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Title: Sir Walter Scott - Famous Scots Series
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sir Walter Scott - Famous Scots Series" ***

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SIR
WALTER
SCOTT



FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES


_The following Volumes are now ready_--

THOMAS CARLYLE. By Hector C. Macpherson.
ALLAN RAMSAY. By Oliphant Smeaton.
HUGH MILLER. By W. Keith Leask.
JOHN KNOX. By A. Taylor Innes.
ROBERT BURNS. By Gabriel Setoun.
THE BALLADISTS. By John Geddie.
RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor Herkless.
SIR JAMES Y. SIMPSON. By Eve Blantyre Simpson.
THOMAS CHALMERS. By Professor W. Garden Blaikie.
JAMES BOSWELL. By W. Keith Leask.
TOBIAS SMOLLETT. By Oliphant Smeaton.
FLETCHER OF SALTOUN. By G. W. T. Omond.
THE BLACKWOOD GROUP. By Sir George Douglas.
NORMAN MACLEOD. By John Wellwood.
SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Professor Saintsbury.



[Illustration:

SIR WALTER
SCOTT

BY
GEORGE
SAINTSBURY

FAMOUS
SCOTS
SERIES

PUBLISHED BY
OLIPHANT ANDERSON
& FERRIER. EDINBURGH
AND LONDON

]

       *       *       *       *       *

The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr. Joseph
Brown, and the printing from the press of Morrison & Gibb
Limited, Edinburgh.

_June 1897._

       *       *       *       *       *



PREFACE


To the very probable remark that 'Another little book about Scott is not
wanted,' I can at least reply that apparently it is, inasmuch as the
publishers proposed this volume to me, not I to them. And I believe
that, as a matter of fact, no 'little book about Scott' has appeared
since the _Journal_ was completed, since the new and important
instalment of _Letters_ appeared (in both cases with invaluable
editorial apparatus by Mr. David Douglas), and especially since Mr.
Lang's _Lockhart_ was published. It is true that no one of these, nor
any other book that is likely to appear, has altered, or is likely to
alter, much in a sane estimate of Sir Walter. His own matchless
character and the genius of his first biographer combined to set before
the world early an idea, of which it is safe to say that nothing that
should lower it need be feared, and hardly anything to heighten it can
be reasonably hoped. But as fresh items of illustrative detail are made
public, there can be no harm in endeavouring to incorporate something of
what they give us in fresh abstracts and _aperçus_ from time to time.
And for the continued and, as far as space permits, detailed criticism
of the work, it may be pleaded that criticism of Scott has for many
years been chiefly general, while in criticism, even more than in other
things, generalities are deceptive.



CONTENTS

                                                                                   PAGE
CHAPTER I

LIFE TILL MARRIAGE                                                     9


CHAPTER II

EARLY LITERARY WORK                                                   20


CHAPTER III

THE VERSE ROMANCES                                                    38


CHAPTER IV

THE NOVELS, FROM _WAVERLEY_ TO _REDGAUNTLET_                          69


CHAPTER V

THE DOWNFALL OF BALLANTYNE & COMPANY                                 104


CHAPTER VI

LAST WORKS AND DAYS                                                  118


CHAPTER VII

CONCLUSION                                                           139



SIR WALTER SCOTT



CHAPTER I

LIFE TILL MARRIAGE


Scott's own 'autobiographic fragment,' printed in Lockhart's first
volume, has made other accounts of his youth mostly superfluous, even to
a day which persists in knowing better about everything and everybody
than it or they knew about themselves. No one ever recorded his
genealogy more minutely, with greater pride, or with a more saving sense
of humour than Sir Walter. He was connected, though remotely, with
gentle families on both sides. That is to say, his great-grandfather was
son of the Laird of Raeburn, who was grandson of Walter Scott of Harden
and the 'Flower of Yarrow.' The great-grandson, 'Beardie,' acquired that
cognomen by letting his beard grow like General Dalziel, though for the
exile of James II., instead of the death of Charles I.--'whilk was the
waur reason,' as Sir Walter himself might have said.

Beardie's second son, being more thoroughly sickened of the sea in his
first voyage than Robinson Crusoe, took to farming and Whiggery, and
married the daughter of Haliburton of Newmains--there was also Macdougal
and Campbell blood on the spindle side of the older generations of the
family. Their eldest son Walter, father of Sir Walter, was born in 1729,
and, being bred to the law, became the original, according to undisputed
tradition, of the 'Saunders Fairford' of _Redgauntlet_, the most
autobiographical as well as not the least charming of the novels. He
married Anne Rutherford, who, through her mother, brought the blood of
the Swintons of Swinton to enrich the joint strain; and from her father,
a member of a family distinguished in the annals of the University of
Edinburgh, may have transmitted some of the love for books which was not
the most prominent feature of the other ingredients.

Walter himself was the third 'permanent child' (to adopt an agreeable
phrase of Mr. Traill's about another person) of a family of twelve, only
five of whom survived infancy. His three brothers, John, Thomas, and
Daniel, and his sister Anne, all figure in the records; but little is
heard of John and not much of Anne. Thomas, the second, either had, or
was thought by his indulgent brother to have, literary talents, and was
at one time put up to father the novels; while Daniel (whose misconduct
in money matters, and still more in showing the white feather, brought
on him the only display of anything that can be called rancour recorded
in Sir Walter's history) concerns us even less. The date of the
novelist's birth was 15th August 1771, the place, 'the top of the
College Wynd,' a locality now whelmed in the actual Chambers Street face
of the present Old University buildings, and near that of Kirk of Field.
Escaping the real or supposed dangers of a consumptive wet-nurse, he was
at first healthy enough; but teething or something else developed the
famous lameness, which at first seemed to threaten loss of all use of
the right leg. The child was sent to the house of his grandfather, the
Whig farmer of Sandyknowe, where he abode for some years under the
shadow of Smailholm Tower, reading a little, listening to Border legends
a great deal, and making one long journey to London and Bath. This first
blessed period of 'making himself'[1] lasted till his eighth year, and
ended with a course of sea-bathing at Prestonpans, where he met the
original in name and perhaps in nature of Captain Dalgetty, and the
original in character of the Antiquary. Then he returned (_circ._ 1779)
to his father's house, now in George Square, to his numerous, if
impermanent, family of brothers and sisters, and to the High School. The
most memorable incident of this part of his career is the famous episode
of 'Greenbreeks.'[2]

His health, as he grew up, becoming again weak, the boy was sent once
more Borderwards--this time to Kelso, where he lived with an aunt, went
to the town school, and made the acquaintance there, whether for good or
ill, who shall say? of the Ballantynes. And he had to return to Kelso
for the same cause, at least once during his experiences at College,
where he did not take the full usual number of courses, and acquired no
name as a scholar. But he always read.

As it had not been decided whether he was to adopt the superior or the
inferior branch of the law, he was apprenticed to his father at the age
of fifteen, as a useful preparation for either career. He naturally
enough did not love 'engrossing,' but he did not cross his father's soul
by refusing it, and though returns of illness occurred now and then, his
constitution appeared to be gradually strengthening itself, partly, as
he thought, owing to the habit of very long walks, in which he took
great delight. He tried various accomplishments; but he could neither
draw, nor make music, nor (at this time) write. Still he always
read--irregularly, uncritically, but enormously, so that to this day Sir
Walter's real learning is under-estimated. And he formed a very
noteworthy circle of friends--William Clerk, 'Darsie Latimer,' the chief
of them all. It must have been just after he entered his father's office
that he met Burns, during that poet's famous visit to Edinburgh in
1786-87.

Considerably less is known of his late youth and early manhood than
either of his childhood or of his later life. His letters--those
invaluable and unparalleled sources of biographical information--do not
begin till 1792, the year of his majority, when (on July 11) he was
called to the Bar. But it is a universal tradition that, in these years
of apprenticeship, in more senses than one, he, partly in gratifying his
own love of wandering, and partly in serving his father's business by
errands to clients, etc., did more than lay the foundation of that
unrivalled knowledge of Scotland, and of all classes in it, which plays
so important a part in his literary work. I say 'of all classes in it,'
and this point is of the greatest weight. Scott has been accused (for
the most part foolishly) of paying an exaggerated respect to rank. If
this had been true, it would at least not have been due to late or
imperfect acquaintance with persons of rank. Democratic as the Scotland
of this century has sometimes been called, it is not uncommon to find a
considerable respect for aristocracy in the greatest Scotch Radicals;
and Scott was notoriously not a Radical. But his familiarity with all
ranks from an early age is undoubted, and only very shallow or
prejudiced observers will doubt the beneficial effect which this had on
his study of humanity.[6] The uneasy caricature which mars Dickens's
picture of the upper, and even the upper middle, classes is as much
absent from his work as the complete want of familiarity with the lower
which appears, for instance, in Bulwer. It is certain that before he had
written anything, he was on familiar terms with many persons, both men
and women, of the highest rank--the most noteworthy among his feminine
correspondents being Lady Louisa Stuart (sister of the Marquis of Bute
and grand-daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu) and Lady Abercorn. With
the former the correspondence is always on the footing of mere though
close friendship, literary and other; in part at least of that with Lady
Abercorn, I cannot help suspecting the presence, especially on the
lady's side, of that feeling,

    'Too warm for friendship and too pure for love,'

which undoubtedly sometimes does exist between men and women who cannot,
and perhaps who would not if they could, turn love into marriage.

However this may be, it is, let it be repeated, certain that Scott, in
the six years from his fifteenth, when he is said to have first visited
the Highlands and seen Rob Roy's country, to his majority, and yet again
in the five or six between his call to the Bar and his marriage, visited
many, if not all, parts of Scotland; knew high and low, rich and poor,
with the amiable interest of his temperament and the keen observation of
his genius; took part in business and amusement and conviviality (he
accuses himself later of having been not quite free from the prevalent
peccadillo of rather deep drinking); and still and always _read_. He
joined the 'Speculative Society' in January 1791, and, besides taking
part in the debates on general subjects, read papers on Feudalism,
Ossian, and Northern Mythology, in what were to be his more special
lines.

His young lawyer friends called him 'Colonel Grogg,' a _sobriquet_ not
difficult to interpret on one of the hints just given, and 'Duns
Scotus,' which concerns the other; while yet a third characteristic,
which can surprise nobody, is indicated in the famous introduction of
him to a boisterous party of midshipmen of the Marryat type by James
Clerk, the brother of Darsie Latimer, who kept a yacht, and was fond of
the sea: 'You may take Mr. Scott for a poor _lamiter_, gentlemen, but he
is the first to begin a row and the last to end it.'

It appears that it was from a time somewhat before the call that the
beginning of Scott's famous, his unfortunate, and (it has been the
fashion, rightly or wrongly, to add) his only love affair dates. Some
persons have taken the trouble to piece together and eke out the
references to 'Green Mantle,' otherwise Miss Stuart of Belches, later
Lady Forbes. It is better to respect Scott's own reticence on a subject
of which very little is really known, and of which he, like most
gentlemen, preferred to say little or nothing. The affection appears to
have been mutual; but the lady was probably not very eager to incur
family displeasure by making a match decidedly below her in rank, and,
at that time, distinctly imprudent in point of fortune. But the
courtship, such as it was, appears to have been long, and the effects of
the loss indelible. Scott speaks of his heart as 'handsomely
pieced'--'pieced,' it may be observed, not 'healed.' A healed wound
sometimes does not show; a pieced garment or article of furniture
reminds us of the piecing till the day when it goes to fire or dustbin.
But it has been supposed, with some reason, that those heroines of
Scott's who show most touch of personal sympathy--Catherine Seyton, Die
Vernon, Lilias Redgauntlet--bear features, physical or mental or both,
of this Astarte, this

    'Lost woman of his youth, yet unpossessed.'

And no one can read the _Diary_ without perceiving the strange
bitter-sweet, at the moment of his greatest calamity, of the fact that
Sir William Forbes, who rendered him invaluable service at his greatest
need, was his successful rival thirty years before, and the widower of
'Green Mantle.'

This affair came to an end in October 1796; and it may astonish some
wise people, accustomed to regard Scott as a rather humdrum and prosaic
person, who escaped the scandals so often associated with the memory of
men of letters from sheer want of temptation, to hear that one of his
most intimate friends of his own age at the time 'shuddered at the
violence of his most irritable and ungovernable mind.' There is no
reason to doubt the fidelity of this description. And those who know
something of human nature will be disposed to assign the disappearance
of the irritableness and ungovernableness precisely to this incident,
and to the working of a strong mind, confronted by fate with the
question whether it was to be the victim or the master of its own
passions, fighting out the battle once for all, and thenceforward
keeping its house armed against them, it may be with some loss, but
certainly with much gain.

It has been said that he states (with a touch of irony, no doubt) that
his heart was 'handsomely pieced'; and it is not against the theory
hinted in the foregoing paragraph, but, on the contrary, in favour of
it, that the piecing did not take long. In exactly a year Scott became
engaged to Miss Charlotte Margaret Carpenter or Charpentier,[4] and they
were married on Christmas Eve, 1797, at St. Mary's, Carlisle. They had
met at Gilsland Spa in the previous July, and the courtship had not
taken very long. The lady was of French extraction, had an only brother
in the service of the East India Company, and, being an orphan, was the
ward of the Marquis of Downshire,--circumstances on which gossips like
Hogg made impertinent remarks. It is fair, however, to 'the Shepherd' to
say that he speaks enthusiastically both of Mrs. Scott's appearance
('one of the most beautiful and handsome creatures I ever saw in my
life'; 'a perfect beauty') and of her character ('she is cradled in my
remembrance, and ever shall be, as a sweet, kind, and affectionate
creature').[5] She was very dark, small, with hair which the Shepherd
calls black, Lockhart dark brown; her features not regular, but her
complexion, figure, and so forth 'unusually attractive.' Not very much
is said about her in any of the authentic accounts, and traditional
tittle-tattle may be neglected. She does not seem to have been extremely
wise, and was entirely unliterary; but neither of these defects is a
_causa redhibitionis_ in marriage; and she was certainly a faithful and
affectionate wife. At any rate, Scott made no complaints, if he had any
to make, and nearly the most touching passage in the _Diary_ is that
written after her death.

The minor incidents, not literary, of his life, between his call to the
Bar and his marriage, require a little notice, for they had a very great
influence on the character of his future work. His success at the Bar
was moderate, but his fees increased steadily if slowly. He defended
(unsuccessfully) a Galloway minister who was accused among other counts
of 'toying with a sweetie-wife,' and it is interesting to find in his
defence some casuistry about _ebrius_ and _ebriosus_, which reminds one
of the Baron of Bradwardine. He took part victoriously in a series of
battles with sticks, between Loyalist advocates and writers and Irish
Jacobin medical students, in the pit of the Edinburgh theatre during
April 1794. In June 1795 he became a curator of the Advocates' Library,
and a year later engaged (of course on the loyal side) in another great
political 'row,' this time in the streets.

Above all, in the spring and summer between the loss of his love and his
marriage, he engaged eagerly in volunteering, becoming quartermaster,
paymaster, secretary, and captain in the Edinburgh Light Horse--an
occupation which has left at least as much impression on his work as
Gibbon's equally famous connection with the Hampshire Militia on his.
His friendships continued and multiplied; and he began with the sisters
of some of his friends, especially Miss Cranstoun (his chief confidante
in the 'Green Mantle' business) and Miss Erskine, the first, or the
first known to us, of those interesting correspondences with ladies
which show him perhaps at his very best. For in them he plays neither
jack-pudding, nor coxcomb, nor sentimentalist, nor any of the
involuntary counterparts which men in such cases are too apt to play;
and they form not the least of his titles to the great name of
gentleman.

But by far the most important contribution of these six or seven years
to his 'making' was the further acquaintance with the scenery, and
customs, and traditions, and dialects, and local history of his own
country, which his greater independence, enlarged circle of friends, and
somewhat increased means enabled him to acquire. It is quite true that
to a man with his gifts any microcosm will do for a macrocosm in
miniature. I have heard in conversation (I forget whether it is in any
of the books) that he picked up the word 'whomled' (= 'bucketed
over'--'turned like a tub'), which adds so much to the description of
the nautical misfortune of Claud Halcro and Triptolemus in _The Pirate_,
by overhearing it from a scold in the Grassmarket. But still the
enlarged experience could not but be of the utmost value. It was during
these years that he saw Glamis Castle in its unspoiled state, during
these that, in connection with the case of the unfortunate but rather
happily named devotee of Bacchus and Venus, M'Naught, he explored
Galloway, and obtained the decorations and scenery, if not the story, of
_Guy Mannering_. He also repeated his visits to the English side of the
Border, not merely on the occasion during which he met Miss Carpenter,
but earlier, in a second excursion to Northumberland.

But, above all, these were the years of his famous 'raids' into
Liddesdale, then one of the most inaccessible districts of Scotland,
under the guidance of Mr. Shortreed of Jedburgh--raids which completed
the information for _Guy Mannering_, which gave him much of the material
for the _Minstrelsy_, and the history of which has, I think, delighted
every one of his readers and biographers, except one or two who have
been scandalised at the exquisite story of the Arrival of the Keg.[3] Of
these let us not speak, but, regarding them with a tender pity not
unmixed with wonder, pass to the beginnings of his actual literary life
and to the history of his early married years. The literature a little
preceded the life; but the life certainly determined the growth of the
literature.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] His friend Shortreed's well-known expression for the results of the
later Liddesdale 'raids.'

[2] See General Preface to the Novels, or Lockhart, i. 136.

[3] He attributes to Lady Balcarres the credit of being his earliest
patroness, and of giving him, when a mere shy boy, the run of her
drawing-room and of her box at the theatre.

[4] He himself, in his entries of his children's births, always gives
the order of the names as Margaret Charlotte.

[5] The Boar of the Forest seems, not unnaturally, to have had a rather
less warm 'cradle' in Lady Scott's feelings. She thought he took
liberties; and though he meant no harm, he certainly did.

[6] Lockhart, i. 270. I quote, as is usual, the second or ten-volume
edition. But, for reading, some may prefer the first, in which the
number of the volumes coincides with their real division, which has the
memories of the death of Sophia Scott and others connected with its
course, and to which the second made fewer positive additions than may
be thought.--[It has been pointed out to me in reference to the word
'whomle' on the opposite page that Fergusson has 'whumble' in 'The
Rising of the Session.' But if Scott had quoted, would he have altered
the spelling? The Grassmarket story, moreover, exactly corresponds to
his words, 'as a gudewife would whomle a bowie.']



CHAPTER II

EARLY LITERARY WORK


It is pretty universally known, and must have been perceived even from
the foregoing summary, that Scott was by no means a very precocious
writer. He takes rank, indeed, neither with those who, according to a
famous phrase, 'break out threescore thousand strong' in youth; nor with
those who begin original composition betimes, and by degrees arrive at
excellence; nor yet with those who do not display any aptitude for
letters till late in life. His class--a fourth, which, at least as
regards the greater names of literature, is perhaps the smallest of
all--comprises those who may almost be said to drift into literary work
and literary fame, whose first production is not merely tentative and
unoriginal, but, so to speak, accidental, who do not discover their real
faculty for literary work till after a pretty long course of casual
literary play.

Part of this was no doubt due to the fact--vouched for sufficiently, and
sufficiently probable, though not, so far as I know, resting on any
distinct and firsthand documentary evidence--that Walter Scott the elder
had, even more than his _eidolon_ the elder Fairford, that horror of
literary employment on the part of his son which was for generations a
tradition among persons of business, and which is perhaps not quite
extinct yet. For this opposition, as is well known, rather stimulates
than checks, even in dutiful offspring, the noble rage. It was due
partly, perhaps, to a metaphysical cause--the fact that until Scott was
well past his twentieth year, the wind of the spirit was not yet
blowing, that the new poetical and literary day had not yet dawned; and
partly to a more commonplace reason or set of reasons. About 1790
literary work was extremely badly paid;[11] and, even if it had been paid
better, Scott had no particular need of money. Till his marriage he
lived at home, spent his holidays with friends, or on tours where the
expenses were little or nothing, and obtained sufficient pocket-money,
first by copying while he was still apprenticed to his father, then by
his fees when he was called. He could, as he showed later, spend money
royally when he had it or thought he had it; but he was a man of no
extravagant tastes of the ordinary kind, and Edinburgh was not in his
days at all an extravagant place of living. Even when he married, he was
by no means badly off. His wife, though not exactly an heiress, had
means which had been estimated at five hundred a year, and which seem
never to have fallen below two hundred; Scott's fees averaged about
another two hundred; he evidently had an allowance from his father (who
had been very well off, and was still not poor), and before very long
the Sheriffship of Selkirkshire added three hundred more, though he
seems to have made this an excuse for giving up practice, which he had
never much liked. His father's death in 1799 put him in possession of
some property; legacies from relations added more. Before the
publication of the _Lay_ (when he was barely three-and-thirty), Lockhart
estimates his income, leaving fees and literary work out of the
question, at nearly if not quite a thousand a year; and a thousand a
year at the beginning of the century went as far as fifteen hundred, if
not two thousand, at its close.

Thus, with no necessity to live by his pen, with no immediate or
extraordinary temptation to use it for gain, and as yet, it would seem,
with no overmastering inducement from his genius to do so, while he at
no time of his life felt any stimulus from vanity, it is not surprising
that it was long before Scott began to write in earnest. A few childish
verse translations and exercises of his neither encourage nor forbid any
particular expectations of literature from him; they are neither better
nor worse than those of hundreds, probably thousands, of boys every
year. His first published performance, now of extreme rarity, and not,
of course, produced with any literary object, was his Latin call-thesis
on the rather curious subject (which has been, not improbably, supposed
to be connected with his German studies and the terror-literature of the
last decade of the century) of the disposal of the dead bodies of
legally executed persons. His first English work was directly the result
of the said German studies, to which, like many of his contemporaries,
he had been attracted by fashion. It consisted of nothing more than the
well-known translations of Bürger's _Lenore_ and _Wild Huntsman_, which
were issued in a little quarto volume by Manners & Miller of Edinburgh,
in October 1796--a date which has the special interest of suggesting
that Scott sought some refuge in literature from the agony of his
rejection by Miss Stuart.

These well-known translations, or rather imitations, the first published
under the title of _William and Helen_, which it retains, the other as
_The Chase_, which was subsequently altered to the better and more
literal rendering, show unmistakably the result of the study of ballads,
both in the printed forms and as orally delivered. Some crudities of
rhyme and expression are said to have been corrected at the instance of
one of Scott's (at this time rather numerous) Egerias, the beautiful
wife of his kinsman, Scott of Harden, a young lady partly of German
extraction, but of the best English breeding. Slight books of the kind,
even translations, made a great deal more mark sometimes in those days
than they would in these; but there were a great many translations of
_Lenore_ about, and except by Scott's friends, little notice was taken
of the volume. There were some excuses for the neglect, the best perhaps
being that English criticism at the time was at nearly as low an ebb as
English poetry. A really acute critic could hardly have mistaken the
difference between Scott's verse and the fustian or tinsel of the Della
Cruscans, the frigid rhetoric of Darwin, or the drivel of Hayley. Only
Southey had as yet written ballad verses with equal vigour and facility;
and, I think, he had not yet published any of them. It is Scott who
tells us that he borrowed

    'Tramp, tramp, along the land they rode,
      Splash, splash, along the sea,'

from Taylor of Norwich; but Taylor himself had the good taste to see how
much it was improved by the completion--

    'The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
      _The fashing pebbles flee_'--

which last line, indeed, Coleridge himself hardly bettered in the not
yet written _Ancient Mariner_, the _ne plus ultra_ of the style. It must
be mainly a question of individual taste whether the sixes and eights of
the _Lenore_ version or the continued eights of the _Huntsman_ please
most. But any one who knows what the present state of British poetry was
in October 1796 will be more than indifferently well satisfied with
either.

It was never Scott's way to be cast down at the failure or the neglect
of any of his work; nor does he seem to have been ever actuated by the
more masculine but perhaps equally childish determination to 'do it
again' and 'shame the fools.' It seems quite on the cards that he might
have calmly acquiesced in want of notoriety, and have continued a mere
literary lawyer, with a pretty turn or verse and a great amount of
reading, if his most intimate friend, William Erskine, had not met
'Monk' Lewis in London, and found him anxious for contributions to his
_Tales of Wonder_. Lewis was a coxcomb, a fribble, and the least bit in
the world of a snob: his _Monk_ is not very clean fustian, and most of
his other work rubbish. But he was, though not according to knowledge, a
sincere Romantic; he had no petty jealousy in matters literary; and,
above all, he had, as Scott recognised, but as has not been always
recognised since, a really remarkable and then novel command of flowing
but fairly strict lyrical measures, the very things needed to thaw the
frost of the eighteenth-century couplet. Erskine offered, and Lewis
gladly accepted, contributions from Scott, and though _Tales of Wonder_
were much delayed, and did not appear till 1801, the project directly
caused the production of Scott's first original work in ballad,
_Glenfinlas_ and _The Eve of St. John_, as well as the less important
pieces of the _Fire King_, _Frederick and Alice_, etc.

In _Glenfinlas_ and _The Eve_ the real Scott first shows, and the better
of the two is the second. It is not merely that, though Scott had a
great liking for and much proficiency in 'eights,' that metre is never
so effective for ballad purposes as eights and sixes; nor that, as
Lockhart admits, _Glenfinlas_ exhibits a Germanisation which is at the
same time an adulteration; nor even that, well as Scott knew the
Perthshire Highlands, they could not appeal to him with the same subtle
intimacy of touch as that possessed by the ruined tower where, as a
half-paralysed infant, he had been herded with the lambs. But all these
causes together, and others, join to produce a freer effect in _The
Eve_. The eighteenth century is farther off; the genuine mediæval
inspiration is nearer. And it is especially noticeable that, as in most
of the early performances of the great poetical periods, an alteration
of metrical etiquette (as we may call it) plays a great part. Scott had
not yet heard that recitation of _Christabel_ which had so great an
effect on his work, and through it on the work of others. But he had
mastered for himself, and by study of the originals, the secret of the
_Christabel_ metre, that is to say, the wide licence of equivalence in
trisyllabic and dissyllabic feet,[10] of metre catalectic or not, as need
was, of anacrusis and the rest. As is natural to a novice, he rather
exaggerates his liberties, especially in the cases where the internal
rhyme seduces him. It is necessary not merely to slur, but to gabble, in
order to get some of these into proper rhythm, while in other places the
mistake is made of using so many anapæsts that the metre becomes, not
as it should be, iambic, with anapæsts for variation, but anapæstic
without even a single iamb. But these are 'sma' sums, sma' sums,' as
saith his own Bailie Jarvie, and on the whole the required effect of
vigour and variety, of narrative giving place to terror and terror to
narrative is capitally achieved. Above all, in neither piece, in the
less no more than in the more successful, do we find anything of what
the poet has so well characterised in one of his early reviews as the
'spurious style of tawdry and affected simplicity which trickles through
the legendary ditties' of the eighteenth century. 'The hunt is up' in
earnest; and we are chasing the tall deer in the open hills, not
coursing rabbits with toy terriers on a bowling-green.

The writing of these pieces had, however, been preceded by the
publication of Scott's second volume, the translation of _Goetz von
Berlichingen_, for which Lewis had arranged with a London bookseller, so
that this time the author was not defrauded of his hire. He received
twenty-five guineas, and was to have as much more for a second edition,
which the short date of copyright forestalled. The book appeared in
February 1799, and received more attention than the ballads, though, as
Lockhart saw, it was in fact belated, the brief English interest in
German _Sturm und Drang_ having ceased directly, though indirectly it
gave Byron much of his hold on the public a dozen years later. At about
the same time Scott executed, but did not publish, an original, or
partly original, dramatic work of the same kind, _The House of Aspen_,
which he contributed thirty years later to _The Keepsake_. Few good
words have ever been said for this, and perhaps not many persons have
ever cared much for the _Goetz_, either in the original or in the
translation. Goethe did not, in drama at least, understand adventurous
matter, and Scott had no grasp of dramatic form.[9]

It has been said that there was considerable delay in the publication of
the _Tales of Wonder_; and some have discussed what direct influence
this delay had on Scott's further and further advance into the waters of
literature. It is certain that he at one time thought of publishing his
contributions independently, and that he did actually print a few copies
of them privately; and it is extremely probable that his little
experiments in publication, mere _hors-d'oeuvre_ as they were, had
whetted his appetite. Even the accident of his friend Ballantyne's
having taken to publishing a newspaper, and having room at his press for
what I believe printers profanely call 'job-work,' may not have been
without influence. What is certain is that the project of editing a few
Border ballads--a selection of his collection which might make 'a neat
little volume of four or five shillings'--was formed roughly in the late
autumn of 1799, and had taken very definite shape by April 1800. Heber,
the great bibliophile and brother of the Bishop, introduced Scott to
that curious person Leyden, whose gifts, both original and erudite, are
undoubted, although perhaps his exile and early death have not hurt
their fame. And it so happened that Leyden was both an amateur of old
ballads and (for the two things went together then, though they are
sternly kept apart now) a skilful fabricator of new. The impetuous
Borderer pooh-poohed a 'thin thing' such as a four or five shilling
book, and Scott, nothing loath, extended his project. Most of his spare
time during 1800 and 1801 was spent on it; and besides corresponding
with the man who 'fished this murex up,' Bishop Percy, he entered into
literary relations with Joseph Ritson. Even Ritson's waspish character
seems to have been softened by Scott's courtesy, and perhaps even more
by the joint facts that he had as yet attained no literary reputation,
and neither at this nor at any other time gave himself literary airs. He
also made the acquaintance of George Ellis, who became a warm and
intimate friend. These were the three men of the day who, since Warton's
death, knew most of early English poetry, and though Percy was too old
to help, the others were not.

The scheme grew and grew, especially by the inclusion in it of the
publication not merely of ballads, but of the romance of _Sir Tristrem_
(of the authorship of which by someone else than Thomas the Rhymer,
Scott never would be convinced), till the neat four or five shilling
volume was quite out of the question. When at last the two volumes of
the first (Kelso) edition appeared in 1802, not merely was _Sir
Tristrem_ omitted, but much else which, still without 'the knight who
fought for England,' subsequently appeared in a third. The earliest form
of the _Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_ is a very pretty book; it
deservedly established the fame of Ballantyne as a printer, and as it
was not printed in the huge numbers which have reduced the money value
of Sir Walter's later books, it is rather surprising that it is not more
sought after than it is at present. My copy--I do not know whether by
exception or not--wears the rather unusual livery of pink boards instead
of the common blue, grey, or drab. The paper and type are excellent; the
printing (with a few slips in the Latin quotations such as _concedunt_
for _comedunt_) is very accurate, and the frontispiece, a view of
Hermitage Castle in the rain, has the interest of presenting what is
said to have been a very faithful view of the actual state of Lord
Soulis' stronghold and the place of the martyrdom of Ramsay, attained by
the curious stages of (1) a drawing by Scott, who could not draw at all;
(2) a rifacimento by Clerk, who had never seen the place; and (3) an
engraving by an artist who was equally innocent of local knowledge.

The book, however, which brought in the modest profit of rather less
than eighty pounds, would have been of equal moment under whatever guise
it had pleased to assume. The shock of Percy's _Reliques_ was renewed,
and in a far more favourable atmosphere, before a far better prepared
audience. The public indeed had not yet been 'ground-baited' up to the
consummation of thousands of copies of poetry as they were later by
Scott himself and Byron; but an edition of eight hundred copies went off
in the course of the year, and a second, with the additional volume, was
at once called for. It contained, indeed, not much original verse,
though 'Glenfinlas' and 'The Eve,' with Leyden's 'Cout of Keeldar,'
'Lord Soulis,' etc., appeared in it after a fashion which Percy had set
and Evans had continued. But the ballads, familiar as they have become
since, not merely in the _Minstrelsy_ itself, but in a hundred fresh
collections, selections, and what not, could never be mistaken by
anyone fitted to appreciate them. 'The Outlaw Murray,' with its
rub-a-dub of _e_ rhymes throughout, opens the book very cunningly, with
something not of the best, but good enough to excite expectation,--an
expectation surely not to be disappointed by the immortal agony (dashed
with one stroke of magnificent wrath) of 'Helen of Kirkconnell,' the
bustle, frolic, and battle-joy of the Border pieces proper, the solemn
notes of 'The Lyke-Wake Dirge,' the eeriness of 'Clerk Saunders' and
'The Wife of Usher's Well.'

Even Percy had not been lucky enough to hit upon anything so
characteristic of the _average_ ballad style at its best as the opening
stanza of 'Fause Foodrage'--

    'King Easter courted her for her lands,
      King Wester for her fee,
    King Honour for her comely face
      And for her fair bodie';

and Percy would no doubt have been tempted to 'polish' such more than
average touches as Margaret's 'turning,' without waking, in the arms of
her lover as he receives his deathblow, or as the incomparable stanza in
'The Wife of Usher's Well' which tells how--

    'By the gates of Paradise
      That birk grew fair enough.'

Those who study literature in what they are pleased to call a scientific
manner have, as was to be expected, found fault (mildly or not,
according to their degree of sense and taste) with Scott, for the manner
in which he edited these ballads. It may be admitted that the practice
of mixing imitations with originals is a questionable one; and that in
some other cases, Scott, though he was far from the illegitimate and
tasteless fashion of alteration, of which in their different ways Allan
Ramsay and Percy himself had set the example, was not always up to the
highest lights on this subject of editorial faithfulness. It must, for
instance, seem odd to the least pedantic nowadays that he should have
thought proper to print Dryden's _Virgil_ with Dr. Somebody's pedantic
improvements instead of Dryden's own text. But the case of the ballads
is very different. Here, it must be remembered, there is no authentic
original at all. Even in the rare cases, where very early printed or MS.
copies exist, we not only do not know that these are the originals, we
have every reasonable reason for being pretty certain that they are not.
In the case of ballads taken down from repetition, we know as a matter
of certainty that, according to the ordinary laws of human nature, the
reciter has altered the text which he or she heard, that that text was
in its day and way altered by someone else, and so on almost _ad
infinitum_. 'Mrs. Brown's version,' therefore, or Mr. Smith's, or Mr.
Anybody's, has absolutely no claims to sacrosanctity. It is well, no
doubt, that all such versions should be collected by someone (as in this
case by Professor Child) who has the means, the time, and the patience.
But for the purposes of reading, for the purposes of poetic enjoyment,
such a collection is nearly valueless. We must have it for reference, of
course; nobody grudges the guineas he has spent for the best part of the
last twenty years on Professor Child's stately, if rather cumbrous,
volumes. But who can _read_ a dozen versions, say, of 'The Queen's
Marie' with any pleasure? What is exquisite in one is watered, messed,
spoiled by the others.

Therefore I shall maintain that though the most excellent way of all
might have been to record his alterations, and the original, in an
appendix-dustbin of _apparatus criticus_, Scott was right, and trebly
right, in such dealing as that with the first stanza of 'Fause
Foodrage,' which I have quoted and praised. That stanza, as it stands
above, does not occur in any of the extant quasi-originals. 'Mrs.
Brown's MS.,' from which, as Professor Child says, with almost silent
reproach, Scott took his text, 'with some forty small changes,' reads--

    'King Easter has courted her for her gowd,
      King Wester for her fee,
    King Honour for her lands sae braid,
      And for her fair bodie.'

Now this is clearly wrong. Either 'gowd' or 'lands' is a mere repetition
of 'fee,' and if not,[8] the reading does not point any ethical
antithesis between Kings Easter and Wester and their more chivalrous
rival. As it happens, there are two other versions, shorter and less
dramatic, but one of them distinctly giving, the other implying, the
sense of Scott's alteration. Therefore I say that Scott was fully
justified in adjusting the one text that he did print, especially as he
did it in his own right way, and not in the wrong one of Percy and
Mickle. There is here no Bentleian impertinence, no gratuitous meddling
with the at least possibly genuine text of a known and definite author.
The editor simply picks out of the mud, and wipes clean, something
precious, which has been defaced by bad usage, and has become
masterless.

The third volume of the _Minstrelsy_ was pretty speedily got ready, with
more matter; and _Sir Tristrem_ (which is in a way a fourth) was not
very long in following. This last part contained a _tour de force_ in
the shape of a completion of the missing part by Scott himself, a
completion which, of course, shocks philologists, but which was
certainly never written for them, and possesses its own value for
others.

Not the least part of the interest of the _Minstrelsy_ itself was the
editor's appearance as a prose-writer. Percy had started, and others
down to Ritson had continued, the practice of interspersing verse
collections with dissertations in prose; and while the first volume of
the _Minstrelsy_ contained a long general introduction of more than a
hundred pages, and most of the ballads had separate prefaces of more or
less length, the preface to 'Young Tamlane' turned itself into a
disquisition on fairy lore, which, being printed in small type, is
probably not much shorter than the general introduction. In these pieces
(the Fairy essay is said to be based on information partly furnished by
Leyden) all the well-known characteristics of Scott's prose style
appear--its occasional incorrectness, from the strictly scholastic point
of view, as well as its far more than counterbalancing merits of vivid
presentation, of arrangement, not orderly in appearance but curiously
effective in result, of multifarious facts and reading, of the bold
pictorial vigour of its narrative, of its pleasant humour, and its
incessant variety.

Nor was this the only opportunity for exercising himself in the medium
which, even more than verse, was to be his, that the earliest years of
the century afforded to Scott. The _Edinburgh Review_, as everybody
knows, was started in 1802. Although its politics were not Scott's,
they were for some years much less violently put forward and exclusively
enforced than was the case later; indeed, the Whig Review started with
much the same ostensible policy as the Whig Deliverer a century before,
the policy, at least in declared intention, of using both parties as far
as might be for the public good. The attempt, if made _bona fide_, was
not more successful in one case than in the other; but it at least
permitted Tories to enlist under the blue-and-yellow banner. The
standard-bearer, Jeffrey, moreover, was a very old, an intimate, and a
never-quite-to-be-divorced friend of Scott's. At a later period, Scott's
contributions to periodicals attained an excellence which has been
obscured by the fame of the poems and novels together, even more
unjustly than the poems have been obscured by the novels alone. His
reviews at this time on Southey's _Amadis_, on Godwin's _Chaucer_, on
Ellis's _Specimens_, etc., are a little crude and amateurish, especially
in the direction (well known, to those who have ever had to do with
editing, as a besetting sin of novices) of substituting a mere account
of the book, with a few expressions of like and dislike, for a grasped
and reasoned criticism of it. But this is far less peculiar to them than
those who have not read the early numbers of the great reviews may
suppose. The fact is that Jeffrey himself, Sydney Smith, Scott, and
others were only feeling for the principles and practice of reviewing,
as they themselves later, and the brilliant second generation of Carlyle
and Macaulay, De Quincey and Lockhart, were to carry it out. Perhaps the
very best specimens of Scott's powers in this direction are the prefaces
which he contributed much later and gratuitously to John Ballantyne's
_Novelists' Library_--things which hardly yield to Johnson's _Lives_ as
examples of the combined arts of criticism and biography. At the time
of which we speak he was 'making himself' in this direction as in
others. I hope that Jeffrey and not he was responsible for a fling at
Mary Woollstonecraft in the Godwin article, which would have been
ungenerous in any case, and which in this was unpardonable. But there is
nothing else to object to, and the _Amadis_ review in particular is a
very interesting one.

We must now look back a little, so as to give a brief sketch of Scott's
domestic life, from his marriage until the publication of _The Lay of
the Last Minstrel_, which, with that of _Waverley_ and the crash of
1825-26, supplies the three turning-points of his career. After a very
brief sojourn in lodgings (where the landlady was shocked at Mrs.
Scott's habit of sitting constantly in her drawing-room), the young
couple took up their abode in South Castle Street. Hence, not very long
afterwards, they moved to the house--the famous No. 39--in the northern
division of the same street, which continued to be her home for the rest
of her Edinburgh life, and Scott's so long as he could afford a house in
Edinburgh. Their first child was born on the 14th of October 1798, but
did not live many hours. As was (and for the matter of that is) much
more customary with Edinburgh residents, even of moderate means, than it
has been for at least a century with Londoners, Scott, while his own
income was still very modest, took a cottage at Lasswade in the
neighbourhood. Here he lived during the summer for years; and in March
1799 he and his wife went to London, for the first time in his case
since he had been almost a baby. His father died during this visit,
after a painful breakdown, which is said to have suggested the touching
particulars of the deathbed of Chrystal Croftangry's benefactor (not
'the elder Croftangry,' as is said in a letter quoted by Lockhart), and
was repeated to some extent in Scott's own case.

His appointment to the Sheriff[depute]ship of Selkirkshire was made in
December 1799, and gave, for light work, three hundred a year. It need
not have interfered with even an active practice at the Bar had such
fallen to him, and at first did not impose on him even a partial
residence. The Lord-Lieutenant, however, Lord Napier of Ettrick,
insisted on this, and though Scott rather resented a strictness which
seems not to have been universal, he had to comply. He did not, however,
do so at once, and during the last year of the century and its two
successors, Lasswade and Castle Street were Scott's habitats, with
various radiations; while in the spring of 1803 he and Mrs. Scott
repeated their visit to London and extended it to Oxford. It is not
surprising to read his confession in sad days, a quarter of a century
later, of the 'ecstatic feeling' with which he first saw this, the place
in all the island which was his spiritual home. The same year saw the
alarm of invasion which followed the resumption of hostilities after the
armistice of Amiens; and Scott's attention to his quartermastership,
which he still held, seems to have given Lord Napier the idea that he
was devoting himself, not only _tam Marti quam Mercurio_, but to Mars
rather at Mercury's expense.[7] Scott, however, was never fond of being
dictated to, and he and his wife were still at Lasswade when the
Wordsworths visited them in the autumn, though Scott accompanied them to
his sheriffdom on their way back to Westmoreland. He had not yet wholly
given up practice, and though its rewards were not munificent, they
reached about this time, it would seem, their maximum sum of £218,
which, in the days of his fairy-money, he must often have earned by a
single morning's work.

Lord Napier, by no means improperly (for it was a legal requirement,
though often evaded, that four months' residence per annum should be
observed), persisted; and Scott, after a pleasing but impracticable
dream of taking up his summer residence in the Tower of Harden itself,
which was offered to him, took a lease of Ashestiel, a pleasant country
house,--'a decent farmhouse,' he calls it, in his usual way,--the owner
of which was his relation, and absent in India. The place was not far
from Selkirk, on the banks of the Tweed and in the centre of the
Buccleuch country. He seems to have settled there by the end of July
1804. The family, after leaving it for the late autumn session in
Edinburgh, returned at Christmas, by which time _The Lay of the Last
Minstrel_, though not actually published, was printed and ready. It was
issued in the first week of the new year 1805, being, except
Wordsworth's and Coleridge's, the first book published, which was
distinctly and originally characteristic of the new poetry of the
nineteenth century.

FOOTNOTES:

[7] Not many years before, Johnson had denied that it was possible for a
working man of letters to earn even _six_ guineas a sheet (the
_Edinburgh_ began at ten and proceeded to a minimum of sixteen),
'_communibus sheetibus_,' as he put it jocularly to Boswell. Southey, in
the year of Scott's marriage, seems to have thought about ten shillings
(certainly not more) 'not amiss' for a morning's work in reviewing.

[8] For an interesting passage showing how slow contemporary ears were
to admit this, see Southey's excellent defence of his own practice to
Wynn (_Letters_, i. 69).

[9] His attempts at the kind may best be despatched in a note here.
Their want of merit contrasts strangely with the admirable quality of
the 'Old Play' fragments scattered about the novels. _Halidon Hill_
(1822), in the subject of which Scott had an ancestral interest from his
Swinton blood, reminds one much more of Joanna Baillie than of its
author. _Macduff's Cross_ (1823), a very brief thing, is still more like
Joanna, was dedicated to her, and appeared in a miscellany which she
edited for a charitable purpose. _The Doom of Devorgoil_, written for
Terry in the first 'cramp' attack of 1817, but not published till 1830,
has a fine supernatural subject, but hardly any other merit.
_Auchindrane_, the last, is by far the best.

[10] It is quite possible that Mrs. Brown's illiterate authority, or one
of his predecessors in title, took 'fee' in the _third_ sense of
'cattle.'

[11] He wrote for his corps the 'War Song of the Edinburgh Light
Dragoons,' which appeared in the _Scots Magazine_ for 1802, but was
written earlier. It is good, but not so good as it would have been a few
years later.



CHAPTER III

THE VERSE ROMANCES


Although Scott was hard upon his thirty-fifth year when the _Lay_
appeared, and although he had already a considerable literary reputation
in Edinburgh, and some in London, the amount of his original
publications was then but small. Indeed, on the austere principles of
those who deny 'originality' to such things as reviews, or as the essays
in the _Minstrelsy_, it must be limited to a mere handful, though of
very pleasant delights, the half-dozen of ballads made up by
'Glenfinlas,' 'The Eve of St. John,' the rather inferior 'Fire King,'
the beautiful 'Cadzow Castle' (not yet mentioned, but containing some of
its author's most charming _topic_ lines), the fragment of 'The Grey
Brother,' and a few minor pieces.

With the _Lay_ he took an entirely different position. The mere bulk of
the poem was considerable; and, putting for the instant entirely out of
question its peculiarities of subject, metre, and general treatment, it
was a daring innovation in point of class. The eighteenth century had,
even under its own laws and conditions, distinctly eschewed long
narrative poems, the unreadable epics of Glover, for instance, belonging
to that class of exception which really does prove the rule. Pope's
_Rape_ had been burlesque, and his _Dunciad_, satire; hardly the ghost
of a narrative had appeared in Thomson and Young; Shenstone, Collins,
Gray, had nothing _de longue haleine_; the entire poetical works of
Goldsmith probably do not exceed in length a canto of the Lay; Cowper
had never attempted narrative; Crabbe was resting on the early laurels
of his brief _Village_, etc., and had not begun his tales. _Thalaba_,
indeed, had been published, and no doubt was not without effect on Scott
himself; but it was not popular, and the author was still under the sway
of the craze against rhyme. To all intents and purposes the poet was
addressing the public, in a work combining the attractions of fiction
with the attractions of verse at considerable length, for the first time
since Dryden had done so in his _Fables_, a hundred and five years
before. And though the mastery of the method might be less, the stories
were original, they were continuous, and they displayed an entirely new
gust and seasoning both of subject and of style.

There can be no doubt at all, for those who put metre in its proper
place, that a very large, perhaps the much larger, part of the appeal of
the _Lay_ was metrical. The public was sick of the couplet--had indeed
been sickened twice over, if the abortive revolt of Gray and Collins be
counted. It did not take, and was quite right in not taking, to the
rhymeless, shortened Pindaric of Sayers and Southey, as to anything but
an eccentric 'sport' of poetry. What Scott had to offer was practically
new, or at least novel. It is universally known--and Scott, who was only
too careless of his own claims, and the very last of men to steal or
conceal those of others, made no secret of it--that the suggestion of
the _Lay_ in metre came from a private recitation or reading of
Coleridge's _Christabel_, written in the year of Scott's marriage, but
not published till twenty years later, and more than ten after the
appearance of the _Lay_. Coleridge seems to have regarded Scott's
priority with an irritability less suitable to his philosophic than to
his poetical character.[16] But he had, in the first place, only himself,
if anybody, to blame; in the second, Scott more than made the loan his
own property by the variations executed on its motive; and in the third,
Coleridge's original right was far less than he seems to have honestly
thought, and than most people have guilelessly assumed since.

For the iambic dimeter, freely altered by the licences of equivalence,
anacrusis, and catalexis, though not recently practised in English when
_Christabel_ and the _Lay_ set the example, is an inevitable result of
the clash between accented, alliterative, asyllabic rhythm and
quantitative, exactly syllabic metre, which accompanied the
transformation of Anglo-Saxon into English. We have distinct approaches
to it in the thirteenth century _Genesis_; it attains considerable
development in Spenser's _The Oak and the Brere_; anybody can see that
the latter part of Milton's _Comus_ was written under the breath of its
spirit. But it had not hitherto been applied on any great scale, and the
delusions under which the eighteenth century laboured as to the syllabic
restrictions of English poetry had made it almost impossible that it
should be. At the same time, that century, by its lighter practice on
the one hand in the octosyllable, on the other in the four-footed
anapæstic, was making the way easier for those who dared a little: and
Coleridge first, then Scott, did the rest.

We have seen that in some of his early ballad work Scott had a little
overdone the licence of equivalence, but this had probably been one of
the formal points on which, as we know, the advice of Lewis, no poet but
a remarkably good metrist, had been of use to him. And he acquitted
himself now in a manner which, if it never quite attains the weird charm
of _Christabel_ itself at its best, is more varied, better sustained,
and, above all, better suited to the story-telling which was, of course,
Scott's supremest gift. It is very curious to compare Coleridge's
remarks on Scott's verse with those of Wordsworth, in reference to the
_White Doe of Rylstone_. Neither in _Christabel_, nor in the _White
Doe_, is there a real _story_ really told. Coleridge, but for his fatal
weaknesses, undoubtedly could have told such a story; it is pretty
certain that Wordsworth could not. But Scott could tell a story as few
other men who have ever drawn breath on the earth could tell it. He had
been distinguished in the conversational branch of the art from his
youth up, and though it was to be long before he could write a story in
prose, he showed now, at the first attempt, how he could write one in
verse.

Construction, of course, was not his forte; it never was. The plot of
the _Lay_, if not exactly non-existent, is of the simplest and loosest
description; the whole being in effect a series of episodes strung
together by the loves of Margaret and Cranstoun and the misdeeds of the
Goblin Page. Even the Book supplies no real or necessary _nexus_. But
the romance proper has never required elaborate construction, and has
very rarely, if ever, received it. A succession of engaging or exciting
episodes, each plausibly joined to each, contents its easy wants; and
such a succession is liberally provided here. So, too, it does not
require strict character-drawing--a gift with which Scott was indeed
amply provided, but which he did not exhibit, and had no call to
exhibit, here. If the personages will play their parts, that is enough.
And they all play them very well here, though the hero and heroine do
certainly exhibit something of that curious nullity which has been
objected to the heroes nearly always, the heroines too frequently, of
the later prose novels.

But even those critics who, as too many critics are wont to do, forgot
and forget that 'the prettiest girl in the world' not only cannot give,
but ought not to be asked to give, more than she has, must have been,
and must be, very unreasonable if they find fault with the subject and
stuff of the _Lay_. Jeffrey's remark about 'the present age not
enduring' the Border and mosstrooping details was contradicted by the
fact, and was, as a matter of taste, one of those strange blunders which
diversified his often admirably acute critical utterances. When he
feared their effects on '_English_ readers,' he showed himself, as was
not common with him, actually ignorant of one of the simplest general
principles of the poetic appeal, that is to say, the element of
_strangeness_. But we must not criticise criticism here, and must only
add that another great appeal, that of variety, is amply given, as well
as that of unfamiliarity. The graceful and touching, if a little
conventional, overture of the Minstrel introduces with the truest art
the vigorous sketch of Branksome Tower. The spirits of flood and fell
are allowed to impress and not allowed to bore us; for the quickest of
changes is made to Deloraine's ride--a kind of thing in which Scott
never failed, even in his latest and saddest days. The splendid Melrose
opening of the Second Canto supports itself through the discovery of the
Book, and finds due contrast in the description (or no-description) of
the lovers' meeting; the fight and the Goblin Page's misbehaviour and
punishment (to all, at least, but those, surely few now, who are
troubled by the Jeffreyan sense of 'dignity'), the decoying and capture
of young Buccleuch, and the warning of the clans are certainly no
ungenerous provision for the Third; nor the clan anecdotes (especially
the capital episode of the Beattisons), the parley, the quarrel of
Howard and Dacre, and the challenge, for the Fourth. There is perhaps
less in the Fifth, for Scott seems to have been afraid of another fight
in detail; but the description of the night before, and the famous
couplet--

    'I'd give the lands of Deloraine
    Dark Musgrave were alive again'--

would save it if there were nothing else, as there is much. And if the
actual conclusion has no great interest (Scott was never good at
conclusions, as we shall find Lady Louisa Stuart telling him frankly
later), the Sixth Canto is full, and more than full, of brilliant
things--the feast, the Goblin's tricks, his carrying-off, the
pilgrimage, and, above all, the songs, especially 'Rosabelle' and the
version of the 'Dies Iræ.'

The mention of these last may fairly introduce a few words on the formal
and metrical characteristics of the poem, remarks which perhaps some
readers resent, but which must nevertheless be made, inasmuch as they
are to my mind by far the most important part of poetical criticism.
Scott evidently arranged his scheme of metre with extreme care here,
though it is possible that after this severe exercise he let it take
care of itself to some extent later. His introduction is in the strict
octosyllable, with only such licences of slur or elision--

    'The pi | _tying Duch_ | ess praised its chime,'
    '_He had played_ | it to King Charles the Good'--

as the greatest precisians might have allowed themselves. But the First
Canto breaks at once into the full licence, not merely of
equivalence,--that is to say, of substituting an anapæst or a trochee
for an iamb,--but of shifting the base and rhythm of any particular
verse, or of set batches of verses, between the three ground-feet, and,
further, of occasionally introducing sixes, as in the ballad metre, and
even fours--

    'Bards long | shall tell
    How Lord Wal | ter fell,'

instead of the usual eights.

In similar fashion he varies the rhymes, passing as the subject or the
accompaniment of the word-music may require, from the couplet to the
quatrain, and from the quatrain to the irregularly rhymed 'Pindaric';
always, however, taking care that, except in the set lyric, the quatrain
shall not fall too much into definite stanza, but be interlaced in sense
or sound sufficiently to carry on the narrative. The result, to some
tastes, is a medium quite unsurpassed for the particular purpose. The
only objection to it at all capable of being maintained, that I can
think of, is that the total effect is rather lyrical than epic. And so
much of this must be perhaps allowed as comes to granting that Scott's
verse-romance is rather a long and cunningly sustained and varied ballad
than an epic proper.

The _Lay_, though not received with quite that eager appetite for poetry
which Scott was 'born to introduce,' and of which he lived long enough
to see the glutting, had a large and immediate sale. The author, not yet
aware what a gold mine his copyrights were, parted with this after the
first edition, and received in all rather less than £770, a sum trifling
in comparison with his after gains; but probably the largest that had as
yet been received by any English poet for a single volume not published
by subscription. It is curious that, at the estimated rate of three for
one in comparing the value of money at the end of the seventeenth and
the beginning of the nineteenth century, the sum almost exactly equals
that paid by Tonson for Dryden's _Fables_, the last book, before the
_Lay_ itself, which had united popularity, merit, and bulk in English
verse. But Dryden was the acknowledged head of English literature at the
time, and Scott was a mere beginner. He was probably even better pleased
with the quality of the praise than with the quantity of the pudding.
For though professional criticism, then in no very vigorous state, said
some silly things, it was generally favourable; and a saying of Pitt
(most indifferent, as a rule, of all Prime Ministers to English
literature) is memorable not merely as summing up the general
impression, but as defining what that impression was in a fashion quite
invaluable to the student of literary history. The Pilot that Weathered
the Storm, it seems, said of the description of the Minstrel's
hesitation before playing, 'This is a sort of thing I might have
expected in painting, but could never have fancied capable of being
given by poetry.' To the present generation and the last, the reverse
expression would probably seem more natural. We say, of Mr. Watts or of
Sir Edward Burne-Jones, that they have put, in 'Love and Death' or in
'Love among the Ruins,' what we might have expected from poetry, but
could hardly have thought possible in painting. But a hundred years of
studious convention and generality, of deliberate avoidance of the
poignant, and the vivid, and the detailed, and the coloured in poetry
had made Pitt's confession as natural as another hundred years of
contrary practice from Coleridge to Rossetti have made ours.

The publication of the _Lay_ immediately preceded, and perhaps its
success had no small share in deciding, the most momentous and
unfortunate step of Scott's life, his entry into partnership with James
Ballantyne. The discussion of the whole of this business will best be
postponed till the date of its catastrophe is reached, but a few words
may be said on the probable reasons for it. Much, no doubt, was the
result of that combination of incalculable things which foolish persons
of one kind call mere chance, of which foolish persons of another kind
deny the existence, and which wise men term, from different but not
irreconcilable points of view, Providence, or Luck, or Fate. But a
little can be cleared up. Scott had evidently made up his mind that he
should not succeed at the Bar, and had also persuaded himself that the
very success of the _Lay_ had made failure certain. The ill success of
his brother Thomas, with the writer's business inherited from their
father, perhaps inconvenienced and no doubt frightened him. In fact,
though his harsher judges are wrong in attributing to him any undue
haste to be rich, he certainly does seem to have been under a dread of
being poor; a dread no doubt not wholly intelligible and partly morbid
in a young man still under thirty-five, with brilliant literary and some
legal prospects, who had, independently of fees, literary or legal, a
secured income of about a thousand a year. He probably thought, and was
right in thinking, that the book trade was going to 'look up' to a
degree previously unknown; he seems throughout to have been under one of
those inexplicable attractions towards the Ballantynes which now and
then exist, as Hobbes says, 'in the greater towards the meaner, but not
contrary'; and perhaps there was another cause which has not been
usually allowed for enough. Good Christian and good-natured man as he
was, Scott was exceedingly proud; and though joining himself with
persons of dubious social position in mercantile operations seems an odd
way of pride, it had its temptations. I do not doubt but that from the
first Scott intended, more or less vaguely and dimly, to extend the
printing business into a publishing one, and so to free himself from any
necessity of going cap-in-hand to publishers.

However, for good or for ill,--I think it was mainly for ill,--for this
reason or for that, the partnership was formed, at first indirectly by
way of loan, then directly by further advance on security of a share in
the business, and finally so that Scott became, though he did not
appear, the leading partner. And the very first letter that we have of
his about business shows the fatal flaw which he, the soul of honour,
seems never to have detected till too late, if even then. The scheme for
an edition of Dryden was already afloat, and the first editor proposed
was a certain Mr. Foster, who 'howled about the expense of printing.' 'I
still,' says Scott to Ballantyne, 'stick to my answer that _I know
nothing of the matter_, but that, settle it how he and you will, _it
must be printed by you or be no concern of mine. This gives you an
advantage in driving the bargain._' Perhaps; but how about the advantage
to Mr. Foster of being advised by Ballantyne's partner to employ
Ballantyne, while he was innocent of the knowledge of the identity of
partner and adviser, and was even told that Scott 'knew nothing of the
matter'?

Even before the quarrel which soon occurred with Constable established
the Ballantynes--nominally the other brother John--as publishers, Scott
had begun, and was constantly pressing upon the different publishing
houses with which he was connected, a variety of literary schemes of the
most ambitious and costly character. All these books were to be printed
by Ballantyne, and many of them edited by himself; while, when the
direct publishing business was added, there was no longer any check on
this dangerous proceeding. It is most curious how Scott, the shrewdest
and sanest of men in the vast majority of affairs, seems to have lost
his head wherever books or lands were concerned. Himself both an
antiquary and an antiquarian,[15] as well as a lover of literature, he
seems to have taken it for granted that the same combination of tastes
existed in the public to an extent which would pay all expenses, however
lavishly incurred. To us, nowadays, who know how cold a face publishers
turn on what we call really interesting schemes, and how often these
schemes, even when fostered, miscarry or barely pay expenses,--who are
aware that even the editors of literary societies, where expenses are
assured beforehand, have to work for love or for merely nominal fees,
simply because the public will not buy the books,--it is not so
wonderful that some of Scott's schemes never got into being at all, and
that others were dead losses, as that any 'got home.' His _Dryden_, an
altogether admirable book, on which he lavished labour, and great part
of which appealed to a still dominant prestige, may just have carried
the editor's certainly not excessive fee of forty guineas a volume, or
about £750 for the whole. But when one reads of twice that sum paid for
the _Swift_, of £1300 for the thirteen quartos of the _Somers Papers_,
and so forth, the feeling is not that the sums paid were at all too much
for the work done, but that the publishers must have been very lucky men
if they ever saw their money again. The two first of these schemes
certainly, the third perhaps, deserved success; and still more so did a
great scheme for the publication of the entire _British Poets_, to be
edited by Scott and Campbell, which indeed fell through in itself, but
resulted indirectly in Campbell's excellent _Specimens_ and Chalmers's
invaluable if not very comely _Poets_. Even another project, a _Corpus
Historicorum_, would have been magnificent, though it could hardly have
been bookselling war. But the _Somers Tracts_ themselves, the _Memoirs_
and papers of Sadler, Slingsby, Carleton, Cary, etc., were of the class
of book which requires subvention of some kind to prevent it from being
a dead loss; and when the preventive check of the unwillingness of
publishers was removed by the fatal establishment of '_John_ Ballantyne
& Co.,' things became worse still. There are few better instances of the
eternal irony of fate than that the author of the admirable description
of the bookseller's horror at Mr. Pembroke's Sermons[14] should have
permitted, should have positively caused, the publishing at what was in
effect his own risk, or rather his own certainty of loss, not merely of
Weber's ambitious _Beaumont and Fletcher_, but of collections of _Tixall
Poetry_, _Histories of the Culdees_, Wilson's _History of James the
First_, and the rest.

As the beginning of 1805 saw the first birth of his real books, so the
end of it saw that of the last of his children according to the flesh.
His firstborn, as has been said, did not live. But Walter (born November
1799), Sophia (born October 1801), Anne (born February 1803), and
Charles (born December 1805) survived infancy; and it is quite probable
that these regular increases to his family, by suggesting that he might
have a large one, stimulated Scott's desire to enlarge his income. As a
matter of fact, however, the quartette of two boys and two girls was not
exceeded. The domestic life at Castle Street and Ashestiel, from the
publication of the _Lay_ to that of _Marmion_ in 1808,--indeed to that
of _The Lady of the Lake_ in May 1810,--ran smoothly enough; and there
can be little doubt that these five years were the happiest, and in
reality the most prosperous, of Scott's life. He had at once attained
great fame, and was increasing it by each successive poem; his immense
intellectual activity found vent besides in almost innumerable projects,
some of which were in a way successful, and some of which, if they did
himself no very great good pecuniarily, did good to more or less
deserving friends and _protégés_. His health had, as yet, shown no signs
whatever of breaking down; he was physically in perfect condition for,
and at Ashestiel he had every opportunity of indulging in, the field
sports in which his soul delighted at least as much as in reading and
writing; he had pleasant intervals of wandering; and, to crown it all,
he was, during this period, established in reversionary prospect, if not
yet in actual possession, of an income which should have put even his
anxieties at rest, and which certainly might have made him dissociate
himself from the dangerous and doubtful commercial enterprises in which
he had engaged. This reversion was that of a Clerkship of Session, one
of an honourable, well-paid, and by no means laborious group of offices
which seems to have been accepted as a comely and comfortable set of
shelves for advocates of ability, position, and influence, who, for this
reason or that, were not making absolutely first-rate mark at the Bar.
The post to which Scott was appointed was in the possession of a certain
Mr. Hope, and as no retiring pension was attached to these places, it
was customary to hold them on the rather uncomfortable terms of doing
the work till the former holder died, without getting any money. But
before many years a pension scheme was put in operation; Mr. Hope took
his share of it, and Scott entered upon thirteen hundred a year in
addition to his Sheriffship and to his private property, without taking
any account at all of literary gains. The appointment had not actually
been completed, though the patent had been signed, when the Fox and
Grenville Government came in, and it so happened that the document had
been so made out as to have enabled Scott, if he chose, to draw the
whole salary and leave his predecessor in the cold. But this was soon
set right.

In the visit to London which he paid (apparently for the purpose of
getting the error corrected), he made the acquaintance of the unlucky
Princess of Wales, who was at this time rather a favourite with the
Tories. And when he came back to Scotland, the trial of Lord Melville
gave him an opportunity of distinguishing himself by a natural and very
pardonable partisanship, which made his Whig friends rather sore.
Politics in Edinburgh ran very high during this short break in the long
Tory domination, and from it dates a story, to some minds, perhaps, one
of the most interesting of all those about Scott, and connected
indelibly with the scene of its occurrence. It tells how, as he was
coming down the Mound with Jeffrey and another Whig, after a discussion
in the Faculty of Advocates on some proposals of innovation, Jeffrey
tried to laugh the difference off, and how Scott, usually stoical
enough, save in point of humour, broke out with actual tears in his
eyes, 'No, no! it is no laughing matter. Little by little, whatever your
wishes may be, you will destroy and undermine until nothing of what
makes Scotland Scotland shall remain!' He would probably have found no
great reason at the other end of the century to account himself a false
prophet; and he might have thought his prophecies in fair way of
fulfilment not in Scotland only.

During 1806 and 1807 the main occupations of Scott's leisure (if he can
ever be said to have had such a thing) were the _Dryden_ and _Marmion_.
The latter of these appeared in February and the former in April 1808, a
perhaps unique example of an original work, and one of criticism and
compilation, both of unusual bulk and excellence, appearing, with so
short an interval, from the same pen.

As for _Marmion_, it is surely by far the greatest, taking all
constituents of poetical greatness together, of Scott's poems. It was
not helped at the time, and probably never has been helped, by the
author's plan of prefixing to each canto introductions of very
considerable length, each addressed to one or other of his chief
literary friends, and having little or nothing at all to do with the
subject of the tale. Contemporaries complained that the main poem was
thereby intolerably interrupted; posterity, I believe, has taken the
line of ignoring the introductions altogether. This is a very great
pity, for not only do they contain some of Scott's best and oftenest
quoted lines, but each is a really charming piece of occasional verse,
and something more, in itself. The beautiful description of Tweedside in
late autumn, the dirge on Nelson, Pitt, and Fox (which last, of course,
infuriated Jeffrey), and, above all, the splendid passage on the _Morte
d'Arthur_ (which Scott had at this time thought of editing, but gave up
to Southey) adorn the epistle to Rose; the picture of Ettrick Forest in
that to Marriott is one of the best sustained things the poet ever did;
the personal interest of the Erskine piece is of the highest, though it
has fewer 'purple' passages, and it is well-matched with that to Skene;
while the fifth to Ellis and the sixth and last to Heber nobly complete
the batch. Only, though the things in this case _are_ both rich and
rare,

    'We wonder what the devil they do there';

and Lockhart unearthed, what Scott seems to have forgotten, the fact
that they were originally intended to appear by themselves. It is a pity
they did not; for, excellent as they are, they are quite out of place as
interludes to a story, the serried range of which not only does not
require but positively rejects them.

For here, while Scott had lost little, if anything, of the formal graces
of the _Lay_, he had improved immensely in grip and force. Clare may be
a bread-and-butter heroine, and Wilton a milk-and-water lover, but the
designs of Marmion against both give a real story-interest, which is
quite absent from the _Lay_. The figure of Constance is really tragic,
not melodramatic merely, and makes one regret that Scott, in his prose
novels, did not repeat and vary her. All the accessories, both in
incident and figure, are good, and it is almost superfluous to praise
the last canto. It extorted admiration from the partisan rancour and the
literary prudishness of Jeffrey; it made the disturbed dowagers of the
_Critical Review_, who thought, with Rymer, that 'a hero ought to be
virtuous,' mingle applause with their fie-fies; it has been the delight
of every reader, not a milksop, or a faddist, or a poetical
man-of-one-idea, ever since. The last canto of _Marmion_ and the last
few 'Aventiuren' of the _Nibelungen Lied_ are perhaps the only things in
all poetry where a set continuous battle (not a series of duels as in
Homer) is related with unerring success; and the steady _crescendo_ of
the whole, considering its length and intensity, is really miraculous.
Nay, even without this astonishing finale, the poem that contained the
opening sketch of Norham, the voyage from Whitby to Holy Island, the
final speech of Constance, and the famous passage of her knell, the
Host's Tale, the pictures of Crichton and the Blackford Hill view, the
'air and fire' of the 'Lochinvar' song, the phantom summons from the
Cross of Edinburgh, and the parting of Douglas and Marmion, could spare
half of these and still remain one of the best of its kind, while every
passage so spared would be enough to distinguish any poem in which it
occurred.

The considerable change in the metre of _Marmion_ as compared with the
_Lay_ is worth noticing. Here, as there, the 'introductions' are, for
the most part, if not throughout, in continuous octosyllabic couplets.
But, in the text, the couplet plays also a much larger part than it
does in the _Lay_, and where it is dropped the substitute is not usually
the light and extremely varied medley of the earlier poem, so much as a
sort of irregular (and sometimes almost regular) stanza arrangement,
sets of (usually three) octosyllables being interspersed with sixes,
rhyming independently. The batches of monorhymed octosyllables sometimes
extend to even four in number, with remarkably good effect, as, for
instance, in the infernal proclamation from the Cross. Altogether the
metrical scheme is of a graver cast than that of the _Lay_, and suits
the more serious and tragical colour of the story.

It has been mentioned above in passing that Jeffrey reviewed _Marmion_
on the whole unfavourably. The story of this review is well known: how
the editor-reviewer (with the best intentions doubtless) sent the proof
with a kind of apology to Scott on the morning of a dinner-party in
Castle Street; how Scott showed at least outward indifference, and Mrs.
Scott a not unamiable petulance; and how, though the affair caused no
open breach of private friendship, it doubtless gave help to the
increasing Whiggery of the _Review_ and its pusillanimous policy in
regard to the Spanish War in severing Scott's connection with it, and
determining him to promote, heart and soul, the opposition venture of
the _Quarterly_. Of this latter it was naturally enough proposed by
Canning that Scott should be editor; but, as naturally, he does not seem
to have even considered the proposal. He would have hated living in
London; no salary that could have been offered him could have done more
than equal, if so much, the stipends of his Sheriffship and the coming
Clerkship, which he would have had to give up; and the work would have
interfered much more seriously than his actual vocations with his
literary avocations. Besides, it is quite certain that he would not have
made a good editor. In the first place, he was fitted neither by
education nor by temperament for the troublesome and 'meticulous'
business of knocking contributions into shape. And, in the second, he
would most assuredly have fallen into the most fatal of all editorial
errors--that of inserting articles, not because they were actually good
or likely to be popular, but because the subjects were interesting, or
the writers agreeable, to himself. But he backed the venture manfully
with advice, by recruiting for it, and afterwards by contributing to it.

It so happened, too, that about the same time he had dissensions with
the publisher as well as with the editor of the _Edinburgh_. Constable,
though he had not entered into the intimate relations with Scott and the
Ballantynes that were afterwards so fatal, had made the spirited bid of
a thousand pounds for _Marmion_, and the much more spirited and (it is
to be feared) much less profitable one of fifteen hundred for the
_Swift_. He had, however, recently taken into partnership a certain Mr.
Hunter of Blackness. This Hunter must have had some merits--he had at
any rate sufficient wit to throw the blame of the fact that sojourn in
Scotland did not always agree with Englishmen on their disgusting habit
of 'eating too much _and not drinking enough_.' But he was a laird of
some family, and he seems to have thought that he might bring into
business the slightly hectoring ways which were then tolerated in
Scotland from persons of quality to persons of none or less. He was a
very bitter Whig, and, therefore, ill disposed towards Scott. And,
lastly, he had, or thought he had, a grievance against his distinguished
'hand' in respect of the _Swift_, to wit, that the editor of that
well-paid compilation did not devote himself to it by any means
exclusively enough. Now Scott, though the most good-natured of men and
only too easy to lead, was absolutely impossible to drive; and his blood
was as ready as the 'bluid of M'Foy' itself to be set on fire at the
notion of a cock-laird from Fife not merely treating a Scott with
discourtesy, but imputing doubtful conduct to him. He offered to throw
up the _Swift_, and though this was not accepted, broke for a time all
other connection with Constable--an unfortunate breach, as it helped to
bring about the establishment of the Ballantyne publishing business, and
so unquestionably began Scott's own ruin. It is remarkable that a
similar impatience of interference afterwards broke Scott's just-begun
connection with Blackwood, which, could it have lasted, would probably
have saved him. For that sagacious person would certainly never have
plunged, or, if he could have helped it, let anyone else plunge, into
Charybdis.

Between the publication of _Marmion_ and that of _The Lady of the Lake_
Scott was very busy in bookmaking and bookselling projects. It was
characteristic of the mixture of bad luck and bad management which hung
on the Ballantynes from the first that even their _Edinburgh Annual
Register_, published as it was in the most stirring times, and written
by Scott, by Southey, and others of the very best hands, was a failure.
He made some visits to London, and (for the scenery of the new poem) to
the Trossachs and Loch Lomond; and had other matters of concern, the
chief of which were the death of his famous bull-terrier Camp, and two
troublesome affairs connected with his brothers. One of these, the
youngest, Daniel, after misconduct of various kinds, had, as mentioned
above, shown the white feather during a negro insurrection in Jamaica,
and so disgusted his brother that when he came home to die, Scott would
neither see him, nor, when he died, go to his funeral. The other
concerned his brother Thomas, who, after his failure as a writer, had
gone from prudential motives to the Isle of Man, where he for a time was
an officer in the local Fencibles. But before leaving Edinburgh, and
while he was still a practising lawyer, his brother had appointed him to
a small post in his own gift as Clerk. Not only was there nothing
discreditable in this according to the idea of any time,--for Thomas
Scott's education and profession qualified him fully for the
office,--but there were circumstances which, at that time, showed rather
heroic and uncommon virtue. For the actual vacancy had occurred in a
higher and more valuable post, also in Scott's gift, and he, instead of
appointing his brother to this, promoted a deserving subordinate
veteran, and gave the lower and less valuable place to Thomas. The
latter's circumstances, however, obliged him to perform his duties by
deputy, and a Commission then sitting ultimately abolished the office
altogether, with a retiring allowance of about half the salary. Certain
Whig peers took this up as a job, and Lord Lauderdale, supported by Lord
Holland, made in the House of Lords very offensive charges against Scott
personally for having appointed his brother to a place which he knew
would be abolished,[13] and against Thomas for claiming compensation in
respect of duties which he had never performed. The Bill was, however,
carried; but Scott was indignant at the loss threatened to his brother
and the imputation made on himself, and 'cut' Lord Holland at a
semi-public dinner not long afterwards. For this he was and has since
been severely blamed, and his behaviour was perhaps a little
'perfervid.' But everybody knows, or should know, that there are few
things more trying to humanity than to be accused of improper conduct
when a man is hugging himself on having behaved with unusual and
saint-like propriety.

_The Lady of the Lake_ appeared in May 1810, being published by
Ballantyne and Miller, and at once attained enormous popularity. Twenty
thousand copies were sold within the year, two thousand of which were
costly quartos; and while there can be no doubt that this was the
highest point of Scott's poetical vogue, there is, I believe, not much
doubt that the poem has always continued to be a greater favourite with
the general than any other of his. It actually, more than any other,
created the _furore_ for Scottish scenery and touring, which has never
ceased since; it supplied in the descriptions of that scenery, in the
fight between Roderick and Fitz-James, and in other things, his most
popular passages; and it has remained probably the type of his poetry to
the main body of readers.

Yet there are some who like it less than any other of the major
divisions of that poetry, and this is by no means necessarily due either
to a desire to be eccentric or to the subtler but almost equally
illegitimate operation of the want of novelty--of the fact that its best
effects are but repetitions of those of _Marmion_ and the _Lay_. For,
fine as it is, it seems to me to display the drawbacks of Scott's scheme
and method more than any of the longer poems. Douglas, Ellen, Malcolm,
are null; Roderick and the king have a touch of theatricality which I
look for in vain elsewhere in Scott; there is nothing fantastic in the
piece like the Goblin Page, and nothing tragical like Constance. There
is something teasing in what has been profanely called the 'guide-book'
character--the cicerone-like fidelity which contrasts so strongly with
the skilfully subordinated description in the two earlier and even in
the later poems. Moreover, though Ellis ought not to have called the
octosyllable 'the Hudibrastic measure' (which is only a very special
variety of it), he was certainly right in objecting to its great
predominance in unmixed form here.

The critics, however, sang the praises of the poem lustily. Even
Jeffrey--perhaps because it was purely Scottish (he had thought
_Marmion_ not Scottish enough), perhaps because its greater
conventionality appealed to him, perhaps because he wished to make
atonement--was extremely complimentary. And certainly no one need be at
a loss for things to commend positively, whatever may be his comparative
estimate. The fine Spenserian openings (which Byron copied almost
slavishly in the form of the stanza he took for _Harold_), the famous
beginning of the stag, the description of the pass (till Fitz-James
begins to soliloquise), some of the songs (especially the masterly
'Coronach'), the passage of the Fiery Cross, the apparition of the clan
(not perhaps so great as some have thought it, but still great), the
struggle, the guard-room (which shocked Jeffrey dreadfully)--these are
only some of the best things. But I own that I turn from the best of
them to the last stand of the spearmen at Flodden, and the unburying of
the Book in the _Lay_.

It may, perhaps, not be undesirable to anticipate somewhat, in order to
complete the sketch of the verse romances in this chapter; for not very
long after the publication of the _Lady of the Lake_, Scott resumed the
writing of _Waverley_, which effected an entire change in the direction
of his literature; and it was not a twelvemonth later that he planned
the establishment at Abbotsford, which was thenceforward the
headquarters of his life.

The first poem to follow was one which lay out of the series in subject,
scheme, and dress, and which perhaps should rather be counted with his
minor and miscellaneous pieces--_The Vision of Don Roderick_. It was
written with rapidity, even for him, and with a special purpose; the
profits being promised beforehand to the Committee of the Portuguese
Relief Fund, formed to assist the sufferers from Massena's devastations.
It consists of rather less than a hundred Spenserian stanzas, the story
of Roderick merely ushering in a magical revelation, to that too-amorous
monarch, of the fortunes of the Peninsular War and its heroes up to the
date of writing. The _Edinburgh Review_, which hated the war, was very
angry because Scott did not celebrate Sir John Moore (whether as a good
Whig or a bad general it did not explain); but even Jeffrey was not
entirely unfavourable, and the piece was otherwise well received. The
description of the subterranean hall beneath the Cathedral of Toledo is
as good as we should expect, and the verses on Saragossa and on the
forces of the three kingdoms are very fine. But the whole was something
of a _torso_, and it is improbable that Scott could ever have used the
Spenserian stanza to good effect for continuous narrative. Even in its
individual shape, that great form requires the artistic patience as well
as the natural gift of men like its inventor, or like Thomson, Shelley,
and Tennyson, in other times and of other schools, to get the full
effect out of it; while to connect it satisfactorily with its kind and
adjust it to narrative is harder still.

The true succession, however, after this parenthesis, was taken up by
_Rokeby_, which was dated on the very last day of 1812. Its reception
was not exceedingly enthusiastic; for Byron, borrowing most of his
technique and general scheme from Scott, and joining with these greater
apparent passion and a more novel and unfamiliar local colour, had
appeared on the scene as a 'second lion.' The public, a 'great-sized
monster of ingratitudes,' had got accustomed to Scott, if not weary of
him. The title[12] was not very happy; and perhaps some harm was really
done by one of the best of Moore's many good jokes in the _Twopenny
Postbag_, where he represented Scott as coming from Edinburgh to London

    'To do all the gentlemen's seats by the way'

in romances of half a dozen cantos.

The poem, however, is a very delightful one, and to some tastes at least
very far above the _Lady of the Lake_. Scott, indeed, clung to the
uninterrupted octosyllable more than ever; but that verse, if a poet
knows how to manage it, is by no means so unsuited for story-telling as
Ellis thought; and Scott had here more story to tell than in any of his
preceding pieces, except _Marmion_. The only character, indeed, in which
one takes much interest is Bertram Risingham; but he is a really
excellent person, the cream of Scott's ruffians, whether in prose or
verse; appearing well, conducting himself better, and ending best of
all. Nor is Oswald, the contrasted villain, by any means to be despised;
while the passages--on which the romance, in contradistinction to the
classical epic, stands or falls--are equal to all but the very best in
_Marmion_ or the _Lay_. Bertram's account of the first and happier
events at Marston Moor, as well as of his feelings as to his
comradeship with Mortham; the singularly beautiful opening of the
second canto--

    'Far in the chambers of the west';

with the description of Upper Teesdale; Bertram's clamber on the cliff,
with its reminiscences of the 'Kittle Nine Steps,'--these lead on to
many other things as good, ending with that altogether admirable bit of
workmanship, Bertram's revenge on Oswald and his own death. Matilda is
one of the best of Scott's verse-heroines, except Constance--that is to
say, the best of his good girls--and she has the interest of being
avowedly modelled on 'Green Mantle.' Nor in any of the poems do the
lyrics give more satisfactory setting-off to the main text. Indeed, it
may be questioned whether any contains such a garland as--to mention
only the best--is formed by

    'O, Brignall banks are wild and fair';

the exquisite

    'A weary lot is thine, fair maid,'

adapted from older matter with a skill worthy of Burns himself; the
capital bravura of Allen-a-Dale; and that noble Cavalier lyric--

    'When the dawn on the mountain was misty and grey.'

_The Bridal of Triermain_ was published in 1813, not long after
_Rokeby_, and, like that poem, drew its scenery from the North of
England; but in circumstances, scale, and other ways it forms a pair
with _Harold the Dauntless_, and they had best be noticed together.

_The Lord of the Isles_, the last of the great quintet, appeared in
December 1814. Scott had obtained part of the scenery for it in an
earlier visit to the Hebrides, and the rest in his yachting voyage (see
below) with the Commissioners of Northern Lights, which also gave the
_décor_ for _The Pirate_. The poem was not more popular than _Rokeby_ in
England, and it was even less so in Scotland, chiefly for the reason,
only to be mentioned with all but silent amazement, that it was 'not
bitter enough against England.' Its faults are, of course, obvious
enough. Central story there is simply none; the inconvenience that
arises to the hero from his being addressed by two young ladies cannot
awake any very sympathetic tear, nor does either Edith of Lorn or Isabel
Bruce awaken any violent desire to offer to relieve him of one of them.
The versification, however, is less uniform than that of _Rokeby_ or
_The Lady of the Lake_, and there are excellent passages--the best
being, no doubt, the Abbot's extorted blessing on the Bruce; the great
picture of Loch Coruisk, which, let people say what they will, is
marvellously faithful; part of the voyage (though one certainly could
spare some of the 'merrilys'); the landing in Carrick; the rescue of the
supposed page; and, finally, Bannockburn, which even Jeffrey admired,
though its want of 'animosity' shocked him.

The two last of the great poems--there was indeed a third, _The Field of
Waterloo_, written hastily for a subscription, and not worthy either of
Scott or of the subject--have not by any means the least interest,
either intrinsic or that of curiosity. Indeed, as a matter of liking,
not quite disjoined from criticism, I should put them very high indeed.
Both were issued anonymously, and with indications intended to mislead
readers into the idea that they were by Erskine; the intention being, it
would seem, partly to ascertain how far the author's mere name counted
in his popularity, partly also to 'fly kites' as to the veering of the
public taste in reference to the verse romance in general. By the time
of the publication of _Harold the Dauntless_ in 1817, Scott could hardly
have had any intention of deserting the new way--his own exclusive
right--in which he was already walking firmly. But the _Bridal of
Triermain_ appeared very shortly after _Rokeby_, and was, no doubt,
seriously intended as a test.

In both pieces the author fell back upon his earlier scheme of metre,
the _Christabel_ blend of iambic with anapæstic passages, instead of the
nearly pure iambs of his middle poems. The _Bridal_, partly to encourage
the Erskine notion, it would seem, is hampered by an intermixed
outline-story, told in the introductions, of the wooing and winning of a
certain Lucy by a certain Arthur, both of whom may be very heartily
wished away. But the actual poem is more thoroughly a Romance of
Adventure than even the _Lay_, has much more central interest than that
poem, and is adorned by passages of hardly less beauty than the best of
the earlier piece. It is astonishing how anyone of the slightest
penetration could have entertained the slightest doubt about the
authorship of

    'Come hither, come hither, Henry my page,
    Whom I saved from the sack of Hermitage';

still more of that of the well-known opening of the Third Canto, one of
the triumphs of that 'science of names' in which Scott was such a
proficient--

    'Bewcastle now must keep the Hold,
      Speir-Adam's steeds must bide in stall,
    Of Hartley-burn the bowmen bold
      Must only shoot from battled wall;
    And Liddesdale may buckle spur,
      And Teviot now may belt the brand,
    Tarras and Ewes keep nightly stir,
      And Eskdale foray Cumberland!'

But these are only the most unmistakable, not the best. The opening
specification of the Bride; the admirable 'Lyulph's Tale,' with the
first appearance of the castle, and the stanza (suggested no doubt by a
famous picture) of the damsels dragging Arthur's war-gear; the
courtship, and Guendolen's wiles to retain Arthur, and the parting; the
picture of the King's court; the tournament; all these are good enough.
But I am not sure that the description of Sir Roland's tantalised vigil
in the Vale of St. John, with the moonlit valley (itself a worthy
pendant even to the Melrose), and the sudden and successful revelation
of the magic hold when the knight flings his battle-axe, does not even
surpass the Tale. Nor do I think that the actual adventures of this
Childe Roland in the dark towers are inferior. The trials and
temptations are of stock material, but all the best matter is stock, and
this is handled with a rush and dash which more than saves it. I hope
the tiger was only a magic tiger, and went home comfortably with the
damsels of Zaharak. It seems unfair that he should be actually killed.
But this is the only thing that disquiets me; and it is impossible to
praise too much De Vaux's ingenious compromise between tasteless
asceticism and dangerous indulgence in the matter of 'Asia's willing
maids.'

_Harold the Dauntless_ is much slighter, as indeed might be expected,
considering that it was finished in a hurry, long after the author had
given up poetry as a main occupation. But the half burlesque Spenserians
of the overture are very good; the contrasted songs, 'Dweller of the
Cairn' and 'A Danish Maid for Me,' are happy. Harold's interview with
the Chapter is a famous bit of bravura; and all concerning the Castle of
the Seven Shields, from the ballad introducing it, through the
description of its actual appearance (in which, by the way, Scott shows
almost a better grasp of the serious Spenserian stanza than anywhere
else) to the final battle of Odin and Harold, is of the very best
Romantic quality. Perhaps, indeed, it is because (as the _Critical
Review_, the Abdiel of 'classical' orthodoxy among the reviews of the
time, scornfully said), 'both poems are romantic enough to satisfy all
the parlour-boarders of all the ladies' schools in England,' that they
are so pleasant. It is something, in one's grey and critical age, to
feel genuine sympathy with the parlour-boarder.

The chapter has already stretched to nearly the utmost proportions
compatible with the scale of this little book, and we must not indulge
in very many critical remarks on the general character of the
compositions discussed in it. But I have never carried out the plan
(which I think indispensable) of reading over again whatever work,
however well known, one has to write about, with more satisfaction. The
main defects lie on the surface. Despite great felicities of a certain
kind, these poems have no claim to formal perfection, and occasionally
sin by very great carelessness, if not by something worse. The poet
frankly shows himself as one whose appeal is not that of 'jewels five
words long,' set and arranged in phrases of that magical and unending
beauty which the very greatest poets of the world command. His effect,
even in description, is rather of mass than of detail. He does not
attempt analysis in character, and only skirts passion. Although
prodigal enough of incident, he is very careless of connected plot. But
his great and abiding glory is that he revived the art, lost for
centuries in England, of telling an interesting story in verse, of
riveting the attention through thousands of lines of poetry neither
didactic nor argumentative. And of his separate passages, his patches of
description and incident, when the worst has been said of them, it will
remain true that, in their own way and for their own purpose, they
cannot be surpassed. The already noticed comparison of any of Scott's
best verse-tales with _Christabel_, which they formally imitated to some
extent, and with the _White Doe of Rylstone_, which followed them, will
no doubt show that Coleridge and Wordsworth had access to mansions in
the house of poetry where Scott is never seen. But in some respects even
their best passages are not superior to his; and as tales, as romances,
his are altogether superior to theirs.

FOOTNOTES:

[12] It is fair to him to say that he made no public complaints, and
that when some gutter-scribbler in 1810 made charges of plagiarism from
him against Scott, he furnished Southey with the means of clearing him
from all share in the matter (_Lockhart_, iii. 293; Southey's _Life and
Correspondence_, iii. 291). But there is a suspicion of fretfulness even
in the Preface to _Christabel_; and the references to Scott's poetry
(not to himself) in the _Table Talk_, etc., are almost uniformly
disparaging. It is true that these last are not strictly evidence.

[13] The objection taken to this word by precisians seems to ignore a
useful distinction. The _antiquary_ is a collector; the _antiquarian_ a
student or writer. The same person may be both; but he may not.

[14] _Waverley_, chap. vi. It owes a little to Smollett's Introduction
to _Humphry Clinker_, but as usual improves the loan greatly.

[15] Inasmuch as he himself was secretary to the Commission which did
away with it.

[16] Taken from the name of his friend Morritt's place on the Greta.



CHAPTER IV

THE NOVELS, FROM _WAVERLEY_ TO _REDGAUNTLET_


In the opening introduction to the collected edition of the novels,
Scott has given a very full account of the genesis of _Waverley_. These
introductions, written before the final inroad had been made on his
powers by the united strength of physical and moral misfortune, animated
at once by the last glow of those powers, and by the indefinable charm
of a fond retrospection, displaying every faculty in autumn luxuriance,
are so delightful that they sometimes seem to be the very cream and
essence of his literary work in prose. Indeed, I have always wondered
why they have not been published separately as a History of the Waverley
Novels by their author. Yet the public, I believe, with what I fear must
be called its usual lack of judgment in some such matters, seems never
to have read them very widely. An exception, however, may possibly have
been made in the case of this first one, opening as it has long done
every new issue of the whole set of novels. At anyrate, in one way or
another, it is probably known, at least to those who take an interest in
Scott, that he had begun _Waverley_ and thrown it aside some ten years
before its actual appearance, at a time when he was yet a novice in
literature. He had also attempted one or two other things,--a completion
of Strutt's _Queenhoo Hall_, the beginning of a tale about Thomas the
Rhymer, etc., which are now appended to the introduction itself,--and he
had once, in 1810, resumed _Waverley_, and again thrown it aside. At
last, when his supremacy as a popular poet was threatened by Byron, and
when, perhaps, he himself was a little wearying of the verse tale, he
discovered the fragment while searching for fishing-tackle in the old
desk where he had put it, and after a time resolved to make a new and
anonymous attempt on public favour.

By the time--1814--when the book actually appeared, considerable
changes, both for good and for bad, had occurred in Scott's
circumstances; and the total of his literary work, independently of the
poems mentioned in the last chapter, had been a good deal increased.
Ashestiel had been exchanged for Abbotsford; the new house was being
planned and carried out so as to become, if not exactly a palace,
something much more than the cottage which had been first talked of; and
the owner's passion for buying, at extravagant prices, every
neighbouring patch of mostly thankless soil that he could get hold of
was growing by indulgence. He himself, in 1811 and the following years,
was extremely happy and extremely busy, planting trees, planning rooms,
working away at _Rokeby_ and _Triermain_ in the general sitting-room of
the makeshift house, with hammering all about him (now, the hammer and
the pen are perhaps of all manual implements the most deadly and
irreconcilable foes!), corresponding with all sorts and conditions of
men; furnishing introductions and contributions (in some cases never yet
collected) to all sorts and conditions of books, and struggling, as best
he saw his way, though the way was unfortunately not the right one, with
the ever-increasing difficulties of Ballantyne & Company. I forget
whether there is any evidence that Dickens consciously took his humorous
incarnation of the duties of a 'Co.' from Scott's own experience. But
Scott as certainly had to provide the money, the sense, the good-humour,
and the rest of the working capital as Mark Tapley himself. The merely
pecuniary part of these matters may be left to the next chapter; it is
sufficient to say that, aggravated by misjudgment in the selection and
carrying out of the literary part, it brought the firm in 1814
exceedingly near the complete smash which actually happened ten years
later. One is tempted to wish that the crash had come, for it was only
averted by the alliance with Constable which was the cause of the final
downfall. Also, it would have come at a time when Scott was physically
better able to bear it; it could hardly in any degree have interfered
with the appearance of _Waverley_ and its followers; and it would have
had at least a chance of awakening their author to a sense of the double
mistake of engaging his credit in directly commercial concerns, and of
sinking his money in land and building. However, things were to be as
they were, and not otherwise.

How anxious Constable must have been to recover Scott (Hunter, the stone
of stumbling, was now removed by death) is evident from the mere list of
the titles of the books which he took over in whole or part from the
Ballantynes. Even his Napoleonic audacity quailed before the _Edinburgh
Annual Register_, with its handsome annual loss of a thousand a year, at
Brewster's _Persian Astronomy_, in 4to and 8vo, and at _General Views of
the County of Dumfries_. But he saddled himself with a good deal of the
'stock' (which in this case most certainly had not its old sense of
'assets'), and in May 1813, Scott seems to have thought that if John
Ballantyne would curb his taste for long-dated bills, things might go
well. Unluckily, John did not choose to do so, and Scott, despite the
warning, was equally unable to curb his own for peat-bogs, marl-pits,
the Cauldshiels Loch, and splendid lots of ancient armour. By July there
was again trouble, and in August things were so bad that they were only
cleared by Scott's obtaining from the Duke of Buccleuch a guarantee for
£4000. It was in consenting to this that the Duke expressed his approval
of Scott's determination to refuse the Laureateship, which had been
offered to him, and which, in consequence of his refusal and at his
suggestion, was conferred upon Southey. Even the guarantee, though it
did save the firm, saved it with great difficulty.

In the following winter Scott had an adventure with his eccentric German
amanuensis, Henry Weber, who had for some time been going mad, and who
proposed a duel with pistols (which he produced) to his employer in the
study at Castle Street. _Swift_ appeared at last in the summer, and it
was in June 1814 that the first of a series of wonderful _tours de
force_ was achieved by the completion, in about three weeks, of the last
half of _Waverley_. One of the most striking things in Lockhart is the
story of the idle apprentice who became industrious by seeing Scott's
hand traversing the paper hour after hour at his study window. The novel
actually appeared on July 7, and, being anonymous, made no immediate
'move,' as booksellers say, before Scott set off a fortnight later for
his long-planned tour with the Commissioners of Northern Lights--the
Scottish Trinity House--in their yacht, round the northern half of the
island and to Orkney and Shetland. To abstract his own admirable account
of the tour[27] would be a task grateful neither to writer nor to
reader, the latter of whom, if he does not know it already, had better
lose no time in making its acquaintance. On the return in September,
Scott was met by two pieces of bad and good tidings respectively--the
death of the Duchess of Buccleuch, and the distinct, though not as yet
'furious,' success of his novel.

There is no doubt that the early fragments in tale-telling which have
been noticed above do not display any particular skill in the art; nor
is there much need to quarrel with those who declare that the opening of
_Waverley_[26] itself ranks little, if at all, above them. I always read
it myself; but I believe most people plunge almost at once into the
Tullyveolan visit. By doing so, however, they miss not merely the
critical pleasure of comparing a man's work (as can rarely be done)
during his period of groping for the way, with his actual stumble into
it for the first time, but also such justification as there is for the
hero's figure. Nobody ever judged the unlucky captain of Gardiner's
better than his creator, who at the time frankly called him 'a sneaking
piece of imbecility,' and avowed, with as much probability as right,
that 'if he had married Flora, she would have set him up on the
chimney-piece, as Count Borowlaski's[25] wife used to do.' But his
weaknesses have at least an excuse from his education and antecedents,
which does not appear if these antecedents are neglected.

Still, the story-interest only begins when Waverley rides into the
bear-warded avenue; it certainly never ceases till the golden image of
the same totem is replaced in the Baron of Bradwardine's hand. And it is
very particularly to be observed that this interest is of a kind
absolutely novel in combination and idiosyncrasy. The elements of
literary interest are nowhere new, except in what is, for aught we know,
accidentally the earliest literature _to us_. They are all to be found
in Homer, in the Book of Job, in the _Agamemnon_, in the _Lancelot_, in
the _Poem of the Cid_. But from time to time, in the hands of the men of
greater genius, they are shaken up afresh, they receive new adjustments,
and a touch of something personal which transforms them. This new
adjustment and touch produced in Scott's case what we call the
Historical Novel.[24] It is quite a mistake to think that he was limited
to this. _Guy Mannering_ and _The Antiquary_ among the earlier novels,
_St. Ronan's Well_ and the exquisite introductory sketch to the
_Chronicles of the Canongate_ among the later, would disprove that. But
the historical novel was the new kind that he was 'born to introduce,'
after many failures in many generations. It is difficult to say whether
it was accident or property which made his success in it co-existent
with his success in depicting national character, scenery, and manners.
Attempts at this, not always unsuccessful attempts, had indeed been made
before. It had been tried frequently, though usually in the sense of
caricature, on the stage; it had been done quite recently in the novel
by Miss Edgeworth (whom Scott at least professed to regard as his
governess here), and much earlier in this very department of Scotch
matters by Smollett. But it had never been done with really commanding
ability on the great scale.

In _Waverley_ Scott supplied these two aspects, the historical-romantic
and the national-characteristic, with a felicity perhaps all the more
unerring in that it seems to have been only partly conscious. The
subject of 'the Forty-five' was now fully out of taboo, and yet retained
an interest more than antiquarian. The author had the amplest stores of
knowledge, and that sympathy which is so invaluable to the artist when
he keeps it within the limits of art. He seems to have possessed by
instinct (for there was nobody to teach him) the paramount secret of the
historical novelist, the secret of making his central and prominent
characters fictitious, and the real ones mostly subsidiary. On the other
hand, the knowledge of his native country, which he had been
accumulating for almost the whole of his nearly four-and-forty years of
life, was joined in him with that universal knowledge of humanity which
only men of the greatest genius have. I am, indeed, aware that both
these positions have been attacked. I was much pleased, some time after
I had begun to write this little book, to find in a review of the
present year of grace these words: 'Scott only knew a small portion of
human nature, and he was unable to portray the physiognomy of the past.'
I feared at first that this might be only one of the numerous flings of
our young barbarians, a pleasant, or pleasantly intended, flirt of the
heels of the New Humour. But the context showed that the writer was in
deadly earnest. I shall not attempt here to explain to him, in a popular
or any other style, that he is, perhaps, not quite right. Life itself is
not long enough--'little books' are decidedly too short--for a
demonstration that the Pacific Ocean is not really a small portion of
the terrestrial water-space, or that Alexander was able to overrun
foreign countries. We may find a little room in the Conclusion to say
something more about Scott's range and his faculty. Here it will be
enough to wear our friend's rue with a slight difference, and to say
that _Waverley_ and its successors showed in their author knowledge,
complete in all but certain small parts, of human nature, and an almost
unlimited faculty of portraying the physiognomy of the past.

It was scarcely to be expected that a book which was anonymous, and of
which only a very few persons knew the real authorship, while even those
who guessed it at all early were not so very many, should attain
immediate popularity. Lockhart says that the slowness of the success was
exaggerated, but his own figures prove that it was somewhat leisurely.
Five editions, one (the second) of two thousand, the others of one
thousand each, supplied the demand of the first six months, and a
thousand copies more that of the next eighteen months--a difference from
the almost instantaneous myriads of the poems, quite sufficient to show
very eloquently how low the prose novel then stood in popular favour. It
is the greatest triumph of Scott, from this low point of view, that his
repeated blows heated the public as they did, till at the fourth
publication, within but a year or two, Constable actually dared to start
with ten thousand copies at once, and they were all absorbed in no time.

Scott had always been a rapid worker, but it was only now, under the
combined stimulus of the new-found gift, the desire for more land and a
statelier Abbotsford, and the pressure of the affairs of Ballantyne &
Co., that he began to work at the portentous rate which, though I do
not believe that it at all injured the quality of his production, pretty
certainly endangered his health. During 1814 he had written nearly all
his _Life of Swift_, nearly all _Waverley_, the _Lord of the Isles_, and
an abundance of 'small wares,' essays, introductions, and what not. The
major part of _Guy Mannering_--perhaps the very best of the novels, for
merit of construction and interest of detail--seems to have been written
in less than a month, at the extreme end of this year and the beginning
of 1815. The whole appears to have been done in six weeks, to 'shake
himself free of _Waverley_'--probably the most gigantic exhibition of
the 'hair of the dog' recorded in literature.

The _donnée_ of this novel was furnished by a Dumfries surveyor of
taxes, Mr. Train, the scenery by that early visit to Galloway, in the
interest of the reverend toyer with sweetie-wives, which has been
recorded. Other indebtedness, such as that of Hatteraick to the
historical or legendary free-trader, Yawkins, and the like, has been
traced. But the charm of the whole lies in none of these things, nor in
all together, but in Scott's own fashion of working them up. Nothing at
first could seem to be a greater contrast with _Waverley_ than this
tale. No big wars, no political hazards; but a double and tenfold
portion of human nature and local colour. This last element had in the
earlier book been almost entirely supplied by Tullyveolan and its
master; for Fergus and the Highland scenes, good as they are, are not
much more than a furbishing up of the poem-matter of this kind,
especially in the _Lady of the Lake_. But here the supply of character
was liberal and the variety of scenery extraordinary. We cannot judge
the innovation fully now, but let anyone turn to the theatrical
properties of Godwin and Holcroft, of Mrs. Radcliffe and 'Monk' Lewis,
and he will begin to have a better idea of what _Guy Mannering_ must
have been to its first readers. As usual, the personages who head the
_dramatis personæ_ are not the best. Bertram, though less of a
nincompoop than Waverley, is not very much; Lucy is a less lively _ange
de candeur_ than Rose, and nothing else; and Julia's genteel-comedy
missishness does not do much more than pair off with Flora's
tragedy-queen air. 'Mannering, Guy, a Colonel returned from the Indies,'
is, perhaps, also too fair a description of the player of the
title-part.[23] But we trouble ourselves very little about these persons.
As for characters, the author opens fire on us almost at the very first
with Dominie Sampson and Meg Merrilees, and the hardly less excellent
figure of Bertram's well-meaning booby of a father; gives us barely time
to make their acquaintance before we meet Dandie Dinmont; brings up
almost superfluous reinforcements with Mr. Pleydell, and throughout
throws in Hatteraick and Glossin, Jock Jabos and his mistress, and Sir
Robert Haslewood, the company at Kippletringan, and at the funeral, and
elsewhere, in the most reckless spirit of literary lavishness. Nor is he
less prodigal of incident and scene. The opening passage of Mannering's
night-ride could not have been bettered if the painter had taken
infinitely more pains. Bertram's walk and the skirmish with the prowlers
are simply first-rate; the Edinburgh scenes have always excited
admiration as the very best of their kind; and the various passages
which lead to the working out of justice on Glossin and Hatteraick are
not merely told with a gusto, but arranged with a craftsmanship, of
which the latter is unfortunately less often present than the former in
the author's later work. There is hardly any book of Scott's on which it
is more tempting to dwell than this. Although the demand had not yet
reached anything like its height, two thousand copies were sold in
forty-eight hours, and five thousand in three months.

In March 1815 Scott went to London, and met two persons of distinction,
the Regent and Lord Byron. There seems to be a little doubt whether
George did or did not adapt the joke of the hanging judge, about
'checkmating this time,' to the authorship of the _Waverley_ novels; but
there is no doubt that he was very civil. With Byron Scott was at once
on very good terms, for Scott was not the man to bear any grudge for the
early fling in _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_; and Byron, whatever
his faults, 'had more of lion' in him than to be jealous of such a
rival. The difference of their characters was such as to prevent them
from being in the strict sense friends; and Scott's comparison of Byron,
after the separation, to a peacock parted from the hen and lifting up
his voice to tell the world about it, has a rather terribly far-reaching
justice, both of moral and literary criticism, on that noble bard's
whole life and conversation. But there were no little jealousies between
them, and apparently some real liking.

This visit to London was extended to Brussels and Paris, with the result
in verse of the already mentioned and not particularly happy _Field of
Waterloo_, in prose of the interesting _Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk_,
an account of the tour. Both were published (the poem almost
immediately, _Paul_ not till the new year) after Scott's return to
Abbotsford at the end of September; and he set to work during the later
autumn on his third novel, _The Antiquary_. The book appeared in May
1816, at about the time of the death of Major John Scott, the last but
one of the poet's surviving brothers. It was not at first so popular as
_Guy Mannering_, which, however, it very rapidly caught up even in that
respect: nor is this bad start surprising. To good judges nowadays the
book appeals as strongly at least as any other of its author's--in fact,
Monkbarns and the Mucklebackits, the rescue of Sir Arthur and Isabel,
the scenes in the ruins of St. Ruth's, and especially Edie Ochiltree,
were never surpassed by him. But the story was a daring innovation, or
return, among the novels of its own day. It boldly rejected most of the
ordinary sources of romance interest. It had very little plot; its
humorous characters, though touched with the rarest art, were not
caricatured; and (for which it certainly cannot be praised) that
greatest fault of Scott's,--perhaps his only great fault as a
novelist,--the 'huddling up' of the end, appears in it for the first,
though unluckily by no means for the last, time. But it would have been
a very sad thing for the public taste if it had definitely refused _The
Antiquary_. A book which contains within the compass of the opening
chapters such masterpieces as the journey to the Hawes, the description
of the Antiquary's study, and the storm and rescue, must have had a
generation of idiots for an audience if it had not been successful.
Moreover, it had, as Scott's unwearied biographer has already noted, a
new and special source of interest in the admirable fragmentary mottoes,
invented to save the greater labour of discovery, which adorn its
chapter-headings.[22] Lockhart himself thought that Scott never quite
equalled these first three novels. I cannot agree with him there; but
what is certain is that he in them discovered, with extraordinary
felicity, skill in three different kinds of novel--the historical, the
romantic-adventurous, and that of ordinary or almost wholly ordinary
life; and that even he never exactly added a fourth kind to his
inventions, though he varied them wonderfully within themselves. The
romance partly historical, the romance mainly or wholly fictitious, and
the novel of manners; these were his three classes, and hardly any
others.

It is not entirely explained what were the reasons which determined
Scott to make his next venture, the _Tales of my Landlord_, under a
fresh pseudonym, and also to publish it not with Constable, but with
Murray and Blackwood. Lockhart's blame of John Ballantyne may not be
unfair; but it is rather less supported by documentary evidence than
most of his strictures on the Ballantynes. And the thing is perhaps to
be sufficiently accounted for by Scott's double dislike, both as an
independent person and a man of business, of giving a monopoly of his
work to one publisher, and by his constant fancy for trying experiments
on the public--a fancy itself not wholly, though partially,
comprehensible. As a matter of fact, _Old Mortality_ and the _Black
Dwarf_ were offered to and pretty eagerly accepted by Murray and
Blackwood, on the terms of half profits and the inevitable batch of 'old
stock.' The story of the unlucky quarrel with Blackwood in consequence
of some critical remarks of his on the end of the _Black
Dwarf_,--remarks certainly not inexcusable,--and of Scott's famous
letter in reply, will doubtless receive further elucidation in the
forthcoming chronicle of the House of 'Ebony'; but it is told with fair
detail, in the second edition of Lockhart, from the actual archives.

Scott doubled his work during the summer and autumn by undertaking the
historical department, relinquished by Southey, of the _Edinburgh Annual
Register_, yet the two _Tales_ were ready in November, and appeared on
the 1st of December 1816. Murray wrote effusively to Scott (who, it must
be remembered, was not even to his publishers the known author), and
received a very amusing reply, from which one sentence may be quoted as
an example of those which have brought upon Sir Walter the reproach of
falsehood, or at least disingenuousness, from Goodman Dull. 'I assure
you,' he writes, 'I have never read a volume of them till they were
printed,' a delightful selection of words, for it looks decisive, and
means absolutely nothing. Nobody but a magician, and no ordinary
magician, could read a _volume_ (which in the usual parlance means a
printed volume) before it was printed. To back his disclaimer, Scott
offered to review himself in the _Quarterly_, which he did. I certainly
do not approve of authors being their own reviewers; though when (as
sometimes happens) they have any brains, they probably know the faults
and merits of their books better than anyone else, and can at anyrate
state, with a precision which is too rare in the ordinary critic, what
the book is meant to be and tries to do. But this case was clearly one
out of the common way, and rather part of an elaborate practical joke
than anything else.

Dulness, however, had in many ways found stumbling-blocks in the first
foster-children of the excellent Jedediah. The very pious and learned,
if not exactly humorous or shrewd, Dr. M'Crie, fell foul of the picture
of the Covenanters given in _Old Mortality_. No one who knows the
documents is likely to agree with him now, and from hardly any point of
view but his could the greatness of the book be denied. Although Scott's
humour is by no means absent from it, that quality does not perhaps find
quite such an opportunity, even in Mause and Cuddie, as in the Baron,
and the Dominie, and the inhabitants of Monkbarns. But as a historical
novel, it is a far greater one than _Waverley_. Drumclog, the siege of
Tillietudlem, above all, the matchless scene where Morton is just saved
from murder by his own party, surpass anything in the earlier book. But
greater than any of these single things is one of the first and the
greatest of Scott's splendid gallery of romantic-historic portraits, the
stately figure of Claverhouse. All the features which he himself was to
sum up in that undying sentence of Wandering Willie's Tale later are
here put in detail and justified.

As for the companion to this masterly book, I have always thought the
earlier part of the _Black Dwarf_ as happy as all but the best of
Scott's work. But the character of the _Dwarf_ himself was not one that
he could manage. The nullity of Earnscliff and Isabel is complete.
Isabel's father is a stagy villain, or rather rascal (for Victor Hugo's
antithesis between _scélérat_ and _maroufle_ comes in here), and even
Scott has never hustled off a conclusion with such complete
_insouciance_ as to anything like completeness. Willie of Westburnflat
here, like Christie of the Clinthill later, is one of our old friends of
the poems back again, and welcome back again. But he and Hobbie can
hardly save a book which Scott seems to have thrown in with its
admirable companion, not as a makeweight, but rather as a foil.

Between the first and the second sets of _Tales_, the 'Author of
_Waverley_,' true to his odd design of throwing the public off the
scent, reappeared, and the result was _Rob Roy_. Perhaps because it was
written under the first attacks of that 'cramp of the stomach' which,
though obscurely connected with his later and more fatal ailments, no
doubt ushered them in something more than an accidental manner, Scott
did not at first much like _Rob_. But he was reconciled later; and
hardly anybody else (except those exceedingly unhappy persons who cannot
taste him at all) can ever have had any doubt about it. That the end is
even more than usually huddled, that the beginning may perhaps have
dawdled a little over commercial details (I do not think so myself, but
Lady Louisa Stuart did), and that the distribution of time, which
lingers over weeks and months before and after it devotes almost the
major part of the book to the events of forty-eight hours, is irregular,
even in the eyes of those who are not serfs to the unities, cannot be
denied. But almost from the introduction of Frank to Diana, certainly
from his setting off in the grey of the morning with Andrew Fairservice,
to the point at least where the heroine stoops from her pony in a manner
equally obliging and graceful, there is no dropped stitch, no false
note. Nor in any book are there so many of Scott's own characters, and
others not quite so much his own. Helen Macgregor, perhaps, does not
'thrill our blood and overpower our reason,' as she did Lady Louisa's,
simply because we were born some hundred years later than that acute and
accomplished granddaughter of Lady Mary; and Rashleigh pretty
frequently, Rob himself now and then, may also savour to us a little of
the boards and the sawdust. But, as a rule, Rob does not; and for nobody
else, not even for the fortunate Frank,--who has nothing to do but to
walk through his part creditably, and does it,--need any allowance be
made. The Bailie is, with Shallow, his brother justice (upon whom he
justly looks down, but to whom he is, I think, kind) in Arthur's bosom;
Andrew Fairservice and the Dougal creature, Justice Inglewood and Sir
Hildebrand, are there too. As for Die Vernon, she is the one of Scott's
heroines with whom one _has to_ fall in love, just as, according to a
beautiful story, a thoughtless and reluctant world _had to_ believe the
Athanasian Creed. It is painful to say that persons on whom it is
impossible to retort the charge, have sometimes insinuated a touch of
vulgarity in Di. For these one can but pray; and, after all, they are
usually of her sex, which in such judgments of itself counts not. All
men, who are men and gentlemen, must delight in her. And here, as
always, to all but the very last, even in the twilight of _Anne of
Geierstein_, the succession of scenes hurries the reader along without
breath or time to stop and criticise, with nothing to do, if he is a
reasonable person, but to read and enjoy and admire.

Lockhart has taken the opportunity of this point of time (1817-1818),
which may be said to mark the zenith of Scott's prosperity, if not of
his fame, to halt and to give a sort of survey of his father-in-law's
private life at Castle Street and at Abbotsford. It forms one of the
pleasantest portions of his book, containing nothing more tragic than
the advent of the famous American tragedy of _The Cherokee Lovers_,
which its careful author sent, that Scott might approve and publish it,
in duplicate, so that the unfortunate recipient had to pay five pounds
twice over for the postage of the rubbish. Of course things were not
entirely as they seemed. The cramps with which, as mentioned, Scott had
been already seized, during the progress of _Rob Roy_, were, though
probably not caused, yet all too much helped and hastened, by the
ferocious manner in which he worked his brains. For it must be doubted
whether social intercourse, or even bodily exercise in company with
others, is really the best refreshment after very severe mental labour.
Both distract and amuse; but they do not refresh, relax, relieve, like a
bath of pure solitude.

Divers events of importance happened to Scott, in the later course of
the year 1818[21] (besides a much worse recurrence of his disorder),
after the _Heart of Midlothian_ (the second series of the _Tales_) had
been published in June, and the _Bride of Lammermoor_ (the third series)
had been begun. The Duke of Buccleuch, his chief, his (as he would
himself have cheerfully allowed) patron, his helper in time of need, and
his most intimate friend, died. So did his brother-in-law, Charles
Carpenter, this latter death adding considerably, though to an extent
exaggerated at first and only reversionary, to the prospects of Scott's
children. He gave up an idea, which he had for some time held, of
obtaining a judgeship of the Scotch Exchequer; but he received his
baronetcy in April 1820. Abbotsford went on gradually and expensively
completing itself; the correspondence which tells us so much and is such
delightful reading continued, as if the writer had nothing else to write
and nothing else to do. But for us the chief matters of interest are the
two novels mentioned, and that admirable supplement to the second of
them, the _Legend of Montrose_.

There can be little doubt, I think, that in at least passages, and those
very large ones, of the _Heart of Midlothian_, Scott went as high as he
ever had done, or ever did thereafter. I have never agreed with Lady
Louisa Stuart that 'Mr. Saddletree is not amusing,' nor that there is
too much Scots law for English readers. It must be remembered that until
Scott opened people's eyes, there were some very singular conventions
and prejudices, even in celestial minds, about novels. Technical details
were voted tedious and out of place--as, Heaven knows! M. Zola and
others have shown us since, that they may very easily be made.
Professional matters, the lower middle classes, etc., were thought
'low,' as Goldsmith's audience had had it, 'vulgar,' as Madame de Staël
said of Miss Austen. That the farrago of the novelist's book is
absolutely universal and indiscriminate, provided only that he knows
what to do with it, had not dawned on the general mind. On the other
hand, Lady Louisa was right in objecting to the finale,--it has been
admitted that Scott was never good at a conclusion,--and personally I
have always thought George Staunton uninteresting throughout. But how
much does this leave! The description of the lynching of Porteous and
the matchless interview with Queen Caroline are only the very best of
such a series of good things that, except just at the end, it may be
said to be uninterrupted. Jeanie it is unnecessary to praise; the same
Lady Louisa's admiration of the wonderful art which could attract so
much interest to a plain, good, not clever, almost middle-aged woman
sums up all. But almost everyone plays up to Jeanie in perfection--her
father and, to no small extent, her sister, her husband and Dumbiedykes,
Madge Wildfire (a most difficult and most successful character) and her
old fiend of a mother, the Duke and the tobacco-shop keeper. Abundant as
are the good things afterwards, I do not know that Scott ever showed his
actual original genius, his faculty of creation and combination, to such
an extent and in such proportion again.

He certainly did not, so far as my taste goes, in _The Bride of
Lammermoor_, a book which, putting the mere fragment of the _Black
Dwarf_ aside, seems to me his first approach to failure in prose.
Lockhart, whose general critical opinions deserve the profoundest
respect, thought differently--thought it, indeed, 'the most pure and
perfect of all the tragedies that Scott ever penned.' Perhaps there is
something in this of the same ingenuity which Scott himself showed in
his disclaimer to Murray quoted above, for tragedy _per se_ was
certainly not Scott's forte to the same extent as were comedy and
history. But I know that there are many who agree with Lockhart. On the
other hand, I should say that while we do not know enough of the House
of Ravenswood to feel much sympathy with its fortunes as a house, the
'conditions,' in the old sense, of its last representative are not such
as to attract us much to him personally. He is already far too much of
that hero of opera which he was destined to become, a sulky, stagy
creature, in theatrical poses and a black-plumed hat, who cannot even
play the easy and perennially attractive part of _desdichado_ so as to
keep our compassion. Lucy is a simpleton so utter and complete that it
is difficult even to be sorry for her, especially as Ravenswood would
have made a detestable husband. The mother is meant to be and is a
repulsive virago, and the father a time-serving and almost vulgar
intriguer. Moreover--and all this is not in the least surprising, since
he was in agonies during most of the composition, and nearly died before
its close[20]--the author has, contrary to his wont, provided very few
subsidiary characters to support or carry off the principals. Caleb
Balderstone has been perhaps unduly objected to by the very persons who
praise the whole book; but he is certainly somewhat of what the French
call a _charge_. Bucklaw, though agreeable, is very slight; Craigengelt
a mere 'super'; the Marquis shadowy. Even such fine things as the hags
at the laying-out, and the visit of Lucy and her father to Wolf's Crag,
and such amusing ones as Balderstone's _fabliau_-like expedients to
raise the wind in the matter of food, hardly save the situation; and
though the tragedy of the end is complete, it leaves me, I own, rather
cold.[19] One is sorry for Lucy, but it was really her own fault--a
Scottish maiden is not usually unaware of the possibilities and
advantages of 'kilting her coats of green satin' and flying from the lad
she does not love to the lad she does. The total disappearance of Edgar
is the best thing that could happen to him, and the only really
satisfactory point is Bucklaw's very gentlemanlike sentence of arrest on
all impertinent questioners.

But if the companion of the first set of _Tales_ was a dead-weight
rather than a make-weight, the make-weight of the third would have
atoned for anything. Sometimes I think, allowing for scale and
conditions, that Scott never did anything much better than _A Legend of
Montrose_. First, it is pervaded by the magnificent figure of Dugald
Dalgetty. Secondly, the story, though with something of the usual huddle
at the end, is interesting throughout, with the minor figures capitally
sketched in. Menteith, though merely outlined, is a good fellow, a
gentleman, and not a stick; Allan escapes the merely melodramatic;
'Gillespie Grumach' is masterly in his brief appearances; and Montrose
himself seems to me to be brought in with a skill which has too often
escaped notice. For it would mar the story to deal with the tragedy of
his end, and his earlier history is a little awkward to manage.
Moreover, that faculty of hurrying on the successive _tableaux_ which is
so conspicuous in most of Scott's work, and so conspicuously absent in
the _Bride_ (where there are long passages with no action at all) is
eminently present here. The meeting with Dalgetty; the night at
Darnlinvarach, from the bravado of the candlesticks to Menteith's tale;
the gathering and council of the clans; the journey of Dalgetty, with
its central point in the Inverary dungeon; the escape; and the battle of
Inverlochy,--these form an exemplary specimen of the kind of interest
which Scott's best novels possess as nothing of the kind had before
possessed it, and as few things out of Dumas have possessed it since.
Nor can the most fervent admirer of Chicot and of Porthos--I know none
more fervent than myself--say in cool blood that their creator could
have created Dalgetty, who is at once an admirable human being, a
wonderful national type of the more eccentric kind, and the embodiment
of an astonishing amount of judiciously adjusted erudition.

Many incidents of interest and some of importance occurred in Scott's
private life between the date of 1818 and that of 1820, besides those
mentioned already. One of these was the acquisition by Constable of the
whole of his back-copyrights for the very large sum of twelve thousand
pounds, a contract supplemented twice later in 1821 and 1823 by fresh
purchases of rights as they accrued for nominal sums of eleven thousand
pounds in addition. Unfortunately, this transaction, like almost all his
later ones, was more fictitious than real. And though it was lucky that
the publisher never discharged the full debt, so that when his
bankruptcy occurred something was saved out of the wreck which would
otherwise have been pure loss, the proceeding is characteristic of the
mischievously unreal system of money transactions which brought Scott to
ruin. Except for small things like review articles, etc., and for his
official salaries, he hardly ever touched real money for the fifteen
most prosperous years of his life, between 1810 and 1825. Promises to
receive were interchanged with promises to pay in such a bewildering
fashion that unless he had kept a chartered accountant of rather
unusual skill and industry perpetually at work, it must have been
utterly impossible for him to know at any given time what he had, what
he owed, what was due to him, and what his actual income and expenditure
were. The commonly accepted estimate is that during the most flourishing
time, 1820-1825, he made about fifteen thousand a year, and on paper he
probably did. Nor can he ever have spent, in the proper sense of the
term, anything like that sum, for the Castle Street house cannot have
cost, even with lavish hospitality, much to keep up, and the Abbotsford
establishment, though liberal, was never ostentatious. But when large
lump sums are constantly expended in purchases of land, building,
furnishing, and the like; when every penny of income except official
salaries goes through a complicated process of abatement in the way of
discounts for six and twelve months' bills, fines for renewal, payments
to banks for advances and the like--the 'clean' sums available at any
given moment bear quite fantastic and untrustworthy relations to their
nominal representatives. It may be strongly suspected, from the admitted
decrease of a very valuable practice under Walter Scott _père_, and from
its practical disappearance under Thomas, that the genius of the Scott
family did not precisely lie in the management of money.

The marriage of Sophia Scott to Lockhart, and the purchase of a
commission for her eldest brother Walter in the 18th Hussars, made gaps
in Scott's family circle, and also, beyond all doubt, in his finances.
The first was altogether happy for him. It did not, for at anyrate some
years, absolutely sever him from the dearest of his children, a lady
who, to judge from her portraits, must have been of singular charm, and
who seems to have been the only one of the four with much of his mental
characteristics; it provided him with an agreeable companion, a loyal
friend, and an incomparable biographer. Of Sir Walter Scott the second
and last, not much personal idea is obtainable. The few anecdotes handed
down, and his father's letters to him (we have no replies), suggest a
good sort of person, slightly 'chuckle-headed' and perfervid in the
wrong places, with next to no intellectual gifts, and perhaps more his
mother's son than his father's. He had some difficulties in his first
regiment, which seems to have been a wild one, and not in the best form;
he married an heiress of the unpoetical name of Jobson, to whom and of
whom his father writes with a pretty old-fashioned affection and
courtesy, which perhaps gave Thackeray some traits for Colonel Newcome.
Of the younger brother Charles, an Oxford man, who went into the Foreign
Office, even less is recorded than of Walter. Anne Scott, the third of
the family, and the faithful attendant of her father in his last evil
days, died in her sister's house shortly after Sir Walter, and Mrs.
Lockhart herself followed before the _Life_ was finished. Scott can
hardly be said to have bequeathed good luck to any of these his
descendants.

It was at the end of 1819, after Walter the younger left home, and
before Sophia's marriage, that the next in order of the _Waverley
Novels_ (now again such by title, and not _Tales of my Landlord_)
appeared. This was _Ivanhoe_, which was published in a rather costlier
shape than its forerunners, and yet sold to the extent of twelve
thousand copies in its three-volume form. Lockhart, perhaps with one of
the few but graceful escapes of national predilection (it ought not to
be called prejudice) to be noticed in him, pronounces this a greater
work of art, but a less in genius than its purely Scottish predecessors.
As there is nothing specially English in _Ivanhoe_, but only an attempt
to delineate Normans and Saxons before the final blend was formed, an
Englishman may, perhaps, claim at least impartiality if he accepts the
positive part of Lockhart's judgment and demurs to the negative.
Although the worst of Scott's cramps were past, he was still in anything
but good health when he composed the novel, most of which was dictated,
not written; and his avocations and bodily troubles together may have
had something to do with those certainly pretty flagrant anachronisms
which have brought on _Ivanhoe_ the wrath of Dryasdust. But Dryasdust is
_adeo negligibile ut negligibilius nihil esse possit_, and the book is a
great one from beginning to end. The mere historians who quarrel with it
have probably never read the romances which justify it, even from the
point of view of literary 'document.' The picturesque opening; the
Shakespearean character of Wamba; the splendid Passage of Arms; the more
splendid siege of Torquilstone; the gathering up of a dozen popular
stories of the 'King-and-the-Tanner' kind into the episodes of the Black
Knight and the Friar; the admirable, if a little conventional, sketch of
Bois-Guilbert, the pendant in prose to Marmion; the more admirable
contrast of Rebecca and Rowena; and the final Judgment of God, which for
once vindicates Scott from the charge of never being able to wind up a
novel,--with such subsidiary sketches as Gurth, Prior Aymer, Isaac,
Front-de-Boeuf (Urfried, I fear, will not quite do, except in the
final interview with her tempter-victim), Athelstane, and others--give
such a plethora of creative and descriptive wealth as nobody but Scott
has ever put together in prose. Even the nominal hero, it is to be
observed, escapes the curse of most of Scott's young men (the young men
to several of whom Thackeray would have liked to be mother-in-law), and
if he is not worthy of Rebecca, he does not get her. As for Richard, no
doubt, he is not the Richard of history, but what does that matter? He
is a most admirable re-creation, softened and refined, of the Richard of
a romance which, be it remembered, is itself in all probability as old
as the thirteenth century.

After speaking frankly of the _Bride of Lammermoor_ and of some others
of Scott's works, it may perhaps be permissible to rate the successor to
_Ivanhoe_ rather higher than it was rated at the time, or than it has
generally been rated since. _The Monastery_ was at its appearance (March
1820) regarded as a failure; and quite recently a sincere admirer of
Scott confided to a fellow in that worship the opinion that 'a good deal
of it really is rot, you know.' I venture to differ. Undoubtedly it does
not rank with the very best, or even next to them. In returning to
Scottish ground, Scott may have strengthened himself on one side, but
from the distance of the times and the obscure and comparatively
uninteresting period which he selected (just after the strange and rapid
panorama of the five Jameses and before the advent of Queen Mary), he
lost as much as he gained. An intention, afterwards abandoned, to make
yet a fresh start, and try a new double on the public by appearing
neither as 'Author of _Waverley_' nor as Jedediah Cleishbotham, may have
hampered him a little, though it gave a pleasant introduction. The
supernatural part, though much better, as it seems to me, than is
generally admitted, is no doubt not entirely satisfactory, being
uncertainly handled, and subject to the warning of _Nec deus intersit_.
There is some return of that superabundance of interval and inaction
which has been noted in the _Bride_. And, above all, there appears here
a fault which had not been noticeable before, but which was to increase
upon Scott,--the fault of introducing a character as if he were to be of
great pith and moment, and then letting his interest, as the vernacular
says, 'tail off.' The trouble taken about Halbert by personages natural
and supernatural promises the case of some extraordinary figure, and he
is but very ordinary. Still, at the works of how many novelists except
Scott should we grumble, if we had the admirable descriptions of
Glendearg, the scenes in the Abbey, the night-ride of poor Father
Philip, the escape from the Castle of Avenel, the passage of the
interview of Halbert with Murray and Morton? Even the episode of Sir
Piercie Shafton, though it is most indisputably true that Scott has not
by any means truly represented Euphuism, is good and amusing in itself;
while there are those who boldly like the White Lady personally. She is
more futile than a sprite beseems; but she is distinctly 'nice.'

At any rate, nobody could (or indeed did) deny that the author, six
months later, made up for any shortcoming in _The Abbot_, where, except
the end (eminently of the huddled order), everything is as it should be.
The heroine is, except Die Vernon, Scott's masterpiece in that kind,
while all the Queen Mary scenes are unsurpassed in him, and rarely
equalled out of him. Nor was there any falling off in _Kenilworth_ (Jan.
1821), where he again shifted his scene to England. He has not indeed
interested us very much personally in Amy Robsart, but as a hapless
heroine she is altogether the superior of Lucy Ashton. The book is,
among his, the 'novel without a hero,' and, considering his defects in
that direction, this was hardly a drawback. It cannot be indeed said to
have any one minor character which is a success of the first class. But
the whole is interesting throughout. The journeys of Tressilian to
Devonshire and of Amy and Wayland to Kenilworth have the curious
attraction which Scott, a great traveller, and a lover of it, knew how
to give to journeys, and the pageantry and Court scenes, at Greenwich
and elsewhere, command admiration. Indeed, _Kenilworth_ equals any of
the novels in sustained variety of interest, and, unlike too many of
them, it comes to a real end.

It was in 1821 that a book now necessarily much forgotten and even rare
(it is comparatively seldom that one sees it in catalogues), Adolphus's
_Letters on the Author of Waverley_, at once showed the interest taken
in the identity of the 'Great Unknown,' and fixed it as being that of
the author of the _Lay_, with a great deal of ingenuity and with a most
industrious abundance of arguments, bad and good. After such a proof of
public interest, neither Scott nor Constable could be much blamed for
working what has been opprobriously called the 'novel manufactory' at
the highest pressure; and _The Pirate_, _The Fortunes of Nigel_,
_Peveril of the Peak_, _Quentin Durward_, _St. Ronan's Well_, and
_Redgauntlet_ were written and published in the closest succession.
These books, almost all of wonderful individual excellence (_Peveril_, I
think, is the only exception), and of still more wonderful variety, were
succeeded, before the crash of 1825-26, by the _Tales of the Crusaders_,
admirable in part, if not wholly. When we think that all these were,
with some other work, accomplished in less than five years, it scarcely
seems presumption in the author to have executed, or rashness in the
bookseller to have suggested, a contract for four of them in a batch--a
batch unnamed, unplanned, not even yet in embryo, but simply existing
_in potentia_ in the brain of Walter Scott himself.

In surveying together this batch, written when the first novelty of the
novels was long over, and before there was any decadence, one obtains,
as well perhaps as from any other division of his works, an idea of
their author's miraculous power. Many novelists since have written as
much or more in the same time. But their books for the most part, even
when well above the average, popular, and deservedly popular too, leave
next to no trace on the mind. You do not want to read them again; you
remember, even with a strong memory, nothing special about their plots;
above all, their characters take little or no hold on the mind in the
sense of becoming part of its intellectual circle and range.

How different is it with these six or eight novels, 'written with as
much care as the others, that is to say, with none at all,' as the
author wickedly remarked! _The Pirate_ (December 1821) leads off, its
scenery rendered with the faithfulness of recent memory, and yet
adjusted and toned by the seven years' interval since Scott yachted
round Orkney and Shetland. Here are the admirable characters of Brenda
(slight yet thoroughly pleasing), and her father, the not too
melodramatic ones of Minna, Cleveland, and Norna, the triumph of Claud
Halcro (to whom few do justice), and again, the excellent keeping of
story and scenery to character and incident. _The Fortunes of Nigel_
(May 1822) originated in a proposed series of 'Letters of the
Seventeenth Century,' in which others were to take part, and perhaps
marks a certain decline, though only in senses to be distinctly defined
and limited. Nothing that Scott ever did is better than the portrait of
King James, which, in the absence of one from the hand of His Majesty's
actual subject for some dozen years, Mr. William Shakespeare of New
Place, Stratford, is probably the most perfect thing of the kind that
ever could have been or can be done. And the picture of Whitefriars,
though it is borrowed to a great extent, and rather anticipated in point
of time, from Shadwell's _Squire of Alsatia_, sixty or seventy years
after date, is of the finest, whilst Sir Mungo Malagrowther[18] all but
deserves the same description. But this most cantankerous knight is not
touched off with the completeness of Dalgetty, or even of Claud Halcro.
Lord Glenvarloch adds, to the insipidity which is the bane of Scott's
good heroes, some rather disagreeable traits which none of them had
hitherto shown. Dalgarno in the same way falls short of his best bad
heroes. Dame Suddlechop suggests, for the first time _un_favourably, a
Shakespearean ancestress, Mistress Quickly, and the story halts and
fails to carry the reader rapidly over the stony path. Even Richie
Moniplies, even Gentle Geordie, good as both are, fall short of their
predecessors. Ten years earlier _The Fortunes of Nigel_ would have been
a miracle, and one might have said, 'If a man begins like this, what
will he do later?' Now, thankless and often uncritical as is the chatter
about 'writing out,' we can hardly compare _Nigel_ with _Guy Mannering_,
or _Rob Roy_, or even _The Abbot_, and not be conscious of something
that (to use a favourite quotation of Scott's own), 'doth appropinque an
end,' though an end as yet afar off. The 'bottom of the sack,' as the
French say, is a long way from us; but it is within measurable distance.

Even a friendly critic must admit that this distance seemed to be
alarmingly shortened by _Peveril of the Peak_ (January 1823), which
among the full-sized novels seems to me quite his least good book, worse
even than 'dotages,' as they are sometimes thought, like _Anne of
Geierstein_ and _Count Robert_. No one has defended the story, which,
languid as it is, is made worse by the long gaps between the passages
that ought to be interesting, and by a (for Scott) quite abnormal and
portentous absence of really characteristic characters. Lockhart pleads
for some of these, but I fear the plea can hardly be admitted. I imagine
that those who read Scott pretty regularly are always sorely tempted to
skip _Peveril_ altogether, and that when they do read it, they find the
chariot wheels drive with a heaviness of which elsewhere they are
entirely unconscious.

But in the same year (1823), _Quentin Durward_ not only made up for
_Peveril_, but showed Scott's powers to be at least as great as when he
wrote _The Abbot_, if not as great as ever. He has taken some liberties
with history, but no more than he was perfectly entitled to take; he has
paid the historic muse with ample interest for anything she lent him, by
the magnificent sketch of Louis and the fine one of Charles; he has
given a more than passable hero in Quentin, and a very agreeable if not
ravishing heroine in Isabelle. Above all, he has victoriously shown his
old faculty of conducting the story with such a series of enthralling,
even if sometimes episodic passages, that nobody but a pedant of
'construction' would care to inquire too narrowly whether they actually
make a whole. Quentin's meeting with the King and his rescue from
Tristan by the archers; the interviews between Louis and Crevecoeur,
and Louis and the Astrologer; the journey (another of Scott's admirable
journeys); the sack of Schonwaldt, and the feast of the Boar of
Ardennes; Louis in the lion's den at Peronne,--these are things that are
simply of the first order. Nor need the conclusion, which has shocked
some, shock any who do not hold, with critics of the Rymer school, that
'the hero ought always to be successful.' For as Quentin wins Isabelle
at last, what more success need we want? and why should not Le Balafré,
that loyal Leslie, be the instrument of his nephew's good fortune?

The recovery was perfectly well maintained in _St. Ronan's Well_ (still
1823) and _Redgauntlet_ (1824), the last novels of full length before
the downfall. They were also, be it noticed, the first planned (while
_Quentin_ itself was completed) after some early symptoms of apoplectic
seizure, which might, even if they had not been helped by one of the
severest turns of fortune that any man ever experienced, have punished
Scott's daring contempt of ordinary laws in the working of his
brains.[17] The harm done to _St. Ronan's Well_ by the author's
submission to James Ballantyne's Philistine prudery in protesting
against the original story (in which Clara did not discover the cheat
put on her till a later period than the ceremony) is generally
acknowledged. As it is, not merely is the whole thing made a much ado
about nothing,--for no law and no Church in Christendom would have
hesitated to declare the nullity of a marriage which had never been
consummated, and which was celebrated while one of the parties took the
other for some one else,--but Clara's shattered reason, Tyrrel's
despair, and Etherington's certainty that he has the cards in his hand,
are all incredible and unaccountable--mere mid-winter madness.
Nevertheless, this, Scott's only attempt at actual contemporary fiction,
has extraordinary interest and great merit as such, while Meg Dods would
save half a dozen novels, and the society at the Well is hardly
inferior.

And then came _Redgauntlet_. A great lover of Scott once nearly invoked
the assistance of Captain M'Turk to settle matters with a friend of his
who would not pronounce _Redgauntlet_ the best of all the novels, and
would only go so far as to admit that it contains some, and many, of the
best things. The best as a novel it cannot be called, because the action
is desultory in the extreme. There are wide gaps even in the chain of
story interest that does exist, and the conclusion, admirable in itself,
has even for Scott a too audacious disconnection with any but the very
faintest concern of the nominally first personages. But even putting
'Wandering Willie's Tale' aside, and taking for granted the merits of
that incomparable piece (of which, it may yet be gently hinted, it was
not so very long ago still a singularity and mark of daring to perceive
the absolute supremacy), the good things in this fascinating book defy
exaggeration. The unique autobiographic interest--so fresh and keen and
personal, and yet so free from the odious intrusion of actual
personality--of the earlier epistolary presentment of Saunders and Alan
Fairford, of Darsie and Green Mantle; Peter Peebles, peer of Scott's
best; Alan's journey and Darsie's own wanderings; the scenes at the
Provost's dinner-table and in Tam Turnpenny's den; that unique figure,
the skipper of the _Jumping Jenny_; the extraordinarily effective
presentment of Prince Charles, already in his decadence, if not yet in
his dotage; the profusion of smaller sketches and vignettes everywhere
grouped round the mighty central triumph of the adventures of Piper
Steenie,--who but Scott has done such things? He never put so much again
in a single book. There is something in it which it is hardly fanciful
to take as a 'note of finishing,' as the last piece of the work, that,
gigantic as it was, was not exactly collar work, not sheer hewing of
wood and drawing of water for the taskmasters. And it was fitting that
the book, so varied, so fresh, so gracious and kindly, so magnificent in
part, with a magnificence dominating Scott's usual range, should begin
with the beginnings of his own career, and should end with the practical
finish, not merely of the good days, but of the days that dawned with
any faint promise of goodness, in the career of the last hope of the
Jacobite cause.

FOOTNOTES:

[17] _Lockhart_, iv. chaps. xxviii.-xxxiii.

[18] The name, which, as many people now know since Aldershot Camp was
established, is a real one, had been already used with the double
meaning by Charlotte Smith, a now much-forgotten novelist, whom Scott
admired.

[19] The once celebrated 'Polish dwarf.'

[20] I may be permitted to refer--as to a _pièce justificatif_ which
there is no room here to give or even abstract in full--to a set of
three essays on this subject in my _Essays in English Literature_.
Second Series. London, 1895.

[21] This part, however, has a curious adventitious interest, owing to
the idea--fairly vouched for--that Scott intended to delineate in the
Colonel some points of his own character. His pride, his generosity, and
his patronage of the Dominie, are not unrecognisable, certainly. And a
man's idea of himself is often, even while strange to others, perfectly
true to his real nature.

[22] All who do not skip such things must have enjoyed these scraps,
sometimes labelled particularly, sometimes merely dubbed 'Old Play'; and
they are well worth reading together, as they appear in the editions of
the _Poems_. At the same time, they have been, in some cases, too
hastily attributed to Sir Walter himself. For instance, that in _The
Legend of Montrose_, ch. xiv., assigned to _The Tragedy of Brennoralt_
(not '_v_alt,' as misprinted), is really from Sir John Suckling's
sententious play (act iv. sc. 1), though loosely quoted.

[23] In the earlier months had taken place that famous rediscovery of
the Regalia of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle, which was one of the
central moments of Scott's life, and in which, as afterwards in the
restoring of Mons Meg, he took a great, if not the chief, part. His
influence with George IV. as Prince and King had much to do with both,
and in the earlier he took the very deepest interest. The effect on
himself (and on his daughter Sophia) of the actual finding of the Crown
jewels is a companion incident to that previously noticed (p. 52) as
occurring on the Mound. Those who cannot sympathise with either can
hardly hope to understand either Scott or his work.

[24] From March to May 1819 he had a series of attacks of the cramp, so
violent that he once took solemn leave of his children in expectation of
decease, that the eccentric Earl of Buchan forced a way into his
bedchamber to 'relieve his mind as to the arrangements of his funeral,'
and that he entirely forgot the whole of the _Bride_ itself. This, too,
was the time of his charge to Lockhart (_Familiar Letters_, ii. 38), as
to his successor in Tory letters and politics--

      'Take thou the vanguard of the three,
    And bury me by the bracken-bush
      That grows upon yon lily lee.'



[25] It has always struck me that the other form of the legend
itself--that in which the 'open window' suggests that the bridegroom's
wounds were due to his rival--has far greater capabilities.

[26] Said to embody certain mental peculiarities of that ingenious
draughtsman, but rather unamiable person, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe.

[27] He had said in a letter to Terry, as early as November 20, 1822,
that he feared _Peveril_ 'would smell of the apoplexy.' But he made no
definite complaint to any one of a particular seizure, and the date,
number, and duration of the attacks are unknown.



CHAPTER V

THE DOWNFALL OF BALLANTYNE & COMPANY


_Redgauntlet_, it has been said, was the last novel on the full scale
before the downfall of Scott's prosperity. But before this he had begun
_The Life of Napoleon_ and _Woodstock_, and, in June 1825, had published
the _Tales of the Crusaders_, which contain some work almost, if not
quite, equal to his best, and which obtained at first a greater
popularity than their immediate predecessors. It was, and generally is,
held that _The Betrothed_, the earlier of the two, was saved by _The
Talisman_; and there can be no doubt that this latter is the better.
Contrary to the wont of novelists, Scott was at least as happy with
Richard here as he had been in _Ivanhoe_, and though he owed a good deal
in both to the presentation of his hero in the very interesting romance
published by his old secretary Weber,--one of the best of all the
English verse romances and the first English poem to show a really
English patriotism,--he owed nothing but suggestion. The duel at the
Diamond in the Desert is admittedly one of the happiest things of the
kind by a master in that kind, and if the adventures in the chapel of
Engedi are both a little farcical and a little 'apropos of nothing in
particular,' the story nowhere else halts or fails till it reaches its
real 'curtain' with the second _Accipe hoc!_ If it had been longer, it
might not have been so strong, but as it is, it is nearly perfect.

But there is also more good in _The Betrothed_ than it is usual to
allow. The beginning, the siege of the Garde Doloureuse, and the ghostly
adventure of Eveline at the Saxon manor are excellent; while, even
later, Scott has entangled the evidence against Damian and the heroine
with not a little of the skill which he had shown in compromising
Waverley. Had not James Ballantyne dashed the author's spirits with some
of his cavillings, the whole might have been as much of a piece as _The
Talisman_ is. Indeed, it must be confessed that, though Lockhart is
generous enough on this point to the man to whom he has been accused of
being unjust, we have very little evidence of any improvement in Scott's
work due to James, while we know that he did harm not once only. But, as
it stands, the book no doubt exhibits the usual faults, that languishing
of the middle action, for instance, which injures _The Bride of
Lammermoor_ and _The Monastery_, together with the much more common
huddling and improbability of the conclusion. But we know that this last
was put on hurriedly, against the grain, and after the author, disgusted
by the grumblings of others, had relinquished his work; so that we
cannot greatly wonder.

It is impossible here to depict in detail Scott's domestic life during
the years which passed since we last noticed it, and which represent the
most flourishing time of his worldly circumstances. The estate of
Abbotsford gradually grew, always at fancy prices, till the catastrophe
itself finally prevented an expenditure of £40,000 in a lump on more
land. The house grew likewise to its hundred and fifty feet of front,
its slightly confused but not disagreeable external muddle of styles,
and reproductions, and incorporated fragments, and its internal blend of
museum and seignorial hall. It was practically completed and splendidly
'house-warmed' to celebrate the marriage (3rd February 1825) of the
heir, on whom both house and estate were settled, with no very fortunate
result. Between it and Castle Street the family oscillated as usual,
when summer and winter, term and vacation, called them. At Abbotsford
open house was always kept to a Noah's ark-full of visitors, invited and
uninvited, high and low, and Castle Street saw more modest but equally
cordial and constant hospitalities, in which the Lockharts were pretty
frequent participators; while their country home at Chiefswood was a
sort of escaping place for Sir Walter when visitors made Abbotsford
unbearable. The 'Abbotsford Hunt' yearly rejoiced the neighbours; and
though, as his health grew weaker, Scott's athletic and sporting
exercises were necessarily and with insidious encroachment curtailed, he
still did all he could in this way. In 1822 there was the great visit of
George IV. to Scotland, wherein Sir Walter took a part which was only
short, if short at all, of principal; and of this Lockhart has left one
of his liveliest and most pleasantly subacid accounts. Visits to England
were not unfrequent; and at last, in the summer of 1825, Scott made a
journey, which was a kind of triumphal progress, to Ireland, with his
daughter Anne and Lockhart as companions. The party returned by way of
the Lakes, and the triumph was, as it were, formally wound up at
Windermere in a regatta, with Wilson for admiral of the lake and Canning
for joint-occupant of the triumphal boat. 'It was roses, roses all the
way,' till in the autumn of the year the rue began, according to its
custom, to take their place.

The immediate cause of the disaster was Scott's secret partnership in
the house of Ballantyne & Co., which, dragged down by the greater
concerns of Constable & Co. in Edinburgh and Hurst, Robinson, & Co. in
London, failed for the nominal amount of £117,000 at the end of January
1826.[34] Their assets were, in the first place, claims on the two other
firms, which realised a mere trifle; and, in the second place, the
property, the genius, the life, and the honour of Sir Walter Scott.

When one has to deal briefly with very complicated and much-debated
matters, there is nothing more important than to confine the dealing to
as few points as possible. We may, I think, limit the number here to
two,--the nature and amount of the indebtedness itself, and the manner
in which it was met. The former, except so far as the total figures on
the debtor side are concerned, is the question most in dispute. That the
printing business of Ballantyne & Co. (the publishing business had lost
heavily, but it had long ceased to be a drain), in the ordinary literal
sense owed £117,000--that is to say, that it had lost that sum in
business, or that the partners had overdrawn to that amount--nobody
contends. Lockhart's account, based on presumably accurate information,
not merely from his father-in-law's papers, but from Cadell, Constable's
partner, is that the losses were due partly to the absolutely
unbusinesslike conduct of the concern, and the neglect for many years to
come to a clear understanding what its profits were and what they were
not; partly to the ruinous system of eternally interchanged and renewed
bills, so that, for instance, sums which Constable nominally paid years
before were not actually liquidated at the time of the smash; but most
of all to a proceeding which seems to pass the bounds of recklessness on
one side, and to enter pretty deeply into those of fraud on the other.
This is the celebrated affair of the counter-bills, things, according to
Lockhart, representing no consideration or value received of any kind,
but executed as a sort of collateral security to Constable when he
discounted any of John Ballantyne's innumerable acceptances, and
intended for use only if the real and original bills were not met.
Still, according to Lockhart, this system was continued long after there
was any special need for it, and a mass of counter-bills, for which the
Ballantynes had never had the slightest value, and the amount of which
they had either discharged or stood accountable for already on other
documents, was in whole or part flung upon the market by Constable in
the months of struggle which preceded his fall, and ranked against
Ballantyne & Co., that is to say, Scott, when that fall came.

This account, when published in the first edition of Lockhart's _Life_,
provoked strong protests from the representatives of the Ballantynes,
and a rather acrimonious pamphlet war followed, in which Lockhart is
accused by some not merely of acrimony, but of a supercilious and
contemptuous fashion of dealing with his opponents. He made, however, no
important retractations later, and it is fair to say that not one of his
allegations has ever been disproved by documentary evidence, as
certainly ought to have been possible while all the documents were at
hand. Nor did the _Memoirs_ of Constable, published many years later,
supply what was and is missing; nor does Mr. Lang, with all his pains,
seem to have found anything decisive. The assertions opposed to
Lockhart's are that the 'counter-bill' story is not true, and that the
distresses of Ballantyne & Co., and the dangerous extent to which they
were involved in complicated bill transactions with Constable, were at
least partly due to reckless drawings by the senior partner for his land
purchases and other private expenses. Between the two it is impossible
to decide with absolute certainty.[32] All that can be said is this.
First, considering that the whole original capital of the firm was
Scott's, that he had repeatedly saved it from ruin by his own exertions
and credit, and that a very large part of the legitimate grist that came
to its mill was supplied by his introduction of work to be printed, he
was certainly entitled to the lion's share of any profit that was
actually earned. Secondly, the neglect to balance accounts, and the
reckless fashion of interweaving acceptance with drawing and drawing
with acceptance, had, as we know, been repeatedly protested against by
him. Thirdly, his private expenditure, very moderate at Castle Street,
and not recklessly lavish even at Abbotsford, must have been amply
covered by his official and private income _plus_ no great proportion of
the always large and latterly immense supplies which for nearly twenty
years he derived from his pen. It is impossible to see that, except by
his carelessness in neglecting to ascertain from time to time the exact
liabilities of the firm, he had added to the original fault of joining
it, or had in any other way deserved the blow that fell upon him. No
one can believe, certainly no one has ever proved, that his earnings,
and his salaries, and the value of his property, if capitalised, would
not have covered, and far more than covered, the cost of Abbotsford,
land and house, the settlements on his children, and the household
expenses of the whole fifteen years and more since he became a
housekeeper there. While, as for the printing business itself, it
admittedly ought to have made a handsome profit from first to last, and
certainly did make a handsome profit as soon as it fell under reasonably
business-like management afterwards.

There remains the said 'original fault' of engaging in the business at
all, and that, I think, can never be denied. The very introduction of
joint-stock companies, to which, in part, Scott owed his ruin, has made
a confusion between professional and commercial occupations which did
not then exist; but even now I think it would hardly be considered
decent for a public servant, discharging judicial functions, to carry on
actual business in a private trading concern. Moreover, the secrecy
which Scott observed--to such an extent that his family and his most
intimate friends did not know the facts--could come from nothing but a
sense of something amiss, and certainly led to the commission of not a
little that was so. Scott had to conceal the actual and very material
truth when he applied to the Duke of Buccleuch for the guarantee that
saved him a dozen years earlier. He had to conceal it from the various
persons who employed Ballantyne & Co., and were induced to do so by him.
He had to conceal it when he executed those settlements on his son's
marriage, which certainly would have been affected had it been known
that the whole of his fortune was subject to an unlimited liability. The
mystery of his unconsciousness of all this may be left pretty much
where Lockhart, with full acknowledgment, left it. I have said that his
action seems to have originated partly in a blind and causeless fear of
poverty, which, as blind and causeless fear so often does, made him run
into the very danger he tried to avoid, partly in an incomprehensible
partiality for the Ballantynes.[30] We have no evidence, in any degree
trustworthy, that during the entire term of his connection with the firm
he derived any positive profit from it at all commensurate with his
actual sinkings of money and his sacrifices and exertions of various
kinds. The whole thing is, once more, a mystery, and the best comment is
perhaps the simple one that the means which a man takes to ruin or
seriously damage himself generally do seem a mystery to others, and
probably are so to himself. Nor is there anything more unusual in the
colossal irony of the situation, when we find Scott, just before his own
ruin, and in the act of giving his friend Terry the actor a guarantee
(which, as it happened, he had to pay), writing[36] words of the most
excellent sense on the rashness of engaging in commercial undertakings
without sufficient capital, the madness of dealing in bills, and his own
resolve to have nothing to do with any business carried on 'by discounts
and renewals.' The irony, let it be repeated, is colossal; yet we meet
it, we commit it, every day.

It is painful to read that during the months of uncertainty which
preceded the actual crash, Scott threw the helve after the hatchet by
charging himself personally, first, with an advance, or, at least, bond
for £5000, and then for another of double that amount,[29] to help two
firms, Constable and Hurst & Robinson, whose combined indebtedness was
over half a million. But the fact of his doing so was sufficient
indication of the spirit in which he would meet the crash of Ballantyne
& Co. itself. The whole of the _Diary_ (_v. infra_) of the period is one
long illustration (without the slightest pretentiousness or
self-consciousness) of the famous line of perhaps his own greatest
poetical passage--

    'No thought was there of dastard flight.'

He had made up his mind, before it was certainly imminent, that
bankruptcy was not to be accepted; evasion of any more thorough kind, if
it occurred, he dismissed at once as not even to be thought of. Yet it
is perhaps to be regretted that the mode in which the disaster was
actually met, heroic as it was, was substituted for that of which he had
at first thought--the simple throwing up of every scrap of his property,
including all but a bare subsistence out of his official incomes, which
could not have been touched without difficulty. Had he done, or been
able to do this, had he shaken off the vampire in stone and lime and
hungry soil which had so long sucked his blood, had he sold the library,
and the 'Gabions of Jonathan Oldbuck,'[35] and the Japanese papers, and
the Byron vase, and the armour, had he mortgaged his incomes by help of
insurance, sold his copyrights outright, and, in short, realised
everything, it does not seem absolutely certain that he might not have
paid off his creditors in full, or, at least, left but a small balance
to be discharged by less superhuman and fatal exertions than those
actually made. The time was not a good time for selling, no doubt; but,
on the other hand, the interest in Abbotsford and its master was still
at its height, and the enthusiasm, which actually inspired one anonymous
offer of thirty thousand pounds on loan in a lump, would probably have
made good bargains for him on sales. He would then have been a free, or
nearly a free man, with his own exertions untrammelled, or nearly so;
and, serious as were the warnings that his health had given or received,
the actual history of the next six or seven years seems to show that,
had the machine been driven with less unsparing ferocity, and at a more
moderate rate, it might have lasted for years, and even restored its
master to competence, if not to wealth.

Unfortunately, if nothing else--family affection and perhaps also family
pride did still, it may be feared, supply something else--the unlucky
settlement of Abbotsford stood in the way. Legally, it is true or at
least probable, this settlement might have been upset; but the trustees
of Mrs. Walter Scott would probably also have felt bound to resist this,
and leave to unsettle could only have been obtained on the humiliating
and even slightly disgraceful plea that the granter, being practically
insolvent at the time, was acting beyond his rights. It seems to have
been proposed by the Bank of Scotland, during the negotiations for the
arrangement which followed, that this should be done; and the reasons
which dictated Scott's refusal would have equally, no doubt, prevented
him from doing it in the other case.

Accordingly, it was resolved, as he declined to go into bankruptcy, that
his whole property should, under a procedure half legal, half amicable,
be vested in trustees for the benefit of his creditors; nothing except
the Castle Street house and some minor chattels being actually sold. He,
on the other hand, undertook to devote to the liquidation of the balance
of his debts all the proceeds of his future work, except a bare
maintenance for himself and (on a reduced scale) for Abbotsford. How
'this fatal venture of mistaken chivalry' (to borrow a most applicable
phrase of Kingsley's about another matter) was carried out we shall see,
but how grossly unfair it was to Scott himself must appear at once. In
return for his sacrifices he had no real legal protection; any creditor
could, as a Jew named Abud actually did, threaten at any time to force
bankruptcy unless he were paid at once and in full. Instead of retaining
(as he would have done had the whole of his property been actually
surrendered, and had he allowed the debts which came with the law to go
with it) complete control of his future earnings and exertions, and
making, as he might have made, restitution by instalments as a free
gift, he was in such a plight that any creditor was entitled to regard
him as a kind of thrall, paying debt by service as a matter of course,
and deserving neither rest, nor gratitude, nor commendation. One really
sometimes feels inclined to regret that Abud or somebody else was not
more relentless--to pray for a Sir Giles Overreach or a Shylock among
the creditors. For such a one, by his apparently malevolent but really
beneficent grasping, would have in effect liberated the bondsman, who,
as it was, was compelled to toil at a hopeless task to his dying day,
and to hasten that dying day by the attempt.

Mention has been made above of a certain _Diary_ which is our main
authority, and, indeed, makes other authorities merely illustrative for
a great part of the few and evil last years of Sir Walter's life. It was
begun before the calamities, and just after the return from Ireland,
being pleasantly christened 'Gurnal,' after a slight early phonetic
indulgence of his daughter Sophia's. It was suggested--and Lockhart
seems to think that it was effective--as a relief from the labour of
_Napoleon_, which went slightly against the grain, even before it became
bond-work. It may have been a doubtful prescription, for 'the cud[28] of
sweet and bitter fancy' is dangerous food. But it has certainly done
_us_ good. When Mr. Douglas obtained leave to publish it as a whole,
there were, I believe, wiseacres who dreaded the effect of the
publication, thinking that the passages which Lockhart himself had left
out might in some way diminish and belittle our respect for Scott. They
had no need to trouble themselves. It was already, as published in part
in the Life, one of the most pathetically interesting things in
biographical literature. This quality was increased by the complete
publication, while it also became a new proof that 'good blood cannot
lie,' that the hero is a hero even in utterances kept secret from the
very valet. If, as has happened before and might conceivably happen
again, some cataclysm destroyed all Scott's other work, we should still
have in this not merely an admirable monument of literature, but the
picture of a character not inhumanly flawless, yet almost superhumanly
noble; of the good man struggling against adversity, not, indeed, with a
sham pretence of stoicism, but with that real fortitude of which
stoicism is too often merely a caricature and a simulation. It is
impossible not to recur to the _Marmion_ passage already quoted as one
reads the account of the successive misfortunes, the successive
expedients resorted to, the absolute determination never to cry
craven.[33]

It is from the _Diary_ that we learn his own complete knowledge of the
fact urged above, that it would have been better for him if his
creditors had been in appearance less kind. 'If they drag me into
court,' he says,[31] 'instead of going into this scheme of arrangement,
they would do themselves a great injury, and _perhaps eventually do the
good, though it would give me great pain_.' The _Diary_, illustrated as
it is by the excellent selections from Skene's _Reminiscences_ and other
scattered or unpublished matter which Mr. Douglas has appended, exhibits
the whole history of this period with a precision that could not
otherwise have been hoped for, especially as pecuniary misfortunes were
soon, according to the fashion of this world, to be complicated by
others. For some two years before the catastrophe Lady Scott had been in
weak health; and though the misfortune itself does not seem to have
affected her much after the first shock, she grew rapidly worse in the
spring of 1826, and, her asthma changing into dropsy, died at Abbotsford
during Scott's absence in Edinburgh, when his work began in May. His
successive references to her illness, and the final and justly-famous
passage on her death, are excellent examples of the spirit which
pervades this part of the _Diary_. This spirit is never unmanly, but
displays throughout, and occasionally, as we see, to his own
consciousness, that strange yet not uncommon phenomenon which is well
expressed in a French phrase, _il y a quelque chose de cassé_, and which
frequently comes upon men after or during the greater misfortunes of
life. Neither in his references to this, nor in those to another
threatened, though as yet deferred blow, expected from the
ever-declining health of the Lockharts' eldest child, the 'Hugh
Littlejohn' of the _Tales of a Grandfather_, is there any tone of
whining on the one hand, or any mark of insensibility on the other. But
there is throughout something like a confession, stoutly avoided in
words, but hinted in tone and current of quotation and sentiment, that
the strength, though not the courage, is hardly equal to the day. The
_Diary_, both here and elsewhere, is full of good things, pleasant wit
still, shrewd criticism of life, quaint citation of wise old Scots saws
and good modern instances, happy judgment of men and books,--above all,
that ever-present touch of literature, without mere bookishness, which
is as delightful to those who can taste it as any of Scott's gifts. And
perhaps, too, we may trace, even behind this, a secret sense that, as
his own Habakkuk Mucklewrath has it in the dying curse on Claverhouse,
the wish of his heart had indeed been granted to his loss, and that the
hope of his own pride had gone too near to destroy him.

FOOTNOTES:

[28] Some say £130,000, but this seems to include the £10,000 mortgage
on Abbotsford. This, however, was a private affair of Scott's own, not a
transaction of the firm.

[29] I have consulted high authority on the legal side of this
counter-bill story, and have been informed (with the expected caution
that, the facts being so doubtful, the law is hard to give) that under
Scots law these counter-bills, if they existed, would probably be
allowed to rank, supposing that twenty shillings in the pound had not
been paid on the first set, and to an extent sufficient to make up that
sum. But Lockhart's allegation clearly is that they were so used as to
charge Scott's estate to the extent of _forty_ shillings in the pound.

[30] John Ballantyne had died in 1821, before the mischief was punished,
but after it was done.

[31] _Lockhart_, vii. 370, 371.

[32] I am not certain whether the second advance, which was secured by
mortgage on Abbotsford, included the first or not. Probably it did.

[33] A pet name for his 'curios.'

[34] Our now-accepted texts, of course, read 'food'; but no one who
remembers the pleasant use which Sir Walter himself has made of the
other reading in the Introduction to _Quentin Durward_ will readily give
it up.

[35] As Scott, like Swift and Shakespeare, like Thackeray and Fielding,
never hesitated at a touch of grim humour even though it might border on
grotesque, he himself would probably not have missed the coincidence
of--

    'Though _bill_men ply the ghastly blow,'

which suggests itself only too tragi-comically.

[36] _Journal_, Feb. 3, 1826, p. 103, ed. Douglas; _Lockhart_, viii.
216, 217.



CHAPTER VI

LAST WORKS AND DAYS


It has been mentioned that when Scott returned from Ireland, and before
his misfortunes came upon him, he had already engaged in two works of
magnitude, a new novel, _Woodstock_, and a _Life of Napoleon_, planned
upon a very large scale, for which Constable made great preparations,
and from which he expected enormous profits. After the catastrophe it
became a question whether Constable's estate could claim the fulfilment
of these contracts, or whether the profits of them could be devoted
wholly to the liquidation of Scott's, or rather Ballantyne & Co.'s, own
debts. The completion of _Woodstock_ was naturally delayed until this
point was settled. But from the very moment when Sir Walter had resolved
to devote himself to the heroic but apparently hopeless task of paying
off his nominal liabilities in full, he arranged a system of work upon
these two books, and especially upon the _Napoleon_, which exceeded in
dogged determination anything that even he had hitherto done. The novel
was, of course, to him comparative child's play: he had written novels
before in six weeks or thereabouts all told, though his impaired vigour,
the depression of his spirits, and the sense of labouring for the mere
purpose of pouring the results into a sieve, made things harder now. But
the _Napoleon_, though he had made some preparation for this kind of
writing by his elaborate and multifarious editorial work, especially by
that on Dryden and Swift, was to a great extent new; and it required,
what was always irksome to him, elaborate reading up of books and
documents for the special purpose. No man has ever utilised the results
of previous reading for his own pleasure better than Scott, and few men,
not mere professed book-grubbers, have ever had vaster stores of it. But
he frequently confesses--a confession which in many ways makes his
plight in these years still more to be pitied--an ingrained dislike to
task-work of any kind; and there is no more laborious task-work than
getting up and piecing together the materials for history.

The book, one, at a rough guess, of at least a million words, was
completed from end to end in less than eighteen months, during which he
also wrote _Woodstock_, _Malachi Malagrowther_ (_vide infra_), with
several reviews and minor things, besides serving his usual number of
days at the Clerk's table, devoting necessarily much time to the not
more painful than troublesome business of his pecuniary affairs, his
removal from Castle Street, etc., and taking one journey of some length
in the summer of 1826 to London and Paris for materials. The feat was
accomplished by a rigid system of 'so much per day'--by dint of which,
no doubt, an amount of work, surprising to the inexperienced, can be
turned out with no necessarily disastrous consequences. But Scott,
disgusted with society, and avoiding it from motives of economy as well
as of want of heart, disturbed hardly at all by strangers at Abbotsford,
and not at all in the lodgings and furnished houses which he took while
in Edinburgh, let 'his own thought drive him like a goad' to work in the
interest of his task-masters, and perhaps, also, for the sake of
drowning care, pushed the system to the most extravagant lengths. We
know that he sometimes worked from six in the morning to six at even,
with breakfast and luncheon brought into his study and consumed there;
and though his court duties made this fortunately impossible for a part
of the year, at least during a part of the week, they were not a
complete preservative. In the eighteen months he cleared for his
bloodsuckers nearly twenty thousand pounds, eight thousand for
_Woodstock_ and eleven or twelve for _Napoleon_. The trifling profits of
_Malachi_ and the reviews seem to have been permitted to go into his own
pocket. He was naturally proud of the exploit, but it may be feared that
it made the end certain.

Of the merits of the _Napoleon_ (the second edition of which, by the
way, carried its profits to eighteen thousand pounds) it is perhaps not
necessary to say very much. I should imagine that few living persons
have read it word for word through, and I confess very frankly that I
have not done so myself, though I think I have read enough to qualify me
for judging it. It is only unworthy of its author in the sense that one
feels it to have been not in the least the work that he was born to do.
It is nearly as good, save for the technical inferiority of Scott's
prose style, as the historical work of Southey, and very much better
than the historical work of Campbell and Moore. The information is
sufficient, the narrative clear, and the author can at need rise to very
fair eloquence, or at least rhetoric. But it is too long to be read, as
one reads Southey's _Nelson_, for its merits as biography, and not
technically authoritative enough to be an exhaustive work of reference
from the military, diplomatic, and political side. Above all, one cannot
read a page without remembering that there were living then in England
at least a dozen men who could have done it better,--Grote, Thirlwall,
Mitford, Arnold, Hallam, Milman, Lingard, Palgrave, Turner, Roscoe,
Carlyle, Macaulay, to mention only the most prominent, and mention them
at random, were all alive and of man's estate,--and probably scores who
could have done it nearly or quite as well; while there was not one
single man living, in England or in the world, who was capable of doing
the work which Scott, if not as capable as ever, was still capable of
doing like no one before and scarcely any one after him.

Take, for instance, _Woodstock_ itself. In a very quaint,
characteristic, agreeable, and, as criticism, worthless passage of _Wild
Wales_, Borrow has stigmatised it as 'trash.' I only wish we had more
such trash outside the forty-eight volumes of the _Waverley Novels_, or
were likely to have more. The book, of course, has certain obvious
critical faults--which are not in the least what made Borrow object to
it. Although Scott, and apparently Ballantyne, liked the catastrophe, it
has always seemed to me one of his worst examples of 'huddling up.' For
it is historically and dramatically impossible that Cromwell should
change his mind, or that Pearson and Robbins should wish to thwart
severity which, considering the death of Humgudgeon, had a good deal
more excuse than Oliver often thought necessary. Nor may the usual, and
perhaps a little more than the usual, shortcomings in construction be
denied. But as of old, and even more than on some occasions of old, the
excellences of character, description, dialogue, and incident are so
great as to atone over and over again for defects of the expected kind.
If Everard has something of that unlucky quality which the author
recognised in Malcolm Graeme when he said, 'I ducked him in the lake to
give him something to do; but wet or dry I could make nothing of him,'
Alice is quite of the better class of his heroines; and from her we
ascend to personages in whose case there is very little need of apology
and proviso. Sir Henry Lee, Wildrake, Cromwell himself, Charles, may not
satisfy others, but I am quite content with them; and the famous scene
where Wildrake is a witness to Oliver's half-confession seems to me one
of its author's greatest serious efforts. Trusty Tomkins, perhaps, might
have been a little better; he comes somewhat under the ban of some
unfavourable remarks which Reginald Heber makes in his diary on this
class of Scott's figures, though the good bishop seems to me to have
been rather too severe. But the pictures of Woodstock Palace and Park
have that indescribable and vivid charm which Scott, without using any
of the 'realist' minuteness or 'impressionist' contortions of later
days, has the faculty of communicating to such things. For myself, I can
say--and I am sure I may speak for hundreds--that Tullyveolan,
Ellangowan, the Bewcastle moor where Bertram rescued Dandie,
Clerihugh's, Monkbarns (I do not see Knockwinnock so clearly), the home
of the Osbaldistones, and the district from Aberfoyle to Loch Ard, the
moors round Drumclog, Torquilstone, and, not to make the list tedious, a
hundred other places, including Woodstock itself, are as real as if I
had walked over every inch of the ground and sat in every room of the
houses. In some cases I have never seen the supposed originals, in
others, I have recognised them as respectable, though usually inferior,
representatives of Scott's conceptions. But in any case _these_ are all
real, all possessions, all part of the geographical and architectural
furniture of the mind. They are like the wood in the 'Dream of Fair
Women': one knows the flowers, one knows the leaves, one knows the
battlements and the windows, the platters and the wine-cups, the
cabinets and the arras. They are, like all the great places of
literature, like Arden and Elsinore, like the court before Agamemnon's
palace, and that where the damsel said to Sir Launcelot, 'Fair knight,
thou art unhappy,' our own--our own to 'pass freely through until the
end of time.'

It must not be forgotten in this record of his work that Scott wrote
'Bonnie Dundee' in the very middle of his disaster, and that he had not
emerged from the first shock of that disaster, when the astonishingly
clever _Letters of Malachi Malagrowther_ appeared. Of the reasonableness
of their main purpose--a strenuous opposition to the purpose of doing
away, in Scotland as in England, with notes of a less denomination than
five pounds--I cannot pretend to judge. It is possible that suppressed
rage at his own misfortunes found vent, and, for him, very healthy vent,
while it did harm to no one, in a somewhat too aggressive patriotism, of
a kind more particularist than was usual with him. But the fire and
force of the writing are so great, the alternations from seriousness to
humour, from denunciation to ridicule, so excellently managed, that
there are few better specimens of this particular kind of pamphlet. As
for 'Bonnie Dundee,' there are hardly two opinions about that. As a
whole, it may not be quite equal to 'Lochinvar,' to which it forms such
an excellent pendant, and which it so nearly resembles in rhythm. But
the best of it is equal as poetry, and perhaps superior as meaning. And
it admirably completes in verse the tribute long before paid by _Old
Mortality_ in prose, to the 'last and best of Scots,' as Dryden called
him in the noble epitaph,[46] which not improbably inspired Scott
himself to do what he could to remove the vulgar aspersions on the fame
of the hero of Killiecrankie.

Moreover, according to his wont, Scott had barely finished, indeed he
had not finished, the _Napoleon_ before he had arranged for new work of
two different kinds; and he was soon, without a break, actually engaged
upon both tasks, one of them among the happiest things he ever
undertook, and the other containing, at least, one piece of his most
interesting work. These were the _Tales of a Grandfather_ and the
_Chronicles of the Canongate_. Both supplied him with his tasks, his
daily allowance of 'leaves,'[38] for great part of 1827, and both were
finished and the _Chronicles_ actually published, before the end of
it.[39]

For the actual stories comprising these _Chronicles_ I have never cared
much. The chief in point of size, the _Surgeon's Daughter_, deals with
Indian scenes, of which Scott had no direct knowledge, and in connection
with which there was no interesting literature to inspire him. It
appears to me almost totally uninteresting, more so than _Castle
Dangerous_ itself. _The Two Drovers_ and _The Highland Widow_ have more
merit; but they are little more than anecdotes.[40] On the other hand,
the 'Introduction' to these _Chronicles_, with the history of their
supposed compiler, Mr. Chrystal Croftangry, is a thing which I should be
disposed to put on a level with his very greatest work. Much is
admittedly personal reminiscence of himself and his friends, handled not
with the clumsy and tactless directness of reporting, which has ruined
so many novels, but in the great transforming way of Fielding and
Thackeray. Chrystal's early thoughtless life, the sketch of his ancestry
(said to represent the Scotts of Raeburn), the agony of Mr. Somerville,
suggested partly by the last illness of Scott's father, the sketches of
Janet M'Evoy and Mrs. Bethune Baliol (Mrs. Murray Keith of Ravelston),
the visit to the lost home,--all these things are treated not merely
with consummate literary effect, but with a sort of _sourdine_
accompaniment of heart-throbs which only the dullest ear can miss. Nor,
as we see from the _Diary_, were the author's recent misfortunes, and
his sojourn in a moral counterpart of the Deserted Garden of his friend
Campbell, the only disposing causes of this. He had in several ways
revived the memory of his early love, Lady Forbes, long since dead. Her
husband had been among the most active of his business friends in
arranging the compromise with creditors, and was shortly (though Scott
did not know it) to discharge privately the claim of the recalcitrant
Jew bill-broker Abud, who threatened Sir Walter's personal liberty. Her
mother, Lady Jane Stuart, had renewed acquaintance with him, and very
soon after the actual publication sent him some MS. memorials of the
days that were long enough ago--memorials causing one of those paroxysms
of memory which are the best of all things for a fairly hale and happy
man, but dangerous for one whom time and ill-luck have shaken.[41] He
had, while the _Chronicles_ were actually a-writing, revisited St.
Andrews, and, while his companions were climbing St. Rule's Tower, had
sat on a tombstone and thought how he carved her name in Runic letters
thirty-four years before. In short, all the elements, sentimental and
circumstantial, of the moment of literary projection were present, and
the Introduction was no vulgar piece of 'chemic gold.'

The delightful and universally known _Tales of a Grandfather_ present no
such contrasts of literary merit, and were connected with no such
powerful but exhausting emotions of the mind. They originated in actual
stories told to 'Hugh Littlejohn,' they were encouraged by the fact that
there was no popular and readable compendium of Scottish history, they
came as easily from his pen as the _Napoleon_ had run with difficulty,
and are as far removed from hack-work as that vast and, to his
creditors, profitable compilation must be pronounced to be on the whole
near to it. The book, of course, is not in the modern sense strictly
critical, though it must be remembered that the authorities for at least
the earlier history of Scotland are so exceedingly few and meagre, that
criticism of the saner kind has very little to fasten upon. But in this
book eminently, in the somewhat later compilation for _Lardner's
Cyclopædia_ to a rather less degree, this absence of technical criticism
is more than made up by Scott's knowledge of humanity, by the divining
power, so to say, which his combined affection for the subject and
general literary skill gave him, and by that singularly shrewd and
pervading common sense which in him was so miraculously united with the
poetical and romantic gift. I was pleased, but not at all surprised,
when, some year or so ago, I asked a professed historian, and one of the
best living authorities on the particular subject, what he thought of
the general historic effect of Scott's work, to find him answer without
the slightest hesitation that it was about the soundest thing, putting
mere details aside, that exists on the matter. It may be observed, in
passing, that the later compilation referred to was a marked example of
the way in which Scott could at this time 'coin money.' He was offered a
thousand pounds for one of the Lardner volumes; and as his sketch
swelled beyond the limit, he received fifteen hundred. The entire work,
much of which was simple paraphrase of the _Tales_, occupied him, it
would seem, about six working weeks, or not quite so much. Can it be
wondered that both before and after the crash this power of coining
money should have put him slightly out of focus with pecuniary matters
generally? Mediæval and other theorisers on usury have been laughed at
for their arguments as to the 'unnatural' nature of usurious gain, and
its consequent evil. One need not be superstitious more than reason, to
scent a certain unnaturalness in the gift of turning paper into gold in
this other way also. Every _peau de chagrin_ has a faculty of revenging
itself on the possessor.

For the time, however, matters went with Scott as swimmingly as they
could with a man who, by his own act, was, as he said, 'eating with
spoons and reading books that were not his own,' and yet earning by
means absolutely within his control, and at his pleasure to exercise or
not, some twenty thousand a year. _The Fair Maid of Perth_, a title
which has prevailed over what was its first, _St. Valentine's Eve_, and
has entirely obscured the fact that it was issued as a second series of
the _Chronicles of the Canongate_, provided money for a new scheme. This
scheme, outlined by Constable himself, and now carried out by Cadell and
accepted by Scott's trustees, was for buying in the outstanding
copyrights belonging to the bankrupt firm, and issuing the entire series
of novels, with new introductions and notes by Scott himself, with
attractive illustrations and in a cheap and handy form. Scott himself
usually designates the plan as the _Magnum Opus_, or more shortly (and
perhaps not without remembrance of more convivial days) 'the _Magnum_'.
_The Fair Maid_ itself was very well received, and seems to have kept
its popularity as well as any of the later books. Indeed, the figures of
the Smith, of Oliver Proudfute (the last of Scott's humorous-pathetic
characters), of the luckless Rothsay, and of Ramornie (who very
powerfully affected a generation steeped in Byronism), are all quite up
to the author's 'best seconds.' The opening and the close are quite
excellent, especially the fight on the North Inch and 'Another for
Hector!' and the middle part is full of attractive bits of the old kind.
But Conachar-Eachin is rather a thing of shreds and patches, and the
entire episode of Father Clement and the heresy business is dragged in
with singularly little initial excuse, valid connection, or final
result.

We have unluckily no diary for the last half of 1828, after Scott
returned from a long stay with the Lockharts in London, and we thus hear
little of the beginnings of the next novel, _Anne of Geierstein_. When
the _Journal_ begins again, complaints are heard from Ballantyne.
Alterations (which Scott always loathed, and which certainly are
detestable things) became or were thought necessary, and when the poor
_Maid of the Mist_ at length appeared in May 1829, she was dismissed by
her begetter very unkindly, as 'not a good girl like the other
Annes'--his daughter and her cousin, _fille de Thomas_, who were living
with him. The book was not at all ill received, but Lockhart is
apologetic about it, and it has been the habit of criticism since to
share the opinions of 'Aldiborontiphoscophormio.'[45] I cannot agree with
this, and should put _Anne of Geierstein_--as a mere romance and not
counting the personal touches which exalt _Redgauntlet_ and the
Introduction to the _Chronicles_--on a level with anything, and above
most things, later than _The Pirate_. Its chief real fault is not so
much bad construction--it is actually more, not less, well knit than
_The Fair Maid of Perth_,--as the too great predominance of merely
episodic and unnecessary things and persons, like the _Vehmgericht_ and
King's René's court. Its merits are manifold. The opening storm and
Arthur's rescue by Anne, as well as the quarrel with Rudolf, are
excellent; the journey (though too much delayed by the said Rudolf's
tattlings), with the sojourn at Grafslust and the adventures at La
Ferette, ranks with Scott's many admirable journeys, and high among
them; Queen Margaret is nobly presented (I wish Shakespeare, Lancastrian
that he was, had had the chance of versifying the scene where she flings
the feather and the rose to the winds, as a pendant to 'I called thee
then vain shadow of my fortune'); and not only Philipson's rattling peal
of thunder to wake Charles the Bold from his stupor, but the Duke's
final scenes, come well up to the occasion. Earlier, Scott would not
have made René quite such a mere old fool, and could have taken the
slight touch of pasteboard and sawdust out of the Black Priest of St.
Paul's. But these are small matters, and the whole merits of the book
are not small. Even Arthur and Anne are above, not below, the usual hero
and heroine.

The gap in the _Journal_ for the last half of 1828 is matched by another
and more serious one for nearly a twelvemonth, from July 1829 to May
1830, a period during which Sir Walter's health went from bad to worse,
and in which he lost his Abbotsford factotum, Tom Purdie. But the first
six months of 1829, and perhaps a little more, are among its pleasantest
parts. The shock of the failure and of his wife's death were, as far as
might be, over; he had resumed the habit of seeing a fair amount of
society; his work, though still busily pursued, was less killing than
during the composition of the _Napoleon_; and his affairs were looking
almost rosily. A first distribution, of thirty-two thousand pounds at
once, had been made among the creditors. Cadell's scheme of the
_Magnum_--wisely acquiesced in by the trustees, and facilitated by a
bold purchase at auction of Constable's copyrights for some eight
thousand pounds, and later, of those of the poems from Longmans for
about the same or a little less--was turning out a great success. They
had counted on a sale of eight thousand copies; they had to begin with
twelve thousand, and increase it to twenty, while the number ultimately
averaged thirty-five thousand. The work of annotation and introduction
was not hard, and was decidedly interesting.

Unluckily, irreparable mischief had already been done, and when the
_Diary_ begins again, we soon see signs of it. The actual beginning of
the end had occurred before the resumption, on February 15, 1830, when
Sir Walter had, in the presence of his daughter and of Miss Violet
Lockhart, experienced an attack of an apoplectic-paralytic character,
from which he only recovered by much blood-letting and starvation. There
can be little doubt that this helped to determine him to do what he had
for some time meditated, and resign his place at the Clerk's table: nor
perhaps could he have well done otherwise. But the results were partly
unfortunate. The work had been very trifling, and had saved him from
continual drudgery indoors at home, while it incidentally provided him
with society and change of scene. He was now to live at Abbotsford,--for
neither his means nor his health invited an Edinburgh residence when it
was not necessary,--with surroundings only too likely to encourage
'thick-coming fancies,' out of reach of immediate skilled medical
attendance, and with very dangerous temptations to carry on the use of
his brain, which was now becoming almost deadly. Yet he would never give
in. The pleasant and not exhausting task of arranging the _Magnum_
(which was now bringing in from eight to ten thousand a year for the
discharge of his debts) was supplemented by other things, especially
_Count Robert of Paris_, and a book on Demonology for Murray's _Family
Library_.

This last occupied him about the time of his seizure, and after the
_Diary_ was resumed, it was published in the summer of 1830. Scott was
himself by this time conscious of a sort of aphasia of the pen (the
direct result of the now declared affection of his brain), which
prevented him from saying exactly what he wished in a connected manner;
and the results of this are in part evident in the book. But it must
always remain a blot, quite unforgivable and nearly inexplicable, on
the memory of Wilson, that 'Christopher North' permitted himself to
comment on some lapses in logic and style in a way which would have been
rather that side of good manners and reasonable criticism in the case of
a mere beginner in letters. It is true that he and Scott were at no time
very intimate friends, and that there were even some vague antipathies
between them. But Wilson had been deeply obliged to Scott in the matter
of his professorship;[44] he at least ought to have been nearly as well
aware as we are of the condition of his benefactor's health; and even if
he had known nothing of this, the rest of Sir Walter's circumstances
were known to all the world, and should surely have secured silence. But
it seems that Wilson was for the moment in a pet with Lockhart, to whom
the _Letters on Demonology_ were addressed, and so he showed, as he
seldom, but sometimes did, the 'black drop,' which in his case, though
not in Lockhart's, marred at times a generally healthy and noble nature.
As a matter of fact, it needs either distinct malevolence or silly
hypercriticism to find any serious fault with the _Demonology_. If not a
masterpiece of scientific treatment in reference to a subject which
hardly admits of any such thing, it is an exceedingly pleasant and
amusing and a by no means uninstructive medley of learning, traditional
anecdote, reminiscence, and what not, on a matter which, as we know, had
interested the writer from very early days, and which he regarded from
his usual and invaluable combined standpoint of shrewd sense and
poetical appreciation.

The decay, now not to be arrested, though its progress was
comparatively slow, was more evident in the last two works of fiction
which Scott completed, _Count Robert of Paris_ and _Castle Dangerous_.
Against the first ending of the former (we do not possess it, so we
cannot criticise their criticism) Ballantyne and Cadell formally
protested, and Scott rewrote a great deal of it by dictation to Laidlaw.
The loss of command both of character and of story-interest is indeed
very noticeable. But the opening incident at the Golden Gate, the
interview of the Varangian with the Imperial family, the intrusion of
Count Robert, and, above all, his battle with the tiger and liberation
from the dungeon of the Blachernal, with some other things, show that
astonishing power of handling single incidents which was Scott's
inseparable gift, and which seems to have accompanied him throughout to
the very eve of his death. The much briefer _Castle Dangerous_ (which is
connected with an affecting visit of Scott and Lockhart to the tombs of
the Douglases) is too slight to give room for very much shortcoming. Its
chief artistic fault is the happy ending--for though a romancer is in no
respect bound to follow his text exactly, and happy endings are quite
good things, yet it is rather too much to turn upside down the historic
catastrophe of the Good Lord James's fashion of warfare. Otherwise the
book is more noticeable for a deficiency of spirit, life, and light--for
the evidence of shadow and stagnation falling over the once restless and
brilliant scene--than for anything positively bad.

These two books were mainly dictated, the paralytic affection having
injured the author's power of handwriting,[43] to William Laidlaw between
the summer of 1830 and the early autumn of 1831, increasing weakness,
and the demands of the _Magnum_, preventing more speed. The last pages
of _Castle Dangerous_ contain Scott's farewell, and the announcement to
the public of that voyage to Italy which had actually begun when the
novels appeared in the month of November.

The period between the fatal seizure and the voyage to the Mediterranean
has not much diary concerning it, but has been related with inimitable
judgment and sympathy by Lockhart. It was, even putting failing health
and obscured mental powers aside, not free from 'browner shades'; for
the Reform agitation naturally grieved Sir Walter deeply, while on two
occasions he was the object of popular insult and on one of popular
violence. Both were at Jedburgh; but the blame is put upon intrusive
weavers from Hawick. The first, a meeting of Roxburghshire freeholders,
saw nothing worse than unmannerly interruption of a speech made
partially unintelligible by the speaker's failing articulation. He felt
it bitterly, and when hissing was repeated as he bowed farewell, is said
to have replied, low, but now quite distinctly, '_Moriturus vos
saluto!_' On the second, the election after the throwing out of the
first Bill, he was stoned, spat upon, and greeted with cries of 'Burke
Sir Walter.'[42] Natural indignation has often been expressed at this
behaviour towards the best neighbour and the greatest man in
Scotland--behaviour which, as we know, haunted him on his deathbed; but
it is to be presumed that the persons who thus proclaimed their cause
knew the line of conduct most worthy of it.

It does not appear with absolute certainty who first suggested the
Italian journey. It could not have been expected to produce any radical
cure; but it seems to have been hoped that change of scene would prevent
the patient from indulging in that attempt to write from which at
Abbotsford it was impossible to keep him, though it was simply slow, and
not so very slow, suicide. The wishes of his family were most kindly and
generously met by the Government of the day, among whose members he had
many personal friends, though political opponents; and the frigate
_Barham_, a cut-down seventy-four, which had the credit of being one of
the smartest vessels in the navy, was assigned to take him to Malta. He
had, before he left Abbotsford itself, an affecting interview with
Wordsworth, which occasioned _Yarrow Revisited_ and the beautiful
sonnet, 'A trouble, not of clouds or weeping rain,' and had no doubt
part in the initiation of the last really great thing that Wordsworth
ever wrote--the _Effusion_ on the deaths of Hogg, Coleridge, Crabbe,
Lamb, and Scott himself, in 1835. Some stay was made with the Lockharts
in London, and a little at Portsmouth, waiting for a wind; but the final
departure took place on October 29, 1831.

Scott was abroad for the best part of a year, the time being chiefly
made out in visits of some length to Malta, Naples, and Rome. We have a
good deal of diary for this period, and it, even more than the
subsidiary documents and Lockhart's summary of no doubt much that is
unpublished, betrays the state of the case. Every now and then--indeed,
for long passages--there is nothing very different from the matter to
which, since the first warning in 1818, we have been accustomed. Scott
is, if not the infinitely various but never mutable Scott of the earlier
years, still constant in fun and kindness, in quaint erudition and
hearty friendship, though he is all this in a slightly deadened and
sicklied degree. But there are strange breaks-down and unfamiliar
touches, now of almost querulous self-concern (the thing most foreign to
his earlier nature), as where he complains that his companions, his son
and daughter, 'are neither desirous to follow his amusements nor anxious
that he should adopt theirs'; now of still more foreign callousness, as
where he dismisses the news of the death of Hugh Littlejohn, whose
illnesses earlier had been almost his chief anxiety, and records in the
same entry that he 'went to the opera.' The passage in the Introduction
to the _Chronicles_, written not so very long before, traces with an
almost horrible exactness the changes which were now taking place in
himself. Moreover, he would resume the pen; and, first in Malta, then at
Naples, began and went far to complete two new novels, _The Siege of
Malta_ and _Il Bizarro_, which, I suppose, are still at Abbotsford, with
Lockhart's solemn curse on the person who shall publish them. He had now
(it does not seem clear on what grounds, or by what stages) confirmed
himself in the belief that he had paid off all his debts, instead of
nearly half of them.[37] And he founded divers schemes on the profits of
these works, added to the (as he thought) liberated returns of the
_Magnum_; and even revived his notions of buying Faldonside with its
thousand acres, and 'holding all Tweed-bank, from Ettrick-foot to Calla
weel.' Fêted, too, as he was, and in this condition of mind, it seems to
have been difficult for his companions to make him observe the absolute
temperance in food and drink which was as necessary to the staving off
of the end as abstinence from brain-work; and it must be regarded as a
signal proof of the extraordinary strength of his constitution that it
resisted as long as it did.

At last, and of course suddenly, came the final warning of all: the
occurrence, without notice, of an almost agonising home-sickness. The
party travelled by land, as speedily as they could, to the Channel, a
last attack of apoplectic paralysis taking place at Nimeguen; and after
crossing it and reaching London, Sir Walter was taken by sea to the
Forth, and thence home. The actual end was delayed but very little
longer, and it has been told by Lockhart in one of those capital
passages of English literature on which it is folly to attempt to
improve or even to comment, and which, a hundred times quoted, can never
be stale. Sir Walter Scott died at Abbotsford on September 21, 1832, and
was buried four days later at Dryburgh, a post-mortem examination having
disclosed considerable softening of the brain.

There remained unpaid at his death about fifty-five thousand pounds of
the Ballantyne debts, besides private encumbrances on Abbotsford, etc.,
including the ten thousand which Constable had extracted, he knowing,
from Scott unknowing, the extent of the ruin, in the hours just before
it. The falling in of assurances cleared off two-fifths of this balance,
and Cadell discharged the rest on the security of the _Magnum_, which
was equal, though not much more than equal, to the burden in the
longrun. Thus, if Scott's exertions during the last seven years of his
life had benefited his own pocket, his ambition--whether wise or
foolish, persons more confident in their judgment of human wishes than
the present writer must decide--would have been amply fulfilled, and his
son, supposing the money to have been invested with ordinary care and
luck, would have been left a baronet and squire, with at least six or
seven thousand a year. As it was, he did not succeed to much more than
the title, a costly house, and a not very profitable estate, burdened,
though not heavily, with mortgages. This burden was reduced by the good
sense of the managers of the English memorial subscription to Scott, who
devoted the six or seven thousand pounds, remaining after some
embezzlement, to clearing off the encumbrances as far as possible. The
chief result of many Scottish tributes of the same kind was the
well-known Scott Monument on the edge of Princes Street Gardens, which
has the great good luck to be one of the very few not unsatisfactory
things of the kind in the British Islands. By mishap rather than
neglect, no monument in Westminster Abbey was erected for the greater
part of the century; but one has been at last set up in May of the
present year.

FOOTNOTES:

[37] This is a translation, of course; but if anyone will compare
Pitcairn's Latin and Dryden's English, he will see where the poetry
comes in.

[38] He wrote on sheets of a large quarto size, in a very small and
close hand, so that his usual 'task' of six 'leaves' meant about thirty
pages of print, though not very small or close print.

[39] It was early in this year, on February 23, at a Theatrical Fund
dinner, that he made public avowal of the authorship of _Waverley_.

[40] Cadell did not like any of them much, and objected still more to
others intended to follow them. Sir Walter, therefore, kept these back,
and gave them later to Heath's _Keepsake_. They now appear with their
intended companions: the slightest, _The Tapestried Chamber_, is perhaps
the best.

[41] Compare _Diary_, 1827, Nov. 7 ('I fairly softened myself like an
old fool with recalling old stories, till I was fit for nothing but
shedding tears and repeating verses the whole night'), with the famous
couplet in 'Rose Aylmer'--

    'A night of memories and of sighs
        I consecrate to thee.'

[42] Scott's name for _James_ Ballantyne, as 'Rigdumfunnidos' was for
John.

[43] See his own unqualified and almost too gushing acknowledgment of
this ten years before, in the _Familiar Letters_, ii. 84-85, _note_.

[44] It had also caused great and very painful trouble in his lame leg,
which from this time onwards had to be mechanically treated.

[45] The Burke and Hare murders were recent.

[46] The success of the _Magnum_ had allowed a second large dividend to
be paid, and the creditors had been generous enough to restore Scott's
forks, spoons, and books to him.



CHAPTER VII

CONCLUSION


It is natural--indeed the feeling is not merely easy of excuse, but
entitled to respect--that 'the pity of it,' the sombre close of so
brilliant a career as Scott's, should attract somewhat disproportionate
attention. Thus readers of his life are drawn more especially either to
sorrow for his calamities, or to admiration of this stoutest of all
hearts set to nearly the stiffest of all hills, or to casuistical debate
on the 'dram of eale' that brought about his own share in causing his
misfortunes. Undoubtedly, none of these things ought to escape our
attention. But, in the strict court of literary and critical audit, they
must not have more than their share. As a matter of fact, Scott's work
was almost finished--nothing distinctly novel in kind and first-rate in
quality, except the _Tales of a Grandfather_ and the Introduction to the
_Chronicles_, remained to be added to it--when that fatal bill of
Constable's was suffered by Hurst & Robinson to be returned. And the
trials which followed, though they showed the strength, the nobleness,
the rare balance and solidity of his character, did not create these
virtues, which had been formed and established by habit long before.
_Respice finem_ is not here a wise, at least a sufficient, maxim: we
must look along the whole line to discern satisfactorily and thoroughly
what manner of man this was in life and in letters.

What manner of man he was physically is pretty well-known from his
originally numerous and almost innumerably reproduced and varied
portraits; not extremely tall, but of a goodly height, somewhat
shortened by his lameness and massive make, the head being distinguished
by a peculiar domed, or coned, cranium. This made 'Lord Peter' Robertson
give him the nickname of 'Peveril of the Peak,' which he himself after a
little adopted, and which, shortened to 'Peveril,' was commonly used by
his family. His expression, according to the intelligence of those who
saw him and the mood in which he found himself, has been variously
described as 'heavy,' 'homely,' and in more complimentary terms. But the
more appreciative describers recognise the curiously combined humour,
shrewdness, and kindliness which animated features naturally irregular
and quite devoid of what his own generation would have called 'chiselled
elegance.' He himself asserts--and it seems to be the fact--that from
the time of the disappearance of his childish maladies to the attack of
cramp, or gallstones, or whatever the evil was which came on in 1818,
and from which he never really recovered, his health was singularly
robust; and he appears as quite a young man to have put it to
considerable, though not excessive, tests.

His conversation, like his countenance, has been variously
characterised, and it is probable that the complexion of both depended,
even more than it does with most men, on his company. He is acknowledged
never to have 'talked for victory,' an evil and barbarous practice,
which the Edinburgh wits seem to have caught from their great enemy and
guest, Dr. Johnson; to have (like all good men) simply abominated
talking about his own works, or indeed bookishly at all, full as his
conversation was of literature; and, though a great tale-teller, to have
been no monopoliser of the conversation in any way. He admits having
been in youth and early middle age not disinclined to solitude,--and he
does not appear to have at any time liked miscellaneous society much,
though he prided himself, and very justly, on having, from all but his
earliest youth, frequented many kinds of it, including the best. The
perfect ease of his correspondence with all sorts and conditions of men
and women may have owed something to this; but, no doubt, it owed as
much to the happy peculiarities and composition of his nature and
temperament.

The only fault or faults of which he has been accused with any
plausibility are those which attend or proceed from a somewhat too high
estimate of rank and of riches;--that is to say, a too great eagerness
to obtain these things, and at the same time a too great deference for
those who possessed them. From avarice, in any of the ordinary senses of
the word, he was, indeed, entirely free. His generosity, if not
absolutely and foolishly indiscriminate, was extraordinary, and as
unostentatious as it was lavish. He certainly had no delight in hoarding
money, and his personal tastes, except in so far as books, 'curios,' and
so forth were concerned, were of the simplest possible. Yet, as we have
seen, he was never quite content with an income which, after very early
years, was always competent, and when he launched into commercial
ventures, already, in prospect at least, considerable; while in the one
article of spending money on house and lands he was admittedly
excessive. So, too, he seems to have been really indifferent about his
title, except as an adjunct to these possessions, and as something
transmissible to, and serving to distinguish, the family he longed to
found. Yet no instance of the slightest servility on his part to
rank--much less to riches--has been produced. His address, no doubt,
both in writing and conversation, was more ceremonious than would now be
customary. But it must be remembered that this was then a point of good
manners, and that 'your Lordship' and 'my noble friend,' even between
persons intimate with each other and on the common footing of gentlemen,
were then phrases as proper and usual in private as they still are in
public life.[51] Attempts have been made to excuse his attitude, on the
plea that it was inherited from his father (_vide_ the scene between
Saunders Fairford and Herries), that it was national, that it was this,
that, and the other. For my own part, I have never read or heard of any
instance of it which seemed to me to exceed the due application to
etiquette of the rule of distributive justice, to give every man his
own. Scott, I think, would have accepted the principle, though not the
application, of the sentence of Timoléon de Cossé, Duke of Brissac--'God
has made thee a gentleman, and the king has made thee a duke.' And he
honoured God and the king by behaving accordingly.

Of his infinite merits as a host and a guest, as a friend and as a
relation, there is a superabundance of evidence. It does not appear that
he ever lost an old friend; and though, like most men who have more
talent for friendship than for acquaintance, he did not latterly make
many new ones, the relations existing between himself and Lockhart are
sufficient proof of his faculty of playing the most difficult of all
parts, that of elder friend to younger. I have said above that, though
in no sense touchy, he was a very dangerous person to take a liberty
with; he adopted to the full the morality of his time about duelling,
though he disapproved of it;[49] he was in all respects a man of the
world, yet without guile.

It is, moreover, quite certain that Scott, though never talking much
about religion (as, indeed, he never talked much about any of the deeper
feelings of the heart), was a man very sincerely religious. He was not a
metaphysician in any way, and therefore had no special inclination
towards that face or summit of metaphysics which is called theology. And
it is pretty clear that he had towards disputed points of doctrine,
ceremony, and discipline, a not sharply or decidedly formulated
attitude. But there is no doubt whatever that he was a thoroughly and
sincerely orthodox Christian, and there are some slight escapes of
confession unawares in his private writings, which show in what thorough
conformity with his death his life had been. Few men have ever so well
observed the one-half of the apostle's doctrine as to pure religion; and
if he did not keep himself (in the matter of the secret partnership and
others) altogether unspotted from the world, the sufferings of his last
seven years may surely be taken as a more than sufficient purification.
More blameless morally, I think, few men have been; fewer still better
equipped with the positive virtues. And, above all, we must recognise in
Scott (if we have any power of such recognition) what has been already
called a certain nobleness, a certain natural inclination towards all
things high, and great, and pure, and of good report, which is rarer
still than negative blamelessness or even than positive virtue.

To speak of Scott's politics is a little difficult and perhaps a little
dangerous; yet they played so large a part in his life and work that the
subject can hardly be omitted, especially as it comes just between those
aspects of him which we have already discussed, and those to which we
are coming. It has sometimes been disputed whether his Toryism was much
more than mere sentiment; and of course there were not wanting in his
own day fellows of the baser sort who endeavoured to represent it as
mere self-interest. But no impartial person nowadays, I suppose, doubts,
however meanly he may think of Scott's political creed, that that creed
was part, not of his interests, not even of his mere crotchets and
crazes, literary and other, but of his inmost heart and soul. That
reverence for the past, that distaste for the vulgar, that sense of
continuity, of mystery, of something beyond interest and calculation,
which the worst foes of Toryism would, I suppose, allow to be its nobler
parts, were the blood of Scott's veins, the breath of his nostrils, the
marrow of his bones. My friend Mr. Lang thinks that Scott's Toryism is
dead, that no successor has arisen on its ruins, that it was, in fact,
almost a private structure, of which he was the architect, a tree fated
to fall with its planter. Perhaps; but perhaps also

    'The Little Tower with no such ease
    Is won';

and there are enough still to keep watch and ward of it.

But we have of course here to look even more to his mental character
than to his moral, to do with him rather as a man of genius than as a
'man of good,' though it is impossible to overlook, and difficult to
overestimate, his singular eminence as both combined. Of his actual
literary accomplishment, something like a detailed view has been given
in this little book, and of some of its separate departments estimates
have been attempted.[48] But we may, or rather must, gather all these up
here. Nor can we proceed better than by the old way of inquiry--first,
What were the peculiar characteristics of his thought? and, secondly,
What distinguished his expression of this thought?

As to the first point, it has been pretty generally admitted--though the
admissions have in some cases been carried almost too far--that we are
not to look for certain things in Scott. We are not to look for any
elaborately or at least scholastically minute faculty or practice of
analysis or of argument. But to proceed from this to a general denial of
'philosophy' to him--that is to say, to allow him a merely superficial
knowledge of human nature--is an utter mistake. I have quoted elsewhere,
but the book from which the quotation is made is so rare that I may well
quote here again, some remarkable words on this subject from M. Milsand,
Mr. Browning's friend, and the recipient of the Dedication of the
reprint of _Sordello_.[50] It is certain that this praise might be
supported with a large anthology of passages in the novels and even the
poems--passages indicating an anthropological science as intimate as it
is unpretentiously expressed. To some good folk in our days, who think
that nothing can be profound which is naturally and simply spoken, and
who demand that a human philosopher shall speak gibberish and wear his
boots on his brows, the fact may be strange, but it is a fact. And it
may be added that even if chapter and verse could not thus be produced,
a sufficient proof, the most sufficient possible, could be otherwise
provided. Scott, by the confession of all competent judges, save a very
few, has created almost more men and women, undoubtedly real and
lifelike, than any other prose novelist. Now you cannot create a man or
a woman without knowing whereof a man and a woman are made, though the
converse proposition is unfortunately by no means so universally
predicable. He was content, as a rule, to put this great science of his
into practice rather than to expound it in theory, to demonstrate it
rather than to lecture on it, but that is all.

In the second place, we are not to look to him for any great intensity
of delineation of passion, especially in the sense to which that word is
more commonly confined. He has nowhere left us (as some other men of
letters have) any hint that he abstained from doing this because the
passion would have been so tremendous that it was on the whole best for
mankind that they should not be exposed to it. The qualities of humour
and of taste which were always present with Scott would have prevented
this. But I should doubt whether he felt any temptation to unbosom
himself, or any need to do so. The slight hints given at the time of the
combined action of his misfortunes and the agitation arising from his
renewed communications with Lady Jane Stuart, are almost all the
indications that we have on the subject, and they are too slight to
found any theory upon. It is evident that this was not his vein, or
that, if the vein was there, he did not choose to work it.

To pass from negations to positives, the region in which Scott's power
of conception and expression did lie, and which he ruled with wondrous
range and rarely equalled power, was a strangely united kingdom of
common-sense fact and fanciful or traditional romance. No writer who has
had such a sense of the past, of tradition, of romantic literature, has
had such a grasp of the actual working motives and conduct of mankind;
none who has had the latter has even come near to his command of the
former. We may take Spenser and Fielding as the princes of these
separate principalities in English literature, and though each had gifts
that Scott had not,--though Scott had gifts possessed by neither,--yet
if we could conceive Spenser and Fielding blended, the blend would, I
think, come nearer to Scott's idiosyncrasy than anything else that can
be imagined. He had advanced (or rather returned) from that one-sided
eighteenth-century conception of nature which was content to know
_human_ nature pretty thoroughly up to a certain point, and to dismiss
'prospects,' in Johnson's scornful language to Thrale, as one just like
the other. But he had retained the eighteenth-century grasp of man
himself, while recovering the path to the Idle Lake and the Cave of
Despair, to the many-treed wood through which Una and her knight
journeyed, and the Rich Strand where all the treasures of antiquity lay.
We may think--apparently some of us do think--that we have improved on
him in the recovery, and even in the retaining grasp. The fact of the
improvement on him will take a great deal of proving, I am inclined to
think; of the fact of his achievement there is no doubt.

If I must select Scott's special literary characteristic, next to that
really magical faculty of placing scenes and peopling them with
characters in the memory of his readers which I have noticed before, I
should certainly fix on his humour. It is a good old scholastic
doctrine, that the greatest merit of anything is to be excellent in the
special excellence of its kind. And in that quality which so gloriously
differentiates English literature from all others, Scott is never
wanting, and is almost always pre-eminent. If his patriotism, intense as
it is, is never grotesque or offensive, as patriotism too often is to
readers who do not share it; if his pathos never touches the maudlin; if
his romantic sentiment is always saved by the sense of solid fact,--and
we may assert these things without hesitation or qualification,--it is
due to his humour. For this humour, never merely local, never bases its
appeal on small private sympathies and understandings and pass-words
which leave the world at large cold, or mystified, or even disgusted.
Nor is it perhaps uncritical to set down that pre-eminently happy use,
without abuse, of dialect, which has attracted the admiration of almost
all good judges, to this same humour, warning him alike against the
undisciplined profusion and the injudicious selection which have not
been and are not unknown in some followers of his. And, further, his
universal quality is free from some accompanying drawbacks which must be
acknowledged in the humour of some of the other very great humorists. It
is not coarse--a defect which has made prigs at all times, and
especially at this time, affect horror at Aristophanes; it is not grim,
like that of Swift; it is free from any very strong evidences of its
owner having lived at a particular date, such as may be detected by the
Devil's Advocate even in Fielding, even in Thackeray. No tricks or
grimaces, no mere elaboration, no lingering to bespeak applause; but a
moment of life and nature subjected to the humour-stamp and left
recorded and transformed for ever--there is Scott.

That the necessary counterpart and companion of this breadth of humour
should be depth of feeling can be no surprise to those who accept the
only sound distinction between humour and wit. Scott himself never wore
his heart on his sleeve; but to those who looked a little farther than
the sleeve its beatings were sufficiently evident. The Scott who made
that memorable exclamation on the Mound, and ejaculated 'No, by----!' at
the discovery of the Regalia,[47] who wrote Jeanie's speech to Queen
Caroline and Habakkuk Mucklewrath's to Claverhouse, had no need ever to
affect emotion, because it was always present, though repressed when it
had no business to exhibit itself. And his romantic imagination was as
sincere as his pathos or his indignation. He never lost the clue to 'the
shores of old romance'; and, at least, great part of the secret which
made him such a magician to his readers was that the spell was on
himself--that the regions of fancy were as open, as familiar as Princes
Street or the Parliament Square to this solid practical Clerk of
Session, who avowed that no food could to his taste equal Scotch broth,
and in everything but the one fatal delusion was as sound a man of
business as ever partook of that nourishing concoction.

In his execution both in prose and verse, but especially, or at least
more obviously, in the latter there are certain peculiarities, in the
nature (at least partly) of defect, which strike every critical eye at
once. At no time, and in no case, was Scott of the order of the careful,
anxious miniaturists of work, who repaint every stroke a hundred times,
adjust every detail of composition over and over again, and can never
have done with rehandling and perfecting. Nor did he belong to that very
rare class whose work seems to be, at any rate after a slight
apprenticeship, faultless from the first, to whom inelegancies of style,
incorrect rhymes, licences of metre--not deliberate and intended to
produce the effect they achieve, but the effect of carelessness or of
momentary inability to do what is wanted--are by nature or education
impossible. His nature did not give him this endowment, and his
education was of the very last sort to procure it for him. He himself,
not out of pique or conceit, things utterly alien from his nature, still
less out of laziness, but, I believe, as a genuine, and, what is more, a
correct self-criticism, has left in his private writings repeated
expressions of his belief that revision and correction in his case not
only did not improve the work, but were in most cases likely to do it
positive harm, that the spoon was made or the horn spoiled (to adapt his
country proverb) at the first draft, and once for all. I think that this
was a correct judgment, and I do not see that it implies any inferiority
on his part. It is not as if he ever aimed at the methods of the
precisians and failed, as if it was his desire to be a 'correct' writer,
a careful observer of proportion and construction, a producer of artful
felicities in metre, rhythm, rhyme, phrase. We may yield to no one in
the delight of tracing the exact correspondence of strophe and
antistrophe in a Greek chorus, the subtle vowel-music of a Latin hymn or
a passage of Rossetti's. But I cannot see why, because we rejoice in
these things, we should demand them of all poetry, or why, because we
rejoice in the faultless construction of Fielding or the exquisite
finish of Jane Austen as novelists, we should despise the looser
handling and more sweeping touch of Scott in prose fiction. It is
extremely probable that, as Mr. Balfour suggested the other day in
unveiling the Westminster Abbey monument, this breadth of touch obtained
him his popularity abroad, nor need it impair his fame at home.

Unquestionably, though he had many minor gifts and graces, including
that of incomparable lyric snatch, from the drums and fifes of
'Lochinvar' and 'Bonnie Dundee' to the elfin music of 'Proud Maisie,'
his faculty of weaving a story in prose or in verse, with varied
decorations of dialogue and description and character, rather than on a
cunning canvas of plot, was Scott's main forte. If it is in verse--and
admirable as it is here, I think we must allow it to be--less
pre-eminent than in prose, it is, first, because minor formal defects
are more felt in verse than in prose; secondly, because the scope of the
medium is less; and thirdly, because the medium itself was in reality
not what he wanted. The verse romance of Scott is a great achievement
and a delightful possession: it has had extraordinary influence on
English literature, from the work of Byron, which it directly produced,
and which pretty certainly would never have been produced without it, to
that of Mr. William Morris, which may not impossibly have been its last
echo--transformed and refreshed, but still an echo--for some time to
come. But there was a little of the falsetto in it, and the interludes,
of which the introductions to _Marmion_ and to the _Bridal_ are the most
considerable, show that it gave no outlets, or outlets only awkward, for
much of what he wanted to say. He defines his own general literary
object admirably in a letter to Morritt. 'I have tried to induce the
public to relax some of the rules of criticism, and to be amused with
that medley of tragic and comic with which life presents us, not only in
the same course of action, but in the same character.' The detailed
remarks which have been given in earlier chapters make it unnecessary to
bring out the application of this to all his work, both verse and prose.
And it need but be pointed out in passing how much more satisfactorily
the form of prose fiction lent itself, than the form of verse romance,
to the expression of a creed which, as it had been that of Shakespeare,
so it was the creed of Scott.

But a few words must be added in reference to the complaint which is
often openly made, and which, I understand, is still more often secretly
entertained, or taken for proved, by the younger generation--to wit, the
complaint that Scott is 'commonplace' and 'conventional,' not merely in
thought, but in expression. As to the thought, that is best met by the
reply churlish, if not even by the reproof valiant. Scott's thought is
never commonplace, and never merely conventional: it can only seem so to
those who have given their own judgments in bondage to a conventional
and temporary cant of unconventionality. In respect of expression, the
complaint will admit of some argument which may best take the form of
example. It is perfectly true that Scott's expression is not
'quintessenced'--that it has to a hasty eye an air of lacking what is
called distinction; and, especially, that it has no very definite savour
of any particular time. At present, as at other periods during the
recorded story of literature, there is a marked preference for all these
things which it is not; and so Scott is, with certain persons, in
disfavour accordingly. But it so happens that the study of this now
long record of literature is itself sufficient to convince anyone how
treacherous the tests thus suggested are. There never, for instance, was
an English writer fuller of all the marks which these, our younger
critics, desiderate in Scott, and admire in some authors of our own day,
than John Lyly, the author of _Euphues_, of a large handful of very
charming and interesting court dramas, and of some delightful lyrics.
Those who have to teach literature impress the importance, and try to
impress the interest, of Lyly on students and readers, and they do
right. For he was a man not merely of talent, but (with respect to my
friend Mr. Courthope, who thinks differently), I think, of genius. He
had a poetical fancy, a keen and biting wit, a fairly exact proficiency
in the scholarship of his time. He eschewed the obvious, the commonplace
in thought, and still more in style, as passionately as any man ever has
eschewed it, and, having not merely will and delicacy, but power, he not
only achieved an immense temporary popularity, but even influenced the
English language permanently. Yet--and those who thus praise him know
it--he, the apostle of ornate prose, the model of a whole generation of
the greatest wits that England has seen, the master of Shakespeare in
more things than one, including romantic comedy, the originator of the
English analytic novel, the 'raiser' (as I think they call it) 'of his
native language to a higher power,' is dead. We shall never get anybody
outside the necessarily small number of those who have cultivated the
historic as well as the æsthetic sense in literature, to read him except
as a curiosity or a task, because he not merely cultivated art, but
neglected nature for it; because he fooled the time to the top of its
bent, and let the time fool him in return; because, instead of making
the common as though it were not common, he aimed and strained at the
uncommon _in_ and _per se_.

Scott did just the contrary. He never tried to be unlike somebody else;
if he hit, as he did hit, upon great new styles of
literature,--absolutely new in the case of the historical novel, revived
after long trance in the case of the verse tale,--it was from no desire
to innovate, but because his genius called him. Though in ordinary ways
he was very much a man of his time, he did not contort himself in any
fashion by way of expressing a (then) modern spirit, a Georgian
idiosyncrasy, or anything of that sort; he was content with the language
of the best writers and the thoughts of the best men. He was no amateur
of the topsy-turvy, and had not the very slightest desire to show how a
literary head could grow beneath the shoulders. He was satisfied that
his genius should flow naturally. And the consequence is that it was
never checked, that it flows still for us with all its spontaneous
charm, and that it will flow _in omne volubilis ævum_. Among many
instances of the strength which accompanied this absence of strain one
already alluded to may be mentioned again. Scott is one of the most
literary of all writers. He was saturated with reading; nothing could
happen but it brought some felicitous quotation, some quaint parallel to
his mind from the great wits, or the small, of old. Yet no writer is
less _bookish_ than he; none insults his readers less with any parade,
with any apparent consciousness of erudition; and he wears his learning
so lightly that pedants have even accused him of lacking it because he
lacks pedantry. His stream, to resume the simile, carries in solution
more reading as well as more wit, more knowledge of life and nature,
more gifts of almost all kinds than would suffice for twenty men of
letters, yet the very power of its solvent force, as well as the vigour
of its current, makes these things comparatively invisible.

In dealing with an author so voluminous and so various in his kinds and
subjects of composition, it is a hard matter to say what has to be said
within prescribed limits such as these, just as it is still harder to
select from so copious a store of biographical information details which
may be sufficient, and not more than sufficient, to give a firm and
distinct picture of his life. Yet it may perhaps be questioned whether
very elaborate handling is necessary for Scott. No man probably,
certainly no man of letters, is more of a piece than he. As he has been
subjected to an almost unparalleled trial in the revelation of his
private thoughts, so his literary powers and performances extend over a
range which is unusual, if not absolutely singular, in men of letters of
the first rank. Yet he is the same throughout, in romance as in review,
in novel as in note-writing. Except his dramatic work, a department for
which he seems to have been almost totally unfitted (despite the
felicity of his 'Old Play' fragments), nothing of his can be neglected
by those who wish to enjoy him to the full. Yet though there is no
monotony, there is a uniformity which is all the more delightfully
brought out by the minor variations of subject and kind. The last as the
first word about Scott should perhaps be, 'Read him. And, as far as may
be, read all of him.'

When, in comparatively early days of his acquaintance with Lockhart,
Scott, thinking himself near death in the paroxysms of his cramps,
bequeathed to his future son-in-law, in the words of the ballad, 'the
vanguard of the three,' the duty of burying him and continuing his work,
if possible, he had himself limited the heritage to the defence of
ancient faith and loyalty--a great one enough. But his is, in fact, a
greater. From generation to generation, whosoever determines, in so far
as fate and the gods allow, to hold these things fast, and, moreover, to
love all good literature, to temper erudition with common sense, to let
humour wait always upon fancy, and duty upon romance; whosoever at least
tries to be true to the past, to show a bold front to the present, and
to let the future be as it may; whosoever 'spurns the vulgar' while
endeavouring to be just to individuals, and faces 'the Secret' with
neither bravado nor cringing,--he may take, if not the vanguard, yet a
place according to his worth and merit, in the legion which this great
captain led. Of the frequent parallels or contrasts drawn between him
and Shakespeare it is not the least noteworthy that he is, of all men of
letters, that one of whom we have the most intimate and the fullest
revelation, while of Shakespeare we have the least. There need be very
little doubt that if we knew everything about Shakespeare, he would
come, as a man of mould might, scathless from the test. But we do know
everything, or almost everything, about Scott, and he comes out nearly
as well as anyone but a faultless monster could. For all the works of
the Lord in literature, as in other things, let us give thanks--for
Blake and for Beddoes as well as for Shelley and for Swift. But let
everyone who by himself, or by his fathers, claims origin between
Tol-Pedn-Penwith and Dunnet Head give thanks, with more energy and more
confidence than in any other case save one, for the fact that his is the
race and his the language of Sir Walter Scott.

FOOTNOTES:

[47] So, in a still earlier generation, Johnson, after calling his
step-daughter 'my dearest love,' and writing in the simplest way, will
end, and quite properly, with, 'Madam, your obedient, humble servant.'

[48] He made, as is well known, preparations to 'meet' General Gourgaud,
who was wroth about the _Napoleon_, but who never actually challenged
him.

[49] Most injustice has perforce been done to his miscellaneous verse
lying outside the great poems, and not all of it included in the novels.
It would be impossible to dwell on all the good things, from _Helvellyn_
and _The Norman Horseshoe_ onward; and useless to select a few. Some of
his best things are among them: few are without force, and fire, and
unstudied melody. The song-scraps, like the mottoes, in his novels are
often really marvellous snatches of improvisation.

[50] Il y a plus de philosophie dans ses écrits ... que dans bon nombre
de _romans philosophiques_.

[51] When some tactless person tried to play tricks with the Crown.



INDEX


SCOTT, SIR WALTER:
  Ancestry and parentage, 9, 10;
  birth, 10;
  infancy, 11;
  school and college days, _ibid._;
  apprenticeship, _ibid._;
  friends and early occupations, 12, 13;
  call to the Bar, 12, 14;
  first love, 14-16;
  engagement and marriage, 16;
  briefs, fights, and volunteering, 17;
  journeys to Galloway and elsewhere, 18, 19;
  slowness of literary production and its causes, 20, 21;
  call-thesis and translations of Bürger, 22;
  reception of these last and their merit, 23;
  contributes to _Tales of Wonder_, 24;
  remarks on _Glenfinlas_ and _The Eve of St. John_, 25, 26;
  _Goetz von Berlichingen_ and _The House of Aspen_, 26;
  dramatic work generally, 27, _note_;
  friendship with Leyden, Ritson, and Ellis, 28;
  _Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border_, 28-33;
  contributes to the _Edinburgh Review_, 33-35;
  his domestic life for the first seven years after his marriage, 35-37;
  _The Lay of the Last Minstrel_, 38-46;
  partnership with Ballantyne, 46-50;
  children and pecuniary affairs, 50, 51;
  Clerkship of Session, 51;
  politics during Fox and Grenville administration, 52;
  anecdote of, on Mound, _ibid._;
  _Marmion_, 52-55;
  coolness with _Edinburgh_ and starting of _Quarterly Review_, 55, 56;
  quarrel with Constable, 56, 57;
  affair of Thomas Scott's appointment, 58, 59;
  _The Lady of the Lake_, 59, 60;
  _The Vision of Don Roderick_, 61;
  _Rokeby_, 61-63;
  _The Lord of the Isles_, 63, 64;
  _The Bridal of Triermain_, 64-66;
  _Harold the Dauntless_, 66, 67;
  remarks on the verse romances generally, 67, 68;
  _Waverley_, its origin, character, and reception, 69-76;
  settlement at Abbotsford, 70, 71;
  danger of Ballantyne & Co., and closer alliance with Constable, 71, 72;
  yachting tour, 72;
  _Guy Mannering_, 77-79;
  introduced in London to the Regent and to Byron, 79;
  journey to Brussels, _Field of Waterloo_, and _Paul's Letters_, 79;
  _The Antiquary_, 80;
  original mottoes, 81 and _note_;
  _Old Mortality_ and _Black Dwarf_, 81-84;
  quarrel with Blackwood, 82;
  _Rob Roy_, 84, 85;
  domestic affairs, 85-87;
  _Heart of Midlothian_, 87, 88;
  _Bride of Lammermoor_ and _Legend of Montrose_, 88-91;
  attacked by cramp, 84, 86, 89, _note_;
  domestic affairs, 91-93;
  _Ivanhoe_, 93, 96;
  _The Monastery_, 95, 96;
  _The Abbot_ and _Kenilworth_, 96, 97;
  _The Pirate_, 97, 98;
  _The Fortunes of Nigel_, 99;
  _Peveril of the Peak_, 100;
  _Quentin Durward_, 100, 101;
  _St. Ronan's Well_, 101, 102;
  _Redgauntlet_, 102, 103;
  _Tales of the Crusaders_, 104, 105;
  domestic affairs, to tour in Ireland, 105, 106;
  commercial crisis and fall of Constable and Ballantyne, 106, 107;
  discussion of the facts, 107-114;
  the _Journal_, 114-117;
  death of Lady Scott, 116;
  _Life of Napoleon_, 118-121;
  _Woodstock_, 121-123;
  _Letters of Malachi Malagrowther_, 123;
  'Bonnie Dundee,' _ibid._;
  _Chronicles of the Canongate_, 124-126;
  _Tales of a Grandfather_, 126, 127;
  _The Fair Maid of Perth_ and the '_Magnum Opus_,' 128;
  _Anne of Geierstein_, 129;
  declining health, 130;
  success of the '_Magnum_,' _ibid._;
  stroke of paralysis and resignation of Clerkship, 131;
  _Letters on Demonology_ and Christopher North's criticism, 131, 132;
  _Count Robert of Paris_ and _Castle Dangerous_, 133;
  political annoyances and insults at Jedburgh, 134;
  last visit of Wordsworth and departure for Italy, 135;
  sojourn on the Mediterranean, 136;
  return and death, 137;
  settlement of debts, _ibid._;
  monuments to Scott, 138;
  general view of Scott desirable, 139;
  his physique and conversation, 140;
  his alleged subserviency to rank, 141, 142;
  his moral and religious character, 142, 143;
  his politics, 144;
  characteristics of his thought, 145-147;
  his combination of the practical and the romantic, 147;
  his humour, 148;
  his feeling, 149;
  his style, 150;
  his power of story, 151;
  not 'commonplace,' 151, 154;
  comparison with Lyly, 153;
  final remarks, 155, 156.



OPINIONS OF THE PRESS ON THE "FAMOUS SCOTS" SERIES.


Of THOMAS CARLYLE, by H. C. MACPHERSON, the _British Weekly_ says:--

    "We congratulate the publishers on the in every way attractive
    appearance of the first volume of their new series. The
    typography is everything that could be wished, and the binding
    is most tasteful.... We heartily congratulate author and
    publishers on the happy commencement of this admirable
    enterprise."

The _Literary World_ says:--

    "One of the very best little books on Carlyle yet written, far
    outweighing in value some more pretentious works with which we
    are familiar."

The _Scotsman_ says:--

    "As an estimate of the Carlylean philosophy, and of Carlyle's
    place in literature and his influence in the domains of morals,
    politics, and social ethics, the volume reveals not only care
    and fairness, but insight and a large capacity for original
    thought and judgment."

The _Glasgow Daily Record_ says:--

    "Is distinctly creditable to the publishers, and worthy of a
    national series such as they have projected."

The _Educational News_ says:--

    "The book is written in an able, masterly, and painstaking
    manner."


Of ALLAN RAMSAY, by OLIPHANT SMEATON, the _Scotsman_ says:--

    "It is not a patchwork picture, but one in which the writer,
    taking genuine interest in his subject, and bestowing
    conscientious pains on his task, has his materials well in hand,
    and has used them to produce a portrait that is both lifelike
    and well balanced."

The _People's Friend_ says:--

    "Presents a very interesting sketch of the life of the poet, as
    well as a well-balanced estimate and review of his works."

The _Edinburgh Dispatch_ says:--

    "The author has shown scholarship and much enthusiasm in his
    task."

The _Daily Record_ says:--

    "The kindly, vain, and pompous little wig-maker lives for us in
    Mr. Smeaton's pages."

The _Glasgow Herald_ says:--

    "A careful and intelligent study."


Of HUGH MILLER, by W. KEITH LEASK, the _Expository Times_ says:--

    "It is a right good book and a right true biography.... There is
    a very fine sense of Hugh Miller's greatness as a man and a
    Scotsman; there is also a fine choice of language in making it
    ours."

The _Bookseller_ says:--

    "Mr. Leask gives the reader a clear impression of the
    simplicity, and yet the greatness, of his hero, and the broad
    result of his life's work is very plainly and carefully set
    forth. A short appreciation of his scientific labours, from the
    competent pen of Sir Archibald Geikie, and a useful bibliography
    of his works, complete a volume which is well worth reading for
    its own sake, and which forms a worthy installment in an
    admirable series."

The _Daily News_ says:--

    "Leaves on us a very vivid impression."


Of JOHN KNOX, by A. TAYLOR INNES, Mr. Hay Fleming, in the _Bookman_
says:--

    "A masterly delineation of those stirring times in Scotland, and
    of that famous Scot who helped so much to shape them."

The _Freeman_ says:--

    "It is a concise, well written, and admirable narrative of the
    great Reformer's life, and in its estimate of his character and
    work it is calm, dispassionate, and well balanced.... It is a
    welcome addition to our Knox literature."

The _Speaker_ says:--

    "There is vision in this book, as well as knowledge."

The _Sunday School Chronicle_ says:--

    "Everybody who is acquainted with Mr. Taylor Innes's exquisite
    lecture on Samuel Rutherford will feel instinctively that he is
    just the man to do justice to the great Reformer, who is more to
    Scotland 'than any million of unblameable Scotsmen who need no
    forgiveness.' His literary skill, his thorough acquaintance with
    Scottish ecclesiastical life, his religious insight, his
    chastened enthusiasm, have enabled the author to produce an
    excellent piece of work.... It is a noble and inspiring theme,
    and Mr. Taylor Innes has handled it to perfection."


Of ROBERT BURNS, by GABRIEL SETOUN, the _New Age_ says:--

    "It is the best thing on Burns we have yet had, almost as good
    as Carlyle's Essay and the pamphlet published by Dr. Nichol of
    Glasgow."

The _Methodist Times_ says:--

    "We are inclined to regard it as the very best that has yet been
    produced. There is a proper perspective, and Mr. Setoun does
    neither praise nor blame too copiously.... A difficult bit of
    work has been well done, and with fine literary and ethical
    discrimination."

_Youth_ says:--

    "It is written with knowledge, judgment, and skill.... The
    author's estimate of the moral character of Burns is temperate
    and discriminating; he sees and states his evil qualities, and
    beside these he places his good ones in their fulness, depth,
    and splendour. The exposition of the special features marking
    the genius of the poet is able and penetrating."


Of THE BALLADISTS, by JOHN GEDDIE, the _Birmingham Daily Gazette_
says:--

    "As a popular sketch of an intensely popular theme, Mr. Geddie's
    contribution to the 'Famous Scots Series' is most excellent."

The _Publishers' Circular_ says:--

    "It may be predicted that lovers of romantic literature will
    re-peruse the old ballads with a quickened zest after reading
    Mr. Geddie's book. We have not had a more welcome little volume
    for many a day."

The _New Age_ says:--

    "One of the most delightful and eloquent appreciations of the
    ballad literature of Scotland that has ever seen the light."

The _Spectator_ says:--

    "The author has certainly made a contribution of remarkable
    value to the literary history of Scotland. We do not know of a
    book in which the subject has been treated with deeper sympathy
    or out of a fuller knowledge."





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