Page images
PDF
EPUB

stream, nor single rock-which was not full of the associations ( ballad fame. Here, then, he lived like an old feudal lord, with his hounds and his trusty vassals ; some of the latter, as Laidlaw and Tom Purdie, occupying the station of those humble, faithful friends, who tend so much to complete the happiness of life. In truth, nerer did the poet himself dream a fairer dream beneath a summer ock than he had now realized around him. His lovely wife, the lady of the domain ; his children shooting fast up into beautiful manhood and womanhood; his castle and domain built, and won, as they were, from the regions of enchantment; and friends and worshippers flocking from every country, to behold the far-famed minstrel

. Princes, and nobles, and men of high name in every walk of life were his guests.

Every man of any note called him friend. The most splendid equipages crowded the way towards his house ; the feast was spread continually as it were the feast of a king; while on the balcony ranging along the whole front, stalked to and fro, in his tartans, the wild piper, and made the air quiver with the tempestuous music of the hills. Arms and armour were ranged along the walls and galleries of his hall. There were portraits of some of the most noted persons who had figured in his lays and stories—as of Claverhouse, Monmouth, the Pretender, the severed head of the Queen of Scots; with those of brother poets, Dryden, Thomson, Prior, and Gay. There were the escutcheons of all the great clan chieftains blazoned round the ceiling of his hall; and swords, daggers, pistols, and instruments of torture, from the times and the scenes he had celebrated.

Such' was the scene of splendour which had sprung from the pen of one man. If it were wonderful, the streams of wealth whico continued to pour from the same enchanted goose quill were still more astounding. From Lockhart's Life we see that, independent of what these works have made since, he had pretty early netted abore 13,0001. by his poems, though he had sold some of them in their first edition.

Border Minstrel, 1st and 2d vol. 1st edit.
Copyright of the same work
Lay of the Last Minstrel, copyright sold
Marmion

ditto
Lady of the Lake

ditto
Rokeby

ditto
Lord of the Isles
Halidan Hill

78 10 500 0

769 6 1.000 0 2,100 0 5,003 0 3,000 0 1,000 0

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

£13,447 16

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But this was nothing to the produce of his romances. Of Waverley, 51,000 copies had been sold when that Life was published, and Scott tells us that he cleared 4001. by each 1,000 copies, that is

£20,000. Guy Mannering, 60,000, or

£24,000 0 0 Rob Roy, 53,000, or

21,30000 Of the rest we have no total amount given ; but at a similar rate, his twenty-one novels would make an amount of 460,000/.! Besides this, he received for the Life of Napoleon above 18,0001. In three months he wrote Woodstock, for which he tells us that he received 8,4001. at once. Then there are his Tales of a Grandfather, twelve volumes, a most popular work, but of which no proceeds are given. His History of Scotland for Lardner's Cyclopædia, 1,5001. ; for editing Dryden, 7561.; for seven Essays for the Encyclopædia Britannica, 300!. ; Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk, 1,350l.; for a contribution to the Keepsake, 4001. which he says he considered poor pay. Then he wrote thirty-five Reviews for the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, for which such a writer could not, on an average, receive less than 501. each, probably 100l.; but say, 501., that is 1,750.. And these items are exclusive of the vast mass of edited editions of Swift, of Memoirs, Antiquities, &c. &c. They do not either, except in the three novels specified, include the proceeds of the collective editions of either his prose or his poetry. It appears certain that his works must have produced to the author or his trustees, at the very least, half a million of money !!

Truly this was the revenue of a monarch in the realm of letters ! Popular as Lord Byron was, I suppose the whole which he received for his writings did not realize 30,0001. Scott cleared that by any two of his novels. He could clear a third of it in three months. Well might he think to lay field to field, and house to house, and plant his children in the land as lords of the soil, and as titled magnates for ever!

But, as the fabric of this glorious estate had risen as by the spell of a necromancer, so it fell. It was like one of those palaces, with its fairy gardens, and lawns scattered with diamonds instead of dews, in the Arabian Nights, which, with the destruction of the spell, passed away in a crash of thunder. A house of cards is proverbial, and this house of books fell at one shock, and struck the world with a terrible astonishment. It was found that the great minstrel was not carefully receiving his profits, and investing them ; but was engaged as partner in the printing and publishing of his works. His publisher and his printers, drained on the one hand by the vast outlay for castle-building, land-buying, and the maintenance of all comers; and, on the other, infected with the monstrous scene of acquisition which was revealed to their eyes,—were moving on a slippery course, and, at the shock of the great panic in 1826, went to the ground; leaving Scott debtor to the amount of 120,0001., besides à mortgage of 10,0001. on his estate.

In some instances the darkness and the difficulty of human life come in the early stages, and wind up in light and happiness ; in others, the light comes first, and the darkness at the end. These latter are tragedies, and the romance of Scott's life was a tragedy. How sad and piteous is the winding up here! The thunder-bolt of fate had fallen on the “Great Magician.” The glory of his outward estate was over, but never did that of his inner soul show so brilliantly. Gentle, and genial, and kindly to all men, had he shown himself in his most prosperous days; but now the giant strength of his fortitude, and the nobility of his moral principle,

came into magnificent play. He was smitten, sorely smitten, but he was not subdued. Not a hero which he had described could match him in his contest with the rudeness of adversity. He could have paid his dividend, as is usual in such cases, and his prolific peo would have raised him a second fortune. But then his honour !-10, he would pay to the uttermost farthing! And so, with a sorrowful, but not murmuring or desponding heart, he went to work again on his giant's work; and in six years, with his own hand, with his single pen, paid off 16,0001. a-year! That is an achievement which has no parallel. With failing health, with all his brilliant hopes of establishing a great family dashed to the ground, with the dearest objects of his heart and health dropping and perishing before him, he went on, and won 60,0001., resolved to pay all or perish. And he did perish! His wife, shattered by the shock, died; he was left with a widowed heart still to labour on. Awfiul pangs, and full of presage, seized his own frame; a son and a daughter failed, too, in health ; his old man, Tom Purdie, died suddenly, his great publisher, and one of his printers, died, too, of the fatal malady of ruined hopes. All these old connexions, formed in the bright morning of life, and which had made bis ascent so cheering and his toil so easy, seemed now to be giving way; and how dark was become that life which had exceeded all others in its joyous lustre !

Yet, in the darkness, how the invincible soul of the heroic old man went on rousing himself to fight against the most violent shocks of fortune, and of his own constitution. “I have walked the last on the domains I have planted; sat the last in the halls I have built; but death would have taken them from me if misfortune had spared them. My poor people whom I loved so well! There is just another die to turn against me in this run of ill luck; i. e. if I should break my magic wand in the fall from this elephant, and lose my popularity with my fortune !... But I find my eyes moistening, and that will not do ; I will not yield without a fight for it.” “Well, exertion, exertion. O invention, rouse thyself ! May man be kind! may

God be propitious! The worst is, I never quite know when I am right or wrong.”. “Slept ill, not having been abroad these eight days; now a dead sleep in the morning, and when the awaking comes, a strong feeling how well I could dispense with it for once and for

This passes away, however, as better and more dutiful thoughts arise in my mind.” Poor man! and that worst which he feared came. His publisher told him, though reluctantly, that his power had departed, and that he had better lay by his pen! To a man like Scott, who had done such wonders, and still doggedly laboured on to do others as great, that was the last and the bitterest feeling that could remain with life.

Is there anything in language more pathetic than the words of Sir Walter, when at Abbotsford he looked round him, after his wife's death, and wrote thus in his journal ?_“When I contrast what this place now is, with what it has been not long since, I think my heart will break. Lonely, aged, deprived of my family-all but poor Anne; an impoverished, an embarrassed man, deprived of the sharer of my

ever.

thoughts and counsels, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone.

Sir Walter was the Job of modern times. His wealth and prosperity had been like his, and the fabric of his fortune was smitten at the four corners at once by the tempest of calamity ; but his patience and resignation rivalled even those of the ancient patriarch. In no period of his life, though he was admirable in all, did he display so Lofty a nobility of nature as in that of his adversity. Let us, who have derived such boundless enjoyment from his labours, praise with a fitting honour his memory. How descriptive are the words of Prior, which in his last days he applied to himself !

" Whate'er thy countrymen have done,
By law and wit, by sword and gun,

In thee is faithfully recited;
And all the living world that view
Thy works, give thee the praises due-

At once instructed and delighted." That tragic reverse which bowed down himself and so many of those who had shared with him in his happiness, did not stop with his death. His daughters and one of his sons soon followed him. His eldest, the second Sir Walter, had no family, and did not live long; there remained no heir of his name, though there were two of his blood, the son and daughter of Mr. Lockhart, of the third generation. The sor of Lockhart succeeded to the title, and died; the daughter, married to Mr. Hope, has succeeded to the estate ; and it is said the fine library at Abbotsford is now a Catholic chapel. As in the greatest geniuses in general,-in Milton, Shakspeare, Byron, -the direct male line has failed in Sir Walter Scott. The hope of founding a family,” says Lockhart,“ died with him.”

Such is the wonderful and touching romance of the life of Sir Walter Scott. We might pause and point to many a high teaching in it,-but enough ; in the beautiful words of Sir Egerton Brydges, quoted by Lockhart,—“The glory dies not, and the grief is past."

We will now visit seriatim the homes and haunts of this extraordinary man.

Sir Walter has himself pointed out in his autobiography the place of his birth. He says, “ I was born, I believe, on the 15th of August, 1771, in a house belonging to my father, at the head of the College Wynd. It was pulled down with others to make room for the northern part of the new college.” In ascending the Wynd, it occupied the left-hand corner at the top, and it projected into what is now North College-street. According to the account of my friend, Mr. Robert Chambers, in his Reekiana, it has been pulled down upwards of sixty years. “The site,” he says, “is now partly occupied as a wood-yard, and partly used in the line of North Collegestreet. Mr. Walter Scott, W. Š., father of the poet, here lived au troisième, according to the simple fashion of our fathers, the flat which he occupied being accessible by a stair leading up from the little court behind. It was a house of what would now be considered humble aspect, but at that time neither humble from its individual appearance, nor from its vicipage. When required to be destroyed for the public convenience, Mr. Scott received a good price for it; he had some time before removed to a house on the west side of George's-square, where Sir Walter spent all his schoolboy and college days. At the same time that Mr. Scott lived in the third fat, the two lower floors were occupied as one house by Mr. Keith, W.S, grandfather to the late Sir Alexander Keith, knight-marischal of Scotland.

“In the course of a walk through this part of the town in 1825, Sir Walter did the present writer the honour to point out the site of the house in which he had been born. On Sir Walter mentioniug that his father had got a good price for his share of it, in order that it might be taken down for the public convenience, the individual who accompanied him took the liberty of expressing his belief that more money might have been made of it, and the public much more gratified, if it had remained to be shown as the birthplace of a man who had written so many popular books. 'Ay, ay,' said Sir Walter, that is very well ; but I am afraid it would have been necessary for me to die first, and that, you know, would not have been 50 comfortable.'" Thus, the birthplace of Scott remained, at the time of

my

visit, exactly in the condition described above, being used for a woodyard, and separated from North College-street merely by a wooden fence.

The other spots in Edinburgh connected with Scott, are his father's house in George's-square ; his own house, 39, North Castlestreet; 19, South Castle-street, the second flat, which he occupied immediately after his marriage ; the High School, and the Parliament House. We may as well notice these at once, as it will then leave us at liberty to take his country residences in consecutive order.

George's-square is a quiet and respectable square, lying not far from Heriot's Hospital, and opposite to Watson's Hospital, on the left hand of the Meadows-walk. Mr. Robert Chambers—my great formant in these matters in Edinburgh, and who is an actual walking history of the place-every house, and almost erery stone, appearing to suggest to him some memorable fact connected with it stated that this was the first square built, when Edinburgh began to extend itself, and the nobility and wealthy merchants to think of coming down from their lofty stations in Hats of the old town tenstoried houses, and seeking quieter and still more airy residences in the suburbs. It was the first sign of the new life and growth before the new town was thought of. No doubt, when Scott's father removed to it, was the very centre of fashion, and still it bears traces of the old gentility. Ancient families still linger about it, and you see door-plates bearing some aristocratic title. At the top, or north side of the square, lived Lord Duncan, at the time that he set out to take command of the fleet, and fight the battle of Camperdown. Before his setting out, he walked to and fro on the pavement bere before his house, and, with a friend, talked of his plans; so that

in

« PreviousContinue »