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Thus readers of his life are drawn more especially either to
sorrow for his calamities, or to admiration of this stoutest of all
hearts set to nearly the stiffest of all hills, or to casuistical debate
on the 'dram of eale' that brought about his own share in causing his
misfortunes. Undoubtedly, none of these things ought to escape our
attention. But, in the strict court of literary and critical audit, they
must not have more than their share. As a matter of fact, Scott's work
was almost finished--nothing distinctly novel in kind and first-rate in
quality, except the _Tales of a Grandfather_ and the Introduction to the
_Chronicles_, remained to be added to it--when that fatal bill of
Constable's was suffered by Hurst & Robinson to be returned. And the
trials which followed, though they showed the strength, the nobleness,
the rare balance and solidity of his character, did not create these
virtues, which had been formed and established by habit long before.
_Respice finem_ is not here a wise, at least a sufficient, maxim: we
must look along the whole line to discern satisfactorily and thoroughly
what manner of man this was in life and in letters.

What manner of man he was physically is pretty well-known from his
originally numerous and almost innumerably reproduced and varied
portraits; not extremely tall, but of a goodly height, somewhat
shortened by his lameness and massive make, the head being distinguished
by a peculiar domed, or coned, cranium. This made 'Lord Peter' Robertson
give him the nickname of 'Peveril of the Peak,' which he himself after a
little adopted, and which, shortened to 'Peveril,' was commonly used by
his family. His expression, according to the intelligence of those who
saw him and the mood in which he found himself, has been variously
described as 'heavy,' 'homely,' and in more complimentary terms. But the
more appreciative describers recognise the curiously combined humour,
shrewdness, and kindliness which animated features naturally irregular
and quite devoid of what his own generation would have called 'chiselled
elegance.' He himself asserts--and it seems to be the fact--that from
the time of the disappearance of his childish maladies to the attack of
cramp, or gallstones, or whatever the evil was which came on in 1818,
and from which he never really recovered, his health was singularly
robust; and he appears as quite a young man to have put it to
considerable, though not excessive, tests.

His conversation, like his countenance, has been variously
characterised, and it is probable that the complexion of both depended,
even more than it does with most men, on his company. He is acknowledged
never to have 'talked for victory,' an evil and barbarous practice,
which the Edinburgh wits seem to have caught from their great enemy and
guest, Dr. Johnson; to have (like all good men) simply abominated
talking about his own works, or indeed bookishly at all, full as his
conversation was of literature; and, though a great tale-teller, to have
been no monopoliser of the conversation in any way. He admits having
been in youth and early middle age not disinclined to solitude,--and he
does not appear to have at any time liked miscellaneous society much,
though he prided himself, and very justly, on having, from all but his
earliest youth, frequented many kinds of it, including the best. The
perfect ease of his correspondence with all sorts and conditions of men
and women may have owed something to this; but, no doubt, it owed as
much to the happy peculiarities and composition of his nature and
temperament.

The only fault or faults of which he has been accused with any
plausibility are those which attend or proceed from a somewhat too high
estimate of rank and of riches;--that is to say, a too great eagerness
to obtain these things, and at the same time a too great deference for
those who possessed them. From avarice, in any of the ordinary senses of
the word, he was, indeed, entirely free. His generosity, if not
absolutely and foolishly indiscriminate, was extraordinary, and as
unostentatious as it was lavish. He certainly had no delight in hoarding
money, and his personal tastes, except in so far as books, 'curios,' and
so forth were concerned, were of the simplest possible. Yet, as we have
seen, he was never quite content with an income which, after very early
years, was always competent, and when he launched into commercial
ventures, already, in prospect at least, considerable; while in the one
article of spending money on house and lands he was admittedly
excessive. So, too, he seems to have been really indifferent about his
title, except as an adjunct to these possessions, and as something
transmissible to, and serving to distinguish, the family he longed to
found. Yet no instance of the slightest servility on his part to
rank--much less to riches--has been produced. His address, no doubt,
both in writing and conversation, was more ceremonious than would now be
customary. But it must be remembered that this was then a point of good
manners, and that 'your Lordship' and 'my noble friend,' even between
persons intimate with each other and on the common footing of gentlemen,
were then phrases as proper and usual in private as they still are in
public life.[51] Attempts have been made to excuse his attitude, on the
plea that it was inherited from his father (_vide_ the scene between
Saunders Fairford and Herries), that it was national, that it was this,
that, and the other. For my own part, I have never read or heard of any
instance of it which seemed to me to exceed the due application to
etiquette of the rule of distributive justice, to give every man his
own. Scott, I think, would have accepted the principle, though not the
application, of the sentence of Timoléon de Cossé, Duke of Brissac--'God
has made thee a gentleman, and the king has made thee a duke.' And he
honoured God and the king by behaving accordingly.

Of his infinite merits as a host and a guest, as a friend and as a
relation, there is a superabundance of evidence. It does not appear that
he ever lost an old friend; and though, like most men who have more
talent for friendship than for acquaintance, he did not latterly make
many new ones, the relations existing between himself and Lockhart are
sufficient proof of his faculty of playing the most difficult of all
parts, that of elder friend to younger. I have said above that, though
in no sense touchy, he was a very dangerous person to take a liberty
with; he adopted to the full the morality of his time about duelling,
though he disapproved of it;[49] he was in all respects a man of the
world, yet without guile.

It is, moreover, quite certain that Scott, though never talking much
about religion (as, indeed, he never talked much about any of the deeper
feelings of the heart), was a man very sincerely religious. He was not a
metaphysician in any way, and therefore had no special inclination
towards that face or summit of metaphysics which is called theology. And
it is pretty clear that he had towards disputed points of doctrine,
ceremony, and discipline, a not sharply or decidedly formulated
attitude. But there is no doubt whatever that he was a thoroughly and
sincerely orthodox Christian, and there are some slight escapes of
confession unawares in his private writings, which show in what thorough
conformity with his death his life had been. Few men have ever so well
observed the one-half of the apostle's doctrine as to pure religion; and
if he did not keep himself (in the matter of the secret partnership and
others) altogether unspotted from the world, the sufferings of his last
seven years may surely be taken as a more than sufficient purification.
More blameless morally, I think, few men have been; fewer still better
equipped with the positive virtues. And, above all, we must recognise in
Scott (if we have any power of such recognition) what has been already
called a certain nobleness, a certain natural inclination towards all
things high, and great, and pure, and of good report, which is rarer
still than negative blamelessness or even than positive virtue.

To speak of Scott's politics is a little difficult and perhaps a little
dangerous; yet they played so large a part in his life and work that the
subject can hardly be omitted, especially as it comes just between those
aspects of him which we have already discussed, and those to which we
are coming. It has sometimes been disputed whether his Toryism was much
more than mere sentiment; and of course there were not wanting in his
own day fellows of the baser sort who endeavoured to represent it as
mere self-interest. But no impartial person nowadays, I suppose, doubts,
however meanly he may think of Scott's political creed, that that creed
was part, not of his interests, not even of his mere crotchets and
crazes, literary and other, but of his inmost heart and soul. That
reverence for the past, that distaste for the vulgar, that sense of
continuity, of mystery, of something beyond interest and calculation,
which the worst foes of Toryism would, I suppose, allow to be its nobler
parts, were the blood of Scott's veins, the breath of his nostrils, the
marrow of his bones. My friend Mr. Lang thinks that Scott's Toryism is
dead, that no successor has arisen on its ruins, that it was, in fact,
almost a private structure, of which he was the architect, a tree fated
to fall with its planter. Perhaps; but perhaps also

'The Little Tower with no such ease
Is won';

and there are enough still to keep watch and ward of it.

But we have of course here to look even more to his mental character
than to his moral, to do with him rather as a man of genius than as a
'man of good,' though it is impossible to overlook, and difficult to
overestimate, his singular eminence as both combined. Of his actual
literary accomplishment, something like a detailed view has been given
in this little book, and of some of its separate departments estimates
have been attempted.[48] But we may, or rather must, gather all these up
here. Nor can we proceed better than by the old way of inquiry--first,
What were the peculiar characteristics of his thought?



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