« PreviousContinue »
The Resolve (in imitation of an old English
The Noble Moringer (translated from the Ger-
War-song of the Royal Edinburgh Light Dra-
:: The Figures between parentheses, thus, (1) refer to Notes at the end of each Poem; those
marked thus, ' to Notes at the bottom of the page.
Memoir of Sir Walter Scott.
BY J. W. LAKE.
Gia WALTER SCOTT, descended from one of the was declared to be fit for nothing but to drive waist ancient families of Scotland- the Scotts of the team, till some friends succeeded in getting Bardea, is the eldest surviving son of a gentle-him transplanted to college. man of the same name, who was an eminent Having completed his classical studies at the writer to the signet at Edinburgh, where the High School, with as much reputation, we supsubject of this sketch was born, August 15, pose, as others of his standing, Walter Scott was 174. His mother, Mrs Elizabeth Scott, was removed to the University of Edinburgh, where, the daughter of David Rutherford, Esq., wri- also, he passed the classes in a similar manner. ter to the signet, from whom she obtained a His continuance here, however, could not have handsome fortune. She was a wonan of great been long; for, after serving the prescribed terins sirtne and accomplishments, with a good taste in the office of a writer to the signet, he was adfue poetry, as appeared from some of her pro- mitted an advocate of the Scotch bar, when he dactions, which were deemed worthy of being had not quite attained the age of twenty-one. printed after her death, in 1789. Walter, from From this time to the year 1798, his life appears de tenderness of his constitution, and the cir- to have passed in a devoted attention to his proConstance of his lameness, occasioned by a fall fessional duties, mindful of the advice, from his nurse's arms at two years of age, was
Not to pen stanzas when he should engross. a great measure brought up at home, under tbt immediate care and instruction of this excel- At the last-mentioned date he entered into the best sarent to whom he was much attached matrimonial state with Miss Carpenter, by whom through life, and whose loss he sincerely lament.
he has four children. At the close of the year od of his early pursuits little is known, except following, he received the appointment of Shelaat be evinced a genius for drawing landscapes riff-Depute of the county of Selkirk; and in te nature.- At a proper age he was sent to March, 1806, he was named one of the principal tl High School at Edinburgh, then directed clerks of Session in Scotland. With regard to 17 Cr Alexander Adam. In this school, young this last preferment, it should be observed that salt passed through the different forms with his warrant, though drawn, had not passed the 2 ahibiting any of those extraordinary seals when the death of Mr Pitt produced an en
wers of gepins, which are seldom remem- tire change in the ministry. The appointment bered till the person to whom they are ascribed of Mr Scott had been effected through the friendhas become, by the maturity of his talents, an ship of Lord Melville, who was then actually undirect of distinction. It is said, that he was con- der impeachment. This circumstance seemed waed in his boy bood rather heavy than other- very ominous against the confirmation of the no**, and that the late Dr Hugh Blair had dis- mination; but, fortunately for Mr Scott, the new terament enough to predict his future eminence, ministry consisted of such men as the late Mr when the master of the school lamented his dul- Fox, Sheridan, Lord Erskine, and the Marquis of les; bat this only affords another instance of Lansdowne, with several others attached to litethe fallacy of human opinion in pronouncing rature and philosophy; and, in a manner that een the real capacity of the youthful under- did them infinite honour, they made no objection tanding.' Barrow, the greatest scholar of his to the advancement of their poetical opponent. #te, was discarded as a blockhead by successive Thus, as a witty friend remarked, this appointteachers, and his pupil, the illustrious Newton, ment was the « Jast Lay of the old Ministry.»
The prediction of Dr Blair, here alluded to, arose out attention to young Scott. Dr Paterson thought it was the y the following circumstances. Shortly after Dr Paterson youth's stupidity that engaged the doctor's notice, and mayeeded to the grammar-school, Musselburgh, where said, « My predecessor tells me, that boy bas the thickest Walter Scott was a short time a pupil, Blair, accompanied skull in the school.» « May be so,» replied Dr Blair, « but
ome friends, paid bim a visit; in the course of which through that thick skull I can discern many bright rays le examined several of his pupils, and paid particular of future genius.»
Released now from the drudgery of profes- Minstrel,” which appeared, in quarto, in 1805.sional labour, by the acquisition of two lucrative The following year he published a collection of situations, and the possession of a handsome es Ballads and Lyrical Pieces.» Shortly after this, tate through the death of his father and that of public expectation was raised by the promise of a an uncle, Mr Scott was enabled to court the poem, on the perfection of which the bard was Muses at his pleasure, and to indulge in a va- said to labour as for immortality. Accordingly, riety of literary pursuits without interruption. in 1808, appeared « Marmion, a tale of Flodden His first publications were translations from the Eield,» which the author himself has characGerman, at a time when the wildest productions terised as containing the best and the worst of that country were much sought after in Eng-poetry he has ever written. land, owing to the recent appearance of that The same year Mr Scott favoured the world horrible story of Lenora of Bürger. The very with a complete edition of the Works of Dryden, year when different versions of that tale came in which he gave a new life of that out, and some of these highly ornamented, Mr and numerous notes. But this was not the only Scott produced two German ballads in an Eng- instance of the fecundity of his genius and the lish dress, entitled, « The Wild Huntsmen,” and rapidity of his pen, for, while these volumes were « William and Helen.»
proceeding through the press, he found time for These little pieces, however, were not origi- a quarto of « Descriptions and Illustrations of the nally intended for the press, being nothing more Lay of the Last Minstrel. » than exercises in the way of amusement, till a Within a few months after this he undertook, friend, to whom they were shown, prevailed up at the request of the booksellers, the superioon the author to publish them, and at the same tendence of a new edition of Lord Somers's coltime contributed the preface. Three years elapsed lection of Historical Tracts; and at the same before Mr Scott ventured to appear again in time edited Sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers, and print, when he produced another translation Anna Seward's Poetical Works. Yet the very year from the Cerman, « Goetz of Berlichingen,» a in which these last publications appeared wittragedy, by Gæthe. Two years afterwards the nessed the birth of another original offspring of late Matthew Gregory (commonly called Mouk) bis prolífic muse. This was « The Lady of the Lewis, enriched his « Tales of Wonder » with two Lake, the most popular of all his poems, though, ballads communicated to him by our author, one in the opinion of many, inferior in several reentitled « The Eve of Saint John," and the other spects to his « Lay of the Last Minstrel.» * Glenfinlas.»
« The Vision of Don Roderick » appeared in In 1802 his first great work, « The Minstrelsy 1811, and was intended lsy its author to commeof the Scottish Border,» came out, beautifully morate the achievements of the Duke of Wellingprinted at Kelso, by Ballantyne. This collection ton and the British army in Spain. This poem immediately arrested general altention, and is considered a complete failure. though the pieces of which it is composed are Rokeby » was published in 1812-13. It comvery unequal, the master-mind and soaring geprises, in an eminent degree, all the beauties and nius of the poet are conspicuous throughout. all the defects of our poet's muse.
The studies of our author at this time were en In 1814 - The Lord of the Isles » appeared, tirely antiquarian. He lived and breathed only but failed to excite equal interest with most of among the knights, the heroes, the monks, and its predecessors. This is the last grand original robbers of olden time; the feats of chivalry, and poem of the northern bard. the rough heroism of northern warfare and bor In the last-mentioned year he also published der feuds, were the scenes in which his soul de- a prose work, entitled, « The Border Antiquities lighted to dwell. He drank deeply of the stream of England and Scotland, with Descriptions and of history as it darkly flowed over the middle Illustrations," and brought out a new edition of ages, and his spirit seemed for a time to be im- Swift, with a biographical memoir and annotabued with the mysteries, the superstitions, and tions. the romantic valour which characterised the then These were followed by two performances, one chieftains of the north countrie.
in prose and the other in verse, the first entitled His next production was e Sir Tristram, a me . Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk,» and the other trical romance of the thirteenth century, by « The Battle of Waterloo. Thomas of Ercildoun," printed in 1804. Still, As an instance of the popularity of Scott's however, Mr Scott may be said as yet to have poems, we subjoin a statement of the sale of been only rising in fame: but he soon gained « Rokery" and a The Lady of the Lake,» in nearenough to have intoxicated an ordinary mind in Wy four months, as submitted by the publishers. the applause bestowed upon his « Lay of the last
Sold of « The Lady of the Lake,» from June with which they frequently describe great events ad to September 22, 1810,
-and the lively colouring and accurate drawing 2,000 quarto, at al. 25. 4,2001. by which they give the effect of reality to every 6,000 octavo, at 125.
3,600l. scene they undertake to delineate. In executing
this arduous task, he was permitted to avail him2,000
self of all the variety of style and manner which
had been sanctioned by the ancient practice, and Sold of « Rokeby,» in three months (Jan. 14th bound to embellish his performance with all the 10 April 14th, 1813),
graces of diction and versification which could 3,000 quarto, at al. 2s. (less
be reconciled to the simplicity and familiarity of 120 semaining) 6,0481.
the minstrel's song. 5,000 sctavo, at 14s.
3,500l. The success which attended Mr Scott's efforts
in the execution of this adventurous essay is well 8,000
knowa;-he produced a very beautiful and en
tertaining poem, in a style which might fairly be We shall now attempt to offer a few critical considered as original, and the public approbaobservations on the three most deservedly popu- tion afforded the most flattering evidence of the | lar poems of Walter Scott, viz. The Lay of the genius of the author. Perhaps, indeed, his parLast Minstrel, Marmion, and The Lady of the tiality for the strains of antiquity imposed a little
upon the severity of his judgment, and impaired The Lay of the Last Minstrel is an endeavour the beauty of his imitation, by directing his atto transfer the refinements of modern poetry to tention rather to what was characteristic, than the matter and the manner of the ancient metri- to what was unexceptionable in his originals. al romance. The author, enamoured of the lofty Though he spared too many of their faults, howvisions of chivalry, and partial to the strains in ever, he improved upon their beauties, and while which they were formerly embodied, employed it was regretted by many, that the feuds of borall the resources of his genius in endeavouring to der chieftains should have monopolized as much
recal them to the favour and admiration of the poetry as might have served to immortalize the public
, and in adapting to the taste of modern whole baronage of the empire, yet it produced a readers a species of poetry, which was once the stronger inclination to admire the interest and delight of the courtly, but which has long ceased magnificence which he contrived to communicate
than those of the scho- 10 a subject so unpromising.
Marmion has more tedious and flat passages, fore, composed by a miostrel of the present day, and more ostentation of historical and antiquao soch a romance as we may suppose would have rian lore, than its predecessor, but it has also been written in modern times, if that style of greater richness and variety, both of character composition had been cultivated, and partaken, and incident; and, if it has less sweetness and consequently, of the improvements which every pathos in the softer passages, it has certainly more branch of literature has received since the time vehemence and force of colouring in the loftier
and busier representations of action and einotion. 'pon this supposition, it was evidently the au- The place of the prologuizing minstrel is but ill tot's business to retain all that was good, and supplied, indeed, by the epistolary dissertations to teject all that was bad, in the models upon which are prefixed to each book of this poem; but which he was to form himself; adding, at the there is more airiness and spirit in the lighter sze tine, all the interest and the beauty which delineations, and the story, if not more skilfully could possibly be assimilated to the manner and conducted, is at least better complicated, and exspirit of his original. It was his duty, therefore, teaded through a wider field of adventure. The to reform the rambling, obscure, and intermina- characteristics of both, however, are evidently ide Ale narratives of the ancient romancers,—to mo- same ;- a broken narrative-a redundancy of derate their digressions, - to abridge or retrench minute description-bursts of unequal and enertheir prolix or needless descriptions, -and to ex- getic poetry-and a general tone of spirit and palage altogether those feeble and prosaic pas- animation, unchecked by timidity or affectation, vages, the rude stupidity of which is so apt to and unchastened by any great delicacy of taste, excite the derision of a modern reader: at the or elegance of fancy. hame lime he was to rival, if he could, the force THE LADY OF THE Lake is more polished in its and visacity of their minute and varied repre- diction, and more regular in its versification, than emations--the characteristic simplicity of their the author's preceding poems; the story is conpictures of mappers - the energy and conciseness structed with infinitely more skill and address;
to gladden any
of its desertion.