Title: The Mentor: Walter Scott, Vol. 4, Num. 15, Serial No. 115, September 15, 1916
Author: Hamilton Wright Mabie
Release date: December 5, 2013 [eBook #44367]
Credits: Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Melissa McDaniel, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation in the original document have been preserved.
LEARN ONE THING
SEPTEMBER 15 1916
SERIAL NO. 115
By HAMILTON W. MABIE
Author and Editor
FIFTEEN CENTS A COPY
THE causes of Sir Walter Scott's ascendancy are to be found in the goodness of his heart, the integrity of his conduct, the romantic and picturesque accessories and atmosphere of his life, the fertile brilliancy of his literary execution, the charm that he exercises, both as man and artist, over the imagination, the serene, tranquilizing spirit of his works, and, above all, the buoyancy, the happy freedom of his genius.
HE was not simply an intellectual power, he was also a human and gentle comforter. He wielded an immense mental force, but he always wielded it for good, and always with tenderness. It is impossible to conceive of his ever having done a wrong act, or of any contact with his influence that would not inspire the wish to be virtuous and noble. The scope of his sympathy was as broad as are the weakness and need of the human race. He understood the hardship in the moral condition of mankind and he wished and tried to relieve it.
HIS writings are full of sweetness and cheer, and they contain nothing that is morbid—nothing that tends toward surrender or misery. He did not sequester himself in mental pride, but simply and sturdily, through years of conscientious toil, he employed the faculties of a strong, tender, gracious genius for the good of his fellow-creatures. The world loves him because he is worthy to be loved, and because he has lightened the burden of its care and augmented the sum of its happiness.
From "Over the Border" by William Winter
WAVERLEY" is a story of the rebellion of the chevalier Prince Charles Edward, in Scotland, in 1745.
Edward Waverley, the central figure of the tale, was a captain of dragoons in the English army. He obtained a leave of absence from his regiment and went to Scotland for a rest, staying at the home of Baron Bradwardine. During his stay a band of Highlanders drove off the Baron's cattle, and Waverley offered his assistance in recovering them.
Fergus MacIvor was the chief of the band which stole the cattle. Waverley met his sister, Flora, and fell in love with her, but she discouraged him.
Later Waverley was wounded by a stag; and the rebellion having started in the meanwhile, one of the Highlanders, assuming Waverley to be a sympathizer, used his name and seal to start a mutiny in Waverley's troop. For this reason Waverley was dismissed from his regiment for desertion and treason. Indignant at this unjust treatment, Waverley joined the rebellion, first, however, returning home in an attempt to justify himself. On this trip he was arrested for treason, but was rescued by the Highlanders when on his way to the dungeon of Stirling Castle.
Waverley served in the war, and when the rebellion was crushed he escaped, and later made his way to London. There his name was cleared from the false charges, and a pardon obtained for both himself and Baron Bradwardine. Flora's brother was executed, and she herself retired to a convent at Paris. Waverley married Rose, the beautiful daughter of Baron Bradwardine.
One of the most charming scenes in the story took place shortly after Waverley met Flora at the home of her brother. Flora had promised to sing a Gaelic song for him in one of her favorite haunts. One of the attendants guided him to a beautiful waterfall in the neighborhood, and there he saw Flora.
"Here, like one of those lovely forms which decorate the landscapes of Poussin, Waverley found Flora gazing on the waterfall. Two paces farther back stood Cathleen, holding a small Scottish harp, the use of which had been taught to Flora by Rory Dall, one of the last harpers of the western Highlands. The sun, now stooping in the west, gave a rich and varied tinge to all the objects which surrounded Waverley, and seemed to add more than human brilliancy to the full, expressive darkness of Flora's eye, exalted the richness and purity of her complexion, and enhanced the dignity and grace of her beautiful form. Edward thought he had never, even in his wildest dreams, imagined a figure of such exquisite and interesting loveliness. The wild beauty of the retreat, bursting upon him as if by magic, augmented the mingled feelings of delight and awe with which he approached her, like a fair enchantress of Boiardo or Ariosto, by whose nod the scenery around seemed to have been created—an Eden in the wilderness.
"Flora, like every beautiful woman, was conscious of her own power, and pleased with its effects, which she could easily discern from the respectful yet confused address of the young soldier. But as she possessed excellent sense, she gave the romance of the scene and other accidental circumstance full weight in appreciating the feelings with which Waverley seemed obviously to be impressed; and unacquainted with the fanciful and susceptible peculiarities of his character, considered his homage as the passing tribute which a woman of even inferior charms might have expected in such a situation. She therefore quietly led the way to a spot at such a distance from the cascade that its sound should rather accompany than interrupt that of her voice and instrument, and sitting down upon a mossy fragment of rock, she took the harp from Cathleen."
"Waverley" was the first of the world-famous series of romances to which it gives the title. It was published anonymously in 1814. Although the authorship of the series was generally accredited to Scott, it was never formally acknowledged until business conditions necessitated it in 1826.
GUY MANNERING, a young Englishman traveling through Scotland, stopped one night at the home of the Laird of Ellangowan. When the Laird learned that the young man had studied astrology, he begged him to cast the horoscope of his son, who had been born that night. What was Mannering's dismay to find that two catastrophes overhung the lad, one at his fifth, and the other at his twenty-first year! He told the father, however, that he might be warned; and later went his way.
The fortunes of the Laird of Ellangowan, Godfrey Bertram, waned rapidly. In addition to this, his son, Harry, at the age of five, was kidnapped. It was impossible to learn whether the child was alive or dead. The boy's mother died from the shock; and some years later the Laird himself followed her, leaving his daughter Lucy penniless.
In the meanwhile, Guy Mannering had become Colonel Mannering. He had married and had a daughter, Julia. She had fallen in love with a young officer, named Vanbeest Brown, who had served in India under Colonel Mannering. The colonel objected to him as a suitor, because of the obscurity of his birth.
When things were at their worst for Lucy Bertram, Colonel Mannering returned to England. Accidentally hearing of the straits to which she had been reduced, he at once invited her and her guardian to make their home with him and his daughter Julia.
Captain Brown followed the Mannerings to England; and finally he proved to be the long lost Harry Bertram, brother of Lucy. He had been abducted with the help of Meg Merrilies, a gypsy, and some smugglers, at the instigation of a man named Glossin, once agent for the Laird of Ellangowan, who had hoped to get possession of the Laird's property. He finally succeeded in this; but, after his crime was discovered, he died a violent death in prison. Bertram had been kidnapped and taken to Holland, where the name of Vanbeest Brown had been given him.
Meg Merrilies is regarded as one of the great characters of fiction.
"The fairy bride of Sir Gawaine, while under the influence of the spell of her wicked stepmother, was more decrepit, probably, and what is commonly called more ugly, than Meg Merrilies; but I doubt if she possessed that wild sublimity which an excited imagination communicated to features marked and expressive in their own peculiar character, and to the gestures of a form which, her sex considered, might be termed gigantic. Accordingly, the Knights of the Round Table did not recoil with more terror from the apparition of the loathly lady placed between 'an oak and a green holly,' than Lucy Bertram and Julia Mannering did from the appearance of this Galwegian sibyl upon the common of Ellangowan.
"'For God's sake,' said Julia, pulling her purse, 'give that dreadful woman something, and bid her go away,'
"'I cannot,' said Bertram: 'I must not offend her.'
"'What keeps you here?' said Meg, exalting the harsh and rough tones of her hollow voice. 'Why do you not follow? Must your hour call you twice? Do you remember your oath?—were it at kirk or market, wedding or burial,'—and she held high her skinny forefinger in a menacing attitude....
"Almost stupefied with surprise and fear, the young ladies watched with anxious looks the course of Bertram, his companion, and their extraordinary guide. Her tall figure moved across the wintry heath with steps so swift, so long, and so steady, that she appeared rather to glide than to walk. Bertram and Dinmont, both tall men, apparently scarce equaled her in height, owing to her longer dress and high headgear. She proceeded straight across the common, without turning aside to the winding path by which passengers avoided the inequalities and little rills that traversed it in different directions. Thus the diminishing figures often disappeared from the eye as they dived into such broken ground, and again ascended to sight when they were past the hollow. There was something frightful and unearthly, as it were, in the rapid and undeviating course which she pursued, undeterred by any of the impediments which usually incline a traveler from the direct path. Her way was as straight, and nearly as swift, as that of a bird through the air. At length they reached those thickets of natural wood which extended from the skirts of the common towards the glades and brook of Derneleugh, and were there lost to the view."
"Guy Mannering" was published in 1815, the second of the Waverley novels to appear. It is said to have been the result of six weeks' work. There are less than forty characters in the book, and the plot is not very complicated.
IN "Heart of Midlothian" Scott set himself to draw his own people at their best. The real heroine of the book is Jeanie Deans, whose character was drawn from that of Helen Walker, the daughter of a farmer in Scotland. With a few variations Jeanie's story was hers.
Effie Deans, the sister of Jeanie, was doomed to death for child murder. Jeanie might have saved her on the witness stand by lying; but this she could not do even to save her sister. However, she showed the depth of her love by going on foot all the way to London and getting a pardon from the king.
Effie was released; but even before Jeanie reached home, she eloped with her betrayer, George Staunton, who married her and took her to London with him. There they lived as Lord and Lady Staunton, for George succeeded to the title of his father.
Jeanie married a Presbyterian minister, and by a combination of circumstances, learned that Effie's son had never really been killed, but had been given to the care of Meg Murdockson, whose daughter Madge had also been betrayed by Staunton, or Geordie Robertson, as he was known in Scotland.
When Sir George Staunton learned this, he was anxious to discover the whereabouts of his son. He traced him to a certain band of vagabonds, of which Black Donald was the chief. Staunton attempted to arrest the leader, but in the affray was shot by a young lad called the Whistler. This lad later proved to be his long lost son.
Effie, who was now Lady Staunton, overcome with grief, attempted to drown her sorrows in the gayeties of the fashionable world. But this was in vain. She could not forget her grief, and finally she retired to a convent in France, where she remained until her death.
Jeanie and her husband were given a good parish by the Duke of Argyle, and through Effie's influence the children of her sister were helped greatly.
"Heart of Midlothian" was first published anonymously in 1818. It takes its name from the Tolbooth, or old jail of Edinburgh, where Scott imagined Effie to have been in prison. This book has fewer characters than any other of Scott's novels. It has also a smaller variety of incidents, and less description of scenery. One of the most touching scenes in all fiction is that in which Jeanie visits her sister in the prison under the eyes of the jailor, Ratcliffe.
"Ratcliffe marshalled her the way to the apartment where Effie was confined.
"Shame, fear, and grief, had contended for mastery in the poor prisoner's bosom during the whole morning, while she had looked forward to this meeting; but when the door opened, all gave way to a confused and strange feeling that had a tinge of joy in it, as, throwing herself on her sister's neck, she ejaculated: 'My dear Jeanie!—my dear Jeanie! It's lang since I hae seen ye.' Jeanie returned the embrace with an earnestness that partook almost of rapture, but it was only a flitting emotion, like a sunbeam unexpectedly penetrating betwixt the clouds of a tempest, and obscured almost as soon as visible. The sisters walked together to the side of the pallet bed, and sat down side by side, took hold of each other's hands, and looked each other in the face, but without speaking a word. In this posture they remained for a minute, while the gleam of joy gradually faded from their features, and gave way to the most intense expression, first of melancholy, and then of agony, till, throwing themselves again into each other's arms, they, to use the language of Scripture, lifted up their voices and wept bitterly.
"Even the hard-hearted turnkey, who had spent his life in scenes calculated to stifle both conscience and feeling, could not witness this scene without a touch of human sympathy. It was shown in a trifling action, but which had more delicacy in it than seemed to belong to Ratcliffe's character and station. The unglazed window of the miserable chamber was open and the beams of a bright sun fell right upon the bed where the sufferers were seated. With a gentleness that had something of reverence in it, Ratcliffe partly closed the shutter, and seemed thus to throw a veil over a scene so sorrowful."
SIR WILFRED, Knight of Ivanhoe, a young Saxon knight, brave and handsome, was disinherited by his father because he loved Rowena, a Saxon heiress and a ward of his father. He therefore went on a crusade to Palestine with Richard the Lion Hearted. Returning, under the name of Desdichado (The Disinherited) he entered the lists of the Ashby Tournament: and, having won the victory, he was crowned by the Lady Rowena.
At this tournament there was one knight in particular who aided Ivanhoe. This was the Black Knight, and his feats of valor set all the spectators to wondering who he might be. He was in reality Richard the Lion Hearted, the Crusader, King of England.
Just at this time King Richard's younger brother, John, was conspiring to take the throne of England from him. One of his fellow conspirators was Maurice de Bracy, who was in love with Rowena. He captured her as she was returning from the tournament, and imprisoned her in the Tower of Torquilstone.
Ivanhoe, who was wounded in the tournament, was cared for by Isaac of York and his daughter, Rebecca. She fell in love with him, but realized that she could never marry him; and knowing that Ivanhoe loved Rowena, she offered to give any sum of money for her release.
This was not effected, however, until Torquilstone had been besieged by Locksley, who was really Robin Hood, and his men, led by the Black Knight. The Black Knight had come upon this band in his wanderings through Sherwood Forest. He ran across the little chapel of the Hermit, one of Locksley's men, in the the following manner:
"The entrance to this ancient place of devotion was under a very low round arch, ornamented by several courses that zigzag moulding, resembling shark's teeth, which appears so often in the more ancient Saxon architecture. A belfry rose above the porch on four small pillars, within which hung the green and weatherbeaten bell, the feeble sounds of which had been some time before heard by the Black Knight.
"The whole peaceful and quiet scene lay glimmering in twilight before the eyes of the traveler, giving him good assurance of lodging for the night; since it was a special duty of those hermits who dwelt in the woods to exercise hospitality towards benighted or bewildered passengers.
"Accordingly, the knight took no time to consider minutely the particulars which we have detailed, but thanking Saint Julian (the patron of travelers), who had sent him good harborage, he leaped from his horse and assailed the door of the hermitage with the butt of his lance, in order to arouse attention and gain admittance."
The Hermit who lived there and who gave the Black Knight food and lodging, was Friar Tuck.
Finally Rowena was rescued and married Ivanhoe. Rebecca was carried away by the Templar Bois-Guilbert, who was madly and vainly in love with her, to the Preceptory of Templestowe, and convicted of sorcery. She was condemned to be burned alive, but was allowed a trial by combat. Ivanhoe was her champion, and in the contest with the Templar he was the victor. Rebecca was then pronounced guiltless and freed.
"Ivanhoe" is one of Scott's most famous novels. It was written and published in 1819. The manuscript is now at Abbotsford.
THE central figure in "Kenilworth" is that of Queen Elizabeth of England, but the real heroine is Amy Robsart. She was the daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart. The Earl of Leicester, infatuated by her charms, married her secretly. He then established her at Cumnor Place, a lonely manor house. There she lived alone with one or two attendants. But she bore her solitude with pleasure as long as she was sure that Leicester loved her.
However, Leicester and the Earl of Surrey were rivals for the favor of Queen Elizabeth. In fact, each hoped that he might wed her; and, therefore, Leicester did not want his marriage to Amy made public.
Edmund Tressilian, who had been engaged to Amy, discovered her hiding place, and, not knowing that she was married, tried in vain to induce her to return home. Then he appealed to the queen; and when a disclosure of the truth seemed inevitable, Richard Varney, Leicester's closest friend, affirmed that Amy was his wife. Varney was then ordered to appear with her at the approaching revels at Kenilworth Castle, which belonged to the Earl of Leicester.
Leicester and Varney went to Amy and endeavored to persuade her to pose for a short time as Varney's wife.
"'How, my Lord of Leicester,' said the lady, disengaging herself from his embraces, 'is it to your wife you give the dishonourable counsel to acknowledge herself the bride of another—and of all men, the bride of that Varney?'
"'Madam, I speak it in earnest—Varney is my true and faithful servant, trusted in my deepest secrets. I had better lose my right hand than his service at this moment. You have no cause to scorn him as you do.'
"'I could assign one, my Lord,' replied the Countess; 'and I see he shakes even under that assured look of his. But he that is necessary as your right hand to your safety, is free from any accusation of mine. May he be true to you; and that he may be true, trust him not too much or too far. But it is enough to say, that I will not go with him unless by violence, nor would I acknowledge him as my husband, were all—'
"'It is a temporary deception, madam,' said Leicester, irritated by her opposition, 'necessary for both our safeties, endangered by you through female caprice, or the premature desire to seize on a rank to which I gave you title only under condition that our marriage, for a time, should continue secret. If my proposal disgust you, it is yourself has brought it on both of us. There is no other remedy—you must do what your own impatient folly hath rendered necessary—I command you.'
"'I cannot put your commands, my Lord,' said Amy, 'in balance with those of honor and conscience. I will not, in this instance, obey you. You may achieve your own dishonor, to which these crooked policies naturally tend, but I will do naught that can blemish mine. How could you again, my Lord, acknowledge me as a pure and chaste matron, worthy to share your fortunes, when, holding that high character, I had strolled the country the acknowledged wife of such a profligate fellow as your servant Varney?'"
Later Varney attempted to drug her; and in fear of her life she escaped and made her way to Kenilworth. She could not get to her husband, however; and she was discovered and misjudged by Tressilian. Queen Elizabeth found her half fainting in a grotto, but Varney kept her from learning the truth by persuading the queen that Amy was insane. He also made Leicester believe that she was false and really loved Tressilian, a thing which was not true.
For this reason Leicester gave him his signet ring and authority to act for him. Amy was hurriedly taken back to Cumnor Place.
In the meanwhile Leicester, who really loved Amy, and soon discovered the injustice of his suspicions, confessed everything to Queen Elizabeth. The queen, feeling herself insulted, treated him with scorn and contempt; but she immediately dispatched Tressilian and Sir Walter Raleigh to bring Amy back to Kenilworth. They arrived just too late. Amy, decoyed from her room, stepped on a trap-door prepared by Varney, and plunged to her death. After her tragic taking off, Tressilian fell into profound melancholy and died soon after, "young in years, but old in grief."
"Kenilworth" appeared in 1819. It was the second of Scott's great romances drawn from English history, and is regarded as one of the most delightful of English historical romances.
EDGAR, Master of Ravenswood, was the son of Allan, Lord Ravenswood. His father had fought in the Revolution of 1688, and his side had been vanquished. For this his title had been abolished and his estate taken from him. He had fought hard for his rights in the courts, but in vain, and at length he died breathing curses on Sir William Ashton, who became owner of the estates.
Edgar, the son, penniless and proud, had vowed vengeance on the family of Sir William Ashton. However, in spite of this, he fell in love with Lucy, Sir William's daughter. They became engaged secretly.
"Ravenswood found Lucy seated alone by the ruin....
"'I like this spot,' said Lucy at length, as if she had found the silence embarrassing: 'the bubbling murmur of the clear fountain, the waving of the trees, the profusion of grass and wild-flowers, that rise among the ruins, make it like a scene in romance. I think, too, I have heard it is a spot connected with the legendary lore which I love so well.'
"'It has been thought,' answered Ravenswood, 'a fatal spot to my family; and I have some reason to term it so, for it was here I first saw Miss Ashton—and it is here I must take my leave of her for ever.'
"'To take leave of us, Master!' she exclaimed; 'what can have happened to hurry you away?—I know Alice hates—I mean dislikes, my father—and I hardly understood her humor to-day, it was so mysterious. But I am certain my father is sincerely grateful for the high service you rendered us. Let us hope that having won your friendship hardly, we shall not lose it lightly.'
"'Lose it, Miss Ashton?' said the Master of Ravenswood. 'No—wherever my fortune calls me—whatever she inflicts upon me—it is your friend—your sincere friend, who acts or suffers. But there is a fate on me, and I must go, or I shall add the ruin of others to my own.'
"'Yet do not go from us. Master,' said Lucy; and she laid her hand, in all simplicity and kindness, upon the skirt of his cloak, as if to detain him. 'You shall not part from us. My father is powerful, he has friends that are more so than himself—do not go till you see what his gratitude will do for you. Believe me, he is already laboring in your behalf with the Council.'
"'It may be so,' said the Master proudly; 'yet it is not to your father, Miss Ashton, but to my own exertions, that I ought to owe success in the career on which I am about to enter. My preparations are already made—a sword and a cloak, and a bold heart and a determined hand.'
"Lucy covered her face with her hands, and the tears, in spite of her, forced their way between her fingers. 'Forgive me,' said Ravenswood, taking her right hand, which, after slight resistance, she yielded to him, still continuing to shade her face with the left. 'I am too rude—too rough—too intractable to deal with any being so soft and gentle as you are. Forget that so stern a vision has crossed your path of life—and let me pursue mine, sure that I can meet no worse misfortune after the moment it divides me from your side.'
"Lucy wept on, but her tears were less bitter. Each attempt which the Master made to explain his purpose of departure only proved a new evidence of his desire to stay; until, at length, instead of bidding her farewell, he gave his faith to her for ever, and received her troth in return. The whole passed so suddenly, and arose so much out of the immediate impulse of the moment, that ere the Master of Ravenswood could reflect upon the consequences of the step which he had taken, their lips, as well as their hands, had pledged the sincerity of their affection."
But Lucy's mother, the ambitious Lady Ashton, endeavored to force her daughter to marry another. Lady Ashton was proud and vindictive, and she hated the Ravenswood family with such intensity that she did not scruple at any means to deceive Lucy into believing her love unfaithful. Lucy, on the other hand, was gentle and timid. Her mother called her, in derision, the "Lammermoor Shepherdess," to show that she considered Lucy plebeian in her tastes.
In the struggle, Lucy went mad. Ravenswood, thinking himself rejected, came to an untimely end.
"The Bride of Lammermoor" is in that group of the Waverley novels called "Tales of My Landlord." The plot was suggested by an incident in the family of the Earls of Stair. The scene is laid on the east coast of Scotland, in the year 1700. Though somber and depressing, "The Bride of Lammermoor" was very popular. The plot was used by Donizetti, the Italian composer, for his opera Lucia di Lammermoor.
Author and Editor
|MENTOR GRAVURES||MENTOR GRAVURES|
|LUCY AND THE MASTER||FLORA MacIVOR|
|"The Bride of Lammermoor"||"Waverley"|
|THE BLACK KNIGHT AT THE HERMITAGE||MEG MERRILIES DIRECTS BERTRAM TO THE CAVE|
|VARNEY, LEICESTER AND AMY ROBSART||EFFIE DEANS AND GEORDIE|
|"Kenilworth"||"Heart of Midlothian"|
THE MENTOR · DEPARTMENT OF LITERATURE
SEPTEMBER 15, 1916
Entered as second-class matter March 10, 1913, at the postoffice at New York, N. Y., under the act of March 3, 1879. Copyright, 1916, by The Mentor Association, Inc.
A NOTED English critic said that he never sat down to write about Sir Walter Scott without a sense of elation and happiness; and he might have added without a sense of satisfaction. For the author of the Waverley Novels was a clean, wholesome, loyal human soul. The out-of-door vigor of the Highlands found in him not only a chronicler but an incarnation. At the end, when his strength was failing, his brain becoming darkened, the battle apparently going against him, his struggle against disaster became a moral victory and his character took on heroic proportions. At a time when so much writing is impaired by egotism, and mental and moral disease give prose and verse the odor of the hospitals, Scott brings a tonic atmosphere with him.
He was a fortunate man; he was born in a country which he understood, at a time when the men, women, and events he wrote about were in the past but not too far in the past; and he was well born in the best sense. He came at the right time, in the right place, and of the right ancestry. In a word, he was in harmony with the conditions of his life, and he was spared the antagonism which often bends and sometimes breaks a promising talent and distorts a wholesome nature. Like Goethe he had a methodical father, of orderly habit, and a mother of generous heart, a vivid memory and the gift of pictorial talk. He said of her that if he had 2 been able to paint past times it was largely because of "the studies with which she presented me." She had talked with a man who remembered the battle of Dunbar; and the day before her last illness she told, with great accuracy of detail, the real story of the Bride of Lammermoor, and indicated the points in which it differed from her son's famous novel. To his father Scott owed his steadiness of aim and his indomitable industry; to his mother he owed his vivid energy of mind, his tireless curiosity.
To Scotland his debt was even greater. Born in Edinburgh in 1771, four years before the beginning of the American Revolution, an illness in his second year sent him to reside with his grandfather in a country of crags and in the neighborhood of a ruined tower. In fine weather the shepherd took him to the places where the sheep were grazing and laid him on the ground among them. He was forgotten one day, and a thunderstorm broke on him. When he was found he was calling out, "bonny! bonny!" at each flash of lightning. His illness made him lame for life, but he was a boy of sweet temper and a winning disposition. Lameness did not daunt him; he learned to climb with great agility and to keep his saddle with the best of them. At the age of six he was reciting ballads with zest and fire, and he showed very early the spirit which made him a story-teller and a man of dauntless courage.
At school he was noted as a daring climber, a pertinacious fighter, an irregular student, and a teller of fascinating tales. In the High School he was "more distinguished in the yards than in the class." In 1783 he entered the Humanity and Greek classes in the University of Edinburgh, but his education was directed by his genius rather than by the school and college curriculum. He began on his grandfather's farm, Sandy-Knowe, in a landscape that runs to the Cheviot Hills and the slopes of Lammermoor, where he lay, a "puir lame laddie," on the turf among the sheep. Out of a volume of Ramsay's "Tea Table Miscellany" he was taught "Hardy Knute," long before he could read the ballad. "It was the first poem I ever learned," he wrote years afterwards, "the last I shall ever forget." His grandmother knew all the wild and romantic stories of 3 the Border and the eager boy listened with his heart and imagination. He had only to look across the countryside to see many of the places where these moving events had happened: the peaks of Peebleshire, the crags of Hume, the landmarks of Ettrick and Yarrow; the Brethren Stanes were among the objects that "painted the earliest images on the eye of the last and greatest of the Border Minstrels."
When he was thirteen years old he came upon one of those books that open the world of imagination to boys and girls of genius. He was visiting his aunt in Kelso, which he describes as the most beautiful if not the most romantic village in Scotland. The house stood in a garden in which there was a great platanus tree (plane tree), and under its branches, one summer afternoon, he opened "Percy's Reliques," which had appeared nineteen years before, and the magic of the old, stirring ballads which Bishop Percy had piously brought together, laid a spell upon him which was never broken. "The summer day sped onward so fast," he wrote long afterwards, "that notwithstanding the sharp appetite of thirteen, I forgot the hour of dinner, was sought for with anxiety, and was still found entranced in my intellectual banquet." As soon as he could "scrape five shillings together" he bought the volumes and read no other books so often or with such enthusiasm.
This vital education for the work he was to do was not interrupted by his studies at the University. Hosts of Americans have climbed Arthur's Seat and picked bluebells and looked down on one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. Scott climbed this famous hill and Salisbury Crags or Blackford Hill on Saturdays and in vacation, carrying a bundle of books from a circulating library; and, overlooking one of the most enchanting landscapes in Scotland, read Spenser, Ariosto and other masters of romance. He learned to read Italian and Spanish so as to get direct access to "Don Quixote" and the "Decameron"; and Froissart he came to know almost by heart. 4
Edinburgh was an illustrated edition of a great deal of Scotch history, and Scott left no part of the old town unvisited. He spent so much time exploring the country within reach that his father protested that he was becoming a strolling peddler. "Show me an old castle or a battlefield," he wrote, "and I was at home at once, filled it with its combatants in their proper costume, and overwhelmed my hearers by the enthusiasm of my description." So he came to know not only the spirit but the "form and presence" of feudalism and the ideals and code of manners of chivalry.
His education went a step farther when he saw the Highlands for the first time in 1787. The traditions of 1715 and 1745, when the Highland chiefs had engaged in brave but futile attempts to restore the exiled Stuarts to the throne which those ill-starred Kings had forfeited by their inability to understand the English people, were still fresh on the Border. Men who had taken part in the rising of 1745 were still living, and Scott was fortunate enough to be the guest of one of them. He was to write the stories of wild Scotland as no historian had or could write them, and on this memorable visit he was to hear the tales of stirring and romantic deeds from one who had played a part in them, and he was to see with the eyes of youth the landscape on which they had been enacted. It was a happy hour in which the boy who was to write "Waverley" and "Rob Roy" heard from a veteran the stories of battle, of dashing foray, of daring deeds and hairbreadth escapes. "To know men who had known Rob Roy, to hear the story of the two risings which had shaken Scotland like an earthquake, to be a guest in remote and lonely castles, to be guided through wild defiles and over vast mountain ranges by kilted clansmen whose speech was only Gaelic and whose claymores were still at the service of their chiefs—this was the real education of the writer who was to be the scribe of his country, the truest of her historians." 5
This first-hand education in romantic history was supplemented by the eager reading of military exploits, of medieval romance and legend, of the songs of the Border, of Ariosto and Cervantes. The author of "Don Quixote," he said later, "first inspired him with the ambition to excel in fiction." He was also fortunate in the possession of a memory which held tenaciously everything that contributed to his future work and let unrelated things slip through its meshes.
He studied law and practised at the bar in a desultory way for fourteen years. He was appointed "Sheriff of the Court" of Ettrick, a position to which a comfortable salary was attached, and for five years he acted, without salary, as a Clerk of Sessions in the court in Edinburgh. He was recognized as an able man, and he was interested in the historical aspects of Scotch law, in its "quips and quiddities," and his knowledge of its processes was shown in his novels; but he was an impatient and uninterested practitioner, and long before he formally gave up the profession he was writing poetry. While poetry and law have often been on good terms they have never been happy partners.
During this period Scott's affections were deeply engaged, and but for the interference of parents he would probably have married a young woman of singularly beautiful nature. His love had a very deep influence on his character, and it remained to the end the great passion of his life. In 1797 he married the daughter of a French royalist who, after her brother's death, came to England. She was described as a "lively beauty," of no great depth of nature, but she had humor and high spirits and she was true-hearted. He protected her from care, and their life together was a happy one. She was not a mate for her husband, but she basked in the sunshine of his prosperity, and she was brave in adversity. 6
Scott made the transition from law to literature gradually. He published a translation of Burger's "Lenore" in 1795. While he was at the University he began to collect the materials which made up the three volumes of "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," a collection of ballads old and new in which the "old, simple, violent world" lived again in song and story. The making of these books was congenial work, and carried still further Scott's education in the spirit and temper of the Scotland of clans and feuds, of reckless border warfare, dashing foray, fierce revenge and superstition. The various introductions and notes which accompanied the ballads show Scott's painstaking care for fact and detail; he combined in rare degree the romantic spirit, the antiquarian's zeal for the small details of history, and the methodical habits of the literary drudge.
In 1805, in his thirty-fourth year, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" appeared and secured a popular success of unprecedented proportions. The picturesque or pictorial quality of the poem and its unqualified romanticisms gave it a very broad appeal. It was popular in the good sense of the word. Mountains and wild landscapes generally, which had been shunned for generations, were coming into fashion, so to speak. They have been "in fashion" ever since, and today their appeal to city folk, to tired people, to men and women of imagination and active temperament, is irresistible. To Dr. Johnson Scotland was a wild and dreary waste, to Scott 7 it was a wonderland; and a wonderland it has remained ever since. In the confusion of an age when every sort of opinion gets into print the "call of the wild" has a trumpet tone. "I am sensible," wrote Scott, "that if there be anything good about my poetry or prose either, it is a hurried frankness of composition which pleases soldiers, sailors, and young people of bold and active dispositions."
Three years later the strongest and most stirring of the poems, "Marmion," appeared. It is a poem of scenery as well as of action, its descriptions are both exact and living; it tells a story with clear and compelling vigor, and it shows at their best two of Scott's really great qualities: simplicity and energy. It lacked the delicate shading of the verbal music which gave some later English poetry a magical charm; but it had a fine strength of outline, a noble ruggedness. He said later that he loved the sternness and bold nakedness of the Border landscape, and that if he did not see the heather at least once a year he believed he would die. "The Lady of the Lake," "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," "The Lord of the Isles," were less effective, but the fresh vitality of the Highlands was in them all.
The Waverley Novels have so long stood in the forefront of Scott's literary achievements that it is difficult to put them out of view and remember that in 1814, when Scott was forty-four 8 years old, he was known to the world as a poet who had laid a spell on the imagination of his generation. He had "broken the record" so far as monetary returns for poetry were concerned. Milton received about one hundred dollars for "Paradise Lost" and Dr. Johnson was paid about seventy-five dollars for "The Vanity of Human Wishes," while "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" brought Scott nearly four thousand dollars; for "Marmion" he received five thousand dollars in advance of publication, and for one-half the copyright of "The Lord of the Isles" he was paid over seven thousand five hundred dollars. He was unaware of the enormous earning powers which he was later to develop; he had given up his profession, and he longed for an income which would support his family on the scale which his tastes and natural generosity dictated. To secure financial independence he brought James Ballantyne, a former school-mate and editor of a local newspaper, to Edinburgh and lent him money enough to start a printing business. This was in 1802; three years later he became a silent partner with Ballantyne and his brother. In 1809 he took a still more venturesome step and started the publishing house of John Ballantyne & Company. The two brothers were men of small ability, and entirely without knowledge of the business on which they embarked; they knew something about printing but nothing about publishing. Scott was equally ignorant of business methods; he was a man of generous nature and lavish tastes, and between the recklessness of his partners, for which he was largely responsible, and his lavish use of money, he was soon in financial difficulties and a crash would have come early if the phenomenal popularity of the novels had not postponed the evil day.
In 1812 he bought the farm at Abbotsford, to the ownership of which he had long looked forward. The country was lovely, the four acres grew into a great estate, the farm cottage became a stately mansion, as all traveled Americans know, and the owner lived like a Scotch laird but without a laird's steady income. He entertained lavishly and lived 9 in feudal state, happy in his friends, his tenants, his horses and dogs. But the land alone cost more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars!
In 1805 Scott was the most popular poet in Great Britain. He had opened a fresh field, he had command of the magic of romance which always has and always will, in spite of temporary changes of taste, cast a spell over the imagination of men; his style was simple and his method plain; all classes of readers could understand him. During the next ten years he published six or seven long poems of varying merit. When the last of these, "The Lord of the Isles," appeared in 1815, the popular interest had diminished in volume and intensity, and the poet was in serious financial difficulties as the result of his lavish scale of living and the mismanagement of his business enterprises.
At the moment when ruin faced him he found himself suddenly in the possession of a great income from an unexpected source. In 1805 he had written, almost at a sitting, an instalment of a story of the uprising of 1745 in a futile attempt to restore the exiled Stuart, Charles Edward, to the throne. In 1814 he completed the story and published it anonymously under the title of "Waverley." The novel was written in what the oarsmen call a "spurt"; not because the novelist was writing carelessly at breakneck speed for immediate income, but because he was a tremendous worker and more concerned with the general movement and human interest of the story in hand than with the details of its workmanship. To immense energy of mind and body Scott united patience and methodical habits of work, as he added to a romantic imagination keen interest in the business of life and in the smallest detail of practical affairs. His appetite for facts was as marked as his capacity for sentiment. Scott had breadth and vigor rather than delicacy of imagination; that is one reason why he is out of fashion at a time when men want to know not only what people do but why and how they do it. He saw men and events in the rough; he was interested in striking historical incidents and events, in strongly-marked characters, in actions rather than in moods. In a word, Scott was a writer who took the world as he found it, and described it as he saw it, without any strong desire to reform it. He was a Tory in politics, a strong adherent of an ordered society; a good, sound man not haunted by misgiving and questioning about the general order of things.
Scott's novels were literally poured out during fifteen wonderful years; and even 10 then the broken man could still apply the whip to his exhausted and crippled brain. The popular success of the novels was unprecedented in the history of literature. It is estimated that Scott earned with his pen not less than three-quarters of a million dollars. The earlier stories were the best: "The Antiquary," "Old Mortality," "Rob Roy," "Heart of Midlothian," "Guy Mannering." These were followed by the series of semi-historical novels with their brilliant historical portraits: "Ivanhoe," the most popular though by no means the best of Scott's stories, "The Monastery," "The Abbot," "Kenilworth," "Quentin Durward," "The Bride of Lammermoor," "The Talisman."
The defects of these novels and those which came later have been clearly pointed out since the analytical novel and the novel of purpose have come into vogue. Scott did not command the constructive skill of even the second-rate novelist of today; he was often an awkward builder and clumsy in putting his materials together in a coherent whole; his style is often loose and diffuse; he dealt largely with the outside of the spectacle of living; his women have no magic of loveliness, no mystery of temperament, though they sometimes stand out with great distinctness; his heroes are rarely heroic, they are often commonplace.
Scott was the chronicler of feudalism, the primitive social order of the clan, of an aristocratic society. He was as little interested in Democracy as was Shakespeare; and largely for the same reason: his age was not anti-democratic, it had not reached the democratic stage. Bagehot, the famous English critic, put his limitations under two heads: he gives us the stir of the world but not its soul, and he leaves the abstract intellect unreported.
His vital interest in the moving spectacle of life has given us an almost unrivalled report of that world, and of a great group of men and women whose careers, as Scott reports them, have the reality of fact and the dramatic interest of fiction. Jeanie Deans, Madge Wildfire, Diana Vernon, Meg Merrilies, Wandering Willie, Andrew Fairservice, and a crowd of their companions, are more alive today, after a century has passed, than most of the people whose names are in the telephone directories.
Scott was a man of the kind men love to remember. His faults of nature are as obvious as his faults of art; but his splendid vitality 11 makes them trivial. He was large hearted, frank, generous, honorable; he made life seem more noble by the richness of his nature and his splendid courage. His career was as romantic in achievement and vicissitude as his most striking novel. In 1826, when he was fifty-five years old, the two business houses in which he was a partner failed, with obligations amounting to nearly six hundred thousand dollars. Scott had recently spent large sums on the enlargement of Abbotsford, in settling his sons in life, and for other people; and he held the bills of Constable for four novels to be written in the future; the novels were written, but the bills were not honored. Four months after the failure Lady Scott died, and Scott's health was breaking. Two days after the failure he resumed work on "Woodstock," and set himself to pay the debt of half a million dollars. In two years he earned for his creditors nearly two hundred thousand dollars, the major part of which came from the sales of "Woodstock" and "The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte." If his brain had not given out he would have discharged the entire indebtedness in a few years. Working with a disabled brain but with heroic resolution, he wrote "Count Robert of Paris" and "Castle Dangerous." In five years more than three hundred thousand dollars had been paid; meantime he had had a stroke of paralysis. After a second stroke, when "Count Robert" was practically finished, the publishers objected to the work in the last volume. "The blow is a stunning one," wrote the broken man. "God knows I am at sea in the dark, and the vessel leaky.... I often wish I could lie down and sleep without waking. But I will fight it out if I can." And he fought it out; he died on July 12, 1832, and on February 21, 1833, the creditors were paid in full. Never was a heroic fight more nobly won.
On his death-bed Scott called his son-in-law Lockhart, who was to tell the story of his life in one of the great biographies, to his bedside. "I have but a minute to speak to you," he said. "My dear, be a good man.... Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here."
|LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT (In "Everyman's Library")||By J. G. Lockhart|
|SIR WALTER SCOTT||By R. H. Hutton|
|SIR WALTER SCOTT
Chapter in "Gray Days and Gold"
|By William Winter|
|DICTIONARY OF THE CHARACTERS IN THE WAVERLEY NOVELS OF SIR WALTER SCOTT||By M. F. A. Husband|
|SIR WALTER SCOTT STUDIED IN EIGHT NOVELS||By A. S. G. Channing|
|THE SCOTT COUNTRY||By W. S. Crockett|
*** Information concerning the above books may be had on application to the Editor of The Mentor.
What sort of a person was he; what did he look like—this Scottish bard, novelist, historian, essayist, and landed baronet?
"There he goes," said Dr. Maginn, a contemporary of Scott's, "sauntering about his grounds, with his Lowland bonnet in his hand, dressed in his old green shooting-jacket, telling stories of every stone and bush, and tree and stream in sight—tales of battles and raids—or ghosts and fairies, as the case may be, of the days of yore."
"Sauntering" is hardly the word with which to describe Scott's gait. "Limping" would be better, for he was lame from boyhood, and he supported himself in walking with a staff so heavy that it looked like a cudgel. Washington Irving visited Abbotsford in 1816, and described Scott as "limping up the gravel walk, aiding himself by a stout walking-stick, but moving rapidly and with vigor."
* * *
His lameness, was no serious handicap to Sir Walter. He was a man of extraordinary strength, six feet tall, and of a large and powerful frame, with great breadth across the chest. The muscles of his arms were like iron. He was an exceptional and powerful wielder of an ax, and could bring down a tree with the best of the younger men. He was a master of the horse, and a bold rider. He climbed the hills till he wearied all but his faithful dogs, and he was proficient in sport and hunting. The latter, however, he did not like. "I was never at ease," he said, "when I had knocked down my bird and, going to pick him up, he cast back his dying eye with a look of reproach. I am not ashamed to say that no practice ever reconciled me fully to the cruelty of the affair."
* * *
The conversation of Scott was frank, hearty, picturesque, and dramatic. He had a great sense of humor, and a rare gift for story telling. He was an accomplished mimic, and he lighted up his narratives and anecdotes with appropriate dialect and graphic description. And, as a near friend once observed, "The chief charm of his conversation, he being a man of such eminence, was its perfect simplicity and the entire absence of vanity and love of display."
* * *
He was a good listener, too—but he did not enjoy listening to classic music. He allowed that he "had a reasonable good ear for a jig," but confessed that "sonatas gave him the spleen." But he would rouse up at the sound of "The Blue Bells of Scotland" or "Bonnie Dundee," and his eye would flash an enthusiastic response to any song or verse that celebrated the romance, chivalry, and heroism of his native land.
* * *
Sir Walter was a strange combination of simplicity and strength. His personal appearance was strikingly odd. Once seen, he could never be forgotten. "Although forty-eight years have passed since I met him," wrote an acquaintance, "his personality is as present to me now as it was then in the flesh. His light blue waggish eye, sheltered, almost screened, by overhanging straw-colored bushy brows, his scanty, sandy-colored hair, the length of his upper lip, his towering forehead, his abrupt movements, and the mingled humor, urbanity and benevolence of his smile." His usual costume consisted of a green cutaway coat, with short skirts and brass buttons; drab trousers, vest and gaiters; a single seal and watch-key attached to a watered black ribbon dangling from his fob; a loose, soft linen collar; a black silk neckerchief; and a low-crowned, deep-brimmed hat.
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