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OF THE AMERICAN PUBLISHERS.
THE present reprint is from the latest Edinburgh edition, and comprises the whole of SIR WALTER SCOTT'S POETRY, with numerous additional notes, and the latest Prefaces of the Author.
In order to render the work complete, all the pieces of the Author embraced in the "BORDER MINSTRELSY" have been added to this collection, and will be found at the end of the first volume.
The publishers issue the edition under the conviction that there exists not only the ability, but the inclination, in this country, to encourage the production of valuable works in a form and manner superior to those of the compressed editions now extensively circulated: they therefore present this superior edition, with a hope that its success will warrant the issue of other standard works in the same style.
[THE INTRODUCTION to The Lay of the Last Minstrel, written in April, 1830, was revised by the author in the autumn of 1831, when he also made some corrections in the text of the poem, and several additions to the notes. The work is now printed from his interleaved copy.-ED.]
LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
A POEM of nearly thirty years' standing may be supposed hardly to need an Introduction, since, without one, it has been able to keep itself afloat through the best part of a generation. Nevertheless, as, in the edition of the Waverley Novels now in course of publication, I have imposed on myself the task of saying something concerning the purpose and history of each, in their turn, I am desirous that the Poems for which I first received some marks of the public favour, should also be accompanied with such scraps of their literary history as may be supposed to carry interest along with them. Even if I should be mistaken in thinking that the secret history of what was once so popular, may still attract public attention and curiosity, it seems to me not without its use to record the manner and circumstances under which the present, and other Poems on the same plan, attained for a season an extensive reputation.
I must resume the story of my literary labours at the period at which I broke off in the Essay on the Imitation of Popular Poetry, when I had enjoyed the first gleam of public favour, by the success of the first edition of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. The second edition of that work, published in 1803, proved,
in the language of the trade, rather a heavy concern. The demand in Scotland had been supplied by the first edition, and the curiosity of the English was not much awakened by poems in the rude garb of antiquity, accompanied with notes referring to the obscure feuds of barbarous clans, of whose very names civilized history was ignorant. It was, on the whole, one of those books which are more praised than they are read.
At this time I stood personally in a different position from that which I occupied when I first dipt my desperate pen in ink for other purposes than those of my profession. In 1796, when I first published the translations from Bürger, I was an insulated individual, with only my own wants to provide for, and having, in a great measure, my own inclinations alone to consult. In 1803, when the second edition of the Minstrelsy appeared, I had arrived at a period of life when men, however thoughtless, encounter duties and circumstances which press consideration and plans of life upon the most careless minds. I had been for some time married -was the father of a rising family, and, though fully enabled to meet the consequent demands upon me, it was my duty and desire to place myself in a situation which would enable me to make honourable provision against the various contingencies of life.
It may be readily supposed that the attempts which I had made in literature had been unfavourable to my success at the bar. The goddess Themis is, at Edinburgh, and I suppose everywhere else, of a peculiarly jealous disposition. She will not readily consent to share her authority, and sternly demands from her votaries, not only that real duty be carefully attended to and discharged, but that a certain air of business