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SIR WALTER Scott was born at Edinburgh, on the 15th of August 1771. His father, Walter Scott, a writer to the Signet (an attorney), was a very worthy man, and had a respectable practice. He was related to many of the Border families of the name of Scott, and remotely descended from the house of Buccleuch. His mother, Anne Rutherford, was the daughter of an eminent physician in Edinburgh..

In his second year a weakness in one of his legs, which eventually terminated in permanent lameness, caused his removal to the country, where he resided with an aunt until about his eighth year. In 1778 he entered the High School of Edinburgh, where he remained till 1783, making considerable progress in learning, but in the ordinary tasks of a school evincing no superiority over others. Already, however, he displayed extraordinary precocity in those departments in which he was to become so famous. When but four years old a toy had less attraction for him than a Border ballad, and he had committed several to memory, which he was accustomed to recite with great enthusiasm. Before he was ten he had made a collection of several volumes of old ballads, and was famous among his schoolmates for his extraordinary gift of story-telling. “In the winter play-hours,” he says, “when hard exer




cise was impossible, my tales used to assemble an admiring audience round Lucky Brown's fireside, and happy was he that could sit next the inexhaustible narrator.”

He entered college in 1783, but as a student was rather idle, though a most industrious reader of miscellaneous literature. “My appetite for books,” he says of himself,

was as ample and indiscriminating as it was indefatigable. I waded into the stream like a blind man into a ford, without the power of searching my way, unless, by groping for it.” An illness between his twelfth and sixteenth years, interrupting his more regular studies, threw him for amusement upon whatever books he could reach ; and as he possessed a most capacious and retentive memory, he stored up a mass of curious knowledge which he afterwards turned to great account.

From 1786 to 1790 he acted as clerk in his father's office, and acquired there a freedom in the use of the pen and habits of application which were of essential service to him in his literary career. His appearance at this period is thus described: “He had outgrown the sallowness of early ill health, and had a fresh, brilliant complexion. His eyes were clear, open, and well set, with a changeful radiance, to which teeth of the most perfect regularity and whiteness lent their assistance, while the noble expanse and elevation of the brow gave to the whole aspect a dignity far above the charm of mere features. His figure, excepting the blemish in one limb, must in those days have been eminently handsome; tall, much above the usual standard, it was cast in the very mould of a young Hercules ; the head set on with singular grace, the throat and chest after the truest model of the antique, the hands delicately finished; the whole outline that of extraordinary vigour, without as yet a touch of clumsiness.” In July 1792, when not

enty-one years of age, he was called to the bar. His filial affection was displayed in the purchase


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with his first fee of a silver taper-stand for his mother. Though his practice was small, it continued to increase from year to year till he abandoned his profession, and became in 1806 a clerk of Session, an office of trust, with a salary of £800 a-year.

But Scott's mind was chiefly devoted to other objects than the legal profession. Antiquities, an old coin, a rusty broadsword, the hunting-horn of a Highland chief, old battle-fields, picturesque ballads, the history of an ancient family, possessed an attraction for him which less imaginative minds can scarcely understand. He would walk twenty miles, lame though he was, to see the ruins of an old fastness. No landscape, however lovely, was complete till he had discovered its historical associations ; and the barest, bleakest moor glowed with beauty as he listened to the story of the knights who had fought and bled on it. “ To me,” he writes, “ the wandering over the field of Bannockburn was the source of more exquisite pleasure than gazing upon the celebrated landscape from the battlements of Stirling Castle.” To trace out the lost verses of an old song, to discover the missing lines of a couplet, to pick up the curious phraseology of some venerable relict of a bygone age were to him labours of love. During seven successive years he made what he called a riad into Liddesdale, exploring all the valleys, familiarizing himself with the scenery and the manners of the people, and accommodating himself with singular success to every class, making himself equally at home in the minister's manse and beside the farmer's kitchen hearth. In these excursions he too frequently yielded to the rude sociality of the times, and indulged in deep potations. It was perhaps at the same period he acquired the use of those expletives which appear both in his letters and conversation when he was excited, and which are as contrary to good taste as right morality.

With his chivalric and knightly tastes it is not to be wondered at that his politics were thoroughly Tory, and almost Jacobite; indeed, he says of himself, when a young man, “ I took up my politics as King Charles did his religion, from an idea that the cavalier creed was the more gentleman-like of the two.” We are not sure but that Scott's religious profession had a similar origin. His parents were strict Presbyterians ; but Presbyterianism in Scottish history appears constantly as the opponent of those kings and nobles with whom all his sympathies were enlisted, and at an early period he joined the Episcopalian Church.

In 1797 Scott became quartermaster of a volunteer cavalry regiment designed to aid in repelling the French invasion which then threatened the country. His patriotism, intrepidity, ready wit, and good humour, contributed greatly to sustain the spirits of his companions in the daily drudgery of their drill.

In the summer of the same year he was married to Charlotte M. Carpenter, a young lady of French extraction, with whom he became acquainted at a wateringplace. The connection was a very happy one. They had a pleasant cottage at Lasswade, where they spent their summers, receiving their friends and enjoying themselves amid the delightful scenery of the neighbourhood. One who visited him at this period dwells on " the simple unostentatious elegance of the cottage, and the domestic picture which he there contemplated—a man of native kindness and cultivated talent, passing the intervals of a learned profession amidst scenes highly favourable to his poetic inspirations, not in churlish and rustic solitude, but in the daily exercise of the most precious sympathies as a husband, a father, and a friend.” He afterwards removed to Ashiestiel, on the banks of the Tweed, from which place many of his earlier poems are dated.


By the interest of the Duke of Buccleuch, whose friendship as the head of his clan he highly valued, he obtained the appointment of Sheriff of Selkirkshire, an office yielding £300 a-year, so that now with his wife's portion, which was considerable, he was in easy circumstances. But Scott had already begun to aspire to be the founder of a house which might occupy a station worthy of his ancient name ; and favouring circumstances concurred to stimulate his ambition.

While Scott was thus prospering in worldly circumstances, he was gradually entering upon those literary labours which were become the main business of his life. The wild legendary lore contained in the German tongue, having induced him to study that language, he translated Burger's benore, and the Wild Huntsman, which were published anonymously in a thin volume, in the year 1796. Contributions to Lewis' Tales of Terror (a work of little merit), were followed by a translation of Goethe's tragedy of the Iron Hand. The House of Aspen, written for the stage, but not published till 1829; Glenfinlas, the Eve of St John, the Gray Brother, and the Fire King, ballads which smack of the old Border spirit, were his next productions. It was the publication of the Border Minstrelsy, however, and of Sir Tristram, a poem by Sir Thomas the Rhymer, to which he added a supplement, that first attracted attention to him as an author. But in 1803 his real vocation began. A legend, designed to appear as a ballad, grew under his hands, till it became a poem of considerable size, and after being shewn in detached portions to his friends, was published in 1805, as the Lay of the Last Minstrel. Its popularity was immediate and extensive. Above 40,000 copies were disposed of before 1830. The impression made by it on literary men, we find noticed in the Life of Crabbe. He took it up in a bookseller's shop, and read it through at once,

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