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ing lessons, reminded Irving of the lines in Marmion in which their father wrote of
"My imps, though hardy, bold, and wild,
As best befits the mountain child."
The elder—the future Mrs. Lockhart—then about seventeen, he thought had much of Scott's varied spirit in conversation.* Scott took his guest to see the Laidlaws as specimens of “really excellent plain Scotch people," who, unlike fine folks, had character; and on the evening of the same day, with Maida at his feet, read passages to him from the old Romance of Arthur, “with a fine deep sonorous voice, and a gravity of tone that seemed to suit the antiquated black-letter volume.” Early next morning Irving was surprised to see him sitting on a fragment of stone talking to the workmen who were building his new house, as though he were a man of leisure with nothing to do but bask in the sun. This last observation came from every visitor of the man who, in his spare time, got through more writing than almost anyone else before or since.
A great source of gratification to Scott was that before the end of 1817 he had not only finished Rob Roy, but had, through John Ballantyne, made such arrangements for another instalment of Tales of My Landlord as enabled him to pay off the sum which the Duke of Buccleuch had lent him some time previously. It was
* The American professor and Spanish scholar George Ticknor, declared that Sophia could tell as many Border stories as her father, and repeat more Jacobite songs. She was barely twenty when he saw her.
during this bargain for The Heart of Midlothian that Rigdumfunnidos at length settled matters with Constable. The title of Rob Roy was the publisher's suggestion. Scott at first protested against having to write up to a name, saying that he had generally adopted a title that told nothing; but after those principally concerned in the production of the coming work (including the Ballantynes) had dined together, no more was heard of the objection. In the course of the May evening at Abbotsford he gave the company a foretaste of the scene between the cattle-lister and Bailie Nicol Jarvie in the Glasgow tolbooth by reciting an extemporary dialogue. Everyone was pleased that evening-not least little John Ballantyne, who got a substantial sum in the form of a share in Constable's venture. In July Scott and Adam Ferguson made an expedition to the district known as “Rob Roy's Country," where the Scottish scenes of the story take place. It is a triangle, having Glasgow for its apex, and Stirling and Ben Lomond as the other two points. At the last-named it touches the “ Lady of the Lake” country.
Part of this region the novelist had visited in early life, when he found the fort of Inversnaid, established by Government on Rob Roy's former estate, still garrisoned by one old
As in the case of his first Highland romance, Scott had the help of oral tradition in putting together the story. An old countryman of the Lennox (as this corner of Scotland was anciently called) told him how as a
youth he had been sent into the Highlands to help in recovering stolen cattle under the authority of Rob Roy's blackmail contracts; and he learned the story of the marvellous escape of the famous freebooter at the ford of the Forth from the lips of a grandson of a follower of his captor, the Duke of Montrose. He had been presented, as we have seen, by his friend Train, with Rob's spleuchan, or pouch; and he also managed to acquire his celebrated Spanish gun.
Allowing for differences of time and country, Rob Roy Macgregor Campbell, as he called himself, was the Scottish Robin Hood, and the legends told of them have a family likeness. But the Scottish Red Robin was a real historical character as well as a legendary hero, who played his part—not a creditable one—in the Jacobite rising of 1715, and was secretly protected by the Duke of Argyll (whose name he found it convenient to take in addition to that of his own proscribed clan) against his great enemy the Duke of Montrose. Originally a cattledrover, he had fallen out with the last-named over some trading transactions, and had been driven into the position of an outlaw, who did not scruple to live as he could at the expense of his enemy or his enemy's adherents. As Rob Roy never injured the poor, or indeed attacked anyone whom he could afford to let alone, he had not so many enemies as might be supposed; and his wonderful exploits and marvellous escapes were largely made possible by his intimate
knowledge of the mountainous country and the sympathy of its inhabitants.
Scott, as has been seen, had been reluctant to call his new tale by the title of the popular outlaw, and his objections have their justification in the way in which the story developed. For delightful as it is, the whole thing does not hang together, and is over-weighted with its titular hero, who is awkwardly fitted into the framework. He had, as he said, too much flax on his distaff, and the end of the book was consequently, as Lady Louisa Stuart declared, “huddled.” This, of course, may have been partially due to his illness, but it was probably even more the result of an attempt to get two stories into one. It is surprising to find that even the Northumbrian part, which everyone must find so delightful to read, the writer himself thought "smelt of the cramp," and he expressed his relief when he had finished the whole work by writing to James Ballantyne :
“With great joy
The high probability that Scott had in his mind, when drawing the character of the inimitable Diana Vernon, the figure of his own early love has been already noted; it may well have been this which made these sprightly pages so painful to write. One can imagine that the parting on horseback of Osbaldistone and Diana may have been not so unlike