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ployment, 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. 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 favorite 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
"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; you shall see no change in my temper, nor will I eat a single meal the worse. succeed,
Up with the bonnie blue bonnet,
But if I
The dirk, and the feather, and a'!'''
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 retraction of her unfavorable 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 canvas, improves any favorable 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 fieldsports, which we often pursued together.
As this friend happened to dine with me at Ashesteil one day, I took the opportunity of eading 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 favorable 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 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 dénouement 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 producin 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 whee. of Fortune, whose stability in behalf of an individual who has so boldly courted her favors 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