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apprentice to his father, in whose chambers he continued to discharge the humble duties of a clerk, until, about the year 1790, he had, with his father's approbation, finally resolved on coming to the bar. Of the amount of the young poet's professional industry during those years of servitude we possess conflicting representations; but many circumstances in his habits, many peculiarities in the knowledge he exhibits incidently in his works, and perhaps even much of his resolute literary industry, may be safely referred to the period of his apprenticeship, and be admitted as evidence that at all events he was not systematically negligent of his duties. Historical and imaginative reading, however, continued to be prosecuted with undiminished ardour; summer excursions into the Highlands introduced him to the scenes and to more than one of the characters, which afterwards figured in his most successful works; while in the law-classes of the university, as well as in the juvenile debating societies, he formed, or renewed from his school-days, acquaintance with several who became in manhood his cherished friends and his literary advisers. In 1791 the Speculative Society made him acquainted with Mr Jeffrey and those other young men whose subsequent celebrity has reflected lustre on the arena of their early training.
Scott's attempts in poetry had now become more ambitious; for, about the completion of his fifteenth year, he is said to have composed a poem in four books on the Conquest of Granada, which, however, he almost immediately burned, and no trace of it has been preserved. During some years after this time, we hear of no other literary compositions than essays for the debating societies.
In July 1792 he was called to the bar. Immediately after his first circuit, he commenced that series of "raids," as he playfully called them, or excursions into the secluded borderdistricts, which in a few years enabled him to amass the materials for his first considerable work. His walks on the boards of the Parliament House, the Westminster Hall of Scotland, if they gained him for a time few professional fees, speedily procured him renown among his fellow-lawyers as a story-teller of high excellence; his father's connexions and his own friendships opened for him a ready admission into the best society of the city, in which his cheerful temper and his rich store of anecdotes made him universally popular; and his German studies produced, in 1796, his earliest poetical efforts that were published, namely, the translations of Burger's ballads, Lenora, and the Wild Huntsman. The same year witnessed the disappointment of a long and fondly-cherished hope, by the marriage of a young lady, whose image, notwithstanding, clung to his memory through life, and inspired some of the tenderest strains of his poetry. In the summer of 1797, however, on a visit to the watering-place of Gilsland, in Cum
berland, he became acquainted with Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, a young lady of French birth and parentage, and a mutual attachment having ensued, they were married at Carlisle in December of the same year.
The German ballads served as the translator's introduction to the then celebrated Matthew Gregory Lewis, who enlisted him as a contributor to his poetical Tales of Wonder; and one cannot now but smile to hear of the elation with which the author of Waverley at that time contemplated the patronising kindness extended to him by the author of The Monk. Early in 1788 was published Scott's translation of Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen, which, through Lewis's assistance, was sold to a London bookseller for twenty-five guineas; but, though favourably criticised, it was coldly received by the public. In the summer of 1799, the poet wrote those ballads which he has himself called his "first serious attempts in verse;" the Glenfinlas, the Eve of St John, and the Grey Brother.
After Scott's marriage, several of his summers were spent in a pretty cottage at Lasswade, near Edinburgh, where he formed, besides other acquaintances, those of the noble houses of Melville and Buccleuch, whose influence procured for him, in the end of 1799, his appointment as sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire, an office imposing little duty, while it yielded a permanent salary of £300 per annum. His father's death had recently bestowed on him a small patrimony; his wife had an income considerable enough to aid him greatly; his practice as a lawyer yielded, though not much, yet more than barristers of his standing can usually boast of; and, altogether, his situation in life was strikingly favourable compared with that of most literary men. Still, however, though now twenty-eight years of age, he had done nothing to found a reputation as a man of letters; and there appeared as yet little probability that he would devote himself to literature as a profession, or consider it as any thing more than a relaxation for those leisure hours left unoccupied by business, and by the enjoyments of society.
In 1800 and 1801 those hours were employed in the preparation of the Border Minstrelsy, the first two volumes of which appeared in the beginning of the next year, and the edition, consisting of eight hundred copies, was sold off before its close. This work, the earliest which can be said to have contributed to his general fame, yielded him about eighty pounds of clear profit; a sum far inadequate to defray the expense of the investigations out of which it sprang. In 1803 it was completed by the publication of the third volume. Besides the value which the Minstrelsy possesses in itself, in the noble antique ballads, so industriously, tastefully, and yet conscientiously edited, in the curious and lively information which overflows through all the prose annotations, and in those few original poems which gave the earliest and most
significant intimation of that genius which as yet had lurked unseen, the work has now a separate value and interest, as forming the most curious of all illustrations for the history of its editor's mind and of his subsequent works. "One of the critics of that day," remarks Mr Lockhart, "said that the book contained 'the elements of a hundred historical romances ;' and this critic was a prophetic one. No person who has not gone through its volumes for the express purpose of comparing their contents with his great original works, can have formed a conception of the endless variety of incidents and images, now expanded and emblazoned by his mature art, of which the first hints may be found either in the text of those primitive ballads, or in the notes which the happy rambles of his youth had gathered together for their illustration."
But before the publication of the Border Minstrelsy, the poet had begun to attempt a higher flight. "In the third volume," says he, writing to his friend George Ellis in 1803, "I intend to publish a long poem of my own. It will be a kind of romance of border chivalry, in a light-horseman sort of stanza." This border romance was the Lay of the Last Minstrel, which, however, soon extended in plan and dimensions, and, originating as a ballad on a goblin story, became at length a long and varied poem. The first draught of it, in its present shape, was written in the autumn of 1802, and the whole history of its progress has been delightfully told by the author himself, and is well illustrated by his biographer.
In 1803, during a visit to London, Scott, already familiarly acquainted with Ellis, Heber, and other literary men, and now possessing high reputation based upon the Minstrelsy, was introduced to several of the first men of the time; and thenceforth, bland as he was in manner, and kind in heart, indefatigable and successful in his study of human character, and always willing to receive with cordiality the strangers whom his waxing fame brought about him, it is not surprising to find, that not to know personally Walter Scott, argued one's self unknown. The toleration and kindliness of his character are illustrated by the fact, that firm as his own political opinions were, and violently as excitement sometimes led him to express them, not only did he always continue on friendly terms with the chief men of the opposite party in Edinburgh, but several of them were his intimate friends and associates; and he even was for some years an occasional contributor to the Edinburgh Review.
In 1804 was published his edition of the ancient poem of Sir Tristrem, so valuable for its learned dissertations, and for that admirable imitation of the antique, which appears as a continuation of the early minstrel's work.
During that year and the preceding, the Lay was freely submitted to all the author's friends, Wordsworth and Jeffrey among the rest; and after undergcing various changes, and
receiving enthusiastic approval in several quarters from which commendation was wont to issue but sparingly, it was at length published, in the first week of 1805. The poet, now thirtythree years of age, took his place at once as a classic in English literature. Its circulation immediately became immense, and has since exceeded that of any other English poem.
At this culminating point of the poet's life, we must turn aside from the narrative of his literary triumphs, to notice a step of another kind, which proved the most important he ever took. In one of those interesting communications of 1830, which throw so much light on his personal history, he has told us, that from the moment when it became certain that literature was to form the principal employment of his days, he determined that it should at least not constitute a necessary source of his income. Few literary men, perhaps, have not nourished a wish of this sort; but very few indeed have possessed, like Scott, the means of converting the desire into an effectual resolution. In 1805, as his biographer tells us, he was, "independently of practice at the bar and of literary profits, in possession of a fixed revenue of nearly, if not quite, £1000 a year." To most men of letters this income would have appeared affluence; but Scott has frankly avowed, that he did not think it such. His mind was already filled with the ambition, not of founding a new family (for that was too mean an aim for his pride of birth to stoop to), but of adding to his own ancestral pretensions that claim to respect which ancient pedigree does not always possess when it stands alone, but which belongs to it beyond challenge when it is united with territorial possessions. The fame of a great poet, now within his reach, if not already grasped, seemed to him a little thing, compared with the dignity of a well-descended and wealthy Scottish landholder; and, while neither he nor his friends could yet have foreseen the immensity of those resources which his genius was afterwards to place at his disposal for the attainment of his favourite wish, two plans occurred and were executed, which promised to conduct him far at least towards the goal.
The first of these was the obtaining of one of the principal clerkships in the Scottish Court of Session, offices of high respectability, the duties of which were executed at a moderate cost of time and trouble, and remunerated at that time by an income of about £800 a year, which was afterwards increased to £1300. This object was attained early in 1806, through his ministerial influence, aided by the consideration paid to his talents; although, owing to a private arrangement with his predecessor, he did not receive any part of the emoluments till six years later.
The second plan was of a different sort, being in fact a commercial speculation. James Ballantyne, a schoolfellow of Scott, a man possessing considerable literary talent, having
become the editor and printer of a newspaper in Kelso, had been employed to print the Minstrelsy, and acquired great reputation by the elegance with which that work was produced. Soon afterwards, in pursuance of Scott's advice, he removed to Edinburgh, where, under the patronage of the poet and his friends, and assisted by his own character and skill, his printing business accumulated to an extent which his capital, even with pecuniary aid from Scott, proved inadequate to sustain. An application for a new loan was met by a refusal, accompanied, however, by a proposal, that Scott should make a large advance, on condition of being admitted as a partner in the firm, to the amount of a third share. Accordingly, in May 1805, Walter Scott became regularly a partner of the printinghouse of James Ballantyne and Company, though the fact remained for the public, and for all his friends but one, a profound secret. "The forming of this commercial connexion was," says his son-in-law, "one of the most important steps in Scott's life. He continued bound by it during twenty years, and its influence on his literary exertions and his worldly fortunes was productive of much good and not a little evil. Its effects were in truth so mixed and balanced during the vicissitudes of a long and vigorous career, that I at this moment doubt whether it ought, on the whole, to be considered with more of satisfaction or of regret."
From this time we are to view Scott as incessantly engaged in that memorable course of literary industry whose toils advancing years served only to augment, and from which neither the duties of his two professional offices of clerk of session and sheriff, nor the increasing claims made on him by society, were ever able to divert him. He now stood deservedly high in the favour of the booksellers, not merely as a poet and man of genius, but as one possessed of an extraordinary mass of information, and of such habits as qualified him eminently for turning his knowledge to account. He was therefore soon embarked in undertakings, not indeed altogether inglorious, but involving an amount of drudgery to which, perhaps, no man of equal original genius has ever condescended. The earliest of these was his edition of Dryden, which, entered upon in 1805, was completed and published in 1808.
But the list of works in which his poetical genius shone forth, continued rapidly to increase amidst his multiplicity of other avocations. From the summer of 1804 till that of 1812, the spring and autumnal vacations of the court were spent by nim and his family at Ashestiel, a small mansion romantically overhanging the Tweed some miles above Melrose, and rented from one of the poet's kinsmen. In this beautiful retreat, at intervals during twelve months, was chiefly composed the magnificent poem of Marmion, which was published in the beginning of 1808. At the same place, likewise, in 1805, were composed the opening chapters of a novel which, on the dis