Sir Walter Scott and Sir John Malcolm

While writing a biography of Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833)  Malcolm – Soldier,Diplomat, Ideologue of British India (Birlinn Publishing, Edinburgh 2014—the  electronic text is available from Amazon), I came across some revealing letters between Scott and Malcolm. Several other literary figures, including Dr John Leyden, Richard Heber, John Murray II and J G Lockhart, also appear in the correspondence, which is made available here.




Scott and Malcolm might seem to have had little in common. Scott was born in Edinburgh and spent most of his working life there; as a Clerk of Sessions, he gradually metamorphosed into an increasingly famous man of letters; lame through polio from the age of two, he spent part of his childhood on his uncle’s farm at Sandyknowe in the Scottish border country. Malcolm was born in Eskdale, also in the Scottish Borders. He left school and home at the age of twelve to seek fame in India, growing into a huge (six feet five inch, fifteen stone) athlete, the quintessential man of action and adventure.


Yet, they were both Lowland Scots of the same age; they were both incurable Romantics, especially about the Scottish Borders and its feudal past. And perhaps each of them saw in the other what he would like to have been himself – Malcolm, ambitious to be a famous man of letters; Scott to be an active hero, not merely a chronicler of heroes.


What brought them together was a common admiration for the Scottish poet, oriental scholar and linguist, John Leyden (1775-1811). A shepherd’s son from Denholm in Teviotdale, Leyden demonstrated from an early age an extraordinary memory and facility for languages. He came to the notice of Scott in 1802, and collaborated with him in the production of the “Border Minstrelsy”. In 1804, armed with a medical degree from St Andrews (obtained in six months), Leyden came to Madras to take charge of the general hospital. Soon after his arrival he fell seriously ill in Mysore. Malcolm, as the local British Resident, was able to take care of him, and the two became firm friends. His scholastic abilities soon took him beyond the confines of hospitals, and he was employed on various tasks by Lord Minto, the Governor-General and fellow Borderer. In 1811 Minto personally led an expedition to capture Java from the Dutch, and since Leyden was ‘perfect’ in Malay (as well as a host of other languages) Minto took him with him. There Leyden died of ‘Batavian fever’, allegedly caught through ‘his literary zeal taking him into an unventilated Native library’.


Malcolm, in Bombay at the time, was deeply upset by Leyden’s death, and wrote a tribute and some memorial verses for the “Bombay Courier”. Knowing that Leyden regarded Scott as his unofficial literary executor, Malcolm wrote to Scott “as a fellow Borderer”, telling him of Leyden’s death and enclosing his Bombay Courier article. It was a perfectly natural thing to do, but Malcolm probably also saw a chance  to use this pretext to make the acquaintance of the great man, and to show off his own writing talents, at that time fairly raw, when he returned to Britain the following year. This is where the correspondence begins.





 4 November 1811 (1)


John Malcolm in Bombay wrote to Walter Scott in Edinburgh

[This letter, relatively circumspect by Malcolm’s usually breezy standards, was the first contact between the two men.]


“Dear Sir,


If you were not a Borderer, I should feel I was addressing a stranger – but a person who was born on the Esk has a prescriptive right to the friendship of every man who inhabits one of the neighbouring Dales. I might also claim some return for the feeling of pride I have always had in your fame.


I have certainly never deemed it a light circumstance that the last Minstrel, the [???] on Marmion, and the fair Lady of the Lake were all born on our mountains.


You see I do not want apologies for this liberty if the occasion required them, but in transmitting to you a tribute to our late friend Leyden, I feel assured I am gratifying your feelings while I am indulging my own – and this trifle even will gain importance with you for the love you bear him to whose memory it is addressed.


I am, with [?much] respect


Your faithful servant.


John Malcolm”


 [The “tribute to our late friend Leyden” was an article in the Bombay Courier in early November 1811, regarding the death of Leyden in Java in August 1811, including a  letter to the editor from John Malcolm, then living in Bombay].





The following tribute of respect to the late DR JOHN LEYDEN, is from the pen of his friend and countryman, GENERAL MALCOLM, late Ambassador to the Court of Persia, who favoured the world with the valuable Work entitled the “Political History of India”.


By those who were acquainted with Dr Leyden, it will be acknowledged to be not only a friendly memorial, but an impartial and striking delineation of his extraordinary character. And though we have already borne our humble toast to his merits, we are convinced that many of our readers will be happy to be favoured with the fullest and most authentic information respecting one, in whom, from local circumstances, they must be supposed to feel a peculiar interest.




I inclose some lines which have no value but which they derive from the subject; they are an unworthy, but sincere, tribute to one whom I have long regarded with sentiments of esteem and affection, and whose loss I regret with the most unfeigned sorrow. It will remain with those who are better qualified than I to do justice to Dr Leyden.


[There follows a lengthy eulogy to Dr John Leyden, including the following poem]


Where sleep the brave on Java’s strand

Thy ardent spirit, Leyden! fled,
And fame with cypress shades the land,
Where genius fell, and valour bled.

When triumph’s tale is westward borne,

On border hills no joy shall gleam:
And thy loved Teviot long shall mourn
The youthful Poet of her stream.

Near Jura’s rocks the Mermaid’s strain,

Shall change from sweet to solemn lay;
For he is gone, the stranger swain
Who sung the Maid of Colonsay.

The hardy Tar, Britannia’s pride,

Shall hang his manly head in woe;
The Bard who told how Nelson died,
With harp unstrung, in Earth lies low.

I see a weeping band arise,

I see sad music on the gale;
Thy dirge is sung fro Scotia’s skies,
Her mountain sons, their loss bewail.

The Minstrel of thy native North,

Pours all his soul into the song;
It bursts from near the winding Forth,
And Highland rocks the notes prolong.

Yes, he who struck a matchless lyre,

O’er Flodden’s field, and Katrine’s wave;
With trembling hand now leads the choir,
That mourn his Leyden’s early grave.


14/5/1812 (2)

Scott in Edinburgh wrote to Richard Heber
[Richard Heber(1774-1833) (elder brother of the celebrated Bishop Reginald Heber) was a bibliophile on a grand scale – at his death his library was said to contain 150,000  volumes. He had introduced Leyden to Scott in 1801.]

“Alas for poor John Leyden! His active and indefatigable spirit has at last worn out its clay tenement. I have promised to fufill an old engagement & to collect his Remains [see Note] unless I learn that he has made some final arrangement. Murray the editor of Bruce’s travels is to take the Oriental part. General Malcolm has written a very good article in the Bombay Courier with some pretty verses to Leyden’s memory. He gives some very interesting anecdotes and touches his character & peculiarities with great truth & kindly feeling. If you have not seen these I will include them in my next.”


Note: On 1 January 1812 Robert Leyden [John Leyden’s brother] had written from Denholm Dean [the Leyden family home] that he and his parents concurred with Scott’s proposal. “On parting with my brother at the Turf Coffee House [in 1803]  he told me that in case he might die in India he would leave directions that you should publish his literary remains, this was the last conversation I had with him, and I am certain Mr Murray [Alexander Murray 1775-1813, linguist] will render you every assistance in his power.” [This scheme never materialized, though “The Poetical Remains…”, edited by the Reverend James Morton, eventually appeared in 1819]



4/8/1812 (3)

Scott at Abbotsford wrote to Charles Carpenter [1772-1818, brother-in-law of Scott and Eat India Company  employee ]

“My dear Carpenter,

The melancholy news of poor Leyden’s death reached me some time before your kind letter. General Malcolm has touched his character with equal truth and kindness…..”

[Malcolm arrived back in Britain in May 1812, and visited Scotland in September/October that year]



11/10/1812 (4)
SWS at Abbotsford wrote to John Morrit [1771-1843, of Rokeby Hall, English traveller and classical scholar]

“I am delighted with your Cumberland admirer [a hunter of lions who was also fluent in Homeric Greek] … but you missed one of another description who passed Rokeby with great regret; I mean General John Malcolm – the Persian envoy, the Delhi Resident, the poet, the warrior, the politician and the borderer. He is really a fine fellow. I met him at Dalkeith and we returned together; he has just left me after drinking his coffee. A fine time we had of it, talking of Troy town and Babel and Persepolis and Delhi and Langholm and Burnfoot with all manner of episodes about Iskandiar, Rustan and Johnnie Armstrong. Do you know that poem of Ferdausi’s must be beautiful. He read me some very splendid extracts which he had himself translated. Should you meet him in London I have given him charge to be acquainted with you for I am sure you will like each other. To be sure I know him little but I like his frankness and his sound ideas of morality and policy and I have uniformly observed that when I have had no great liking to persons at the beginning it has usually pleased heaven as Slender says to decrease it on further acquaintance. Adieu, I must mount my horse.”

3/11/1812 (5)

Scott at Abbotsford wrote to Miss C Rutherford [1759-1819, Scott’s maternal aunt]

“…..General Malcolm (himself a fine fellow) gives an admirable character of James Russell, which I am sure is well deserved”[Russell, 1781-1859, was Scott’s first cousin, later a General in the East India Company army]


10/9/1813 (6)


Malcolm at Claramont [Malcolm’s  residence near Cheshunt, Herts, 1813 to 1816] wrote to Scott

My dear Sir,

I take the liberty of introducing to your acquaintance Mr Fleming, who has long been Physician General of Bengal. You will be pleased with him as a man of service and learning.  He [?takes] down Lady Malcolm’s sister Mrs Macdonald, whose husband is I believe well acquainted both with you and Mrs Scott.


I shall be more reconciled to the [?….] liberty I have taken on this and a former occasion. If you wish, if you know any young friends going to India, command me to introduce them in that [?……]


I regret much not being able to go to Scotland this year, but I am engaged over head and ears with my Persian History [Malcolm published ‘The History of Persia’ in June 1815].


With respects to Mrs Scott


Believe me, with respect,


Yours faithfully


John Malcolm




22/11/1813 (7)

Scott wrote to Malcolm

[Original lost – acknowledged in Malcolm’s’s letter of  6/12/1813].




6/12/1813 (8)

Malcolm at Claramont wrote to Scott in Edinburgh

Your kind letter of 22 November only reached me two days ago. The mark on the [?…] formed a curious Index of its travels. Every place within 50 miles of London that had a name in the most distant degree resembling Claramont had been tried before they stumbled on the right one.


My friend Fleming regretted much not seeing you – his stay was short, but he will go again, and as I shall inform him of your kindness he will no doubt pay his respects.


I am more flattered by the wish you express for another meeting. I can assure you my anxiety is very great for a fuller opportunity of cultivating your friendship, and I shall be one of many friends who will be delighted to see you in this quarter. I shall be there the period you contemplate to [?….] with my history – in which you will find many a story of the oriental character. I hope to be in the Press in ab. 1814. I have felt it a heavy labor – but at the same time a very pleasant one. I am now busy with Nadir Shah, and expect within three months to finish the historical part of the [?work], and I look forward with delight to some of the other chapters, particularly that of the manners and character of the Persians. In that I shall be so completely at liberty to give characteristic anecdotes and to introduce my own personal observations.


This work cannot be compressed into less than two tolerably sized quartos. I wish I could have reduced it but I have found it impossible without leaving out what appears to myself, as well as the wisest of those I have consulted, impossible.


You must recollect that when you come south, [? whatever] are your engagements, and I know they will be necessary, we must see you for a day or two and more if you can spare it to us.


I beg my best regards to Mrs Scott and that you believe me, yours most sincerely


John Malcolm




10/12/1813 (9)

Scott in Edinburgh wrote to Joanna Baillie [1762-1851, Scottish dramatist and poet]

“I must not omit to tell you that a friend of mine [Malcolm], with whom that metal is [in] more plenty than with me, has given me some gold mohurs [a gold coin, originally Persian but used in India from the 16th century, worth about 15 rupees] to be converted into a ring for enchasing King Charles’s hair; but this is not to be done until I get to London, and get a very handsome pattern…”



11/8/1814 (10)


Malcolm at Manchester St [Malcolm’s (rented) London house from 1813 to 1816] wrote to Scott


[Malcolm sent Scott a Persian poem [not enclosed] which he thought would interest him] “Their Chiefs are in some ways like our old Scottish feudal lairds”



?May 1815 (11)


At the publisher John Murray’s premises in Albemarle St, London


[Malcolm met Scott and Lord Byron]




19 August 1815 – 5 September1815 (12)

Malcolm was in Paris, and wrote in his Journal of several meetings with Scott



[Malcolm was, from India days, a close friend of the Duke of Wellington]


“ Walter Scott is here; took him to the Duke [of Wellington]; he[the Duke] wrote me to bring him to dinner to-day, and wrote me he wd make a party to meet him. The poet is happy”




“Went with Walter Scott to meet Garrard [the famous painter]”




“Met Walter Scott”




“dined with Walter Scott”




“took leave of Walter Scott to-day, as they are returning to their home”




?Jan-Feb 1816 (13)

Scott wrote to Malcolm

“I cannot refuse myself the opportunity of thanking you for the information and amusement I have derived and am deriving from your very interesting account of Persia [Malcolm had published his History of Persia in June 1815]; a history so much wanted in our literature, and which may be said to form the connecting link between that of Greece and that of Asia. I cannot enough admire the pains which it must have cost you, among many pressing avocations and duties, to collect and compose the materials of so large and important a work. I wish also to mention to you, that if you should have any thought of settling on Tweedside, Mr. Sibbald’s very handsome villa at Gledswood is now in the market, and in all probability, owing to the circumstances of the time, may be had very reasonably. I have a very selfish view in giving you this hint, for Gledswood is only five or six miles from my cottage. I long for some opportu­nity of talking over Persia and Border anecdotes with you ”




Feb 1816 (14)

Scott wrote to John Morrit

“…I would advise you to read Elphinstone’s Cabul if you have not already done so. It is the best account of shepherd tribes which we have had for a long time and drawn with a discriminating and spirited pencil. Sir John Malcolm’s Persia has been also part of my winter reading. The succession of so many hard named tyrants through a course of events not strikingly varied unless when the turbulent tribes emigrated and like a migration of the Solway Moss overran and ruined Indostan does not sound a very varied or amusing subject. Yet I found it very interesting and I think Sir John has succeeded very well: his own remarks are always naturally and aptly introduced and show knowledge of mankind both in theory and in practice.”




23/2/1816 (15)

Malcolm wrote to Scott at Abbotsford

My dear Sir


“Mr Murray gave me your kind letter – and believe me, of the many pleasing communications I have received on the occasion of publishing my history [of Persia] not one has been more gratifying than your approbation….I would not mention Paul’s Letters [A Scott work published in February 1816], with which I have been delighted, were it not to state that Sir Colin Campbell [1776-1847, General, at Waterloo] who you know was well acquainted with the scene told me yesterday that he considered the account of the Battle of Waterloo – as given in that production of an unknown author [in fact Scott] to be the best and the most correct that had yet been published . I consider the opinion of my friend Colin upon such a point better than that of all the Critics that frequent Albemarle St [John Murray’s premises] put together”.


You have made my mouth water with a place for sale upon the Tweed and in your neighbourhood – but I have too little money and too many children to venture to retire. I must in short for some years to come do as I have done hitherto, hold the bull by the horns. In other words I must while I cherish expectations keep near this grand merit of benefices.


Lady M sends best regards to you and joins me in remembrances to Mrs and Miss Scott.


Yours […..] John Malcolm



?June 1816 (16)

Scott wrote to Malcolm [Malcolm was about to return to India]

“I do most sincerely wish you all good things – health, happiness and above all a speedy return to Scotland, not to leave us again. I sincerely hope that this will come to pass before we grow much older, and that you will find a snug corner on the Scotch Border to rest in, after having labored so hard in the public service.”



[Malcolm left for India in October 1816, and did not return to Britain until May 1822]




Late 1816 (17)

Scott wrote to John Murray II, his publisher

“ I wish to avail myself of the admirable letters of Croker [1780-1857, Irish politician and writer] and Malcolm to round the reflections of Waterloo” [‘Malcolm’ was John Malcolm’s brotherPulteney Malcolm, quoting Napoleon on Waterloo on 6/7/1816 (when they were both on St Helena). See also Malcolm to Scott on 15/12/1826





28/12/1816 (18)

Scott at Abbotsford wrote to D Terry [1780-1829, English actor and artist]

[Discusses furnishings for Abbotsford]


“….also the armour of the celebrated Jalalabad Sing, Son of Nadir Shah [1688-1747, Emperor of Persia]………I think it worthwhile to have a masque painted exactly like a common masquerade vizor with an Indian copperer’s visnomy such as we see in Malcolm’s History of Persia or Elphinstone’s account of Cabatel [sic ?Cabul]




January 1817 (19)

Scott wrote to John Murray II

“I re-enclose Malcolm’s and Croker’s letters which as you will see have done me yeoman service”




27/4/1818 (20)

Scott wrote to Richard Heber

So I see our friend Sir Jo. Malcolm is setting up his banners and shouting among the Mahrattas. It is enough to endure him in his loving kindness, but when he roars in wrath Achilles’ shout which overturned twelve curricles will be a joke to it.




?October 1818 (21)

Malcolm at ?Mhow, Central India, wrote to Colonel Russell[James Russell, 1781-1859, Scott’s first cousin, later a general in the  East India Company army]

My dear Russell,


If you think that my song (Tune Paddy Whack!!) on the Grand Duke[of Wellington] is worth being sent to your relation and my friend Walter Scott – transmit it to Abbotsford forthwith with my affectionate remembrance to him and his family. I have no terror of his criticisms upon this trifle. On such occasions I know (from experience) he is as merciful as he is powerful.


Yours ever


John Malcolm


PS Send kind regards to my excellent friends Mr and Mrs [?Fryle] if you are writing to Roxburghshire. When shall we meet on the Tweed? And talk over subjects moral, physical and political! JM


[Song – 36 lines – [enclosed with Malcolm’s letter but not reproduced here]  “sung at a dinner given by Brigadier General Malcolm on the 23rd of September 1818, in Commemoration of the Battle of Assaye” [23 September 1803]




26/?11/1818 (22)

Malcolm,  in camp near Indore, Central India, wrote to Scott

[Following the battle of Mehidpoor (December 1817), and the surrender of the last Peshwa of Poona to Malcolm in June 1818, the Mahratta federation was finally broken up. Malcolm became effectively the ruler of Central India for the next three years].


My Dear Walter Scott,


I feel it would be a sacrilege to call you by any other title than that by which you belong to me and to the public [Scott had recently been knighted]. I read your very kind letter of the 5th of March by Hector Macdonald some time ago and though at a distance of a thousand miles have by proxy done the griffin as you call him all the good I can. Your cousin Russell (who is one of my Brigadiers) will have written you about him. I hope the [?youth] may be appointed [to] [?Willerpool’s] Corps,. He cannot be with a better man or better officer – certainly not with a greater friend and favourite of mine.


I am flattered by what you say relative to my return. I can assure you that all the Pomp and Circumstance of my station; nor not all the better motive of consciousness of doing good upon the great scale – can wean me from the ardent desire of  revisiting Faderland. Yet I have to tempt me, complete authority, military and political, over a range as large as England and Scotland. It is my chief business to keep the Peace in this lately distracted quarter, and I have been successful beyond my most sanguine expectations. The largest [?tribes]  are quiet  but the difficulty is to keep the Rob Roys under.


That you may understand how exactly we have Blackmail, I send you [an] extract of one of my last public letters to the Secy to Govt. To make you understand one of my friends that collects the black mails, take the following anecdotes (all of which have occurred during the last ten days) of Nadir Bheel. This petty chief has his mountain home within eighteen miles of this camp. He rules over the Bheels or hill robbers in the vicinity, and has for ten years laid the whole country above the hills to Indore, and below them to Maheshwar on the Narbudda, under annual contribution. The revenue is independent of the plunder of all who pass near his country, and armies have in vain tried to hunt him down or to guard against his depredations..


I found near my camp upwards of forty villages, roofless. The inhabitants, whom I sent for to re-people them told all the same story. Nadir Bheel had on a real or pretended failure of Thankah [a sort of protection money] destroyed them. I sent to this redoubted hero an offer of peace or war, and after a long negotiation he came into my camp. He had never ventured to put himself in anyone’s power before, and it was to use the figurative but natural language of the country “the Tyger of the Forest walking quietly into Man’s abode”.


The day he came in I lost some cattle and had a sepoy wounded by some other Bheels (not his subjects). I told Nadir at his first visit I was delighted to see him but that others were jealous, and meant to give a slight opinion of his power by attacking my people the day he came in. He fired up as I expected, and begged that I would leave to him the task of avenging the insult. It was what I wished. He sent out a party and two days afterwards he came to see me, in great glee, having retaken the cattle which were given to the owners. For me, Nadir said smiling, he had a better present. A man was brought in, a prisoner, that said that he is the head of a Para (a little colony of the fellows concerned with this robbery). “The principal rogue has got off wounded, but show what you have in your hand”, said he to the prisoner in a fierce tone. The man held out a coarse matting in which I saw a man’s head with a long beard. While I was struck with horror, Nadir continued, smiling, “That is the head of the principal rogue’s brother – but this is nothing,” he added (as I waved for the prisoner to be taken away), “I will send you fifty heads pickled in salt – they will not keep otherwise.” I told him, if any of the Bheels, in spite of the warning they got, persevered in their robberies I should not quarrel with his measures, however severe, against such lawless criminals.


Nadir is not five feet high, rather fairer than his tribe in general; his countenance, even handsome, if it had not been destroyed by the marks of constant dissipation. Knowing his fondness of liquor, I sent him some brandy. The savage had never before seen a bottle and he told me, when inspired to rapture by its contents that certainly thehandsomest thing in the World was an English bottle full of liquor, and the cleverest was a steel thing that went round and round, and opened its mouth!


He went away in high good humour. I took into service near a hundred of his retainers, prevailed upon the Govt to make an agreement for a regular payment of the black mail, and obtained a large grant (rent free for five years) of waste land, which he promised to cultivate.


All my plans were complete, when last night a man came to me breathless, saying he had fled from the woods, just as Nadir in a fit of passion inhumanly murdered Bappoo his Chief Commander, who has been employed with me. I know not what will come of this, but it is more like Helen Macgregor than Rob Roy


Yours sincerely


John Malcolm


PS Make my kind regards to Mrs S and all your family




19/1/1820 (23)

Scott in Edinburgh wrote to Robert Shortreed [1762-1829, writer in Jedburgh]

[Re nomination of Shortreed’s son for a writership in India. Scott offers to write to Malcolm for help if required.]




March 1820 (24)

Scott wrote to AdmiralSir Pulteney Malcolm [Sir John Malcolm’s elder brother]

I am greatly obliged…….


[I haven’t seen this letter but I guess that it is a thank you note for Pulteney’s opinions/records of his conversations about Waterloo etc with Napoleon at St Helena, when he was stationed there in 1816-17,].




21/4/1821 (25)


Malcolm at Nalcha, Central India, wrote to Scott

My dear Sir Walter,

I have been out of sorts or I had sooner have congratulated you upon a Title which His Majesty has done himself honor in conferring upon you. I am well again, but determined on England, towards which land I proceed via Egypt in Nov. [Malcolm sailed from Bombay in December 1821 and reached England in April 1822]


In September 1822 please God I shall shake you by the hand. If you are at your post (which it is the duty of Sir Walter to be) on the Borders – what Love I shall impart.


My account of Central India I am completing – grant I find means to print, and I shall thereafter publish it, with additions. As it is it contains much matter that you would like [?previous] of its kind in that society and civilization that you have so often and so well described.


As to myself – I come to you with a resolution to stay. I neither am nor ever shall be a Nabob. But I shall be what I like and I hope my friends also like better – Plain John Malcolm


My excellent friend and your cousin J Russell is I see gone home. Keep the fellow till I come. He is an indispensable [?….]


My regards to Mrs Scott and to your Lady




12/7/1822 (26)

Malcolm at Burnfoot [the Malcolm family home, near Langholm in Dumfriesshire]wrote to Scott at Abbotsford

My dear Sir Walter,


Since I have returned from India I have had few more anxious wishes than to shake you by the hand – to talk over old times, and all that has past in the life of both since we last parted. I promised myself a great pleasure in a visit to you and your family  and your improvements at Abbotsford. But this I cannot do without going the rounds, to which my health is not equal, for although free of complaint I have been [?perfectly washed] dead and shall be some time before I shall be sufficiently strong to take liberties.


So situated, I should have reconciled myself to the disappointment of not seeing you this season, had not my brother the Admiral’s lady [Clementina, wife of Sir John Malcolm’s brother, Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm] told me you promised her when she met you at Court to visit Irvine [Pulteney’s house near Langholm]. Now as I am sure you would go into other [?pledges] and yet preserve sincerity, you must intend to keep your promise. Join to its fulfilment the great delight a visit at this moment would give me, and put on your boots.


On Monday I go to Netherby Hall, and though I do not propose acting the part of Young Lochinvar, I may not be able to get out of the clutches of the ?Forsters  and Fenwicks till Wednesday or Thursday morning. From that latter day I am (till the 25th) free of all engagements except such as can bend like ?Easter willows to your convenience. We must have you two days. On the first, to your Court friend, my lovely Clementina at Irvine. Next, to Burnfoot, the home of the Malcolms since 1719!! [Netherby Hall was the setting for Scott’s poem, Lochinvar (Marmion, canto 5 st. 12].


Yours ever


John Malcolm


My best salaams to Lady Scott and your daughter [?with you]


PS If you could come on Thursday next it would be a great day at Irvine, as I have requested my friend Mr James Anderson of Milton Lodge to ride over on that day, and since he knows both your Borderers and my Mahrattas, if we [?quarrel] about their respective qualities he will be as good a Moderator as the Minister of Langholm.


I am anxious to speak to you about my Asiatic Borderers and Highlanders – for I am rich in materials to show how similarity of circumstances makes all alike.




?late October 1824 (27)

[Malcolm stayed two days at Abbotsford]



?1825 (28)

alcolm at Hyde Hall [his (rented) residence near Sawbridgeworth, Herts, from 1822 to 1827) wrote to J G Lockhart [Scott’s son-in-law and biographer]

[It appears that Lockhart, or Scott, had asked Malcolm to do some translation work on Baber[Babur], the first Mughal Emperor (1483-1530)].


My feeling for the memory of Leyden, my regard for Erskine and my wish to promote in common with the latter the good of Leyden’s prints, induces me to promise compliance with your request, but I must have time, for the labor to be well done is no slight one. The work is one of a very extraordinary nature & includes with a vivid picture of Tartar manners & historical facts – much food for reflection on many important [?subjects]. Baber appears from it one of those remarkable Beings who, to use a metaphor of Windham, speaking of […], had a mind which like the proboscis of an elephant picks up a pin and tears down an oak.


Such a Sovereign must not be skimmed over. I really am doubtful whether I am equal to the task, but I will try it – for the motives before stated. I must however have time.


My best regards to Mrs Lockhart. Pray when you write Sir Walter, say he shall hear from me within a week.Yours sincerely John Malcolm




27/9/1825 (29)

Malcolm at Hyde Hall wrote to Scott

My dear Sir Walter,


I am just returned from a delightful visit to Scotland. I regretted on selfish grounds your absence from home but you were better employed in viewing the beautiful scenes and the lovely and interesting inhabitants of the Emerald Isle! And you were (I read with pleasure in the newspapers) everywhere welcomed and treated as you ought to be.


I enclose you the only copies I have left of the Prospectus of a [?…][the Prospectus of Baber, the first Mughal Emperor, translated (mostly) by John Leyden, and completed by William Erskine] to be published, or rather printed by subscription, for Leyden’s family. It will do honor to his memory, and be of benefit I trust to his parents. The Mss is now with Mr William Erskine, 14 Melville St, Edinburgh. The work could never have been brought forward but for him. Indeed he has labored hard to complete it in a manner that, while it will do credit to his friend, will confer a great obligation on the public. For we have had as far as I can judge no such substantial present from the East as this interesting and authentic volume.


I have done my best to obtain subscriptions, and have been tolerably successful, but you are very powerful and to you we look. Every friend that puts down his money you may assure of his money’s worth, as well as the gratification of aiding the [?…] and discovery.


I understand that you contemplate a short memoir of Leyden. I wish you [would] add some selections from his poems. The volume published by Morton is little known. The principal reason of which is the want of selection. The poems are very unequal, and in this fastidious age, opening a page unluckily and the perusal of one dull stanza will with many stamp the character of a book. The Scenes of Infancy has many beautiful passages, but as a whole it tires the English reader. More is required before these Sassenachs can be reconciled to our enthusiasm in local descriptions. They are slow to believe the Teviot the first stream and the [?Rubislaw] the highest mountains in the Universe!


But assuredly, Leyden’s Mermaid, his Ode to Flodden Field, hisSabbath, his Nelson, his Address to a Gold Coin and several others are exquisite pieces of Poetry. And if they are almost unknown and unnoticed, it is only because they are buried with unworthy companions.


You alone can rescue them from the early oblivion to which they are from these circumstances doomed; and I shall rejoice to learn that the information I have received of your interest  is correct.


I should add to what I have said about Leyden that I have a great number of letters from him, and if any of these should be wanted they are quite at your disposal.


I am deeply engaged in the third edition of Political India, enlarged to two volumes and brought down to 1823. The last chapter, which I am now writing, contains My Brains (as the Boys call it), upon every large question of our administration at home and abroad. When this heavy work is done I shall rejoice, and having learnt wisdom will never again ever affect to be wise!


Yours very sincerely,


John Malcolm



12/4/1826 (30)
Malcolm at Hyde Hall wrote to Scott

[fragment (illegible) of letter re third edition of Malcolm’s Political History of India]




12/4/1826 (31)

Scott at Castle St, Edinburgh wrote to Alexander Young [1759-1842, Scottish lawyer]

[Mentions book by Sir John Macdonald [brother-in-law of Malcolm] on his Asian Travels]




26/10/1826 (32)

Malcolm at Hyde Hall wrote to Scott in ?London

As I was passing through London I called upon you, but you were gone to Windsor. I hear you are going to France and fear there is little chance of seeing you this time – as I conclude you are full of engagements. But we should be delighted to have you and Mr and Mrs Lockhart [Scott’s daughter and son-in-law (and biographer)] at Hyde Hall, which is only three hours from London.


I have a good deal to show you, and if you had leisure, three hours more would take you to Cambridge, to which I am an approved guide. I am exactly half way between it and London and on the road. Haileybury College, where the Indians are trained, is one hour from us. I mention all these particulars that you may, if too engaged on this occasion, book us, as we say at Newmarket, another of my visinages, for a visit on your return from the French capital.


I do not know but that I have one or two curious facts about Napoleon, gained when I visited France last at the Coronation of Charles [Charles X, the last Bourbon King of France, crowned in 1825]; and I possess an old tattered novel which he was reading, the night before one of his battles with Blucher on the Marne. The master of the Inn where he slept gave me the choice of it, or oneboot hook, and he assured me the two articles [were] left in the [?chamber] of L’Empereur, and would not let me have both these valuables.


I was rejoiced to hear from Mr Murray that you were in high health and spirits.


I am yours sincerely   John Malcolm




17/11/1826 (33)

Scott’s Journal p 240

[Malcolm visits Scott in London]


“My morning levee began with the arrival of Bahadur Jah (literally, “General Jaw” nickname for Malcolm – see Note) soon after Mr Wright…….


Sir John Malcolm acknowledges and recommends my Persian visitor Bruce [Bruce, the long term Resident at Bushire, had been introduced to Scott in September by a Mr Anderson]. “From our observation he must be a half-caste, probably half an Arab”




[Note: Malcolm was well known as “a great and loud talker”, and George Canning is said to have nicknamed him “Bahadur Jaw”. In Calcutta in 1802, when Malcolm was the Private Secretary of the Governor-General, Lord Wellesley, he is said to have mentioned that he and three of his brothers had once met together in India. “Impossible, Malcolm, quite impossible!” said the Governor General, “if four Malcolms had met, we should have heard the noise all over India!” [Hobson-Jobson, Yule and Burnell (1886), p 49 )]




15/12/26 (34)

Malcolm at Hyde Hall wrote to Scott

My dear Sir Walter,


I shall send you all scraps of my own and others’ about Bonaparte[Scott was gathering material for his biography of Napoleon] – confident you will commit no one and satisfied it is desirable you should have everything, to pick out facts as you think them worthy of attention. The accompanying consist [of]


  • Some papers I got from Lady Keith, which you probably have seen
  • A letter from my friend Capt Wright of the Navy, who came with Las Cases [Napoleon’s chief of staff on St Helena] to the Cape – this contains little
  • A copy of a letter from my brother Pulteney (which contains a good deal) – Pulteney was on better terms with Lowe [General Sir Hudson Lowe, the Governor of St Helena, who got on badly with Napoleon] when he wrote this, than afterwards. He considers that [Lowe’s] ?severe temper led him to give the lion in the toils much unnecessary annoyance. He or no man would have been an advocate for one whit less precautions to prevent escape – but on points not touching that essential one, it was not desirable to goad – or to meet irritation with irritation. However, this is mere opinion – you will observe my sentiments when I send you a short critique I made at the moment it came out in O’Meara’s book [Barry O’Meara, Napoleon’s Irish doctor on St Helena] – it is very crude – but you will if it is of no use value the feeling in which it is sent. [Pulteney’s letter set out Napoleon’s views on various topics]




When you have done with these papers let me have them back – but keep them as long as you like. Yours …John Malcolm


PS I forgot to say I send you some short extracts from my journals in 1815 and 1825. Soult’s opinion is curious – and confirmed I believe [by ??? & the other authors] The first volume of my nonsense book [Sketches of Persia] will be finished this week, and the whole finished in the first week of January. I think you will like it – I have been better pleased since it is done than I was with it at the commencement. I am doing well with the memoir of Baber and old Leyden will immediately reap some profits




[Two letters enclosed in the above letter of 15 /12/1826]


July-Aug 1815 (35)


Papers concerning Buonaparte [?obtained by Sir PulteneyMalcolm]


Lord Melville, Lord Keith, Napoleon, Sir H Bunbury


6 July 1816 (36)


[Sir Pulteney Malcolm’s notes on Buonaparte’s opinions about various events – Battle of Trafalgar, Basque Roads, St Domingo, Toulon fleet, Invasion (of England), Battle of Waterloo, Bourbons etc]



20/12/?26 (37)

Malcolm at Hyde Hall wrote to Scott

My dear Sir Walter,


I send you a private letter from my sensible sister Lady P Malcolm[the wife of Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm. She accompanied him to St Helena in 1816-17, and became friendly with Napoleon on St Helena]. Take particular care of this and return it. I cannot give more proof of the interest I take in your labours than by sending you documents without leave. They may be of no consequence but – a word is often important in such cases. At all events, as I said before, you will value the disposition I have had with my small contribution. Yours […] John Malcolm


[No attachment, unfortunately]




n.d. (probably 1827) (38)

Malcolm at Hyde Hall wrote to Scott

My dear Walter,


Mr Francis [?Hare] just returned from the Continent has given me a correct copy of  the first note that Bonaparte wrote that is known to exist – it was written when he was 17. The copy was taken from the original at Geneva, and the ms spelling was preserved. I was offered it from the impression that I might convey it to you. To which I readily assented, as it must be a matter of curiosity to possess anything that relates in the most distant way to one of whom you have thought and written so much. I am very anxious to see your book, of which Murray says 6 out of 8 volumes are in Town.


Yrs affectionately   John Malcolm




n.d. [probably 1827  (39)


Malcolm wrote to Scott


[re Napoleon]



[In July 1827 Malcolm left for India to become Governor of Bombay].




29/8/1829 (40)

Captain Graham [Malcolm’s Military Secretary] at Dhapoorie[near Poona, Western India] wrote to Lieutenant W Scott [Scott’s nephew] at Ahmednuggar, [Central India]

[Captain Graham thanks Lieutenant Scott on behalf of Malcolm for his work in erecting a barracks at Ahmednuggar]




11/11/1829 (41)

Lieutenant Walter Scott at Ahmednuggar wrote to Scott

[Lieutenant W Scott was an engineer (born 1806). He  suggested that he might come back to Scotland for, say, three years to get more fully trained as an engineer, and thought of getting Malcolm’s leave to do so.]


“Bye the bye, a propos of secrecy, Sir John Malcolm received a letter Private from Lord Ellenborough [at that time the President of the Board of Control for India] relating to the fracas we have had here lately about the judges; and because comparisons are odious, there was one which compared Sir John Grant  and the two new judges to a wild elephant between two tame ones – no doubt a very capital joke but slightly (considering who were put in opposition) indecorous [Grant was the only surviving judge of the Bombay Supreme Court, the other two judges having recently died, was in dispute with the Governor (Malcolm) about the scope of the Court’s  jurisdiction]. Sir John Malcolm, according to custom, reads his letters at public Breakfast-table – as, by the bye, he does every one, not excepting those of his nearest relations. By return of post, back comes, in a villainous Radical newspaper, the letter itself verbatim, excepting that the names and signature were changed. Lord Ellenborough is, I hear, a stranger to Sir John Malcolm.”




5/12/1829? (42)

Malcolm at Bombay wrote to Lieutenant W Scott at ?Ahmednuggar, Central India

My dear Scott,


I fear our arrangements – about the Corps of Artificers and others – [mean] we shall be compelled to move you out of your marquee. If so, which would you like best – the Southern Concan or ?Maligham[Malegaon?]


Yours sincerely


John Malcolm


I heard from your uncle lately, who I shall tell you are one of mygood Boys




13/5/1830 (43)

Malcolm at Mahabaleshwar [A hill station South of Poona, founded by Malcolm in 1828] wrote to Scott

“Your nephew Walter is a fine fellow and a great favourite of mine on publick as well as private grounds. I gave him some time ago the thanks of Government upon the manner in which he acted under difficult circumstances when he had the conduct of an expensive publick work……


I must, if not born an enthusiast, be rendered one by my present position. I write by the light of a window through which, from an elevation of 4700 feet, I have a fine view of the sea – looking over what those, 3000 feet below, call high mountains. The air in this hottest of our months is such as to give a spring to both body and soul, and were it not for my occupation and absence from those I love, I could be content to dwell amid such scenes as those by which I am surrounded, for the remainder of my existence. But I am toiling from dawn to sunset to bring to a good finish the labors of my public life.”




22/9/1830 (44)

Scott at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire wrote to Lieutenant Walter Scott in India

[Acknowledged receipt of Lieutenant W Scott’s letter dated 11/11/1829 (see above).]




2/11/1830 (45)

Scott at Abbotsford wrote to Mrs Thomas Scott [Scott’s sister in law, and mother of Lieutenant W Scott]

My dear sister,


I received a letter from Sir John Malcolm dated at some place with an unpronounceable Indian name [Mahabaleshwar!] upon 13 May last which contains the following, which I consider as worth postage if I should not get a frank for this. [quotes from letter from Malcolm dated 15 May 1830 – see above]


I was very glad to receive this assurance from a man who is so admirable a judge of mankind as Sir John undoubtedly is. There is no fear of Walter while he depends on his own talents and resolves to do his best.




[Malcolm arrived back in Britain in March 1831]






 17/10/1831 (46)

Scott’s Journal, when he was in London

“Sir John told us a story about Garrick [1717-1779, famous actor] and his wife. The lady admired her husband greatly but blamed him for a taste for low life and insisted that he loved better to play Scrub to a lowlife Audience than one of his superior characters before an Audience of taste. On one particular occasion she was at her box in the theatre. Richard III was the performance and Garrick’s acting, especially in the night scene, brought down universal applause. After the play was over Mrs G proposed going home which Garrick declined alleging he had some business in the green room which must detain him. In short the Lady was obliged to acquiesce, and [to] wait the beginning of a new entertainment in which was introduced a farmer giving his neighbours an account of the wonders se[e]n on a visit to London. This character was received with such peals of applause that Mrs Garrick began to think it rivald those which had been so lately lavished on Richard the Third. At last she observed her little spaniel dog was making efforts to get towards the balcony which separated him from the facetious farmer. She became at [that] aware of the truth. “How strange,” he said, that a dog should recognize its master and a woman in the same circumstances should not recognize her husband.”




18/10/1831 (47)

Scott’s Journal in London

“Sir John insists on my meeting this Rammohoun Roy [A renowned Brahmin philosopher from Bengal who was a fashionable curiosity in London society at the time]. I am no believer in his wandering knight so fair. The time is gone of sages who travel to collect wisdom as well as heroes to reap honour. Men think and fight for money. I won’t see the man if I can help it. Flatterers are difficult enough to keep at a distance though they be no renegades. I hate a fellow who begins with throwing away his own religion and then affects a prodigious respect for another.”




[Sir Walter Scott died at Abbotsford in July 1832]




4/11/1832 (48)

Malcolm in London wrote to the Abbotsford Committee

[in response to a request for a subscription to erect a statue of Scott – Malcolm says that buying Abbotsford for Scott’s family would be a more appropriate use of subscriptions, but that if a statue is preferred, he would certainly still subscribe].


Late 1832 (49)


[Public address by Malcolm at the Thatched House Tavern, London, for the purpose of forming a subscription to buy up the mansion of Sir Walter Scott for his family. His concluding sentiment was: “that when he was gone, his son might be proud to say that his father had been among the contributors to that shrine of genius”]




 4/11/1832 (50)

Malcolm in London wrote to James Skene Esq at Royal Institution, Edinburgh

[Malcolm advocated making a grant to the Scott family so that they can preserve Abbotsford].




Being in the country, your letter did not reach me till two days ago. I shall suggest the names of those persons in India to whom it might, in my opinion, be useful to send your Circular; but I regret that my being one of a few gentlemen who met some time ago to promote the same object as your Committee, will prevent my affording that influence and co-operation the latter wish me to do to further their object with my friends abroad; but I entreat you to ensure the Committee that this arises from no want of zeal in the cause they have undertaken. I most fully participate in their feelings of admiration for that genius whose loss we deplore; and I shall personally never be founding wanting in giving my aid to any plan for marking respect to his memory; but my influence, which is not much, will be given to the effecting of this object in the mode that I deem at once honourable to the living and the dead. I have, from the first, thought, and continue to think, that making Abbotsford and all its appurtenances a grant from the public to the descendants of Sir Walter Scott, is the noblest tribute we can pay to the memory of that wonderful man.  I view this place as one of his works, and it was, beyond all others, the one in which during his existence he most delighted. There is no fear but that his other works will perpetuate themselves; we and our children’s children shall continue to derive pleasure and gratification from them. By purchasing Abbotsford, while we honour his memory, we shall inspire, through a recurring sense of benefit, his children with the same sense of gratitude to us which we entertain for their father: we shall perpetuate the only fabric he ever raised of perishable materials: it will be a lasting abode to his descendants; and this shrine of genius – for such it is, and will remain – will never pass into the hands of strangers to his blood. The preservation of this place of his own creation to his family, is known to be in accordance with the last and most cherished feelings  of his heart; but were there no danger (which I fear is not the case) of its ever passing from his family, I should still advocate its purchase, and its grant to them. We can raise no monument to his fame so appropriate; with it are associated all that belongs to his life, his death, hi character, and his inspired works. In viewing a statue, we may mix our imagination of the subject with those feelings which are excited by the success or failure of the sculptor; it is, besides, a species of tribute that has been paid to the memory of numbers. My enthusiasm may mislead my judgment; but I desire that this, the primary object of a nation’s gratitude to one who has raised its name throughout the civilised world, should be of a description distinct from all others; and also that it should be f a character that banished from the mind every feeling except of him to whom it was dedicated.


With the sentiments I have expressed, should the purchase of Abbotsford be resolved upon, I must give what little influence and support I can to promote that object. I do earnestly hope, for the sake of that noble cause in which both are alike ardent, that the Committees of London and Edinbugh will accord with each other; but should it be otherwise, I shall readily subscribe to the statue; for, whatever preference I may give to the other plan, I shall never personally withhold my contribution to the commemoration, in any shape, of one whom it was my pride to esteem a friend, and honour as a countryman.





[Sir John Malcolm outlived Scott by less than a year, dying in London on 30 May 1833]






EIC  = The East India Company


G = Sir Herbert Grierson’s edition of the letters of Sir Walter Scott


JL  = John Leyden, Scottish poet (1775-1811)


Journal  = Sir Walter Scott’s Journal, 1825-1831


Kaye  = Sir John Kaye, “Life and Correspondence of Sir John Malcolm” (1856)


L  = J G Lockhart’s Life of Sir Walter Scott


NLS  = National Library of Scotland


SJM  = Major General Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833)


Smiles  = Samuel Smiles, author of “A Publisher and his friends” (1891)


SPM = Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm (1768-1838) (brother of SJM)


SWS  = Sir Walter Scott Bt (1771-1832)


NOTE; In 1810-1830 the delivery time for letters between Britain and India was 4-6 months.





  1. L iii p.316/NLS Mss 3881 ff 102-104
  2. G XII p.334
  3. G III p.150
  4. G III p.170; L iv p.23
  5. G III p.192
  6. NLS 3884 f 248
  7. NLS 3884 f 291
  8. NLS 3884
  9. G III p.391
  10. NLS 3885 f 149
  11. Smiles p.308
  12. Kaye II p.117 et seq
  13. G IV p.133 ; Kaye II, p.94
  14. G IV p.185
  15. G III p.150; NLS866
  16. Kaye II p.140
  17. G IV p.149
  18. G IV p.338
  19. G IV p.378
  20. G V p.280
  21. NLS 3889 (not NLS 3888, as the NLS catalogue has it)
  22. NLS 3889 (not NLS 3888, as the NLS catalogue has it)
  23. G VI p.123
  24. Wisbech and Fenland Museum 3/61, no 6424
  25. NLS 3892 f.111
  26. NLS 3895 f.18
  27. Kaye II p.435
  28. NLS 935, f 3, p.7
  29. NLS 3901 f 03-106
  30. NLS 3420 f 222
  31. G V p.309
  32. NLS 3903 f 148
  33. SWS Journal p.240
  34. NLS 886 f 15
  35. NLS 886 ff 17-22
  36. NLS 886 ff 27-31
  37. NLS 869 ff 204-205
  38. NLS 885 f 49
  39. NLS 885 f 19
  40. NLS 3867 f 19
  41. NLS 3420; G XI p.393; also see Sir Walter’s Postbag, by Wilfred Partington (1932), p.280
  42. NLS 3867 f 19
  43. G XI p.409; Kaye II p.543 (Kaye says date was 15/5/1830)
  44. G XI p.393a
  45. G XI pp.409-410
  46. SWS Journal p.667
  47. SWS Journal p.668
  48. NLS 6.314 (36) (printed)
  49. G III p.150n
  50. NLS 965 f 312