« AnteriorContinuar »
great rapidity, at least two-thirds of “Waverley,” for instance, in three weeks, and all of "Woodstock ” in less than three months. Large portions of " The Bride of Lammermoor," all of " The Legend of Montrose," and most of “ Ivanhoe" were dictated from a sick-bed, but as soon as he was again able to hold a pen Scott resumed the practice of writing everything with his own hand, saying that he would no more think of dictation when able to write than of riding in a sedan chair while he could walk. He published "Waverley " anonymously, because he was afraid that the reputation he had already won would be injured if he were known as the author of such a muddling work. Although his disguise was at once penetrated by discerning critics, one of whom said the author must be Walter Scott or the devil, he did not formally cast off his disguise until 1826. Long before that date, however, the Waverley novels had won a permanent place in literature. The only controversy now possible is not as to their absolute but as to their relative value. While most Scotchmen claim first place for “ Guy Mannering” or “The Heart of Mid-Lothian,” the favorite of most English and American readers is probably “ Ivanhoe.” Indeed they are all as good reading now as in the days when they first set the world on fire with enthusiasm and filled the author's purse to overflowing. In comparison with the sums earned by earlier writers, his pecuniary gains from the novels were prodigious, probably averaging from 1815 to 1830 not less than 10,000 pounds a year.
They needed to be prodigious, for Scott was at once one of the most prodigal and improvident of mortals. His chief ambition appears to have been not to gain literary fame but to become a member of the landed aristocracy. Married in 1797 to Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, he soon found himself responsible for the maintenance of a fairly expensive family. In addition to a house in Edinburgh, he leased from 1804 to 1811 a farm called Ashestiel, and in the latter year purchased on the banks of the Tweed near Melrose the beginnings of an estate which he named Abbotsford. This grew year by year until it comprised about 1000 acres. Here he planted trees, built a noble mansion, and entertained his friends with lavish hospitality. He kept a flag to summon his neighbors by telegraph to partake of the cheer of Abbotsford. Among his favorite sports was “burning the water,” or spearing salmon in the Tweed at night with the aid of torches, a pastime which produced more duckings than fish. As an annual event he instituted the Abbotsford hunt, which was so delightful that at least one honest laird on returning from it told his wife that he would like to sleep during the entire interval between hunts. Records of his hospitality and of the spirit of the place have been left by Wordsworth in his Yarrow poems and by Washington Irving. How, in the midst of his professional duties and this busy country life he ever found time to write was a mystery to the latter. The explanation was simple. He was always busy. He rose at five o'clock and worked until ten, thus breaking the back of the day's work. At ten he breakfasted with his family and guests. After breakfast he sat two hours longer at his desk and was thus by noon“ his own man, with a right to say to his writing box“Out, damned spot!” and be a gentleman. As became a gentleman, he owned and rode horses whom nobody else could manage, was always surrounded by dogs, and was by no means averse to cats. His children had always free access to his study; he was always ready to answer their questions; and they thought that no sport could go on in the right way unless papa were of the party. In his opinion the one essential thing in education was to arouse the young curiosity. On Sundays the family usually had a picnic in some wild spot, the occasion being improved by talks from Scott on religion or history. In short, to man and beast, to high and low, he was the quintessence of kindness and courtesy. On Sundays he always walked that his horse might not be deprived of his rest. “ Sir Walter,” said one of his servants, “ speaks to every man as if they were blood-relations." He himself said: “I am unconscious of ever having done any man an injury or omitted any fair opportunity of doing any man a benefit."
“ And thus he bore without abuse
The grand old name of gentleman." From 1812 on, Scott's professional income was 1600 pounds a year. Besides what he made by virtue of his poems and novels, he also earned large sums by odd jobs of writing. Among these was the editing of the works of Dryden 1808 in 18 volumes octavo and those of Swift 1814 in 19 volumes octavo. In 1822 he wrote in two rainy mornings a dramatic sketch of the Battle of Halidon Hill and sold the manuscript for 1000 pounds. His expenses and his desire for land were, however, so great that he did not save as much as prudence required. His baronetcy, which was the first conferred by George IV after his accession, did not reduce Scott's expenses. He contrived, however, between 1805 and 1809 to invest about 9000 pounds in the printing and bookselling firms of John and James Ballantyne. The results were disastrous. The Ballantyne brothers were amiable and they worshipped Scott, but they could not keep books. As early as 1814 the firm was in deep water and was saved only by the extraordinary success of “Waverley.” Their history for the next eleven years was a succession of narrow escapes from bankruptcy. Finally, in 1826, the business collapsed and Scott found himself at the age of fifty-five worth about 130,000 pounds less than nothing. It was then that the true nobility of the man displayed itself. He might have taken refuge behind the bankrupt laws and begun life afresh, but he offered instead to be the vassal of his creditors for life and dig in the mine of his imagination to make good their losses. He was allowed to keep Abbotsford but was compelled to give up all of his other property and to live within the limits of his official salary. On these terms he set doggedly to work. In three months he had completed and sold“ Woodstock” for £8228. In June, 1827, he finished a life of Napoleon, which still further diminished his obligations to the extent of £18,000. By 1831, he had reduced his debt to £56,000.
His health, however, brcke down under the strain. He kept his honor untarnished but he lost his life in its defense. The example of his stainless probity is probably the most enduring of his legacies to mankind. As Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges finely says,
“ The glory dies not and the grief is past.” In 1831 he suffered a stroke of paralysis. In spite of the warnings of his physicians, he insisted on returning to his task as soon as he had partially recovered.
''Tis not in mortals to command success,
But we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it,” he said playfully. In spite of painful physical sufferings he completed “Count Robert of Paris ” and “ Castle Dangerous.” Then, and not till then, he consented to spend the coming winter in Italy and in complete abstinence from literary labor. As soon as his intention was known, the government placed the frigate Barham at his disposal. He sailed from London October 29, 1831. The change, however, had come too late. After passing the winter in Italy, he returned, or rather was brought back, to Abbotsford July 11, 1832. Here, on September 21 of the same year, he died. He was buried in Dryburgh Abbey.
Of the 54,000 pounds which he still owed at his death, all but 30,000 pounds was at once paid by his life insurance and some small sums in the hands of his trustees. The entire debt was finally extinguished 1847 and Abbotsford left in his family's possession through profits arising from the copyrights on his works.
In 1838 Scott's son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart, published in seven volumes a life of the great story-teller and minstrel. In 1848 this work was abridged by the author to two volumes and in our own day it has been reduced by Mr. O. L. Reid to the limits of one of Macmillan's pocket classics. In this latter form, at least, it should be owned and read by every student, for it is one of the best biographies in the world, as good as Trevelyan's "Macaulay” and second only to Boswell's " Johnson," and it contains the picture of a man whose virtue was like precious odors, sweetest when crushed.
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Do you think a boy or girl who is brought up to read the Waverley
Novels more lucky than the one who has spent his or her leisure
reading stories of baseball, automobiles, and detectives? 2. What are Walter Scott's three titles to distinction? 3. Name the forces that bore upon the boy Scott's imagination. 4. In what respects does the poetry of Scott differ from that of Pope? 5. Name some of the forerunners of Scott in the field of the English
novel. Who were the first English romancers? 6. In a three-minute talk present the Spirit of Abbotsford.” What
aspects of the feudal lordship were presented in the life of Sir
Walter Scott ? 7. Does the characterization or description of the times or the action
appeal to you the most in that novel of Scott's which you like best? 8. Was Walter Scott a
as well as a poet and a novelist? Was Burns a
man '; was Milton; was Johnson? Of the four, who strikes you as being most thoroughly a man? 9. What do you know of Scott's method of composition ? 10. Write your own impressions of Scott's life, his poetry, or his novels.
Suggested Readings.—“The Lady of the Lake” is but one of a group of magnificent narrative poems; if you have time read the others. Also read one of his novels other than those you are required to read; you will like it. Lockhart's “Life of Scott” from the beginning to the end is charming.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772–1834)
“ The rapt one of the godlike forehead.”—Wordsworth.
“ All other men whom I have ever known are mere children to him, and yet all is palsied by a total want of moral strength."-Southey.
“A cloud encircled meteor of the air,
-Shelley. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born at Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire, October 21, 1772. While his great friend and rival, Wordsworth, grew up in the fields, Coleridge passed his childhood among books. His father was a preacher, who regarded Hebrew as the immediate language of the Holy Ghost and quoted it as such to his parishioners. He used to call the ablative case in Latin the quippe-quare-quale-quidditive case. Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that Samuel Taylor ran away from home and slept all night in a storm and in consequence contracted the ague. Later at school we find him, on a dare, swimming across a river in his clothes and not stopping afterwards to change them, a prank which resulted in rheumatism, neuralgia, and the use of opium to the everlasting detriment of his usefulness in the world.
In 1781 he lost his father, and in 1782 was sent to a charity school in London known as Christ's Hospital. The student should read the description of this school which is given in Charles Lamb's essay “ Christ's Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago." The orphan described in this essay was Coleridge. At school he acquired a great reputation for learning. Lamb calls him “the inspired charity boy," and gives us a picture of him reciting Greek hexameters and expounding Jamblicus and Plotinus to passers-by. The discipline in this school was severe, the training strenuous, and the food bad.
Thank heaven!” said Coleridge, “I was flogged instead of being flattered.” At one time he fancied himself an atheist, at another he decided to be a shoemaker. The book which most influenced him during these