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man until his image was indelibly engraven on my organs of vision; and, were I a portrait painter, I could now paint his likeness from recollection. Observing I was a stranger, placed in the advocates' seat, and no advocate, and appearing, I have no doubt, very curious, he gazed upon me —we looked at each other, like poor Sterne and the fair glover, for some time—it was curiosity in me, but condescension in him.” It is not generally known that there was a poet of the name of Walter Scott, before the present celebrated bard. He lived about the middle of the seventeenth century, and describes himself as
An old souldier and no scholler; And one that can write none But just the letters of his name.
On the death of his grandfather, Sir Robert Scott, of Thirlstone, his father, having no means to bring up his children, put this Walter to attend cattle in the field; - but,” says he, - I gave them the short cut at last, and left the kine in the corn; and ever since that time, I have continued a souldier abroad and at home." He left a poem written at the age of seventy-three, dedicated to two gentlemen of the name of Scott, which he thus concludes:
Begone my book, stretch forth thy wings and fly,
Some time since, at a private dinner-party, Sir Walter Scott, Mr H. Mackenzie," and Mr Alison” happened to be present. In taking their seats, sans cérémonie, the baronet found himself placed between these two illustrious individuals. The relative position of these three celebrated characters soon attracted the attention of a gentleman present, who exclaimed—
Our host hath his guests most happily placed; See Genius supported by feeling and rasts.
We know of no species of composition so delightful as that which presents us with personal anecdotes of eminent men ; and if its greatest charm be in the gratification of our curiosity, it is a curiosity, at least, that has its origin in enthusiasm. We are anxious to know all that is possible to be known of those who have an honoured place in public opinion. It is not merely
* The celebrated author of the “Man of Feeling.» • Author of a Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste.”
that every circumstance derives a value from the person to whom it relates; but an apparently insignificant anecdote often throws an entirely new light on the history of the most admired works: the most noble actions, intellectual discoveries, or brilliant deeds, though they shed a broad and lasting lustre round those who have achieved them, occupy but a small portion of the life of an individual; and we are not unwilling to penetrate the dazzling glory, and to see how the remaining intervals are filled up—to look into the minor details, to detect incidental foibles, and to be satisfied what qualities they have in common with ourselves, as well as distinct from us, entitled to our pity, or raised above our imitation.
The heads of great men, in short, are not all we
want to get a sight of; we wish to add the limbs, the drapery, the back-ground. It is thus that, in the intimacy of retirement, we enjoy with thern • calm contemplation and poetic ease.” We see the careless smile play upon their expressive features; we hear the dictates of unstudied wisdom, or the sallies of sportive wit, fall without disguise from their lips; we see, in fine, how poets, and philosophers, and scholars, live, converse and behave. The dreadful crisis consequent on the commercial panic of 1825, which began with the bankers and ended with the booksellers, caused the failure of the house of Constable and Co. of Edinburgh, who were not only the publishers of our author's works, but with whom he was associated in business, as a sleeping partner. This disastrous event necessarily removed the thin veil which had hitherto concealed the - Great Unknown" from the full gaze of an admiring public. The avowal of Sir Walter himself was made at the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund Dinner on the 23d February, 1827. Sir Walter Scott was in the chair, and previous to the commencement of dinner Lord Meadowbank asked him whether he still wished to preserve his incognito respecting the novels. Sir Walter replied that it was now a matter of indifference to him. Lord Meadowbank, without any further communication with him, took occasion, in proposing his health, to allude to the novels in so pointed a manner that Sir Walter was compelled to notice it, which he did to the following effect. • He said he certainly did not think that, in coming here to-day, he would have the task of acknowledging, before three hundred gentlemen, a secret which, considering that it was com— municated to more than twenty people, was remarkably well kept. He was now before the bar of his country, and might be understood to be on trial before Lord Meadowbank as an offender; yet he was sure that every impartial jury would bring in a verdict of Not Proven. He did not now
think it necessary to enter into the reasons of his long silence. Perhaps he might have acted from caprice. He had now to say, however, that the aerits of these works, if they had any, and i their faults, were entirely imputable to himself. Long and loud cheering.) He was afraid to think an what he had done. “Look on't again I dare | not." He had thus far unbosomed himself, and | he knew that it would be reported to the public. He meant, when he said that he was the author, that he was the total and undivided author. with the exception of quotations, there was not a single word that was not derived from himself, or suggested in the course of his reading. The wand was now broken, and the rod buried. You will allow me further to say, with Prospero, T is your breath that has filled my sails; and to craveone single toast in the capacity of the author of these novels: and he would dedicate a bumper to the health of one who has represented some of those characters, of which he had endeavoured to give the skeleton, with a degree of liveliness which rendered him grateful. He would propose the bealth of his friend Bailie Nicol Jarvie –(loud applause), –and he was sure, that when the author of waverley and Rob Roy drinks to Nicol Jarvie, it would be received with that degree of appinase to which that gentleman has always been accustomed, and that they would take care that, on the present occasion, it should be prodigious!" (Long and vehement applause.) when Sir Walter had thus declared, a propos to notbing, that he was the man who had so long concealed his features under the mask of the author of waverley, all the world stared, not so much at the unexpectedness of the disclosure, for it was virtually well-known before, but that the declaration should be made at that particular acturnt, when there appeared no reason for rewealing the quasi secret. The reason, however, was hot too soon made known to the world. The unfortunate position of the affairs of Constable and Co., and of Ballantyne and Co., with the latter of which firms Sir Walter Scott was connected, rendered it necessary that their acruants should not only be looked into, but exposed to the creditors. The transactions recorded there show explicitly enough who was the author of waverley;-we not only find Sir Walter Scott receives payinent for these works, but we find bin, stipulating for the purchase-money of works then unconceived, and of yielding up every stiver, or its worth, which he could command, but actually pledging future labours akin to former
one, for the liquidation of his debts. These, and
Mr Maekar, the well-known representative of that *er on the Edinburgh boards.
a variety of other particulars are to be found in the excerpts of the sederunt book of the meetings of Messrs Ballantyne's creditors, a copy of which was in private circulation soon after their failure. Hence the sudden, and, it must be added, rather awkward avowal of the authorship on the part of Sir Walter. As he was well aware that the circumstances would soon make their way through the press, he determined to catch at some little éclat, while yet there was time—some little credit for disclosing that himself, which all the world were soon to learn from others.
• These are items from the accounts.
“Value of Sir Walter Scott's literary property.
‘1. Copyright of published works, estimated at the rate obtained from Constable and Co. for similar works."
St Roman's Well . . . . 1,300l. Redgauntlet . . . . . 1,300 Crusaders . . . 2,000
“2. Eventual rights to works sold to Constable and Co. for which bonds to the extent of 7,800l. are granted, but for reasons above stated, no value can be rated in this state.” ‘3. Works in progress.” As none of these are completed, no value is put on them at present beyond what is before stated as due to Ballantyne and Co. for printing works in progress, and on the value of Messrs Constable and Co.'s paper on hand; but ultimately will be very valuable. See Appendix as to these works. • In the debtor and creditor account of Constable and Co. with Ballantyne and Co., the following item occurs on the credit side:—Sums advanced by Constable and Co. to Sir walter Scott, being their two-third shares of sums stipulated to be paid in advance for two works of fiction not named, and not yet written, as per missives, dated 7th and 2 oth March, 1823. • These works being undelivered, it is considered the author has an undoubted right to retain them," and impute the sums paid to account in the general balance owing to Constable and Co. • In Appendix, No. 11, being estimates of funds that may accrue to Ballantyne and Co. within a
* “This price is that given for the subsequent editions, after the first of loooo.”
2 < It is a condition of these bonds. that if they are not paid, the copyrights revert to the author; so that, in spite of the failure of the granters, it is supposed they will be paid.”
3 * This alludes to the Life of Napoleon.”
4 * Were the right the other way, it would be a very difficult matter to enforce it. An author of works of fiction is not to be delivered against his will; a legal process to force Sir Walter Scott to produce a couple of novels, would be the Caesarean operation in literature.”
• At the second meeting of creditors, held 3d February, 1826, a resolution is entered, that the printing establishment should be continued, both as a source of profit, and as necessary for the publication of Sir W. Scott's works: who had requested of Mr Gibson to coinmunicate, that he was to use every exertion in his power on behalf of the greditors; and by the diligent employment of his talents, and adoption of a strictly economical mode of life, to secure, as speedily as possible, full payment to all concerned.
... The cause of the delay in the publication of the Life of Napoleon will be found in the following minute :
• ‘The circumstances connected with the two
literary works, entitled Woodstock, and The
Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, having been considered; the trustees expressed their opinion, that so far as they understood the nature of the bargain between Sir Walter Scott and Constable and Co., the latter had no claim in law for the proceeds of either of these books; but think it desirable for all parties that they should be finished, which should be communicated to Sir Walter; and also, that he should be requested to give his aid to the sale of them to the best advantage.—Mr Gibson was instructed to endeavour to concert some arrangement with Constable and Co. for consigning in some bank the price of the works, until all questions concerning them were decided.'
• On the 26th May, 1826, a meeting was held, when Mr Gibson reported particulars of sale of Woodstock, 7,900 copies of which had been sold to Hurst and Robinson, at 6,500l.: but they being unable to complete the bargain, they had been transferred to Longman and Co. on same terms. • The money had been paid, and was deposited with Sir W. Forbes and Co., to wait the issue of the decision as to the respective claims of Constable and Co. and Sir W. Scott's trustees, regarding this work. The remainder of the impression had been sold to Constable and Co.'s trustee at 18s. 6d. each copy, “at a credit of ten months from delivery, with five per cent, discount for any earlier payment, of which the trustees approved. In consequence of advice from Sir Walter Scott and Longman and Co., it had been thought advisable to restrict the first edition of the Life of Napoleon to 6,ooo, instead of 8,000 copies, as originally intended. • The excerpts contain a great number of items, which lay open the precise state of Sir Walter's private affairs; a hundred years hence they may be a great curiosity, and their publication may then be correct; at present it would certainly be indelicate and unhandsome, not only to the admirable writer himself, but also to several other private individuals. Every thing belonging to a great national genius is public property, and in the course of a short time these excerpts will be sought for with avidity, and published with as little hesitation as Mr Todd lately printed Milton's pecuniary squabbles with his mother-in-law.” The public disclosure of this long-preserved secret, though immediately occasioned by a heavy misfortune, has in its result been productive of much advantage both to the author and the public, by affording an opportunity for the publication of the new edition of the novels now in progress, which appearing under the sanction of the author's name, and with notes and historical illustrations added by himself, has attained a popularity eclipsing even the most brilliant success of the original
publications. From the general Preface to this edition we quote the following passage, in which the author gives an account of his motives for preserving the incognito so long. - Waverley was published in 1814, and as the title-page was without the name of the author, the work was left to win its way in the world without any of the usual recommendations. Its progress was for some time slow; but fter the first two or three months, its popularity had increased in a degree which must have satisfied the expectations of the author, had these been far more sanguine than he ever entertained. • Great anxiety was expressed to learn the name of the author, but on this no authentic information could be attained. My original motive for publishing the work anonymously, was the consciousness that it was an experiment on the public taste which might very probably fail, and therefore there was no occasion to take on myself the personal risk of discomfiture. For this purpose considerable precautions were used to preserve secrecy. My old friend and schoolfellow, Mr James Ballantyne, who printed these Novels, had the exclusive task of corresponding with the author, who thus had not only the advantage of his professional talents, but also of his critical abilities. The original manuscript, or, as it is technically called, copy, was transcribed under Mr Ballantyne's eye by confidential persons; nor was there an instance of treachery during the many years in which these precautions were resorted to, although various individuals were employed at different times. Double proof-sheets were regularly printed off one was forwarded to the author by Mr Ballantyne, and the alterations which it received were, by his own hand, copied upon the other proof-sheet for the use of the printers, so that even the corrected proofs of the author were never seen in the printing-office; and thus the curiosity of such eager inquirers as made the most minute investigation, was entirely at fault. - But although the cause of concealing the author's name in the first instance, when the reception of Waverley was doubtful, was natural enough, it is more difficult, it may be thought, to account for the same desire for secrecy during the subsequent editions, to the amount of betwixt eleven and twelve thousand copies, which followed each other close, and proved the success of the work. I am sorry I can give little satisfaction to queries on this subject. I have already stated elsewhere, that I can render little better reason for chusing to remain anonymous, than by saying with Shylock, that such was my humour. It will be observed, that I had not the usual stimulus for desiring personal reputation, the desire, namely, to float amidst the conversation of men. Of literary fame, whe
ther merited or undeserved, I had already as much as might have contented a mind more ambitious than mine; and in entering into this new contest for reputation, I might be said rather to endanger what I had, than to have any considerable chance of acquiring more. I was aftected, too, by none of those motives which, at an earlier period of life, would doubtless have operated upon me. My friendships were formed,—my place in society fixed,—my life had attained its middle course. My condition in society was higher perhaps than I deserved, certainly as high as I wished, and there was scarce any degree of literary success which could have greatly altered or improved my personal condition. • I was not, therefore, touched by the spur of ambition, usually stimulating on such occasions; and yet I ought to stand exculpated from the charge of ungracious or unbecoming indifference to public applause. I did not the less feel gratitude for the public favour, although I did not proclaim it, as the lover who wears his mistress's favour in his bosom, is as proud, though not so vain of possessing it, as another who displays the token of her grace upon his bonnet. Far from such an ungracious state of mind, I have seldom felt more satisfaction than when, returning from a pleasure voyage, I found Waverley in the zenith of popularity, and public curiosity in full cry after the name of the author. The knowledge that I had the public approbation, was like having the property of a hidden treasure, not less gratifying to the owner than if all the world knew that it was his own. Another advantage was connected with the secrecy which I observed. I could appear, or retreat from the stage at pleasure, without attracting any personal notice or attention, other than what might be founded on suspicion only. In my own person also, as a successful author in another department of literature, I might have been charged with too frequent intrusions on the public patience; but the Author of Waverley was in this respect as impassible to the critic as the Ghost of Hamlet to the partisan of Marcellus. Perhaps the curiosity of the public, irritated by the existence of a secret, and kept afloat by the discussions which took place on the subject from time to time, went a good way to maintain an unabated interest in these frequent publications. There was a mystery concerning the author, which each new novel was expected to assist in unravelling, although it might in other respects rank lower than its predecessors. • I may perhaps be thought guilty of affectation, should I allege as one reason of my silence, a secret dislike to enter on personal discussions concerning my own literary labours. It is in every case a dangerous intercourse for an author to be e
dwelling continually among those who make his writings a frequent and familiar subject of conversation, but who must necessarily be partial judges of works composed in their own society. The habits of self-importance, which are thus acquired by authors, are highly injurious to a well-regulated mind; for the cup of flattery, if it does not, like that of Circe, reduce men to the level of beasts, is sure, if eagerly drained, to bring the best and the ablest down to that of fools. This risk was in some degree prevented by the mask which I wore; and my own stores of self-conceit were left to their natural course, without being enhanced by the partiality of friends, or adulation of flatterers. * If I am asked further reasons for the conduct I have long observed, I can only resort to the explanation supplied by a critic as friendly as he is intelligent; namely, that the mental organization of the Novelist must be characterised, to speak craniologically, by an extraordinary development of the passion for delitescency! I the rather suspect some natural disposition of this kind; for, from the instant I perceived the extreme curiosity manifested on the subject, I felt a secret satisfaction in baffling it, for which, when its unimportance is considered, I do not well know how to account.” We may here mention, that in addition to the literary labours which we have particularised, Sir Walter Scott edited and wrote memoirs for Ballantyne's edition of the Novelists. He was also the Editor of the historical portion of the Edinburgh Annual Register for the years 1814 and 1815, and during the years 1818 and 1819 published his communications to Mr Jameson's edition of Burt's Letters, two volumes of Provincial Antiquities, and an account of the Regalia of Scotland. In 1820 he published . The Visionary - in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal, and in 1822 edited Gwynne's Memoirs of the Great Civil War in 1653-4. In 1826, some letters originally published by him in one of the journals, under the signature of Malachi Malagrowther, were collected in a small volume; and in the early part of the following year, in addition to the Preface to the Memoirs of Larochejaquelin, for Constable's Miscellany, he brought out an edition of his own Miscellaneous Prose Works in 6 volumes, in which were comprised his Lives of Dryden, Swift, the Novelists, Sir R. Sadler, Miss Seward, Dr Leyden, Duke of Buccleugh, Lord Somerville, King George III, Lord Byron, and the Duke of York, and also Paul's i.etters, and some Essayson Chivalry, Romance, and the Drama, originally printed in the Supplement to the Eucyclopedia Britannica. The same year he produced his Life of NapoleoN Bonaparte, a production of which neither our limits, nor our
inclinations, will allow us to say much. In an
historical point of view it possesses few merits, and, we are constrained to admit, is equally unworthy of the extraordinary character it treats of, as of its author's splendid literary reputation. The extent and importance of the subject were calculated to afford an ample scope for the display of the very highest ability. A more exciting theme of narration—a fairer field of philosophical contemplation, was never before given to kindle the eloquence, to exercise the wisdom and skill, or to stimulate the intellectual ambition of the historian. Yet, notwithstanding the unquestionable powers of the celebrated author—notwithstanding the fame which he had a set upon the cast”—the magnitude of the occasion, and all the inspiring circumstances of the undertaking, it would be vain to deny that the work, upon the whole, is a failure. The book has, evidently, been written in haste and with negligence; the author has given himself no time either for the well-digested arrangement of facts, or profound reflection on the great combimations of political action. He has not, in simple language, studied his subject; but has put together an immense mass of materials, as rapidly as they accumulated under his hands, with little care in the selection, and no thought for their relative importance and measurement. It is, in short, a voluminous compilation, executed indeed with wonderful celerity, and adorned with brilliant passages, but nothing worthy either of the genius of Walter Scott or the true dignity of history. But the real cause of his failure in writing the history of our eventful times inust not be traced either to ignorance or incapacity. It is too visible that lower considerations than the generous love of fame inspired the author. Hence, only, the haste, the negligence, the prolixity of the composition, the want of compression, of reviewing, of deliberate arrangement—At the same time, we should be guilty of great injustice if we failed to remark the extraordinary skill displayed by Sir Walter Scott in the relation of military events.
Not only are the shifting alarums of the battlefield exhibited with all the eager animation, all the picturesque and dramatic energy of description,
which were to be looked for from the Author of Waverley,” but the plans of campaign, and the
movements of armies, are explained in a clear and
methodical style, which evinces a perfect acquaint
ance with the principles of strategy.—Finally, of the third volume we are bound to speak in terms of unqualified commendation. It forms the most exciting and delightful fragment of heroic biography with which we are acquainted."
1 It is with much regret that we feel ourselves o to notice an unpleasant epistolary discussion, which has arisen betwccn General Gourgaud and Sir Walter Scott. in consequence of some passages in the latter's « Life of