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[The composition of “The Lord of the Isles," as we now have it in the Author's MS., seems to have been begun at Abbotsford, in the Autumn of 1814, and it ended at Edinburgh, the 16th of December. Some part of Canto I. had probably been committed to writing in a rougher form earlier in the year. The original Quarto appeared on the 2d of January, 1815. It
may be mentioned, that those parts of this poem which were written at Abbotsford, were composed almost all in the presence of Sir Walter Scott's family, and many in that of casual visitors also; the original cottage which he then occupied not affording him any means of retirement. Neither conversation nor music seemed to disturb him.]
THE LORD OF THE ISLES.
I COULD hardly have chosen a subject more popular in Scotland, than any thing connected with the Bruce's
history, unless I had attempted that of Wallace. But : I am decidedly of opinion, that a popular, or what is
called a taking title, though well qualified to ensure the publishers against loss, and clear their shelves of the original impression, is rather apt to be hazardous than otherwise to the reputation of the author. He who attempts a subject of distinguished popularity, has not the privilege of awakening the enthusiasm of his audience; on the contrary, it is already awakened, and glows, it may be, more ardently than that of the author himself. In this case, the warmth of the author is inferior to that of the party whom he addresses, who has, therefore, little chance of being, in Bayes's phrase, “ elevated and surprised” by what he has thought of with more enthusiasm than the author. The sense of this risk, joined to the consciousness of striving against wind and tide, made the task of composing the proposed Poem somewhat heavy and hopeless; but, like the prize-fighter in "As You Like It," I was to wrestle for my reputation, and not neglect any advantage.