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the principal localities in Perthshire. A servant came to deliver a message, and he went out for a few minutes, requesting me to wait. I took advantage of the interruption, to cast my eye over the furniture of his closet, and my eyes were for some time rivetted on a skull placed on the mantel. piece. I did not know at first whether it was a natural skull, or a well executed cast, and I was going to survey it in my anatomical capacity when the poet returned, and remarking the still mute expression of my curiosity, he was the first to say; " that is a model of the head of Robert Bruce, one of the heroes of Scotland.” And while
pronouncing these words before a stranger, Sir Walter Scott suffered an emotion of enthusiasm to appear in his glance ; so it seemed at least to me; he continued: “The name of Bruce, and that of Wallace, have a magic influence in this country, they are the demi-gods of our heroic ages; their memory restores to us the pride of independent Scotland. They are not only the heroes of our saloons, but the heroes of the populace. Ballads compose
the greatest part of Scotch literature, and those ballads sing of Wallace and Robert Bruce. A poet sprung from the ranks of the people, Robert Burns, has also sung of Wallace and Bruce, at the conclusion of the last century. You can scarcely conceive what an æra it was for us, to have discovered some few years ago, the tomb and mortal relics of Bruce : to that discovery it is that I am indebted for this cast. It occurred in 1818, in digging the foundation for a new
church at Dunfermline. A tomb was found, the situation of which perfectly corresponded with that which our two ancient Chroniclers, Barbour and Fordun, describe. It was closed by iron hoops, almost all rust eaten ; the lead was worn away in several places, and the remains of a skeleton were then discovered, which had appertained to a man of six feet two inches in height.”
“ The height of the heroes of Homer.”
Sir Walter Scott smiled at my observation, and added, “The body had been wrapped in damask cloth of very fine tissue, interwoven with gold, of which some of the fragments remain. On the head were the remains of something, which must have been a crown; an interior coffin of oak was immediately next to the body; but the wood was worm-eaten; some nails were drawn out of it: here and there were scattered fragments of marble, which had doubtless composed a part of the mausoleum. Like many others, I made a pilgrimage to this tomb. We all respectfully contemplated the relics of King Robert Bruce.”
“You had already published the Lord of the Isles ?"
Sir Walter Scott.—“ Yes, the poem dates from 1813.”
“It is one of your poems which has most in terested me; the description of the Hebrides is a savage but sublime picture.”
Sir Walter Scott. "I am greatly indebted to
our old poet Barbour, for the historical events of the work.”
“ You have revivified the heroic chronicles of your country : you have restored to the heraldic blazonry of the descendants of your ancient knights all the lustre with which it glittered in the age of chivalry. But complaints are made of your silence. Your dramatic sketch of Halidon Hill is another national work; but we should have been pleased with seeing it of greater length. Yo have not renounced the intention of giving us another poem?”
Sir W. S.-"I do not know. I have published a great many."
“We also admire your prose.”
This was touching a delicate chord; but I had made up my mind not to speak of the novels, for fear of being led into any indiscretion ; I therefore quickly added, “I had thought of translating your Life of Swift ; I am sure that it would succeed in France.”
Sir W. S.--"In my opinion you would find your account in publishing the Life of Dryden first. It comprises a subject more generally agreeable.”
“I am familiar with that * also ; and have perused it with pleasure and profit. In that work you have given the literary history of half a century. On receiving the book, I perceived, on re
* I find that I have been anticipated, as well as in that of Dryden.
ferring to the index, the name of Moliere, and I anxiously sought the passage in which you do justice to his genius."
Sir W. S.—“ Both Moliere and Dryden imitated Plautus's Amphytrion. Dryden had the double advantage of imitating Moliere as well as Plautus. By the way, the Latin poet is the least faithful of the three to the rules of unity of place. Hercules is born in the Latin production ; while the two moderns have contented themselves with preparing for his birth nine months before hand.”
“Our French Aristotles look upon Plautus as a barbarian. It was to him that R. Boileau alluded.
• Le Latin dans les mots brave l'honnêteté,'' Sir W.S.-“ Dryden also is disposed to set it at defiance. He quotes somewhere a passage of Montaigne,* with reference to French delicacy. In his time the decency of the French Theatre ought to have shamed ours. Moliere's Amphytrion is a model of true comedy. Dryden is generally trite and coarse, when Moliere is witty. If Moliere hazards a double entendre, Dryden tells the same thing in rounds terms."
“Dryden is a poet in the part of Jupiter.”
Sir W. S.-" Yes; and he has enriched his Amphytrion with a secondary intrigue, which Mo
* We are made up of ceremonial. Ceremony carries us away, and we quit the substance of things. We have taught the ladies to blush at only hearing named what they never scruple to do. We dare to call the members of our body by their proper names, while we fear 1:00 to employ them in all kinds of debauchery.
liere need not have disavowed,--the intrigue between Mercury and Phedra, the wife of Sosia. But he acknowledged Moliere for his master."
“He was less just to Racine, and one cannot ayoid inclining to his opinion when he ridicules the extreme scrupulosity of Monsieur Hippolyte in not daring to accuse his marátre (step mother)."*
Sir W. S.-“I have given no judgment on this incident, which I have called a knotty point; but quoted Racine's verses to give my readers an opportunity of judging for themselves.”
“But in another place you attribute the rhodamontades of Dryden's heroes to his imitation of the French tragedies."
Sir W. S.-" The rhyming tragedies or heroic performances of Dryden were importations from the Parisian theatre. In France during Louis XIV.'s time, a kind of pompous ceremony, contradistinguished from the manners of the people, took possession of the theatre ; the poets troubled themselves less about making their personages speak naturally, than avoiding the violation of the law of decorum imposed by the presence of the Grand Monarque. The sentiments were borrowed from Calprenede and Scudery. The etiquette of the
• An expression of Dryden.
Pour quoi ? par quelle caprice.
He! Que na'i je point dit?