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Notes and Appendix..............
Mr. Kemble's Farewell Address, on tak-
Epilogue to The Appeal...............
The Violet............ ............. 437
The Bard's Incantation, written under
Memoir of Sir Walter Scott.
BY J. W. LAKE.
SIR WALTER Scott, descended from one of the this time to the year 1798, his life appears to have most ancient families of Scotland—the Scotts of passed in a devoted attention to his professional Harden, is the eldest surviving son of a gentleman duties, mindful of the advice, of the same name, who was an eminent writer to Not to pen stanzas when he should engross. the signet at Edinburgh, where the subject of this At the last-mentioned date he entered into the sketch was born, August 15, 1771. His mother, matrimonial state with Miss Carpenter, by whom Mrs. Elizabeth Scott, was the daughter of David he has four children. At the close of the year folRutherfonl, esq., writer to the signet, from wbom lowing, he received the appointment of sheriffshe obtained a handsome fortune. She was a wo-depute of the county of Selkirk; and in March, Dan of great virtue and accomplishments, with a 1806, he was named one of the principal clerks of good taste for poetry, as appeared from some of session in Scotland. With regard to this last preber productions, which were deemed worthy of ferment, it should be observed that his warrant. being printed after her death, in 1789. Walter, though drawn, had not passed the seals when the from the tenderness of his constitution, and the death of Mr. Pitt produced an entire change in ereumstance of his lameness, occasioned by a fall the ministry. The appointment of Mr. Scoti bad from this nurse's arms at two years of age, was in been effected through the friendship of lord Mela great measure brought up at home, under the ville, who was then actually under impeachment. impediate care and instruction of this excellent This circumstanee seemed very ominous against carest, to whom he was much attached through the confirmation of the nomination; but, fortunately life, and whose loss he sincerely lamented. Of|for Mr. Scott, the new ministry consisted of such his early pursuits little is known, except that he
men as the late Mr. Fox, Sheridan, lord Erskine, eineed a genius for drawing landscapes after na-l and the marquis of Lansdowne, with several others ture. -At a proper age he was sent to the high attached to literature and philosophy; and, in a school at Edinburgh, then directed by Dr. Alex
manner that did them infinite honour, they made sider Adam. In this school, young Scott passed
no objection to the advancement of their poetical through the different forms without exhibiting any
3 without exhibiting any opponent. Thus, as a witty friend remarked, this of those extraordinary powers of genius, which are
are appointment was the last lay of the old ministry.” sion remembered 'till the person to whom they 'Released now from the drudgery of professional re ascribed has become, by the maturity of his liah
slabour, by the acquisition of two lucrative situaLleots, an object of distinction. It is said, that he ti
tions, and the possession of a handsome estate as considered in his boyhood rather heavy than through the death of his father and that of an unotherwise, and that the late Dr. Hugh Blair had
cle, Mr. Scott was enabled to court the muses at discernment enough to predict his future eminence, nie
nence, his pleasure, and to indulge in a vaiety of literary shen the master of the school lamented his dul
pursuits without interruption.- His first publicaarks; but this only affords another instance of the
tions were translations from the German, at a time blacv of human opinion in pronouncing upon the when the wildest productions of that country were real capacity of the youthful understanding. * Bar
much sought after in England, owing to the recent me, the greatest seholar of his age, was discarded
appearance of that horrible story of Lenora of Bur23 a blockhead by successive teachers; and his pu
ger. The very year when different versions of that wil the illustrious Newton, was declared to be fit?
tale came out, and some of these highly ornamentfor nothing but to drive the team, till some friends
ed, Mr. Scott produced two German ballads in an siecteded in getting him transplanted to college.
English dress, entitled, “ The Wild Huntsman," Having completed his classical studies at the
and William and Helen.” Ligh school, with as much reputation, we suppose,
These little pieces, however, were not originally 25° others of his standing, Walter Scott was re
intended for the press, being nothing more than Doved to the university of Edinburgh, where, also,
exercises in the way of amusement, ull a friend, he passed the classes in a similar manner.
to whom they were shown, prevailed upon the auHis contingance here, however, could not have thor to publish them, and at the same time conbeen long; for, after serving the prescribed terms tributed the preface. Three years elapsed before in the office of a writer to the signet, he was ad
Mr. Scott ventured to appear again in print, wher mitted an advocate of the Scotch bar, when he had
he produced another translation from the German, est quite attained the age of twenty-one.-From “ Goetz of Berlichingen,” a tragedy, by Goethe. . Tbe prediction of Dr. Blair, here alluded to, arose out Two years afterwards the late Matthew Gregory the fullowing eireumstances. Shortly after Dr. Pater-|(cominonly called Monk) Lewis, enriched his teetded to the grammar-school, Musselburgh, where
hool, Musselburgh, where" Tales of Wonder" with two ballads communiWaitro Seout was a short time a pupil, Blair, accompanied
cated to him by our author, one entitled “The by come friends, paid him a visit; in the course of which beragined several of his pupils, and paid particular at-Eve of Saint John,” and the other “Glenfinlas." usten to young Scott. Dr. Paterson thought it was the In 1802 his first great work, “ The Minstrelsy gatha's stupidity that engaged the doctor's notice, and of the Scottish Border," came out, beautifully
"Mr bredecessor tells me, that boy has the thickest printed at Kelso, by Ballantyne. This collection coin the school." “ May be so," replied Dr. Blair, but the regla tha: thiek skull I can discern many bright rays immediately arrested general attention, and though latere genius."
'Ithe pieces of which it is composed are very une
qual, the master-mind and soaring genius of the As an instance of the popularity of Scott's poems poet are conspicuous throughout.
we subjoin a statement of the sale of “ Rokeby' The studies of our author at this time were en- and “The Lady of the Lake,” in nearly four tirely antiquarian. He lived and breathed only months, as submitted by the publishers. among the knights, the heroes, the monks, and Sold of “ The Lady of the Lake," from June 2d robbers of olden time; the feats of chivalry, and to September 22, 1810, the rough heroism of northern warfare and border 2,000 quarto, at 21. 28.........4,2002. feuds, were the scenes in which his soul delighted 6,000 octavo, at 12s...........3,6001. to dwell. He drank deeply of the stream of history as it darkly flowed over the middle ages, and 8,000
7,8001. his spirit seemed for a time to be imbued with the
Sold of “Rokeby," in three months (Jan. 14ib mysteries, the superstitions, and the romantic valour which characterised the then chieftains of the
to April 14th, 1813,) north countrie.
3,000 quarto, at 21. 2s. (less
120 remaining).........6,0481. His next production was “ Sir Tristram, a me
5,000 octavo, at 143...........3,5001. trical romance of the thirteenth century, by Thomas of Ercildoun,” printed in 1804. Sull, how
9,5481. ever, Mr. Scott may be said as yet to have been only rising in fame: but he soon gained enough to We shall now attempt to offer a few critical obhave intoxicated an ordinary mind in the applause servations on the three most deservedly popular bestowed upon his “ Lay of the last Minstrel," poems of Walter Scott, viz. The Lay of the Last which appeared, in quarto, in 1805.—The follow-Minstrel, Marmion, and The Lady of the Lake. ing year he published a collection of “ Ballads and The LAYOF THE Last Minstrel is an endeavour Lyrical Pieces." Shortly after this, public expec- to transfer the refinements of modern poetry to the tation was raised by the promise of a poem, on the matter and the manner of the ancient metrical roperfection of which the bard was said to labour as mance. The author, enamoured of the lofty visions for immortality. Accordingly, in 1808, appeared of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which they “ Marmion, a tale of Flodden Field,” which the were formerly embodied, employed all the reauthor himself has characterised as “ containing sources of his genius in endeavouring to recal them the best and the worst poetry he has ever written.” to the favour and admiration of the public, and in
The same year Mr. Scott favoured the world adapting to the taste of modern readers a species with a complete edition of the Works of Dryden, of poetry, which was once the delight of the courus, in which he gave a new life of that great writer, but which has long ceased to gladden any other and numerous notes. But this was not the only eyes than those of the scholar and the antiquary. instance of the fecundity of his genius and the ra- This is a romance, therefore, composed by a minpidity of his pen, for, while these volumes were strel of the present day, or such a romance as we proceeding through the press, he found time for a may suppose would have been written in modero quarto of “ Descriptions and Illustrations of the times, if that style of composition had been cultiLay of the Last Minstrel.”
vated, and partaken, consequently, of the improveWithin a few months after this he undertook, ments which every branch of literature has reat the request of the booksellers, the superintend-ceived since the time of its desertion. ence of a new edition of lord Somers's collection Upon this supposition, it was evidently the au. of Historical Tracts; and at the same time edited thor's business to retain all that was good, and to sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers, and Anna Seward's reject all that was bad, in the models upon which Poetical Works. Yet the very year in which these he was to form himself; adding, at the same time, last publications appeared witnessed the birth of all the interest and beauty which could possibly another original offspring of his prolific muse. be assimilated to the manner and spirit of his origiThis was “ The Lady of the Lake,” the most po- nal. It was his duty, therefore, to reform the ram. pular of all his poems, though, in the opinion of bling, obscure, and interminable narratives of the many, inferior in several respects to his “ Lay of ancient romancers,-to moderate their digressions, the Last Minstrel.”
-to abridge or retrench their prolix or needless “ T'he Vision of Don Roderick” appeared in descriptions,--and to expunge altogether those 1811, and was intended by its author to comme-feeble and prosaic passages, the rude stupidity of morate the achievements of the duke of Welling- which is so apt to excite the derision of a modern ton and the British army in Spain. This poem is reader: at the same time he was to rival, if he considered a complete failure.
could, the force and vivacity of their minute and “Rokeby” was published in 1812–13. It com varied representations—the characteristic simpliprises, in an eminent degree, all the beauties and city of their pictures of manners--the energy and all the defects of our poct's muse.
conciseness with which they frequently describe In 1814 “ The Lord of the Isles" appeared, but great events and the lively colouring and accufailed to excite equal interest with most of its pre-rate drawing by which they give the effect of redecessors. This is the last grand original poem of ality to every scene they undertake to delineate. the northern bard.
Tin executing this arduous task, he was permitted Jo the last-mentioned year he also published a to avail himself of all the variety of style and manprose work, entitled, “ The Border Antiquities of ner which had been sanctioned by the ancient pracEngland and Scotland, with Descriptions and Il-tice, and bound to embellish his performance with lustrations," and brought out a new edition of Swift, all the graces of diction, and versification which with a biographical memoir and annotations. could be reconciled to the simplicity and familiari.
These were followed by two performances, one ty of the minstrel's song. in prose and the other in verse, the first entitled The success which attended Mr. Scott's efforts “ Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk,” and the other in the execution of this adventurous essay is well * The Battle of Waterloo.”.
| known ;-he produced a very beautiful and entertaining poem, in a style which might fairly be con- had been accumulated by the most celebrated of sidered as original, and the public approbation af- his predecessors; at the same time that the raforded the most flattering evidence of the genius pidity of his transitions, the novelty of his combi. of the author. Perhaps, indeed, his partiality for the nations, and the spirit and variety of his own strains of antiquity imposed a littl: upon the seve-thoughts and inventions, show plainly that he was rity of his judgment, and impaired the beauty of his a borrower from an thing but poverty, and took imitation, by directing his attention rather to what only what he could have given if he had been born was characteristic, than to what was unexception- in an earlier age. The great secret of his populari. able in his originals. Though he spared too many ty at the time, and the lending characteristic of his of their faults, however, he improved upon their poetry, consisted evidently in this, that he made beauties, and while it was regretted by many, that use of more common topics, images, and expresthe feuds of border chieftains should have mono- sions, than any original poet of later times; and, polized as much poetry a6 Inight have served to at the same time, displayed more genius and oriintoortalize the whole baronage of the empire, ginality than any recent author who had hitherto yet it produced a stronger inclination to admire worked in the same materials. By the latter pethe interest and magnificence which he contrived culiarity, he entitled himself to the admiration of to communicate to a subject so unpromising. every description of readers; by the former he
MARMIO has more tedious and flat passages, came recommended in an especial manner to the and more ostentation of historical and antiquarian inexperienced, at the hazard of some little offence lore, than its predecessor, but it has also greater to the more cultivated and fastidious. richness and variety, both of character and inci- In the choice of his subjects, for example, he dent; and, if it has less sweetness and pathos in did not attempt to interest merely by fine observathe softer passages, it has certainly more vehe- tions or pathetic sentiment, but took the assistance pence and force of colouring in the loftier and of a story, and enlisted the reader's curiosity among busier representations of action and emotion. his motives for attention. Then his characters The place of the prologuizing minstrel is but were all selected from the most common chiamatis ill supplied, indeed, by the epistolary disserta-personæ of poetry--kings, warriors, knights, out. tions which are prefixed to each book of this po- laws, nuns, minstrels, secluded damsels, wizards, em; but there is more airiness and spirit in the and true lovers. He never ventured to carry us lighter delineations, and the story, if not more into the cottage of the peasant, like Crabbe or Cowskiltully conducled, is at least better complicated, per; nor into the bosom of domestie privacy, like and extended through a wider field of adventure. Campbell; nor among creatures of the imagination, The characteristics of both, bowever, are evidently like Southey or Darwin. Such personages, assurthe same;- a broken narrative-a redundancy of edly, are not in themselves so interesting or strik. minute description-bursts of unequal and ener- ing as those to which our poet devoted himself; getic poetry and a general tone of spirit and ani- but they are far less familiar in poetry, and are Malion, unchecked by timidity or affectation, and therefore more likely to engage the aitention of enchastened by any great delicacy of taste, or ele- those to whom poetry is familiar. In the managegance of fancy
ment of the passions, again, he pursued the same THE LADY OF THE Lake is more polished in its popular and comparatively easy course. He raised diction, and more regular in its versification, than all the most familiar and poetical emotions, by the the author's preceding poems; the story is con- most obvious aggravations, and in the most comstructed with infiuitely more skill and address; pendious and judicious way. He dazzled the readthere is a greater proportion of pleasing and ten- er wi:h the splendour, and even warmed him with der passages, with much less antiquarian detail, the transient heat of various affections: but he noand, upon the whole, a larger variety of characters, where fairly kindled him into enthusiasm, or melt. more artfully and judiciously contrasted. There ed him into tenderness. Writing for the world at is nothing so fine, perhaps, as the battle in Mar- large, (unlike Byron,) he wisely abstained from atmion, or so picturesque as some of the scattered tempting to raise any passion to a height to which sketches in the Lay of the Last Minstrel; but there worldly people could not be transported, and conis a richaess and a spirit in the Lady of the Lake, tented himself with giving his reader the chance which does not pervade either of these poems; a of feeling as a brave, kind, and affectionate gentle. profusion of incident, and a shifting brilliancy of man should often feel in the ordinary course of his colouring, that reminds us of the witchery of Ari- existence, without trying to breathe into him eiosto, and a constant elasticity and occasional ener- ther that lofty enthusiasm which disdains the ordig, which seem to belong more peculiarly to the nary business and amusements of life, cr that quiet author himself.
and deep sensibility, which unfits for all its purAt this period Mr. Scott had outstripped all his suits. With regard to diction and imagery, too, porucal competitors in the race of popularity. The it is quite obvious that he aimed not at writing mighty star of Byron had not yet risen; and we in either a pure or very common style. He doubt whether any British poet had ever had so seems to have been anxious only to strike, and magy of his books sold, or so many of his verses to be easily and universally understood, and, for read and admired by such a multitude of persons this purpose, to have culled the most glittering and in so short a time as Walter Scott. Confident in conspicuous expressions of the most popular the force and originality of his own genius, he was authors, and to have interwoven them in splendid not afraid to avail himself of diction and of senti- confusion with his own nervous diction and irregument, wherever they appeared to be beau.iful and lar versification. Indifferent whether he coins or impressive, using them, however, at all times, with bo
th | borrows, and draw with cqual freedom on his the skill and spirit of an inventor; and, quite cer- (memory and his imagination, he went boldly fortaja that he could not be mistaken for a plagiarist ward, in full reliance on a never failing abundance. or imitator, he made free use of that great trea- and dazzled, with his richness and variety, even sury of characters, images, and expressions, which those who are most apt to be offended with his