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With
the former the correspondence is always on the footing of mere though
close friendship, literary and other; in part at least of that with Lady
Abercorn, I cannot help suspecting the presence, especially on the
lady's side, of that feeling,

'Too warm for friendship and too pure for love,'

which undoubtedly sometimes does exist between men and women who cannot,
and perhaps who would not if they could, turn love into marriage.

However this may be, it is, let it be repeated, certain that Scott, in
the six years from his fifteenth, when he is said to have first visited
the Highlands and seen Rob Roy's country, to his majority, and yet again
in the five or six between his call to the Bar and his marriage, visited
many, if not all, parts of Scotland; knew high and low, rich and poor,
with the amiable interest of his temperament and the keen observation of
his genius; took part in business and amusement and conviviality (he
accuses himself later of having been not quite free from the prevalent
peccadillo of rather deep drinking); and still and always _read_. He
joined the 'Speculative Society' in January 1791, and, besides taking
part in the debates on general subjects, read papers on Feudalism,
Ossian, and Northern Mythology, in what were to be his more special
lines.

His young lawyer friends called him 'Colonel Grogg,' a _sobriquet_ not
difficult to interpret on one of the hints just given, and 'Duns
Scotus,' which concerns the other; while yet a third characteristic,
which can surprise nobody, is indicated in the famous introduction of
him to a boisterous party of midshipmen of the Marryat type by James
Clerk, the brother of Darsie Latimer, who kept a yacht, and was fond of
the sea: 'You may take Mr. Scott for a poor _lamiter_, gentlemen, but he
is the first to begin a row and the last to end it.'

It appears that it was from a time somewhat before the call that the
beginning of Scott's famous, his unfortunate, and (it has been the
fashion, rightly or wrongly, to add) his only love affair dates. Some
persons have taken the trouble to piece together and eke out the
references to 'Green Mantle,' otherwise Miss Stuart of Belches, later
Lady Forbes. It is better to respect Scott's own reticence on a subject
of which very little is really known, and of which he, like most
gentlemen, preferred to say little or nothing. The affection appears to
have been mutual; but the lady was probably not very eager to incur
family displeasure by making a match decidedly below her in rank, and,
at that time, distinctly imprudent in point of fortune. But the
courtship, such as it was, appears to have been long, and the effects of
the loss indelible. Scott speaks of his heart as 'handsomely
pieced'--'pieced,' it may be observed, not 'healed.' A healed wound
sometimes does not show; a pieced garment or article of furniture
reminds us of the piecing till the day when it goes to fire or dustbin.
But it has been supposed, with some reason, that those heroines of
Scott's who show most touch of personal sympathy--Catherine Seyton, Die
Vernon, Lilias Redgauntlet--bear features, physical or mental or both,
of this Astarte, this

'Lost woman of his youth, yet unpossessed.'

And no one can read the _Diary_ without perceiving the strange
bitter-sweet, at the moment of his greatest calamity, of the fact that
Sir William Forbes, who rendered him invaluable service at his greatest
need, was his successful rival thirty years before, and the widower of
'Green Mantle.'

This affair came to an end in October 1796; and it may astonish some
wise people, accustomed to regard Scott as a rather humdrum and prosaic
person, who escaped the scandals so often associated with the memory of
men of letters from sheer want of temptation, to hear that one of his
most intimate friends of his own age at the time 'shuddered at the
violence of his most irritable and ungovernable mind.' There is no
reason to doubt the fidelity of this description. And those who know
something of human nature will be disposed to assign the disappearance
of the irritableness and ungovernableness precisely to this incident,
and to the working of a strong mind, confronted by fate with the
question whether it was to be the victim or the master of its own
passions, fighting out the battle once for all, and thenceforward
keeping its house armed against them, it may be with some loss, but
certainly with much gain.

It has been said that he states (with a touch of irony, no doubt) that
his heart was 'handsomely pieced'; and it is not against the theory
hinted in the foregoing paragraph, but, on the contrary, in favour of
it, that the piecing did not take long. In exactly a year Scott became
engaged to Miss Charlotte Margaret Carpenter or Charpentier,[4] and they
were married on Christmas Eve, 1797, at St. Mary's, Carlisle. They had
met at Gilsland Spa in the previous July, and the courtship had not
taken very long. The lady was of French extraction, had an only brother
in the service of the East India Company, and, being an orphan, was the
ward of the Marquis of Downshire,--circumstances on which gossips like
Hogg made impertinent remarks. It is fair, however, to 'the Shepherd' to
say that he speaks enthusiastically both of Mrs. Scott's appearance
('one of the most beautiful and handsome creatures I ever saw in my
life'; 'a perfect beauty') and of her character ('she is cradled in my
remembrance, and ever shall be, as a sweet, kind, and affectionate
creature').[5] She was very dark, small, with hair which the Shepherd
calls black, Lockhart dark brown; her features not regular, but her
complexion, figure, and so forth 'unusually attractive.' Not very much
is said about her in any of the authentic accounts, and traditional
tittle-tattle may be neglected. She does not seem to have been extremely
wise, and was entirely unliterary; but neither of these defects is a
_causa redhibitionis_ in marriage; and she was certainly a faithful and
affectionate wife. At any rate, Scott made no complaints, if he had any
to make, and nearly the most touching passage in the _Diary_ is that
written after her death.

The minor incidents, not literary, of his life, between his call to the
Bar and his marriage, require a little notice, for they had a very great
influence on the character of his future work. His success at the Bar
was moderate, but his fees increased steadily if slowly. He defended
(unsuccessfully) a Galloway minister who was accused among other counts
of 'toying with a sweetie-wife,' and it is interesting to find in his
defence some casuistry about _ebrius_ and _ebriosus_, which reminds one
of the Baron of Bradwardine. He took part victoriously in a series of
battles with sticks, between Loyalist advocates and writers and Irish
Jacobin medical students, in the pit of the Edinburgh theatre during
April 1794. In June 1795 he became a curator of the Advocates' Library,
and a year later engaged (of course on the loyal side) in another great
political 'row,' this time in the streets.

Above all, in the spring and summer between the loss of his love and his
marriage, he engaged eagerly in volunteering, becoming quartermaster,
paymaster, secretary, and captain in the Edinburgh Light Horse--an
occupation which has left at least as much impression on his work as
Gibbon's equally famous connection with the Hampshire Militia on his.
His friendships continued and multiplied; and he began with the sisters
of some of his friends, especially Miss Cranstoun (his chief confidante
in the 'Green Mantle' business) and Miss Erskine, the first, or the
first known to us, of those interesting correspondences with ladies
which show him perhaps at his very best. For in them he plays neither
jack-pudding, nor coxcomb, nor sentimentalist, nor any of the
involuntary counterparts which men in such cases are too apt to play;
and they form not the least of his titles to the great name of
gentleman.

But by far the most important contribution of these six or seven years
to his 'making' was the further acquaintance with the scenery, and
customs, and traditions, and dialects, and local history of his own
country, which his greater independence, enlarged circle of friends, and
somewhat increased means enabled him to acquire. It is quite true that
to a man with his gifts any microcosm will do for a macrocosm in
miniature. I have heard in conversation (I forget whether it is in any
of the books) that he picked up the word 'whomled' (= 'bucketed
over'--'turned like a tub'), which adds so much to the description of
the nautical misfortune of Claud Halcro and Triptolemus in _The Pirate_,
by overhearing it from a scold in the Grassmarket. But still the
enlarged experience could not but be of the utmost value. It was during
these years that he saw Glamis Castle in its unspoiled state, during
these that, in connection with the case of the unfortunate but rather
happily named devotee of Bacchus and Venus, M'Naught, he explored
Galloway, and obtained the decorations and scenery, if not the story, of
_Guy Mannering_. He also repeated his visits to the English side of the
Border, not merely on the occasion during which he met Miss Carpenter,
but earlier, in a second excursion to Northumberland.

But, above all, these were the years of his famous 'raids' into
Liddesdale, then one of the most inaccessible districts of Scotland,
under the guidance of Mr. Shortreed of Jedburgh--raids which completed
the information for _Guy Mannering_, which gave him much of the material
for the _Minstrelsy_, and the history of which has, I think, delighted
every one of his readers and biographers, except one or two who have
been scandalised at the exquisite story of the Arrival of the Keg.[3] Of
these let us not speak, but, regarding them with a tender pity not
unmixed with wonder, pass to the beginnings of his actual literary life
and to the history of his early married years. The literature a little
preceded the life; but the life certainly determined the growth of the
literature.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] His friend Shortreed's well-known expression for the results of the
later Liddesdale 'raids.'

[2] See General Preface to the Novels, or Lockhart, i.



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