페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

Castle, and some other ancient buildings in the neighborhood. He recited poetry and old legends from morn till night; and it is impossible that anything could be more delightful than his society; but what I particularly allude to is the circumstance, that at that time he was writing Marmion, the three or four first 10 cantos of which he had with him, and which he was so good as to read to me. It is unnecessary to say how much I was enchanted with them; but as he good-naturedly asked me to state any observations that occurred to me, I said in joke that it appeared to me he had brought his hero by a very strange route into Scotland. 'Why,' says I, 'did ever mortal coming from 20 England to Edinburgh go by Gifford, Crichton Castle, Borthwick Castle, and over the top of Blackford Hill? Not only is it a circuitous detour, but there never was a road that way since the world was created!' "That is a most irrelevant objection,' said Sir Walter; it was my good pleasure to bring Marmion by that route for the purpose of describing the places you 30 have mentioned, and the view from Blackford Hill-it was his business to find his road and pick his steps the best way he could. But, pray, how would you have me bring him? Not by the post-road, surely, as if he had been traveling in a mail-coach?' 'No,' I replied; 'there were neither postroads nor mail-coaches in those days; but I think you might have brought 40 him with a less chance of getting into a swamp, by allowing him to travel the natural route by Dunbar and the seacoast; and then he might have tarried for a space with the famous. Earl of Angus, surnamed Bell-the-Cat, at his favorite residence of Tantallon Castle, by which means you would have had not only that fortress with all his feudal followers, but the Castle of

Dunbar, the Bass, and all the beautiful 50 scenery of the Forth to describe.' This observation seemed to strike him much, and after a pause he exclaimed, 'By Jove, you are right! I ought to have brought him that way'; and he added, 'But before he and I part, depend upon it, he shall visit Tantallon.' He then asked if I had ever been there, and upon saying I had frequently, he desired me to describe 60 it, which I did; and I verily believe it is from what I then said that the accurate description contained in the fifth Canto was given-at least I never heard him say he had afterwards gone to visit the castle; and when the poem was published, I remember he laughed, and asked me how I liked Tantallon."

Just a year had elapsed from his 70 beginning the poem, when he penned the Epistle for Canto IV at Ashestiel; and who, that considers how busily his various pursuits and labors had been crowding the interval, can wonder to be told that

Even now, it scarcely seems a day
Since first I tuned this idle lay—
A task so often laid aside
When leisure graver cares denied—
That now November's dreary gale,
Whose voice inspired my opening tale,
That same November gale once more
Whirls the dry leaves on Yarrow shore.

88

80

The fifth Introduction was written in Edinburgh in the month following; that to the last Canto, during the Christmas festivities of Mertounhouse, where, from the first days of his ballad-riming to the close of his 90 life, he, like his bearded ancestor, usually spent that season with the immediate head of the race. The bulky appendix of notes, including a mass of curious antiquarian quotations, must have moved somewhat slowly through the printers' hands; but Marmion was at length ready for

publication by the middle of February, 1808.

On his way back to Scotland, he [Scott] spent some days more with Morritt, at Rokeby Park, on the northern boundary of Yorkshire; and he was so delighted by the scenery of the rivers Tees and Greta, which have their confluence within the 10 demesne, and so interested with his host's traditionary anecdotes of the Cavaliers of the Rokeby lineage, that he resolved on connecting a poem with these fair landscapes. But he had already, I presume, begun The Lady of the Lake: for, on his arrival at Edinburgh, he undertook that it should be finished by the end of the year. In July he revisited all the localities so 20 dear to him in the days of his juvenile rambling, which he had chosen for the scene of his fable. He gave a week to Cambusmore, and ascertained, in his own person, that a good horseman might gallop from Loch Vannachar to Stirling within the space allotted to Fitz-James. He then, under the guidance of Mr. Macdonald Buchanan, explored Loch 30 Lomond, Arrochar, Loch Sloy, and all the scenery of a hundred conflicts between the Macfarlanes, the Colquhouns, and the Clan Alpine. At Buchanan House, which is very near Ross Priory, Lady Douglas and Lady Louisa Stuart were visiting the Duke of Montrose; he joined them there, and read to them the Stag Chase, which he had just completed under 40 the full influence of the genius loci.

Early in May The Lady of the Lake came out as her two elder sisters had done-in all the majesty of quarto, with every accompanying grace of typography, and with, more

5. Morritt, John B. S. Morritt, of Rokeby, a friend of Scott's who left numerous reminiscences of him. 18. end of the year, 1809. 40. genius loci, spirit of the place.

over, an engraved frontispiece of Saxon's portrait of Scott; the price of the book two guineas. For the copyright the poet had nominally received 2000 guineas, but as John 50 Ballantyne and Co. retained threefourths of the property to themselves -Miller of London purchasing the other fourth-the author's profits were, or should have been, more than this.

Mr. Cadell, the publisher of this Memoir, then a young man in training for his profession, retains a strong impression of the interest which the 60 quarto excited before it was on the counter. "James Ballantyne," he says, "read the cantos from time to time to select coteries, as they advanced at press. Common fame was loud in their favor; a great poem was on all hands anticipated. I do not recollect that any of all the author's works was ever looked for with more intense anxiety, or that any one of them ex- 70 cited a more extraordinary sensation when it did appear. The whole country rang with the praises of the poet-crowds set off to view the scenery of Loch Katrine, till then comparatively unknown; and as the book came out just before the season for excursions, every house and inn in that neighborhood was crammed with a constant succession of visitors. It 80 is a well-ascertained fact that from the date of the publication of The Lady of the Lake, the post-horse duty in Scotland rose in an extraordinary degree, and indeed it continued to do so regularly for a number of years, the author's succeeding works keeping up the enthusiasm for our scenery which he had thus originally created." Mr. Cadell adds that four 8vo editions 90 followed the quarto within the space of twelve months; that these carried the early sale to 20,000 copies; and that by July, 1836, the legitimate sale

in Great Britain had been not less than 50,000 copies; since which date I understand that, in spite of legal and illegal piracies, the fair demand has been well kept up.

In their reception of this work, the critics were for once in full harmony with each other, and with the popular voice. The article in the Quarterly 10 was written by George Ellis; but its eulogies, though less discriminative, are not a whit more emphatic than those of Mr. Jeffrey in the rival Review. Indeed, I have always considered this last paper as the best specimen of contemporary criticism on Scott's poetry. The Lay, if I may venture to state the creed now established, is, I should say, generally 20 considered as the most natural and original, Marmion as the most powerful and splendid, The Lady of the Lake as the most interesting, romantic, picturesque, and graceful of his great

poems.

Of its success he speaks as follows in 1830: "It was certainly so extraordinary as to induce me for the moment to conclude that I had at last fixed a 30 nail in the proverbially inconstant

wheel of Fortune. But, as the celebrated John Wilkes is said to have explained to King George the Third, that he himself was never a Wilkite, so I can with honest truth exculpate myself from having been at any time a partisan of my own poetry, even when it was in the highest fashion with the million."

40 James Ballantyne has preserved in his Memorandum an anecdote strikingly confirmative of the most remarkable statement in this page of Scott's confessions. "I remember," he says, "going into his library shortly after

13. rival Review, the Edinburgh Review. 32. John Wilkes, a political agitator (1727-1797) who criticized George III and for some years was kept out of Parliament and even exiled, but who later became lord mayor of London and served in Parliament many years.

the publication of The Lady of the Lake, and finding Miss Scott, who was then a very young girl, there by herself. I asked her, 'Well, Miss Sophia, how do you like The Lady of 50 the Lake?' Her answer was given with perfect simplicity, ‘Oh, I have not read it; papa says there's nothing so bad for young people as reading bad poetry."

In fact, his children in those days had no idea of the source of his distinction or rather, indeed, that his position was in any respect different from that of other Advocates, Sheriffs, 60 and Clerks of Session. The eldest boy came home one afternoon about this time from the High School, with tears and blood hardened together upon his cheeks. "Well, Wat," said his father, "what have you been fighting about today?" With that the boy blushed and hung his head, and at last stammered out-that he had been called a lassie. "Indeed!" said Mrs. Scott, 70 "this was a terrible mischief, to be sure."

"You may say what you please, mamma," Wat answered roughly, "but I dinna think there's a waufer (shabbier) thing in the world than to be a lassie, to sit boring at a clout." Upon further inquiry it turned out that one or two of his companions had dubbed him "The Lady of the Lake," and the phrase so was to him incomprehensible, save as conveying some imputation on his prowess, which he accordingly vindicated in the usual style of the Yards. Of the poem he had never before heard. Shortly after, this story having got wind, one of Scott's colleagues of the Clerks' Table said to the boy, who was in the home circle called "Gilnockie," from his admiration of 90 Johnny Armstrong, "Gilnockie, my

91. Johnny Armstrong, a famous Scotch freebooter of the sixteenth century about whom many ballads were composed.

[graphic][merged small]

man, you cannot surely help seeing that great people make more work about your papa than they do about me or any other of your uncleswhat is it do you suppose that occasions this?" The little fellow pondered for a minute or two, and then answered very gravely, "It's commonly him that sees the hare sitting." 10 And yet this was the man that had his children all along so very much with him.

III. SCOTT AT PLAY

[In these paragraphs you get a vivid picture of life at Abbotsford. Lockhart married the daughter of Scott.]

About the middle of August, my wife and I went to Abbottsford; and we remained there for several weeks, during which I became familiarized to Sir Walter Scott's mode of existence in the country. The humblest person who stayed merely for a short visit 20 must have departed with the impression that what he witnessed was an occasional variety; that Scott's courtesy prompted him to break in upon his habits when he had a stranger to amuse; but that it was physically impossible that the man who was writing the Waverley romances at the rate of nearly twelve volumes in the year could continue, week after week, 30 and month after month, to devote all but a hardly perceptible fraction of his mornings to out-of-doors' occupations, and the whole of his evenings to the entertainment of a constantly varying circle of guests. The hospitality of his afternoons must alone have been enough to exhaust the energies of almost any man; for his visitors did not mean, like those of 40 country-houses in general, to enjoy the landlord's good cheer and amuse each other; but the far greater proportion arrived from a distance, for the

sole sake of the Poet and Novelist
himself, whose person they had never
before seen, and whose voice they
might never again have an oppor-
tunity of hearing. No other villa in
Europe was ever resorted to from the
same motives, and to anything like 50
the same extent, except Ferney; and
Voltaire never dreamt of being visible
to his hunters, except for a brief space
of the day; few of them ever dined
with him, and none of them seem to
have slept under his roof. Scott's
establishment, on the contrary, re-
sembled in every particular that of the
affluent idler, who, because he has
inherited, or would fain transmit, po- 60
litical influence in some province,
keeps open house-receives as many
as he has room for, and sees their
apartments occupied, as soon as they
vacate them, by another troop of the
same description. Even on gentle-
men guiltless of inkshed, the exercise
of hospitality upon this sort of scale
is found to impose a heavy tax; few
of them, nowadays, think of maintain- 70
ing it for any large portion of the year;
very few indeed below the highest
rank of the nobility-in whose case
there is usually a staff of led-captains,
led-chaplains, servile dandies, and
semi-professional talkers and jokers
from London, to take the chief part
of the burden. Now, Scott had often
in his mouth the pithy verses:

Conversation is but carving:
Give no more to every guest
Than he's able to digest;
Give him always of the prime,
And but little at a time;
Carve to all but just enough,
Let them neither starve nor stuff;
And that you may have your due,
Let your neighbors carve for you;

and he, in his own familiar circle al-
ways, and in other circles where it
was possible, furnished a happy ex-

51. Ferney, a village near Geneva, home of Voltaire.

80

90

« 이전계속 »