delightful spot about six miles from Edinburgh, where the poet sought to realize a rural paradise, and where many a happy hour passed away. There he wrote the ballads for Monk Lewis's Tales of Wonder.

In 1800 appeared the translation of Goethe's Tragedy of Goetz von Berlichengen, which did not attract much notice. Scott, also about this time, wrote a play called the “ House of Aspen.” Neither have been acted. Then he was successively occupied with “Glenfinlas,” “The Eve of St. John," “ The Grey Brother," and the “ Fire King." He was also taken up during his vacation rambles, which were intermitted only by the calls of professional duty, in the collection of the materials for the minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. His repeated visits to that neighbourhood renewed his acquaintance with a former school-fellow, James Ballantyne, then conducting a newspaper at Kelso. Scott gave his press some trifling occupation, and the style of his friend's work originated the connection between them, which eventually brought on the reverses that oppressed his maturer years.

In December 1799 the poet received, through the interest of the Duke of Buccleuch, the appointment of Sheriff of Selkirkshire, an office of £300 a-year, with duties of the lightest. About this time it was that he became acquainted with some of the friends whose literary acquirements were of material service to him, and whose value is recorded in so many delightful allusions in his poems. Heber, Leyden, Ellis, and Miss Seward became his literary correspondents. The Ettrick Shepherd also appears roughly in the circle. In the beginning of 1802 appeared two volumes of the minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and through this work the poet became generally known to English readers. A third volume afterwards appeared ; and the “Lay of the Last Minstrel " began to take hazy form amidst the shadows of his rising fame. His friends received the rehearsal of its opening cantos somewhat coldly. But the poet discovered that they could not forget the lines he read to them. He went on.

The publication of the “Minstrelsy” made Scott a reviewer. Jeffrey, the editor of the “Edinburgh," was a brother advocate. Scott did not long remain amongst his staff. Opposing politics by-and-by drove these men asunder, and Scott afterwards was one of the projectors of the “ Quarterly."

In 1804 took place the publication of Scott's edition of “Sir Tristrem," by Thomas of Ercildoun. He found it necessary at that time to comply with the law, which requires the residence of the sheriff during four months of the year within his jurisdiction. He, therefore, took a lease of the farm of Ashestiel, in Ettrick Forest, and relinquished his cottage at Lasswade.

After long and anxious waiting on the part of his friends, the “Lay" made its appearance in January 1805. Its popularity was not long doubtful. It received at once the highest commendations. It continued to rise in public favour. Edition after edition was called for, to meet the continued demand. The author's biographer declares that “in the history of British poetry nothing had ever equalled the demand for the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel.'”

The Minstrelsy had been appropriately printed at Kelso. On the representations of Scott, Ballantyne had removed to Edinburgh. “The Lay" was printed in the latter place. But business requires capital, and Scott's friendship had stood the printer already in such good stead, that he must also find capital to carry on the increased operations he created. Ballantyne showed this to the poet, who conceived the idea of becoming his partner. He did so. 'Twas pity. Oh, had he been content to help his friend still further, without caring to help himself! But Scott was enterprising. He had a poet's prescience. He was a “mar of business," yet he was a poet. Imagination must have carried him off his feet. He must needs also afterwards set up his printer's brother as a publisher. 'Twas well done. The strong should help the weak, and Scott was rising on eagle's wings. But he should not have been partner. He had not yet put forth half his strength. “The Lay” is timid here and there. It almost falters now and then, not in the weakness of the minstrel, but in his doubt of the mind of his audience. What shall this man be when he puts forth all his strength? This, however, was scarce to be, until the Philistines should be upon him. All went well for some time. At length the publisher smote the printer; and the printer smote the poet. What though the blow resounded louder all the sweetness of the lyre? The buffet struck home to the soul of gentleness, and the wound was grievous.

Scott's profession was hanging in the wind along with his harp. But the one shrank whilst the other vibrated. Fees dwindled whilst profits rose. The prospect of increasing the latter drove this powerful man into projects,-editions of the poets, and what not. Yet his partnerships were secret. His attendance at the Scottish Westminster was constant. Still it was plain he was not to rise at the bar. In 1806 he made an arrangement with Mr. Home, one of the clerks of the Court of Session, for the reversion of his office, on condition of discharging its duties gratuitously during the life of the holder. He was associated with Mr. Home in the appointment on these terms, and did not receive any emolument from it until some years afterwards. He was thus withdrawn from the bar, and ceased to be a pretender to public

favour as a professional man. Every moment spared from his office was given to literature and literary friendship. It is a wonder to the minnows how this triton, like most other great men, found time for all his labours ; for Scott was a keen sportsman. Coursing was his favourite amusement. It drew forth his attachment to his horses and his dogs, and gave himself the hearty and exhilarating exercise he dearly loved. 'Tis something to a book-worm, jaded with his toil in the close atmosphere of paper catacombs, to feel the free air of native hills and dales distending his cramped lungs. And he who, on his own pinions, raises into ethereal regions the solid work-a-day world, may be allowed to feel enjoyment on the back of a noble, if inferior animal, springing forwards on buoyant sinews in the chase that gives the beast at least the keenest pleasure. Walter Scott, at any rate, thought so. His horses and his dogs knew how he enjoyed the sport, and these dumb friends loved him and sunned themselves in his keen eyes as if they, too, saw the work he did. At this time Miss Seward looked on his face at Lichfield. She thus describes him : “On Friday last the poetically great Walter Scott came 'like a sunbeam to my dwelling.' This proudest boast of the Caledonian muse is tall, and rather robust than slender, but lame. Neither the contour of his face, nor yet his ieatures are elegant; his complexion healthy, and somewhat fair, without bloom. We find the singularity of brown hair and eyelashes with flaxen eyebrows; and a countenance open, ingenuous, and benevolent. When seriously conversing or earnestly attentive, though his eyes are rather of a lightish grey, deep thought is on their lids; he contracts his brow, and the rays of genius gleam aslant from the orbs beneath them. An upper lip too long prevents his mouth from being decidedly handsome, but the sweetest emanations of temper and heart play about it when he talks cheerfully or smiles—and in company he is much oftener gay than contemplative-his conversation an overflowing fountain of brilliant wit, apposite allusion, and playful archness,while on serious things it is nervous and eloquent; the accent is decidedly Scotch, but by no means broad."

Next came “Marmion," published in February 1808; "a dumpy quarto," the author calls it. Had any one but he applied the epithet even to the shadow of the material volume, the man should be consigned to Dante for everlasting punishment. But even the affectation of Scott is catching. So much does the man endear himself.

Along with his works of imagination, Scott was carrying on his studies by the studious criticism involved in editing Dryden and Swift. These, doubtless, contributed to preserve the power and balance of his judgment. In May 1810, “The Lady of the Lake " came out, with a portrait of the author.

It is needless to exhibit the criticisms of the period upon those works. They were received with delight by all readers. A time may come when language shall have put on another dress; and of the diction of these poems may then be thought what we think of Chaucer's. Other generations may arise who shall not be able to enjoy the externalism of these poeins. Neither their purpose nor their moral is of the highest scope. But, while objects are included within the domain of poetry as of themselves worthy of its charms, the word-painting of these exquisite pictures will remain to delight the world. Scott did not aspire to teach. It was his province to please.

Next year appeared the “Vision of Don Roderick,"

In 1812 the poet entered upon the income of his office in the Court of Session, and thus enjoyed until near the close of his life a professional income of £1600 a-year. This did not relax his literary labours, and in the same year “Rokeby" was written. His letters begin to date from Abbotsford, of which he says to Lord Byron, “I am labouring here to contradict an old proverb, and make a silk purse out of a sow's ear,-namely, to convert a bare haugh and brae, of about a hundred acres, into a comfortable farm." This was the nucleus of what was afterwards developed into a great mansion and a wide estate. Nearly simultaneously with “Rokeby” appeared, anonymously, “The Bridal of Triermain.” Few were so dull as to mistake this for an imitation of Scott by an inferior hand, as he seems to have desired might be the public judgment. Even the Greek quotations in the preface deceived none of the friends who knew that Scott was ignorant of that language. In this freak, however, we discern that desire for a literary incognito that was afterwards grati. fied by the mystery attending the authorship of“ Waverley.” Scott had bitherto occupied the chief place in the field of contemporary poetry. But he discerned in Byron a rising star who was to carry the force of words into a deeper region of the soul than his own poetry could stir, and whose powers were sufficient to command as wide a range of popularity as his own. He began seri. ously to meditate prose. The discovery in an old cabinet of a fraginent commenced some years before, attracted his notice by the force its words exerted upon himself, now become, in the lapse of time, a comparative stranger to his own composition. Before “Waverley" appeared, in July 1814, he had been offered and had declined the laureateship, which he exerted himself successfully to have bestowed on Southey. He wrote prose in earnesi when he began. The original fragment contained nearly the whole of the first volume of “ Waverley ;" the two last volumes were written in three weeks. The secret of the authorship was confided only to two or three of the author's most intimate literary friends. The veil of incognito was easily penetrated by the discriminating few who stood next without his most confiding regard. To the world at large“ the author of Waverley” became a myth of magnitude, not to speak of the transcendent merit of " Waverley" as a work of art. There is an aroma belonging to it that suits the public taste. Notwithstanding that our idols are stripped generation after generation, and even day after day, of their gilded cheeks and diamond eyes by poets, novelists, and satirists, we yet remain, by virtue of humanity itself, their worshippers. In vain does a Shakespeare cast the blazon of his genius alike over gentle and simple, king and peasant, combining them all in one common kith, where human nature makes of the whole one united world. In vain a Smollett holds the mirror up to the universal coarseness that underlies all our refinement of the surface. In vain, too, a Hogarth and a Thackeray paint us all, at bottom, snobs and common fellows, and show us, by their Rakes and Crawleys, that Virtue alone is fair. We will have it that there is a lofty class, within which reside all the majesty and the peace that our ideals faintly realize. Your Sir Charles Grandisons are the heroes of every successive generation. A democracy becomes an oligarchy by virtue of success, and the struggling multitude accepts it. Principles of this sort are recognised in the oldest and most popular volume. There it is an aristocracy that perpetually leads the movements of the subjacent masses. After all the shifting scenery of the world-wide drama is displayed, the curtain of revelation itself finally descends on the triumph of the true, though tried aristocracy.

In order that men may be elevated, some of them must be placed within a line of privilege towards which the rest are drawn. The pale of the author of “Waverley” appears to be taken from the most vulgar prejudice of his nation. It consists in the possession of the soil, and includes the correlations of rank depending on the family ramifications of the landed proprietors. In a word, his philosophy is feudalism. His feudalism is indeed gilded with all the powers of fancy and the consummate decorations of art. It is genial withal, and whilst class remains within class there is the utmost cordiality and good neighbourhood. Unfortunately, in the world class will not remain within class ; men will not be contented simply to do their duty within the station in which God has placed them. They will aspire. The interest, perhaps, of all Scott's works, depends more than we are aware on the touch of nature everywhere applied, that amidst

« 前へ次へ »