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urged me to the decisive step of sending a selection, at least, of my translations to the press, to save the numerous applications which were made for copies. When was an author deaf to such a recommendation? In 1796, the present author was prevailed on, by request of friends, to indulge his own vanity, by publishing the translation of Lenore,' with that of The Wild Huntsman,' in a thin quarto.
of this, my first publication, was by no means flattering. I distributed so many copies among my friends, as materially to interfere with the sale; and the num ber of translations which appeared in England about the same time, including that of Mr Taylor, to whom I had been so much indebted, and which was published in the Monthly Magazine, were sufficient to exclude a provincial writer from competition. In a word, my adventure proved a dead loss; and a great part of the edition was condemned to the service of the trunkmaker." This failure, instead of disposing the new-fledged bard to retire from the field of letters, rather tempted him to proceed, in order "to show the world that it had neglected something worth notice." He pursued the German language keenly, procured more books in that language from their native country, and extended his views to the dramatic authors, so that early in 1799, he published "Goetz of Berlichingen, a tragedy translated from Goethe."
The next efforts of Sir Walter Scott were of higher promise and power, but still they were as much antiquarian as poetical; we allude to his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," and his "Sir Tristrem." The vein of poetry was by this time discovered, and the request of Monk Lewis to contribute to his Tales of Wonder, soon determined Scott's career. "Glenfinlas," "The Baron of Smaylhome," and "The FireKing," were the gems of the book; and poor Lewis, then at the head of the ballad school of diablerie, found himself in the predicament of a sorcerer who has evoked a demon so much more powerful than himself as to deprive him of his wand. From that period the destiny of Sir Walter Scott was fixed-he set up, to use his own words, like a hawker, on the strength of a couple of ballads.
On Christmas eve, 1797, Sir Walter was married to Miss Margaret Carpenter, daughter of the deceased John Carpenter, Esq., of the city of Lyons, a gentleman who had fallen a victim to the excesses of the French revolution. Soon after his marriage, he established himself, during the vacations, in a delightful retreat at Laswade, on the banks of the Esk, about five miles to the south of Edinburgh.
For some years before the end of the century, Sir Walter had been in the habit of making, periodically, what he called "raids" into Liddesdale, for the purpose of collecting the ballad poetry of that romantic and most primitive district. He travelled thither, from Roxburghshire, in an old gig, which also contained his early friend and local guide, Mr Robert Shortreed of Jedburgh, sheriff-substitute of the county. Introduced by this gentleman, Sir Walter paid visits to many of the farmers and small proprietors, among whom, or among their retainers, he picked up several capital specimens of the popular poetry of the district, descriptive of adventures of renown which took place in the days of yore, besides impressing his mind with that perception of the character of the people, which he afterwards imbodied in his Dandie Dinmont. Mr Shortreed, who was a most intelligent person, used to relate an amusing anecdote, illustrative of the shy manners of this sequestered race. On visiting a particular person, whose name and place of residence are sufficiently indicated by his usual designation of "Willie o' Milburn," the honest farmer was from home, but returned while Sir Walter was tying up his horse in the stable. On being told by Mr Shortreed that an Edinburgh advocate was come to see him, he expressed great alarm, and even terror, as to the character of his visitor,-the old fear of the law being still so very rife in Liddesdale as even to extend to the simple person of any of its administrators. What idea Willie had formed of an Edinburgh barrister cannot exactly be defined; but, having gone out to reconnoitre, he soon after came back with a countenance of so mirthful a cast as evidently bespoke a relieved mind. Is yon the advocate ?" he inquired of Mr Shortreed. "Yes, Willie," answered that gentleman. "Deil o' me's feared for them,
then," cried the farmer; "yon's just a chield like oursells!"
It was not alone necessary on such occasions to write down old ballads from recitation, but to store up the materials of notes by which the ballads themselves might be illustrated. On this account Scott visited many scenes alluded to in the metrical narratives, and opened his ear to all the local anecdotes and legends which were handed down by the peasantry. He had a most peculiar, and even mysterious mode of committing these to memory. He used neither pencil nor pen, but seizing upon any twig or piece of wood which he could find, marked it by means of a clasp-knife, with various notches, representing particular ideas in his own mind; and these afterwards were strung up before him in his study at home, like the nick-sticks over a baker's desk, or the string-alphabet of a blind man. He seemed to have invented this algebraic system of memorandum-making for his own use; and, to all appearance, was as conversant with its mysteries as he could be with the more common accomplishment of writing. When his own pockets were inconveniently stuffed with notes, he would request Mr Shortreed to take charge of a few; and often that gentleman has discharged as much timber from his various integuments, as, to use his own phrase, quoted from Burns, might have mended a mill. The truth is, Sir Walter was blessed with a memory of extraordinary power, so that a very slight notation was necessary to bring to his recollection anything he had ever heard. The collections of Scott in Liddesdale, joined to various contributions from reciters in other parts of the country, formed his first publication of note, the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. This work which was issued in 1802, displayed a vast quantity of curious and abstruse learning; and, in particular, a most intimate acquaintance with a district of Scotland which had hitherto received hardly any attention either from the historian or the antiquary. Previous to this period-in December, 1799 he had been appointed sheriff of Selkirk shire, an office which rendered it necessary that he should reside a certain part of the year in Selkirkshire; and he therefore engaged the house of Ashie
steil, on the banks of the Tweed, which continued to be his country residence till he removed to Abbotsford. In 1804, Mr Scott increased his reputation as a literary antiquary, by publishing the ancient minstrel tale of "Sir Tristrem," which he showed, in a learned disquisition, to have been composed by Thomas of Ercildoune, commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, who flourished in the thirteenth century. By this publication, it was established that the earfiest existing poem in the English language was written by a native of the Lowlands of Scotland.
But for the ensuing circumstances of the poet's life, it will be best to resort to his own narrative, introductory to a late edition of the Lay of the Last Minstrel.
The history of the rise and progress of this poem, the author has himself thus related :
"The lovely young countess of Dalkeith, afterwards Harriet, duchess of Buccleuch, had come to the land of her husband, with the desire of making herself acquainted with its traditions and customs. She soon heard enough of Border lore: among others, an aged gentleman of property, near Langholm, (Mr Stoddart,) communicated to her ladyship the story of Gilpin Horner, a tradition in which the narrator, and many more of that county, were firm believers. The young countess, much delighted with the legend, and the gravity and full confidence with which it was told, enjoined it on me as a task to compose a ballad on the subject. Of course, to hear was to obey; and thus the goblin story, objected to by several crities as an excrescence upon the poem, was in fact, the occasion of its being written.
"It was, to the best of my recollection, more than a year after Mr Stoddart's visit, that, by way of experiment, I composed the first two or three stanzas of The Lay of the Last Minstrel.' I was shortly afterwards visited by two intimate friends, whom I was in the habit of consulting on my attempts at composition, having equal confidence in their sound taste and friendly sincerity. In this specimen I had, in the phrase of the Highland servant, packed all that was my own, at least, for I had also included a line of invocation, a little softened, from Coleridge
'Mary, mother, shield us well!
As neither of my friends said much to me on the subject of the stanzas I showed them before their departure, I had no doubt that their disgust had been greater than their good nature chose to express. Looking upon them, therefore, as a failure, I threw the manuscript into the fire, and thought as little more as I could of the matter. Some time afterwards, I met one of my two counsellors, who inquired, with considerable appearance of interest, about the progress of the romance I had commenced, and was greatly surprised at learning its fate. He confessed that neither he nor our mutual friend had been at first able to give a precise opinion on a poem so much out of the common road; but that as they walked home together to the city, they had talked much on the subject, and the result was an earnest desire that I would proceed with the composition.
"The poem, being once licensed by the critics as fit for the market, was soon finished, proceeding at about the rate of a canto per week. There was, indeed, little occasion for pause or hesitation, when a troublesome rhyme might be accommodated by an alteration of the stanza, or where an incorrect measure might be remedied by a variation of the rhyme.
It was finally published in 1805, and may be regarded as the first work in which the writer, who has been since so voluminous, laid his claim to be considered as an original author."
During the year 1806, Sir Walter collected his original compositions in the ballad style into a small volume, which he published under the title of "Ballads and Lyrical Pieces." In 1808, he published his second poem of magnitude, Marmion," in which, we are informed by himself, he took great pains, and was disposed to take still more, if the distresses of a friend had not "rendered it convenient at least, if not necessary, to hasten its publication. By good fortune," says Sir Walter, "the novelty of the subject, and, if I may say so, some force and vivacity of description, were allowed to atone for many imperfections. Thus, the second experiment was, in my case, decidedly successful."