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Sir WALTER Scott, descended from one of the Inost ancient families of Scotland—the Scotts of Harden, is the eldest surviving son of a gentleman of the same name, who was an eminent writer to the signet at Edinburgh, where the subject of this sketch was born, August 15, 1771. His mother was Miss Rutherford, daughter of an eminent physician. Many biographers have fallen into the error of confounding this Miss Rutherford with another lady of the same name who afterwards obtained some success as an authoress. Sir Walter Scott alludes to this mistake in the following passage appended as a note to his Remarks on Popular Poetry:• I cannot here suppress some complaint of the newspapers of my own native city, which have repeatedly stated my mother to be the daughter of Mrs Scott of Wauchope, born Miss Rutherford, and daughter of a gentleman of good family of that name, who was a writer to the signet. Mrs Scott of Wauchope was authoress of Corah and other poems, and a correspondent of Burns. My mother was fond of poetry, but contented herself with admiring what she never dreamed of imitating. Dr Rutherford, her father, was a man of high reputation in his time, and one of the four pupils of the celebrated Boerhaave, who first brought the University of Edinburgh into public notice, as a school of medicine. The error which I have noticed, is of very little consequence in itself, but surely when it is thought worth while to mention so trivial a subject, some little care might be taken to make it accurate. Mrs Scott of Wauchope, instead of being my grandmother, was as young as my mother, her supposed daughter. The only points in common between the ladies were, that they were both born of the respectable name of Rutherford, and both changed it by marriage for that of Scott. The circumstance is not much worth notice, but the author is rather too old to be stolen from his | Parents.Walter, from the tenderness of his constitution, and the circumstance of his lameness, occasioned by a fall from his nurse's arms at two years of age, was in a great measure brought up at home, under the immediate care and instruction of this excellent parent, to whom he was much attached
through life, and whose loss he sincerely lamented. Of his early pursuits little is known, except that he evinced a genius for drawing landscapes after nature.—At a proper age he was sent to the High School at Edinburgh, then directed by Dr Alexander Adam. In this school, young Scott passed through the different forms without exhibiting any of those extraordinary powers of genius, which are seldom remembered till the person to whom they are ascribed has become, by the maturity of his talents, an object of distinction. It is said, that he was considered in his boyhood rather heavy than otherwise, and that the late Dr Hugh Blair had discernment enough to predict his future eminence, when the master of the school lamented his dulness; but this only affords another instance of the fallacy of human opinion in pronouncing upon the real capacity of the youthful understanding." Barrow, the greatest scholar of his age, was discarded as a blockhead by successive teachers; and his pupil, the illustrious Newton, was declared to be fit for nothing but to drive the team, till some friends succeeded in getting him transplanted to college.
We learn however from himself that, although not distinguished by application to the routine of school business, the mind of Walter Scott was not inactive, and the future magician of the north was already able to rivet the attention of his schoolfellows by spells as potent, in the circle of their influence, as the maturer efforts of his genius, by which he has brought the whole world within the sphere of his enchantment, have proved to be in theirs. He thus alludes to this circumstance in the Preface to the last edition of the Waverley Novels:—
• The prediction of Dr Blair, here alluded to, arose out of the following circumstances. Shortly after Dr Paterson succeeded to the grammar-school, Musselburgh, where walter Scott was a short time a pupil, Blair, accompanied by some friends, paid him a visit; in the course of which he examined several of his pupils, and paid particular attention to young Scott. Dr Paterson thought it was the youth's stupidity that engaged the doctor's notice, and said, “My predecessor tells mc, that boy has the thickest skull in the school.” “May be so,” replied Dr Blair, a but through that thick skull I can discern many bright rays of future genius.”