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he been blessed with corporal strength and soundness of limb-to embrace an active profession.
Having received some early instruction at home, he was in 1778 sent to the High School of Edinburgh. His progress was satisfactory, and on leaving this establishment he spent a few months with a maiden aunt at Kelso, in which delightful place he imbibed that love of scenery that afterwards induced him to hunt up every tradition connected with spots and ruins so cherished. It was at this period that he made acquaintance with many standard English authors, and Percy's "Reliques of Ancient Poetry" served at once to kindle his inspiration and to increase his love for legendary lore.
Upon his return to Edinburgh Walter entered the college, and from his total unacquaintance with Greek, and his unwillingness, on account of the advantage enjoyed by his fellow-students, all of whom had mastered the rudiments of that language, to apply himself to remedy the defect, obtained the name of the "Greek Blockhead." On quitting college he entered into indentures with his father, who resolved that his son should serve the ordinary apprenticeship of five years to his profession. In the course of this probationary period Walter broke a blood-vessel: his recovery was slow, and kept him for some time a prisoner to the house. Eventually, his constitution became stronger, and although he could not get the better of his lameness, it did not interfere with his taking both horse and foot exercise, and he made many excursions into the Highlands.
When the time of his apprenticeship expired, Scott decided upon qualifying himself as an advocate, and in 1792 was called to the bar. An early attachment to Margaret, daughter of Sir John Belches, of Invermay, does not appear to have met with any return, and the lady at last became the wife of Sir William Forbes, Bart., of Pitsligo. In 1792 Scott joined a German class, and speedily acquired a knowledge of that language. Not meeting with much success at the bar, he indulged in his favourite studies, and went on many excursions in search of old ballads, legends, and traditions. His antiquarian stores increased rapidly. In
1795 he was appointed one of the curators of the Advocates' Library. This office enabled him to gratify fully those tastes most congenial to him, and all the antiquarian collections in the establishment were searched with wonderful perseverance and industry. During the autumn of this very year, the recital by a lady of portions of Mr. William Taylor's translation of Bürger's "Leonora," awakened in Scott's mind his early love of versification, and he immediately set to work on a rhymed translation of the poem. This was published anonymously, with a version of another of Bürger's ballads, "The Chase," in 1796, and was well received.
Five years' practice at the bar did not produce quite £150, and this, considering his father's position and influence, cannot be regarded as very encouraging. In 1797 Walter assisted in forming a corps of volunteer cavalry, of which he became paymaster, quartermaster, and secretary. In July of the same year he set off with some friends on a tour of the English lakes, and while riding, met a young lady, with whose beauty he was singularly impressed. At a ball the same evening Scott obtained an introduction to the lady-Charlotte Margaret Carpenter. She was the daughter of a royalist of Lyons, whose family, on the death of the father, had sought refuge in England. They were Protestants, and enjoyed the powerful protection of the Marquis of Downshire. To this lady he was married, after a short courtship, in the winter; and in the following year he removed to a cottage at Lasswade, on the Eske, near Edinburgh. A translation of Goethe's "Goetz von Berlichingen of the Iron Hand," with his own name upon the title-page, was published early in 1799. For this the poet received a small sum. Soon after its appearance he took his wife to London, and mingled freely with the literary and fashionable society of the metropolis, but was suddenly recalled to Edinburgh by the serious illness of his father, which terminated in his death.
Lewis, author of "The Monk," induced our young author to contribute some ballads for his collection, entitled, "Tales of Wonder," which did not, however, appear until 1801. In addition to other short pieces
he was busily engaged collecting materials for his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," of which Vols. I. and II. appeared early in 1802. Through the interest of kind friends, Scott had, in 1799, obtained the office of Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire; and, as the emoluments amounted to £300 per annum, he was enabled to pursue his favourite studies without prejudice to the welfare of his family. The complete edition of the "Minstrelsy" came out in 1803, and met with a cordial reception. In addition to other literary undertakings, he, about this time, contributed to the "Edinburgh Review," which commenced its career in
For several years Scott wavered between literature and the legal profession, as if unwilling to dedicate his powers exclusively to either. The success of his first purely literary and original experiment, the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," published in January, 1805, and a growing intimacy with an old school-fellow, James Ballantyne, whose acquaintance he had renewed by chance, in 1799, led not only to his gradual abandonment of the legal profession, and his almost entire devotion to literary pursuits, but also to a partnership in a commercial concern, which eventually proved most disastrous. He edited the "Edinburgh Annual Register;" wrote a Life of Dryden, and superintended the publication of his works; and when this was completed, did the same for those of Swift. The former appeared in 1808, the latter in 1814. In addition to various other literary labours, having broken off his connection with the "Edinburgh Review," he assisted with his powerful pen, its great rival, the "Quarterly," established in 1808. We have to deal more particularly with Walter Scott as a poet, and shall therefore merely give such passing notice of his prose works as the nature of our narrative seems to demand.
One of Scott's most cherished schemes, which became gradually the aim of his existence and his labours, was to possess landed property; in other words, to enjoy some portion of the power and authority once wielded by those olden chieftains whose characters and achievements it was his delight to depict. In 1804 he gave up Lasswade Cottage, eagerly embracing an op
portunity that then presented itself, of renting the house of Ashestiel and a small farm adjoining. The estate was delightfully situated upon the south bank of the Tweed, at a short distance from Selkirk, and became, as we shall see, the stepping-stone to Abbotsford.
Scott's position at the commencement of the nineteenth century may be regarded, in every respect, as a most fortunate one. He made literature his crutch, instead of his staff, as he happily expressed it. His wife brought with her a small fortune; his practice at the bar, and his appointment, produced a sum by no means contemptible; and in 1804 his uncle, Captain R. Scott, left him Rosebank, a beautiful villa on the banks of the Tweed, near Kelso, with a few acres of land. This Scott sold soon after for £5,000. In 1806 he was appointed one of the Clerks of Session.
The decided success of the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" induced its author to attempt another poem in a similar style, and in 1808 "Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field," was published. This was followed by "The Lady of the Lake," in 1810. Deeply interested in the struggle in the Peninsula, Scott wrote "The Vision of Don Roderick," in 1811, the profits of the first edition of which he devoted for the relief of the Portuguese. For these various works he received large sums, and although the concern in which he was a partner absorbed a considerable portion of his profits, yet, on the expiration of his lease of Ashestiel, in 1811, he managed to purchase the small estate of Abbotsford, on the banks of the Tweed. It afforded but little accommodation in the way of a residence, and Scott was compelled to build a new house. Rokeby was published in 1812, and in the same year The Bridal of Triermain was issued anonymously.
Scott had, in 1805, written the opening chapters of a romance entitled "Waverley." This had been laid aside, but in 1814 his attention was again directed to it; and having completed the story, he published it without avowing the authorship. Our limits will not allow us to enter into details upon this subject. Suffice it to say, that although the earlier romances were published anonymously, and Scott even denied
that he was the author of them, the failure of Ballantyne and Co., in 1826, led to the disclosure of the secret; and at a public dinner in Edinburgh, early in 1827, Sir Walter Scott acknowledged himself to be the sole author.
His wonderful success in this new species of prose composition did not at first induce him to abandon the cultivation of the poetic vein. "The Lord of the Isles " appeared in January, 1815, and "The Field of Waterloo" in the autumn of the same year. This was followed by "Harold the Dauntless," in 1817, the last purely poetical performance of any length that proceeded from his prolific pen. He had, in fact, opened a new, and to him a richer vein; and the wonderful popularity of Lord Byron's poems dismayed him. Sir Walter Scott himself, in the later years of his life, admitted that he had relinquished poetry, because Byron beat him "in the description of the strong passions, and in deep-seated knowledge of the human heart."
The closing events in the life of Scott may be thus briefly summed up. In 1820 he was made a baronet by George IV., and this was the first creation of that monarch's reign. Abbotsford was completed in 1824, and in 1826 the bankruptcy of the houses of Constable, of Hurst, and Ballantyne and Co., came to crush his prosperity. The liabilities were heavy; but Sir Walter earnestly endeavoured to redeem them. Work after work was finished, large dividends were paid, and in December, 1830, his creditors unanimously decided upon presenting him with his library, paintings, furniture, plate, and linen, in grateful recognition of his honourable conduct and unparalleled exertions on their behalf.
Lady Scott died in May, 1826. In 1829 Sir Walter showed some signs of apoplexy, and these were followed in the next year by an actual attack. Rallying from this, he pursued his labours with undiminished diligence. In 1831 he had a stroke of paralysis, and he was at length persuaded to repair to Italy, and set out from Abbotsford on the 23rd of September, 1831. Some days were spent in London, and a frigate, the Barham, was placed at his disposal by the English