknowledging your repeated favours; but it so happened, that I have had very little to say, with a great deal to do; so that I trusted to your kindness to forgive my apparent want of kindness, and indisputable lack of punctuality.

You will readily suppose that I have heard with great satisfaction of the prosperity of your household, particularly of the good health of my little namesake and his mother. Godmothers of yore used to be fairies; and though only a godfather, I think of sending you, one day, a fairy gift—a little drama, namely, which, if the audience be indulgent, may be of use to him. Of course, you will stand godfather to it yourself: it is yet only in embryo—a sort of poetical Hans in Kelder—nor am I sure when I can bring him forth; not for this season, at any rate.

You will receive, in the course of a few days, my late whereabouts in four volumes: there are two tales the last of which I really prefer to any fictitious narrative I have yet been able to produce—the first is wish-washy enough. The subject of the second tale lies among the old Scottish Cameronians—nay, I’ll tickle ye off a Covenanter as readily as old Jack could do a young Prince; and a rare fellow he is, when brought forth in his true colours. Were it not for the necessity of using scriptural language, which is essential to the character, but improper for the stage, it would be very dramatic. But of all this you will judge by and by.

To give the go-by to the public, I have doubled and leaped into my form, like a hare in snow: that is, I have changed my publisher, and come forth like a maiden knight’s white shield (there is a conceit!) without any adhesion to fame gained in former adventures (another!) or, in other words, with a virgin title-page (another!).—I should not be so lighthearted about all this, but that it is very nearly finished and out, which is always a blithe moment for Mr Author.

And now to other matters. The books came safe, and were unpacked two days since, on our coming to town most ingeniously were they stowed in the legs of the very handsome stand for Lord Byron’s vase, with which our friend George Bullock has equipped me. I was made very happy to receive him at Abbotsford, though only for a start; and no less so to see Mr Blore, from whom I received your last letter. He is a very fine young man, modest, simple, and unaffected in his manners, as well as a most capital artist. I have had the assistance of both these gentlemen in arranging an addition to the cottage at Abbotsford, intended to connect the present farm-house with the line of low buildings to the right of it. Mr Bullock will show you the plan, which I think is very ingenious. He has promised to give it his consideration with respect to the interior; and Mr Blore has drawn me a very handsome elevation, both to the road and to the river. I expect to get some decorations from the old Tolbooth of Edinburgh, particularly the copestones of the door-way, or lintels, as we call them, and a niche or two—one very handsome indeed! Better get a niche from the Tolbooth than a niche in it, to which such building operations are apt to bring the projectors. This addition will give me:—first,—a handsome boudoir, in which I intend to place Mr Bullock’s Shakespeare, with his superb cabinet, which serves as a pedestal. This opens into the little drawing room, to which it serves as a chapel of ease; and on the other side, to a handsome dining-parlour of 27 feet by 18, with three windows to the north, and one to the south, the last to be Gothic, and filled with stained glass.

Besides these commodities, there is a small conservatory or greenhouse; and a study for myself, which we design to fit up with ornaments from Melrose Abbey. Bullock made several casts with his own hands—masks, and so forth, delightful for cornices, &c.

Do not let Mrs Terry think of the windows till little Wat is duly cared after.  I am informed by Mr Blore that he is a fine thriving fellow, very like papa.

About my armorial bearings: I will send you a correct drawing of them as soon as I can get hold of Blore; namely—of the scutcheons of my grandsires on each side, and my own. I could detail them in the jargon of heraldry, but it is better to speak to your eyes by translating them into coloured drawings, as the sublime science of armoury has fallen into some neglect of late years, with all its mascles, buckles, crescents, and boars of the first, second, third, and fourth.

I was very sorry I had no opportunity of showing attention to your friend Mr Abbot, not being in town at the time. I grieve to say, that neither the genius of Kean, nor the charms of Miss O’Neill could bring me from the hill-side and the sweet society of Tom Purdie. All our family are very well—Walter as tall nearly as I am, fishing salmon and shooting moor-fowl and black-cock, in good style; the girls growing up, and, as yet, not losing their simplicity of character; little Charles excellent at play, and not deficient at learning, when the young dog will take pains.

Abbotsford is looking pretty at last, and the planting is making some show. I have now several hundred acres thereof, running out as far as beyond the lake. We observe with great pleasure the steady rise which you make in public opinion, and expect, one day, to hail you stage-manager.

Believe me, my dear Terry, always very much your?,
W. Scott.”

P.S. The Counsellor, and both the Ballantynes are well and hearty.

[From Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., 7 vols (Edinburgh: Robert Cadell, 1837]

Arms of Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford

Kean as Shylock
Edmund Kean as Shylock, 1814. From Annals of the American Stage Vol II by Odell. Columbia University Press.

Miss O'Neill
Eliza, Lady Wrixon-Becher (Miss O'Neill) 1791-1872 c.1815 by John James Masquerier Oil on canvas, 762 x 635 mm. Original in the National Portrait Gallery, London . Gifted in 1877.  [This image is in the public domain.]

Note Miss O'Neill was engaged at the Theatre Royal Edinburgh during August and September 1819.    She played Juliet, Mrs Beverley in Shirley's The Gamester, Jane in Rowe's Jane Shore and Beldevira in Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd.  She retired from the stage in December 1819.

Her leading man for each performance was Mr Abbott billed as 'from the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden'.

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