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Gray Brother, we get a beautiful little picture of the neighbourhood and its charms :
"Sweet are the paths, O passing sweet,
There the rapt poet's step may rove
May shun the tell-tale ray;
From that fair dome, where suit is paid,
By blast of bugle free
To Auchendinny's hazel glade
The "fair dome" was Pennycuick House, the home of Scott's friend Will Clerk; and at Auchendinny lived Henry Mackenzie, the veteran author of The Man of Feeling, whom young Scottish authors revered as a kind of literary father, and who was denominated by his "unknown admirer," the author of Waverley, "our Scottish Addison." Woodhouselee, close by, was supposed to be haunted by a lady in white with a child in her arms. The ghost was that of the wife of Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, who died in consequence of being turned out of with her infant child by the followers of the Regent Moray or Murray. The story of Hamilton's revenge of his Margaret's wrongs forms the subject of Scott's fine ballad, Cadyow Castle, whither the Regent's murderer rides "reeking from the recent deed" done at Linlithgow. He finds his chieftain hunting the white mountain.
bull which then roamed "in woody Caledon"; and the poet makes him compare the downfall in his pride of the "slaughtered quarry" with that of "base-born Murray" returning "from the wild Border's humbled side." Near Lasswade also was "Melville's beechy grove," where dwelt Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, to whom Scott owed so much, and "Dalkeith, which all the virtues love," the seat of the Duke of Buccleuch, whom he looked on as his chieftain; besides Roslin Castle and Chapel, Roslin's rocky glen" leading to "classic Hawthornden," where Ben Jonson had been entertained two centuries earlier by his brother Scottish bard.
In The Eve of St. John Scott makes use of an Irish legend, but the scene is laid in that region of Roxburghshire where his childhood awoke to consciousness of the world. Smailholm Tower was in need of repair, and Scott of Harden, when appealed to by his kinsman to see to its preservation, accompanied his consent with a request for some tribute from his muse, to which this was the reply. It will be noted that in this early poem "fair
Tweed," "holy Melrose," Eildon and Dryburgh, already figure prominently. In later editions of the Minstrelsy are to be found two of the most popular of Scott's shorter poems, Jock o' Hazeldean and Bonny Dundee, to the former of which an old ballad of the Border supplied the first stanza. The Lay of the Last Minstrel was to have been included, but was thought too long.
It was begun at Lasswade, where Wordsworth heard with delight the first four cantos, "partly read and partly recited" by the composer, who had also declaimed. the opening to his English friends Ellis and Heber under an old oak in Windsor Forest. But the Lay and the second great Border poem, Marmion, belong properly to the Ashestiel period; and we must first finish with Lasswade.
Lasswade was the scene of the grotesque quarrel
between linguistic Leyden and the crabbed old antiquary Joseph Ritson. Whatever sympathy there might be between them in literary matters, it did not suffice to make them friends. Leyden could not endure the vegetarian tastes of his ally, and resented a rude speech which he made to Mrs. Scott, who had innocently offered him a slice of beef, by threatening to "thraw his neck." Ritson did not stay long after this. One of the best stories of Hogg also belongs to this period, though the incident took place at Edinburgh. The Ettrick shepherd had begun greatly to interest Scott by his character and his work, and one day he invited him to dinner, with Laidlaw and others. Hogg appeared in the dress in which he had attended the sheep-market, his hands bearing traces of recent tar. Mrs. Scott was reclining on a sofa, and what does the shepherd do but copy the lady of the house" by putting his feet up on a couch opposite! In the course of the evening, when warmed by good cheer, he not only addressed his host the Sheriff as "Wattie," but proceeded also to call his wife "Charlotte"!
The necessity of living within his sheriffdom and of finding more room for his family-he had now a son and two daughters-compelled Scott, after six years, to find another country house. But a story told by Mr. Morritt of Rokeby shows what an affection he felt for his "sweet little cottage on the Esk." Whilst on the visit to Edinburgh which began their friendship, Morritt
was being taken by Scott to see the chief places of interest in the neighbourhood of Lasswade :
"When we approached that village," he afterwards wrote to Lockhart, "Scott, who had laid hold of my arm, turned along the road in a direction not leading to the place where the carriage was to meet us." Morritt suggested that he had not yet seen Dalkeith House. "Yes,' said Scott, and I have been bringing you where there is little enough to be seenonly that Scotch cottage (by the roadside)—but, though not worth looking at, I could not pass it. It was our first country house when newly married, and many a contrivance we had to make it comfortable. I made a dining-table for it with my own hands. Look at these two miserable willow trees on either side the gate into the enclosure; they are tied together at the top to be an arch, and a cross made of two sticks over them is not yet decayed. I assure you that after I had constructed it, mamma and I, both of us, thought it so fine we turned out to see it by moonlight, and walked backwards from it to the cottage door in admiration of our own magnificence and its picturesque effect. I did want to see if it was still there-so now we will look after the barouche and make the best of our way to Dalkeith.'"