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might resemble my friend's feeling and manner, the train easily caught, and two large editions were sold.' Scott, in other words, perceived that his poems were not selling in tens of thousands as formerly ; he was, therefore, desirous of trying whose fault it was: the moderate sale of The Bridal of Triermain,' and the far more moderate sale of Harold the Dauntless,' showed him, that either a change had happened in the public taste, or that readers had found another entertainer who varied the cheer, and gave them, as it were, a pleasant dessert after his substantial dniners.
In one of his late introductions, Sir Walter seeks to account for the failure of these poems. The manner or style (he observes) which by its novelty attracted the public in an usual degree, had now, after having been so long before them, begun to lose its charms. For this there was no remedy: the harmony became tiresome and ordinary, and both the original inventor and his invention must have fallen into contempt, if he had not found out another road to public favor. He also attributes the decline of his poetic popularity to the imitations of his irregular measure and manner by other poets, to whom he had taught the trick of lence, and who could handle their weapon nearly or quite as well as liimself. “Besides all this (he observed), a mighty and unexpected rival was advancing on the stage-a rival not in poetical powers only, but in attracting popularity, in which the present writer* had preceded better men than himself. The reader will see that Byron is here meant, who, after a little vatilation of no great promise, now appeared as a serious candidate in the first canto of· Childe Harold.' There was a depth in his thought, an eager abundance in his diction, which argued full confidence in the inexhaustible resources of which he felt himself possessed.'
Had Lord Byron preceded Scoti, the novelty of his style, and the influence of his far-fetched subjects, would have worn off, and Sir Walter, with his romantic epics, might have taken the wind out of his Lordship's sails in the midst of his voyage. "Byron added the advantages of a traveller, who had strange stories to tell about Turks bearded like the pard, and maritime desperadoes who infested the ruined temples of the land where Sappho died and Homer sung, to the attractions of a poetry singularly bold and original: he was also considered as a young man who had been rated on the kialto' most ungenerously by one of those critical pests who have much wit and little understanding; and moreover, had the farther merit of being a Lord, and reckoned something wildish among the softer part of the titled population. Against these manifold charms Scott had nothing to offer but what he had offered already, and I think he acted wisely in retiring from the contest: to say the truth, he had continued it as long as the combat was not desperate. There was something of a mystery about Lord Byron, as well as about all the characters which he drew, and which the public, always Q-gape for novelties, sought in vain to penetrate ; his poems came, therefore, like a devilled fowl, or a curried lark, or any other of those spiced dishes by which that arch sorcerer the cook renews a man's appetite after he has been gorged like a boa-constrictor. I may add to all this, that the age had been particularly prolific of poets and poetry : in truth, the land was deluged with verse, and much of it of a high order; and as the island, for these hundred years, has not much encouraged works of imagination, there was scarcely room for two great manufacturers of epic song.
Scott was believed to be at work on a new poem, when the world was suddenly astonished at the appearance of a warrior in the lists of literary adventure, who, like the Black Knight in • Ivanhoe,' chose not only to fight with his beaver down, but refused to raise it and show himself, when he had overcome all opponents. This was the author of Waverley. Many, it is true, were quite satisfied who the magician was, who wrought these marvels, though he continued invisible amid the circle where he performed his enchantments. In ten thousand whispers, it was stated to be Scott: one remembered a story, which he related to the poet, now wrought into Waverley; another had told him a curious sally of wit, and here it was embalmed for ever and ever; while others, had helped him to incidents equally strange and extraordinary. Another class were content to point out the quarry and the grove, where he had found stone and timber, for the new gods of
* Sir Walter Scott.
public idolatry. Some, however, were heard to argue against the probability of Sir Walter being the author, because, said they, 'Waverley ' followed too close upon the Lord of the Isles,' to be the offspring of the same hand; nay, when one of these positive gentlemen insisted that it was not even a Scotchman who wrote the novel, and his friend pointed out touches of character, which required a long residence in the north to master, he smartly answered, “Not at all necessary, Sir, to go to Scotland to study the character-did Milton go to Hell to study devils?
The orgin of these magnificent fictions is curious. In the year 1805,' says Scott, I threw together about one-third part of the first volume of Waverley. It was advertised to be published by the late Mr. John Ballantyne, under the name of · Waverley ; or, 'Tis fifty years since,' a title afterwards altered to * 'Tis sixty years since,' that the actual date of publication might correspond with the period in which the scene was laid. Having proceeded as far, I think, as the seventh chapter, 1 showed my work to a critical friend, whose opinion was unfavorable ; 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, viithout either reluctance or remonstrance. This portion of the manuscript was laid aside in the draw of an old writing-desk, which on my first coming to Abbotsford in 1811, was placed in a lunber garret, and entirely forgotten. Thus, though I sometimes turned my thoughts to the continuation of the romance, yet, as I could not find what I had already written, and was too indolent to attempt to write it anew from memory, I as often laid aside all thoughts of that nature.' Still the subject had hold of his fancy, and it was with no small pleasure that he discovered accidentally, whilst seeking for fishing tackle for å friend, the long-lost manuscript: he thought, he said, without being so presumptuous as to hope to emulate the rich humor, pathetic tenderness and admirable tact of his friend Miss Edgeworth, that he migh', be able to do something for Scotland, like what that lady had accomplished I or Ireland ; and he hoped to make up for want of talent, by his knowledge of the land an, the people. A conclusion which he wrote for Strutt's · Queen-Hoo-Hall'had also, is seems, a share in this new inspiration. In truth, Scott appears willing to im: pute these romances to any cause save the true one-namely, a burning desire for higher fame, and a wish to soothe down the spirit within him, which raged like a chained demon, till tranquillized by a fresh work.
When Napoleon escaped alone from Elba, and appeared at Paris with a hun. dred thousand men at his back, the world was scarcely more confounded, than the people of Britain were, when Waverley burst out upon them. The more learned and critical portion of the country did not seem to relish it much at first; and I heard a gentleman aflirm, who is now loud in its praise, that the only humorous passage in • Waverley,' is where Mrs. Macleary cries out to the Baron of Bradwardine and Balmawhapple, . Will ye fight, Sirs, in a poor widow's house, and sae muckle gude lea land in the country? Nay, Hazlitt, of whom I hoped better things, assured me that he had not read any of the Waverley Novels till Rob Roy came out, when he found that he could no longer carry on conversation without quoting or alluding to them. Critics examined the work by rule, and finding that all the parts were not proportioned to a sort of epic scale, which serves them instead of natural good judgment, pronounced it defective, while the less learned portion of the community, who consider all excellent which delights thein, admitted Wayerley to their bosoms at once. It was no difficult matter to perceive the high qualities of the work. The scenes on which he displayed his dranatis personæ, were the mountain and the flood : the characters which he introduced were generally of a poetic or heroic order ; the incidents which he related, had the double charm of a domestic and public interest, and the whole was grouped and thrown togeiher with singular freedom and truth. The Baron of Bradwardine, Fergus Mac Ivor, Colonel Talbot, Madame Nosebag, Duncan Macwheeble, Davie Gellattly, Donald Bean Lean, and gifted Gilfillan, seem all personal acquaintances : we never think of them as airy abstractions. I have seldom felt more satisfaction,' says Sir Walter, ó 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.' To preserve the incognito, Ballantyne had the original manuscript transcribed ; the corrections by Scots were copied by his friend, for the printers, and so the work went on; nor was there a single instance of faithlessness on the part of those who, froin their situation, possessed themselves of the secret.
The public adiniration was nothing abated about · Waverley,' when · Guy Mannering made its appearance. The characters were of a different stamp-the story was of a domestic nature-and the true heroes and heroines were shepherds, and gipsies, and smugglers. The country claimed Andrew Dinmont, Dirk Hattraick, Sheriff Pleydell, and Meg Mersilies, as familiar acquaintances; they had hunted and fought with the first-dealt with the second-played at high jinks, or taken down a deposition with the third-or bought horn spoons and had their fortune told by the fourth ;-nay, they knew Gilbert Glossin himself; had partaken of ale and toasted cake at Mrs. Macandlish's; and were certain as the sun shone of having heard the story of the birth of young Bertram from Jock Jabos, as he drove them in a post-chaise along the wild roads of Galloway. Many a fair sheet has been printed on the subject of the prototype of Meg Mer. rilies ; and the author himself relates the story of a gipsy wife who rivalled Meg herself in generosity. I think I see something like ihe outward woman of the Galwegian sibyl in the beggar woman of Wordsworth :
ller skin was of Esyptian brown ;
To head those ancient Ainazonian files,
Or ruling bandit's wife among the Grecian isles. It is a note-worthy matter, that while Scott was pouring out romance after romance, Lord Byron was pouring out poem after poem: the prose of the one and the poetry of the other were so popular, and at the same time so excellent, that no other author could obtain a hearing. It was also curious to remark, that as Byron had certainly beaten Scott hy song, so as assuredly Scott was vanquishing his Lordship by prose ; for I think no one will contend, that the poems of the one were ever so popular with all ranks as the novels of the other. The title of the Antiquary 'puzzled the public a little when announced ; and I am not sure that it was so general a favorite at first as it became afterwards, when the fever of a first perusal was over, and a second reading and reflection came. The Antiquary himself, the Mucklebackets, and Edie Ochiltree, are all masterly originals: there is less bustle and less action than in . Waverley;' but there is the same living life, the same truth of nature, and now and then something more lofty and sublime than aught the author had hitherto done. The scene in which Miss Wardour is rescued from the tide, and more particularly the chanting of the ballad of the Harlaw by the Mucklebacket hag, are without a parallel in the language, unless the latter may be matched with that terrific scene in Old Mortality,' where Morton is condemned to death by the Cameronians, and Habbakuk Mucklewrath anticipates the hour of execution by setting forward the clock.
To conceal the hand that penned so rapidly these charming fictions, Scott still openly kept the field as an author, and not only wrote a poem on the battle of Waterloo, but a prose account of that memorable strife, which far excels the description he afterwards inserted in his ' Life of Napoleon.' The poem, though full of the whirlwind of battle, and vivid and animated in an extreme degree, met with a sharp reception from the critics ;--not so Paul's prose relation, which, coming without a naine, and evidently the work of one who had made inquiries among the chief officers, and mastered all the incidents and localities of Waterloo, was greeted with much cheering and many welcomes. During this busy period all writers seemed busy save Scott ;-to those friends who visited him he was seldom invisible. He performed the duties of a friend to his friends-of a father to his children-of a moster to his household-and of a sheriff to the countysoothing differences and healing discord; and did not at all appear oppressed with these duties : he still was at leisure, and found time to arrange and publish the Poems of Anna Seward, the Life and Works of Swift, Lord Somers' Tracts, Sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers, and the Border Antiquities of England and Scotland. All this strengthened the arguments of thoseand they were manywho refused to believe that he was the author of the Waverley Novels. Several persons, to whom, either in seriousness or derision, they were attributed, put on a look of reserve and mystery, and talked in the manner of men embarrassed by a secret, of which they dread the discovery. All this must have been amusing in a high degree to such a man as Scott, who had an eye and an ear for the ridiculous, and could enjoy the absurdities of his friends and acquaintances without seeming moved.
It was a new pleasure to the tourist, in the enjoyment of the scenery of the Lady of the Lake,' the Lord of the Isles,' and · Waverley, 'to have · Rob Roy' put into their hands. With his foot once more on the heather, and the bonnet on his brow, the author seemed inspired with fresh spirit; Rob Roy himself, Bailie Jarvie, Andrew Fairservice, the Dougal creature, and the Osbaldistones, one and all, were welcomed as additions to the great national stock of imaginary characters. One of the charms of the work was Diana Vernon, the heath-flower of Cheviot: her extreme loveliness-her singular boldness and freedom of character-her wit and her inimitable playfulness-and, more than all, her fine sense and warmth of heart captivated even critics, who could not help consessing that, tbough she had too much boldness of manner, she was the sweetest and best of all the author's female creations. I remember, after her appearance on horseback, all our London ladies, who could trust themselves off their feet, turned equestrians, and the drives and roads were filled with trotting and galloping Dianas.
Old Mortality' followed · Rob Roy. There is perhaps finer discrimination of character in it than in any of its companions : the author felt that he had a diflicult game to play : the Cameronians still existed as a body, with many old prejudices, and were likely to resent any deviation from historic accuracy; and, what was still more important, the whole body of Presbyterians, though disliking the exclusive tenets of Cameron and Cargill, believed them right in resisting per. secution; in fact, they look upon the battles of Airds-Moss and Bothwell Brigg, as fought in the great cause of Calvinism against Lutheranism; and are disposed to be touchy, whenever such matters are otherwise than gently handled. When I add to all this, that Scott himself was a member of the suffering remnant of the episcopal church, and was consequently considered as no great lover of those who preferred to drink at the well-spring of Calvin, I have said enough to show, that a story, which involved the characters of the chief leaders, was likely to be keenly and even curiously examined. He has, however, delineated the characters of Burley on the one side, and of Claverhouse on the other, with wonderful life and truth;-both shedders of blood without mercy or remorse, at the call of mistaken honor, or misunderstood religion : both eminently brave and skilful ;-one fighting for princes, who merited no such support-and the other for a party who afterwards disowned him; and both perishing according to character-Burley in a bloody, but obscure skirmish, and the fiery Græine in a stern battle, with the sound of victory in his ear. Lord Evandale and Morton represent the more generous and amiable qualities of the factions; while Niel Blane stands between both, and decants his ale, and plays on the pipes to either. Poor meek and generous Bessy Maclure qualifies the more fiery and eloquent Mause Headrigg, and Jenny Denison and the gallant Cuddie keep up an image of true love and domestic attachment, seasoned with matchless humor and naïveté and selfishness. The figure of that intrepid preacher, Macbriar, is ever before us, when we think of sermons in the fields; and the eloquent madness of Habbakuk Mucklewrath rings frequently in our ears. The Cameronians were not at all offended at the notice taken of their leaders, and the sentiments imputed to them : they recognized the perfect truth of the picture, and rejoiced that they had found an histori an to bid them live and not die. The wild scene where Burley maintained his imaginary combat with Satan, is Creehope Linn, near Dumfries. Sir Walter informed me, that he was a visitor of the Linn in his youth, when one of his brothers was at Wallace Hall school; and that the singular chambers, which the busy stream had fashioned out of the freestone rocks, and in which the persecuted Covenanters found refuge, were quite familiar to him. The wandering Inscrip tion Catter was also a native of the same parish; and the old kirkyard of Dalgarnock, beautifully situated on Nithside, is the place of the imaginary interview between him and the author. I may also add, that part of the narrative was colored by a long conversation which Sir Walter held with an Annandale Johnstone, on the subject of free will, effectual calling, and predestination.
It is supposed that the complaints wbich some captious Presbyterians made regarding the injustice done to the Covenanters in Old Mortality,' induced Scott to resuine the subject in his next great work, the · Heart of Mid Lothian.' and show, in the family of the Deans, the softened features of the sect. Douce David is certainly a most delightfui oddity: his disputes on the great litigated point of patronage with Duncan Knockdunder, whose notions were not at all scriptural; and his various counsellings concerning rotations of crops, with poor widow Butler, are alike excellent. But with his daughters, by different spouses, and with Madge Wildfire, the interest of the fiction abides. Jeanie Deans is copied from a young woman of humble degree in Dumfriesshire, who obtained the queen's pardon for an erring sister by her own eloquent intercession; in token of which, it was one of the last acts of Sir Walter's life, to erect a monument to her memory in Irongray kirkyard ;-and Madge Wildfire is little more than a faithful delineation of poor Peggy Macdonald, who went mad about a natural child, and wandered through Dumfries and Galloway singing snatches of old songs, uttering quaint witty sayings, and drawing the characters of all who an. noyed her with words of aquafortis rather than of honey : moreover, she was usually known by the name of Mrs. Cazey, from frequently singing a song of that name; but those who wished to be well with her called her Margarett Macdonald. She was a tall slim person, with a Roman nose, and a look, in her lucid hours, beaming with sense and wit. To take a heroine out of a prison, and select characters from among cow-feeders and smugglers, was a bold step; and over such materials no one could have triumphed but Scott.
It was thought the author wished to show that high life had its miseries too, when he wrote the · Bride of Lammermoor.' There is an air of sadness shed largely over this whole composition : though we dislike the touchy haughtiness of Ravenswood, we give him our sympathy largely, as the last of his sace, and one whose fate has been settled by prophecy before, as the witch-wife said, "the sark gaed o'er bis head.' There is a poetic, a tragic grandeur about the romance, which lifts it high into the regions of imagination: the approaching fate of the Master is shadowed out in alınost every page ; the croaking of the old crones; the conversation with John Mortsheugh,-it is needless to particularize moreall indicate coming destruction. With the exception of Kenilworth,' it is the most melancholy of all the works of Scott. The scene is laid on property belonging to the family of Hall; and I was present when Captain Basil Hall purchased sixty-one pages of the original manuscript for fourteen guineas: it is generally known that the outline of the story is true : and that this great domestic tragedy was wrought in a family of respectability and name. The Legend of Montrose accompanied the · Bride of Lammermoor,' and is chiefly remarkable for the characier of Sir Dugald Dalgetty, whose exact resemblance to the Scottish chiefs -the Leslies, Hamiltons, Ramsays, Munros, and Cunninghams, who led the seven thousand Scottish warriors under Gustavus Adolphus-I would not have any one to assert, unless they can bring forward better proof of the fact than what I think my illustrious friend had to offer. The truth is, these men were mostly religious enthusiasts; and though there were some among them,-one of the Ramsays, for instance, who thought of earthly state and dignity a little too much, --they were a high-souled and chivalrous band, who prayed and fought till they saw freedom of conscience restored to the whole of Geraiany. We have no other quarrel with Sir Dugald : we like his eternal speeches about Gustavis--the pleasing glimpses which he gives us of foreign service-his quaint pedantry-his bravery, ruled by the amount of pay-and, above all, his behavior in the dungeon, when he escapes from his fetters, and leaves Maccullamore in his stead. We like him too when the ball penetrates his thigh, and he exclaims, "I always told the great Gustavus that taslets should be made musket proof!