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under Professor Dalzell; and for the latter, once more, in 1784. But the only other class for which he seems to have matriculated at the College, was that of Logic, under Professor Bruce, in 1785. Although he may perhaps have attended other classes without matriculation, there is reason to believe that his irregular health produced a corresponding irregularity in his academical studies. The result, it is to be feared, was, that he entered life much in the condition of his illustrious prototype, the hard of Avon
-that is, "with a little Latin and less Greek." He had now given up the character of a student, with the intention of preparing himself for the bar, when he was overtaken by a severe illness; an account of which, and its important effects on his future character and course, he has thus given in the autobiographical chapter formerly referred to :
When boyhood advancing into youth required more serious studies and graver cares, a long illness threw me back on the kingdom of fiction, as if it were by a species of fatality. My indisposition arose, in part at least, from my having broken a blood-vessel; and motion and speech were for a long time pronounced positively dangerous. For several weeks I was confined strictly to bed, during which time I was not allowed to speak above a whisper, to eat more than a spoonful or two of boiled rice, or to have more covering than one thin counterpane. When the reader is informed that I was at this time a growing youth, with the spirits, appetite, and impatience of fifteen, and suffered, of course, greatly under this severe regimen, which the repeated return of my disorder rendered indispensable, he will not be surprised that I was abandoned to my own discretion, so far as reading (my almost sole amusement) was concerned, and still less so, that I abused the indulgence which left my time so much at my own disposal.
"There was at this time a circulating library at Edinburgh, founded, I believe, by the celebrated Allan Ramsay, which, besides containing a most respectable collection of books of every description, was, as might have been expected, peculiarly rich in works of fiction. It exhibited specimens of every kind, from
the romances of chivalry, and the ponderous folios of Cyrus and Cassandra, down to the most approved works of later times. I was plunged into this great ocean of reading without compass or pilot; and unless when some one had the charity to play at chess with me, I was allowed to do nothing save read, from morning to night. I was, in kindness and pity, which was perhaps erroneous, however natural, permitted to select my subjects of study at my own pleasure, upon the same principle that the humours of children are indulged to keep them out of mischief. As my taste and appetite were gratified in nothing else, I índemnified myself by becoming a glutton of books. Accordingly, I believe I read almost all the old romances, old plays, and epic poetry, in that formidable collection, and no doubt was unconsciously amassing materials for the task in which it has been my lot to be so much employed.
"At the same time, I did not in all respects abuse the license permitted me. Familiar acquaintance with the specious miracles of fiction brought with it some degree of satiety, and I began by degrees to seek in histories, memoirs, voyages and travels, and the like, events nearly as wonderful as those which were the work of the imagination, with the additional advantage that they were, at least, in a great measure true. The lapse of nearly two years, during which I was left to the service of my own free will, was followed by a temporary residence in the country, where I was again very lonely, but for the amusement which I derived from a good though old-fashioned library. The vague and wild use which I made of this advantage I cannot describe better than by referring my reader to the desultory studies of Waverley in a simílar situation; the passages concerning whose reading were imitated from recollections of my own."
His two years' residence in the country completely restored his health, and as it was necessary to pursue his studies for the bar, he attended the lectures of professor Dick on civil law, in the college, and performed the duties of a writer's apprentice under his father. In alluding to this period he says: "The Bevere studies necessary to render me fit for my profession, occupied the greatest part of my time, and the
society of my friends and companions, who were about to enter life along with me, filled up the interval with the usual amusements of young men. I was in a situation which rendered serious labour indispensable; for, neither possessing, on the one hand, any of those peculiar advantages which are supposed to favour a hasty advance in the profession of the law, nor being on the other hand exposed to unusual obstacles to interrupt my progress, I might reasonably expect to succeed according to the greater or less degree of trouble which I should take to qualify myself as a pleader."
On the 10th of July, 1792, when just on the point of completing his twenty-first year, he was called to the bar as an advocate, and enabled, by the affluence of his father, to begin life in an elegant house in a fashionable part of the town; but it was not his lot to acquire either wealth or distinction at the bar. The truth is, his mind was not yet emancipated from that enthusiastic pursuit of knowledge which had distinguished his youth. His necessities, were not so great as to make an exclusive application to his profession imperative; and he therefore seemed destined to join, what a sarcastic barrister has termed, "the ranks of the gentlemen who are not anxious for business." Although he could speak readily and fluently at the bar, his intellect was not at all of a forensic cast. He appeared to be too much of the abstract and unworldly scholar, to assume readily the habits of an adroit pleader; and, even although he had been perfectly competent to the duties, it is a question if his external aspect and general reputation would have permitted the generality of agents to intrust them to his hands.
At the time when Sir Walter entered public life, almost all the respectable part of the community were indignant at the hostile menaces of France; and numerous bodies of volunteer militia were consequently formed to meet the threatened invasion. In the beginning of 1797, the gentlemen of Mid-Lothian imitated the example, by imbodying themselves in a cavalry corps, under the name of the Royal MidLothian Regiment of Cavalry; and Mr Walter Scott had the honour to be appointed its adjutant, for which
office his lameness was considered no bar. He was a very zealous officer, and highly popular in the regiment, on account of his extreme good-humour and powers of social entertainment; and his appointment led to an intimacy with the most considerable man of his name, Henry, duke of Buccleuch, and Mr Henry Dundas, who was now one of his Majesty's secretaries of state, and a lively promoter of the scheme of national defence in Scotland. It was about this time that he became known amongst a few of his friends as a poet; and, in alluding to this period of his life, he has thus given an account of the circumstances which led him to cultivate poetry.
During the last ten years of the eighteenth century, the art of poetry was at a remarkably low ebb in Britain. Hayley, to whom fashion had some years before ascribed a higher degree of reputation than posterity has confirmed, had now ost his reputation for talent, though he still lived admired and respected as an amiable and accomplished man. The Bard of Memory slumbered on his laurels, and he of Hope had scarce begun to attract his share of public attention. Cowper, a poet of deep feeling and bright genius, was dead, and, even while alive, the hypochondria, which was his mental malady, impeded his popularity. Burns, whose genius our southern neighbours could hardly yet comprehend, had long confined himself to song-writing.
Mr Henry Mackenzie was the first to direct the attention of the Scottish literati to German literature, by a paper which he read to the Edinburgh Royal Society, in August, 1788. On this subject, Sir Wal
"The remarkable coincidence between the German language and that of the Lowland Scottish, encouraged young men to approach this newly discovered mine; a class was formed, of six or seven intimate friends, who proposed to make themselves acquainted with the German language. They were in the habit of living much together, and the time they spent in this study was felt as a period of great amusement. One source of this diversion was the laziness of one of their number, the present author, who, adverse to the necessary toils of grammar and its rules, was in
the practice of fighting his way to the knowledge of the German by his acquaintance with the Scottish and Anglo-Saxon dialects, and, of course, frequently committing blunders, which were not lost on his more accurate and more studious companions."
About this period-that is, in the year 1793 or 1794 Mrs Barbauld paid a visit to Edinburgh. She lived in the house of Professor Dugald Stewart, and one evening she astonished the family circle to a great degree, by reading aloud a translation of Burger's
Lenore," executed by Mr Taylor of Norwich. A friend who had heard it, told Sir alter what impression the recitation had occasioned, and repeated to him the rude but striking passage, descriptive of the supernatural speed of the ghostly horseman and his mistress:
"Tramp, tramp, along the land they rode,
Dost fear to ride with me?"
Inspired with a strong desire to see the original, Sir Walter, with great difficulty, obtained a copy from Germany, through the kind offices of Mrs Scott of Harden, who was a German by birth. "The perusal," says Sir Walter, "rather exceeded than disappointed the expectations which the report of Mr Stewart's family had induced me to form; and the book had only been a few hours in my possession, when I found myself giving an animated account of the poem to a friend, and rashly added a promise to furnish a copy in English ballad verse. I well recollect that I began my task after supper, and finished it about daybreak the next morning, (it consists of sixty-six stanzas,) by which time the ideas which the task had a tendency to summon up were rather of an unecmfortable character."
The young poet was so much pleased with his suceess on this occasion, as to attempt a few more translations from Burger, particularly of the poem entitled "Der Wilde Jager." "In the course of a few weeks," says he, "my own vanity, and the favourable opinion of my friends, interested by the revival of a species of poetry, containing a germ of popularity, of which, perhaps, they were not themselves aware,