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SIR WALTER SCOTT.
ANCESTRY, PARENTAGE, AND CHILDHOOD.
SIR WALTER SCOTT was the first literary man of a great riding, sporting, and fighting clan. Indeed, his father
Writer to the Signet, or Edinburgh solicitor—was the first of his race to adopt a town life and a sedentary profession. Sir Walter was the lineal descendant-six generations removed-of that Walter Scott commemorated in The Lay of the Last Minstrel, who is known in Border history and legend as Auld Wat of Harden. Auld Wat's son William, captured by Sir Gideon Murray, of Elibank, during a raid of the Scotts on Sir Gideon's lands, was, as tradition says, given his choice between being hanged on Sir Gideon's private gallows, and marrying the ugliest of Sir Gideon's three ugly daughters, Meiklemouthed Meg, reputed as carrying off the prize of ugliness among the women of four counties. Sir William was a handsome man. He took three days to consider the alternative proposed to him, but chose life with the large-mouthed lady in the end; and found her, according to the tradition which the poet, her descendant, has transmitted, an excel
lent wife, with a fine talent for pickling the beef which her husband stole from the herds of his foes. Meiklemouthed Meg transmitted a distinct trace of her large mouth to all her descendants, and not least to him who was to use his “ meikle” mouth to best advantage as the spokesman of his race. Rather more than half-way between Auld Wat of Harden's times—i. e., the middle of the sixteenth century—and those of Sir Walter Scott, poet and novelist, lived Sir Walter's great-grandfather, Walter Scott generally known in Teviotdale by the surname of Beardie, because he would never cut his beard after the banishment of the Stuarts, and who took arms in their cause and lost by his intrigues on their behalf almost all that he had, besides running the greatest risk of being hanged as a traitor. This was the ancestor of whom Sir Walter speaks in the introduction to the last canto of Marmion :
“And thus my Christmas still I hold,
Sir Walter inherited from Beardie that sentimental Stuart bias which his better judgment condemned, but which seemed to be rather part of his blood than of his mind. And most useful to him this sentiment un
doubtedly was in helping him to restore the mould and fashion of the past. Beardie's second son
was Sir Walter's grandfather, and to him he owed not only his first childish experience of the delights of country life, but also,-in his own estimation at least,--that risky, speculative, and sanguine spirit which had so much influence over his fortunes. The good man of SandyKnowe, wishing to breed sheep, and being destitute of capital, borrowed 301. from a shepherd who was willing to invest that sum for him in sheep; and the two set off to purchase a flock near Wooler, in Northumberland; but when the shepherd had found what he thought would suit their purpose, he returned to find his master galloping about a fine hunter, on which he had spent the whole capital in hand. This speculation, however, prospered. A few days later Robert Scott displayed the qualities of the hunter to such admirable effect with John Scott of Harden's hounds, that he sold the horse for double the money he had given, and, unlike his grandson, abandoned speculative purchases there and then. In the latter days of his clouded fortunes, after Ballantyne's and Constable's failure, Sir Walter was accustomed to point to the picture of his grandfather and say, “Blood. will out: my building and planting was but his buying the hunter before he stocked his sheepwalk, over again.” But Sir Walter added, says Mr. Lockhart, as he glanced at the likeness of his own staid and prudent father, “ Yet it was a wonder, too, for I have a thread of the attorney in me,” which was doubtless the case; nor was that thread the least of his inheritances, for from his father certainly Sir Walter derived that disposition towards conscientious, plodding industry, legalism of mind, methodical habits of work, and a