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MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
SIR WALTER SCOTT was born at Edinburgh on the 15th of August 1771, the same day which gave birth to Napoleon Bonaparte. "My birth,” says he," was neither distinguished nor sordid. According to the prejudices of my country, it was esteemed gentle, as I was connected, though remotely, with ancient families, both by my father's and mother's side." His paternal great-grandfather-a cadet of the border family of Harden-was sprung in the fourteenth century from the great house of Buccleuch; his grandfather became a farmer in Roxburghshire; and his father, Walter Scott, was a writer to the signet in the Scottish capital. His mother, Anne Rutherford, was the daughter of one of the medical professors in the university of Edinburgh.
Neither Scott's poetical turn nor his extraordinary powers of memory seem to have been inherited from either of his parents. His early years displayed little precocity of talent; and the uneventful tenor of his childhood and youth seemed little calculated to awaken in his mind a love of the imaginative or romantic.
Before he had completed his second year, delicacy of constitution, and lameness which proved permanent, assailed him, and soon afterwards caused his removal to the country. There, at his grandfather's farm-bouse of Sandyknowe, situated beneath the crags of a ruined baronial tower, and overlooking a district famous in border-history, the poet passed his childhood till about his eighth year, with scarcely any interruption but a year at Bath. At this early age was evinced his warm sympathy with the beauty and grandeur of nature ; and the ballads and legends, recited to him amid the scenes in which their events were laid, co-operated in after-days with family and national pride to decide the bent of the border-minstrel's fancy.
His health being partially confirmed, he was recalled home; and from the end of 1778 till 1783 bis education was conducted in the High School of Edinburgh, with the assistance of a tutor resident in his father's house. Prior to this change, he had shewn a decided inclination towards literary pursuits ; but now, introduced with imperfect preparation into a large and thoroughly trained class, consisting of boisterous boys,
his childish zeal for learning seems to have been quenched by ambition of another kind. His memory, it is true, was still remarkable, and procured for him from his master the title of historian of the class; while he produced some schoolverses, both translated and original, at least creditable for a boy of twelve. Even his intellectual powers, however, were less active in the proper business of the school than in enticing his companions from their tasks by merry jests and little stories ; and his place as a scholar rarely rose above mediocrity. But his reputation stood high in the play-ground, where, possessed of unconquerable courage, and eager to defeat the scorn which his physical defects excited, he performed hazardous feats of agility, and gained pugilistic trophies over comrades who, that they might have no unfair advantage over the lame boy, fought, like him, lashed face to face on a plank. At home, his tutor, a zealous Presbyterian, instructed him, chiefly by conversation in the facts of Scottish history, though without being able to shake those opinions which the boy had already taken up as an inheritance from his Jacobite ancestors. At every interval also which could be stolen from the watchfulness of his elders, he eagerly pursued a course of reading miscellaneous and undigested, embracing much that to most minds would have been either useless or positively injurious. “I left the High School,” says he,“ with a great quantity of general information, ill arranged, indeed, and collected without system, yet deeply impressed upon my mind, readily assorted by my power of connection and memory, and gilded, if I may be permitted to say so, by a vivid and active imagination.". His perusal
of histories, voyages, and travels, fairy tales, romances, and English poetry, was continued with increasing avidity during a long visit which, in his twelfth year, he paid to his father's sister at the village of Kelso, where the young student read for the first time, with entranced enthusiasm, Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry. This work, besides the delight imparted by its poems, gave new dignity, in his eyes, to his favourite Scottish ballads, which he had already begun to collect from recitation, and to copy in little volumes, several of which are still preserved. “To this period, also,” he tells us, “I can trace distinctly the awaking of that delightful feeling for the beauties of natural objects, which has never since deserted me. The romantic feelings which I have described as predominating in my mind, naturally rested upon and associated themselves with the grand features of the landscape around me; and the historical incidents or traditional legends connected with many of them gave to my admiration a sort of intense impression of reverence, which at times made my heart feel too big for its bosom. From this time the love of natural beauty, more especially when combined with ancient ruins, or remains of our fathers' piety or splendour, ecame with me an insatiable passion, which, if circumstances
had permitted, I would willingly have gratified by travelling over half the globe."
In November 1783, Scott became a student in the university of Edinburgh, where he seems to have attended the classes of Greek, Latin, and logic, during one session, with those of ethics and universal history at a later period, while preparing for the bar. At college the scholastic part of his education proceeded even more unprosperously than it had previously done. For science, mental, physical, or mathematical, he displayed no inclination; and in the acquisition of languages, for which he possessed considerable aptitude, he was but partially industrious or successful. Of Greek, as his son-inlaw and biographer admits, he had in later life forgotten the very alphabet. He had indeed entered on the study with disadvantages similar to those which had formerly impeded his progress in Latin. Inferior to his competitors, he petulantly resolved to despise the study; and by his carelessness, and by an essay maintaining Ariosto to be a better poet'than Homer, he provoked Dr. Dalziel to pronounce of him " that dunce he was, and dunce he would remain." His knowledge of Latin also does not appear to have been more than superficial, although we are informed that for some writers in that tongue, especially Lucan, Claudian, and Buchanan, he had in after life a decided predilection. About the time now ander review, he also acquired French, Italian, and Spanish, all of which he afterwards read with sufficient ease; and the German language was learned a few years later, but never critically understood.
During a severe illness between his twelfth and sixteenth year his stores of romantic and poetical reading received a vast increase, and one of his schoolfellows has given an interesting account of excursions in the neighbourhood of the city, during this period, when the two youths read poems and romances of knight-errantry, and exercised their invention in composing and relating to each other interminable tales modelled on their favourite books. The vocation of the romance-writer and poet of chivalry was thus already fixed. His health likewise became permanently robust, and the lameness in one leg, which was the sole remnant of his early complaints, was through life no obstacle to his habits of active bodily exertion, or to his love for out-of-door sports and exercise.
The next step in his life did not seem directed towards the goal to which all his favourite studies pointed. His father, a formal though high-spirited and high-principled man, designed him for the legal profession; and, although he was desirous that his son should embrace the highest department of it, considered it advisable, according to a practice not uncommon in Scotland, that he should be prepared for the bar by an education as an attorney. Accordingly, in May 1786, Scott, then nearly fifteen years old, was articled for sve years as an