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LIFE OF SCOTT
SOME authors are best introduced to us through their writings; others are the best introduction to their writings. Of the latter class there is no more striking representative than Sir Walter Scott, poet and romancer, whose ancestral blood tingled with the poetic traditions of Bonnie Scotland, and into whose inmost being, from earliest childhood, had been breathed the romance of the Highlands.
Ancestry. - The Scotts of Harden had been famous even among border chieftains for their reckless riding and fighting, ever since the day in 1567 when “Auld Wat," sung in a hundred ballads, brought lovely Mary Scott, the “Flower of Yarrow,” to his fastness at Harden Tower, by “Teviot's western strand." It is told that at the wedding feast, when the last English bullock had been devoured, this same bride of Yarrow placed on the table for dessert a dish containing a pair of new spurs. That was a graceful suggestion that the assembled guests should make no further tarrying, but provide themselves with their next dinner by means of a fresh raid. The son and heir of this worthy couple kept up his father's reputation by his forays, in one of which he was cap
tured by Sir Gilbert Murray, and only saved from hanging upon the suggestion from the Baron's more kindly dame, that young Scott was well-to-do and the Murrays had three unmarried daughters. The prisoner immediately signed, upon a drumhead, a contract to marry the ugliest of the three, "Mickle-mouthed Meg.” Their grandson, the great-grandfather of our Sir Walter, spent his energies for the banished Stuarts, instead of in lifting English cattle. Introduced in Marmion (Intro., Canto VI., 1.95)
“ With amber beard and flaxen hair,
And reverend apostolic air,'
he was called “Beardie" because, in token of his mourn. ing for the lost cause, he refused to employ a razor until Prince Charlie should come into his own again.
With him end the wild tales of adventure; for his son was a cheery sheep-farmer, and managed his cattle exchanges legitimately, while the next of line, Walter Scott, Senior, was a city man, a plodding and prudent writer to the Signet. This sensible and somewhat formal gentleman married Miss Anne Rutherford, the well-educated and warm-hearted daughter of a professor of medicine in Edinburgh University. She became the mother of twelve children, of whom five outlived early youth. Walter, the ninth, was born on the 15th of August, 1771, in a house at the head of old College Wynd in Edinburgh.
Contemporaries. Scott was one of the first great writers of that wonderful decade 1770-1779, which gave to the world Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Lamb, Landor, Campbell, and Moore; and which saw the death of
Gray and Goldsmith. It was the decade as well when poor Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette climbed the tottering French throne; when Frederick the Great was laying firmly the foundations of modern Prussia; when Warren Hastings was securing India for the Anglo-Saxon; and when John Hancock and the Adamses, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were launching our American Ship of State.
Childhood. — The baby soon proved to be delicate, and took his teething so hard that the resulting fever produced a lifelong lameness. So, as soon as he could toddle, he was sent to his grandfather at Sandy Knowe. The nurse, being ill-tempered to the verge of insanity, was soon discharged, and the child turned over in fair weather to the shepherds and a kindly old soldier-friend. He is pictured lying in the skin of a freshly killed sheep, on the turf among the lambs, gazing at the surrounding crags. Dryburgh Abbey, his final resting-place, fair Melrose, the stretch of Lammermoor, the purple Eildon peaks, and the distant Cheviot range, were stamped indelibly upon his inner vision. Sometimes he was forgotten, and once his aunt found the little one out in a thunder storm, clapping his hands at every flash, and shouting, “ Bonny, bonny !” He is described as a winsome bairn, with bright brown hair, merry yet determined light blue eyes, the somewhat conical forehead we know so well in his portraits, and the long upper lip and expansive mouth inherited from his great-great-greatgrandmother, Meg Murray. His expression was as sweet and spirited as his temper, showing the mingled depth