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The Lady of the Lake:



collection of many a dear friend and merry expedition of former days. This poem, the action of which

AFTER the success of "Marmion," I felt inclined to lay among scenes so beautiful, and so deeply imprinted exclain with Ulysses in the "Odyssey"

Ουτος μίν δὴ ἄεθλος ἀάατος ἐκτετέλεσται·
Νυν αυτι σκοπὸν ἄλλον. Odys. 1. 5.
"One venturous game my hand has won to-day-
Another, gallants, yet remains to play."

on my recollection, was a labour of love; and it was no less so to recall the manners and incidents introduced. The frequent custom of James IV., and particularly of James V., to walk through their kingdom in disguise, afforded me the hint of an incident, which never fails to be interesting, if managed with the slightest address or dexterity.

The ancient manners, the habits and customs of I may now confess, however, that the employment, the aboriginal race by whom the Highlands of Scot- though attended with great pleasure, was not without land were inhabited, had always appeared to me pecu- its doubts and anxieties. A lady, to whom I was nearliarly adapted to poetry. The change in their man- ly related, and with whom I lived, during her whole ners, too, had taken place almost within my own time, life, on the most brotherly terms of affection, was reor at least I had learned many particulars concerning siding with me at the time when the work was in prothe ancient state of the Highlands from the old men gress, and used to ask me, what I could possibly do of the last generation. I had always thought the old to rise so early in the morning (that happening to bo Scottish Gael highly adapted for poetical composition. the most convenient time to me for composition.) At The feuds, and political dissensions, which, half a cen- last I told her the subject of my meditations; and I tury earlier, would have rendered the richer and can never forget the anxiety and affection expressed wealthier part of the kingdom indisposed to counte- in her reply. "Do not be so rash," she said, "my nance a poem, the scene of which was laid in the dearest cousin. You are already popular-more so, Highlands, were now sunk in the generous compas- perhaps, than you yourself will believe, or than even sion which the English, more than any other nation, I, or other partial friends, can fairly allow to your feel for the misfortunes of an honourable foe. The merit. You stand high-do not rashly attempt to Poems of Ossian had, by their popularity, sufficiently climb higher, and incur the risk of a fall; for, depend shown, that if writings on Highland subjects were upon it, a favourite will not be permitted even to qualified to interest the reader, mere national preju- stumble with impunity." I replied to this affectionate dices were, in the present day, very unlikely to inter-expostulation in the words of Montrosefere with their success.

I had also read a great deal, seen much, and heard more, of that romantic country, where I was in the habit of spending some time every autumn; and the scenery of Loch Katrine was connected with the re

"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To gain or lose it all." 3


"These Highland visits were repeated almost every summcr for several successive years, and perhaps even the first of them was in some degree connected with his professional business At all events, it was to his allotted task of enforcing the execution of a legal instrument against some Mac-arms.""-Life of Scott, vol. i p. 193. larens, refractory tenants of Stewart of Appin, brother-inlaw to Invernahyle, that Scott owed his introduction to the scenery of the Lady of the Lake. 'An escort of a sergeant and six men,' he says, was obtained from a Highland regiment lying in Stirling; and the author, then a writer's apprentice, equivalent to the honourable situation of an attorney's clerk, was invested with the superintendence of the expedition, with directions to see that the messenger discharged his duty fully, and that the gallant sergeant did not exceed his part by committing violence or plunder. And thus it hap

pened, oddly enough, that the author first entered the remantic scenery of Loch Katrine, of which he may perhaps say he has somewhat extended the reputation, riding in all the dignity of danger, with a front and rear guard, and loaded

2"The lady with whom Sir Walter Scott held this conversation was, no doubt, his aunt, Miss Christian Rutherford; there was no other female relation dead when this Introduc tion was written, whom I can suppose him to have consulted on literary questions. Lady Capulet, on seeing the corpse of Tybalt, exclaims,

"Tybalt, my cousin! oh my brother's child!" LOCKHART, vol. ii. p. 251. 3 Lines in praise of women.-Wishart's emous of Mor trose, p. 497.

"If I fail,' I said, for the dialogue is strong in my recollection, "it is a sign that I ought never to have succeeded, and I will write prose for life: you shall see no change in my temper, nor will I eat a single meal the worse. But if I succeed,

Up with the bonnie blue bonnet,

The dirk, and the feather, and a'!'" Afterwards, I showed my affectionate and anxious critic the first canto of the poem, which reconciled her to my imprudence. Nevertheless, although I answered thus confidently, with the obstinacy often said to be proper to those who bear my surname, I acknowledge that my confidence was considerably shaken by the warning of her excellent taste and unbiassed friendship. Nor was I much comforted by her retractation of the unfavourable judgment, when I recollected how likely a natural partiality was to effect that change of opinion. In such cases, affection rises like a light on the canvass, improves any favourable tints which it formerly exhibited, and throws its defects into the shade.

I remember that about the same time a friend started in to "heeze up my hope," like the "sportsman with his cutty gun," in the old song. He was bred a farmer, but a man of powerful understanding, natural good taste, and warm poetical feeling, perfectly competent to supply the wants of an imperfect or irregular education. He was a passionate admirer of fieldsports, which we often pursued together.

As this friend happened to dine with me at Ashestiel one day, I took the opportunity of reading to him the first canto of "The Lady of the Lake," in order to ascertain the effect the poem was likely to produce upon a person who was but too favourable a representative of readers at large. It is, of course, to be supposed that I determined rather to guide my opinion by what my friend might appear to feel, than by what he might think fit to say. His reception of my recitation, or prelection, was rather singular. He placed his hand across his brow, and listened with great attention through the whole account of the stag-hunt, till the dogs threw themselves into the lake to follow their master, who embarks with Ellen Douglas. He then started up with a sudden exclamation, struck his hand on the table, and declared, in a voice of censure calculated for the occasion, that the dogs must have


been totally ruined by being permitted to take the
water after such a severe chase. I own I was much
encouraged by the species of reverie which had posses-
sed so zealous a follower of the sports of the ancient
Nimrod, who had been completely surprised out of all
doubts of the reality of the tale. Another of his re-
marks gave me less pleasure. He detected the iden-
tity of the King with the wandering knight, Fitz-
James, when he winds his bugle to summon his at-
tendants. He was probably thinking of the lively,
but somewhat licentious, old ballad, in which the
denouement of a royal intrigue takes place as follows:
"He took a bugle frae his side,
He blew both loud and shrill,
And four-and-twenty belted knights
Came skipping ower the hill;
Then he took out a little knife,

Let a' his duddies fa',

And he was the brawest gentleman
That was amang them a'.

And we'll go no more a-roving," &c.1
This discovery, as Mr. Pepys says of the rent in his
camlet cloak, was but a trifle, yet it troubled me;
and I was at a good deal of pains to efface any marks
by which I thought my secret could be traced before
the conclusion, when I relied on it with the same
hope of producing effect, with which the Irish post-
boy is said to reserve a "trot for the avenue." 2

I took uncommon pains to verify the accuracy of the local circumstances of this story. I recollect, in particular, that to ascertain whether I was telling a probable tale, I went into Perthshire, to see whether King James could actually have ridden from the banks of Loch Vennachar to Stirling Castle within the time supposed in the Poem, and had the pleasure to satisfy myself that it was quite practicable.

After a considerable delay, "The Lady of the Lake" appeared in May 1810; and its success was certainly so extraordinary as to induce me for the moment to conclude that I had at last fixed a nail in the proverbially inconstant wheel of Fortune, whose stability in behalf of an individual who had so boldly courted her favours for three successive times, had not as yet been shaken. I had attained, perhaps, that degree of public reputation at which prudence, or certainly timidity, would have made a halt, and

1 The Jolly Beggar, attributed to King James V.-HERD'S poet-crowds set off to view the scenery of Loch Katrine, till Collection, 1776.

2 "I believe the shrewd critic here introduced was the poet's excellent cousin, Charles Scott, now laird of Knowe-south. The story of the Irish postillion's trot he owed to Mr. Moore." -Life of Scott, vol. iii. p. 253.

8" Mr Robert Cadell, who was then a young man in training for his profession in Edinburgh, retains a strong impression of the interest which the Lady of the Lake excited there for two or three months before it was on the counter. James Ballantyne,' he says, 'read the cantos from time to time to select coteries, as they advanced at press. Common fame was loud in their favour; a great poem was on all hands anticipated. I do not recollect that any of all the author's works was ever looked for with more intense anxiety, or that any one of them excited a more extraordinary sensation when it did appear. The whole country rang with the praises of the

then comparatively unknown; and as the book came out just before the season for excursions, every house and inn in that neighbourhood was crammed with a constant succession of visitors. It is a well ascertained fact, that from the date of the publication of the Lady of the Lake, the post-horse duty in Scotland rose in an extraordinary degree; and indeed it continued to do so regularly for a number of years, the author's succeeding works keeping up the enthusiasm for our scenery which he had thus originally created.'

"I owe to the same correspondent the following details:'The quarto edition of 2050 copies disappeared instantly, and was followed, in the course of the same year, by four editions in octavo, viz. one of 3000, a second of 3250, and a third and a fourth each of 6000 copies; thus, in the space of a few months, the extraordinary number of 20,000 copies were disposed of. In the next year (1811) there was another edition of 3000


discontinued efforts by which I was far more likely to a situation which the caprice, rather than the judg diminish my fame than to increase it. But, as the ment, of the public, had bestowed upon me, and precelebrated John Wilkes is said to have explained to ferred being deprived of my precedence by some more his late Majesty, that he himself, amid his full tide of worthy rival, to sinking into contempt for my indopopularity, was never a Wilkite, so I can, with honest lence, and losing my reputation by what Scottish lawtruth, exculpate myself from having been at any time yers call the negative proscription. Accordingly, those a partisan of my own poetry, even when it was in the who choose to look at the Introduction to Rokeby, in highest fashion with the million. It must not be sup- the present edition, will be able to trace the steps by posed, that I was either so ungrateful, or so super- which I declined as a poet to figure as a novellist; as abundantly candid, as to despise or scorn the value of the ballad says, Queen Eleanor sunk at Charingthose whose voice had elevated me so much higher Cross to rise again at Queenhithe. than my own opinion told me I deserved. I felt, on It only remains for me to say, that, during my short the contrary, the more grateful to the public, as re- pre-eminence of popularity, I faithfully observed the ceiving that from partiality to me, which I could not rules of moderation which I had resolved to follow have claimed from merit; and I endeavoured to de- before I began my course as a man of letters. If a serve the partiality, by continuing such exertions as I man is determined to make a noise in the world, he was capable of for their amusement. is as sure to encounter abuse and ridicule, as he who gallops furiously through a village, must reckon on being followed by the curs in full cry. Experienced persons know, that in stretching to flog the latter, the rider is very apt to catch a bad fall; nor is an attempt

It may be that I did not, in this continued course of scribbling, consult either the interest of the public or my own. But the former had effectual means of defending themselves, and could, by their coldness, sufficiently check any approach to intrusion; and for to chastise a malignant critic attended with less danmyself, I had now for several years dedicated my ger to the author. On this principle, I let parody, hours so much to literary labour, that I should have burlesque, and squibs, find their own level; and while felt difficulty in employing myself otherwise; and so, the latter hissed most fiercely, I was cautious never like Dogberry, I generously bestowed all my tedious- to catch them up, as school-boys do, to throw them ness on the public, comforting myself with the reflec- back against the naughty boy who fired them off, tion, that if posterity should think me undeserving of wisely remembering that they are, in such cases, apt the favour with which I was regarded by my contem- to explode in the handling. Let me add, that my poraries, "they could not but say I had the crown," reign (since Byron has so called it) was marked by and had enjoyed for a time that popularity which is some instances of good-nature as well as patience. I so much coveted. never refused a literary person of merit such services I conceived, however, that I held the distinguished in smoothing his way to the public as were in my situation I had obtained, however unworthily, rather power: and I had the advantage, rather an uncomlike the champion of pugilism,' on the condition of mon one with our irritable race, to enjoy general being always ready to show proofs of my skill, than favour, without incurring permanent ill-will, so far as in the manner of the champion of chivalry, who per- is known to me, among any of my contemporaries. forms his duties only on rare and solemn occasions. I was in any case conscious that I could not long hold

there was one of 2000 in 1814; another of 2000 in 1815; one of 2000 again in 1819; and two, making between them 2500, appeared in 1825. Since which time the Lady of the Lake, in collective editions of his poetry, and in separate issues, must have circulated to the extent of at least 20,000 copies more. So that, down to the month of July 1836, the legitimate sale In Great Britain has been not less than 50,000 copies."" -Life of Scott, vol. iii p. 248



ABBOTSFORD, April 1830.

W. S.

1 "In twice five years the 'greatest living poet,'
Like to the champion in the fisty ring,
Is call'd on to support his claim, or show it,
Although 'tis an imaginary thing," &c.
Don Juan, canto xi. st. 55.

2" Sir Walter reign'd before me," &c.

Don Juan, canto xi. At. 57


The Lady of the Lake:




&c. &c. &c.




The Scene of the following Poem is laid chiefly in the Vicinity of Loch-Katrine, in the Western Highlands of Perthshire. The time of Action includes Six Days, and the transactions of each Day occupy a Canto.

Published by John Ballantyne & Co. in 4to, with engra- for the heath which waves over their moors."-Quarterly Reved frontispiece of Saxon's portrait of Scott, £2, 2s. May view, May 1810.


"It is honourable to Mr. Scott's genius that he has been 2 "Never, we think, has the analogy between poetry and able to interest the public so deeply with this third presentpainting been more strikingly exemplified than in the writings ment of the same chivalrous scenes; but we cannot help of Mr. Scott. He sees everything with a painter's eye. What- thinking, that both his glory and our gratification would have ever he represents has a character of individuality, and is been greater, if he had changed his hand more completely, drawn with an accuracy and minuteness of discrimination, and actually given us a true Celtic story, with all its drapery which we are not accustomed to expect from verbal descrip- and accompaniments in a corresponding style of decoration. tion. Much of this, no doubt, is the result of genius: for Such a subject, we are persuaded, has very great capabilities, there is a quick and comprehensive power of discernment, an and only wants to be introduced to public notice by such a intensity and keenness of observation, an almost intuitive hand as Mr. Scott's, to make a still more powerful impression glance, which nature alone can give, and by means of which than he has already effected by the resurrection of the tales her favourites are enabled to discover characteristic differ- of romance. There are few persons, we believe, of any degree ences, where the eye of dulness sees nothing but uniformity; of poetical susceptibility, who have wandered among the sebut something also must be referred to discipline and exer- cluded valleys of the Highlands, and contemplated the singucise. The liveliest fancy can only call forth those images lar people by whom they are still tenanted-with their love of which are alrendy stored up in the memory; and all that in- music and of song-their hardy and irregular life, so unlike vention can do is to unite these into new combinations, which the unvarying toils of the Saxon mechanic-their devotion to must appear confused and ill-defined, if the impressions ori- their chiefs-their wild and lofty traditions-their national ginally received by the senses were deficient in strength and enthusiasm-the melancholy grandeur of the scenes they in distinctness. It is because Mr. Scott usually delineates those objects with which he is perfectly familiar, that his touch is so easy, correct, and animated. The rocks, the ravines, and the torrents, which he exhibits, are not the imperfect sketches of a hurried traveller, but the finished studies of a resident artist, deliberately drawn from different points of view; each has its true shape and position; it is a portrait; it has its name by which the spectator is invited to examine the exactness of the resemblance. The figures which are combined with the landscape are painted with the same fidelity. Like those of Salvator Rosa, they are perfectly appropriate to the "The subject of The Lady is a common Highland irrupspot on which they stand. The boldness of feature, the light-tion, but at a point where the neighbourhood of the Lowness and compactness of form, the wildness of air, and the lands affords the best contrast of manners-where the scenery careless ease of attitude of these mountaineers, are as conge-affords the noblest subject of description-and where the nial to their native Highlands, as the birch and the pine wild clan is so near to the Court, that their robberies can which darkon their glens, the sedge which fringes their lakes be connected with the romantic adventures of a disguised


habit-and the multiplied superstitions which still linger among them-without feeling, that there is no existing people so well adapted for the purposes of poetry, or so capable of furnishing the occasions of new and striking inventions.

"We are persuaded, that if Mr. Scott's powerful and creative genius were to be turned in good earnest to such a subject, something might be produced still more impressive and original than even this age has yet witnessed."-JEFFREY, Edinburgh Review, No. xvi. for 1810.

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