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The Norman Horse-shoe...............
STE WALTER Scott, descended from one of the this time to the year 1798, his hfe appears to have most ancient families of Scotland-the Scotts of passed in a devoted attention to his professional Harden, is the eldest surviving son of a gentleman duties, mindful of the advice, of the saine dame, who was an eminent writer to
Not to pen stanzas when he should engross. the signet at Edinburgh, where the subject of this
At the last-mentioned date he entered into the sketch was born, August 15, 1771. His mother; matrimonial state with Miss Carpenter, by whom Mrs. Elizabeth Scott, was the daughter of David he has four children. At the close of the year folRutherforil, esq., writer to the signet, from whom lowing, he received the appointment of sheriffshe obtained a handsome fortune. She was a wo-depute of the county of Selkirk; and in March, man of great virtue and accomplishments, with a 1806, he was named one of the principal clerks of good taste for poetry, as appeared from some of session in Scotland. With regard to this last prefer productions, which were deemed worthy of ferment, it should be observed that his warrant, being printed after her death, in 1789. Walter, thougla drawn, had not passed the seals when the from the tenderness of his constitution, and the death of Mr. Pitt produced an entire change in eireumstance of his lameness, occasioned by a fall the ministry. The appointment of Mr. Scoti had from his nurse's arms at two years of age, was in been effected through the friendship of lord Mela great measure brought up at home, under the ville, who was then actually under impeachment. immediate care and instruction of this excellent This circumstanee seemed very ominous against parent, to whom he was much attached through the confirmation of the nomination; but, fortunately life
, and whose loss he sincerely lamented. Or for Mr. Scott, the new ministry consisted of such bis early parsuits little is known, except that he men as the late Mr. Fox, Sheridan, lord Erskine, evinced a genius for drawing landscapes after na- and the marquis of Lansdowne, with several others ture.- At a proper age he was sent to the high attached to literature and philosophy; and, in a sehool at Edinburgh, ihen directed by Dr. Alex- manner that did them infinite honour, they made ander Adam. In this school, young Scott passed no objection to the advancement of their poetical through the different forms without exhibiting any opponent. Thus, as a witty friend remarked, this seldom remembered till the person to whom they appointment was the last lay of the old ministry.”
Released now from the drudgery of professional are aseribed has become, by the maturity of his labour, by the acquisition of two lucrative situatalents
, an object of distinction. It is said, that he tions, and the possession of a handsome estate sas considered in his boyhood rather heavy than through the death of his father and that of an unotherwise, and that the late Dr. Hugh Blair had cle, Nr. Scott was enabled to court the muses at discernment enough to predict his future eminence, his pleasure, and to indulge in a vaiety of literary when the master of the school lamented his dal- pursuits without interruption. His first publicaBess; but this only affords another instance of the tions were translations from the German, at a time fallacy of human opinion in pronouncing upon the when the wildest productions of that country were real capacity of the youthful understanding.* Bar- much sought after in England, owing to the recent ww, the greatest scholar of his age, was discarded
appearance of that horrible story of Lenora of Buras a blockhead by successive teachers; and his pupil , the illustrious Newton, was declared to be fi ger. The very year when different versions of that
tale came out, and some of these highly ornamentfor nothing but to drive the team, till some friends, ed, Mr. Scott produced two German ballads in an succeeded in getting him transplanted to college. English dress, entitled, “ The Wild Huntsman,"
Having completed his classical studies at the and William and Helen.” high school, with as much reputation, we suppose, as others of his standing, Walter Scott was re-intended for the press, being nothing more than
These little pieces, however, were not originally nuoved to the university of Edinburgh, where, also, exercises in the way of amusement, ull a friend, he passed the classes in a similar manner.
to whom they were shown, prevailed upon the auHis continuance here, however, could not have thor to publish them, and at the same time conbeen long; for, after serving the prescribed terms tributed the preface. Three years elapsed before in the office of a writer to the signel, he was ad- Mr. Scott ventured to appear again in print, when mited an advocate of the Scotch bar, when he had he produced another translation from the German, bot quite attained the age of twenty-one.–From “Goetz of Berlichingen,” a tragedy, by Gæthe.
The prediction of Dr. Blair, here alluded to, arose out Two years afterwards the late Matthew Gregory of the following circumstances. Shortly after Dr. Pater- (cominoply called Monk) Lewis, enriched his to succeeded to the grammar-school, Musselburgh, where's Tales of Wonder” with two ballads communiby some friends, paid him a visit; in the course of which cated to him by our author, one entitled “ The be eiusdiued several of his pupils, and paid particular at- Eve of Saint John,” and the other “Glenfinlas.” louca to young Scott. Dr. Paterson thought it was the In 1802 his first great work, “ The Minstrelsy Foula's stupidity that engaged the doctor's notice, and of the Scottish Border,” came out, beautifully skul in the school.” « May be so," replied Dr. Blair, but printed at Kelso, by Ballantyne. This collection through tha: thick skull I can discern many bright rays immediately arrested general attention, and though of future genius.”
the pieces of which it is composed are very une
qual, the master-mind and soaring genius of the As an instance of the popularity of Scott's poems poet are conspicuous throughout.
we subjoin a statement of the sale of “ Rokeby' The studies of our author at this time were en- and “The Lady of the Lake,” in nearly four tirely antiquarian. He lived and breathed only months, as submitted by the publishers. among the knights, the heroes, the monks, and Sold of “The Lady of the Lake," from June 2d robbers of olden time; the feats of chivalry, and to September 22, 1810, the rough heroism of northern warfare and border 2,000 quarto, at 21. 28. ......4,2002 feuds, were the scenes in which his soul delighted 6,000 octavo, at 128...........3,6001. to dwell. He drank deeply of the stream of history as it darkly flowed over the middle ages, and 8,000
7,8001. his spirit seemed for a time to be imbued with the mysteries, the superstitions, and the romantic va
Sold of Rokeby," in three months (Jan. 14ib lour which characterised the then chieftains of the
to April 14th, 1813,) north countrie.
3,000 quarto, at 21. 28. (less
120 remaining). ....6,0481. His next production was “ Sir Tristram, a metrical romance of the thirteenth century, by Tho
5,000 octavo, at 148... .......3,5001. mas of Ercildoun,” printed in 1804. Sull, however, Mr. Scott may be said as yet to have been
9,5481. only rising in fame: but he soon gained enough to We shall now attempt to offer a few critical obhave intoxicated an ordinary mind in the applause servations on the three most deservedly popular bestowed upon his “ Lay of the last Minstrel,” poems of Walter Scott, viz. The Lay of the Last which appeared, in quarto, in 1805.-The follow- Minstrel, Marmion, and The Lady of the Lake. ing year he published a collection of “ Ballads and The LAYOF THE Last Misstrel is an endeavour Lyrical Pieces.” Shortly after this, public expec- to transfer the refinements of modern poetry to the tation was raised by the promise of a poem, on the matter and the manner of the ancient '
metrical roperfection of which the bard was said to labour as mance. The author, enamoured of the lofty visions for immortality. Accordingly, in 1808, appeared of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which they “Marmion, a tale of Flodden Field,” which the were formerly embodied, employed all the reauthor himself has characterised as “ containing sources of his genius in endeavouring to recal them the best and the worst poetry he has ever written.” to the favour and admiration of the public, and in
The same year Mr. Scott favoured the world adapting to the taste of modern readers a species with a complete edition of the Works of Dryden, of poetry, which was once the delight of the courus, in which he gave a new life of that great writer, but which has long ceased to gladden any other and numerous notes. But this was not the only eyes than those of the scholar and the antiquary. instance of the fecundity of his genius and the ra- This is a romance, therefore, composed by a minpidity of his pen, for, while these volumes were strel of the present day, or such a romance as we proceeding through the press, he found time for a may suppose would have been written in modero quarto of * Descriptions and Illustrations of the times, if that style of composition had been cultiLay of the Last Minstrel."
vated, and partaken, consequently, of the improveWithin a few months after this he undertook, ments which every branch of literature has reat the request of the booksellers, the superintend- ceived since the time of its desertion. ence of a new edition of lord Somers's collection Upon this supposition, it was evidently the auof Historical Tracts; and at the same time edited thor's business to retain all that was good, and to sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers, and Anna Seward's reject all that was bad, in the models upon which Poetical Works. Yet the very year in which these he was to form himself; adding, at the same time, last publications appeared witnessed the birth of all the interest and beauty which could possibly another original offspring of his prolific muse. be assimilated to the manner and spirit of his origiThis was “ The Lady of the Lake," the most po- nal. It was his duty, therefore, to reform the ram. pular of all his poems, though, in the opinion of bling, obscure, and interminable narratives of the many, inferior in several respects to his “ Lay of ancient romancers,-to moderate their digressions, the Last Minstrel.”
-to abridge or retrench their prolix or needless “ The Vision of Don Roderick” appeared in descriptions, and to expunge altogether those 1811, and was intended by its author to comme- feeble and prosaic passages, the rude stupidity of morate the achievements of the duke of Welling- which is so apt to excite the derision of a modern ton and the British army in Spain. This poem is reader: at the same time he was to rival, if he considered a complete failure.
could, the force and vivacity of their minute and “Rokeby” was published in 1812–13. It com- varied representations--the characteristic simpli. prises, in an eminent degree, all the beauties and city of their pictures of manners--the energy and all the defects of our poct's muse.
conciseness with which they frequently describe In 1814 “ The Lord of the Isles" appeared, but great events and the lively colouring and accufailed to excite equal interest with most of its pre- rate drawing by which they give the effect of redecessors. This is the last grand original poem of ality to every scene they undertake to delineate. the northern bard.
In executing this arduous task, he was permitted J: the last-mentioned year he also published a to avail himself of all the variety of style and manprose work, entitled, “The Border Antiquities of ner which had been sanctioned by the ancient pracEngland and Scotland, with Descriptions and 1- tice, and bound to embellish his performance with lustrations," and brought out a new edition of Swift, all the graces of diction, and versification which with a biographical memoir and annotations. could be reconciled to the simplicity and familiari.
These were followed by two performances, one ty of the minstrel's song. in prose and the other in verse, the firsî entitled The success which attended Mr. Scott's efforts “ Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk,” and the other in the execution of this adventurous essay is well * The Battle of Waterloo."
known;-he produced a very beautiful and enter
tining poem, in a style which might fairly be con- had been accumulated by the most celebrated of sidered as original, and the public approbation af- his predecessors; at the same time that the raforded the most flattering evidence of the genius pidity of his transitions, the novelty of his combiof the author. Perhaps, indeed, his partiality for the nations, and the spirit and variety of his own strains of antiquity imposed a little upon the seve- thoughts and inventions, show plainly that he was rity of his judgment, and impaired the beauty of his a borrower from an thing but poverty, and took imitation, by directing his attention rather to what only what he could have given if he had been born was characteristie, than to what was unexception- in an earlier age. The great secret of his populariable in his originals. Though he spared too many ty at the time, and the leading characteristic of his of their faults, however, he improved upon their poetry, consisted evidently in this, that he made beauties, and while it was regretted by many, that use of more common topics, images, and expresthe feuds of border chieftains should have mono- sions, than any original poet of later times; and, polized as much poetry as might have served to at the same time, displayed more genius and oriimtoortalize the whole baronage of the empire, ginality than any recent author who had hitherto yet it produced a stronger inclination to admire worked in the same materials. By the latter pethe interest and magnificence which he contrived culiarity, he entitled himself to the admiration of to communicate to a subject so unpromising. every description of readers; by the former he
MARMION has more tedious and flat passages, came recommended in an especial manner to the and more ostentation of historical and antiquarian inexperienced, at the hazard of some little offence lore, than its predecessor, but it has also greater to the more cultivated and fastidious. rietiness and sariety, both of character and inci In the choice of his subjects, for example, he dent; and, if it has less sweetness and pathos in did not attempt to interest merely by fine observathe safter passages, it has certainly more vehe- tions or pathetic sentiment, but took the assistance mence and force of colouring in the loftier and of a story, and enlisted the reader's curiosity among busier representations of action and emotion. his motives for attention. Then his characters The place of the prologuizing minstrel is but were all selected from the most common dramatis ill supplied, indeed, by the epistolary disserta- personæ of poetry-kings, warriors, knights, outtions which are prefixed to each book of this po- laws, nuns, minstrels, secluded damsels, wizards, em; but there is more airiness and spirit in ihe and true lovers. He never ventiired to carry us lighter delineations, and the story, if not more into the cottage of the peasant, like Crabbe or Cowskilfully conducted, is at least better complicated, per; nor into the bosom of dumestic privacy, like and extended through a wider field of adventure. Campbell; nor among creatures of the imagination, The characteristics of both, however, are evidently like Southey or Darwin. Such personages, assurthe same;- broken narrative—a redundancy of edly, are not in themselves so interesting or striksinute description-bursts of unequal and ener-ing as those to which our poet devoted himself; gttie poetry—and a general tone of spirit and ani- but they are far less familiar in poetry, and are malion, unchecked by timidity or affectation, and therefore more likely to engage the attention of enchastened by any great delicacy of taste, or ele- those to whom poetry is familiar. In the managegance of fancy
ment of the passions, again, he pursued the same THE LADY OF THE LAKE is more polished in its popular and comparatively easy course. He raised diction, and more regular in its versification, than all the most familiar and poetical emotions, by the the author's preceding poems; the story is con- most obvious aggravations, and in the most comstructed with infiuitely more skill and address; pendious and judicious way. He dazzled the reade there is a greater proportion of pleasing and ten-er wi:h the splendour, and even warmed him with der passages, with much less antiquarian detail, the transient heat of various affections: but he noand, upon the whole, a larger variety of characters, where fairly kindled him into enthusiasm, or melt. more artfully and judiciously contrasted. There ed him into tenderness. Writing for the world at is nothing so fine, perhaps, as the battle in Mar- large, (unlike Byron,) he wisely abstained from atmion, or so picturesque as some of the scattered templing to raise any passion to a height to which sketches in the Lay of the Last Minstrel; but there worldly people could not be transported, and conis a richness and a spirit in the Lady of the Lake, tented himself with giving his reader the chance which does not pervade either of these poems; a of feeling as a brave, kind, and affectionate gentle. profusion of incident, and a shifting brilliancy of man should often feel in the ordinary course of his colouring, that reminds us of the witchery of Ari- existence, without trying to breathe into him eiosto, and a constant elasticity and occasional ener- ther that lofty enthusiasm which disdains the ordi. 8, which seem to belong more peculiarly to the nary business and amusements of life, or that quiet author himself.
and deep sensibility, which unfits for all its purAt this period Mr. Scott had outstripped all his suits. With regard to diction and imagery, too, poetical competitors in the race of popularity. The it is quite obvious that he aimed not at writing mighty star of Byron had not yei risen; and we in either a pure or very common style. He doubt whether any British poet' had ever had so seems to have been anxious only to strike, and magy of his books sold, or so many of his verses to be easily and universally understood; and, for read and admired by such a multitude of persons this purpose, to have culled the most glittering and in so short a time as Walter Scott. Confident in conspicuous expressions of the most popular the force and originality of his own genius, he was authors, and to have interwoven them in splendid 20 afraid to arail himself of diction and of sentia confusion with his own nervous diction and irregumeat, wherever they appeared to be beautiful and lar versification. Indifferent whether he coins or impressive, using them, however, at all times, with | borrows, and drawing with cqual freedom on his the skill and spirit of an inventor; and, quite cer- memory and his imagination, he went boldly forlain that he could not be mistaken for a plagiarist ward, in full reliance on a never failing abundance, or imitator, he made free use of that great trea- and dazzled, with his richness and variety, even sy of ebaracters, images, and expressions, which those who are most apt to be offended with his