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heart of man their empire. As authors, they have no other domicile: there they speak to our common humanity, and against their claims, as against all other sovereignty, prescription is no bar.
If ever writer deserved this universal citizenship, it was Sir Walter Scott. Man was his theme, nature his model, nations his readers : and who can count up the sum of innocent pleasure he has diffused, I may say, throughout the earth? Who can estimate its value as a substitute for grosser excitements ?
How many vacant hours has he cheered ? How many weary ones has he soothed? How many dangerous ones has he guarded? How often have pain and languor fled before that magic spell, which had power to transform the chamber of sleepless disease into the camp, the court, or the vine-clad cottage, and there wring sympathy for others' sorrows from hearts that were vainly brooding over their own ? I do not say that such reading as this is to be the remedy for sorrow, or the occupation of the chamber of sickness; God forbid that a christian should say so; but still that may be a palliative which is not a remedy, and that an innocent relaxation which is not a worthy employment ; and therefore, speaking as a philosopher and a christian, I do say that as the restless power of imagination has been given to man for happiness and not for misery, he performs for his fellow-men a high and useful and blessed part who finds for it harmless and attractive occupation, and supplies for hours of bodily feebleness or mental languor, which cannot all be gravely busy, that which can employ and soothe its lingering moments in innocence and peace. He who has never felt such power in the writings of this great master of fiction, cannot sympathize as he ought with us on this occasion ; but whomsoever Scott has ever made to warm or weep, to him I say, some tribute is due when that bright star has set in whose light he has so oft rejoiced.
To trace that star from its rising to its meridian height.
and again to its bright setting, is the grateful task to which I now invite your attention.
Sir Walter Scott was the descendant of a long and martial line of ancestors, which, although it can count up many bold and brave knights, and at least one famous wizard, yet would I counsel those who now bear the name, to rank the author of Ivanhoe as the rarest jewel in the ducal coronet which crowns their escutcheon. The walls of Abbotsford, when I visited it in 1830, were graced with many of these memorials of gentle blood, on whose character and exploits Sir Walter seemed not unwilling to converse.
There was his great grandfather
“ With flaxen beard and amber hair,
from the oft-repeated story of whose sufferings and devotion in the royal cause, as it sunk into his youthful heart, he no doubt derived some portion of his tender sympathy for the exiled race of the Stewarts. In the female line there too was one familiarly known as "mickle-mouthed Meg," whose courtship and character formed the subject of several humorous family pieces, and still more humorous family anecdotes. There too hung his grandfather, to whom the poet bore an unusual resemblance in looks, and perhaps too in character, since he was said to partake so much more of the olden than the modern time, that he loved to spend rather than accumulate, and therefore left little to his son beyond the inheritance, as Sir Walter said, of a fair name and the warm attachment of one faithful menial, of which he narrated a touching instance. His father, whose baptismal name he bore, I do not remember to have seen, but his early pursuits I was told were agricultural, his latter legal; and he Jived and died in that laborious branch of it known under the title of “writers to the signet.” But so far as genius is hereditary, Sir Walter derived it from his mother ; a woman
of noted talents, and daughter of a man eminent in his
pro fession, Dr. Rutherford of Edinburgh, a pupil of Boerhaave, and one of the founders of the great school of medicine in the Scotttish metropolis, to whom the family of that name in our own city was closely related. His own birth was on the 15th of August, 1771, and thirteen brothers and sisters, who followed him in rapid succession, all (such is the uncertain tenure of youth) preceded him to the grave. His brother Thomas was, I believe, the last : the same to whom, while with his regiment (the 70th, in which he was paymaster,) in Canada, was so confidently attributed by many the authorship of the Waverley novels. "He was the best loved," as Sir Walter mournfully said, "and the best deserving to be loved;" but with powers at will he assured me he never wrote a word.
Indolence or ill-health broke down his literary resolutions, and after some preparation and many delays, he died without giving evidence to the world of a superiority of talents universally acknowledged by those who knew him, leaving an only son who bears his uncle's name, as he partakes much it is said of his kindred talents. The childhood of Scott was passed where childhood is most happily, perhaps most wisely taught, surrounded by the awakening scenes of nature. There, as he himself tells us,
“ There was the poetic impulse given,
That he was at this time 66 a self-willed imp,” we have his own authority for saying, but then he goes on to add what we can readily believe,
“But half a plague and half a jest
His youth was spent in Edinburgh, to which city his father had removed, under the instruction of an able teacher, Dr. Adam of the high-school; but as his pupil loved more to tell
of his frolics than his studies, we may conclude that the wild nature was still uppermost in him. Among the incidents of that period, which he related to us with his deepest feeling, was the story of that "fair haired Goth," which he has elsewhere commemorated, who when wounded in one of their “ bickers” or chance mêlées, indignantly refused the purse which was made up as a compensation for the wound, (the author of which he yet refused to divulge) with the noble answer, that "he did not sell his blood;" while from the tone of Sir Walter's narrative, I concluded his brother or himself to have been the unfortunate giver of it. Hardihood was as marked in Sir Walter's habits, as it is every where in his writings. He loved, practised, and excelled, in every manly sport. In spite of a lameness in his right ankle, brought upon him in infancy by the carelessness of a nurse, or rather perhaps in contempt of it, for he was not deficient in that quality (obstinacy) “which, as he himself observes, is often said to be proper to those who bear his surname," he prided himself on all athletic exercises, and would often walk thirty, or ride one hundred miles, without resting. In those days of youth, freedom, and frolic, such talents passed for more perhaps than they were truly worth ; but at any rate, they made him with all, a favorite and boon companion ; and right happy was the youth, who, in the hour of peril, could have Scott on his side, with his talents in counsel, and his prowess in the field. The picture of Willie Garlas, as given by Mc Niel, was doubtless true of him.
Hap what would, Will stood a castle-
But he had talents for other than the hour of peril.
ployed in their tasks.” I will not now stop to inquire, with severer critics, whether the romances of his later years may not subject him to the same condemnation, but content myself with observing, that at this period of his life was that power nurtured which afterwards produced its "specious miracles;" since, to great natural talent for narrative, was now added the stimulus of applause and frequent practice-to which a long interval of feeble health added fuel, for it threw him back upon the world of fiction as a resource, at an age when imagination is most active, and made him, as he himself said, a glutton of books, and more especially of the romances of chivalry.
Such was the education of the future poetbroken, partial, and irregular, and ever with a strong leaning to the culture of the imagination. If we take his statement as our criterion, he was ever ready to turn study into play: if we look to his works, we find them full of that varied and multifarious learning which is not to be gained in idleness. The truth, probably, lies between. He was more studious, we may believe, than he himself paints. But, then, his was a mind of that felicitous power, that gathering knowledge as it runs, and never losing what it has once gained—was often outwardly idle and inwardly busy. But with advancing years, graver cares engaged him. Though highly descended, gallant, brave, talented, and courteous, yet had he his own way to make to fortune. In an age of chivalry, that way would have been short and clear; but the days of chivalry, which, in one sense, he was destined to restore, had gone by, and that of economists had succeeded, in which if a man will not work, neither shall he eat.” One of a large family too, there were many to share and not much to divide ; and although eventually, as the survivor, the inheritor of a handsome competency, still, neither his spirit nor his prospects permitted, at that time, much dependence upon it. In this emergency the profession of his father became his choice