Sophia put the pen into his hand, and he endeavoured to close his fingers upon it, but they refused their office – it dropped on the paper. He sat back among his pillows, silent tears rolling down his cheeks’. Scott died here in the window at Abbotsford, his family around him, on a warm and beautiful autumn afternoon. ‘It was so quiet a day’ his friend and son-in-law John Gibson Lockhart recorded, ‘that the sound he best loved, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around his bed’.
The dining room was the scene of many family occasions and parties of great joviality during Scott’s lifetime. Naturally hospitable and famous around the world, Scott rarely wanted for company. Many of his visitors would stay for days at a time, joining the family for every meal. An unfailing host, warm and welcoming to all who came, Scott nevertheless sighed in private that his time was ‘picked away by teaspoonfuls’. One guest noted that he did not preside formally at dinner but took whichever chair was left available when he came in from working in his study.
The day began at 9 o’clock with a family breakfast: a substantial meal that might include a round of beef and a pasty as well as porridge and eggs. The next meal was dinner at 4.30pm, and Scott liked to sit on after this in conversation before adjourning to the drawing room for the evening. There was usually a supper at 10pm. Sometimes during dinner one of the estate workers, John Bruce of Skye, would play bagpipes on the terrace outside. An American visitor described the scene:
‘As soon as we were seated the piper struck up a pibroch before the windows, dressed in his full Highland costume, and one of the best-looking, and most vain, self-sufficient dogs I ever saw; and he continued walking about and playing on his bagpipes until the dessert arrived, when he was called in, received his dram and was dismissed’.