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All My Debts Were Paid

“I often wish that I could lie down and sleep without waking. But I will fight it out if I can.”

So wrote one of the bravest, most inspiring men who ever lived, Sir Walter Scott. In his 56th year, failing in health, his wife dying of an incurable disease, Scott was in debt a half million dollars. A publishing firm he had invested in had collapsed. He might have taken bankruptcy, but shrank from the stain. From his creditors he asked only time. Thus began his race with death, a valiant effort to pay off the debt before he died.

To be able to write free from interruptions, Scott withdrew to a small rooming house in Edinburgh. He had left his dying wife, Charlotte behind in the country.

“It withered my heart,” he wrote in his diary, but his presence could avail her nothing now. A few weeks later she died. After the funeral he wrote in his diary: “Were an enemy coming upon my house, would I not do my best to fight, although oppressed in spirits; and shall a similar despondency prevent me from mental exertion? It shall not, by heaven!”

With a tremendous exercise of will, he returned to the task, stifling his grief. He turned out Woodstock, Count Robert of Paris, Castle Dangerous, and other works. Though twice stricken with paralysis, he labored steadily until the fall of 1832. Then came a merciful miracle. Although his mental powers had left him, he died September 21, 1832, happy in the illusion that all his debts were paid. (They were finally paid in 1847 with the sale of all his copyrights.)

Thomas Carlyle was to write of him latter: “No sounder piece of British manhood was put together in the eighteenth century of time.”

Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, pp. 16-18