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ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.
It is hardly to be expected, that an Author whom the public have honoured with some degree of applause, should not be again a trespasser on their kindness. Yet the Author of MARMION must be supposed to feel some anxiety concerning its success, since he is sensible that he hazards, by this second intrusion, any reputation which his first Poem may have procured him. The present story turns upon the private adventures of a ficticious character; but is called a Tale of Flodden Field, because the hero's fate is connected with that memorable defeat, and the causes which led to it. The design of the Author was, if possible, to apprize his readers, at the outset, of the date of his Story, and to prepare them for the manners of the Age in which it is laid, Any Historical Narrative, far more an attempt at Epic composition, exceeded his plan of a Romantic Tale ; yet he may be permitted to hope, from the popularity of THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL, that an attempt to paint the manners of the feudal times, upon a broader scale, and in the course of a more interesting story, will not be unacceptable to the Public.
The Poem opens about the commencement of August, and concludes with the defeat of Flodden, 9th September, 1513.
AFTER a success so brilliant and profitable as that which had been attained by the “ Lay," it was only natural that a young and ambitious writer should be tempted quickly to resume his addresses to the muse, especially in the circumstances in which Scott was placed. He saw before him little prospect of advance. ment in his profession, for the practice of which he had never felt any inclination, and which continued to become more distasteful to him. Having to choose between literature and law, he was ready to decide in favour of the former, had not the sheriffship which he obtained in Dec. 1799, and the reversion of the clerkship of Session, which was assigned to him a few years later, enabled him to take a middle course, to apply himself to letters without rendering himself dependent for an income on the profits of his pen. The good fortune which crowned his first serious essay in literature confirmed this resolution, and another poem was quickly planned. With characteristic prudence Scott had determined not to be too hasty in this second venture, and to bestow upon it the thought and polish which the pablic would naturally expect from an author of his reputation. Some pecuniary
embarrassment on the part of his brother Thomas caused him to break this cautious i resolution. Constable, in association with some of the London booksellers, was
quite willing to pay down a thousand pounds for the unwritten poem, and Scott · was thus enabled to assist his brother in his difficulties. Byron, unaware of the
generous purpose to which Scott applied the money, affected to be shocked at the mercenary nature of the bargain. The publishers, however, were only too glad to enter into the arrangement, and they were certainly no losers by their confidence and liberality. Commenced in Nov. 1806, “ Marmion” was ready for the press in February, 1808. Two thousand copies of the first edition in quarto, at a guinea and a half, were disposed of in a month. A second edition, of 3,000 copies, immediately followed, and two other editions, each of the same extent, were called for before the end of 1809. By the beginning of 1836 as many as 50,000 copies had been disposed of.
Large as was the circulation of “ Marmion,” it can hardly be said to have been read with the same relish as the “ Lay,” yet it was in many respects an advance.
Even Jeffrey, who was very severe on the defects of the second poem, is disposed | to admit that if it has greater faults it has also greater beauties. “ It has more
flat and tedious passages, and more ostentation of historical and antiquarian lore, I but it has also greater richness and variety, both of character and incident; and if
it has less sweetness and pathos in the softer passages, it has certainly more vehemence and force of colouring in the loftier and busier representations of action and emotion .... more airiness and brightness in the higher delineations.” Scott himself has acknowledged, in the preface of 1830, one of the chief defects of the story, although he endeavoured to justify it in a note. This was the cornbination of mean felony with so many noble qualities in the character of the hero, especially as the crime belonged rather to a commercial than a proud, warlike, and uninstructed age. Leyden, amongst others, was furious at this oversight, and Scott owns that it ought to have been remedied or palliated. “ Yet I suffered the tree,” he says, “ to lie as it had fallen, being satisfied that corrections, however judicious, have a bad effect after publication."
The letters prefixed to each canto were also a mistake in an artistic point of view. Every one will agree with Southey in wishing them “at the end of the volume, or the beginning, anywhere except where they are ;” and the best advice we can give the reader is, not to allow them to interrupt his perusal of the poem, but to regard them as independent pieces. Indeed, it was in this character they were originally intended to appear, and as such were advertised under the title of “Six Epistles from Ettrick Forest.” Of the persons to whom the letters are addressed a few notes may be interesting. Mr. W. Stewart Rose was the author of “Letters from Rome," a translation of Ariosto, and other works-a genial, cultivated man, whose social qualities were higher than his literary powers. Scott not only met him frequently in London, but visited him at his marine villa, Gundimore, in Hampshire. The Rev. John Marriott was tutor to Lord Scott, the young heir of Buccleuch, to whom there is an allusion in the poem, and who died a few days after it was published. William Erskine, afterwards Lord Kinnedder, was one of Scott's oldest and most valued friends. Lockhart describes very forcibly the difference in their character and temperament; Scott being strong, active, and passionately fond of rough bodily exercise, while Erskine was “a little man of feeble make, who seemed unhappy when his pony got beyond a foot pace . . . who used to shudder when he saw a party equipped for coursing, as if murder were in the wind. His small, elegant features, hectic cheek, and soft hazel eyes, were the index of the quick, sensitive gentle spirit within. He had the warm heart of a woman, her generous enthusiasm, and some of her weaknesses. A beautiful landscape, or a fine strain of music, would send the tears rolling down the cheek ; and, though capable, I have no doubt, of exhibiting, had his duty called him to do so, the highest spirit of a hero or a martyr, he had very little command over his nerves amidst circumstances such as men of ordinary mould (to say nothing of iron fabrics like Scott's) regard with indifference." Slow advancement at the bar somewhat soured his temper; he shrank from general society, and moved only in a narrow circle of intimate friends. This retiring habit clung to him after he had obtained the long-coveted seat on the bench. He was at heart a generous, kindly man. His conversation, somewhat formal and precise, was rich in knowledge; and his taste and keen criticism were very valuable to his friend. Mr. James Skene, of Rubislaw, near Aberdeen, was another early friend of Scott, who had encouraged him in his German studies, and shared his military enthusiasm in the days of the expected invasion. Scott speaks of him in one of his letters as “distinguished for his attainments as a draughtsman, and for his highly gentlemanlike feelings and character. Admirable in all exercises, there entered a good deal of the cavalier into his early character." Mr. George Ellis is well known as the editor of a number of antiquarian works. He was a frequent correspondent and valued adviser of Scott. Richard Heber was brother of the Bishop and poet of the same name. He was long Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford, and a man of culture and social position. His knowledge of Middle Age literature and extensive library were of great assistance to Scott in the compilation of the Border Minstrelsy. Once, after a long convivial night in Edinburgh, he and Scott climbed to the top of Arthur's Seat in the moonlight, coming down to breakfast with a rare appetite.
The topography of “Marmion” is so fully illustrated in the notes, that it is scarcely needful here to do more than indicate them :-Norham Castle, p. 504; Lindisfarne, p. 510; Gifford Castle, p. 512; Crichtoun Castle, p. 514; the Borough
Moor, p. 515; Tantallon Castle, p. 517; Edinburgh Cross, p. 517. The route by which "Marmion" is carried to Edinburgh was made the subject of good-natured banter by some of Scott's friends. “Why," said one of them, “did ever mortal coming from England to Edinburgh, go by Gifford, Crichton Castle, Borthwick Castle, and over the top of Blackford Hill? Not only is it a circuitous détour, but there never was a road that way since the world was created.” “That is a most irrelevant objection," replied Scott; "it was my good pleasure to bring Marmion by that route, for the purpose of describing the places you have mentioned, and the
view from Blackford Hill--it was his business to find his road, and pick his steps | the best way he could.” In the poem, however, another reason is suggested for the route chosen :
"They might not choose the lowland road.
For the Merse forayers were abroad;
Had scarcely failed to bar their way."
INTRODUCTION TO CANTO FIRST.
TO WILLIAM STEWART ROSE, Esq.
NOVEMBER's sky is chill and drear,
Ashestiel, Ettrick forest. Myimps, though hardy, bold and wild, As best befits the mountain child, Feel the sad influence of the hour, And wail the daisy's vanished flower ; Their summer gambols tell, and mourn, And anxious ask, — Will spring return, And birds and lambs again be gay, And blossoms clothe the hawthorn spray?
Yes, prattlers, yes. The daisy's flower Again shall paint your summer bower ; Again the hawthorn shall supply The garlands you delight to tie; The lambs upon the lea shall bound, The wild birds carol to the round, And while you frolic light as they, Too short shall seem the summer day.
No longer Autumn's glowing red Upon our Forest hills is shed; No more, beneath the evening beam, Fair Tweed reflects their purple gleam: Away hath passed the heather-bell That bloom'd so rich on Needpath Fell; Sallow his brow, and russet bare Are now the sister-heights of Yair. The sheep, before the pinching heaven, To shelter'd dale and down are driven, Where yet some faded herbage pines, And yet a watery sunbeam shines : In meek despondency they eye The wither'd sward and wintry sky, And far beneath their summer hill, Stray sadly by Glenkinnon's rill: The shepherd shifts his mantle's fold, And wraps him closer from the cold; His dogs no merry circles wheel, But, shivering, follow at his heel ; A cowering glance they often cast, As deeper moans the gathering blast.
To mute and to material things New life revolving summer brings; The genial call dead Nature hears, And in her glory reappears. But oh! my country's wintry state What second spring shall renovate ? What powerful call shall bid arise The buried warlike and the wise; The mind that thought for Britain's weal, The hand that grasp'd the victor steel? The vernal sun new life bestows Even on the meanest flower that blows; But vainly, vainly may he shine, Where glory weeps o'er Nelson's shrine; And vainly pierce the solemn gloom, That shrouds, O PITT, thy hallowed
Deep graved in every British heart, O never let those names depart!