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gence, long walks through the solitary and romantic environs, gifted with by nature; and, even as it was, it may of Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Craigs, Braid Hills, and similar remain a doubtful point whether the chief faults of his places in the vicinity of Edinburgh; and the recollection of style of writing, both in poetry and prose, may not be in those holidays still forms an oasis in the pilgrimage which
a great measure attributable to this “gluttony and liteI have to look back upon."
rary indigestion of his juvenile years. There is no He entered the University of Edinburgh in October, doubt, however, that this dangerous habit was, in the 1783, at the age of twelve years; but he appears (as case of Scott, afterwards cured by a course of vigorous far as can be ascertained from the matriculation records) voluntary application, in the acquisition of a vast fund to have attended only the Greek and Humanity (or of antiquarian and other curious learning. Latin) classes for two seasons, and that of Logic one Having thus passed through a somewhat sickly and
If he entered any other classes, it seems pro- solitary infancy, which threw him much into the society bable that his irregular health had interrupted his atten- of his elder relatives, and a somewhat idle boyhood, in dance. The consequence was that he had little opportu- which the recurrence of ill health cast him upon the nity, even if he had had the ambition, to distinguish himself resources of romance reading, and romance dreaming, at college ; and he thus entered the world with a very the constitution of the imaginative youth, about bis sixdesultory, and, as far as regards the classics, apparently teenth year, experienced a decisive improvement. His & rather defective education. Nor was his course of lameness indeed remained so far that he was obliged to private reading (it could scarcely be called study) much use a staff to assist his foot in walking; but in other calculated to remedy that disadvantage. He thus de respects he became remarkably robust, and able to scribes, in the auto-biographical chapter already referred endure great fatigue, whether bodily or mental. He to, the intellectual dissipation to which he was at that now applied himself with vigour to the study of law; and period devoted.
besides attending the usual classes in the university " When boyhood, advancing into youth, required more necessary to fit him for the bar, he performed the ordiserious studies and graver cares, a long illness threw me nary duties of an attorney's apprentice under his father, back on the kingdom of fiction, as if it were by a species of in order to acquire a more thorough technical knowledge fatality. My indisposition arose, in part at least, from my of his profession. He exhibited, however, no ambition having broken a blood-vessel; and motion and speech were for a long time pronounced positively dangerous. For several to distinguish himself at any of the debating societies weeks I was confined strictly to my bed, during which time at which the academical youth of Edinburgh, and more I was not allowed to speak above a whisper, to eat more
especially the candidates for forensic honours, are wont to than a spoonful of two of boiled rice, or to have more cover- train their unfledged powers of eloquence or argumentaing than one thin counterpane. When the reader is informed tion. " He was never heard of," says a Scottish biograthat I was at this time a growing youth, with the spirits, pher, " at any of those clubs; and so far as he was known appetite, and impatience of fifteen, and suffered, of course, at all
, it was only as a rather abstracted young man, very greatly under this severe regimen, which the repeated return much given to reading, but not the kind of reading with of my disorder rendered indispensable, he will not be sur which other persons of his age are conversant." prised that I was abandoned to my own discretion, so far as reading (my almost sole amusement) was concerned, and before he had completed his 21st year, he passed Advo
On the 10th of July, 1792, about three months still less so, that I abused the indulgence which left my cate at the Scottish bar, after the usual examinations. time so touch at my own disposal.
" There was at this time a circulating library at Edin Mr. Chambers, whose respectable biographical sketch burgh, founded, I believe, by the celebrated Allan Ramsay, we have already quoted, in reference to this period of which, besides containing a most respectable collection of his professional career makes the following statement:books of every description, was, as might have been ex
“The young barrister was enabled, by the affluence pected, peculiarly rich in works of fiction. It exhibited of his father, to begin life in an elegant house in the specimens of every kind, from the romances of chivalry, and the ponderous falios of Cyrus and Cassandra, down to the most fashionable part of the town ; but it was not his most approved works of later times. I was plunged into lot to acquire either wealth or distinction at the bar. He this great ocean of reading without compass or pilot; and had perhaps some little employment at the provincial unless when some one had the charity to play at chess with sittings of the criminal court, and occasionally acted in me, I was allowed to do nothing, save read, from morning unimportant causes as a junior counsel; but he neither to night. I was, in kindness and pity, which was perhaps obtained, nor seemed qualified to obtain, a susficient erroneous, however natural, permitted to select my subjects share of general business to insure an independency. of study at my own pleasure, upon the same principles that The truth is, his mind was not yet emancipated from the humours of children are indulged to keep them out of that enthusiastic pursuit of knowledge which had distinmischief. nothing else, I indemnified myself by becoming a glutton of guished his youth. His necessities, with only himself to books. Accordingly, I believe I read almost all the old provide for, and a sure retreat behind him in the comromances, old plays, and epic poetry, in that formidable fortable circumstances of his native home, were not so collection, and no doubt was unconsciously amassing mate-great as to make an exclusive application to his profession rials for the task in which it has been my lot to be so much imperative ; and he therefore seemed destined to join employed.
what a sarcastic barrister has termed, “ the ranks of the " At the same time, I did not in all respects abuse the gentlemen who are not anxious for business." Although license permitted me. specious miracles of fiction brought with it some degree he could speak readily and fluently at the bar, his intelof satiety, and I began by degrees to seek in histories, lect was not at all of a forensic cast
. He appeared to memoirs, voyages and travels, and the like, events nearly as be too much of the abstract and unworldly scholar to wonderful as those which were the work of the imagination, assume readily the habits of an adroit pleader; and even with the additional advantage that they were, at least, in a although he had been perfectly competent to the duties, great measure true. The lapse of nearly two years, during it is a question if his external aspect and general reputawhich I was left to the service of my own free will, was tion would have permitted the generality of agents to followed by a temporary residence in the country, where I was again very lonely, but for the amusement which i intrust them to his hands. derived from a good, though old-fashioned library. The
Throughout all the earlier years of his life as a barvague and wild use which I made of this advantage I rister, he was constantly studying either one branch of cannot describe better than by referring my reader to the knowledge or another. Unlike most of the young mer desultory studies of Waverley in a similar situation; the of his order, he was little tempted from study into com passages concerning whose reading were imitated from position. With all the diligence which the present recollections of my own."
writer could exercise, he has not been able to detect any Such a course of study would probably have gone far fugitive piece of Sir Walter's in any of the periodical to ruin a less masculine intellect than that which Scott was publications of the day."
The hereditary politics of his family, at least from the quarto*. «The fate of this my first publication," he retime of the persecuted Quaker, Walter of Raeburn, had marks, “ was by no means flattering. I distributed so been, as we have seen, strongly Jacobitical; and Sir many copies among my friends, as materially to interfere Walter's own turn of mind, as well as the whole course with the sale; and the number of translations which apof his early studies, naturally led him to embrace with peared in England about the same time, including that ardour the same predilections. On the extinction of the of Mr. Taylor, to which I had been so much indebted Stuart race the old Jacobites gradually assumed the and which was published in the Monthly Magazine, principles of high Toryism ; and Sir Walter's entrance were sufficient to exclude a provincial writer from com on public life being contemporary with the stirring petition.
In a word, my adventure proved a events of the French Revolution, he naturally ranged dead loss; and a great part of the edition was conhimself under the banners of the ruling Pittite or Anti- demned to the service of the trunk-maker." Gallican party. After the breaking out of the war with Without allowing himself, however, to be discouraged France, and when the apprehensions of foreign invasion by this failure, the young poet continued his prosecution led to the enrolment of yeomanry and volunteer militia of German literature, and, in 1799, published: Goetz throughout every part of the country, the young barrister of Berlichingen,' a tragedy translated from the German entered into the martial feeling of the times with great of Goëthe. Meanwhile he continued his devotion to enthusiasm. He filled the post of Quarter-Master ballad poetry, and by degrees gained sufficient confidence of the Edinburgh Light Dragoons. Being an excel- to attempt original composition in that style. "Glenlent horseman, in spite of his lameness, and an exceed- finlas,' a Highland legend, and 'The Eve of St. John, inglyZealous officer, he distinguished himself in this a border ballad (of which the scene was Smailholm favourite vocation ; being naturally fond of all that Tower, the haunt of his early childhood), were his first relates to warlike exercises, and with such a predilection original productions; and from this period he appears to for the military profession, that but for his early personal have devoted himself, at least in secret, with increasing infirmity, he would, in all probability, have entered the confidence and ardour to his favourite pursuits. To his army. His good humour and powers of social entertain confidential friend, William Erskine, he is said to have ment made him very popular in the regiment; and, what opened the purpose of his heart-to secure a small comwas of more importance to his future fortunes, his regi- petence, and then dedicate all the time he could commental zeal and general talents (conjoined no doubt mand to literature. with his political opinions) recommended him to the By the time that Scott had attained his 32d year, he powerful patronage of Henry Duke of Buccleugh, who was in a situation to take this step without imprudence. had taken great interest in the organization of the yeo- His success as a barrister was not such as to hold out manry cavalry of Scotland. Through the friendship of any very flattering prospects of his attaining either wealth this nobleman, he afterwards obtained, in December or distinction by his profession ; at least not with such 1799, the crown appointment of Sheriff of Selkirkshire, divided affection as he was inclined to bestow upon it. to which was attached a salary of £300 a year. But we “ My profession and I," he says, came to stand nearly must now advert to the first dawn of his literary distinc- upon the footing which honest Slender' consoled himtion, which a few years preceded the period just mentioned. self with having established with Mrs. Anne Page.
Sir Walter was by no means a precocious author either. There was no great love between us at the beginning, in verse or prose.
He had reached his 25th year before and it pleased Heaven to decrease it on farther acquainthe had given any indications of the peculiar talents ance ! I became sensible that the time was come when which were destined to render him the most popular I must either buckle myself resolutely to the toil by and voluminous writer of his age. The circumstances day, the lamp by night, renouncing all the Dalilahs of which awakened his dormant powers, and altered the my imagination, or bid adieu to the profession of the whole complexion of his future life, have been detailed by law, and hold another course.” himself in a very interesting manner in the biographical His appointment as Sheriff, however, with some forintroductions prefixed to the later editions of his works. tune left him by his father, secured him a moderate After mentioning the remarkably low ebb to which the competency; and his marriage, which took place in art of poetry had fallen during the last ten years of the 1797, is understood to have augmented his family eighteenth century, he describes the effects produced by resources by an annuity which Mrs. Scott possessed of the introduction of some translations of the German £400; so that when he made up his mind to abandon ballad school, especially of Bürger's . Leonore,' and the his professional practice, he must have attained an income extraordinary excitement produced by the German poetry of at least £700 or £800 a year. The lady he married on his own mind. Having recently made himself mas- was a Miss Carpenter, a native, we believe, of the city ter of the German language, he was led to form an of Lyons, but of English parentage, with whom he had acquaintance with Mr. Lewis, the author of The become acquainted at the watering-place of Gilsland, in Monk,' who chanced about that period to visit Edin Cumberland. She is said to have possessed in youth burgh; and, “out of this acquaintance," says Scott, great personal attractions.
consequences arose which altered almost all the Scot- After his marriage he spent several summers in a tish ballad-maker's future prospects in life." In early delightful retreat at Lasswade, on the banks of the Esk, youth he had been an eager student of ballad poetry, about five miles from Edinburgh. Here he continued both printed and oral, but he had never dreamt, he the prosecution of his favourite studies, and commenced says, of attempting that style of writing himself. “I the work which first established his name in literature had,” he observes, " indeed, tried the metrical transla- ' The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.' The materials sions which were occasionally recommended to us at the of this work were collected during various excursions, or High School. I got credit for attempting to do what was raids, as Sir Walter was wont to call them, through the enjoined, but very little for the mode in which the task most remote recesses of the border glens, made by the was performed; and I used to feel not a little mortified poetical compiler in person, assisted by one or two other when my verses were placed in contrast with others of ad- enthusiasts in ballad lore. Preeminent among his mitted merit."
coadjutors ir this undertaking, was Dr. John Leyden, an The result of this resolution was the translation of enthusiastic borderer and ballad-monger like himself, several ballads from Bürger; and finding these very and to whom he has gratefully acknowledged his oblifavourably received by the friends to whom he showed gations both in verse and prose. lhein in MS. he was induced to try their effect on the public by publishing anonymously the translation of Chace; and William and Helen : Edinburgh; Manners and
* The following is the title of this his first publication :- The Leonore.' with that of. The Wild Huntsman,' in a thin | Miller, 1796.'
Some amusing anecdotes have been printed, and surpassing that experienced by the 'Lay. This was others are yet extant in oral tradition among the border succeeded in 1810 by 'The Lady of the Lake;' in 1811 hills, of the circumstances attending the collection of appeared "Don Roderick;' in 1813, * Rokeby ;' and these ballads. The old women, who were almost the in 1814 • The Lord of the Isles.' The Bridal of Trieronly remaining depositaries of ancient song and tradi- main, and Harold the Dauntless, appeared anonytion, though proud of being solicited to recite them by mously, the former in 1813, and the latter in 1817. “so grand a man” as “an Edinburgh Advocate,” After the publication of “The Lady of the Lake,' the could not repress their astonishment that “a man o' popularity of Scott's poetry began to decline. sense an' lair” (learning) should spend his time in writ- partly owing to the public having become satiated with ing into a book " auld ballads and stories of the bluidy his peculiar style, which had now lost the charm of noborder wars and paipish times.” The writer of this velty; partly, also, to some inferiority, in interest or in sketch (himself a borderer) remembers well that the execution, of the poems themselves; but principally to first time he heard the name of Walter Scott mentioned the circumstance of a rival having entered the lists, of was on seeing some of the proof sheets of the · Border such prowess as to eclipse even the minstrel Knight of Minstrelsy' at Kelso in 1802, while the work was print- Flodden Field and Bannockburn. This was Lord ing by Mr. Ballantyne, a native of that town, and an Byron, who published the first two cantos of Childe early friend of Sir Walter's. On eagerly inquiring who Harold' in 1812, and followed up these by a rapid it was that had collected these old ballads, with many of succession of brilliant productions, which for a time cast which he was previously familiar from oral recitation, every thing else in the shape of verse into the shade. he was told that it was “one Mr. Scott, an Edinburgh In the mean while Sir Walter appeared to prosper Writer or Advocate, who had lately been appointed apace in his worldly circumstances. In the enjoyment Sheriff of Selkirkshire;" and this was all he could then of an income of above £2,000 a year, independently learn on the subject. The Minstrelsy was issued at altogether of his literary exertions, he was supposed at first in two volumes, but a third was added with the least to double that income, one year with another, by second edition. Two years subsequently he published the exuberant harvest of his brain. His industry apthe romance of Sir Tristram,' a Scottish metrical tale peared almost as extraordinary as the force and versaof the thirteenth century, which he showed, in a learned tility of his talents. Amidst the full blaze of his poetical disquisition, to have been composed by Thomas of renown, and while one metrical romance followed another Ercildown, commonly called the Rhymer.
with dazzling rapidity, he found time for a variety of These works, especially the ‘Border Minstrelsy,' were laborious works in criticism, biography, and miscellafavourably received by the public, and established Scott's neous literature, which added considerably both to his reputation on a very respectable footing, as an excellent funds and his reputation. Among these were new editions poetical antiquary, and as a writer of considerable power of the works of Dryden and Swift
, with biographical and promise, both in verse and prose. As yet, however, memoirs ; · Sadler's State Papers ;' " Somers' Tracts;' he had produced no composition of originality and im- 'Lives of the Novelists;' besides numerous contribuportance sufficient to secure that high and permanent tions to encyclopedias, reviews, and other periodical rank in literature, to which his secret ambition led him publications. Amidst all this labour, too, he found abunto aspire. But he had now a subject in hand which was dant leisure not only for his official avocations, but for destined to attain for him a popularity far beyond what social enjoyment and rural recreation. his most sanguine hopes could have ventured to While the Court of Session was sitting, Scott lived in anticipate.
Edinburgh, in a good substantial house in North Castle The Lay of the Last Minstrel' appeared in 1805. Street. During the vacations he resided in the country, The structure of the verse was suggested, as the author and appeared to enter with ardour into the ordinary states, by the 'Christabel' of Coleridge, a part of which occupations and amusements of country gentlemen. had been repeated to him, about the year 1800, by Sir After he was appointed Sheriff of Selkirk, he hired for John Stoddart. The originality, wildness, poetical his summer residence the house and farm of Ashiesteil, beauty, and descriptive power of Scott's border romance in a romantic situation on the banks of the Tweed; and produced an effect on the public mind, only to be here many of his poetical works were written. But equalled, perhaps, by some of the earlier works of Byron. with the increase of his resources grew the desire to
In the spring of 1806 Sir Walter obtained an ap- possess landed property of his own, where he might pointment which, he says, completely met his moderate indulge his tastes for building, planting, and gardening: wishes as to preferment. This was the office of a prin- Commencing with moderation, he purchased a small cipal Clerk of Session, of which the duties are by no farm of about one hundred acres, lying on the south means heavy, though personal attendance during the bank of the Tweed, three miles above Melrose, and in sitting of the courts is required. Mr. Pitt, under whose the very centre of that romantic and legendary country administration the appointment had been granted, having which his first great poem has made familiar to every died before it was officially completed, the succeeding reader. This spot, then called Cartly Hole, had a Whig Ministry had the satisfaction of confirming it, northern exposure, and at that time a somewhat bleak accompanied by very complimentary expressions from and uninviting aspect; the only habitable house upon Mr. Fox to the nominee on the occasion. The emolu- it was a small and inconvenient farm-house. Such ments of this office were about £1,200 a year; but Scott was the nucleus of the mansion and estate of Abbotsford. received no part of the salary till the decease of his pre- By degrees, as his resources increased, he added farm after decessor in 1812, the appointment being a reversionary farm to his domain, and reared his chateau, turret after one.
turret, till he had completed what a French tourist not From the appearance of the 'Lay of the Last Min- inaptly terms “ a romance in stone and lime;" clothing strel'the history of Sir Walter Scott is, with the excep- meanwhile the hills behind, and embowering the lawns tion of a few important incidents, little else than the before, with flourishing woods of his own planting. The history of his numerous publications. To criticise, or embellishment of his house and grounds, and the enlargeeven to enumerate with precision, the whole of that ment of his landed property, became, after the establishvoluminous and splendid array, forms no part of the ment of his literary reputation, the objects, apparently, of object of the present article; but we must briefly notice Scott's most engrossing interest; and whatever may be the appearance of the principal works.
the intrinsic value of the estate as a heritage to his Marmion' appeared in 1809, and, though pretty posterity, he has at least succeeded iir creating a scene sharply. criticised by some of the reviewers, was received altogether of no ordinary attractious, and worthy of being by the public with a degree of favour, if possible, even for ever associated with his distinguished name.
The appearance of the prose romance of Waverley in very prosperous and enviablé circumstances. By an 1814 forms an epoch in modern literature as well as in extraordinary union of great original genius with a the life of Scott. The circumstances which led him to degree of promptitude and industry scarcely less surattempt this new style of composition, and induced him prising, and regulated by a judgment and a tact which for so long a period carefully to conceal his authorship, enabled him to adapt his productions with complete sucare detailed in a very interesting manner in his introduccess to the popular taste of the age, he seemed to have tion to the new edition of this extraordinary series of " fixed a spoke in the wheel of Fortune." His aristotales. We cannot do more than merely refer to his own cratic ambition, too, to keep himself, as he expresses it, narrative. But we may remark in passing, that how" abreast of society," had been eminently successful. ever well the secret was kept, and however vehement During the greater part of the summer and autumn, he and ludicrous the controversies to which it gave rise, it kept house at Abbotsford like a wealthy country gentlewas in reality no secret at all to any one (to any Scotch- man, receiving, with a cordial yet courtly hospitality, the man, at least, of literary sagacity) who was acquainted many distinguished persons, both from England and the with Sir Walter's other works, or with his trains of Continent, who found means to obtain an introduction thought and modes of expression. Among the literary to his “ enchanted castle." Anything more delightful men of Edinburgh, assuredly there was scarcely even the than a visit to Abbotsford when Sir Walter was in the shadow of a doubt froin the beginning. The writer of full enjoyment of his health and spirits can scarcely be this sketch remembers well a conversation he had with imagined. After his morning labours, which, even when Sir Walter, after the publication of Guy Mannering,' busiest, were seldom protracted beyond mid-day, (his about the gypsy heroine, Jean Gordon, subsequently time for composition being usually from seven to eleven avowed to have been the prototype of Meg Merrilies. or twelve o'clock,) he devoted himself to the entertainAfter relating the story (now well known) of Jean Gor- ment of his guests with so much unaffected cordiality, don and the Goodman of Lochside, I have a great such hilarity of spirits, and such homely kindliness of notion," added Scott, with impenetrable command of manner, and above all with such an entire absence of countenance, though he saw that his auditor could not literary pretension, that the shyest stranger found himrepress a smile"I have a great notion that the author self at once on terms of the easiest familiarity with the of Waverley had Jean Gordon in his eye when he drew most illustrious man in Europe. the character of Meg Merrilies." And his visitor con The writer of these pages will long remember with a curred in the opinion as gravely as he could; having at melancholy pleasure his first visit to Abbotsford. the same time no more doubt as to the authorship than had been acquainted with Sir Walter in Edinburgh for a he has now.
year or two previously, but had not seen much of him in The mystery, however, such as it was, had doubtless domestic or social life, when in the autumn of 1819 he some effect in increasing the interest of these extraordinary received an invitation to visit him at his mansion on fictions; though, in truth, they required no adventitious Tweed Side. Exclusive of his own family, he found charm to render them popular. With faults neither five of six visitors, some like himself from a distance, slight nor few, they evinced merit of such high order and and others gentlemen of the neighbourhood; but all of of such vast variety, that they firmly established the them early and intimate friends of Sir Walter, and more author on that throne of literary supremacy, where the than one of them honourably distinguished by name in very highest of his poetical works could not long legiti- bis works. Owing to this circumstance, probably, the mately maintain him. In his metrical romances, Scott conversation after dinner turned much upon his earlier appears like one of his own knights of chivalry, magnifi- days ;-his moderate success as a barrister; his first cent and imposing, and stalwart in action, but at the efforts in literature; his pecuniary difficulties about the same time somewhat stiff and artificial from the very time of his marriage, which induced him for the sake of constraint of the shining harness which incases him. But £70 to part with a favourite collection of coins and in his best prose fictions he is free, natural, graceful, and medals; and many similar topics,—which, though treated energetic as his Rob Roy with his foot on his native chiefly in a humorous vein of conversational anecdote, heath. It was in prose fiction that Scott at length found were of the highest interest as connected with the perwhere the true secret of his strength lay.
sonal history of this extraordinary man. But though It is a curious circumstance that he had commenced thus talking with the most delightful openness respecting the novel of Waverley so early as 1805, and had then his own career, when led to do so by his old comrades, actually advertised it to be published by Mr. John Bal- he evinced not the slightest appearance of egotistical lantyne, bookseller in Edinburgh ; but, after proceeding assumption or literary vanity. Or arrogance or envy he as far as the seventh chapter, receiving an unfavourable seemed not to have the slightest tinge in his composition, opinion from a critical friend, he had thrown it aside, and he spoke much and kindly of other eminent inen who and continued his brilliant career in verse. He ascribes had been his companions or rivals in the race of life, or to accident his resumption of novel writing at a later of literary ambition. Some others of the little party were period; but it would have been more wonderful if he also men of conversational talent; but the object of all hrad not sooner or later discovered the richest vein of his as if by tacit agreement, was to draw out Scott to talk of intellectual wealth. It also proved to be an actual mine“ bygone times." In this they were very successful of gold in a more commercial sense. Year after year he and the result was an intellectual treat of the richest anii poured forth the rich creations of his fertile brain ; and most racy description-such as those only who have seen such was their unprecedented success that all the chief Sir Walter in his happiest, drollest, and most communibooksellers of the kingdoin competed for the privilege of cative moods can have any conception of. turning his literary merchandize into money. Had he Such was Sir Walter at Abbotsford, in the heyday of indeed received gold and not paper, the serenty-four his prosperity. He had then nearly reached the highest volumes of his tales (for such was the amazing extent of point of his literary eminence and worldly distincthese works) would have realized a sum far beyond what tion. He was still in the vigour of life ; with all the any author ever before received, and almost surpassing endearing links of his domestic circle unbroken; with the fairy gifts of oriental fiction. But his connexion an affluent fortune acquired by intellectual toils which with the house of Constable and Co., who continued to had ennobled himself and enriched the literature of his be his principal publishers, led him into pecuniary specu- country; and with yet higher personal distinctions in lations which eventually engulphed the larger portion of immediate prospect. And no one who knew him then his well-earned fortune.
will deny that he wore his honours meekly. In the meanwhile Sir Walter considered himself, and In the spring of the ensuing year (1820) he was was considered by the world in general, as a person in created a baronet of the United Kingdom, by George IV.,
as a testimony of personal favour and friendship. On the year 1830, £ 54,000 of debt had been paid off; all the King's visit to Scotland, in 1822, Sir Walter was of which, except six or seven thousand, had been proinvited to superintend the arrangements for his Majes duced by his own literary labours, ty's reception; and he performed that delicate and diffi The prodigious labour which these numerous and cult task with admirable address and propriety, and gave, voluminous works necessarily required, was too much, by his animating influence, something of a high and however, for even the most ready intellect and robust chivalrous character to what would probably have other- frame. The present writer, when he saw Sir Walter for wise appeared a formal as well as a frivolous piece of the last time at Abbotsford, in the autumn of 1830, was pageantry
exceedingly struck by the change which a comparatively The author of Waverley' was still continuing to issue short period had produced on his personal appearance. the apparently inexhaustible "coinage of his brain," at the A few years previously he looked a hale and active man rate of from three to eight volumes a year, exclusive of in middle life ; now, at the age of sixty, he appeared at as much additional poetry and prose ' by Sir Walter least ten or twelve years older. His hair had become Scott' as would have built up a goodly reputation for thin and perfectly white; the marks of old age were any ordinary author,--when, in January 1826, the gathering fast upon his countenance; and from increased house of Constable and Co, became bankrupt. It then decrepitude he“ hirpled" (as he expressed it) much became known, to the extreme surprise and universal more than formerly in his gait. His cordial kindness regret of the public, that their great literary benefactor and conversational felicity remained unimpaired, but and favourite was involved by the failure to an extent something of his former hilarity of spirit was wanting. which appeared utterly ruinous. By bill transactions When told of the death of a gentleman of his acquaintwith Messrs. Constable and Co., and by other means ance by paralysis, a few days previously, he appeared not yet very distinctly detailed, he had become respon- | much struck, and made a remark which seemed at the sible for debts to the enormous amount of £120,000, time to indicate some secret apprehension in his own of which not above one half were actually incurred on mind of that fatal malady then lurking in his own overhis own account, How a man of Sir Walter's charac-wrought frame, teristic prudence and knowledge of business should have He had then just retired from his office as a principal been so incautious as to entangle himself in such transac- clerk of Session, but the relief he thereby gained (if intions is most surprising, and scarcely well accounted for deed the time saved was not filled by more exhausting by any explanation that has yet appeared of these con- labours) came too late. The springs of life, so long cerns. Probably the very large sums expended in the overtasked, began to give way. During the ensuing purchase and embellishment of Abbotsford, amounting, winter symptoms of gradual paralysis (a disease of it is said, to from fifty to a hundred thousand pounds, which his father, it seems, had also died, but at an adwas one chief originating cause of these involvements. vanced age) began to be manifested, His lameness These points will be all developed when his life comes to became more distressing, and his utterance began to be be published. But whatever may have been the causes of obviously affected. . Yet even in this afflicting and this erushing misfortune, his conduct under it was admi. ominous condition he continued to work with undimirable; and the honour which rests upon his memory for nished diligence. his gigantic exertions to pay off this immense debt During the summer of 1831 he grew gradually worse. without deduction, is a far nobler heritage to his posterity His medical attendants strictly forbade mental exertion ; than the most princely fortune. Though this period yet he could not be restrained altogether from compoof his life is one of the most interesting passages of his sition. In the autumn a visit to Italy was recommended; whole history, we must of necessity now hurry forward and a passage to Malta in a ship of war was readily obto the close of his career.
tained for him. He was with difficulty prevailed on He encountered adversity with dignified and manly to leave Scotland; but yielded at length to the entreaties intrepidity. On meeting the creditors he refused to of his friends, and sailed in October, accompanied by accept of any compromise, and declared his determination, his eldest son and his unmarried daughter. His health if life was spared him, to pay off every shilling. He seemed improved by the vayage; but after visiting insured his life in their favour for £22,000; surrendered Naples and Rome, at both of which cities he was res all his available property in trust; sold his town house ceived with almost regal honours, his desire to return and furniture, and removed to a humbler dwelling; and to his native land became irrepressible, and he hurried then set himself calmly down to the stupendous task of homeward with a rapidity which, in his state of health, reducing this load of debt. The only indulgence he was highly injurious, and doubtless accelerated the caasked for was time ; and, to the honour of the parties tastrophe which perhaps no degree of skill or caution concerned, time was liberally and kindly given him. could have long delayed. He experienced a further
A month or two after the crash of Constable's house severe attack of his disorder in passing down the Rhine, Lady Scott died-domestic affliction thus following fast and reached London in nearly the last stage of physical on worldly calamity.
and mental prostration. Medical aid could only, it was The divulgement of the Waverley secret became, by found, for a short period protract dissolution, and to the exposure of Constable's concerns, indispensable, and gratify his most ardent dying wish, he was conveyed by took place at an anniversary dinner of the Edinburgh the steam packet to Leith, and on the 11th of July, 1832, Theatrical Fund Association in February, 1827. The reached once more his favourite house at Abbotsford, — original MSS. of these works falling into the possession but in such a pitiable condition, that he no longer recogof the creditors, were afterwards sold in London by nised his dearest and nearest relations. After lingering public auction.
in this deplorable state till, in the progress of this melan For five years after his pecuniary misfortunes, namely, choly malady-this living death-mortification had been from January, 1826, to the spring of 1831, Sir Walter some time proceeding in different parts of the mortal continued his indefatigable labours, and in that period, frame-he expired without a struggle on the 21st of besides some eight or ten new works of fiction, produced September, 1832. the Life of Napoleon,' in nine volumes; a . History The funeral was attended chiefly by the personal of Scotland,' in two volumes; • Tales of a Grandfather,' friends and relatives of the deceased, and by the gentlein nine small volumes ; • Letters on Demonology;' men of his aequaintance in the vicinity; but the inha• Malagrowther's Letters,' and a variety of smaller pro-bitants of the neighbouring towns and villages evinced ductions. The profits of these works, and of the new their respect for his memory by spontaneously suspendedition of the Waverley Novels, which was commenced ing all business and generally assuming the emblems of in 1829, were so considerable, that towards the end of I mowning, while the funeral train were proceeding to