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LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT.
Sm WALTER Scor'r was born at Edinburgh, on the 15th of August 1771. His father, Walter Scott, a. Writer to the Signet (an attorney), was a very worthy man, and had a. respectable practice. He was related to many of the Border families of the name of Scott, and remotely descended from the house of Buccleuch. His mother, Anne Rutherford, was the dauc'htcr of an eminent physician in Edinburgh.
In his second year, a weakness in one of his legs, which eventually terminated in permanent lameness, caused his removal to the country, where he resided with an aunt until about his eighth year. In 1778 he entered the High School of Edinburgh, where he remained till 1783, making considerable progress in learning, but in the ordinary tasks of a school evincing no superiority over others. Already, however, he displayed extraordinary precocity in these departments in which he was to become so famous. When but four years old, a. toy had less attraction for him than 8. Border ballad, and he had committed several to memory, which he was accustomed to recite with great enthusiasm. Before he was ten, he had made a collection of several volumes of old ballads, and was famous among his schoolmates for his extraordinary gift of storytelling. “ In the winter play-hours," he says, “when hard exercise was impossible, my tales used to assemble an admiring
'audience round Lucky Brown's fireside, and happy was he that could sit next the inexhaustible narrator. "
He entered college in 17 83, but as a student was rather idle, though a most industrious reader of miscellaneous literature. “My appetite for books," he says of himself, “was asample and indiscriminating as it was indefatigable. I waded into the stream like‘a blind man into a ford, without the power of searching my way, unless by groping for it." An illness between his twelfth and sixteenth years, interrupting his more regular studies, threw him for amusement upon whatever books he could reach; and as he possessed a most capacious and retentive memory, he stored up a. mass of curious knowledge which he afterwards turned to great account.
From 1786 to 1790 he acted as clerk in his father's office, and acquired there a freedom in the use of the pen and habits oi application which were of essential service to him in his literary weer. His appearance at this period is thus described: “ He had outgrown the sallowness of early ill health, and had a fresh, brilliant complexion. His eyes were clear, open, and well set, with a changeful radiance, to which teeth of the most perfect regularity and whiteness lent their assistance, while the noble expanse and elevation of the brow gave to the whole aspect a dignity far above the charm of mere features. His figure, excepting the blemish in one limb, must in those days have been eminently handsome ; tall, much above the usual standard, it was cast in the very mould of a young Hercules; the head set on with singular grace, the throat and chest after the truest model of the antique, the hands delicately finished; the whole outline that ol extraordinary vigour, without as yet a touch of clumsiness.” In July 1792, when not quite twenty-one years of age, he was called to the bar. His filial afi'eetion was displayed in the purchase with his first fee of a silver taper-stand for his mother. Though his practice was small, it continued to increase from year to year till he abandoned his profession, and became, in 1806, a clerk oi Session—an office of trust, with a salary of £800 a-year.
But Scott’s mind was chiefly devoted to other objects than the legal profession. Antiquities—an old coin, a rusty broadsword, the
hunting-horn of a Highland chief, old battle-fields, picturesque ballads, the history of an ancient family—possessed an attraction for him which less imaginative minds can scarcely understand. He would walk twenty miles, lame though he was, to see the ruins of an old fastness. N o landscape, however lovely, was complete till he had discovered its historical associations; and the barest, bleakest moor glowed with beauty as he listened to the story of the knights who had fought and bled on it. “ To me," he writes, “the wandering over the field of Bannockburn Was the source of more exquisite pleasure than gazing upon the celebrated landscape from the battlements of Stirling Castle." To trace out the lost verses of an old song, to discover the missing lines of a couplet, to pick up the curious phraseology of some-venerable relic of a bygone age, were to him labours of love. During seven successive years he made what he called a raid into Liddesdale, exploring all the valleys, familiarising himself with the scenery and the manners of the people, and accommodating himself with singular success to every class, making hidiself equally at home
in the minister‘s manse and beside the iarmer‘s kitchen hearth. ~
In these excursions he too frequently yielded to the rude sociality of the times, and indulged in deep potations. It was perhaps at the same period he acquired the use of those expletives which appear both in his letters and conversation when he was excited, and which are as contrary to good taste as right morality.
With his chivalric and knightly tastes, it is not to be wondered at that his politics were thoroughly Tory, and almost Jacobite ; indeed, he says of himself, when a young man, “I took up my politics as King Charles did his religion, from an idea that the Cavalier creed was the more gentleman-like of the two." We are not sure but that Scott’s religious profession had a similar origin. His parents were strict Presbyterians; but Presbyterianism in Scottish history appears constantly as the opponent of those kings and nobles with whom all his sympathies were enlisted, and at an early period he joined the Episcopalian Church.
In 1797, Scott became quartermester of a volunteer caval'y regiment, designed to aid in repelling the French invasion whi .h then threatened the country. His patriotism, intrepidity, ready