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scenes so beautiful, and so deeply imprinted on my recollections, 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.
I may now confess, however, that the employment, though attended with great pleasure, was not without its doubts and anxieties. A lady, to whom I was nearly related, and with whom I lived, during her whole life, on the most brotherly terms of affection, was residing with me at the time when the work was in progress, and used to ask me, what I could possibly do to rise so early in the morning (that happening to be the most convenient time to me for composition). At last I told her the subject of my meditations; and I can never forget the anxiety and affection expressed in her reply, "Do not be so rash," she said, "my dearest cousin. 1 You are already popular-more so, perhaps, than you yourself will believe, or than even I, or other partial friends, can fairly allow to your merit. You stand high— do not rashly attempt to climb higher, and incur the risk of a fall; for depend upon it, a favourite will not be permitted even to stumble with impunity." I replied to this affectionate expostulation in the words of Montrose
"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."
"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 change in my temper, nor will I eat a single meal the worse.
Up with the bonnie blue bonnet,
you shall see no But if I succeed,
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 field-sports, 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
[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 Introduction 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!"]
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 possessed 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 remarks gave me less pleasure. He detected the identity of the King with the wandering knight, Fitz-James, when he winds his bugle to summon his attendants. 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,
Let a' his duddies fa',
And he was the brawest gentleman
That was amang them a'.
And we'll go no more a-roving," etc.
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.'
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 June, 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 discontinued efforts by which I was far more likely to diminish my fame than to increase it. But, as the celebrated John Wilkes is said to have explained to his late Majesty, that he himself, amid his full tide of popularity, was never a Wilkite, so I can, with honest truth, exculpate myself from having 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, which 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 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 which 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 2 (since Byron has so called it) was marked by some instances of good-nature as well as patience. I 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.
ABBOTSFORD, April, 1830.
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. 3
"In twice five years the 'greatest living poet,'
Don Juan, canto xi. st. 55. ]
["Sir Walter reign'd before me," etc.
Don Juan, canto xi. st. 57.]
3 ["Never, we think, has the analogy between poetry and painting been more strikingly exemplified than in the writings of Mr. Scott. He sees every thing with a painter's eye. Whatever he represents has a character of individuality, and is drawn with an accuracy and minuteness of discrimination, which we are not accustomed to expect from verbal description. Much of this, 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, which nature alone can give, and by means of which her favourites are enabled to discover characteristic differences, where the eye of dulness sees nothing but uniformity; but something also must be referred to discipline and exercise. The liveliest fancy can only call forth 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 senses 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 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 com
THE LADY OF THE LAKE.
Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung
O minstrel Harp, still must thine accents sleep?
Still must thy sweeter sounds their silence keep,
Not thus, in ancient days of Caledon,
Was thy voice mute amid the festal crowd,
Was Knighthood's dauntless deed, and Beauty's matchless eye.
O wake once more! how rude soe'er the hand
That ventures o'er thy magic maze to stray;
O wake once more! though scarce my skill command
bined with the landscape are painted with the same fidelity. Like those of Salvator Rosa, they are perfectly appropriate to the spot on which 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 help thinking, that both his glory and our gratification would have 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 than he has already elfected 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 Highlands, 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-their wild and lofty traditions-their national enthusiasm-the melancholy grandeur of the scenes they inhabit-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 witnesssd."-JEFFREY, Edinburgh Review, No. xvi. for 1810. ]
[MS." And on the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,
Till envious ivy, with her verdant ring,
[ MS.-"At each according pause thou spokest aloud
Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay :
The wizard note has not been touch'd in vain.
The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
And faint, from farther distance borne,
As Chief, who hears his warder call,
A moment listen'd to the cry,
That thicken'd as the chase drew nigh;
With one brave bound the copse he clear'd,
2 Ua-var, as the name is pronounced, or more properly Uuighmor, is a mountain to the north-east of the village of Callender in Menteith, deriving its name, which signifies the great den, or cavern, from a sort of retreat among the rocks on the south side, said, by tradition, to have been the abode of a giant. In latter times, it was the refuge of robbers and banditti, who have been only extirpated within these forty or fifty years. Strictly speaking this stronghold is not a cave, as the name would imply, but a sort of small enclosure, or recess, surrounded with large rocks, and open above head. It may have been originally designed as a toil for deer, who might get in from the outside, but would find it difficult to return. This opinion prevails among the old sportsmen and deer stalkers in the neighbourhood.