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Title: Sir Walter Scott - A Lecture at the Sorbonne
Author: Ker, William Paton
Language: English
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Scoggins, Norilan, McMartha, sassi, Siobhan Hillman, Tamise
Totterdell, Zara Baxter, Janet Blenkinship and the Online


  SIR WALTER SCOTT

  A Lecture at the Sorbonne,
  May 22, 1919, in the series of
  _Conférences Louis Liard_

  BY

  WILLIAM PATON KER, LL.D.

  GLASGOW

  MACLEHOSE, JACKSON AND CO.

  PUBLISHERS TO THE UNIVERSITY

  1919



NOTE


This Essay appeared in the _Anglo-French Review_, August, 1919, and
I am obliged to the Editor and Publisher for leave to reprint it.

                                           W. P. K.



Sir Walter Scott


When I was asked to choose a subject for a lecture at the Sorbonne,
there came into my mind somehow or other the incident of Scott's visit
to Paris when he went to see _Ivanhoe_ at the Odéon, and was amused to
think how the story had travelled and made its fortune:--

     'It was an opera, and, of course, the story sadly mangled and
     the dialogue in great part nonsense. Yet it was strange to
     hear anything like the words which (then in an agony of pain
     with spasms in my stomach) I dictated to William Laidlaw at
     Abbotsford, now recited in a foreign tongue, and for the
     amusement of a strange people. I little thought to have
     survived the completing of this novel.'

It seemed to me that here I had a text for my sermon. The cruel
circumstances of the composition of _Ivanhoe_ might be neglected. The
interesting point was in the contrast between the original home of
Scott's imagination and the widespread triumph of his works abroad--on
the one hand, Edinburgh and Ashestiel, the traditions of the Scottish
border and the Highlands, the humours of Edinburgh lawyers and Glasgow
citizens, country lairds, farmers and ploughmen, the Presbyterian
eloquence of the Covenanters and their descendants, the dialect hardly
intelligible out of its own region, and not always clear even to natives
of Scotland; on the other hand, the competition for Scott's novels in
all the markets of Europe, as to which I take leave to quote the
evidence of Stendhal:--

     'Lord Byron, auteur de quelques héroïdes sublimes, mais
     toujours les mêmes, et de beaucoup de tragédies mortellement
     ennuyeuses, n'est point du tout le chef des romantiques.

     'S'il se trouvait un homme que les traducteurs à la toise se
     disputassent également à Madrid, à Stuttgard, à Paris et à
     Vienne, l'on pourrait avancer que cet homme a deviné les
     tendances morales de son époque.'

If Stendhal proceeds to remark in a footnote that 'l'homme lui-même est
peu digne d'enthousiasme,' it is pleasant to remember that Lord Byron
wrote to M. Henri Beyle to correct his low opinion of the character of
Scott. This is by the way, though not, I hope, an irrelevant remark. For
Scott is best revealed in his friendships; and the mutual regard of
Scott and Byron is as pleasant to think of as the friendship between
Scott and Wordsworth.

As to the truth of Stendhal's opinion about the vogue of Scott's novels
and his place as chief of the romantics, there is no end to the list of
witnesses who might be summoned. Perhaps it may be enough to remember
how the young Balzac was carried away by the novels as they came fresh
from the translator, almost immediately after their first appearance at
home.

One distinguishes easily enough, at home in Scotland, between the
novels, or the passages in the novels, that are idiomatic, native,
homegrown, intended for his own people, and the novels not so limited,
the romances of English or foreign history--_Ivanhoe_, _Kenilworth_,
_Quentin Durward_. But as a matter of fact these latter, though possibly
easier to understand and better suited to the general public, were not
invariably preferred. The novels were 'the Scotch novels.' Although
Thackeray, when he praises Scott, takes most of his examples from the
less characteristic, what we may call the English group, on the other
hand, Hazlitt dwells most willingly on the Scotch novels, though he did
not like Scotsmen, and shared some of the prejudice of Stendhal--'my
friend Mr. Beyle,' as he calls him in one place--with regard to Scott
himself. And Balzac has no invidious preferences: he recommends an
English romance, _Kenilworth_, to his sister, and he also remembers
David Deans, a person most intensely and peculiarly Scots.

One may distinguish the Scotch novels, which only their author could
have written, from novels like _Peveril of the Peak_ or _Anne of
Geierstein_, which may be thought to resemble rather too closely the
imitations of Scott, the ordinary historical novel as it was written by
Scott's successors. But though the formula of the conventional
historical novel may have been drawn from the less idiomatic group, it
was not this that chiefly made Scott's reputation. His fame and
influence were achieved through the whole mass of his immense and varied
work; and the Scots dialect and humours, which make so large a part of
his resources when he is putting out all his power, though they have
their difficulties for readers outside of Scotland, were no real
hindrances in the way of the Scotch novels: Dandie Dinmont and Bailie
Nicol Jarvie, Cuddie Headrigg and Andrew Fairservice were not ignored or
forgotten, even where _Ivanhoe_ or _The Talisman_ might have the
preference as being more conformable to the general mind of novel
readers.

The paradox remains: that the most successful novelist of the whole
world should have had his home and found his strength in a country with
a language of its own, barely intelligible, frequently repulsive to its
nearest neighbours, a language none the more likely to win favour when
the manners or ideas of the country were taken into consideration as
well.

The critics who refuse to see much good in Scott, for the most part
ignore the foundations of his work. Thus Stendhal, who acknowledges
Scott's position as representative of his age, the one really great,
universally popular, author of his day, does not recognise in Scott's
imagination much more than trappings and tournaments, the furniture of
the regular historical novel. He compares Scott's novels with _La
Princesse de Clèves_, and asks which is more to be praised, the author
who understands and reveals the human heart, or the descriptive
historian who can fill pages with unessential details but is afraid of
the passions.

In which it seems to be assumed that Scott, when he gave his attention
to the background and the appropriate dresses, was neglecting the
dramatic truth of his characters and their expression. Scott, it may be
observed, had, in his own reflexions on the art of novel-writing, taken
notice of different kinds of policy in dealing with the historical
setting. In his lives of the novelists, reviewing _The Old English
Baron_, he describes the earlier type of historical novel in which
little or nothing is done for antiquarian decoration or for local
colour; while in his criticism of Mrs. Radcliffe he uses the very
term--'melodrama'--and the very distinction--melodrama as opposed to
tragedy--which is the touchstone of the novelist. Whatever his success
might be, there can be no doubt as to his intentions. He meant his
novels, with their richer background and their larger measure of detail,
to sacrifice nothing of dramatic truth. _La Princesse de Clèves_, a
professedly historical novel with little 'local colour', may be in
essentials finer and more sincere than Scott. This is a question which I
ask leave to pass over. But it is not Scott's intention to put off the
reader with details and decoration as a substitute for truth of
character and sentiment. Here most obviously, with all their
differences, Balzac and Scott are agreed: expensive both of them in
description, but neither of them inclined to let mere description (in
Pope's phrase) take the place of sense--i.e. of the life which it is the
business of the novelist to interpret. There is danger, no doubt, of
overdoing it, but description in Balzac, however full and long, is never
inanimate. He has explained his theory in a notice of Scott, or rather
in a comparison of Scott and Fenimore Cooper (_Revue Parisienne_, 1840),
where the emptiness of Cooper's novels is compared with the variety of
Scott's, the solitude of the American lakes and forests with the crowd
of life commanded by the author of _Waverley_. Allowing Cooper one great
success in the character of Leather-stocking and some merit in a few
other personages, Balzac finds beyond these nothing like Scott's
multitude of characters; their place is taken by the beauties of nature.
But description cannot make up for want of life in a story.

Balzac shows clearly that he understood the danger of description, and
how impossible, how unreasonable, it is to make scenery do instead of
story and characters. He does not seem to think that Scott has failed in
this respect, while in his remarks on Scott's humour he proves how far
he is from the critics who found in Scott nothing but scenery and
accoutrements and the rubbish of old chronicles. Scott's chivalry and
romance are not what Balzac is thinking about. Balzac is considering
Scott's imagination in general, his faculty in narrative and dialogue,
wherever his scene may be, from whatever period the facts of his story
may be drawn.

Scott's superiority to his American rival comes out, says Balzac,
chiefly in his secondary personages and in his talent for comedy. The
American makes careful mechanical provision for laughter: Balzac takes
this all to pieces, and leaves Scott unchallenged and inexhaustible.

Scott's reputation has suffered a little through suspicion of his
politics, and, strangely enough, of his religion. He has been made
responsible for movements in Churches about which opinions naturally
differ, but of which it is certain Scott never dreamed. Those who
suspect and blame his work because it is reactionary, illiberal, and
offensive to modern ideas of progress, are, of course, mainly such
persons as believe in 'the march of intellect,' and think meanly of each
successive stage as soon as it is left behind. The spokesman of this
party is Mark Twain, who wrote a burlesque of the Holy Grail, and who in
his _Life on the Mississippi_ makes Scott responsible for the vanities
and superstitions of the Southern States of America:--

     'The South has not yet recovered from the debilitating
     influence of his books. Admiration of his fantastic heroes and
     their grotesque "chivalry" doings and romantic juvenilities
     still survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already
     perceptible the wholesome and practical nineteenth century
     smell of cotton-factories and locomotives.'

It is useless to moralise on this, and the purport and significance of
it may be left for private meditation to enucleate and enjoy. But it
cannot be fully appreciated, unless one remembers that the author of
this and other charges against chivalry is also the historian of the
feud between the Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords, equal in tragedy to
the themes of the _chansons de geste_: of _Raoul de Cambrai_ or _Garin
le Loherain_. Mark Twain in the person of Huckleberry Finn is committed
to the ideas of chivalry neither more nor less than Walter Scott in
_Ivanhoe_ or _The Talisman_. I am told further--though this is perhaps
unimportant--that Gothic ornament in America is not peculiarly the taste
of the South, that even at Chicago there are imitations of Gothic towers
and halls.

Hazlitt, an unbeliever in most of Scott's political principles, is also
the most fervent and expressive admirer of the novels, quite beyond the
danger of modern progress, his judgment not corrupted at all by the
incense of the cotton-factory or the charm of the locomotive. Hazlitt's
praise of Scott is an immortal proof of Hazlitt's sincerity in
criticism. Scott's friends were not Hazlitt's, and Scott and Hazlitt
differed both in personal and public affairs as much as any men of their
time. But Hazlitt has too much sense not to be taken with the Scotch
novels, and too much honesty not to say so, and too much spirit not to
put all his strength into praising, when once he begins. Hazlitt's
critical theory of Scott's novels is curiously like his opinion about
Scott's old friend, the poet Crabbe: whose name I cannot leave without a
salute to the laborious and eloquent work of M. Huchon, his scholarly
French interpreter.

Hazlitt on Crabbe and Scott is a very interesting witness on account of
the principles and presuppositions employed by him. In the last hundred
years or so the problems of realism and naturalism have been canvassed
almost too thoroughly between disputants who seem not always to know
when they are wandering from the point or wearying their audience with
verbiage and platitudes. But out of all the controversy there has
emerged at least one plain probability--that there is no such thing as
simple transference of external reality into artistic form. This is what
Hazlitt seems to ignore very strangely in his judgment of Crabbe and
Scott, and this is, I think, an interesting point in the history of
criticism, especially when it is remembered that Hazlitt was a critic of
painting, and himself a painter. He speaks almost as if realities passed
direct into the verse of Crabbe; as if Scott's imagination in the novels
were merely recollection and transcription of experience. Speaking of
the difference between the genius of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott,
he says:

     'It is the difference between _originality_ and the want of
     it, between writing and transcribing. Almost all the finest
     scenes and touches, the great master-strokes in Shakespeare,
     are such as must have belonged to the class of invention,
     where the secret lay between him and his own heart, and the
     power exerted is in adding to the given materials and working
     something out of them: in the author of _Waverley_, not all,
     but the principal and characteristic beauties are such as may
     and do belong to the class of compilation--that is, consist in
     bringing the materials together and leaving them to produce
     their own effect....

     'No one admires or delights in the Scotch Novels more than I
     do, but at the same time, when I hear it asserted that his
     mind is of the same class with Shakespeare, or that he
     imitates nature in the same way, I confess I cannot assent to
     it. No two things appear to me more different. Sir Walter is
     an imitator of nature and nothing more; but I think
     Shakespeare is infinitely more than this.... Sir Walter's mind
     is full of information, but the "_o'er informing power_" is
     not there. Shakespeare's spirit, like fire, shines through
     him; Sir Walter's, like a stream, reflects surrounding
     objects.'

I may not at this time quote much more of Hazlitt's criticism, but the
point of it would be misunderstood if it were construed as depreciation
of Scott. What may be considered merely memory in contrast to
Shakespeare's imagination is regarded by Hazlitt as a limitless source
of visionary life when compared with the ideas of self-centred authors
like Byron. This is what Hazlitt says in another essay of the same
series:--

     'Scott "does not 'spin his brains' but something much better."
     He "has got hold of another clue--that of Nature and
     history--and long may he spin it, 'even to the crack of
     doom!'" Scott's success lies in not thinking of himself. "And
     then again the catch that blind Willie and his wife and the
     boy sing in the hollow of the heath--there is more mirth and
     heart's ease in it than in all Lord Byron's _Don Juan_ or Mr.
     Moore's _Lyrics_. And why? Because the author is thinking of
     beggars and a beggar's brat, and not of himself, while he
     writes it. He looks at Nature, sees it, hears it, feels it,
     and believes that it exists before it is printed, hotpressed,
     and labelled on the back _By the Author of 'Waverley.'_ He
     does not fancy, nor would he for one moment have it supposed,
     that his name and fame compose all that is worth a moment's
     consideration in the universe. This is the great secret of his
     writings--a perfect indifference to self."'

Hazlitt appears to allow too little to the mind of the Author of
_Waverley_--as though the author had nothing to do but let the contents
of his mind arrange themselves on his pages. What this exactly may mean
is doubtful. We are not disposed to accept the theory of the passive
mind as a sufficient philosophical explanation of the Scotch novels. But
Hazlitt is certainly right to make much of the store of reading and
reminiscence they imply, and it is not erroneous or fallacious to think
of all Scott's writings in verse or prose as peculiarly the fruits of
his life and experience. His various modes of writing are suggested to
him by the way, and he finds his art with no long practice when the
proper time comes to use it. After all, is this not what was meant by
Horace when he said that the subject rightly chosen will provide what is
wanted in art and style?

                   Cui lecta potenter erit res
     Nec facundia deseret hunc nec lucidus ordo.

It was chosen by Corneille as a motto for _Cinna_; it would do as a
summary of all the writings of Scott.

The Waverley Novels may be reckoned among the works of fiction that have
had their origin in chance, and have turned out something different from
what the author intended. Reading the life of Scott, we seem to be
following a pilgrimage where the traveller meets with different
temptations and escapes various dangers, and takes up a number of
duties, and is led to do a number of fine things which he had not
thought of till the time came for attempting them. The poet and the
novelist are revealed in the historian and the collector of antiquities.
Scott before _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_ looked like a young
adventurer in the study of history and legend, who had it in him to do
solid work on a large scale (like his edition of Dryden) if he chose to
take it up. He is not a poet from the beginning like Wordsworth and
Keats, devoted to that one service; he turns novelist late in life when
the success of his poetry seems to be over. His early experiments in
verse are queerly suggested and full of hazard. It needs a foreign
language--German--to encourage him to rhyme. The fascination of Bürger's
_Lenore_ is a reflection from English ballad poetry; the reflected image
brought out what had been less remarkable in the original. The German
devices of terror and wonder are a temptation to Scott; they hang about
his path with their monotonous and mechanical jugglery, their horrors
made all the more intolerable through the degraded verse of Lewis--a bad
example which Scott instinctively refused to follow, though he most
unaccountably praised Lewis's sense of rhythm. The close of the
eighteenth century cannot be fully understood, nor the progress of
poetry in the nineteenth, without some study of the plague of ghosts and
skeletons which has left its mark on _The Ancient Mariner_, from which
Goethe and Scott did not escape, which imposed on Shelley in his youth,
to which Byron yielded his tribute of _The Vampire_. A tempting subject
for expatiation, especially when one remembers--and who that has once
read it can forget?--the most glorious passage in the _Memoirs_ of
Alexandre Dumas describing his first conversation with the unknown
gentleman who afterwards turned out to be Charles Nodier, in the theatre
of the Porte Saint-Martin where the play was the _Vampire_: from which
theatre Charles Nodier was expelled for hissing the _Vampire_, himself
being part-author of the marvellous drama. I hope it is not impertinent
in a stranger to express his unbounded gratitude for that delightful and
most humorous dialogue, in which the history of the Elzevir Press
(starting from _Le Pastissier françois_) and the tragedy of the rotifer
are so adroitly interwoven with the theatrical scene of Fingal's Cave
and its unusual visitors, the whole adventure ending in the happiest
laughter over the expulsion of the dramatist. I may not have any right
to say so, but I throw myself on the mercy of my hearers: I remember
nothing in any chronicle so mercurial or jovial in its high spirits as
this story of the first encounter and the beginning of friendship
between Charles Nodier and Alexandre Dumas.

The Vampire of Staffa may seem rather far from the range of Scott's
imagination; but his contributions to Lewis's _Tales of Wonder_ show the
risk that he ran, while the White Lady of Avenel in _The Monastery_
proves that even in his best years he was exposed to the hazards of
conventional magic.

Lockhart has given the history of _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_, how
the story developed and took shape. It is not so much an example of
Scott's mode of writing poetry as an explanation of his whole literary
life. _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_ was his first original piece of any
length and his first great popular success. And, as Lockhart has
sufficiently shown, it was impossible for Scott to get to it except
through the years of exploration and editing, the collection of the
Border ballads, the study of the old metrical romance of _Sir Tristrem_.
The story of the Goblin Page was at first reckoned enough simply for one
of the additions to the Border Minstrelsy on the scale of a ballad.
Scott had tried another sort of imitation in the stanzas composed in old
English and in the metre of the original to supply the missing
conclusion of _Sir Tristrem_. It was not within his scope to write an
original romance in the old language, but Coleridge's _Christabel_ was
recited to him, and gave him a modern rhythm fit for a long story. So
the intended ballad became the _Lay_, taking in, with the legend of
Gilpin Horner for a foundation, all the spirit of Scott's knowledge of
his own country.

Here I must pause to express my admiration for Lockhart's criticism of
Scott, and particularly for his description of the way in which the
_Lay_ came to be written. It is really wonderful, Lockhart's sensible,
unpretentious, thorough interpretation of the half-unconscious processes
by which Scott's reading and recollections were turned into his poems
and novels. Of course, it is all founded on Scott's own notes and
introductions.

What happened with the _Lay_ is repeated a few years afterwards in
_Waverley_. The _Lay_, a rhyming romance; _Waverley_ an historical
novel; what, it may be asked, is so very remarkable about their origins?
Was it not open to any one to write romances in verse or prose? Perhaps;
but the singularity of Scott's first romances in verse and prose is that
they do not begin as literary experiments, but as means of expressing
their author's knowledge, memory and treasured sentiment. Hazlitt is
right; Scott's experience is shaped into the Waverley Novels, though one
can distinguish later between those stories that belong properly to
Scott's life and those that are invented in repetition of a pattern.

Scott's own alleged reason for giving up the writing of tales in verse
was that Byron beat him. But there must have been something besides
this: it is plain that the pattern of rhyming romance was growing stale.
The _Lay_ needs no apology; _Marmion_ includes the great tragedy of
Scotland in the Battle of Flodden:--

     The stubborn spearmen still made good
     Their dark impenetrable wood,
     Each stepping where his comrade stood,
         The instant that he fell.
     No thought was there of dastard flight;
     Link'd in the serried phalanx tight,
     Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
         As fearlessly and well;
     Till utter darkness closed her wing
     O'er their thin host and wounded king.

And _The Lady of the Lake_ is all that the Highlands meant for Scott at
that time. But _Rokeby_ has little substance, though it includes more
than one of Scott's finest songs. _The Lord of the Isles_, though its
battle is not too far below _Marmion_, and though its hero is Robert the
Bruce, yet wants the original force of the earlier romances. When Scott
changed his hand from verse to prose for story-telling and wrote
_Waverley_, he not only gained in freedom and got room for a kind of
dialogue that was impossible in rhyme, but he came back to the same sort
of experience and the same strength of tradition as had given life to
the _Lay_. The time of _Waverley_ was no more than sixty years since,
when Scott began to write it and mislaid and forgot the opening chapters
in 1805; he got his ideas of the Forty-five from an old Highland
gentleman who had been out with the Highland clans, following the lead
of Prince Charles Edward, the Young Chevalier. The clans in that
adventure belonged to a world more ancient than that of _Ivanhoe_ or
_The Talisman_; they also belonged so nearly to Scott's own time that he
heard their story from one of themselves. He had spoken and listened to
another gentleman who had known Rob Roy. _The Bride of Lammermoor_ came
to him as the Icelandic family histories came to the historians of
Gunnar or Kjartan Olafsson. He had known the story all his life, and he
wrote it from tradition. The time of _The Heart of Midlothian_ is
earlier than _Waverley_, but it is more of a modern novel than an
historical romance, and even _Old Mortality_, which is earlier still, is
modern also; Cuddie Headrigg is no more antique than Dandie Dinmont or
the Ettrick Shepherd himself, and even his mother and her Covenanting
friends are not far from the fashion of some enthusiasts of Scott's own
time--e.g. Hogg's religious uncle who could not be brought to repeat his
old ballads for thinking of 'covenants broken, burned and buried.' _Guy
Mannering_ and _The Antiquary_ are both modern stories: it is not till
_Ivanhoe_ that Scott definitely starts on the regular historical novel
in the manner that was found so easy to imitate.

If _Rob Roy_ is not the very best of them all--and on problems of that
sort perhaps the right word may be the Irish phrase _Naboclish!_ ('don't
trouble about that!') which Scott picked up when he was visiting Miss
Edgeworth in Ireland--_Rob Roy_ shows well enough what Scott could do,
in romance of adventure and in humorous dialogue. The plots of his
novels are sometimes thought to be loose and ill-defined, and he tells
us himself that he seldom knew where his story was carrying him. His
young heroes are sometimes reckoned rather feeble and featureless.
Francis Osbaldistone, like Edward Waverley and Henry Morton, drifts into
trouble and has his destiny shaped for him by other people and
accidents. But is this anything of a reproach to the author of the
story? Then it must tell against some novelists who seem to work more
conscientiously and carefully than Scott on the frame of their
story--against George Meredith in Evan Harrington and Richard Feverel
and Harry Richmond, all of whom are driven by circumstances and see
their way no more clearly than Scott's young men. Is it not really the
strength, not the weakness, of Scott's imagination that engages us in
the perplexities of Waverley and Henry Morton even to the verge of
tragedy--keeping out of tragedy because it is not his business, and
would spoil his looser, larger, more varied web of a story? Francis
Osbaldistone is less severely tried. His story sets him travelling, and
may we not admire the skill of the author who uses the old device of a
wandering hero with such good effect? The story is not a mere string of
adventures--it is adventures with a bearing on the main issue, with
complications that all tell in the end; chief among them, of course, the
successive appearances of Mr. Campbell and the counsels of Diana Vernon.
The scenes that bring out Scott's genius most completely--so they have
always seemed to me--are those of Francis Osbaldistone's stay in
Glasgow. Seldom has any novelist managed so easily so many different
modes of interest. There is the place--in different lights--the streets,
the river, the bridge, the Cathedral, the prison, seen through the
suspense of the hero's mind, rendered in the talk of Bailie Nicol Jarvie
and Andrew Fairservice; made alive, as the saying is, through successive
anxieties and dangers; thrilling with romance, yet at the same time
never beyond the range of ordinary common sense. Is it not a triumph, at
the very lowest reckoning, of dexterous narrative to bring together in a
vivid dramatic scene the humorous character of the Glasgow citizen and
the equal and opposite humour of his cousin, the cateran, the Highland
loon, Mr. Campbell disclosed as Rob Roy--with the Dougal creature
helping him?

Scott's comedy is like that of Cervantes in _Don Quixote_--humorous
dialogue independent of any definite comic plot and mixed up with all
sorts of other business. Might not Falstaff himself be taken into
comparison too? Scott's humorous characters are nowhere and never
characters in a comedy--and Falstaff, the greatest comic character in
Shakespeare, is not great in comedy.

Some of the rich idiomatic Scottish dialogue in the novels might be
possibly disparaged (like Ben Jonson) as 'mere humours and observation.'
Novelists of lower rank than Scott--Galt in _The Ayrshire Legatees_ and
_Annals of the Parish_ and _The Entail_--have nearly rivalled Scott in
reporting conversation. But the Bailie at any rate has his part to play
in the story of _Rob Roy_--and so has Andrew Fairservice. Scott never
did anything more ingenious than his contrast of those two
characters--so much alike in language, and to some extent in cast of
mind, with the same conceit and self-confidence, the same garrulous
Westland security in their own judgment, both attentive to their own
interests, yet clearly and absolutely distinct in spirit, the Bailie a
match in courage for Rob Roy himself.

Give me leave, before I end, to read one example of Scott's language:
from the scene in _Guy Mannering_ where Dandie Dinmont explains his case
to Mr. Pleydell the advocate. It is true to life: memory and imagination
here indistinguishable:--

     Dinmont, who had pushed after Mannering into the room, began
     with a scrape of his foot and a scratch of his head in unison.
     'I am Dandie Dinmont, sir, of the Charlies-hope--the
     Liddesdale lad--ye'll mind me? It was for me you won yon
     grand plea.'

     'What plea, you loggerhead?' said the lawyer; 'd'ye think I
     can remember all the fools that come to plague me?'

     'Lord, sir, it was the grand plea about the grazing o' the
     Langtae-head,' said the farmer.

     'Well, curse thee, never mind;--give me the memorial, and come
     to me on Monday at ten,' replied the learned counsel.

     'But, sir, I haena got ony distinct memorial.'

     'No memorial, man?' said Pleydell.

     'Na, sir, nae memorial,' answered Dandie; 'for your honour
     said before, Mr. Pleydell, ye'll mind, that ye liked best to
     hear us hill-folk tell our ane tale by word o' mouth.'

     'Beshrew my tongue that said so!' answered the counsellor; 'it
     will cost my ears a dinning.--Well, say in two words what
     you've got to say--you see the gentleman waits.'

     'Ou, sir, if the gentleman likes he may play his ain spring
     first; it's a' ane to Dandie.'

     'Now, you looby,' said the lawyer, 'cannot you conceive that
     your business can be nothing to Colonel Mannering, but that he
     may not choose to have these great ears of thine regaled with
     his matters?'

     'Aweel, sir, just as you and he like, so ye see to my
     business,' said Dandie, not a whit disconcerted by the
     roughness of this reception. 'We're at the auld wark o' the
     marches again, Jock o' Dawston Cleugh and me. Ye see we march
     on the tap o' Touthoprigg after we pass the Pomoragrains; for
     the Pomoragrains, and Slackenspool, and Bloodylaws, they come
     in there, and they belang to the Peel; but after ye pass
     Pomoragrains at a muckle great saucer-headed cutlugged stane,
     that they ca' Charlie's Chuckie, there Dawston Cleugh and
     Charlies-hope they march. Now, I say, the march rins on the
     tap o' the hill where the wind and water shears; but Jock o'
     Dawston Cleugh again, he contravenes that, and says that it
     hauds down by the auld drove-road that gaes awa by the Knot o'
     the Gate ower to Keeldar-ward--and that makes an unco
     difference.'

     'And what difference does it make, friend?' said Pleydell.
     'How many sheep will it feed?'

     'Ou, no mony,' said Dandie, scratching his head; 'it's lying
     high and exposed--it may feed a hog, or aiblins twa in a good
     year.'

     'And for this grazing, which may be worth about five shillings
     a-year, you are willing to throw away a hundred pound or two?'

     'Na, sir, it's no for the value of the grass,' replied
     Dinmont; 'it's for justice.'

Do we at home in Scotland make too much of Scott's life and associations
when we think of his poetry and his novels? Possibly few Scotsmen are
impartial here. As Dr. Johnson said, they are not a fair people, and
when they think of the Waverley Novels they perhaps do not always see
quite clearly. Edinburgh and the Eildon Hills, Aberfoyle and Stirling,
come between their minds and the printed page:--

     A mist of memory broods and floats,
       The Border waters flow,
     The air is full of ballad notes
       Borne out of long ago.

It might be prudent and more critical to take each book on its own
merits in a dry light. But it is not easy to think of a great writer
thus discreetly. Is Balzac often judged accurately and coldly, piece by
piece, here a line and there a line? Are not the best judges those who
think of his whole achievement altogether--the whole amazing world of
his creation--_La Comédie Humaine_? By the same sort of rule Scott may
be judged, and the whole of his work, his vast industry, and all that
made the fabric of his life, be allowed to tell on the mind of the
reader.

I wish this discourse had been more worthy of its theme, and of this
audience, and of this year of heroic memories and lofty hopes. But if,
later in the summer, I should find my way back to Ettrick and Yarrow and
the Eildon Hills, it will be a pleasure to remember there the honour
you have done me in allowing me to speak in Paris, however unworthily,
of the greatness of Sir Walter Scott.



Glasgow: Printed at the University Press by Robert MacLehose and Co. Ltd.





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