Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/43

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31
THE STORY OF SCOTT'S RUIN

the quarter where he supposed himself to be absolutely safe.

I suggest this, of course, not by way of justifying, but of partly explaining, Scott's illusions. He had been led into the original business by a generous wish to serve a friend. Gradually this had expanded into the grand scheme for putting himself at the head of a great house which should encourage authors, diffuse sound literature, and disseminate sound political doctrine. When his curious want of appreciation of public taste, and his trust in men of inferior education and character, brought him into apparently hopeless difficulties, he seems to have faced the crisis like a man, to have seen the real evils of the case, and to have extricated himself by sound judgment and firmness. Just at this moment, however, he 'struck oil,' if I may say so, by the publication of Waverley, and suddenly discovered that his brains would bring him wealth, and his wealth might place him in the ideal position of landed proprietor. Upon the morality of that ambition it is needless to dilate. Some people regard it simply as a proof of snobbishness or vulgar rapacity, the desire of an upstart for a fine house and showy establishment. With them I need not argue, if only because the answer is