صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

accompany the diviner art. To the early culture of his poetical and musical talents he added the cultivation of his mind by reading. In his twentysixth year he had the misfortune to be disappointed in the only love affair in which he was involved, and the effect upon his shy and sensitive nature was to increase its native melancholy, which at last became so morbidly acute as to be unbearable. About this time, and possibly as a relief to his wounded affections, he went, accompanied by his younger brother, to Lancashire, and remained two years in Bolton. They returned on account of their father's illness, and got home in time to obtain his dying blessing. His brother soon after this got married, and Robert alone was left with his mother, to whom he was tenderly attached; consequently he resolved to stay at home.

Not long after his return to his loom and his song-writing in Paisley-he wrote little or nothing while in England -he made the acquaintance of R. A. Smith, the musical composer, who was also a Paisley weaver, though born in Reading, Berkshire. The air to which Smith set "Jessie, the Flower of Dunblane," first drew attention to his merits as a composer; and his fame has been linked with that of his friend and kindred companion ever since. In 1807, Tannahill published the first edition of his Poems and Songs, which met with a very successful reception from the public, and at once established his lyrical reputation.

In 1809, he prepared a new and revised edition of his poems, which he offered to Constable & Co., the Edinburgh pub

lishers. His offer was declined, and the disappointment, added to a previous accession of bad health, had the most depressing effect upon his spirits. In the spring of 1810, the Ettrick Shepherd made a pilgrimage to Paisley, to visit him; and the two poets enjoyed a night in each other's company. Tannahill accompanied the Shepherd halfway to Glasgow on his return, and at parting, with tears in his eyes, bade him farewell; observing that they would never meet again. Whether he then contemplated the sad act which so soon after closed his career, it were vain to speculate; it is enough to know that on the 17th May 1810, he was found drowned, in a manner leaving no doubt about his having himself put an end to his existence.

We have already remarked that his poetic range is a narrow one; out of it, he produced nothing of self-sustaining merit, and his poems which are not songs are very commonplace. As a specialist his fame is secure, and as living at the present day as when he first delighted his admiring countrymen. His songs, though true to universal nature, have certain local features which make their perfect enjoyment dependent on that sensitiveness to the influences of locality which characterises the Scotch mind, and in consequence he is not so highly appreciated anywhere as in Scotland, nor, in Scotland, anywhere as in Paisley, of which he is the poetic divinity. Here the centenary of his birth was celebrated in 1874 with great enthusiasm, on which occasion an elaborate edition of his works was issued by a Paisley publisher.

tyne & Co. was not long established, when its affairs began to give Scott cause of uneasiness; and his mortification was such, that in writing his brother, he expressed his intention of going to India. In 1811, The Vision of Don Roderick, the profits of which formed his contribution to the fund for the relief of the Portuguese who suffered in consequence of the war, was published, and brought £100 into the committee's funds. In the summer he bought, for £4000, a small property of about 100 acres, near Melrose, called Clarty Hole; and in December he informed Mr Morritt of his intention to make Rokeby the subject of a poem to raise the means for building a cottage at Abbotsford-the name he gave his property.

In the beginning of 1812, Scott came into possession of his salary of £1300 ayear, and in July he opened a correspondence with Lord Byron, which led to an intimate friendship between them. In May he removed to Abbotsford, still in an unfinished state; yet amid all the bustle and confusion incident to such circumstances, there was no abatement of his literary labours. About Christmas, Rokeby made its appearance, and ten thousand of it sold in three months. In March 1813, The Bridal of Triermain was published anonymously. In May, the affairs of John Ballantyne & Co. arrived at a condition which determined Scott to have the concern wound up, and he opened negotiations with Constable and Co. for that purpose; while he was under the necessity of asking the Duke of Buccleuch's guarantee for a credit of

£4000 to meet their immediate necessities. About the same time, he was offered the Laureateship, which, with the duke's advice, he declined, recommending Southey for the honour. In the autumn of this year, the fragment of Waverley, written in 1805, turned up accidentally, and he resolved to finish it. He objected to be taxed on his literary earnings as property, and being legally advised, resisted the claim, which was then abandoned by the Lords of the Treasury. In December, at the request of the Town Council of Edinburgh, he drew up a congratulatory address to the Prince Regent, on the prosperous course of public events, which, when presented, the prince characterised as the most elegant a sovereign ever received, or a subject offered. On this occasion he received the freedom of the city and a piece of plate.

In 1814, Swift's Life and Works was published. He also contemplated an edition of Pope's works on the same scale, but never overtook it. Waverley appeared in July, and its sale amounted to 5000 copies by the end of the year. The vacation of this summer was devoted to a voyage round the coast of Scotland, during which he kept an interesting diary.

The Lord of the Isles appeared in January 1815, and its reception was the first indication of a decline of his poetic popularity. It was while writing it, that he made the acquaintance of Joseph Train, to whose researches it owes some notes. Guy Mannering, the work of six weeks, followed in February, and its success equalled that of Waverley.

Being in London this year, he first met Byron, when the two poets became fast friends, and on parting exchanged gifts, in imitation of the heroes in the Iliad. He dined twice with the Prince Regent, who presented him with a valuable gold snuff-box, as a memorial of their first meeting. Urged by the enthusiasm that followed the victory of Waterloo, he set out for the Continent on the 15th July. In the course of his tour-his first on the Continent-he visited Antwerp, Brussels, and the field of Waterloo, whence he proceeded to Paris, where he was received with much distinction by the Duke of Wellington. In October was published The Field of Waterloo, the profits of the first edition of which were given for the relief of the widows and orphans of those slain in the battle.

His observations on the Continent, contained in his letters to Mrs Scott, were published in January 1816, as Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk; and in May appeared The Antiquary, of which 6000 sold in six days. As a ruse on the public, the first series of Tales of My Landlord, which appeared in December, wanted "The Author of Waverley" on the title-page, yet the sale was equal to that of the other series.

The reception of Harold the Dauntless, which was published anonymously in January 1817, determined his resolution to make no more serious attempts in poetry. In August he was visited by Washington Irving, who, long after, wrote a pleasing account of his reception. After Irving came Lady Byron, followed by Sir David Wilkie, who painted Scott's family as a group of peasants.

[ocr errors]

Rob Roy was issued in December 1817, in an edition of 10,000 copies, but in a fortnight after other 3000 were required to meet the demand. The Heart of Midlothian appeared in June, and its reception in Scotland was unprecedented. In November, Scott was informed of the Prince Regent's wish to make him a baronet; and the intimation, received about the same time, that to his children was left the reversion of the fortune of their uncle, who died in India, removed any scruples about accepting the honour.

In 1819, he sold all his copyrights to Constable & Co. for £12,000, the expenses of his buildings at Abbotsford, and the purchase of his son's commission, entailing this necessity. In June, the third series of Tales of My Landlord, consisting of The Bride of Lammermoor, and The Legend of Montrose, appeared; and in September he was visited by Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, afterwards King of the Belgians.

About Christmas Ivanhoe was published, and was received in England with great enthusiasm.

The Monastery, by the "Author of Waverley," was published in March 1820, and was considered a falling off. During vacation he went to London, and sat for his portrait to Sir Thomas Lawrence, by order of the king, and to Chantrey for his bust. He now received his baronetcy from the hands of the king, who remarked that it was the first creation of his reign. In May, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge offered him the Degree of Doctor of Civil Laws, but he was unable to leave Scotland for the purpose. The

and in November he was unanimously elected President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

697

Abbot was published in September, ing the Bannatyne, of which he was first president. On 10th March, he presented Constable with the MSS. of his novels, enjoining their concealment during his lifetime, unless required to Quintin vindicate their authorship. Durward appeared in June, and its sale at first "hung fire," till its reception in Paris reacted on its popularity: it was followed by St Ronan's Well in December.

Kenilworth was issued in January 1821, and was very successful. The requirements of Abbotsford necessitating a second sale of copyrights, in November he got £5500 for those of Ivanhoe, The Monastery, The Abbot, and Kenil worth, from Constable & Co.; besides

which, he got their bills for four new
In December
volumes not yet named.
The Pirate made its appearance, and
had an enthusiastic reception.

In 1822 was published the Fortunes
of Nigel, and in June the dramatic
sketch of Halidon Hill-the work of
two rainy mornings-for which Con-
stable gave £1000 without seeing it.
It was about this time that he got the
Duke of Buccleuch to adopt measures
for the preservation of the ruins of
Melrose Abbey. The visit of King
George IV. this year to Scotland was to
Scott an event of much interest, and
entailed on him the great labour of
organizing the attendant ceremonials,
for which his great influence with his
countrymen, Highland and Lowland, so
well fitted him. His influence with
the king procured the restoration of
"Mons Meg," and the reversal of the
attainder of Jacobite peerages for the
In the
rebellions of 1715 and 1745.
midst of the bustle of the king's visit,
Crabbe, the poet, was his guest.

Peveril of the Peak appeared in January 1823, and was less popular than previous works. In spring, Scott was elected a member of the Roxburghe Club, and took a leading part in found

Redgauntlet, which appeared in June 1824, was his only novel this year, and met with indifferent success.

In February 1825, Scott's son, Walter, was married to Miss Jobson of Lochore, when Abbotsford was settled In June appeared the upon him. Tales of the Crusaders, The Betrothed, and The Talisman. This summer he visited Ireland, where his reception was very cordial; Trinity College conferring upon him the degree of LL.D., and Cork the freedom of the city.

In 1826, rumours of commercial difficulties assumed a distinct form; and in January, to relieve Constable and Ballantyne, he contracted a burden of £10,000 on Abbotsford-a power retained for the benefit of his younger children when he settled it on his son. This did not avert the crisis, however, for, in the middle of January, the failure of both houses determined his putting his estate under trustees. The news of his misfortunes elicited much sympathy and many offers of assistance; an anonymous friend offered £30,000; while his daughter's harp teacher offered his whole savings of £500. But he refused all, and kept steadily at his work, determined to meet his obligations by

[ocr errors]

his own efforts. His chief cause of distress was the effects upon his family and dependants; and on leaving 39 Castle Street, he gave vent to his feelings in the words of the Highland emigrant, Ha til sin tulidh, "We return no more.' In the midst of these embarrassments appeared the famous Letters of Malachi Malgrowther against Government interference with the Scottish banking system and notes. In April, the copyright of Woodstock, the work of the previous three calamitous months, sold for £8000, and its reception in May justified the price. On the 15th May, Lady Scott died at Abbotsford, and was buried in Dryburgh. Scott proceeded in October to London and Paris, to prosecute his researches for the Life of Napoleon. In London he received every facility from the Foreign Office, was invited by the King to Windsor, dined with Rogers the poet, Sir Robert Peel, and the Duke of Wellington, who gave him notes of observations on Bonaparte's Russian campaigns. In Paris he was also well received.

On 23d February 1827, he presided at a public dinner in aid of a fund for decayed actors, where Lord Meadowbank proposed his health as "The Author of Waverley"—the Great Unknown. Though the failure of Ballantyne and Constable rendered the secret no longer tenable, yet the interest excited by its first public announcement was very great. About this time, he received a complimentary letter from Goethe; and in June The Life of Napoleon appeared, and had a splendid reception-realising for his trustees £18,000. In July, he received intelligence of the

[ocr errors]

death of Constable, no doubt accelerated by their common calamities; and in September he was threatened by the French general, Gourgaud, in consequence of reflections upon his honour in The Life of Napoleon. Scott replied, and prepared for his defence. The first series of the Chronicles of the Canongate, consisting of The Highland Widow, The Two Drovers, and The Surgeon's Daughter, appeared early this winter; and in December the first series of Tales of a Grandfather met with an enthusiastic reception. The copyrights of his works were now offered for sale, and were bought for Scott by Cadell, Constable's successor, for £8500. Up to Christmas, his labours for his creditors realised £40,000, and they passed a unanimous vote of thanks to him for his noble exertions.

Early in 1828 appeared three Sermons by the Author of Waverley. They were written for a former literary assistant, a divinity student, who now obtained the author's permission to sell them to meet a pecuniary obligation. A London publisher bought them for £250. The Fair Maid of Perth, published in April, was very popular, and the second series of Tales of a Grandfather appeared at Christmas.

Anne of Geirstein, which appeared in May 1829, was well received. The History of Scotland, vol. i., for Lardner's Cyclopædia, and the third series of Tales of a Grandfather, were out by the end of the year, while the monthly issue of the Novels, with notes and new introductions, reached the eighth volume, with a sale of 35,000 each. On 15th February 1830, Scott had a shock of

« السابقةمتابعة »