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can, with honest truth, exculpate myself from baving been at any time a partisan of my own poetry, even when it was in the highest fashion with the million. It must not be supposed, that I was either so ungrateful, or so superabundantly candid, as to despise or scorn the value of those whose voice had elevated me so much higher than my own opinion told me I deserved. I felt, on the contrary, the more grateful to the public, as receiving that from partiality to me, wbich I could not have claimed from merit; and I endeavoured to deserve the partiality, by continuing such exertions as I was capable of for their amusement.
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 myself, I had now for several years dedicated my hours so much to literary labour, that I should have felt difficulty in employing myself otherwise; and so, like Dogberry, I generously bestowed all my tediousness on the public, comforting myself with the reflection, that if posterity should think me undeserving of the favour with which I was regarded by my contemporaries, “they could not but say I had the crown," and had enjoyed for a time that popularity which is so much coveted.
I conceived, however, that I held the distinguished situation I had obtained, however unworthily, rather like the champion of pugilism, ' on the condition of being always ready to show proofs of my skill, than in the manner of the
"In twice five years the greatest living poet,'
Like to the champion in the fisty ring,
Don Juan, canto xi, st, 55.]
champion of chivalry, who performs his duties only on rare and solemn occasions. I was in any case conscious that I could not long hold a situation wbich the caprice, rather than the judgment, of the public, had bestowed upon me, and preferred being deprived of my precedence by some more worthy rival, to sinking into contempt for my indolence, and losing my reputation by what Scottish lawyers call the negative prescription. Accordingly, those who choose to look at the Introduction to Rokeby, in the present edition, will be able to trace the steps by which I declined as a poet to figure as a novelist; as the ballad says, Queen Eleanor sunk at Charing-Cross to rise again at Queenbithe.
It only remains for me to say, that, during my short preeminence of popularity, I faithfully observed the rules of moderation which I had resolved to follow before I began my course as a man of letters. If a man is determined to make a noise in the world, he 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 to chastise a malignant critic attended with less danger to the author. On this principle, I let parody, burlesque, and squibs, find their own level; and while the latter hissed most fiercely, I was cautious never to catch them up, as schoolboys do, to throw them back against the naughty boy who fired them off, wisely remembering that they are, in such cases, apt to explode in the handling. Let me add, that my reign. (since Byron has so called it) was marked by some instances of good-nature as well as patience. I
[ “Sir Walter reign'd before me," etc.
Don Juan, canto xi. st. 57.]
never refused a literary person of merit such services in smoothing his way to the public as were in my power:and I had the advantage, rather an uncommon one with our irritable race, to enjoy general favour, without incurring permanent ill-will, so far as is known to me, among any of my contemporaries.
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.'
[“Never, we think, has the analogy between poetry and painting been more striklogly exemplified than in the writings of Mr. Scott. He sees every thing with a painter's eye. Whatever be represents has a character of individuality, and is drawn with an accuracy and minuteness of discriminalion, which we are not accustomed to expect from verbal description. Much of tbis, no doubt, is the result of genius; for there is a quick and comprehensive power of discernment, an intensity and keenness of observation, an almost intuitive glance, wbich nature alone can give, and by means of which her favourites are enabled to discover characteristic differences, where the eye of dulvess sees nothing but uniformity; but something also must be referred to discipline and exercise. The liveliest fancy can only call fortb those images which are already stored up in the memory; and all that invention can do is to unite these into new combinations, which must appear confused and ill-defined, if the impressions originally received by the seases were deficient in strength and 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 tbe torrents, wbich he exbibits, are not the imperfect sketches of a burried 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 spot on wbich they stand. The boldness of feature, the lightness and compactness of form, the wildness of air, and the careless ease of attitude of these mountaineers, are as congenial to their native Highlands, as the birch and the pine which darken their glens, the sedge which fringes their lakes, or the heath which waves over their moors."- Quarterly Review, May, 1810.
" It is honourable to Mr. Scott's genius that he has been able to interest the public so deeply with this third presentment of the same chivalrous scenes; but we cannot belp thinking, that both his glory and our gratification would bave been greater, if he had changed his band more completely, and actually given us a true Celtic story, with all its drapery and accompaniments in a corresponding style of decoration. Such a subject, we are persuaded, has very great capabilities, and only wants to be introduced to public notice by such a hand as Mr. Scott's, to make a still more powerful impression tban he bas already effected by the resurrection of the tales of romance. There are few persons, we believe, of any degree of poetical susceptibility, who bave wandered among the secluded valleys of the Bighlands, and contemplated the singular people by whom they are still tenanted – with their love of music and of song-their hardy and irregular life, so unlike the unvarying toils of the Saxon mechanic—their devotion to their chiefs-tbeir wild and lofty traditions—their national enthusiasm-the melancholy grandeur of the scenes they inbabit—and the multiplied superstitions wbich 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. Scotl's powerful and creative genius were to be turned in good earnest to such a subject, something might be produced slill more impressive and original than even this age has yet witnesssd." - JEFFREY, Edinburgh Review, No. xvi. for 1810. ]