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by what afterwards became one of his standing titles, that of " "The Great Magician."
* Onwards a figure came, with stately brow,
And, as he glanced upon the ruin'd pile
(His countenance brightning with a scornful smile,
The wild romantic realm where I have willed to reign ?
How changed that scornful face to soft and mild !
Harmless, withal, as that of playful child.
I felt the voice familiar to mine ear;
Connected strangely with that unknown seer,
A circle round me traced, as with magician's wand,” &c. &c. Scott's own chief contribution to this volume was a brief account of the Life and Poems (hitherto unpublished) of Patrick Carey, whom he pronounces to have been not only as stout a cavalier, but almost as good a poet as his contemporary Lovelace. That Essay was expanded, and prefixed to an edition of Carey's "Trivial Poems and Triolets," which Scott published in 1820; but its circulation in either shape has been limited : and I believe I shall be gratifying the majority of my readers by here transcribing some paragraphs of his beautiful and highly characteristic introduction of this forgotten poet of the 17th century.
“The present age has been so distinguished for research into poetical antiquities, that the discovery of an unknown bard is, in certain chosen literary circles, held as curious as an augmentation of the number of fixed stars would be esteemed by astronomers. It is true, these blessed twinklers of the night are so far removed from us, that they afford no more light than serves barely to evince their existence to the curious investigator; and in like manner the pleasure derived from the revival of an obscure poet is rather in proportion to the rarity of his volume than to its merit; yet this pleasure is not inconsistent with reason and principle. We know by every day's experience the peculiar interest which the lapse of ages confers upon works of human art The clumsy strength of the ancient castles, wbich, when raw from the hand of the builder, inferred only the oppressive power of the barons who reared then, is now broken by partial ruin into proper subjects for the poet or the painter; and, as Mason has beautifully described the change,
Was only terrible'. The monastery, too, which was at first but a fantastic monument of the superstitious devotion of monarchs, or of the purple pride of fattened abbots, has gained, by the silent influence of antiquity, the power of impressing awe and devotion. Even the stains and weather-taints upon the battlements of such buildings add, like the scars of a veteran, to the affecting impression:
For time has softened what was harsh when new,
« If such is the effect of Time in adding interest to the labours of the architect, if partial destruction is compensated by the additional interest of that which remains, can we deny his exerting a similar influence upon those subjects which are sought after by the bibliographer and poetical antiquary ? The obscure poet, who is detected by their keen research, may indeed have possessed but a slender portion of that spirit which has buoyed up the works of distinguished contemporaries during the course of centuries, yet still his verses shall, in the lapse of time, acquire an interest, which they did not possess in the eyes of his own generation. The wrath of the critic, like that of the son of Ossian, flies from the foe that is low. Envy, base as she is, has one property of the lion, and cannot prey on carcases; she must drink the blood of a sentient victim, and tear the limbs that are yet warm with vital life. Faction, if the ancient has suffered her persecution, serves only to endear bim to the recollection of posterity, whose generous compassion overpays him for the injuries he sustained while in life. And thus freed from the operation of all unfavourable prepossessions, his merit, if he can jboast any, has more than fair credit with his readers. This, however, is but part of his advantages. The mere attribute of antiquity is of itself sufficient to interest the fancy, by the lively and powerful train of associations which it awakens. Had the pyramids of Egypt, equally disagreeable in form and senseless as to utility, been the work of any living tyrant, with what feelings, save those of scorn and derision, could we have regarded such a waste of labour ? But the sight, nay the very mention of these wonderful monuments, is associated with the dark and subline ideas, which vary their tinge according to the favourite hue of our studies. The Christian divine recollects the land of banishment and of refuge; to the eyes of the historian's fancy, they excite the shades of Pharaohs and of Ptolemies, of Cheops and Merops, and Sesostris drawn in triumph by his sceptred slaves ; the philosopher beholds the first rays of moral truth as they dawned on the hieroglyphic sculptures of Thebes and Memphis; and the poet sees the fires of magic blazing upon the mystic altars of a land of incantation. Nor is the grandeur of size essential to such feelings, any more than the properties of grace and utility. Even the rudest remnant of a feudal tower, even the obscure and almost undistinguishable vestige of an altogether unknown edifice, has power to awaken such trains of fancy. We have a fellow interest with the son of the winged days, over whose fallen habitation we tread:
'The massy stones, though hewn most roughly, show
The hand of man had once at least been there.'-WORDSWORTH. “ Similar combinations give a great part of the delight we receive from ancient poetry. In the rude song of the Scald, we regard less the strained imagery and extravagance of epithet, than the wild impressions which it conveys of the dauntless resolution, savage superstition, rude festivity, and ceaseless depredation of the ancient Scandinavians. In the metrical romance, we pardon the long, tedious, and bald enumeration of trifling particulars; the reiterated sameness of the eternal combats between knights and giants ; the overpowering languor of the love speeches, and the merciless length and similarity of description-when Fancy whispers to us, that such strains may have cheered the sleepless pillow of the Black Prince on the memorable eves of Cressy or Poietiers. There is a certain romance of Ferumbras, which Robert the Bruce read to his few followers to divert their thoughts from the desperate circumstances in which they were placed, after an unsuccessful attempt to rise against the English. Is there a true Scotsman who, being aware of this anecdote, would be disposed to yawn over the romance of Ferumbras ? Or, on the contrary, 'would not the image of the dauntless hero, inflexible in defeat, beguiling the anxiety of his war-worn attendants by the lays of the minstrel, give to these rade lays themselves an interest beyond Greek and Roman fame ?"
The year 1812 had the usual share of minor literary labours—such as contributions to the journals; and before it closed, the Romance of Rokeby was finished. Though it had been long in hand, the MS. sent to the printer bears abundant evidence of its being the prima cura : three cantos at least reached Ballantyne through the Melrose post-written on paper of various sorts and sizes—full of blots and
interlineations—the closing couplets of a despatch now and then encircling the page, and mutilated by the breaking of the seal.
According to the recollection of Mr. Cadell, though James Ballantyne read the poem, as the sheels were advancing through the press, to his usual circle of literary dilettanti, their whispers were far from exciting in Edinburgh such an intensity of expectation as had been witnessed in the case of The Lady of the Lake. He adds, however, that it was looked for with undiminished anxiety in the south. Send me Rokeby," Byron writes to Murray, on seeing it advertised, "Who the devil is he? No matter-he has good connexions, and will be well introduced." Such, I suppose, was the general feeling in London. I well remember, being in those days a young student at Oxford, how the booksellers’ shops there were beleaguered for the earliest copies, and how he that had been so fortunate as to secure one, was followed to his chambers by a tribe of friends, all as eager to hear it read as ever horse-jockeys were to see the conclusion of a match at Newmarket'; and indeed not a few of those enthusiastic academies had bels depending on the issue of the struggle, which they considered the elder favourite as making, to keep his own ground against the fiery rivalry of Childe Harold.
The poem was published a day or two before Scolt returned to Edinburgh from Abbotsford, between which place and Merloun he had divided his Christmas vacation. · On the 9th and 10th of January, 1813, he thus addresses his friends at Sunninghill and Hampstead :
To George Ellis, Esq. • My DEAR ECLIS, -I am sure you will place it to any thing rather than want of kindness, that I have been so long silent--so very long, indeed, that I am not quite sure whether the fault is on my side or yours—but, be it what it may, it can never, I am sure, be laid to forgetfulness in either. This comes to train you on to the merciful reception of a Tale of the Civil Wars ; not political, however, but merely a pseudo-romance of pseudo-chivalry. I have converted a lusty buccanier into a hero with some effect; but the worst of all my undertakings is, that my rogue always, in despite of me, turns out ny hero. I know not how this should be-I am myself, as Hamlet says, “ indifferent bonest;' and my father, though an attorney (as you will call him), was one of the most honest men, as well as gentlemanlike, that ever breathed. I am sure I can bear witness to that for if he had at all smacked, or grown to, like the son of Lancelot Gobbo, he might have left us all as rich as Cresus, besides baying the pleasure of taking a fine primrose path bimself, instead of squeezing himself through a tight gate and up a steep ascent, and leaving us the decent competence of an honest man's children. As to our more ancient pedigree, I should be loath to vouch for them. My grandfather was a horse-jockey and cattle-dealer, and made a fortune; my great-grandfather, Jacobite and traitor (as the times called him), and lost one ; and after him intervened one or two halfstarved lairds, who rode a lean horse, and were followed by leaner greyhounds ; gathered with difficulty a hundred pounds from a hundred tenants ; fought duels ;
* Byron's Life and Works.
cocked their bats, and called themselves gentlemen. · Then we come to the old Border times, cattle-driving, halters, and so forth, for which, in the matter of honesty, very little I suppose can be said—at least in modern acceptation of the word. Upon the whole, I am inclined to think it is owing to the earlier part of this inauspicious generation that I uniformly find myself in the same scrape in my fables, and that, in spite of the most.obstinate determination to the contrary, the greatest rogue in my canvass always stands out as the most conspicuous and prominent figure.
All this will be a riddle to you, unless you have received a certain packet, which the Ballantynes were to bave sent under Freeling's or Croker's cover, so soon as they could get a copy done up.
“And now let me gratulate you upon the renovated vigour of your fine old friends the Russians. By the Lord, sir! it is most famous this campaign of theirs. I was not one of the very sanguine persons who anticipated the actual capture of Buonaparte—a hope which rather proceeded from the ignorance of those who cannot conceive that military movemenls, upon a large scale, admit of such a force being accumulated upon any particular point as may, by abandonment of other considera-, tions, always ensure the escape of an individual. But I had no hope, in my time, of seeing the dry bones of the Continent so warm with life again, as this revivification of the Russians proves them to be. I look anxiously for the effect of these great events on Prussia, and even upon Saxony; for I think Boney will hardly trust himself again in Germany, now that he has been plainly shown, both in Spain and Russia, that protracted stubborn unaccommodating resistance will foil those grand exertions in the long run. All laud be to Lord Wellington, who first taught that great lesson.
" Charlotte is with me just now at this little scrub babitation, where we weary ourselves all day in looking at our projected improvements, and then slumber over the fire, I pretending to read, and she to work trout-nets, or cabbage-nets, or some such article. What is Canning about? Is there any chance of our getting him in ? Surely Ministers cannot hope to do without him. Believe me, dear Ellis, ever truly yours,
W. Scott." Abbotsford, 9th January, 1813.”
I have gone
“ To Miss Joanna Baillie.
“ Abbotsford, January 10, 1813. w Your kind encouragement, my dear friend, has given me spirits to complete the lumbering quarto, which I hope has reached you by this time. on with my story forth right, without troubling myself excessively about the developement of the plot and other critical matters,
But shall we go mourn for that, my dear ?
The pale moon shines by night;
We then do go most right.' I hope you will like Bertram to the end; he is a Caravaggio sketch, which, I may acknowledge to you—but tell it not in Gath-I rather pique myself upon ; and he is within the keeping of Nature, though critics will say to the contrary. It may be difficult to fancy that any one should take a sort of pleasure in bringing out such a character, but I suppose it is partly owing to bad reading, and ill-directed reading, when I was young. No sooner bad I corrected the last sheet of Rokeby, than I escaped to this Patmos as blithe as bird on tree, and have been ever since most decidedly idle—that is to say, with busy idleness. I have been banking, and securing, and dyking against the river, and planting willows, and aspens, and weeping-birches, around my new old well, which I think I told you I had constructed last summer. I have now laid the foundations of a famous back-ground of copse, with pendant trees in front; and I have only to beg a few years to see how my
colours will come out of the canvass. Alas! who can promise that? But somebody will take my place-and enjoy them, whether I do or no. My old friend and pastor, Principal Robertson (the historian), when he was not expected to survive many weeks, still watched the selling of the blossom upon some fruit-trces in the garden, with as much interest as if it was possible he could have seen the fruit come to maturity, and moralized on bis own conduct, by observing that we act upon the same inconsistent motive throughout life. It is well we do so for those that are to come after us. I could almost dislike the man who refuses to plant walnut-trees, because they do not bear fruit till the second generation; and so-many tharks to our ancestors, and much joy to our successors, and truce to my fine and very new strain of morality. Yours ever,
W.S.” The following letter lets us completely behind the scenes at the publication of Rokeby. The “horrid story" it alludes to was that of a young woman found murdered on New Year's Day in the highway between Greta Bridge and Barnard Castle--a crime, the perpetrator of which was never discovered. The account of a parallel atrocity in Galloway, and the mode of its detection, will show the reader from what source Scolt drew one of the most striking incidents in his Guy Mannering: “To J. B. S. Morritt, Esq., Rokeby Park.
“ Edinburgh, 12th January, 1813. “Dear MORRITT, -Yours I have just received in mine office at the RegisterHouse, which will excuse this queer sheet of paper. The publication of Rokeby was delayed till Monday, to give the London publishers a fair start. My copies, that is, my friends', were all to be got off about Friday or Saturday; but yours may have been a little later, as it was to be what they called a picked one. I will call at Ballantyne's as I return from this place, and close the letter with such news as I can get about it there. The book has gone off here very bobbishły; for the impression of 3000 and upwards is within two or three score of being exhausted, and the demand for these continuing faster than they can be boarded. I am heartily glad of this, for now I have nothing to fear but a bankruptcy in the Gazette of Parnassus; but the loss of five or six thousand pounds to my good friends and school-companions would have afflicted me very much. I wish we could whistle you here to-day. Ballantyne always gives a christening dinner, at which the Duke of Buccleuch, and a great many of my friends, are formally feasted. · He has always the best singing that can be heard in Edinburgh, and we have usually a very pleasant party, at which your health as patron and proprietor of Rokeby will be faithfully and honourably remembered.
“ Your horrid story reminds me of one in Galloway, where the perpetrator of a similar enormity on a poor idiot girl, was discovered by means of the print of his foot which be left upon the clay floor of the cottage in the death struggle. It pleased Heaven (for nothing short of a miracle could have done it) to enlighten the understanding of an old ram-headed sheriff, who was usually nick-named Leather-head. The steps which he look to discover the murderer were most sagacious. As the poor girl was pregnant (for it was not a case of violation), it was pretty clear that her paramour had done the deed, and equally so that he must be a native of the district. The sheriff caused tlre minister to advertise from the pulpit that the girl would be buried on a particular day, and that all persons in the neighbourhood were invited to attend the funeral, to show their detestation of such an enormous crime, as well as to evince their own innocence. This was sure to bring the murderer to the funeral. When the people were assembled in the kirk, the doors were locked by the sheriff's order, and the shoes of all the men were examined ; that of the