Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/23

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11
THE STORY OF SCOTT'S RUIN

already edited some valuable historical collections, and had further enterprises in hand. Here, unluckily, was a weak point. Although no one was ever better able than Scott to please the public taste, he was a curiously bad judge of their taste in literature generally. He judged other men's likings, as we must all more or less do, by his own. What interested him would interest them. He was fascinated by local ballads and the old antiquarian researches which threw light upon ancient manners and customs. The public was equally fascinated by the vivid imagery generated in his imagination when supplied with such materials; and he seems to have inferred that it must share his taste for the raw material itself. Acting upon this principle and upon his ardent belief in the talents of his friends, he undertook to publish masses of unsaleable literature. A huge dead-weight of stock presently accumulated in the warehouses of ' John Ballantyne and Co.' A ponderous History of the Culdees, written by a valued friend; a heavy volume of 'Tixall poetry,' which cost £2000; an edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, undertaken by a wandering German whom he most generously protected till the poor man's death; Miss Seward's Poems,