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SIR WALTER Scott commenced the composition of RoKEBY at Abbotsford, on the 15th of September, 1812, and finished it on the last day of the following December.
The reader may be interested with the following extracts from his letters to his friend and printer, Mr. Ballantyne.
“Abbotsford, 28th Oct. 1812. “DEAR JAMEs,
“I send you to-day better than the third sheet of Canto II., and I trust to send the other three sheets in the course of the week. I expect that you will have three cantos complete before I quit this place— on the 11th of November. Surely, if you do your part, the poem may be out by Christmas; but you must not daudle over your typographical scruples. I have too much respect for the public to neglect any thing in my poem to attract their attention; and you misunderstood me much, when you supposed that I designed any new experiments in point of composition. I only meant to say, that knowing well that the said
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public will never be pleased with exactly the same thing a second time, 1 saw the necessity of giving a certain degree of novelty, by throwing the interest more on character than in my former poems, without certainly meaning to exclude either incident or description. I think you will see the same sort of difference taken in all my former poems, of which I would say, if it is fair for me to say any thing, that the force in the Lay is thrown on style, in Marmion, on description,-and in the Lady of the Lake, on incident.”
3d November—“As for my story, the conduct of the plot, which must be made natural and easy, prevents my introducing any thing light for some time. You must advert, that in order to give poetical effect to any incident, I am often obliged to be much longer than I expected in the detail. You are too much like the country squire in the what d'ye call it, who commands that the play should not only be a tragedy and comedy, but that it should be crowned with a spice of your pastoral. As for what is popular, and what people like, and so forth, it is all a joke. Be interesting ; do the thing well, and the only difference will be, that people will like what they never liked before, and will like it so much the better for the novelty of their feelings towards it. Dulness and tameness are the only irreparable faults.”
December 31st.—“With kindest wishes on the return of the season, I send you the last of the copy of Rokeby. If you are not engaged at home, and like to call in, we will drink good luck to it; but do not derange a family party.
-- “There is something odd and melancholy in con- - cluding a poem with the year, and I could be almost s silly and sentimental about it. I hope you think I have done my best. I assure you of my wishes the work may succeed; and my exertions to get out in |: time were more inspired by your interest and John's, than my own. And so vogue la galère. “W. S.” LocKHART.