he began to undertake long journeys on foot, frequently walking thirty miles in a day. He also became an expert horseman, an accomplishment from which he derived great pleasure, and which during his life was one of his most favourite amusements. The recollections of his acquaintances do not show that he applied himself with the necessary assiduity to his profession, although he attempted to remedy the deficiencies of his early education ; but his romantic tastes had assumed the mastery and would not be shaken off. The furnishings of his office desk partook more of the form of black-letter ballads, romances, and miscellaneous literature, than of those weightier volumes which are the necessary reading of a lawyer's apprentice who hopes to rise in his profession. His growing distaste for the drudgery of a writer's office was relieved about his seventeenth year, by his introduction into seve. ral of the higher literary societies, which, then as now, were much supported in Edinburgh by intelligent young men, for the purposes of debate and improvement in literary composition. Through these, Walter Scott became acquainted with young men about his own age, many of whom afterwards ranked high amongst the eminent men of their country. In these societies “his constant good temper softened the asperities of debate, while his multifarious lore, and the quaint humour with which he enlivened its display, made him more a favourite as a speaker than some whose powers of rhetoric were far above his.” On the expiry of his term of apprenticeship he desired to abandon the profession of writer and adopt that of an advocate, although conscious of his deficiencies as a public speaker ; but his observation whilst in his father's office had convinced him that he was wanting in the methodical habits of business which are a writer's best recommendation-besides, that the greater independence of the advocate was more congenial to him. He accordingly duly qualified himself, and assumed the gown in 1792. Walter Scott was now in his 2 Ist year, a member of an honourable profession, wherein he had fair prospects of rising to eminence if he could endure the weary waiting for clients. He was employed from time to time by his father and some other solicitors, on the kind of causes on which young counsellors were expected to bestow a great deal of trouble for very small remuneration. But previous to this period he had been giving his attention to poetical composition, though not to the extent which we might have been led to expect from the facility with which he afterwards produced those poems which established his fame. But, perhaps, as one of his early Scotch friends said “he was makin' himsell a' the time.” Whilst at the High School of Edinburgh he had attempted some poetical versions from Horace and Virgil as part of his school-tasks, one of which had been carefully preserved by his mother as “my Walter's first lines, 1782."

In awful ruins Ætna thunders nigh,
And sends in pitchy whirlwinds to the sky,
Black clouds of smoke, which still as they aspire
From their dark sides there bursts the glowing fire :
At other times huge balls of fire are toss'd
That lick the stars, and in the smoke are lost :
Sometimes the mount with vast convulsions torn,
Emits huge rocks which instantly are borne
With loud explosions to the starry skies,
The stones made liquid as the huge mass flies,
Then back again with greater weight recoils,
While Ætna thundering from the bottom boils.

Up till this time, and for a year or two afterwards, he does not appear to have attempted much original composition, not even those trifling pieces which young persons of poetical tastes indulge in under favouring influences. “His personal ap. pearance,” says Mr. Lockhart, “at this time was not unengaging. He had out-grown 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 beyond the charm of mere features. His smile was always delightful, and his figure, excepting the blemish to 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; his 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 of extraordinary vigour, without as yet a touch of clumsiness."

In 1793 Walter Scott was entrusted with his first principal case as advocate for the Rev. Mr. McNaught, minister of Girthon in Galloway, who was charged with certain misdemeanours, and of conduct unbecoming a minister of the Kirk of Scotland. He was called on to support it at the bar of the Assembly, and did so in a speech of considerable length, which he got through very little to his own satisfaction, and believed he had made a complete failure. Whilst on his visit to Galloway to procure evidence on behalf of his client, he became acquainted for the first time with that part of Scotland ; and some of the incidents and materials then brought before him provided him with the germs of one of his best appreciated novels, “Guy Mannering.” In the subsequent year he made his first visit to the highlands of Perth and Stirling, and to the beautiful scenery of Loch Lomond, and Loch Katrine. The impression made upon his romantic feelings by these places, and the wild loveliness of their natural state, may be imagined by perusing the glowing descriptions with which the “ Lady of the Lake” abounds. On this and on subsequent visits he carefully examined the districts mentioned in the poem, and from the friends in the surrounding neighbourhood, with whom he resided, he was made acquainted with those traits of Highland character, their traditions and superstitions, which are intertwined with the course of the narrative and furnish not the least of the surpassing beauties which endear the poem to all readers. In 1795 he was appointed one

« 前へ次へ »