« 前へ次へ »
of £300 per annum ; and this, with his wife's fortune, made him less solicitous about his success as an advocate, besides enabling him to give freer rein to his literary tastes. And as he had been for some time previously, gathering together old Border Ballads with a view to publication, the opportunities which this appointment opened for him of adding to his collection were immediately utilised. As his new duties, though not onerous, necessitated his residing in the county for a certain portion of the year, his legal vacation holidays were for the next few years devoted to exploring the (at that time) comparatively wild and little inhabited county, usually with one or more chosen friends. In these excursions the poet's genial good-nature and open-hearted affability made him everywhere welcome. At the cottage of the peasant; at the farmer's comfortable quarters ; or at the Laird's House; the Shirra', as he was from henceforth known throughout the district, came to be regarded as a welcome visitant. In 1802 the “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border" was issued from the press, and the favourable reception it met with gave the author confidence in his own poetical powers. This work, the result of several years' labour, contained several of his own pieces, which were received with delight by people of antiquarian tastes, and accepted by the lovers of poetry in general, as betokening the advent of a new poet. To sagacious minds the wealth of historical illustration, and the immense variety of curious information which the Introductory Essays and the Notes to the various Ballads contained, revealed an author of great promise.
Walter Scott's literary career may be said to have now fairly commenced. The success of the “Minstrelsy” led to his being solicited by the publishers, prominent amongst whom was Mr. Constable, who at this time was entering upon those great projects, the successful development of which made Edinburgh for the next quarter of a century a formidable rival to London as a lite. rary centre. He had in this year commenced the publication of the “Edinburgh Review," the editorship of which was confided at first to the Rev. Sydney Smith, and soon afterwards to Mr. Jeffrey (afterwards Lord Jeffrey), one of the poet's early friends. Scott's first appearance as an Essayist was in the pages of this journal, and to it he con. tinued to be a frequent contributor for several years, until political differences induced him to withdraw from it. In the summer of the following year, the poet transferred his summer residence from Lasswade to the banks of the Tweed—the silver stream to which such frequent reference is made in his poems, and to whose beauties his strong love for natural scenery made him susceptible. Here he rented a small house named Ashestiel ; and to his literary labours added those of a farmer, into which he threw himself with his accustomed energy, and the enjoyment of which first seduced him into that desire to be a land owner, which so much influenced his after-life, and to which in a great degree the world owes those beautiful creations of his genius, which adorn our literature. Early in 1805, the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel” was given to the world, and received with rapturous delight. The novel and exquisite structure of the poem, and high imaginative power; its easy flowing verse " light-horse," as he himself called it—its glowing descriptions of scenery, its graphic portraiture of the warrior life of old, alive with chivalrous feeling, enchained its readers, and gained him at once universal applause. The success of this poem confirmed the
author in the growing distaste for his profession, for which he had never any real liking, and he henceforth turned his thoughts towards literature as the main business of his life. And as he was now-with the income derived from his sheriffship, his wife's fortune, and a bequest which at this time fell to him through the death of a relative, and with some other matters-in an independent position, he felt himself able to carry out his desires. The interest of his friends, also, procured for him his appointment as one of the Clerks of Session of the value of £800 a year, and although, while he assumed the duties, he did not, until some years afterwards, reap the emoluments of the office (by an arrangement with his predecessor), his appointment enabled him to retire from the Bar, with a fair trust in the future. An unhappy commercial connection was at this time entered into by the poet, which twenty years afterwards was to issue in disastrous consequences, and to be productive of much misery. James Ballantyne, a printer in Kelso, and a former schoolfellow, had been induced by the poet to settle in business at Edinburgh, and had become indebted to him for a considerable sum of money,
which was afterwards increased, and eventually led to a partnership between them. Ballantyne was possessed of good abilities, which in many ways were useful to the poet, but he seems to have been entirely lacking in those qualities of prudence, energy, and commercial knowledge, which are indispensable to the man of business. Whilst at Kelso, he had been employed to print the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," with such good result, that on his removal to Edinburgh, he rapidly became, with the poet's assistance, one of the most esteemed printers. To this connection was, not long afterwards, added another with John Ballantyne, brother to James, whom the poet established as a publisher. The partnership with the brothers was from the first a secret one, and, until the final disclosure, was unknown to his friends. In the autumn of this year Scott again visited London, and was everywhere received with the homage due to his talents. In 1808 the poet again came before the public with “Marmion,” on which he had been engaged at intervals for a year previously. Its reception was even more assured than that given to the “Lay of the Last Minstrel.” Characterised by the same wealth of descriptive