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And we like him too that he is willing to be executed, rather than enter upon a new engagement for a year, with a week of the old one to run : he was a military moralist.
The first time that I had the happiness of being introduced to the author of Waverley, was soon after the publication of Ivanhoe,' when he came to London, and the king made him Sir Walter Scott, of Abbotsford, Baronet. This was in the early part of the year 1820. I had seen him in Edinburgh in the year of Marmion's appearance, and, to tell the truth, I went there almost on purpose to see him. He lived then in North Castle Street; he was full cheeked and fair to look upon ; walked with a slight halt, and seemed in every respect one of the most powerful men of the North. He was much changed when I met him again in London ; his face was grown thin, his brow wrinkled, and his hair grey; during the period of the composition of · Ivanhoe,' a grievous illness attacked him, which brought him nigh the grave, and he was not even then quite recovered. It was during those days of suffering, that his neighbor, Lord Buchan, waited, it is said, on Lady Scott, and after talking of the light which was too soon to be removed from the land, begged her to intercede with her illustrious husband, to do him the honor of being buried in Dryburgh. The place,' said the Earl, is very beautiful-- just such a place as the poet loves, and as he has a fine taste that way, he is sure of being gratified with my offer.' Scott, it is reported, smiled when this was told him, and good-humoredly promised to give Lord Buchan the refusal, since he seemed so solicitous : the vain Lord was laid in Dryburgh Churchyard first, and his illustrious neighbor has followed. The owners of Abbotsford and Dryburgh, I have heard, conversed upon all subjects, save one-namely, the death of the Duke of Clarence : his lordship averred, that his ancestor killed the Prince, at Beauge, with a truncheon : Scott knew that his own ancestor Sir Allan Swinton slew him by a stroke of his spear in the face.
When I went to Sir Walter's residence in Piccadilly, I had much of the same palpitation of heart which Boswell experienced when introduced to Johnson : he welcomed me with both hands, and with such kind and complimentary words, that confusion and fear alike fled. He turned the conversation upon song, and said, he had long wished to know me, on account of some songs wbich were reckoned old, but which he was assured were mine; • At all events,' said he, - they are not old-they are far too good to be old: I dare say you know what songs I mean.' I was now mucli embarrassed; I neither owned the songs nor denied them, but said, I hoped to see him soon again, for that, if he were willing to sit, my friend, Mr. Chantrey, was anxious to make his bust-as a memorial, to preserye in his collection, of the Author of: Marmion. To this he consented. While Sir Walter remained in London, we had several conversations, and I was glad to see that he was sometimes pleased with what I said, as well as with what I did. So much was he sought after while he sat to Chantrey, that stran. gers hegged leave to stand in the sculptor's galleries, to see him as he went in and out. The bust was at last finished in marble ; the sculptor labored most anxiously, and I never saw him work more successfully: in one long sitting of three hours he chiselled the whole face over, communicating to it the grave humor and comic penetration for which the original was so remarkable. This fine work is now in Abbotsford, with an inscription, saying, it is a present to Sir Walter Scott from Francis Chantrey :- I hope it will never be elsewhere.
One morning Chantrey asked me how I liked · Ivanhoe;' I said, the descriptions were admirable, and that the narrative flowed on in a full stream, but I thought in individual portraiture it was not equal to those romances where the author had his foot on Scottish ground. You speak like a Scotchman,' said Chantrey: “I must speak like an Englishman: the scenery is just, and the char. acters in keeping : I know every inch of the ground where the tournament was held—where Front de Bæut's castle stood, and even where that pious priest the Curtal Friar had his cell by the blessed well of St. Dunstan's—what Rob Roy is to you, Ivanhoe is to me.' Sir Walter smiled; he neither shunned the subject nor seemed desirous to discuss it: I remarked, however, that he did not praise the novels, and this exactly agreed with a review of Old Mortality,' which ap
peared in the Quarterly, written, as I have good reason to know, by the hand of Scott himself. This was at the urgent desire of the editor, who probably thought lo detect the real writer of the romances by this stratagem : he contrived to pen a review which contains much collateral illustration, and little or no criticism. The nearest approach to admission, that I ever heard him make, was once when I was describing to him a sort of wandering mendicant, who declared he earned his bread and clothes by telling queer stories-he said, with a laugh, 'O Allan, don't abuse God's gifts- we live by telling queer stories ourselves.' When he dined with the King, one of the company asked him," was he not the author of the Waverly Novels?: Sir Walter who had made up his mind against all such emergencies, eluded the question.
He spoke of my pursuits and prospects in life with interest and feeling; and of my attempts in prose and verse, in a way which showed that he had read them; and inquired what I was doing with my pen: I said I was collecting into four volumes the Songs of Scotland-such as were most remarkable for poetic feeling-for their humor or their pictures of manners. “I can help you,' he said, ' to something old-did you ever hear the old song sung, which says
• There dwelt a man into the west,
And 0, gin he was cruel,
lle sal up an' grat for gruel;
A bason, and a lowel:
I winna want my gruel.' After having dictated several other curious old verses, he said, ' But you ought to write something original. There's the · Mermaid of Galloway;' you might make that into a dramatic piece with songs, and try it on the stage.' I answered, · But what shall I do with her tail?'-_The tail, indeed,' said he-and laughed. I wished I had followed his advice; the subject is a fine one, and much according to my own fancy, and with regard to the scaly train, a Merinaid has no more right to such an encumbrance, than the Devil has to horns and hoofs. I said, that I had made the resemblance of a drama, and if he would look at it, it would be kind: he not only looked at “Sir Marmaduke Maxwell, but wrote me a letter respecting it, in which he says,
• I have perused twice, my dear Allan, your interesting manuscript, and that with no little interest. Many parts of the poetry are eminently beautiful, though I fear the great length of the piece, and some obscurity of the plot, would render it unfit for dramatic representation. There is also a fine tone of supernatura! action and impulse spread over the whole work, which, I think, à common audience would not be likely to adopt or comprehend: though I own on me it has a very powerful effect. Speaking of dramatic composition in general, I think it is almost essential (though the rule be most difficult in practice) that the plot or business of the piece should advance with every line that is spoken. The fact is, the drama is addressed chiefly to the eyes; and as much as can be by any possibility represented on the stage, should neither be told nor described. Of the miscellaneous part of a large audience, many do not understand, and many
hear either narrative or description, but are solely intent upon the action exhibited. It is, I conceive. for this reason, that very bad plays, written by performers themselves, often contrive to get through, and not without applause: while others immeasurably superior, in point of poetical merit, fail merely be. cause the author is not sufficiently possessed of the trick of the scene, or enough aware of the importance of a maxim pronounced by no less a performer than Punch himself--at least he was the last authority from whoin I heard it--Push on, kecp moring! Now, in your dramatic effort, the interest not only stands still, but sometimes retrogrades. It contains, notwithstanding, many passages of eminent beauty; many specimens of most interesting dialogue, and on the whole, if it is not fitted for the modern stage, I am not sure that its very imper. fections do not render it more fit for the closet, for we certainly do not read with the greatest pleasure those plays which act best.
• If, however, you should at any time wish to become a candidate for dramatic
laurels, I would advise you, in the first place, to consult some professional person of judgment and taste. I should regard friend Terry as an excellent Mentor, and I believe he would concur with me in recommending, that at least one-third of the drama be retrenched, that the plot should be rendered simple, and the motives more obvious; and I think the powerful language, and many of the situations, might have their full effect upon the audience. I am uncertain if I have made myself sufficiently understood :-but I would say, for example, that it is ill explained by what means Comyn and his gang, who land as shipwrecked men, become at once possessed of the old lord's domains, merely by killing and taking possession. I am aware of what you mean, namely, that being attached to the then rulers, he is supported in his ill-acquired power by theirauthority. But this is imperfectly brought out, and escaped me at the first reading. The superstitious, motives also, which induced the shepherds to delay their vengeance, are not likely to be intelligible to the generality of the hearers. It would seem more probable that the young Baron should have led his faithful vassals to avenge the death of his parents; and it has escaped me what prevents him from taking this direct and natural course. Besides, it is, I believe, a rule, and it seemis a good one, that one single interest, to which every other is subordinate, should occupy the whole play, each separate object having just the effect of a milldam, sluicing off a certain portion of the interest and sympathy, which should move on with increasing fervor and rapidity to the catastrophe. Now, in your work, there are several divided points of interest- there is the murder of the old Baronthe escape of his wife-that of his son—the loss of his bride-the villanous artifices of Comyn to possess himself of her person, and finally the fall of Comyn, and acceleration of the vengeance due to his crimes. I am sure your own excellent sense, which I admire as much as I do your genius, will give me credit for my frankness in these matters : I only know, that I do not know many persons in whose performances I would venture so much criticism. Adieu, my feal and esteemed friend-yours truly,
I have, at the risk of being thought vain, inserted my illustrious friend's letter at full length; the dramatic directions in composition, which he lays down, are natural, and had I been able to have followed them, my success might have been greater. How Comyn kept possession after the murder, arose not only from the strength of his party, but from his being the lineal heir, supposing his kinsmen removed; this relationship I did not make plain enough, and so the objection is good. A writer satisfies his own mind, that his story is simple and clear, and wonders sometimes that the eyes of his friends are not so penetrating as his own; but, whenever an objection of obscurity is raised, I would advise the writer to clear it up at once. I made a number of alterations, but could not get rid of the original sin of the performance-namely, a certain perplexity of plot : when I published it, no one was altogether unkind, save, I was told, the Rev. Mr. Smed. ley, who treated it in the Critical Review with much contempt; he could see no poetry in the language, nor originality in the characters. On the same day that this-not very charitable attack on the new writer was published, the ‘Fortunes of Nigel' appeared, in the introduction to which, it was the pleasure of the author to speak of my dramatic attempt in the spirit of his letter: this far more than compensated for the severity of the other, and gave me some sort of rank as a poet, which, I am glad to know, the giver believed I have since maintained. When the manuscript of the . Fortunes of Nigel’ was sold by auction, I was vain enough to wish to possess a work, in which my name stood embalmed in the hand-writing of Scott; but that, as well as others, brought prices beyond my means; it would have been well had some generous person purchased the whole Waverley Manuscripts, and placed them in the British Museum-or, in a fitter sanctuary still the library of Abbotsford.
While Sir Walter was busied with his second series of National Romances, he found time to write · Halidon Hill,' a dramatic sketch of great beauty ; full of heroic feeling and heroic character, and which, for pathos, may take rank with the most touching labors of the serious Muse. The story of Sir Allan Swinton
and young Gordon, is one of the most chivalrous and moving scenes in all the compass of tragic song. It was not very warmly received: indeed, whenever Sir Walter Scott wrote anonymously, praise of the truth and beauty of his productions was on every lip, and in every review: when he addeıl his name, the mercury of public admiration fell nearer the freezing point: this · let learned clerks explain.' I am afraid the anecdote is not to the honor of human nature. Constable gave him, it is said, a thousand pounds for "Halidon Hill;' and the applause which he was commanding anonymously, no doubt soothed him for the caprice of the world, and for the captiousness of criticisin.
I saw Sir Walter during the visits which he afterwards paid to London. He conversed with singular ease, and whatever he said was so clearly expressed, and so graphic withal, that it might have been printed at once. This reminds me of what a bookseller told me that Scott related to him some particulars about the origin of one of the characters in the Waverley Novels, with which he was so much struck, that he begged him to write it down. He did so, and the whole was, he was sure, word for word with what had been spoken. I have said that I informed him of my intended collection of the Songs of Scotland : in one of my letters to him, I told him I had commenced the work. I am glad (he thus wrote) that you are about Scottish song; no man has contributed more beautiful effusions to to enrich it. Here and there I would pluck a few flowers from your posie, to give what remains an effect of greater simplicity ; but luxuriance can only be the fault of genins, and many of your songs are, I think, unmatched.' I put down 1hese passages from his letters, of which I have upwards of a score, to show that he a
critical counsel with his commendations, and how well he merited the eulogium of James Hogg, that he was a most honest and con. scientious adviser in all matters, literary and otherwise. This is yet more plainly set forth in another letter: 'I am very much unaccustomed to offer criticisms, and when I do so, it is because I believe in my soul that I am endeavoring to pluck away the weeds which hide flowers which are well worthy of cultivation. In your case, the richness of your language and fertility of your imagination are the snares against which I would warn you: if the one had been poor, and the other costive, I would never have made remarks, which could never do good, while they only gave pain. Did you ever read Savage's • Wanderer?' If not, do so; and you will see distinctly the fault which I think attaches to Sir Marma. duke Maxwell'-_a want of distinct precision and intelligibility about the story, which counteracts, especially with ordinary readers, the effect of beautiful and forcible diction, poetical imagery, and animated description.' I would fain persuade myself that all this good counsel, and thrice as much more from the same excellent friend, was not utterly thrown away upon me,
When I next saw Sir Walter, King George was about to be crowned, and he had come to London to make one in the cereinony. This was an affair which came within the range of his taste : with the processions of the old religion, and the parade of chivalry, he was familiar; and when he called on me, he talked of the inagnificent scene which Westminster Abbey would present on the morrow, and inquired if I intended to go and look at it. Now, I happen to be one of those persons who are not at all dazzled with grand processions and splendid dresses, and the glitter and parade of either court or camp ; and when I said that I had no curiosity that way, having, when I was young, witnessed the crowning of King C-ispin, in Dumfries, he burst into a laugh, and said, “That's not unlike our friend Hous: I asked him if he would accoinpany me, and he stood balancing the matter between the Coronation and St. Boswell's Fair, and at last the fair carried it.' Scott, since I had seen him last, had given the world several fresh works of great beauty and variety; his genius had driven all other competitors out of the market, and though some of the critics said they saw a falling off, this was not perceived by the multitude, who expressed nothing but impatience lo devour every work, which wore the Waverley stamp. It is remarkable, that in • The Abbot,' and also in · The Monastery,' he introduced supernatural agency, and sometimes, in my opinion, with wonderful effect; he had tried it slightly in Waverley, where the vision of the Bodach Glas announces the approaching fate of Fergus Mac Ivor; a passage which I could never read without a shudder.
The White Maid of Avene) is a spirit of a more lively kind, and performs her ministering in the matter of Christy of the Clinthill, and the Sacristan, with not a little dexterity as well as malice. I, however, think the burial and raising of Percie Shafton, a clumsy affair; in truth, whenever the supernatural descends to deeds, our belief begins to fail. The rise of Halbert Glendinning, from his low estate by bravery and by valor, is in the author's best manner; the vale of Glendearg lies near Abbotsford, on the other side of the Tweed. The sharp admonitions of the critics induced Sir Walter to forbear for the future the supernatural.
Of all the succeeding romances of Scott, those most to my liking, are the · Fertunes of Nigel,' for the sake of King James, Richie Moniplies, and Sir Mungo Malagrowther: Quentin Durward,' as showing how fortune and rank may be achieved by discretion, and bravery, and promptitude of soul, not to speak of King Lewis, and La Balafrè, and the Maugrabin : 'The Talisman,' for the characters of Richard, Saladin, and Prince David : and “The Fair Maid of Perth,' for the lesson which the author has taught us, how to make a hero worthy of the days of chivalry, out of a misshapen blacksmith, and yet leave him a blacksmith still. Some of his critics remarked, that Scott had gone to all countries for characters, save Ireland : to Ireland he sailed in 1825, and scenes were pointed out and characters indicated in vain for the expected romance. Through the kindness of a gentleman of that country, I have obtained an account of his visit; the brevity of this memoir allows me but to say, that he was received everywhere with acclamavisited with muc
much emotion the scenes of Swift's early life, and the magnificent scenery of Killarney. He returned by the way of the Cumberland Lakes, and, with Wordsworth for his companion, visited the hills and dales made classic by his strains ; nor did he omit to pay his respects to Southey, whom he ever adinired for variety of genius and gentleness of manners.
Soon after his return, that crushing misfortune befel the house of Abbotsford which reduced its lord from affluence to dependence. Sir Walter, owing to the failure of some commercial speculations, in which he was a partner, became responsible for the payment of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds; he refused to becoine a bankrupt, considering, like the elder Osbaldistone of his own immortal pages, commercial honor as dear as any other honor, and undertook, within the compass of ten years, to pay capital and interest of that enormous sum. At that time he was hale and vigorous, and capable of wondrous exertions: he gave up his house in Edinburgh, now less necessary for him, on account of the death of Lady Scott, and singling out various subjects of interest, proceeded to retrieve his broken fortunes, with a spirit calm and unsubdued. The bankruptcy of his booksellers rendered longer concealment of the author of the Waverley Novels impossible: the copyright of these works was announced for sale, and it was ne. cessary for the illustrious unfortunate to reveal his secret in the best manner he might. Accordingly, at the Annual Dinner-24th February, 1827—of the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund, in answer to an allusion by his friend Lord Meadowbank, Sir Walter said, he had now the task of acknowledging before three hundred gentlemen, a secret, which, though confided to twenty people, had been well kept. · I am the author,' he said, of all the Waverley Novels, the sole and undivided author ; with the exception of quotations, there is not a single word which is not derived from myself, or suggested in the course of my reading. The wand is now broken and the rod buried. This declaration was received with loud cheers, and made a stir in all circles; the great mystery was now solved, and though all lamented the cause of the disclosure, all were glad at heart, to find that they were indebted to a man so mild and benevolent as Sir Walter, rather than to any other spirit who might have presumed more than was meet, after such an assumption of
When these sad distresses took place, Sir Walter had made considerable progress in his · Life of Napoleon Bonaparte :' he was composing it as the Author of Waverley; but, with the disclosure of his name, his situation was altered ; and the first men, military and civil, in Europe, readily made communications to him concerning that world's wonder, the Emperor of the French. To step from imagi. native romance to true history, was to him a matter of perfect ease : he had