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'Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won, And our good Prince Eugene.' 'Why 't was a very wicked thing!'
Said little Wilhelmine.
‘Nay. . nay. . my little girl,' quoth he. 'It was a famous victory.
'And everybody praised the Duke
Quoth little Peterkin.
'Why that I cannot tell,' said he, 'But 't was a famous victory.'
STANZAS WRITTEN IN HIS LIBRARY.
My days among the Dead are past;
With them I take delight in weal,
And while I understand and feel
My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
And from their lessons seek and find
My hopes are with the Dead, anon
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
[WALTER SCOTT, the son of a Writer to the Signet, was born in Edinburgh on August 15, 1771, and was educated at the High School and the College. In 1792 he became an advocate, but soon began to occupy himself seriously with literature, publishing in 1799 a translation of Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen, and in 1802 his Border Minstrelsy. As Sheriff of Selkirkshire he went in 1804 to live at Ashestiel on the banks of the Tweed, and there produced The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1805; Marmion, 1808; The Lady of the Lake, 1810; Don Roderick, 1811; Triermain and Rokeby, 1813. At his new house at Abbotsford he wrote The Lord of the Isles, 1815; and Harold the Dauntless, 1817. Before these last two were published Waverley appeared, and henceforth Scott wrote no more poetry, save a few short lyrics, ending with his Farewell to the Muse, 1822. He was made a baronet in 1820, but in 1826 commercial disaster came upon him, and his last years were a time of struggle and overwork. He died at Abbotsford, September 21, 1832.]
Walter Scott ranks in imaginative power hardly below any writer save Homer and Shakespeare. His best works are his novels; but he holds a high place as a poet in virtue of his metrical romances and of his lyrical pieces and ballads. He was the first great British writer of the Romantic school, and the first who turned the thoughts and hearts of his countrymen towards the Middle Ages. The author of The Castle of Otranto and the builder of Strawberry Hill was his feeble precursor: Bishop Percy with his Reliques had lighted the way: Ellis with his Specimens of Early English Poems and Romances ministered to the same taste. In Germany the Romantic school prevailed at the same time over the Classical. There is in the poetry of Coleridge an element derived from that school; and Scott's earliest works were translations from the German ballads of Bürger and of a romantic tragedy by Goethe, though the rill of foreign influence was soon lost in a river which flowed from a more abundant spring.
It is always said of Scott that he was above all things a Scotchman. The pride of Scotland he was indeed; and by the varied scenery and rich stores of romance, Lowland and Highland, Island and Border, which lie within the compass of that small realm, his creative genius was awakened and the materials for its exercise were supplied. But his culture, connections, and interests were British, and for the British public he wrote. To the Highland Celts, whose picturesqueness made them the special darlings of his patriotic fancy, he was, like other Lowlanders, really an alien. In his poems, at least, there is little which, so far as language or sentiment is concerned, might not have been written by a native of any part of the island. Even the scenes and characters of his great poems are partly English, and only to a small extent taken from Scott's own Lowlands. The Lowland Scotch generally were Presbyterians and Whigs: Scott was an Episcopalian and a Tory. He descended and loved to trace his descent from the wild Borderers who were not more Scotch than English. His solidity of character, his geniality, his shrewdness, like his massive head and shaggy brows, were of Southern Scotland; but a Southern Scotchman is a Northern Englishman. On the other hand, his genius and education were in an important sense Scotch, as not being classical: he knew no Greek, and his Latin was not so much classical as mediæval. He belonged entirely either to his own day or to the feudal age. Of Italian and Spanish Romance he had a tincture, but no deep dye.
The poetry of Scott flowed from a nature in which strength, high spirit, and active energy were united with tender sensibility and with an imagination wonderfully lively and directed by historic and antiquarian surroundings and by personal associations towards the feudal past. Homer may have been a warrior debarred from battle by blindness: Scott would perhaps have been a soldier if he had not been lame. War and its pageantry were his delight. He was the ardent quarter-master of a volunteer corps, and rode a hundred miles in twenty-four hours to muster, composing a poem by the way. It was not the only poem he composed on horseback. 'Oh! man, I had many a grand gallop among those braes when I was thinking of Marmion.' In boyhood, despite his lameness, he was renowned as a pugilist, both 'in single fight and mixed affray,' and in after-life he was a keen sportsman, though he liked the chase best when it took him to historic scenes.
He loved to be and to be thought a man of action. Set to the law,
though he did not love it, he faced the hard work gallantly, and could boast that when he was at the oar, no man pulled it harder : in fact it seems that had not his literary genius called him away he might have been a good lawyer. Of literature as a profession he was not so proud as he ought to have been, though no man ever pursued it more steadily or made more by it. He thought much of his pedigree, which connected him through Border chiefs with the House of Buccleuch, and above all things he desired to be a gentleman. 'Author as I am, I wish these good people would recollect that I began with being a gentleman and don't mean to give up the character.' In his eagerness to become the owner of a lordship and of the rank attached to it, which had a romantic as well as a social value in his eyes, he wrecked his fortune and brought on his declining age tragic calamity, which he faced with unquailing courage. The character of the strong and proud man with the weaknesses attendant on pride underlies all his productions.
The Violet is the memorial of an early cross in love, which perhaps left its trace on Scott's character in a shade of pensiveness. He afterwards made a marriage of intellectual disparagement, but in his family as in his social relations he was happy. Loved by all, men and animals, he embraced in his sympathies everything that was not mean or cowardly. Though himself a keen Tory, he reconciled in his art Tory and Whig, Cavalier and Covenanter, Catholic and Puritan. He loves to depict the mutual courtesies of generous foes. Once he forgot his chivalry in attacking Fox; but in the introduction to the first canto of Marmion he made full amends.
A nature so joyous, a life so happy, so full of physical as well as of mental enjoyment, social success so great excluded all questionings about the mystery of being and all sympathy with the desire of change. There is not in Scott's poems a particle of the philosophy which we find in Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley, or a shade of the melancholy which we find in the last two. He is as purely pictorial as Homer. The Revolution politically was his aversion; it seemed to him merely vulgar and levelling. He wished 'to cleave the politic pates' of its Cobbetts as Homer revelled in the drubbing of Thersites. Intellectually it has left no more trace upon his poems than upon the waters of Loch Katrine.
Our generation has seen a strong current of religious reaction