Imágenes de páginas

third edition, I find him writing thus to his brother Thomas, who had
by this time gone to Canada as paymaster of the 70th regiment :-
“Dear Tom, a novel here, called Waverley, has had enormous sục-

I sent you a copy, and will send you another, with the Lord of the Isles, which will be out at Christmas. The success which it has had, with some other circumstances, has induced people

To lay the bantling at a certain door,
Where laying store or faults, they'd fain heap more.'

if you


You will guess for yourself how far such a report has credibility ; but
by no means give the weight of your opinion to the Transatlantic pub-
lic; for you must know there is also a counter-report, that you have
written the said Waverley. Send me a novel intermixing your exu-
berant and natural humour, with any incidents and descriptions of
scenery you may see-particularly with characters and traits of man.
ners. I will give it all the cobbling that is necessary, and,
but exert yourself, I have not the least doubt it will be worth L.500;
and, to encourage you, you may, when you send the MS., draw on
me for L.1000, at fifty days' sight-so that your labours will at any
rate not be quite thrown away. You have more fun and descriptive
talent than most people; and all that you want-i. e. the mere practice
of composition-I can supply, or the devil's in it. Keep this maller a
dead secret, and look knowing when Waverley is spoken of. If you
are not Sir Joho Falstaff, you are as good a man as he, and may there-
fore face Colville of the Dale. You may believe I don't want to make
you the author of a book you have never seen; but if people will, upon
their own judgment, suppose so, and also on their own judgment give
you L.500 to try your hand on a novel, I don't see that you are a pin’s-
point the worse. Mind that your MS. attends the draft.
fectly serious and confident, that in two or three months you might
clear the cobs. I beg my compliments to the hero who is afraid of
Jeffrey's scalping-knife."

In truth, no one of Scott's int nate friends ever had, or could have had, the slightest doubt as to the parentage of Waverley : nor, although he abstained from communicating the fact formally to most of them, did he ever affect any real concealment in the case of such persons ; nor, when any circumstance arose which rendered the withholding of direct confidence on the subject incompatible with perfect freedom of feeling on both sides, did he hesitate to make the avowal.

Nor do I believe that the mystification ever answered much purpose, among literary men of eminence beyond the circle of his personal acquaintance. But it would be difficult to suppose that he had ever wished that to be otherwise; it was sufficient for him to set the mob of readers at gaze, and above all, to escape the annoyance of having pro

I am per

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ductions, actually known to be his, made the daily and hourly topics of discussion in his presenco.

Mr Jeffrey had known Scott from his youth-and, in reviewing Waverley, he was at no pains to conceal his conviction of its authorship. He quarrelled, as usual, with carelessness of style, and some inartificialities of plot, but rendered justice to the substantial merits of the work, in language which I shall not mar by abridgement. The Quarterly was far less favourable in its verdict. Indeed, the articles on Waverley, and afterwards on Guy Mannering, which appeared in that journal, will bear the test of ultimate opinion as badly as any critical pieces which our time has produced. They are written in a captious, cavilling strain of quibble, which shows as complete blindness to the essential interest of the narrative, as the critic betrays on the subject of the Scottish dialogue, which forms its liveliest ornament, when he pronounces that to be “a dark dialogue of Anglified Erse." With this remarkable exception, the professional critics were, on the whole, not slow to confess their belief that, under a hackneyed name and trivial form, there had at last appeared a work of original creative genius, worthy of being placed by the side of the very few real master-pieces of prose fiction. Loftier romance was never blended with easier, quainter humour, by Cervantes himself. In his familiar delineations, he had combined the strength of Smollett with the native elegance and unaffected pathos of Goldsmith ; in his darker scenes, he had revived that real tragedy which appeared to have left our stage with the age of Shakspeare; and elements of interest so diverse had been blended and interwoven with that nameless grace which, more surely perhaps than even the highest perfection in the command of any one strain of sentiment, marks the master-mind cast in Nature's most felicitous mould.

Scolt, with the consciousness avowed long afterwards in his General Preface that he should never in all likelihood have thought of a Scotch novel had he not read Maria Edgeworth's exquisite pieces of Irish character, desired James Ballantyne to send her a copy of Waverley on its first appearance, inscribed “from the author.” Miss Edgeworth, whom Scott had never then seen, though some literary correspondence had passed between them, thanked the nameless novelist, under cover to Ballantyne, with the cordial generosity of kindred genius; and the following answer, not from Scott, but from Ballantyne -(who had kept a copy, now before me)-is not to be omitted :

[ocr errors]

To Miss Edgeworth, Edgeworthstown, Ireland.

Edinburgh, 11th November, 1814. “Madam, -I am desired by the Author of Waverley to acknowledge, in his name, the honour you have done him by your most flattering approbation of his work--a distinction which he receives as one of the highest ibat could be paid him, and which he would have been proud to have himself stated his sense of, only that being impersonal, he thought it more respectful to require my assistance, than to write an anonymous letter.

“There are very few who have had the opportunities that have been presented to me, of knowing how very elevated is the admiration entertained by the Author of Waverley for the genius of Miss Edgeworth. From the intercourse that took place betwixt us while the work was going through my press, I know that the exquisite truth and power of your characters operated on his mind at once to excite and subdue it. He felt that the success of his book was to depend upon the characters, much more than upon the story; and he entertained sojust and so high an opinion of your eminence in the management of both, as to have strong apprehensions of any comparison which might be instituted betwixt his picture and story and yours; besides, that there is a richness and nalvetě in Irish character and humour, in which the Scoth are certainly defective, and which could hardly fail, as he thought, to render his delineations cold and tame by the contrast. , 'If I could but hit Miss Edgeworth’s wonderful power of vivifying all her persons, and making them live as beings in your mind, I should not be afraid :'-Often has the Author of Waverley used such language to me; and I knew that I gratified him most when I could say, -Positively, this is equal to Miss Edgeworth. You will thus judge, Madam, how deeply he must feel such praise as you have bestowed upon his efforts.

I believe he bimself thinks the Baron the best drawn character in his book I mean the Bailie-honest Bailie Macwheeble. He protests it is the most true, though from many causes he did not expect it to be the most popular. It appears to me, that amongst so many splendid portraits, all drawn with such strength and truth, it is more easy to say which is your favourite than which is best. Mr Henry Mackenzie agrees with you in your objection to the resemblance to Fielding. should never be forced to recollect, maugre all its internal evidence to the contrary, that such a work is a work of fiction, and all its fine creations but of air. The character of Rose is less finished than the author bad at one period intended; but I believe the characters of humour grew upon his liking, to the prejudice, in some degree, of those of a more elevated and sentimental kind. Yet what can surpass Flora and her gallant brother ?

I am not authorized to say—but I will not resist my impulse to say to Miss Edgeworth, that another novel, descriptive of more ancient manners still, may be expected ere long from the Author of Waverley. But I request her to observe, that I say this in strict confidence--not certainly meaning to exclude from the knowledge of what will give them pleasure, her respectable family.

“Mr Scott's poem, the Lord of the Isles, promises fully to equal the most admired of his productions. It is, I think, equally powerful, and certainly more uniformly polished and sustained. I have seen three Cantos. It will consist of six. “I have the honour to be, Madam, with the utmost admiration and respect, " Your most obedient and most humble servant,


He says, you



Progress of the Lord of the Isles-Correspondence with Mr Joseph Train-Rapid

completion of the Lord of the Isles—“Six Weeks at Christmas”—“Refreshing the Machine”—Publication of the Poem-and of Guy Mannering-Letters to Morritt -Terry-and John Ballantyne-Anecdotes by James Ballantyne-Visit to London -Meeting with Lord Byron-Dinners at Carlton House-1814-1815.

By the 11th of November, then, the Lord of the Isles had made great progress, and Scott had also authorized Ballantyne to negociale among the booksellers for the publication of a second novel. But before I go further into these transactions, I must introduce the circumstances of Scott's first connexion with an able and amiable man, whose services were of high importance to him, at this time and ever after, in the prosecution of his literary labours. Calling at Ballantyne's printing-office while Waverley was in the press, he happened to take up a proof-sheet of a volume, entitled “POEMS, with notes illustrative of traditions in Galloway and Ayrshire, by Joseph Train, Supervisor of Excise at Newlon Stewart.” The sheet contained a ballad on an Ayrshire tradition, about a certain “ Witch of Carrick," whose skill in the black art was, it seems, instrumental in the destruction of one of the scattered vessels of the Spanish Armada. The ballad begins

Why gallops the palfrey with Lady Dunore ?
Who drives away Turnberry's kine from the shore ?
Go tell it in Carrick, and tell it in Kylem
Although the proud Dons are now passing the Moil, *

On this magic clew,

That in fairyland grew,
Old Elcine de Aggart has taken in hand

To wind up their lives ere they win to our strand.” Scott immediately wrote to the author, begging to be included in his list of subscribers for a dozen copies, and suggesting at the same time a verbal alteration in one of the stanzas of this ballad.

Mr Train acknowledged his letter with gratitude, and the little book reached' him just as he was about to embark in the Lighthouse yacht. He took it with him on his voyage, and on returning home again, wrote to Mr Train, expressing the gratification he had received from several of his metrical pieces, but still more from his notes, and requesting him, as he seemed to be enthusiastic about traditions and legends, to communicale any matters of that order connected with Galloway which he

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The Mull of Cantyre.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

might not himself think of turning to account; “ for,” said Scout, “nothing interests me so much as local anecdotes ; and, as the applications for charity usually conclude, the smallest donation will be thankfully accepted."

Mr Train, in a little narrative with which he has favoured me, says, that for some years before this time he had been engaged, in alliance with a friend of his, Mr Denniston, in collecting materials for a History of Galloway; they had circulated lists of queries among the clergy and parish schoolmasters, and had thus, and by their own personal researches, accumulated "a great variety of the most excellent materials for that purpose;" but' that, from the hour of his correspondence with Walter Scott, he “renounced every idea of authorship for himself," resolving, “that thenceforth his chief pursuit should be collecting whatever he thought would be most interesting to him ;" and that Mr Denpiston was easily persuaded to acquiesce in the abandonment of their original design. “Upon receiving Mr Scott's letter” (says Mr Train), “I became still more zealous in the pursuit of ancient lore, and being the first person who had attempted to collect old stories in that quarter with any view to publication, I became so noted, that even beggars, in the hope of reward, came frequently from afar to NewtonStewart, to recite old ballads and relato old stories to me.” Ere long, Mr Train visited Scott both at Edinburgh and at Abbotsford; a true affection continued ever afterwards to be maintained between them; and this generous ally was, as the prefaces to the Waverley Novels signify, one of the earliest confidants of that series of works, and certainly the most efficient of all the author's friends in furnishing him with materials for their composition. Nor did he confine himself to literary services; whatever portable object of antiquarian curiosity met his eye, this good man secured and treasured up with the same destination ; and if ever a catalogue of the museum at Abbotsford shall appear, no single contributor, most assuredly, will fill so large a space in it as Mr Train.

His first considerable communication, after he had formed the unselfish determination above-mentioned, consisted of a collection of anecdotes concerning the Galloway gypsies, and “a local story of an astrologer, who calling at a farm-house at the moment when the goodwife was in travail, had, it was said, predicted the future fortune of the child, almost in the words placed in the mouth of John M'Kinlay, in the Introduction to Guy Mannering." Scolt told him, in reply, that the story of the astrologer reminded him of “one he had heard in his youth;" that is to say, as the Introduction explains, from this M'Kinlay; but Mr.Train has, since his friend's death, recovered a rude Durham ballad, which, in fact, contains a great deal more of the main fable of Guy Mannering than either his own written, or M.Kinlay's oral edition

« AnteriorContinuar »