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But these immense losses did not dishearten him. If he had been impru. dent in forming such connections, most nobly and courageously did he come forward, and insisted that he would not be dealt with as an ordinary bank. rupt, and pledged himself that the labor of his future life should be unre. mittingly devoted to the discharge of his debts.' He did more than fulfil his noble promise ; for the gigantic toil 10 which, during years after this, he submitted, was the immediate cause that shortened his life. His self. sacrifice realized for his creditors, between January, 1826, and January, 1828, the surprising sum of forty thousand pounds; and soon after his death the principal of the whole Ballantyne debt was paid up by his executors. Language fails to express the honor and glory of such an act of moral heroism and severe integrity. It has encircled the brow of Sir Walter Scott with greener laurels than all the works of poetry and fiction he ever wrote.2
In 1826, our author removed from Abbotsford to Edinburgh, and entered vigorously upon his renewed labors. “Woodstock,” the first and second series of the “Chronicles of the Canongate," " Anne of Geierstein," the first, second, and third series of " Tales of my Grandfather," the “Life of Napoleon," in nine volumes, octavo, followed in rapid succession. But these great labors were too much for him. In 1830, he had an attack of paralysis; yet he continued to write several hours every day. In April, 1831, he suffered a still more severe attack, and he was prevailed upon to undertake a foreign tour. He sailed for Malta and Naples, and resided at the latter place from December, 1831, to the following April. The next month he set his face towards home, and reached London on the 13th of
1. “It is very hard," was his observation to a friend on the occasion, “thus to lose all the labors of a lifetime, and be made a poor man at last, when I ought to have been otherwise. But if God grant me health and strength for a few years longer, I have no doubt that I shall redeem it all.”
English literature presents two memorable and striking events, which have never been paralleled in any other nation. The first is Milton, advanced in years, blind, and in misfortune, entering upon the composition of a great epic that was to determine his future fame, and hazard the glory of his country in competition with what had been achieved in the classic ages of antiquity. The counterpart to this noble picture is Walter Scott, at nearly the same age, his private afluirs in ruin, undertaking to liquidate, by intellectual labors alone, a debt of one hundred and seventeen thousand pounds. Both tasks may be classed with the moral sublime of life. Glory, pure and unsullied, was the ruling aim and motive of Milton; honor and integrity forined ihe incentives to Scott. Neither shrunk from the steady prosecution of his gigantic, self-imposed Jabor. But years rolled on, seasons returned and passed away, amidst public cares and private calamity, and the pressure of increasing infirmities, ere the seed sown amidst clouds and storms was white in the field. In six years Milton had realized the object of his hopes and prayers by the completion of • Paradise Lost. His task was done; the field of glory was gained; he held in his hand his passport to immortality. In six years Scott had nearly reached the goal of his ambition. He had ranged the wide fields of romance, and the public had liberally rewarded their illustrious favorite. The ultimate prize was within view, and the world cheered him on, eagerly anticipating bis triumph; but the victor sank exhausted on the course. He had spent his life in the struggle. The strong man was bowed down, and his living honor, genius, and integrity were extinguished by delirium and death."
June. He was conveyed to Abbotsford, the perfect wreck in body and mind of what he once was. “He lingered on for some time, listening oc. casionally to passages read to him from the Bible, and from his favorite author Crabbe. But the contest was soon to be over. About half-past one, P.M.," says Mr. Lockhart, “on the 21st of September, 1832, Sir Walter breathed his last, in the presence of all his children. It was a beautiful day-so warm that every window was wide open-and so perfectly still, that the sound of all others most delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around his bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes."
It now remains to speak of the character of the writings of this prolific and gifted genius. And here our own convictions of truth compel us to say that their moral tone is not all we could wish. Of his poetry, even a most partial biographer! admits, “If its moral tone is not high, it must be at least admitted that it is uniformly inoffensive." This last we cannot admit. Much of it is "offensive" to us, because it delights in scenes of carnage and blood; and this same biographer remarks that, "very few in any age or country have portrayed with such admirable force and fire the soldier's thirst for batile, and the headlong fury of the field of slaughter.”' Now the question is, is not such poetry destined to die? As the world advances in true humanity, as war is more and more looked upon as legalized murder, will not such poetry as tends to excite all the most hateful passions of the human breast be less and less esteemed! We think it will. Even the genius of a Scott cannot interest the world in the border wars of rival nations, nor in the fierce encounters of hostile clans, nor make the “spirit of chivalry” respectable in the minds of the world generally, nor otherwise than hateful to the Christian; a “spirit” which, as the great Dr. Arnold justly remarked, “predominantly deserved the name of Antichrist, and is the more detestable for the very guise of archangel ruined.” But his poetry, merely as poetry, without considering its moral bearing, takes by no means the highest rank. It skims over the surface-pleases us with its graphic descriptions-animates us by its lively measure-but goes not down into the depths of the soul, to call forth its deepest feelings or awaken its strongest sympathies.
His prose works have given him a higher rank. But it is only in the cha. racter of a novelist that his name will go down to posterity, as the inventor of a new class of fictitious writings. His Life of Napoleon is a decided fail. ure, not displaying the accurate research of the historian, nor the profundity of the philosopher, which was expected from one of such established fame. That his romances awaken a deep interest in the reader, none will deny : but they are characterized by two things that detract much from their merit, and which will be felt more as society advances in humanity. One is the ridicule cast, in a number of his novels, upon a class of men as devotedly religious as any that ever lived-the Scotch Covenanters of the last century: another is the tone of aristocratic hauteur that pervades them all. Though
1 “Encyclopædia Britannica," vol. xix. p. 777.
he draws faithful pictures of humble life, and seems to esteem their virtues, yet he considers them merely as the dependents of other men, and is silent on every other relation they can be supposed to hold. “He seems," says a discriminating critic, "to have never conceived the idea of a manly character in middle or humble life; and, in his novels, where an individual of these classes is introduced, he is never invested with any virtues, unless obedience, or even servility to superiors, be of the number."
THE LAST MINSTREL.1
The way was long, the wind was coll,
He pass d where Newark's? stately tower
· The “Lay of the Last Minstrel” consists of a tale in verse, supposed to be recited by a wandering minstrel who took refuge in the castle of Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representative of the ancient lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, Duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1685.
9 This is a massive square tower, now unroofed and ruinous, surrounded by an outward wall, defended by round flanking lurrets. It is most beautifully situated, about three miles from Selkirk, upon the banks of the Yarrow, a fierce and precipitous stream which unites with the Euricke about a mile beneath the castle. It was built by James II.
The minstrel gazed with wishful eye-
When kindness had his wants supplied,
The humble boon was soon obtain'd;
· Francis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father of the duchess.
9 Walter, Earl of Buccleuch, grandfather of the duchess, and a celebrated warrior.
And then, he said, he would full fain
DESCRIPTION OF MELROSE ABBEY.
If thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,