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"P. 'S. I have much to ask about Lord Byron, if I had time. The third canto of the Childe is inimilable. Or the last poems; there are one or two which indicate rather an irregular play of imagination.* What a pity that a man of such : exquisite genius will not be contented to be happy on the ordinary terms ! I. declare my heart bleeds when I think of him, self-banished from the country to which he is an honour.”
Mr Murray, gladly embracing this offer of an article for his journal on the Tales of My Landlord, begged Scott to take a wider scope, and, dropping all respect for the idea of a divided parentage, to place together any materials he might have for the illustration of the Waverley Novels in general ; he suggested, in particular, that, instead of drawing up a long-promised disquisition on the Gypsies in a separate shape, whatever he had to say concerning that picturesque generation might be introduced by way of comment on the character of Meg Merrilees. What Scott's original conception had been I know not; he certainly gave his reviewal all the breadth which Murray could have wished, and inter alia, diversified it with a few anecdotes of the Scottish Gypsies. But the late excellent biographer. of John Knox, Dr Thomas M'Crie, had, in the mean time, considered the representation of the Covenanters in the story of Old Mortality as so unfair as to demand at his hands a very serious rebuke. The Doctor forthwith published, in a magazine called the Edinburgh Christian Instructor, a set of papers, jn which the historical foundations of that tale were attacked with indignant warmth ; and though Scott, when he first heard of these invectives, expressed his resolution never even to read them, he found the impression they were producing 80 strong, that he soon changed his purpose, and finally devoted a very large part of his article for the Quarterly Review to an elaborate defence of his own picture of the Covenanters.*
* Parisina--The Dream—and the “Domestic Pieces,” had been recently published.
+ Since I have mentioned this reviewal, I may as well, to avoid recurrence to it, express here my conviction, that Erskine, not Scott, was the author of the critical estimate of the Waverley novels which it embraces—although for the purpose of mystification Scott had taken the trouble to transcribe the paragraphs in which that estimate is contained. At the same time I cannot but add that, bad Scott really been the sole author of this reviewal, he need not have incurred the severe censure which has been applied to his supposed conduct in the matter. After all, his judg. ment of his own works must have been allowed to be not above, but very far under the mark; and the whole affair would, I think, have been considered by every candid person exactly as the letter about Solomon and the rival mothers was by Murray, Gifford, and “the four o'clock visitors” of Albemarle Street—as a good joke. A better joke certainly than the allusion to the report of Thomas Scott being the real author of Waverley, at the close of the article, was never penned; and I think it includes a confession over which a misanthrope might have chuckled :“We intended here to conclude this long article, when a strong report reached us of certain Transatlantic confessions, which, if genuine (though of this we know nothing), assign a different autho to these volumes than the party suspected by our Scottish correspondents. Yet a critic may be excused seizing upon the nearest suspicious person, on the principle bappily expressed by Claverhouse, in a letter to. the Earl of Linlithgow. He had been, it seems, in search of a gifted weaver, who used to hold forth at conventicles : 'I sent for the webster (weaver), they brought in his brother for him : though be, may be, cannot preach like his brother, I doubt
Before the first Tales of my Landlord were six weeks' old, two editions of 2000 copies disappeared, and a third of 2000 was put to press; but notwithstanding this rapid success, which was still further continued, and the friendly relations which always subsisted between the author and Mr Murray, circumstances ere long occurred which carried the publication of the work into the hands of Messrs Constable.
The author's answer to Dr M Crie, and his Introduction of 1830, have exhausted the historical materials on which he constructed his Old Mortality; and the origin of the Black Dwarf, as to the conclusion of which story he appears on reflection to have completely adopted the opinion of honest Blackwood, has already been sufficiently illustrated by an anecdole of his early wanderings in Tweeddale. The latter tale, however imperfect, and unworthy as a work of art to be placed high in the catalogue of his productions, derives a singular interest from its delineation of the dark feelings so often connected with physical deformity; feelings which appear to have diffused their shadow over the whole genius of Byron-and which, but for this single picture, we should hardly have conceived ever to have passed through Scott's happier mind. All the bitter blasphemy of spirit which, from infancy to the tomb, swelled up in Byron against the unkindness of nature; which sometimes perverted even his filial love into a sentiment of diabolical malignity; all this black and desolate train of reflections must have been encountered and deliberately subdued by the manly parent of the Black Dwarf. Old Mortality, on the other hand, is remarkable as the novelist's first attempt to re-people the past by the power of imaginalion working on materials furnished by books. In-Waverley he revived the fervid dreams of his boyhood, and drew, not from printed records, but from the artless oral narratives of his Invernal yle. In Guy Mannering, he embodied characters and manners familiar to his own wandering youth. But whenever his letters mention Old Mortality in its progress, they represent him as strong in the confidence that the industry with which he had pored over a library of forgotten tracts would enable him to identify himself with the time in which they had birth, as completely as if he had listened with his own ears to the dismal sermons of Peden, ridden with Claverhouse and Dalzell in the rout of Bothwell, and been an advocate at the bar of the Privy-Council, when Lauderdale eatechised and tortured the assassins of Archbishop Sharp. To reproduce a departed age with such minute and lifelike accuracy as this tale exhibits, demanded a far more energetic sympathy of imagination than had been called for io any effort of his serious verse.
It is indeed most curiously instructive for any student of art to compare the Roundheads of Rokeby with the Bluebopnets of Old Mortality. For
not but he is as well-principled as he, wherefore I thought it would be no great fault to give him the trouble to go to jail with the rest !! ”_ Miscellaneous Prose Works.
the rest—the story is framed with a deepef skill than any of the preceding novels; the canvass is a broader one; the characters are contrasted and projected with a power and felicity which neither he nor any other master ever surpassed; and, 'notwithstanding all that has been urged against him as a disparager of the Covenanters, it is to me very doubtful whether the inspiration of romantic chivalry ever prompted him to nobler emotions than he has lavished on the re-animation of their stern and solemn enthusiasm. This work has always appeared to me the Marmion of his novels.
I have disclaimed the power of farther illustrating its historical groundworks, but I am enabled by Mr Train's kindness to give some interesting additions to Scott's own account of this novel as a composition. The generous Supervisor visited him in Edinburgh in May, 1816, a few days after the publication of the Antiquary, carrying with him several relics which he wished to present to his collection, among others a purse that had belonged to Rob Roy; and also a fresh heap of traditionary gleanings, which he had gathered among the talo-tellers of his district. One of these last was in the shape of a letter to Mr Train from a Mr Broadfoot,“ schoolmaster at the clachan of Penningham, and author of the celebrated song of the Hills of Galloway" — with which I confess myself unacquainted. Broadfoot had faceliously signed his communication, Clashbottom-"a professional appellation, derived,” says Mr Train, " from the use of the birch, and by which he was usually addressed among his companions,—who assembled, not at the Wallace Inn of Gandercleuch, but at the sign of the Shoulder of Mutton in Newton-Stewart.” Scott received these gists with benignity, and invited the friendly donor to breakfast next morning. He found him at work in his library, and surveyed with enthusiastic curiosity the furniture of the room, especially its only picture, a portrait of Graham of Claverhouse. Train expressed the surprise with which every one who had known Dundee only in the pages of the Presbyterian Annalists, must see for the first time that beautiful and melancholy visage, worthy of the most pathetic dreams of romance. Scott replied, " that no character had been so foully traduced as the Viscount of Dundee--that, thanks to Wodrow, Cruikshanks, and such chroniclers, he, who was every inch a soldier and a gentleman, still passed among the Scoltish vulgar for a ruffian desperado, who rode a goblin horse, was proof against shot, and in league with the Devil:" " Might he not," said Mr Train, “ be made, in good hands, the hero of a national romance as interesting as any about either Wallace or Prince Charlie ?” “ He might,” said Scott, “but your western zealots would require to be faithfully portrayed in order to bring him out with the right effect." “ And what,” resumed Train, is the story were to be delivered as if from the mouth of Old Mortality ? Would he not do as well as the
6. Do so by
Minstrel did in the Lay?" "Old Mortality !" said Scott - who was he?" Mr Train then told what he could remember of old Paterson, and seeing how much his story interested the hearer, offered to enquire farther about that enthusiast on his return to Galloway. all means," said Scott—" I assure you I shall look with anxiety for your communication.” He said nothing at this time of his own meeting with Old Mortality in the churchyard of Dunotter—and I think there can be no doubt that that meeting was thus recalled to his recollection; or that to this intercourse with Mr Train we owe the whole machinery of the Tales of my Landlord, as well as the adoption of Claverhouse's period for the scene of one of its first fictions. I think it highly probable that we owe a further obligation to the worthy Supervisor's presentation of Rob Roy's spleuchan.
The original design for the First Series of Jedediah Cleishbotham was, as Scolt told me, to include four separate tales illustrative of four districts of the country, in the like number of volumes ; but, his imagination once kindled upon any theme, he could not but pour himself out freely so that notion was soon abandoned.
Harold the Dauntless published—Scott aspires to be a Barón of the Exchequer I.
Letter to the Duke of Buccleuch concerning Poachers, &c. --First Attack of Cramp in the Stomach Letters to Morritt-Terry—and Mrs Maclean Clephane-Story of the Doom of Devorgoil-John Kemble's Retirement from the Stage-William Laidlaw established at Kaeside-Novel of Rob Roy projected-Letter to Southey on the Relief of the Poor, &c.—Letter to Lord Montagu on Hogg's Queen's Wake, and on the Death of Frances Lady Douglas.—1817.
WITHIN less than a month, the Black Dwarf and Old Mortality were followed by Harold the Dauntless, by the author of the Bridal of Triermain.' This poem had been, it appears, begun several years back; nay, part of it had been actually printed before the appearance of Childe Harold, though that circumstance had escaped the author's remembrance when he penned, in 1830, his Introduction to the Lord of the Isles; for he there says, I am still astonished at my having committed the gross error of selecting the very name which Lord Byron had made so famous. The volume was published by Messrs Constable, and had, in those booksellers' phrase, "considerable success." It has never, however, been placed on a level with Triermain; and though it contains many vigorous pictures, and splendid verses, and here and there some happy humour, the confusion and harsh transitions of the fable, and the dim rudeness of character and manners, seem
sufficient to account for this inferiority in public favour. It is not surprising that the author should have redoubled his aversion to the notion of any more serious performance in verse. He had seized on an instrument of wider compass, and which, handled with whatever rapidity, seemed to reveal at every touch, treasures that had hitherto slept unconsciously within him. He had thrown off his felters, and might well go forth rejoicing in the native elasticity of his strength.
It is at least a curious coincidence in literary history, that, as Cervantes, driven from the stage of Madrid by the success of Lope de Vega, threw himself into prose romance, and produced, at the moment when the world considered him as silenced for ever, the Don Quixote which has outlived Lope's two thousand triumphant dramas-80 Scott, abandoning verse to Byron, should have rebounded from his fall by the only prose romances which seem to be classed with the masterpiece of Spanish genius, by the general judgment of Europe.
I shall insert two letters, in which he announces the publication of Harold the Dauntless. In the first of them he also mentions the light and humorous little piece entitled The Sultan of Serendib, or the Search after Happiness, originally published in a weekly paper, after the fashion of the old Essayists, which about this time issued from John Ballantyne's premises, under the appropriate name of “the SALERoom." The paper had slender success; and though Scott wrote several things for it, none of them, except this metrical essay, attracted any notice. The Sale-Room was, in fact, a dull and hopeless concern; and I should scarcely have thought it worth mentioning, but for the confirmation it lends to my suspicion that Mr John Ballantyne was very unwilling, after all his warnings, to retire completely from the field of publishing.
“ TO J. B. S. Morritt, Esq., M. P., Rokeby Park.
Edinburgh, Jan. 30, 1817. "MY DEAR MORRITT, - I hope to send you in a couple of days Harold the Dauntless, which has not turned out so good as I thought it would have done. I begin to get too old and stupid, I think, for poetry, and will certainly never again adventure on a grand scale. For amusement, and to help a little publication that is going on here, I have spun a doggrel tale called the Search after Happiness, of which I shall send a copy by post, if it is of a frankable size; if not, I can put it up with the Dauntless. Among other misfortunes of Harold is his name, but the thing was partly printed before Childe Harold was in question.
My great and good news at present is, that the bog (that perpetual hobbyhorse) has produced a commodity of most excellent marle, and promises to be of the very last consequence to my wild ground in the neighbourhood; for nothing can equal the effect of marle as a top-dressing. Methinks (in my mind's eye, Horatio) I see all the blue-bank, the hynny-lee, and the other provinces of my poor kingdom, waving with deep ryegrass and clover, like the meadows at Rokeby. In honest truth, it will do me yeoman's service.
“My next good tidings are, that Jedediah carries the world before him. Six thousand have been disposed of, and three thausand more are pressing onward,