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SIR
WALTER
SCOTT




FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES


_The following Volumes are now ready_--

THOMAS CARLYLE. By Hector C. Macpherson.
ALLAN RAMSAY. By Oliphant Smeaton.
HUGH MILLER. By W. Keith Leask.
JOHN KNOX. By A. Taylor Innes.
ROBERT BURNS. By Gabriel Setoun.
THE BALLADISTS. By John Geddie.
RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor Herkless.
SIR JAMES Y. SIMPSON. By Eve Blantyre Simpson.
THOMAS CHALMERS. By Professor W. Garden Blaikie.
JAMES BOSWELL. By W. Keith Leask.
TOBIAS SMOLLETT. By Oliphant Smeaton.
FLETCHER OF SALTOUN. By G. W. T. Omond.
THE BLACKWOOD GROUP. By Sir George Douglas.
NORMAN MACLEOD. By John Wellwood.
SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Professor Saintsbury.




[Illustration:

SIR WALTER
SCOTT

BY
GEORGE
SAINTSBURY

FAMOUS
SCOTS
SERIES

PUBLISHED BY
OLIPHANT ANDERSON
& FERRIER. EDINBURGH
AND LONDON

]

* * * * *

The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr. Joseph
Brown, and the printing from the press of Morrison & Gibb
Limited, Edinburgh.

_June 1897._

* * * * *




PREFACE


To the very probable remark that 'Another little book about Scott is not
wanted,' I can at least reply that apparently it is, inasmuch as the
publishers proposed this volume to me, not I to them. And I believe
that, as a matter of fact, no 'little book about Scott' has appeared
since the _Journal_ was completed, since the new and important
instalment of _Letters_ appeared (in both cases with invaluable
editorial apparatus by Mr. David Douglas), and especially since Mr.
Lang's _Lockhart_ was published. It is true that no one of these, nor
any other book that is likely to appear, has altered, or is likely to
alter, much in a sane estimate of Sir Walter. His own matchless
character and the genius of his first biographer combined to set before
the world early an idea, of which it is safe to say that nothing that
should lower it need be feared, and hardly anything to heighten it can
be reasonably hoped. But as fresh items of illustrative detail are made
public, there can be no harm in endeavouring to incorporate something of
what they give us in fresh abstracts and _aperçus_ from time to time.
And for the continued and, as far as space permits, detailed criticism
of the work, it may be pleaded that criticism of Scott has for many
years been chiefly general, while in criticism, even more than in other
things, generalities are deceptive.




CONTENTS

PAGE
CHAPTER I

LIFE TILL MARRIAGE 9


CHAPTER II

EARLY LITERARY WORK 20


CHAPTER III

THE VERSE ROMANCES 38


CHAPTER IV

THE NOVELS, FROM _WAVERLEY_ TO _REDGAUNTLET_ 69


CHAPTER V

THE DOWNFALL OF BALLANTYNE & COMPANY 104


CHAPTER VI

LAST WORKS AND DAYS 118


CHAPTER VII

CONCLUSION 139




SIR WALTER SCOTT




CHAPTER I

LIFE TILL MARRIAGE


Scott's own 'autobiographic fragment,' printed in Lockhart's first
volume, has made other accounts of his youth mostly superfluous, even to
a day which persists in knowing better about everything and everybody
than it or they knew about themselves. No one ever recorded his
genealogy more minutely, with greater pride, or with a more saving sense
of humour than Sir Walter. He was connected, though remotely, with
gentle families on both sides. That is to say, his great-grandfather was
son of the Laird of Raeburn, who was grandson of Walter Scott of Harden
and the 'Flower of Yarrow.' The great-grandson, 'Beardie,' acquired that
cognomen by letting his beard grow like General Dalziel, though for the
exile of James II., instead of the death of Charles I.--'whilk was the
waur reason,' as Sir Walter himself might have said.

Beardie's second son, being more thoroughly sickened of the sea in his
first voyage than Robinson Crusoe, took to farming and Whiggery, and
married the daughter of Haliburton of Newmains--there was also Macdougal
and Campbell blood on the spindle side of the older generations of the
family. Their eldest son Walter, father of Sir Walter, was born in 1729,
and, being bred to the law, became the original, according to undisputed
tradition, of the 'Saunders Fairford' of _Redgauntlet_, the most
autobiographical as well as not the least charming of the novels. He
married Anne Rutherford, who, through her mother, brought the blood of
the Swintons of Swinton to enrich the joint strain; and from her father,
a member of a family distinguished in the annals of the University of
Edinburgh, may have transmitted some of the love for books which was not
the most prominent feature of the other ingredients.

Walter himself was the third 'permanent child' (to adopt an agreeable
phrase of Mr. Traill's about another person) of a family of twelve, only
five of whom survived infancy. His three brothers, John, Thomas, and
Daniel, and his sister Anne, all figure in the records; but little is
heard of John and not much of Anne. Thomas, the second, either had, or
was thought by his indulgent brother to have, literary talents, and was
at one time put up to father the novels; while Daniel (whose misconduct
in money matters, and still more in showing the white feather, brought
on him the only display of anything that can be called rancour recorded
in Sir Walter's history) concerns us even less. The date of the
novelist's birth was 15th August 1771, the place, 'the top of the
College Wynd,' a locality now whelmed in the actual Chambers Street face
of the present Old University buildings, and near that of Kirk of Field.
Escaping the real or supposed dangers of a consumptive wet-nurse, he was
at first healthy enough; but teething or something else developed the
famous lameness, which at first seemed to threaten loss of all use of
the right leg. The child was sent to the house of his grandfather, the
Whig farmer of Sandyknowe, where he abode for some years under the
shadow of Smailholm Tower, reading a little, listening to Border legends
a great deal, and making one long journey to London and Bath. This first
blessed period of 'making himself'[1] lasted till his eighth year, and
ended with a course of sea-bathing at Prestonpans, where he met the
original in name and perhaps in nature of Captain Dalgetty, and the
original in character of the Antiquary. Then he returned (_circ._ 1779)
to his father's house, now in George Square, to his numerous, if
impermanent, family of brothers and sisters, and to the High School. The
most memorable incident of this part of his career is the famous episode
of 'Greenbreeks.'[2]

His health, as he grew up, becoming again weak, the boy was sent once
more Borderwards--this time to Kelso, where he lived with an aunt, went
to the town school, and made the acquaintance there, whether for good or
ill, who shall say? of the Ballantynes. And he had to return to Kelso
for the same cause, at least once during his experiences at College,
where he did not take the full usual number of courses, and acquired no
name as a scholar. But he always read.

As it had not been decided whether he was to adopt the superior or the
inferior branch of the law, he was apprenticed to his father at the age
of fifteen, as a useful preparation for either career. He naturally
enough did not love 'engrossing,' but he did not cross his father's soul
by refusing it, and though returns of illness occurred now and then, his
constitution appeared to be gradually strengthening itself, partly, as
he thought, owing to the habit of very long walks, in which he took
great delight. He tried various accomplishments; but he could neither
draw, nor make music, nor (at this time) write. Still he always
read--irregularly, uncritically, but enormously, so that to this day Sir
Walter's real learning is under-estimated. And he formed a very
noteworthy circle of friends--William Clerk, 'Darsie Latimer,' the chief
of them all. It must have been just after he entered his father's office
that he met Burns, during that poet's famous visit to Edinburgh in
1786-87.

Considerably less is known of his late youth and early manhood than
either of his childhood or of his later life. His letters--those
invaluable and unparalleled sources of biographical information--do not
begin till 1792, the year of his majority, when (on July 11) he was
called to the Bar. But it is a universal tradition that, in these years
of apprenticeship, in more senses than one, he, partly in gratifying his
own love of wandering, and partly in serving his father's business by
errands to clients, etc., did more than lay the foundation of that
unrivalled knowledge of Scotland, and of all classes in it, which plays
so important a part in his literary work. I say 'of all classes in it,'
and this point is of the greatest weight. Scott has been accused (for
the most part foolishly) of paying an exaggerated respect to rank. If
this had been true, it would at least not have been due to late or
imperfect acquaintance with persons of rank. Democratic as the Scotland
of this century has sometimes been called, it is not uncommon to find a
considerable respect for aristocracy in the greatest Scotch Radicals;
and Scott was notoriously not a Radical. But his familiarity with all
ranks from an early age is undoubted, and only very shallow or
prejudiced observers will doubt the beneficial effect which this had on
his study of humanity.[6] The uneasy caricature which mars Dickens's
picture of the upper, and even the upper middle, classes is as much
absent from his work as the complete want of familiarity with the lower
which appears, for instance, in Bulwer. It is certain that before he had
written anything, he was on familiar terms with many persons, both men
and women, of the highest rank--the most noteworthy among his feminine
correspondents being Lady Louisa Stuart (sister of the Marquis of Bute
and grand-daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu) and Lady Abercorn.



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