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regret that she preserved no memorial, “radiant as they were, I have often thought since, that there must have been a bias in his mind to superstition—the marvellous seemed to have such power over him, though the mere offspring of his own imagination, that the expression of his face, habitually that of genuine benevolence, mingled with a shrewd innocent humour, changed greatly while he was speaking of these things, and showed a deep intenseness of feeling, as if he were awed even by his own recital.” Scott, as he was throughout life, is again before us in this little delineation ; the kindness, the superstition, the shrewdness : and one already sees “Waverley" and "Lammermoor” in their infancy.
Meanwhile that other element of poetry which is only second in Scott's writings to the picture of human life, - the natural landscape,-began to assert its influence over him. Actors were thronging fast within the theatre of his imagination; the first sketches of the background and scenery for the drama were now supplied. From a visit to Kelso, “the most beautiful, if not the most romantic village in Scotland,” Scott traced his earliest consciousness of the magic of Nature. Wordsworth's passion was for
the Visions of the hills And Souls of lonely places.
The passion of Scott differed from this through the leading place which historical memories held in his heart. “The romantic feelings which I have described as predominating in my mind gradually rested upon and associated themselves with the grand features of the landscape around me; and the historical incidents or traditional legends connected with many of them gave to my admiration a sort of intense impression of reverence, which at times made my heart feel too big for its bosom. From this time the love of natural beauty, more especially when combined with ancient ruins, or remains of our fathers' piety or splendour, became with me an insatiable passion, which I would willingly have gratified by travelling over half the globe.” Scott's transfer from the Edinburgh High School to the College (1783-1786), probably gave him the first freedom to indulge this impulse within bounds which, though narrow in themselves, were of inexhaustible interest to his sympathetic imagination. Without "travelling over half the globe” he could create a realm of his own, sufficient for himself and for his readers. It is astonishing to look at the map, and observe within how small a radius from Edinburgh the hundred little places lie which he has made familiar names throughout the whole civilized world.- We have noticed that Scott's father, (with himself in youth,) is painted in “ Redgauntlet.” Nothing was ever better contrasted in a romance than these two characters; and one sees that the real Alan Fairford was already beginning at college those adventurous ways which may have made the old Writer to the Signet feel that the wild moss-trooping blood of Harden was (once more at work within the veins of his gallant boy. A wise confidence left Walter free. He wandered for days together over the historical sites of the neighbourhood, and when at home, in lieu of devotion to the prosaic mysteries of the Scottish law, was able to please his fancy by founding that collection of Fayside songs and historical relics which filled so large a space in the innocent happiness of his after years, and was not less a necessary of life to him than his cabinet of rocks and minerals is to the geologist.
The mode in which Scott observed Nature is strictly parallel to his representation of human life. As he rarely enters into the depths of character, preferring to exhibit it through action, and painting rather the great general features of an age than dwelling on the details for their own sake, so he mainly deals with the landscape; two or three admirable pictures excepted. Compare his descriptions with those by Wordsworth, Keats, or Shelley, and the difference in regard to the points poted will be felt at once. Scott was aware of this. “I was unable," says the Autobiography, “with the eye of a painter to dissect the various parts of the scene, to comprehend how the one bore upon the other. ... I have never, indeed, been capable of doing this with precision or nicety." A curious testimony is borne to the truth of this remark by Scott's failure (like Goethe's) to master even the radiments of landscape drawing. “Even the humble ambition, which I long cherished, of making sketches of those places which interested me, from a defect of cye or of hand was totally ineffectual." But this absence of power over landscape forms was compensated for by a singularly fine perception of colour, examples of which have been given by Mr. Ruskin in the interesting criticisms on Scott contained in his “Modern Painters.” Scott's almost total want of ear for music was a calamity which he shared with a large number of great poets; the strong sense of the melody in words and the harmonies of rhythm appearing to leave no space in their organization for inarticulate music.
- Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
if true at all, is true only of the poet.
Beside the irresistible impulse which directed Scott's reading to “ romantic" and poetical literature, to story-telling, and to country wanderings, he was seriously impeded by illness from pursuing his college studies. And by the time the Academical course was concluded, the passion which governed his youth, and perhaps secretly coloured the complexion of his future life, had already fallen upon him. Little has been told of this early love : force of feeling, and force to repress the signs of feeling, are two of the principal elements in Scott's character; he undergoes evil with a pathetic simplicity; he suffers in silence. From what, however, we can lean, it is natural to read in the “love that never found his earthly close " the true source of that peculiar shade of pensive melancholy which runs like a silver thread through almost everything he wrote, is heard as a “far-off Aeolian note" in all his
poetry, and breaks out at last during his later years of misfortune with strange power in his “Journal.” This strong passion kept him safe from “the ambush of young days," and threw over his whole life the halo of a singular purity. Meantime the first result was probably to reconcile him to work for his livelihood, and even prepare for following his father's profession :-alien from Scott's nature as a conveyancer's office must have been. He was bound apprentice for four years (1786-1790). An acquaintance with Scottish law, which he used with effect in some of his novels, was the chief fruit of this apprenticeship; for we can hardly reckon as a gain that half-introduction to business habits on which he afterwards relied with so fatal a security. It was not, however, as a “ Writer to the Signet" that Scott finally en.. tered the law (1792); having been turned towards the more liberal career of an Advocate by the influence of the gently-born intellectual society with which he now became familiar. Burns, of whom he has left a striking description, he only saw ; but with most or all of the remaining eminent Scotchmen of the time he was acquainted. Clerk of Eldin, Corehouse, Jeffrey, and before long the dearest of his early friends, William Erskine, are prominent amongst many other names ; for men lived together then after the most social fashion in Edinburgh (that excellent feature in life which is lost when capital cities grow large), and clubs and conviviality of all kinds abounded. This was a brilliant stage in Scott's career ; perhaps the most essentially happy : love, fearful yet warm with hope ; open, numerous, and equal friendships; the first introduction to the literature most congenial to his nature, that of Germany ; last, not least, the first sight of the Scottish Highlands. These regions, the romantic manners of which were to be so brightly painted in his writings, by one of the curious contrasts which are frequent in his life, he entered on a legal visit to evict certain Maclarens ;-as he was afterwards the first to carry a gig, Mr. Carlyle's symbol of modern “respectability,” into the depths of Liddesdale.
This district, under the name of which the best of the Scottish Marches are apparently included, lay within view of Scott's future home, and was the true nursing-ground of his genius. Great as he is in describing scenes from Scottish history, great in his pictures of the Highlands, great in delineating life in Edinburgh or Perth or Glasgow, he seems to move with the largest and freest step when his tale or song is of the Border. For several successive years (1792-1798) he appears to have made excursions thither, (partially under the excuse of professional business,) when he explored the wild recesses, and observed the wilder life of a race who had not yet been civilized into uniformity; drinking in enjoyment at every pore, “ feeling his life," as Wordsworth says of the child, “ in every limb;" and as the friend who guided him through the land truly observed, makin' himsell a' the time. This friend, Mr. Shortreed, was of no small value to Scott. Already he began to show one attribute of genius, -that of attracting others to co-operate with him. The old ballads, in collecting which he was assisted by Shortreed, formed the basis of the first book in which Scott displayed his originality; and we soon after find that he gained similar aid from Dr. Elliott, Messrs. Skene, Ritson, Leyden, and finally from Mr. Train, who provided some of the most effective materials for the Novels, and plays an important though hidden part through Scott's life.
This was the time when the shock of the French Revolution recoiled with the greatest force upon the country. England had joined that monarchical alliance which aimed at compelling France to restore the order of things lately swept away, which had succeeded only in uniting France as one man against her invaders, and which now, in turn, feared revenging invasion from the armies of the Republic. It is well known how powerfully and diversely the stirring politics of the time affected thinking men in these islands. The movement which was inspiration to Wordsworth, was reaction to Scott. It converted the poetical Jacobitism which was part of his imaginative inheritance from older days into a fervent Toryism. This ardour impelled him now (1797) to take the lead in forming a body of Volunteer Cavalry, for which the political creed then dominant in Scotland afforded him ready followers. Something also of Scott's traditional interest in matters relating to war blended with his patriotic energy; and even the wish to prove, despite of nature, that lameness was no hindrance to physical activity, had its part in the rather excessive zeal with which for some years he threw himself into this mimic and (happily) bloodless campaigning. With similar fervency he entered into the politics of the day. But politics, like poetry, must be studied as an art with the best powers of the mind, if a man is to reach valid conclusions, or show himself a practical statesman ; and as Scott, throughout his career, hardly gave b political questions more than the leisure moments of a powerful mind, there is o reason for wonder if this be not the most satisfactory feature in his life, nor one which needs detain the biographer, Scott's insight failed him here; and, as with Eis study of the law, the only valuable fruit of the years devoted to cavalry drill Tas a certain accuracy,-contested of course by professional critics,-in his descrip. tions of warfare. It may be suspected that he and Gibbon pleased themselves with finding, in the vividness of their narratives of battle, some tangible result from months wasted in camp. Genius, however, returns always to its natural track, and abandons imperfect interests. But Scott was as yet totally unaware of his proper vocation. Already indeed love had drawn from him a few lines of exquisitely tender sadness : he had translated the ballad "Lenore " from the German of Bärger, and may have been at work upon Goethe's early drama “Goetz;" yet he almost prided himself upon contempt of literature as a man's work in life. How singular is this utter self-unconsciousness! Here was the man who was to turn the minds of a whole nation to the picturesque and romantic side of poetry. He was to restore an ideal loyalty to the later Stuarts. He was to make the Middle Ages live once more. But, engrossed as he was at this time by foreign
revolutions, no one in Edinburgh could have known less than the youthful Advocate of the change, itself hardly less than a revolution, which he was destined to work in the thoughts and sentiments of his fellow-creatures.
We now approach the second step in Scott's life. In the course of 1796 the long dream of youthful love was over. Little has been told, perhaps little was divulged, of the reasons for the final decision ; the lines above alluded to, (those “To a Violet" in the following collection,) cannot be regarded as strict evidence to the facts; and Scott's stern habit of repression where he felt most, has concealed from us not only what he was compelled to bear, but how he bore it. He “had his dark hour" during a solitary ride in Perthshire; the wise sympathy of a friend (afterwards Countess of Purgstall) was some little aid ; but the wound bled inwardly, and the evidence appears strong, that, like all passion suppressed in deference to ideas of manliness or philosophy, this worked in him with a secret fever. However these things may have been, next year he married (Dec. 1797) a pretty Malle. Charpentier, (daughter to a French lady, one of the royalist emigrants,) whom he met and wooed at the little watering-place, Gilsland, in Cumberland ;-a village which he afterwards described in his only novel of contemporary life, the tragic “St. Ronan's Well." A very brief acquaintance preceded their engagement; it is probable that the congruity of sentiment and taste between them was comparatively slight; and at the distance of “sixty years since " and more, it may be allowable to add that although attended by considerable happiness, faithful attachment on his wife's part, and much that gave a charm to life, this marriage does not appear to have fully satisfied the poet's inner nature.
We are here referring to that more hidden and more sensitive side of existence which it is the fate,—not altogether the happier fate, -of the poet to live ; which makes the difference between him and other men ; and to trace which, as delicately but firmly as we may, is the essential object of the biographer. But it is not meant that Scott would have been conscious of anything incomplete in this chapter of his story. Not only did he find the substantial blessings of home in his marriage, but it incidentally led him to the felicity, inferior to that alone, of practically discovering his own work in life. He now (1798) took a house in Castle Street, Edinburgh, and a cottage at Lasswade, within the north-eastern end of Eskdale. The first was for his attendance at the bar, where he “swept the boards of the Outer House," waiting for briefs which rarely came; and enjoying to the full the cheery convivialities and frank goodfellowship of his town friends. Meantime, his heart was gradually withdrawn to Lasswade, where he could live in the past with poetry