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Journal of these days be taken out of the ebony cabinet at Abbotsford, and read as the transient pout of a man worth 60,0007., with wonder that the well-seeming Baronet should ever have experienced such a hitch?' It is obvious from the foregoing references, that Sir Walter looked forward to the words, which he committed to paper in the privacy of his study, being printed and circulated. He may also have foreseen with indifference or equanimity the editing which his distinguished son-in-law thought fit to exercise. Indeed, Sir Walter's own words can be cited to show how ready he was to submit to editorial supervision in his own case, and others are on record showing that he was rigidly opposed to suppressing or attenuating anything from the pen of a classical writer. When forwarding the manuscript of a review of 'Pepys's Diary,' Sir Walter wrote to Lockhart: Perhaps I have made it too long, or introduced too many extracts-if so, use the pruning-knife, hedge-bill, or axe, ad libitum. You know I don't care a curse about what I write, or what becomes of it.' While, then, Lockhart may have considered himself fully authorized to edit the Journal with unswerving strictness, it is open to question whether he was uniformly discreet. Though some of the omissions and alterations may be justifiable, others scarcely admit of defence, and the following is one of them. When Sir Walter was preparing a new edition of 'St. Ronan's Well,' he commented upon the work, and said among other things:-'I must allow the fashionable portraits are not the true thing. I am too much out of the way to see and remark the ridiculous in Society.' The last sentence as quoted by Lockhart runs :-'I am too much out of the way,' those words not conveying a clear notion of what Sir Walter meant. It is unnecessary to multiply instances in which the passages which are given in the 'Life' differ from those in the Journal, and which now appear in the volumes before us as they were originally penned. Moreover, the Journal in its present form is a chronological record, whereas many passages were transposed by Lockhart, and others were separated, to make room for the insertion of letters and remarks. In short, with the exception of a few details of purely family and domestic interest,' the reader has now before him a faithful transcript of Sir Walter Scott's Journal, and the work in its present shape has all the flavour and interest of novelty.
While reading it we share Sir Walter's regret that he had not kept a Journal all his life; at the same time, the part of his life whereof it gives a faithful and vivid picture is the most chequered and also the most creditable in his whole career, and we rise from perusing the narrative of Sir Walter's feelings and
his struggles with heightened admiration for him as a man. He was great in his prosperity; but he was almost sublime in the dark days of adversity. Few among the sons of men had a nobler and finer spirit than Sir Walter Scott, and no man has ever lived whose life abounds in brighter illustrations of the virtues which ennoble humanity.
Lockhart's Life of Scott' is so popular a work, and its interesting contents are so familiar to the public, that it is only necessary to allude to the most striking events in Scott's career, in order to render the Journal more intelligible, and enable the reader to sympathize more fully with its writer.
Sir Walter had ancestors of whom he was proud and half ashamed: they were of gentle birth and doubtful character. Not remembering the Spanish proverb, There is little curiosity about the pedigree of a good man,' Sir Walter wrote:'Every Scottishman has a pedigree,' and he was pleased to trace his descent from men who had been notorious in their day, and whose achievements largely consisted in cutting their neighbours' throats and carrying off their cattle. When Sydney Smith was pestered by a lady as to who his grandfather was, he silenced her by remarking that his grandfather 'disappeared about the time of the assizes, and we asked no questions.' Sir Walter would have thought it no cause for shame if one of his ancestors had been hanged, provided it was for rebellion in 1715 or 1745.
Born on the 15th of August, 1771, he was smitten at the age of eighteen months with a malady which crippled him for life, his right leg becoming powerless in a night. Everything that medical art could accomplish proved ineffectual, and, though the boy regained strength and was able to walk, his right leg never served him so well as the other. Among other experiments, a course of waters at Bath was prescribed, and he spent a year there. Little Walter was taken to Bath when he was four, and he left it no better in physical health, yet mentally advanced, having acquired his first elements of reading at a day-school, kept by an old dame.
He was in danger of being murdered by a lunatic nurse to whom he was entrusted when an infant; happily, the nurse confessed to the housekeeper that the devil had tempted her to cut the child's throat with a pair of scissors, and the child was at once taken out of her hands. At the age of twenty-one Scott had a narrow escape when on a visit to Rosslyn, his foot slipping as he was scrambling towards a cave and, as Mr. Gillies says, 'had there been no trees in the way, he must have been killed, but midway he was stopped by a large root
of hazel, when instead of struggling, which would have made matters greatly worse, he seemed perfectly resigned to his fate, and slipped through the tangled thicket till he lay flat on the river's bank. Later in life his amanuensis, Henry Weber, became insane, produced a pair of pistols and proposed that a duel should be fought across the writing-desk in the study. As Scott did not lose his presence of mind, he succeeded in soothing the maniac, and Weber was in due time secured and deprived of the power to work mischief. We now learn from his Journal that he had several other hair-breadth escapes. On the 19th of December, 1827, he wrote: I have had mad men on my hand too, and was once nearly Kotzebued by a lad of the name of Sharpe.' Indeed, there are nearly as many romantic incidents in Scott's career as in some of his novels.
His most serious illness in early life occurred when he was in his fifteenth year. Twelve months previously he had been apprenticed to his father with a view to becoming a Writer to the Signet, and had entered, as he writes, the dry and barren wilderness of forms and conveyances.' A blood-vessel in the lower bowel having burst, his life was in jeopardy; his uncle, the eminent physician, Dr. Rutherford, considered his recovery as little less than miraculous.' Scott records that with this illness he 'bade farewell both to disease and medicine,' and that his frame gradually became hardened with his constitution, and adds that,
'being both tall and muscular, I was rather disfigured than disabled by my lameness. This personal disadvantage did not prevent me from taking much exercise on horseback and making long journeys on foot, in the course of which I often walked from twenty to thirty miles a day.'
While Scott was brimful of life and energy, reading, walking, hunting and shooting with intense and untiring eagerness, and excelling in whatever was his fancy for the moment, he failed in one of the desires of his heart, and that was to become an artist. In the fragment of Autobiography he writes that—
'the humble ambition, which I long cherished, of making sketches of those places which interested me, from a defect of eye or of hand was totally ineffectual. After long study and many efforts, I was unable to apply the elements of perspective or of shade to the scene before me, and was obliged to relinquish in despair an art which I was most anxious to practise.'
This was written in 1808; in his Journal he wrote the following passage on the same subject, which Lockhart did not publish :
'I took lessons of oil-painting in youth of a clever Jew animalcule, a smouch called Burrell, a clever sensible creature though; but I could make no progress in painting or drawing. Nature denied me correctness of eye and neatness of hand, yet I was very desirous to be a draughtsman at least, and laboured harder to attain that point than at any other in my recollection, to which I did not make some approaches. My oil-paintings were to Miss, above commemorated, what hers are to Claude Lorraine. Yet Burrell was not useless to me altogether neither; he was a Prussian, and I got from him many a long story of the battles of Frederic, in whose armies his father had been a commissary, or perhaps a spy. I remember his picturesque account of seeing a party of the Black Hussars bringing in some forage carts, which they had taken from a body of the Cossacks, whom he described as lying on the top of the carts of hay, mortally wounded, and, like the Dying Gladiator, eyeing their own blood as it ran through the straw. I afterwards took lessons from Walker, whom he used call Bluebeard. He was one of the most conceited persons in the world, but a good teacher-one of the ugliest countenances he had too. . . I did learn myself to take some vile views from nature. . . . Going down to Liddesdale once, I drew the castle of Hermitage in my fashion, and sketched it so accurately, that with a few verbal instructions Clerk put it into regular form, Williams (the Grecian) copied over Clerk's, and his drawing was engraved as the frontispiece of the first volume of the Kelso edition, "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border." Do you know why you have written all this down, Sir W.? Because it pleases me to record that this thrice-transmitted drawing, though taken originally from a sketch of mine, was extremely like Hermitage, which neither of my colleagues in the task had ever seen.'
After relinquishing the hope of becoming an artist, Scott also relinquished the profession of which his father was ornament, and he studied for the Scottish Bar, to which he was called in 1792. He was a jovial companion, given to good fellowship, being the soul of the company. He had his time of merry doings,' as he wrote in his Journal on the 1st of February, 1828, adding, 'But it was for the sake of sociality -never either for the flask or the venison.' As a young man he was pronounced a comely creature' by a lady of high rank, and though physically disqualified for shining in a ballroom, he was not wholly out of his element even there when a lady was at his elbow who could appreciate his conversation. 'It was a proud evening with me,' he said to Lockhart, when I first found that a pretty woman could think it worth her while to sit and talk with me, hour after hour, in a corner of the ballroom, while all the world were capering in our view. This pretty woman married another, to his sorrow, and then he found another to marry him. On the 24th of December, 1797,
he was wedded in St. Mary's, Carlisle, to Margaret Charlotte Carpenter, whose mother's name was Charpentier, a French lady in whose welfare and that of her daughter the Marquess of Downshire took a personal interest. The Marquess acted as guardian to the daughter, and gave his consent to the marriage. Though Scott's practice at the Bar was not large, it was increasing, and his income, joined to that of his wife, formed a sum large enough for the requirements of both. Two years after his marriage he was appointed Sheriff of Selkirkshire, and this added 300l. a year to his income. An uncle died in 1804, leaving him a legacy, and then his fixed income did not much fall short of 10007.
Before marriage he had written verses; but little had proceeded from his pen which was markedly superior to the rhymes of the day. A translation of Bürger's 'Leonore' caused Miss Cranstoun to remark: Upon my word, Walter Scott is going to turn out a poet-something of a cross, I think, between Burns and Gray.' In 1802 the first and second volumes of Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border' appeared, the work being so successful that a third volume was added to it. The compiler was satisfied with the sum of 781. 10s., which he obtained for the first edition. Writing to his friend Ellis a few months after its publication, he says: "As for my own employment, I have yet much before me; and as the beginning of the letting out of ink is like the letting out of water, I daresay I shall go on scribbling one nonsense on another to the end of the chapter.' At the beginning of January 1805, the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel' was published, and its extraordinary success made literature the business of Scott's life. While this poem was the subject of general talk and praise, its author was engaged in a prose work, of which he wrote seven chapters, and laid the manuscript aside because his friend, William Erskine, afterward Lord Kinnedder, pronounced an unfavourable judgment upon it. These chapters are the opening ones of Waverley.'
While Scott's popularity was in its bloom, he visited London with a view to secure the office of Clerk of the Court of Session, which he effected, though he did not receive the salary, which was 13007., till 1812, and then his official income was nearly 20007. a year. Scott received 2697. 6s. as his share of the profits of the 'Lay,' and then he sold the copyright for 500l. As many as forty-four thousand copies were disposed of before 1830, when the edition of his works with biographical introduction was prepared. The same year in which Scott achieved his first great success as a poet he perpetrated the greatest blunder of his life.