Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/29

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17
THE STORY OF SCOTT'S RUIN

same prudence during the later period as he did during the first crisis, he would have freed himself from all difficulty. He chose, that is, to spend his income, when he ought to have been paying off his debts. He had, it is true, his landed estate to show for it, and although, as Lockhart tells us, he had been induced to pay extravagant prices, he might take this to be a good investment. But, in point of fact, he seems to have been curiously unaware that he was incurring any risk; and the settlement of Abbotsford upon his eldest son in 1825, which, if valid, put the property beyond the reach of his creditors, would have been inexcusable if any such alarm had occurred to him.

Now Lockhart's Life goes to suggest the theory against which Ballantyne's trustees really protested. The immediate cause, according to Lockhart's view, was Ballantyne's shiftlessness and incapacity. Ballantyne was, says Lockhart, an excellent reader of proofs, and made many valuable literary suggestions to his great friend. But he was also a muddle-headed and lazy man of business, who never looked into his accounts or made out a genuine balance-sheet. When bills became due he met them by drawing fresh bills, and never troubled himself about the ultimate

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