SCOTT, Sir Walter (1771-1832). Autograph manuscript, a sermon on Matthew V, verse 17 ('Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfil'), 7½ pages written on 9 leaves, 265 x 205 mm, together with a printed text of the same including autograph corrections and amendments, and a printed portrait, the manuscript tipped on guards, and the printed leaves laid into an album, 20th-century blue morocco gilt by Riviere, gilt fillet borders, the spine gilt in six compartments, lettered in two, roll-tooled gilt turn-ins (extremities slightly rubbed).
The sermon, taking as its text a verse from the Sermon on the Mount, discusses the relationship between the teaching of Christ, and Mosaic Law and the Prophets. The appearance of such a work by the author of the Waverley novels caused considerable surprise.
The history of the writing of this sermon and its publication (with another, not present) in Religious Discourses, by a Layman (1828) illustrates Scott's generosity. He had offered to help George Huntly Gordon, son of an officer who acted as his guide at Waterloo in August 1815. Scott corresponded with the young man who had been licensed as a preacher, but on account of his deafness could not obtain a parish. He acted temporarily as the transcriber of the Waverley manuscripts for the press. In 1824 Scott wrote two sermons, for him to use in his application to the Aberdeen Presbytery. Gordon was then too scrupulous to submit them, but the manuscript remained in his care. In December 1827 Gordon, by now secretary to an official at the Treasury, was in debt for £180, and realised that by selling the manuscripts to a bookseller, he might raise funds to extricate himself. Scott (who had recently lost all his money in the bankruptcy of Constables) reluctantly consented, stipulating only that his name should not be on the titlepage 'or blazed at full length in the preface', but reminding Gordon that the sermons were never intended for publication, and 'contain no novelty of opinion...They were meant...to show that a rational and practical discourse upon a particular text was a task more easily performed than you...seemed at the time disposed to believe' (published letter of 2 January 1828). Lockhart quotes from Scott's diary, recording that the two sermons were sold to the bookseller Colburn for £250 and, while showing regret that they will now be published, concluding 'there would be little grace in doing a kind thing, if you did not suffer pain or inconvenience upon the score'.