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ruin, how wonderful is the spell of poetry when the magician is Walter Scott. Melrose is a beautiful ruin, but neither in itself nor in its situation does it possess the charm of Fountains Abbey, near Ripon -- but Walter Scott did not live in Yorkshire. Mel. rose being in the midst of human habitations, seems a living thing: it has, in fact, been used in part as a comparatively modern parish church; while Fountains Abbey, standing in its lonely, green valley, is in harmony with our idea of an abbey — a place to which men, wearied with the strivings and sinnings of this weary world, betook themselves away from its turmoil and bustle, and busied themselves exclusively with prayer—perhaps.
The custodian, a very lady-like person, said many Americans were visitors in July, but since then very few had been seen. Among the later visitors at Melrose, however, had been General Grant.
We soon got through with Melrose, and prepared to visit Abbotsford, which is situated on the Tweed, three miles away. It threatened rain, and, as I proposed to walk, the question of “wherewithal shall we be clothed," was uppermost. I bethought me of a certain long shawl, for which, in journeying many hundred miles, I had never found any use. We were in a land of "plaids”- why not convert myself into a gentle shepherd, and make a plaid of this Yankee shawl? In the Highlands this would have been easy enough, but none of the Lowlanders to whom I referred knew how the real plaid was folded and fastened. The landlady, the chambermaid, the cook, and their male advisers, aiders and abettors, insisted that a shepherd's plaid had a "corner,” which my shawl had not; the green-grocer next door said it was “no blate," whatever that may mean; and finally the
shawl was put on “anyhow," and under a lowering sky the march on Abbotsford commenced.
The country along the Tweed — which in Marmion is “Tweed's fair river broad and deep,” (really about the size of the Grasshopper at Valley Falls) — may be described as “pretty.” There is a succession of high, grassy hills, covered at their bases with groves of firs and birches, generally the result of planting. The fine woods at Abbotsford were all planted by Sir Walter himself. The openings in these woods display fine country-houses, the residences of gentlemen, many of the owners, I presume, being attracted hither by the charm which the genius of Scott has thrown over this whole region.
I passed through a village called Darnick -I mean spelled Darnick, for I despair of giving its pronunciation. I took in my way a stone-cutter's yard, in which was a plaster model which I recognized as “Old Mortality.” Two men were at work on a colossal figure in stone, but they had nothing to say, only that the statue was going to "Stirlin'." Thinking this a dull shop for information, I kept along the shady road and overtook a fresh-faced young Scotch woman, and an inquiry about the road led to a conversation which lasted for half a mile or so. She was born, she said, in the neighborhood, and had never been out of it. She informed me that the stone-cutter was quite famous, and had made a statue of “Mr. Hogg,” adding, “Maybe you've heard o' the 'Ettrick Shepherd ?!” I assured her that the "Shepherd” and all the rest of the Scotch poets were well known in America. This interested her, for she said she had a brother in America who was a master stone-mason. would curious know how many stone-masons Scotland has sent forth to all quarters of the
globe. Then the matter of the ignorance of the Melrose people on the subject of plaids came up, and she said that before her road diverged from mine she would fix the shawl “real Scotch fashion." And she was as good as her word, and I had the satisfaction, when I reached Abbotsford, of seeing that my plaid was arranged about the shoulders in the same fashion as Sir Walter Scott's, in Chantrey's bust. This affair of the plaid was an early illustration of the kind-heartedness of the countrywomen of Burns.
I had the road to myself after I left my Scotch female friend, and arrived unexpectedly at the Abbotsford gate. You go through passages lined with high brick walls, on which ivy has been trained, before you come into the formal old garden, and through it to the ante-room, where the guide waits. This room was hung around with old engravings, representing the exploits of hussars, possibly a relic of the time when Scott took a great interest in cavalry matters. After a few moments the guide-an Englishman, I think - came in, and I made alone with him the circuit of the apartments open to visitors. Fortunately for me, I read last spring Lockhart's Life of Scott (I borrowed it of Ward Burlingame, but you can find it in the State library), and this gave Abbotsford a greater interest. This great house was Scott's dream by day and night, and it everywhere shows the absorbing interest he took in it. Scotland appears to have been ransacked to furnish it. To me the family portraits (which are engraved in Lockhart's work) were most interesting. The marked likeness of Scott to his mother struck me more forcibly than ever before. On the other hand, the likeness of Scott's children to their mother was quite as apparent, the only exception being Mrs. Lockhart. The largest picture is young Walter Scott, in the old uniform of the Eleventh Hussars. He has a weak face, and the guide said that his brother officers, who had visited Abbotsford, did not speak highly of him. Mrs. Lockhart was evidently the flower of the family, and it seems poetic justice that Abbotsford should have descended in her line, and not in that of the heirs male.
The armory is a famous room at Abbotsford. There you see the dirk of Rob Roy, the pistols of Napoleon, the sword of Montrose, and the pistols of the "bloody Claverhouse.” There are two portraits of Claverhouse at Abbotsford, one of which I saw-a young and rather handsome face, with cold, cruel eyes. The admiration Scott expressed for this man, while acknowledging his wickedness, is to me unaccountable. To me, Claverhouse is one of the most detestable characters in history — and I am no Covenanter, either.
The magnificence of Abbotsford, notwithstanding all I had read of it, astonished me. It seemed to me that many richer men than Scott would have hesitated before commencing such a costly structure.
After I had viewed the place, I walked back to Melrose under the umbrella of an Englishman, a man of evidently high cultivation, who had traveled in the United States, Kansas included, and who, although very quiet of manner and careful of speech, was the most decided Radical I ever met in the British kingdom. I remarked to him that I thought Scott was, up to the time of his pecuniary troubles, the happiest of men. To my surprise, he expressed a different opinion. He, to be short about it, regarded Walter Scott as a flunkey and a snob. He said that he (Scott) was a Tory of Tories - a man who bowed down and worshiped anything in the shape of a lord, who grieved that he himself was not born a lord, who was full of self-esteem, and who was consumed with jealousy when he failed to receive applause from everybody. Such a man, he argued, could never have been very happy. I did not indorse all this by any means, and I only mention the conversation as an illustration of the adage, “Distance lends enchantment to the view.” It was odd, certainly, that this opinion should have been expressed almost on the threshold of Abbotsford.
And yet, how magnificent is the power of genius! Scott has thrown a wondrous light on every hill and dale and stream of his native land. He has robed Scotland in such guise as we read of in fairy tales. He has been in his grave for years, and yet the spell is as powerful as when first it was laid upon the world. Thousands of men and women alien to him in blood, in sentiment, come, as pilgrims to a holy shrine, to gaze reverently even upon the clothes he wore. For me, I have forgotten many things, but the day I first opened the pages of “Old Mortality,” the first of Scott's romances that fell into my childish hands, is as bright and fresh as yesterday. And as I read, so I expect my children will read, and their children, and so on to the end of days.
The life of Scott passed within a limited space. He was born in Edinburgh, near by; he is buried at Dryburgh Abbey, some seven miles from Abbotsford. And to Dryburgh I went, in the afternoon.
To go to Dryburgh from Melrose, you take the railroad to the next station, Newton St. Boswell's, and then, if you follow my ex. ample, you walk one mile and a quarter to the abbey, crossing the Tweed on a light suspension bridge. Dryburgh, unlike Mel