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morning to evening they hunted to find those who could repeat any of the old riding ballads handed down from father to son for generations, but seldom or committed to writing. Among the treasures picked up was an old Border war-horn, which originally came from Hermitage Castle, but had been used as a greasehorn for a scythe. "Sir Walter," writes his companion, "carried it home all the way from Liddesdale to Jedburgh, slung about his neck like Johnny Gilpin's bottle." In after days, of course, it hung at Abbotsford. Scott enjoyed it all with his whole heart: "Wherever we stopped, how brawlie he suited himsel' to everybody! He ay did as the lave did; never made himsel' the great man, or took ony airs in the company "; and was never out of humour, even on those rare occasions when he had partaken a little too freely of his rustic host's bottle. 'Drunk or sober, he was ay the gentleman." During the last of the Liddesdale raids, Scott who could no more draw than he could sing, actually made a sketch of Hermitage Castle, standing for an hour up to his waist in snow. This sketch, curious to relate, being used as a model for two successive drawings, became the original from which was engraved the illustration representing the old stronghold in the Border Minstrelsy. Neither of the draughtsmen had seen the place, but the natives pronounced the result satisfactory.

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Another hunting-ground for the ballad collector was Ettrick Forest with the neighbouring Vale of Yarrow. It was at a farm in this region that Scott met with one

of his most attached friends and helpers, William Laidlaw, whose services he found to be invaluable, not only in his office of farm bailiff, but also as literary amanuensis, counsellor, and friend. Laidlaw introduced to him a still more remarkable man, James Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, who had been in the employment of his father. Both were enthusiastic about the ballads, and from Hogg's mother some of the most valuable were heard, these being written down by her son. She complained, however, that they were spoiled in the process, since they were meant to

be sung, not read. The Ettrick shepherd declares that she emphasised her statement by giving "the Shirra" a hearty rap across the knee when he visited their cottage for the first time. Laidlaw, entering into the spirit of the scene with quiet enjoyment, exclaimed, "Take you that, Mr. Scott." Hogg tells us also how next day, when hunting for antiquities on the Buccleuch farm, Scott fondly imagined he had discovered an ancient consecrated helmet; it was Laidlaw who, after rubbing at the object for some time with great industry, quietly announced that it was nothing but an "auld tarpot."

A third friend whom Scott now made was John Leyden, the son of a Roxburghshire farmer, who was




introduced to him by the mighty book-collector, Richard Heber, half-brother of the hymn-writer. A distinguished student at Edinburgh University, he became a great linguist, but had little success as a preacher. Scott, through the powerful Dundas interest, obtained for him the appointment of assistant-surgeon at Madras. He took a medical degree at St. Andrews in six months, went to India, made himself a great name as an eminent scholar in a few years, and died in the flower of his age. But before he left his native land he had been the chief assistant in the preparation of the Border Minstrelsy, to which he contributed some remarkable poems.

An instance of his zeal for the work is recorded by Scott himself :—

"An interesting fragment had been obtained of an ancient historical ballad; but the remainder, to the great disturbance of the editor and his coadjutor, was not to be recovered. Two days afterwards, while the editor [of the Minstrelsy] was sitting with some company after dinner, a sound was heard at a distance like that of the whistling of a tempest through the torn rigging of the vessel which scuds before it. The sounds increased as they approached more near; and Leyden (to the great astonishment of such of the guests as did not know him) burst into the room, chanting the desiderated ballad with the most enthusiastic gesture, and all the energy of what he used to call the saw tones of his voice. It turned out that he had walked between forty and fifty miles and back again, for the sole purpose of visiting an old person who possessed this precious remnant of antiquity."

The year before Leyden sailed for India he accom

panied the Sheriff of Selkirkshire in a ballad-hunting excursion into the deepest recesses of Ettrick Forest, during which, as Scott wrote to George Ellis, the friend of Canning, "besides the risks of swamping and breaking our necks, we encountered the formidable hardships of sleeping upon peat-stacks, and eating mutton slain by no common butcher, but deprived of life by the judgment of God, as a coroner's inquest would express themselves." For these hardships the travellers felt themselves amply compensated by the acquisition of a complete and perfect copy of Maitland with his Auld Berd Graie (referred to in Douglas's Palice of Honour), which was presented to them by a country farmer. He had taken it down from the recitation of an old shepherd.


In these expeditions Scott sometimes indulged his humour at the expense of the natives, as when he "laughed till the water ran over his cheeks" at a shorttempered boot-boy who was nettled at some of his sharp retorts; and when, pretending ignorance of the difference between a "long" and "short" sheep-which he well knew to be a question of wool-he solemnly asked of a farmer, "How long must a sheep actually measure to come under the denomination of a long sheep?" (It should be added that what provoked him to this last was the fact that the conversation had become agricultural when he wished it to run on ballads.) With such efficient local helpers as Leyden and Hogg, his own rich fund of carefully gathered

knowledge, the valuable literary co-operation of English antiquaries like Ritson and George Ellis, it is no wonder that Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border proved to be one of the best collections of traditional ballads extant in any language. It was his first considerable publication, and was the germ from which sprung all his future literary achievements.

More notable still, these collections contained the firstfruits of Scott's own work as a poet, apart from a few adaptations from the German; and they were printed by James Ballantyne, who had been his schoolfellow under Lancelot Whale at Kelso, and now began a long partnership with him in fortune and misfortune. From collecting ballads Scott had been led on to imitating them; and he determined to include modern specimens by himself and a few others (Leyden being the chief) in his assemblage of Border minstrelsy. The first of these early efforts in verse, the supernatural ballad of Glenfinlas, caught its spirit from his German models, and had its scene in the Highlands of Western Perthshire, to which he returned in The Lady of the Lake; but most of them were inspired by the scenery and associations of the Border.

During the legal session the Scotts lived in Castle Street, Edinburgh, first at No. 10, and afterwards, till misfortune overtook them, at No. 39; but during the rest of the year their home was at Lasswade Cottage, in Midlothian, some six miles to the south of the Scottish capital. In the interesting fragment called The

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