Pascal, the Provincial epistolographer, excused himself for writing at length, on the ground he had not time to be brief In a similar spirit of paradox, I might well apologize for writing so little about Scott because there is so much to say.
"Scott, the Magician!"—as Parr ejaculated:—
"Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet
This great writer was born in the year 1771. For the details of his childish history, and the events of his after-life, reference must alike be made to his own charming autobiography, and the illustrations of Lockhart, whose life of his great father-in-law may be said to exhibit,—with the single exception of Boswell's Life of Johnson,—the most lucid, candid and complete account which has ever been given of one man by another. His first attempts in verse appeared in the very year of the death of Burns. It is a little singular that the earliest inspiration of his muse was not the indigenous traditional minstrelsy of his own land of historic flood and fell, but That German ballad poetry, which, tinged by a mystic and gloomy supernaturalism, enjoyed a brief popularity during the early part of the present century. It was the Lenore of Bürger which Scott chose to translate; and it must be admitted that his version has all the vividness and freedom of an original poem. But the influence which produced it was accidental and evanescent, and his genius reverted to that direction for which early association had prepared it. His childhood had been passed at the farm of Sandy-Knowe where every field had its battle, and every brook its legend; the Rebellion of '45 still dwelt in the memory of the simple Borderers, and the atrocities of the " Butcher Cumberland" were not forgotten. The taste for ballad-literature had been awakened in the public mind by the collections of Percy, Ritson, Evans and Pinkerton; and hence, the Border Ministrelsy of Scott, which appeared in 1802 at once achieved a remarkable success. It contained, as a critic of the day prophetically remarked, " the elements of a hundred romances "; and did much, with the labours of the other editors I have mentioned, to break up the old classic style, and influence the compositions of Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth. For the small original edition, Scott had received £100; and he was finally enabled to sell_ the copyright for £500 to Longman's,—who had previously, however, decided that the Lyrical Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge were not worth anything at all. Next came the Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion, and the Lady of the Lake; and by the year 1810, fame and fortune were his own. Scott was even then,—before, be it marked, he had written a line of prose,—the "Great Magician"; and, with the irresistible influence ot his own Lochinvar, led the whole world captive. The Delia Cruscans died away; and the minor stars of Whitehead, Hoole, Pye, Darwin, Seward and Hayley paled their ineffectual fires before the new and effulgent luminary. Still, it must not be forgotten that the voice of praise was not altogether unanimous, and that, among others, Leigh Hunt and Hazlitt were disposed to underestimate the poetry of Scott,—as Waller had depreciated Milton; Madame de Staël, Corneille; and Voltaire, Shakespeare.
On the other hand, Moir, a judicious critic, not less than an elegant poet, wrote of his immortal countryman:—