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early years which forms so fitting a prologue to his sonin-law John Gibson Lockhart's classic biography.
He is proud to count himself a gentleman and to claim descent from such celebrities of the Border as Auld Watt of Harden and the Flower of Yarrow. It was their son William who was fain to wed Meiklemouthed Meg. From this lady, whose story Browning has revived for us in a characteristic poem, Sir Walter perhaps got a prominent feature of his physiognomy. It is remarkable that two of these Scotts of Harden were, like their descendant, lame, and, spite the fact, did very well in the world, just as he did. Not to dwell upon ancestry, we need merely at present further mention Scott's Jacobite great-grandfather (another Walter), who not only fought for the Stewart cause, but let his beard grow unshorn out of regret for its failure. "Beardie" must have been an ancestor after the author of Waverley's own heart. He quarrelled with his second son (Walter's grandfather) because he would not go to sea, and the young man revenged himself terribly by becoming a Whig. This Robert Scott did well for himself in the cattle trade, having laid the foundations of his fortune by a lucky speculation with a hunter. He rode well to hounds, and was prominent in all field sports, wearing usually a jockey-cap over his grey hair.
Sir Walter Scott's father resembled his progenitor in nothing but in being a Whig. He was a Writer to the Signet, or Scottish solicitor of the highest grade, of
precise, formal habits and theological tastes, but withal a kindly and honourable gentleman, who preferred his clients' interests to his own. The elder Walter Scott's pride in his profession and eagerness for his son's advancement in the other branch of it are portrayed for us in the pages of Redgauntlet. Scott's mother was Anne Rutherford, daughter of the professor of medicine
THE OLD HIGH SCHOOL, EDINBURGH
in Edinburgh University. She and her half-sister Janet did something to soften the austerity of the child's home life by reading and hearing him read such books as the house afforded, and they were always regarded by him with the greatest affection.
Walter was the third who survived childhood of a
family of twelve. His eldest brother, Robert, a sailor
with a turn for literature, died in the service of the East India Company; the second, John, sometime a major in the Army, was in no wise remarkable. Besides an only sister, who died young, there were two other brothers whom we may have occasion to mention again. The ablest and by far the most gifted of the family was born in his father's house (long since pulled down) in the College Wynd, Edinburgh, on August 15th, 1771. But Edinburgh was not yet to be his home; for though a healthy child, after getting his double teeth it was discovered that he had lost the power to use his right leg. By the advice, therefore, of Dr. Rutherford, he was removed to the country, where he laid the foundations both of strong physical well-being and of a keen love of nature.
Scott tells us that it was at his grandfather's farm of Sandy Knowe in Roxburghshire that he had the first consciousness of existence. He has recalled the place with its memories and associations in his introduction to the third canto of Marmion:—
"It was a barren scene, and wild
Where naked cliffs were rudely piled;
But ever and anon between
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green."
On these crags a crazy nursemaid, he says, meditated putting an end to his existence. On the glossy turf the child, carried thither upon the shoulders of Sandy Ormiston, the shepherd and cow-bailie, used to pass the greater part of the day listening to tales of Border
forays from the lips of "the aged hind," and looking up with awe at the ruined tower of Smailholm, still standing there to illustrate the story. Here, too, he was the affectionate playfellow of the sheep and lambs and the pet of the ewe-milkers. One day he was forgotten lying there when a storm came on, but when his aunt Janet hastened to the spot to carry him home she found her charge gleefully clapping his hands and applauding the lightning flashes with cries of "Bonny! bonny! dae't again!" Thus was
"poetic impulse given
Inside the house young Walter could hear from his grandmother about Diel of Littledean and earlier traditionary Border heroes, or by listening to his aunt reading was able to repeat long passages from all manner of books. In this last diversion he would indulge without heeding the presence of his elders, so that the parish clergyman, Dr. Duncan, when on a visit to the house, complained that he might as well speak in the mouth of a cannon as where "that child" was. Yet it is like that Scott remained a favourite with the old man, whom he visited years afterwards on his death-bed and found deliberately shortening his life by reading aloud passages from a book he had been writing. Doubtless the little boy was what the writer of Marmion represents him :
"A self-will'd imp, a grandame's child,
Janet Scott took her nephew to try the Bath waters when he was not yet four. They went by sea to London and witnessed the common sights. During their stay of a year at Bath they saw something of the venerable author of Douglas; but the child's most pleasant recollection of the place was his being taken to the theatre by his uncle Robert. The play was As You Like It, and during the scene in which Oliver and Orlando quarrel, he amused the spectators by indignantly screaming out, "Aren't they brothers?" He soon learned that it was rather the rule than the exception for brothers to disagree. So far he had been in the position of an only child. After another stay at Sandy Knowe and some time in Edinburgh, a few weeks were spent at Prestonpans for sea-bathing. This visit, which took place in Scott's eighth year, is remarkable for his meeting with the two men whom he has made famous in the creations of Dugald Dalgetty and the Antiquary. The surname of Montrose's follower was actually borne by the half-pay officer with whom the future novelist discussed the prospects of Burgoyne's expedition from Canada. George Constable, the original of Jonathan Oldbuck, was a friend of Scott's father. Unlike the Antiquary he was no woman-hater, but was strongly suspected of admiring Miss Janet Scott. However this may have been, it is of interest to know that he talked to her young nephew of Falstaff and Hotspur, and first awakened in his mind a vague curiosity about the great dramatic poet.