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information collected from his desultory studies, had induced many of the leading literary characters of the Scottish metropolis to honour him. In the year 1788 German literature, then almost unknown to the English public, was brought particularly under the notice of the literati, by an Essay on the subject, read to the Royal Society by Henry Mackenzie, the celebrated author of the • Man of Feeling." This essay attracted great attention, particularly in Edinburgh, where the resemblance between the Lowland Scottish and German languages rendered the attainment of the latter comparatively easy. Several young men, amongst whom was Walter Scott, formed a class for the cultivation of the German language and literature. Shortly afterwards, the great success of M. G. Lewis, both as a romancer and balladwriter, in the German school, inspired our young student with the desire of attempting an excursion in the same path; and an opportunity was afforded him in the summer of 1793, by the enthusiasm excited in Edinburgh by Miss Aikin's (afterwards Mrs Burbauld) recitation of a translation, by Taylor, of Bürger's poem of Leonore. Miss Aikin did not leave any copy of this translation in Edinburgh, and Walter Scott having heard of the poem from Dugald Stewart, and with some difficulty obtained a copy of the original, undertook to translate it for his friends, which he did between supper and day-break. He soon afterwards translated - Der Wilde Jager,” and several ballads by Bürger and others, which he distributed among his acquaintance, so much to their satisfaction that he was requested to print them. He accordingly, in 1796, brought out his versions of - Leonora," and the “Wild Huntsmen,” in a thin quarto volume, the sale of which (owing probably to the number of translations of Leonora published about the same time, by Taylor, Pye, spenser and others) was insufficient to cover the expenses of publication. He, however, continued his German studies with great perseverance, and about three years afterwards published a translation of Goethe's tragedy of - Goetz of Berlichingen,” which was but indifferently received. About this time he made his first attempt at original composition in a ballad called - Glenfinlas. " An amusing account of the manner in which this little piece was submitted to the criticisms of the author's friends, and the treatment it received from them, will be found in the - Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry." - Glenfinlas,” together with another ballad called the . Eve of St John,” were given by the author to his friend Monk Lewis, to incorporate in his work called “Tales of Wonder.” The following passage, extracted from the - Introductory Remarks,” before referred
to, proves that the carelessness and indifference to formal rules, which still characterise our author, were equally conspicuous in his early productions:— • In the mean time, my friend Lewis found it no easy matter to discipline his northern recruits. He was a martinet, if I may so term him, in the accuracy of rhymes and of numbers; I may add, he had a right to be so, for few persons have exhibited more mastery of rhyme, or greater command over the melody of poetry. He was, therefore, rigid in exacting similar accuracy from others, and as I was quite unaccustomed to the mechanical part of poetry, and used rhymes which were merely permissible, as readily as those which were legitimate, contests often arose amongst us, which were exasperated by the pertimacity of my Mentor, who, as all who knew him can testify, was no granter of propositions. As an instance of the obstinacy with which I had so lately adopted a tone of defiance to criticism, the reader will find in the Appendix a few specimens of the lectures which I underwent from my friend Lewis, and which did not at the time produce any effect on my inflexibility, though I did not forget them at a future period." A variety of circumstances, unconnected with the intrinsic merit of the work, prevented the • Tales of Wonder from being successful as a bookselling speculation, though the ballads of Scott obtained favourable notice from the critics. In 1798 Mr Scott had married Miss Carpentier, a French lady, and in 18oo was appointed SheriffDepute of the county of Selkirk; a situation which, though productive of an emolument of 3ool. per annum, allowed him more time to prosecute his favourite studies than was compatible with the active exercise of forensic duties in Edinburgh. This opportunity was not neglected, and, drawing on his extensive stores of Border lore, he produced, in 1892, his first great work, in two volumes, which was called « The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," beautifully printed at Kelso, by Ballantyne. This collection immediately arrested general attention, and though the pieces of which it is composed are very unequal, the master-mind and soaring genius of the poet are conspicuous throughout. In 1803 he produced a third volume of this work. The studies of our author at this time were entirely antiquarian. He lived and breathed only among the knights, the heroes, the monks, and robbers of olden time; the feats of chivalry, and the rough heroism of northern warfare and border feuds, were the scenes in which his soul delighted to dwell. He drank deeply of the stream of history as it darkly flowed over the middle ages, and his spirit seemed for a time to be im
bued with the mysteries, the superstitions, and | temporaries as fitter to discharge the duty due to
the romantic valour which characterised the then chieftains of the north countrie.
This disposition showed itself not only in his poetical efforts, but in an attempt which, though not prosecuted far enough to be then given to the world, has now been communicated by the author to the public in his general Preface to the Waverley Novels; this was the beginning of a work intended to be - in the style of the Castle of Otranto, with plenty of border characters and supernatural incident." The specimen we have of this work does not afford much ground to regret its being only a fragment.
From this period our author appears to have devoted himself systematically to literary pursuits, and to have considered his legal occupations as entirely secondary. In his Introduction to the last edition of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, he says, • It may be readily supposed that the attempts which I had made in literature had been unfavourable to my success at the bar. The goddess Themis is, at Edinburgh, and I suppose everywhere else, of a peculiarly jealous disposition. She will not readily consent to share her authority, and sternly demands from her votaries not only that real duty be carefully attended to and discharged, but that a certain air of business shall be observed even in the midst of total idleness. It is prudent, if not absolutely necessary, in a young barrister, to appear completely engrossed by his profession; however destitute of employment he may be, he ought to preserve, if possible, the appearance of full occupation. He should at least seem perpetually engaged among his lawpapers, dusting them, as it were; and, as Ovid advises the fair,
Sinullus erit pulvis, tamen excute nullum..
After alluding to the exception afforded in modern times by Mr Jeffrey's success, both at the bar and in literature, he continues:–
• But this is an incident much beyond the ideas of a period of thirty years' distance, when a barrister who really possessed any turn for lighter literature, was at as much pains to conceal it, as if it had in reality been something to be ashamed of; and I could mention more than one instance in which literature and society have suffered loss, that jurisprudence might be enriched.
• Such, however, was not my case; for the reader will not wonder that my open interference with matters of light literature diminished my employment in the weightier matters of the law. Nor did the solicitors, upon whose choice the counsel takes rank in his profession, do me less than justice, by regarding others among my con
their clients, than a young man who was taken up with running after ballads, whether Teutonic or national. My profession and I, therefore, came to stand nearly upon the footing on which honest Slender consoled himself with having established with Mistress Anne Page; “There was no great love between us at the beginning, and it pleased Heaven to decrease it on farther acquaintance.' I became sensible that the time was come when I must either buckle myself resolutely to the “toil by day, the lamp by night, renouncing all the Delilahs of my imagination, or bid adieu to the profession of the law, and hold another course. • I confess my own inclination revolted from the more severe choice, which might have been deemed by many the wiser alternative. As my transgressions had been numerous, my repentance must have been signalized by unusual sacrifices. I ought to have mentioned, that since my fourteenth or fifteenth year, my health, originally delicate, had become extremely robust. From infancy I had laboured under the infirmity of a severe lameness, but, as I believe is usually the case with men of spirit who suffer under personal inconveniences of this nature, I had, since the improvement of my health, in defiance of this incapacitating circumstance, distinguished myself by the endurance of toil on foot or horseback, having often walked thirty miles a-day, and rode upwards of a hundred, without stopping. In this manner I made many pleasant journeys through parts of the country then not very accessible, gaining more amusement and instruction than I have been able to acquire since I have travelled in a more commodious manner. I practised most silvan sports also, with some success, and with great delight. But these pleasures must have been all resigned, or used with great moderation, had I determined to regain my station at the bar. It was even doubtful whether I could, with perfect character as a jurisconsult, retain a situation in a volunteer corps of cavalry, which I then held. The threats of invasion were at this time instant and menacing; the call by Britain on her children was universal, and was answered by many, who, like myself, consulted rather their will than their ability to bear arms. My services, however, were found useful in assisting to maintain the discipline of the corps, being the point on which their constitution rendered them most amenable to military criticism. In other respects, the squadron was a fine one, consisting of handsome men, well mounted and armed at their own expense. My attention to the corps took up a good deal of time; and while it occupied many of the happiest hours of my life, it furnished an additional reason for my reluctance again to encounter the severe course of study indispensable to success in the juridical profession.” His next production was - Sir Tristrem, a metrical romance of the thirteenth century, by Thomas of Ercildoun," printed in 1804. Still, however, Mr Scott may be said as yet to have been only rising in fame: but he soon gained enough to have intoxicated an ordinary mind in the applause bestowed upon his - Lay of the Last Minstrel, - which appeared, in quarto, in 1805. It appears, from the introduction prefixed to the last edition of this poem, that the incident of the goblin page, which some critics have objected to as an excrescence upon the poem, was in fact the first foundation of the work. The incidents which occasioned the production of this poem, and the chain of circumstances and considerations which induced the author to select the unusual measure and rhythm adopted so successfully in it, are detailed in a minute and interesting manner in the Introduction referred to, but are too long to be quoted here. It appears also from the same introduction, that the poem was originally brought out on the usual terms of a division of profits be|tween the author and the booksellers, but the latter soon afterwards purchased Mr Scott's interest for 5ool., to which they subsequently added loot. more, in consequence of the uncommon success of the work. Upwards of 30,000 copies were disposed of by the trade. It was about this time that the first idea of Waverley appears to have suggested itself to Mr Scott's mind. He thus details the incident in his general Preface to the novels, already referred to:- I had been a good deal in the Highlands at a time when they were much less accessible, and much less visited, than they have been of late years, and was acquainted with many of the old warriors of 1745, who were, like most veterans, easily induced to fight their battles over again, for the benefit of a willing listener like myself. It naturally occurred to me, that the ancient traditions and high spirit of a people, who, living in a civilised age and country, retained so strong a tincture of manners belonging to an early period of society, must afford a subject favourable for romance, if it should not prove a curious tale marred in the telling. • It was with some idea of this kind, that, about the year 1805, I threw together about onethird part of the first volume of Waverley. It was advertised to be published by the late Mr John Ballantyne, bookseller in Edinburgh, under the name of “Waverley, or 'tis Fifty Years since, —a title afterwards altered to ‘’T is Sixty Years since, that the actual date of publication
might be made to correspond with the period in which the scene was laid. Having proceeded as far, I think, as the Seventh Chapter, I showed my work to a critical friend, whose opinion was unfavourable; and having then some poetical reputation, I was unwilling to risk the loss of it by attempting a new style of composition. I therefore threw aside the work I had commenced, without either reluctance or remonstrance. I ought to add, that though my ingenious friend's sentence was afterwards reversed, on an appeal to the public, it cannot be considered as any imputation on his good taste; for the specimen subjected to his criticism did not extend beyond the departure of the hero for Scotland, and, consequently, had not entered upon the part of the story which was finally found most interesting. • Be that as it may, this portion of the manuscript was laid aside in the drawers of an old writing-desk, which, on my first coming to reside at Abbotsford, in 1811, was placed in a lumber garret, and entirely forgotten. Thus, though I sometimes, among other literary avocations, turned my thoughts to the continuation of the romance which I had commenced, yet as I could not find what I had already written, after searching such repositories as were within my reach, and was too indolent to attempt to write it anew from memory, I as often laid aside all thoughts of that nature.” It was only by mere accident that, two years afterwards, Mr Scott, in looking for some fishing tackle, found the long-lost manuscript in the old writing-desk before-mentioned: he immediately completed it, and from its appearance, in 1814, dates the never-dying celebrity of the author of Waverley. But to return from this digression; in 1806, Mr Scott published the Memoirs of Sir Henry Slingsby in one volume, and also a collection of . Ballads and Lyrical Pieces;" the same year saw him appointed to a situation which greatly increased his worldly prosperity. As the incidents attending this appointment are equally honourable to Mr Scott and to his political opponents, we shall quote his own words from the introduction to the last edition of Marmion :• An important circumstance had, about the same time, taken place in my life. Hopes had been held out to me from an influential quarter, of a nature to relieve me from the anxiety which I must have otherwise felt, as one upon the precarious tenure of whose own life rested the principal prospects of his family, and especially as one who had necessarily some dependence upon the favour of the public, which is proverbially capricious; though it is but justice to add, that, in my own case, I have not found it so. Mr Pitt had expressed a wish to my personal friend, the Right Honourable William Dundas, now Lord Clerk Register of Scotland, that some fitting opportunity should be taken to be of service to me; and as my views and wishes pointed to a future rather than an immediate provision, an opportunity of accomplishing this was soon found. One of the Principal Clerks of Session, as they are called (official persons who occupy an important and responsible situation, and enjoy a considerable income), who had served upwards of thirty years, felt himself, from age, and the infirmity of deafness with which it was accompanied, desirous of retiring from his official situation. As the law then stood, such official persons were entitled to bargain with their successors, either for a sum of money, which was usually a considerable one, or for an interest in the emoluments of the office during their life. My predecessor, whose services had been unusually meritorious, stipulated for the emoluments of the office during his life, while I should enjoy the survivorship, on the condition that Idischarged the duties of the office in'the meantime. Mr Pitt, however, having died in the interval, his administration was dissolved, and was succeeded by that known by the name of the Fox and Grenville Ministry. My affair was so far completed, that my commission lay in the office subscribed by his Majesty; but, from hurry or mistake, the interest of my predecessor was not expressed in it, as had been usual in such cases. Although, therefore, it only required payment of the fees, I could not in honour take out the commission in the present state, since, in the event of my dying before him, the gentleman whom I succeeded must have lost the vested interest which he had stipulated to retain. I had the honour of an interview with Earl Spenceron the subject, and he, in the most handsome manner, gave directions that the commission should issue as originally intended; adding, that the matter having received the royal assent, he regarded only as a claim of justice what he would have willingly done as an act of favour. I never saw Mr Fox on this, or on any other occasion, and never made any application to him, conceiving that in doing so I might have been supposed to express political opinions contrary to those which I had always professed. In his private capacity, there is no man to whom I would have been more proud to owe an obligation, had I been so distinguished. • By this arrangement I obtained the survivorship of an office the emoluments of which were fully adequate to my wishes; and as the law respecting the mode of providing for superannuated officers was, about five or six years after, altered from that which admitted the arrangement of as
sistant and successor, my colleague very handsomely took the opportunity of the alteration to accept of a retiring annuity provided in such cases, and admitted me to the full benefit of the office.” In the year 1807, the attention of our author was again turned towards prose composition by an engagement made with Mr Murray, an incident unimportant in itself, but which acquires interest from its having been in some measure instrumental in inducing Mr Scott to resume his intention of completing Waverley. In the Preface to the novels, so often referred to, the anecdote is thus related:— • In the year 1807-8, I undertook, at the request of John Murray, Esq. of Albemarle-street, to arrange for publication some posthumous productions of the late Mr Joseph Strutt, distinguished as an artist and an antiquary, amongst which was an unfinished romance, entitled “QueenHoo-Hall.' The scene of the tale was laid in the reign of Henry VI, and the work was written to illustrate the manners, customs, and language of the people of England during that period. The extensive acquaintance which Mr Strutt had acquired with such subjects in compiling his laborious “Horda Angel Cynnan, his ‘Royal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, and his ‘Essay on the Sports and Pastimes of the People of England,’ had rendered him familiar with all the antiquarian lore necessary for the purpose of composing the projected romance; and although the manuscript bore the marks of hurry and incoherence natural to the first rough draught of the author, it evinced (in my opinion) considerable powers of imagination. • As the work was unfinished, I deemed it my duty, as Editor, to supply such a hasty and imartificial conclusion as could be shaped out from the story of which Mr Strutt had laid the foundation. This concluding chapter is also added to the present Introduction, for the reason already mentioned regarding the preceding fragment. It was a step in my advance towards romantic composition; and to preserve the traces of these is in a great measure the object of this Essay. • Queen-Hoo-Hall was not, however, very successful. I thought I was aware of the reason, and supposed that, by rendering his language too ancient, and displaying his antiquarian knowledge too liberally, the ingenious author had raised up an obstacle to his own success. Every work designed for mere amusement must be expressed in language easily comprehended; and when, as is sometimes the case in Queen-Hoo-Hall, the author addresses himself exclusively to the Antiquary, he inust be content to be dismissed by the general reader with the criticism of Mungo, in the Padlock, on the Mauritanian music, ‘What signifies me hear, if me no understand?
- I conceived it possible to avoid this error; and by rendering a similar work more light and obvious to general comprehension, to escape the rock on which my predecessor was shipwrecked. But I was, on the other hand, so far discouraged by the indifferent reception of Mr Strutt's romance, as to become satisfied that the manners of the middle ages did not possess the interest which I had conceived; and was led to form the opinion that a romance, founded on a Highland story, and more modern events, would have a better chance of popularity than a tale of chivalry. My thoughts, therefore, returned more than once to the tale which I had actually commenced, and accident at length threw the lost sheets in my way.”
From the time, however, of the publication of the -Lay of the Last Minstrel," Mr Scott entertained the idea of writing a poem on which he intended to bestow the greatest labour, in the hope of rendering it free from the looseness of style which characterised his former productions, and making it a monument which might perpetuate for him an unalloyed and spotless poetic fame. This work was Marmion ; and the author appears to look back with peculiar pleasure to the time occupied in its composition, and to the frame of mind which induced those familiar epistles prefixed as introductions to the several cantos, which though useless as aids to the conduct of the poem, are at once the most elegant and least faulty specimens of the poetic talent of the author. This poem, was, however, prematurely given to the world, and it was with reference to the circumstances connected with its publication that Lord Byron wrote the well-known lines in his - English Bards, - ending with
For this we scorn Apollo's venal son,
Notwithstanding the good terms on which Byron and Scott were at a later period, this passage still appears to have left an unpleasant sensation on the mind of the latter, as in his new Introduction to Marmion, published in 1830, he thus expresses himself on the subject:—
. The misfortunes of a near relation and friend, which happened at this time, led me to alter my prudent determination, which had been, to use great precaution in sending this poem into the world; and made it convenient at least, if not absolutely necessary, to hasten its publication. The publishers of “The Lay of the Last Minstrel, emboldened by the success of that poem, willingly offered a thousand pounds for " Marmion.' The transaction being no secret, afforded Lord Byron, who was then at general war with all who black
ed paper, an opportunity to include me in his satire, entitled “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.' I never could conceive how an arrangement between an author and his publishers, if satisfactory to the persons concerned, could afford matter of censure to any third party. I had taken no unusual or ungenerous means of enhancing the value of my merchandise, -I had never higgled a moment about the bargain, but accepted at once what I considered the handsome offer of my publishers. These gentlemen, at least, were not of opinion that they had been taken advantage of in the transaction, which indeed was one of their own framing; on the contrary, the sale of the Poem was so far beyond their expectation, as to induce them to supply the author's cellars with what is always an acceptable present to a young Scottish housekeeper, namely, a hogshead of excellent claret. • The Poem was finished in too much haste, to allow me an opportunity of softening down, if not removing, some of its most prominent defects." The sale of this work exceeded the most lavish expectations of its author, 36,000 copies having been sold previous to the year 1825. During the same year, which was distinguished by the appearance of a Marinion,” Mr Scott favoured the world with a complete edition of the Works of Dryden, in which he gave a new life of that great writer, and numerous notes. But this was not the only instance of the fecundity of his genius and the rapidity of his pen, for, while these volumes were proceeding through the press, he found time for a quarto of a Descriptions and lllustrations of the Lay of the Last Minstrel,” and a volume of the Memoirs of Captain George Carleton. • Within a few months after this he undertook, at the request of the booksellers, the superintendence of a new edition of Lord Somers's collection of Historical Tracts; and at the same time edited Sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers, Anna Seward's Letters and Poetical Works, and the Memoirs of Sir Robert Cary. Yet the very year in which these last publications appeared witnessed the birth of another original offspring of his prolific muse. This was . The Lady of the Lake,” the most popular of all his poems, though, in the opinion of many, inferior in several respects to his Lay of the Last Minstrel." On the composition of this poem, and the versification of the local details, the author bestowed unusual pains, which he describes with considerable minuteness in his introduction to the new edition of it, published in 1830. He appears fully aware that this was the last act of his poetic reign, and accordingly winds up that introb