LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter XI 1802-03

Vol I Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter I
Chapter II 1771-78
Chapter III 1778-83
Chapter IV 1783-86
Chapter V 1786-90
Chapter VI 1790-92
Chapter VII 1792-96
Chapter VIII 1796-97
Chapter IX 1798-99
Chapter X 1800-02
‣ Chapter XI 1802-03
Chapter XII 1803-04
Vol. II Contents.
Chapter I 1804-05
Chapter II 1805
Chapter III 1806
Chapter IV 1806-08
Chapter V 1808
Chapter VI 1808-09
Chapter VII 1809-10
Chapter VIII 1810
Chapter IX 1810
Chapter X 1810-11
Chapter XI 1811
Chapter XII 1811-12
Vol. III Contents.
Chapter I 1812-13
Chapter II 1813
Chapter III 1814
Chapter IV 1814
Chapter V 1814
Chapter VI 1814
Chapter VII 1814
Chapter VIII 1814
Chapter IX 1814
Chapter X 1814-15
Chapter XI 1815
Chapter XII 1815
Vol III Appendix
Vol. IV Contents.
Chapter I 1816
Chapter II 1817
Chapter III 1817
Chapter IV 1818
Chapter V 1818
Chapter VI 1818
Chapter VII 1818-19
Chapter VIII 1819
Chapter IX 1819
Chapter X 1819
Chapter XI 1820
Chapter XII 1820
Vol. V Contents.
Chapter I 1820
Chapter II 1820-21
Chapter III 1821
Chapter IV 1821
Chapter V 1821
Chapter VI 1821
Chapter VII 1822
Chapter VIII 1822
Chapter IX 1822-23
Chapter X 1823
Chapter XI 1823
Chapter XII 1824
Chapter XIII 1824-25
Vol. VI Contents.
Chapter I 1825
Chapter II 1825
Chapter III 1825
Chapter IV 1825
Chapter V 1826
Chapter VI 1826
Chapter VII 1826
Chapter VIII 1826
Chapter IX 1826
Chapter X 1826
Chapter XI 1826
Vol. VII Contents.
Vol VII Preface
Chapter I 1826-27
Chapter II 1827
Chapter III 1828
Chapter IV 1828
Chapter V 1829
Chapter VI 1830
Chapter VII 1830-31
Chapter VIII 1831
Chapter IX 1831
Chapter X 1831-32
Chapter XI 1832
Chapter XII
Vol VII Appendix
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The approbation with which the first two volumes of the Minstrelsy were received, stimulated Scott to fresh diligence in the preparation of a third; while “Sir Tristrem”—it being now settled that this romance should form a separate volume—was transmitted, without delay, to the printer at Kelso. As early as March 30th, 1802, Ballantyne, who had just returned from London, writes thus:—

To Walter Scott, Esq., Castle Street, Edinburgh.
“Dear Sir,

“By to-morrow’s Fly I shall send the remaining materials for Minstrelsy, together with three sheets of Sir Tristrem. . . . I shall ever think the printing the Scottish Minstrelsy one of the most fortunate circumstances of my life. I have gained, not lost by it, in a pecuniary light; and the prospects it has been the means of opening to me, may advantageously influence my future destiny. I can never be sufficiently grateful for the interest you unceasingly take in my welfare. Your query respecting Edinburgh, I am yet at a loss to
answer. To say truth, the expenses I have incurred in my resolution to acquire a character for elegant printing, whatever might be the result, cramp considerably my present exertions. A short time, I trust, will make me easier, and I shall then contemplate the road before me with a steady eye. One thing alone is clear—that Kelso cannot be my abiding place for aye; sooner or later emigrate I must and will; but, at all events, I must wait till my plumes are grown. I am, dear sir, your faithful and obliged

J. B.

On learning that a third volume of the Minstrelsy was in progress, Miss Seward forwarded to the Editor “Rich Auld Willie’s Farewell,” a Scotch ballad of her own manufacture, meaning, no doubt, to place it at his disposal, for the section of “Imitations.” His answer (dated Edinburgh, June 29, 1802), after many compliments to the Auld Willie, of which he made the use that had been intended, proceeds as follows:

“I have some thoughts of attempting a Border ballad in the comic manner; but I almost despair of bringing it well out. A certain Sir William Scott, from whom I am descended, was ill-advised enough to plunder the estate of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank, ancestor to the present Lord Elibank. The marauder was defeated, seized, and brought in fetters to the castle of Elibank, upon the Tweed. The Lady Murray (agreeably to the custom of all ladies in ancient tales) was seated on the battlements, and descried the return of her husband with his prisoners. She immediately enquired what he meant to do with the young Knight of Harden, which was the petit titre of Sir William Scott. ‘Hang the robber, assuredly,’ was the answer of Sir Gideon. ‘What!’ answered the lady, ‘hang the
handsome young knight of Harden when I have three ill-favoured daughters unmarried! No, no, Sir Gideon, we’ll force him to marry our Meg.’ Now tradition says, that
Meg Murray was the ugliest woman in the four counties, and that she was called, in the homely dialect of the time, meikle-mouthed Meg (I will not affront you by an explanation).* Sir Gideon, like a good husband and tender father, entered into his wife’s sentiments, and preferred to Sir William the alternative of becoming his son-in-law, or decorating with his carcase the kindly gallows of Elibank. The lady was so very ugly, that Sir William, the handsomest man of his time, positively refused the honour of her hand. Three days were allowed him to make up his mind; and it was not until he found one end of a rope made fast to his neck, and the other knitted to a sturdy oak bough, that his resolution gave way, and he preferred an ugly wife to the literal noose. It is said, they were afterwards a very happy couple. She had a curious hand at pickling the beef which he stole; and, marauder as he was, he had little reason to dread being twitted by the pawky gowk. This, either by its being perpetually told to me when young, or by a perverted taste for such anecdotes, has always struck me as a good subject for a comic ballad, and how happy should I be were Miss Seward to agree in opinion with me.

“This little tale may serve for an introduction to some observations I have to offer upon our popular poetry. It will at least so far disclose your correspondent’s weak side, as to induce you to make allowance for my mode of arguing. Much of its peculiar charm is indeed, I believe, to be attributed solely to its locality. A very

* It is commonly said that all Meg’s descendants have inherited something of her characteristic feature. The Poet certainly was no exception to the rule.

commonplace and obvious epithet, when applied to a scene which we have been accustomed to view with pleasure, recalls to us not merely the local scenery, but a thousand little nameless associations, which we are unable to separate or to define. In some verses of that eccentric but admirable poet,
Coleridge, he talks of
‘An old rude tale that suited well
The ruins wild and hoary.’
I think there are few who have not been in some degree touched with this local sympathy. Tell a peasant an ordinary tale of robbery and murder, and perhaps you may fail to interest him; but to excite his terrors, you assure him it happened on the very heath he usually crosses, or to a man whose family he has known, and you rarely meet such a mere image of Humanity as remains entirely unmoved. I suspect it is pretty much the same with myself, and many of my countrymen, who are charmed by the effect of local description, and sometimes impute that effect to the poet which is produced by the recollections and associations which his verses excite. Why else did
Sir Philip Sydney feel that the tale of Percy and Douglas moved him like the sound of a trumpet? or why is it that a Swiss sickens at hearing the famous Ranz des Vaches, to which the native of any other country would have listened for a hundred days, without any other sensation than ennui? I fear our poetical taste is in general much more linked with our prejudices of birth, of education, and of habitual thinking, than our vanity will allow us to suppose; and that, let the point of the poet’s dart be as sharp as that of Cupid, it is the wings lent it by the fancy and prepossessions of the gentle reader which carry it to the mark. It may appear like great egotism to pretend to illustrate my position from the reception which the pro-
ductions of so mere a ballad-monger as myself have met with from the public; but I cannot help observing that all Scotchmen prefer the
Eve of St John to Glenfinlas, and most of my English friends entertain precisely an opposite opinion. . . . I have been writing this letter by a paragraph at a time for about a month, this being the season when we are most devoted to the
‘Drowsy bench and babbling hall.’
I have the honour,” &c. &c. . . . . .

Miss Seward, in her next letter, offers an apology for not having sooner begged Scott to place her name among the subscribers to his third volume. His answer is in these words:

“Lasswade, July, 1802.

“I am very sorry to have left you under a mistake about my third volume. The truth is, that highly as I should feel myself flattered by the encouragement of Miss Seward’s name, I cannot, in the present instance, avail myself of it, as the Ballads are not published by subscription. Providence having, I suppose, foreseen that my literary qualifications, like those of many more distinguished persons, might not, par hazard, support me exactly as I would like, allotted me a small patrimony which, joined to my professional income, and my appointments in the characteristic office of Sheriff of Ettrick Forest, serves to render my literary pursuits more a matter of amusement than an object of emolument. With this explanation, I hope you will honour me by accepting the third volume as soon as published, which will be in the beginning of next year, and I also hope, that under the circumstances, you will hold me acquitted of the silly vanity of wishing to be thought a gentleman-author.


“The ballad of The Reiver’s Wedding is not yet written, but I have finished one of a tragic cast, founded upon the death of Regent Murray, who was shot in Linlithgow, by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh. The following verses contain the catastrophe, as told by Hamilton himself to his chief and his kinsmen:—

‘With hackbut bent,’ &c. &c.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

“This Bothwellhaugh has occupied such an unwarrantable proportion of my letter, that I have hardly time to tell you how much I join in your admiration of Tam o’ Shanter, which I verily believe to be inimitable, both in the serious and ludicrous parts, as well as the singularly happy combination, of both. I request Miss Seward to believe,” &c.

The “Reiver’s Wedding” never was completed, but I have found two copies of its commencement, and I shall make no apologies for inserting here what seems to have been the second one. It will be seen that he had meant to mingle with Sir William’s capture, Auld Wat’s Foray of the Bassened Bull, and the Feast of Spurs; and that, I know not for what reason, Lochwood, the ancient fortress of the Johnstones in Annandale, has been substituted for the real locality of his ancestor’s Drumhead Wedding Contract:—

‘O will ye hear a mirthful bourd?
Or will ye hear of courtesie?
Or will ye hear how a gallant lord
Was wedded to a gay ladye?
‘Ca’ out the kye,’ quo’ the village herd.
As he stood on the knowe,
‘Ca’ this ane’s nine and that ane’s ten,
And bauld Lord William’s cow.’
‘Ah! by my sooth,’ quoth William then,
And stands it that way now,
When knave and churl have nine and ten,
That the Lord has but his cow?
‘I swear by the light of the Michaelmas moon
And the might of Mary high,
And by the edge of my braidsword brown,
They shall soon say Harden’s kye.’
He took a bugle frae his side,
With names carved o’er and o’er—
Full many a chief of meikle pride,
That Border bugle bore—*
He blew a note baith sharp and hie,
Till rock and water rang around—
Three score of mosstroopers and three
Have mounted at that bugle sound.
The Michaelmas moon had entered then,
And ere she wan the full,
Ye might see by her light in Harden glen
A bow o’ kye and a bassened bull.
And loud, and loud in Harden tower
The quaigh gaed round wi’ meikle glee;
For the English beef was brought in bower,
And the English ale flowed merrilie.
And mony a guest from Teviotside
And Yarrow’s Braes were there;
Was never a lord in Scotland wide
That made more dainty fare.
They ate, they laugh’d, they sang and quaff’d,
Till nought on board was seen,

* This celebrated horn is still in the possession of Lord Polwarth.

When knight and squire were boune to dine,
But a spur of silver sheen.
Lord William has ta’en his berry brown steed—
A sore shent man was he:
Wait ye, my guests, a little speed—
Weel feasted ye shall be.’
He rode him down by Falsehope burn,
His cousin dear to see,
With him to take a riding turn
Wat-draw-the-sword was he.
And when he came to Falsehope glen,
Beneath the trysting tree,
On the smooth green was carved plain,*
‘To Lochwood bound are we.’
‘O if they be gane to dark Lochwood
To drive the Warden’s gear,
Betwixt our names, I ween, there’s feud;
I’ll go and have my share:
‘For little reck I for Johnstone’s feud,
The Warden though he be.’
So Lord William is away to dark Lochwood,
With riders barely three.
The Warden’s daughters in Lochwood sate,
Were all both fair and gay,
All save the Lady Margaret,
And she was wan and wae.
The sister, Jean, had a full fair skin,
And Grace was bauld and braw;

* “At Linton, in Roxburghshire, there is a circle of stones surrounding a smooth plot of turf, called the Tryst, or place of appointment, which tradition avers to have been the rendezvous of the neighbouring warriors. The name of the leader was cut in the turf, and the arrangement of the letters announced to his followers the course which he had taken.”—Introduction to the Minstrelsy, p. 185.

But the leal-fast heart her breast within
It weel was worth them a’.
Her father’s pranked her sisters twa
With meikle joy and pride;
But Margaret maun seek Dundrennan’s wa’—
She ne’er can be a bride.
On spear and casque by gallants gent
Her sisters’ scarfs were borne,
But never at tilt or tournament
Were Margaret’s colours worn.
Her sisters rode to Thirlstane bower,
But she was left at hame
To wander round the gloomy tower,
And sigh young Harden’s name.
‘Of all the knights, the knight most fair,
From Yarrow to the Tyne,’
Soft sigh’d the maid, ‘is Harden’s heir,
But ne’er can he be mine;
Of all the maids, the foulest maid
From Teviot to the Dee,
Ah! sighing sad, that lady said,
‘Can ne’er young Harden’s be’—
She looked up the briery glen,
And up the mossy brae,
And she saw a score of her father’s men
Yclad in the Johnstone grey.
fast and fast they downwards sped
The moss and briers among,
And in the midst the troopers led
A shackled knight along.”
* * * * * * *

As soon as the autumn vacation set Scott at liberty, he proceeded to the Borders with Leyden. “We have just concluded,” he tells Ellis on his return to Edin-
“AULD MAITLAND”—1802.357
burgh, “an excursion of two or three weeks through my jurisdiction of Selkirkshire, where, in defiance of mountains, rivers, and bogs damp and dry, we have penetrated the very recesses of Ettrick Forest, to which district if I ever have the happiness of welcoming you, you will be convinced that I am truly the sheriff of the ‘cairn and the scaur.’ In the course of our grand tour, besides the risks of swamping and breaking our necks, we encountered the formidable hardships of sleeping upon peat-stacks, and eating mutton slain by no common butcher, but deprived of life by the judgment of God, as a coroner’s inquest would express themselves. I have, however, not only escaped safe ‘per varios casus per tot discrimina rerum,’ but returned loaded with the treasures of oral tradition. The principal result of our enquiries has been a complete and perfect copy of ‘Maitland with his Auld Berd Graie,’ referred to by
Douglas in his ‘Palice of Honour,’ along with John the Reef and other popular characters, and celebrated also in the poems from the Maitland MS. You may guess the surprise of Leyden and myself when this was presented to us, copied down from the recitation of an old shepherd, by a country farmer, and with no greater corruptions than might be supposed to be introduced by the lapse of time, and the ignorance of reciters. I don’t suppose it was originally composed later than the days of Blind Harry. Many of the old words are retained, which neither the reciter nor the copyer understood. Such are the military engines sowies, springwalls (springalds), and many others. Though the poetical merit of this curiosity is not striking, yet it has an odd energy and dramatic effect.”

A few weeks later, he thus answers Ellis’s enquiries as to the progress of the Sir Tristrem:—“The worthy knight is still in embryo, though the whole poetry is printed.
The fact is, that a second edition of the
Minstrelsy has been demanded more suddenly than I expected, and has occupied my immediate attention. I have also my third volume to compile and arrange; for the Minstrelsy is now to be completed altogether independent of the preux chevalier, who might hang heavy upon its skirts. I assure you my Continuation is mere doggrel, not poetry—it is argued in the same division with Thomas’s own production, and therefore not worth sending. However, you may depend on having the whole long before publication. I have derived much information from Turner: he combines the knowledge of the Welsh and northern authorities, and, in despite of a most detestable Gibbonism, his book is interesting.* I intend to study the Welsh triads before I finally commit myself on the subject of Border poetry. . . . . . . As for Mister Ritson, he and I still continue on decent terms; and, in truth, he makes pate de velours; but I dread I shall see ‘a whisker first and then a claw’ stretched out against my unfortunate lucubrations. Ballantyne, the Kelso printer, who has a book of his in hand, groans in spirit over the peculiarities of his orthography, which, sooth to say, hath seldom been equalled since the days of Elphinstone, the ingenious author of the mode of spelling according to the pronunciation, which he aptly termed ‘Propriety ascertained in her Picture.’ I fear the remark of Festus to St Paul might be more justly applied to this curious investigator of antiquity, and it is a pity such research should be rendered useless by the infirmities of his temper. I have lately had from him a copie of ‘Ye litel wee Mon,’ of which I think I can make some use. In return, I have sent him a sight of Auld Maitland, the original MS. If you are curious, I

* The first part of Mr Sharon Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons was published in 1799; the second in 1801.

JOSEPH R1TSON—1802.359
dare say you may easily see it. Indeed, I might easily send you a transcribed copy,—but I wish him to see it in puris naturalibus.”

Ritson had visited Lasswade in the course of this autumn, and his conduct had been such as to render the precaution here alluded to very proper in the case of one who, like Scott, was resolved to steer clear of the feuds and heartburnings that gave rise to such scandalous scenes among the other antiquaries of the day. Leyden met Ritson at the cottage, and, far from imitating his host’s forbearance, took a pleasure of tormenting the half-mad pedant by every means in his power. Among other circumstances, Scott delighted to detail the scene that occurred when his two uncouth allies first met at dinner. Well knowing Ritson’s holy horror of all animal food, Leyden complained that the joint on the table was overdone. “Indeed, for that matter,” cried he, “meat can never be too little done, and raw is best of all.” He sent to the kitchen accordingly for a plate of literally raw beef, and manfully eat it up, with no sauce but the exquisite ruefulness of the Pythagorean’s glances.

Mr Robert Pierce Gillies, a gentleman of the Scotch bar, well known, among other things, for some excellent translations from the German, was present at the cottage another day, when Ritson was in Scotland. He has described the whole scene in the second section of his “Recollections of Sir Walter Scott,”—a set of papers in which many inaccurate statements occur, but which convey, on the whole, a lively impression of the persons introduced.* “In approaching the cottage,” he says, “I was struck with the exceeding air of neatness that prevailed around. The hand of tasteful cultivation had been there, and all methods employed to

* These papers appeared in Frazer’s Magazine for September, November, and December, 1835, and January, 1836.

convert an ordinary thatched cottage into a handsome and comfortable abode. The doorway was in an angle formed by the original old cabin and the additional rooms which had been built to it. In a moment I had passed through the lobby, and found myself in the presence of Mr and
Mrs Scott, and Mr William Erskine. At this early period, Scott was more like the portrait, by Saxon, engraved for the first edition of ‘The Lady of the Lake,’ than to any subsequent picture. He retained in features and form an impress of that elasticity and youthful vivacity, which he used to complain wore off after he was forty, and by his own account was exchanged for the plodding heaviness of an operose student. He had now, indeed, somewhat of a boyish gaiety of look, and in person was tall, slim, and extremely active. On my entrance, he was seated at a table near the window, and occupied in transcribing from an old MS. volume into his commonplace book. As to costume, he was carelessly attired in a widely-made shooting-dress, with a coloured handkerchief round his neck; the very antithesis of style usually adopted either by student or barrister. ‘Hah!’ he exclaimed, ‘welcome, thrice welcome! for we are just proposing to have lunch, and then a long, long walk through wood and wold, in which I am sure you will join us. But no man can thoroughly appreciate the pleasure of such a life who has not known what it is to rise spiritless in a morning, and daidle out half the day in the Parliament House, where we must all compear within another fortnight; then to spend the rest of one’s time in applying proofs to condescendences, and hauling out papers to bamboozle judges, most of whom are daized enough already. What say you, Counsellor Erskine? Come—alla guerra—rouse, and say whether you are for a walk to-day.’ ‘Certainly, in such fine weather I don’t see what we
can propose better. It is the last I shall see of the country this vacation.’—‘Nay, say not so, man; we shall all be merry twice and once yet before the evil days arrive.’—‘I’ll tell you what I have thought of this half-hour: it is a plan of mine to rent a cottage and a cabbage-garden not here, but somewhere farther out of town, and never again, after this one session, to enter the Parliament House.’—‘And you’ll ask Ritson, perhaps,’ said Scott, ‘to stay with you, and help to consume the cabbages. Rest assured we shall both sit on the bench one day; but, heigho! we shall both have become very old and philosophical by that time.’—‘Did you not expect
Lewis here this morning?’—‘Lewis, I venture to say, is not up yet, for he dined at Dalkeith yesterday, and of course found the wine very good. Besides, you know, I have intrusted him with Finella till his own steed gets well of a sprain, and he could not join our walking excursion.—I see you are admiring that broken sword,’ he added, addressing me, ‘and your interest would increase if you knew how much labour was required to bring it into my possession. In order to grasp that mouldering weapon, I was obliged to drain the well at the Castle of Dunnottar. But it is time to set out; and here is one friend’ (addressing himself to a large dog) ‘who is very impatient to be in the field. He tells me he knows where to find a hare in the woods of Mavisbank. And here is another’ (caressing a terrier), ‘who longs to have a battle with the weazels and water-rats, and the foumart that wons near the caves of Gorthy: so let us be off.’”

Mr Gillies tells us, that in the course of their walk to Rosslyn, Scott’s foot slipped, as he was scrambling towards a cave on the edge of a precipitous bank, and that, “had there been no trees in the way, he must have been killed, but midway he was stopped by a large
root of hazel, when, instead of struggling, which would have made matters greatly worse, he seemed perfectly resigned to his fate, and slipped through the tangled thicket till he lay flat on the river’s brink. He rose in an instant from his recumbent attitude, and with a hearty laugh called out, ‘Now, let me see who else will do the like.’ He scrambled up the cliff with alacrity, and entered the cave, where we had a long dialogue.”

Even after he was an old and hoary man, he continually encountered such risks with the same recklessness. The extraordinary strength of his hands and arms was his great reliance in all such difficulties, and if he could see any thing to lay hold of, he was afraid of no leap, or rather hop, that came in his way. Mr Gillies says, that when they drew near the famous chapel of Rosslyn, Erskine expressed a hope that they might, as habitual visitors, escape hearing the usual endless story of the silly old woman that showed the ruins; but Scott answered, “There is a pleasure in the song which none but the songstress knows, and by telling her we know it all already, we should make the poor devil unhappy.”

On their return to the cottage, Scott enquired for the learned cabbage-eater, meaning Ritson, who had been expected to dinner. “Indeed,” answered his wife, “you may be happy he is not here, he is so very disagreeable. Mr Leyden, I believe, frightened him away.” It turned out that it was even so. When Ritson appeared, a round of cold beef was on the luncheon-table, and Mrs Scott, forgetting his peculiar creed, offered him a slice. “The antiquary, in his indignation, expressed himself in such outrageous terms to the lady, that Leyden first tried to correct him by ridicule, and then, on the madman growing more violent, became angry in his turn, till at last he threatened, that if he were not silent, he would thraw his neck. Scott shook
his head at this recital, which Leyden observing, grew vehement in his own justification. Scott said not a word in reply, but took up a large bunch of feathers fastened to a stick, denominated a duster, and shook it about the student’s ears till he laughed—then changed the subject.”

All this is very characteristic of the parties. Scott’s playful aversion to dispute was a trait in his mind and manners that could alone have enabled him to make use at one and the same time, and for the same purpose, of two such persons as Ritson and Leyden.

To return to Ellis. In answer to Scott’s letter last quoted, he urged him to make Sir Tristrem volume fourth of the Minstrelsy. “As to his hanging heavy on hand” (says he), “I admit, that as a separate publication he may do so, but the Minstrelsy is now established as a library book, and in this bibliomaniac age, no one would think it perfect without the preux chevalier, if you avow the said chevalier as your adopted son. Let him, at least, be printed in the same size and paper, and then I am persuaded our booksellers will do the rest fast enough, upon the credit of your reputation.” Scott replies (November), that it is now too late to alter the fate of Sir Tristrem. “Longman, of Paternoster Row, has been down here in summer, and purchased the copyright of the Minstrelsy. Sir Tristrem is a separate property, but will be on the same scale in point of size.”

The next letter introduces to Ellis’s personal acquaintance Leyden, who had by this time completed his medical studies, and taken his degree as a physician. In it Scott says: “At length I write to you per favour of John Leyden. I presume Heber has made you sufficiently acquainted with this original (for he is a true one), and therefore I will trust to your own
kindness, should an opportunity occur of doing him any service in furthering his Indian plans. You will readily judge, from conversing with him, that with a very uncommon stock of acquired knowledge, he wants a good deal of another sort of knowledge which is only to be gleaned from an early intercourse with polished society. But he dances his bear with a good confidence, and the bear itself is a very good-natured and well-conditioned animal. All his friends are much interested about him, as the qualities both of his heart and head are very uncommon.” He adds: “My third volume will appear as soon after the others as the despatch of the printers will admit. Some parts will, I think, interest you; particularly the preservation of the entire ‘Auld Maitland’ by oral tradition, probably from the reign of
Edward II. or III. As I have never met with such an instance, I must request you to enquire all about it of Leyden, who was with me when I received my first copy. In the third volume I intend to publish Cadyow Castle, a historical sort of a ballad upon the death of the Regent Murray, and besides this, a long poem of my own. It will be a kind of romance of Border chivalry, in a light-horseman sort of stanza.”

He appears to have sent a copy of Cadyow Castle by Leyden, whose reception at Mr Ellis’s villa, near Windsor, is thus described in the next letter of the correspondence. “Let me thank you,” says Ellis, “for your poem, which Mrs E. has not received, and which, indeed, I could not help feeling glad, in the first instance (though we now begin to grow very impatient for it), that she did not receive. Leyden would not have been your Leyden if he had arrived like a careful citizen, with all his packages carefully docketed in his portmanteau. If on the point of leaving for many years, perhaps for ever, his country and the friends of his youth, he had not deferred
to the last, and till it was too late, all that could be easily done, and that stupid people find time to do—if he had not arrived with all his ideas perfectly bewildered—and tired to death, and sick—and without any settled plans for futurity, or any accurate recollection of the past—we should have felt much more disappointed than we were by the non-arrival of your poem, which he assured us he remembered to have left somewhere or other, and therefore felt very confident of recovering. In short, his whole air and countenance told us, ‘I am come to be one of your friends,’ and we immediately took him at his word.”

By the “romance of Border chivalry,” which was designed to form part of the third volume of the Minstrelsy, the reader is to understand the first draught of The Lay of the Last Minstrel; and the author’s description of it as being “in a light-horseman sort of stanza,” was probably suggested by the circumstances under which the greater part of that original draught was composed. He has told us, in his Introduction of 1830, that the poem originated in a request of the young and lovely Countess of Dalkeith, that he would write a ballad on the legend of Gilpin Horner: that he began it at Lasswade, and read the opening stanzas, as soon as they were written, to his friends, Erskine and Cranstoun: that their reception of these was apparently so cold as to discourage him, and disgust him with what he had done; but that finding, a few days afterwards, that the stanzas had nevertheless excited their curiosity, and haunted their memory, he was encouraged to resume the undertaking. The scene and date of this resumption I owe to the recollection of the then Cornet of the Edinburgh light-horse. While the troop were on permanent duty at Musselburgh, in the autumnal recess of 1802, the quartermaster, during a charge on Porto-
bello sands, received a kick of a horse, which confined him for three days to his lodgings.
Mr Skene found him busy with his pen; and he produced before these three days expired the first canto of the Lay, very nearly, if his friend’s memory may be trusted, in the state in which it was ultimately published. That the whole poem was sketched and filled in with extraordinary rapidity, there can be no difficulty in believing. He himself says (in the Introduction of 1830), that after he had once got fairly into the vein, it proceeded at the rate of about a canto in a week. The Lay, however, like the Tristrem, soon outgrew the dimensions which he had originally contemplated; the design of including it in the third volume of the Minstrelsy was of course abandoned; and it did not appear until nearly three years, after that fortunate mishap on the beach of Portobello.

To return to Scott’s correspondence:—it shows that Ellis had, although involved at the time in serious family afflictions, exerted himself strenuously and effectively in behalf of Leyden; a service which Scott acknowledges most warmly. His friend writes, too, at great length about the completion of the Minstrelsy, urging, in particular, the propriety of prefixing to it a good map of the Scottish Border—“for, in truth,” he says, “I have never been able to find even Ercildoune on any map in my possession.” The poet answers (January 30, 1803): “The idea of a map pleases me much, but there are two strong objections to its being prefixed to this edition. First, we shall be out in a month, within which time it would be difficult, I apprehend, for Mr Arrowsmith, labouring under the disadvantages which I am about to mention, to complete the map. Secondly, you are to know that I am an utter stranger to geometry, surveying, and all such inflammatory branches of study, as Mrs Malaprop calls them. My education was unfortunately in-
terrupted by a long indisposition, which occasioned my residing for about two years in the country with a good maiden aunt, who permitted and encouraged me to run about the fields, as wild as any buck that ever fled from the face of man. Hence my geographical knowledge is merely practical, and though I think that in the South country ‘I could be a guide worth ony twa, that may in Liddesdale be found,’ yet I believe Hobby Noble, or Kinmont Willie, would beat me at laying down a map. I have, however, sense enough to see that our mode of executing maps in general is any thing but perfect. The country is most inaccurately defined, and had your General (
Wade) marched through Scotland by the assistance of Ainslie’s map, his flying artillery would soon have stuck fast among our morasses, and his horse broke their knees among our cairns. Your system of a bird’s eye view is certainly the true principle.” He goes on to mention some better maps than Ellis seemed to have consulted, and to inform him where he may discover Ercildoune, under its modern form of Earlston, upon the river Leader; and concludes, “the map then must be deferred until the third edition, about which, I suppose, Longman thinks courageously.” He then adds: “I am almost glad Cadyow Castle is miscarried, as I have rather lost conceit of it at present, being engaged on what I think will be a more generally interesting legend. I have called it the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ and put it in the mouth of an old bard, who is supposed to have, survived all his brethren, and to have lived down to 1690. The thing itself will be very long, but I would willingly have sent you the Introduction had you been still in possession of your senatorial privilege; but double postage would be a strange innovation on the established price of ballads, which have always sold at the easy rate of one halfpenny.”


I must now give part of a letter in which Leyden recurs to the kindness, and sketches the person and manners of George Ellis, in a highly characteristic fashion. He says to Scott (January 25, 1803), “You were, no doubt, surprised, my dear sir, that I gave you so little information about my movements; but it is only this day I have been able to speak of them with any precision. Such if the tardiness in every thing connected with the India House, that a person who is present in the character of spectator is quite amazed; but if we consider it as the centre of a vast commercial concern, in comparison of which Tyre and Sidon, and the Great Carthage itself, must inevitably dwindle into huckster shops, we are induced to think of them with more patience. Even yet I cannot answer you exactly—being very uncertain whether I am to sail on the 18th of next month, or the 28th.

“Now shal i telen to ye, i wis,
Of that kind Squeyere Ellis,
That wonnen in this cite;
Courtess he is, by God almtzt!
That he nis nought ymaked knizt
It is the more pitie.
“He konnen better eche glewe
Than I konnen to ye shewe,
Baith maist and least.
So wel he wirketh in eche thewe,
That where he commen, I tel ye trewe,
He is ane welcome guest.
“His eyen graye as glas ben,
And his looks ben alto kene,
Loveliche to paramour.
Brown as acorn ben his faxe,
His face is thin as bettel axe
That dealeth dintis doure,
“His wit ben both keene and sharpe,
To knizt or dame that carll can carpe
Either in hall or bower;
And had I not this squeyere yfonde,
I had been at the se gronde,
Which had been great doloure.
“In him Ich finden non other euil,
Save that his nostril so doth snivel,
It is not myche my choice.
But than his wit ben so perquire,
That thai who can his carpynge here
Thai thynke not of his voice.
“To speake not of his gentel dame
Ich wis it war bothe sin and shame
Lede is not to layne;
She is a ladye of sich pryce,
To leven in that dame’s service
Meni wer fill fain.
“Hir wit is ful kene and queynt
And hir stature smale and gent,
Semeleche to be seene;
Armes, hondes, and fingres smale,
Of pearl beth eche fingre nale;
She mizt be ferys Quene.
“That lady she wil giv a scarf
To him that wold ykillen a dwarf
Churl of paynim kinde;
That dwarf he is so fell of mode
Tho ye shold drynk his hert blode,
Gode wold ze never finde.
“That dwarf he ben beardless and bare
And weazelblowen ben al his hair,
Like an ympe or elfe;
And in this world beth al and hale
Ben nothynge that he loveth an dele
Safe his owen selfe” . . . . .

The fourth of these verses refers to the loss of the Hindostan, in which ship Leyden, but for Mr Ellis’s interference, must have sailed, and which foundered in the Channel. The dwarf is, of course, Ritson.

After various letters of the same kind, I find one, dated Isle of Wight, April the 1st (1803), the morning before Leyden finally sailed. “I have been two days on board,” he writes, “and you may conceive what an excellent change I made from the politest society of London to the brutish skippers of Portsmouth. Our crew consists of a very motley party; but there are some of them very ingenious, and Robert Smith, Sidney’s brother, is himself a host. He is almost the most powerful man I have met with. My money concerns I shall consider you as trustee of; and all remittances, as well as dividends from Longman, will be to your direction. These, I hope, we shall soon be able to adjust very accurately. Money may be paid, but kindness never. Assure your excellent Charlotte, whom I shall ever recollect with affection and esteem, how much I regret that I did not see her before my departure, and say a thousand pretty things, for which my mind is too much agitated, being in the situation of Coleridge’s devil and his grannam, ‘expecting and hoping the trumpet to blow.’ And now, my dear Scott, adieu. Think of me with indulgence, and be certain, that wherever, and in whatever situation, John Leyden is, his heart is unchanged by place, and his soul by time.”

This letter was received by Scott, not in Edinburgh, but in London. He had hurried up to town as soon as the Court of Session rose for the spring vacation,
in hopes of seeing his friend once more before he left England; but he came too late. He had, however, done his part: he had sent Leyden L.50, through Messrs
Longman, a week before; and on the back of that bill there is the following memorandum: “Dr Leyden’s total debt to me L.150; he also owes L.50 to my uncle.”

He thus writes to Ballantyne, on the 21st April, 1803: “I have to thank you for the accuracy with which the Minstrelsy is thrown off. Longman and Rees are delighted with the printing. Be so good as to disperse the following presentation copies, with ‘From the Editor’ on each:—
James Hogg, Ettrick House, care of Mr Oliver, Hawick by the carrier—a complete set.
Thomas Scott (my brother), ditto.
Colin Mackenzie, Esq., Prince’s Street, third volume only.
Mrs Scott, George Street, ditto.
Dr Rutherford, York Place, ditto.
Captain Scott, Rosebank, ditto.
I mean all these to be ordinary paper. Send one set fine paper to Dalkeith House, addressed to the Duchess; another, by the Inverary carrier, to Lady Charlotte Campbell; the remaining ten, fine paper, with any of Vol. III., which may be on fine paper, to be sent to me by sea. I think they will give you some eclat here, where printing is so much valued. I have settled about printing an edition of the Lay, 8vo, with vignettes, provided I can get a draughtsman whom I think well of. We may throw off a few superb in quarto. To the Minstrelsy I mean this note to be added, by way of advertisement: In the press, and will speedily be
The Lay of the Last Minstrel, by Walter Scott, Esq., Editor of The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Also, Sir Tristrem, a Metrical Romance, by Thomas of Ercildoune, called the Rhymer, edited from an ancient MS., with an Introduction and Notes, by Walter Scott, Esq.” Will you cause such a thing to be appended in your own way and fashion?”

This letter is dated “No. 15, Piccadilly West,”—he and Mrs Scott being there domesticated under the roof of the late M. Charles Dumergue, a man of very superior abilities and of excellent education, well known as surgeon-dentist to the royal family, who had been intimately acquainted with the Charpentiers in his own early life in France, and had warmly befriended Mrs Scott’s mother on her first arrival in England. M. Dumergue’s house was, throughout the whole period of the emigration, liberally opened to the exiles of his native country; nor did some of the noblest of those unfortunate refugees scruple to make the freest use of his purse, as well as of his hospitality. Here Scott met much highly interesting French society, and until a child of his own was established in London, he never thought of taking up his abode any where else, as often as he had occasion to be in town.

The letter is addressed to “Mr James Ballantyne, printer, Abbey-hill, Edinburgh;” which shows, that before the third volume of the Minstrelsy passed through the press, the migration recommended two years earlier had at length taken place. “It was about the end of 1802,” says Ballantyne in his Memorandum, “that I closed with a plan so congenial to my wishes. I removed, bag and baggage, to Edinburgh, finding accommodation for two presses, and a proof one, in the precincts of Holyrood-house, then deriving new lustre and interest from the recent arrival of the royal exiles of France. In these
obscure premises some of the most beautiful productions of what we called The Border Press were printed.” The Memorandum states, that
Scott having renewed his hint as to pecuniary assistance, so soon as the printer found his finances straitened, “a liberal loan was advanced accordingly.” Of course Scott’s interest was constantly exerted in procuring employment, both legal and literary, for his friend’s types:—and the concern grew and prospered.

Heber, and Mackintosh then at the height of his reputation as a conversationist, and daily advancing also at the Bar, had been ready to welcome Scott in town as old friends; and Rogers, William Stewart Rose, and several other men of literary eminence were at the same time added to the list of his acquaintance. His principal object, however—having missed Leyden—was to peruse and make extracts from some MSS. in the library of John Duke of Roxburghe, for the illustration of the Tristrem; and he derived no small assistance in other researches of the like kind from the collections which the indefatigable and obliging Douce placed at his disposal. Having completed these labours, he and Mrs Scott went, with Heber and Deuce, to Sunninghill, where they spent a happy week, and Mr and Mrs Ellis heard the first two or three cantos of the Lay of the Last Minstrel read under an old oak in Windsor Forest.

I should not omit to say, that Scott was attended on this trip by a very large and fine bull-terrier, by name Camp, and that Camp’s master, and mistress too, were delighted by finding that the Ellises cordially sympathized in their fondness for this animal, and indeed for all his race. At parting, Scott promised to send one of Camp’s progeny, in the course of the season, to Sunninghill.


From thence they proceeded to Oxford, accompanied by Heber; and it was on this occasion, as I believe, that Scott first saw his friend’s brother, Reginald, in afterdays the apostolic Bishop of Calcutta. He had just been declared the successful competitor for that year’s poetical prize, and read to Scott at breakfast, in Brazen Nose College, the MS. of his “Palestine.” Scott observed that, in the verses on Solomon’s Temple, one striking circumstance had escaped him, namely, that no tools were used in its erection. Reginald retired for a few minutes to the corner of the room, and returned with the beautiful lines,—
“No hammer fell, no ponderous axes rung,
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung.
Majestic silence,” &c.*

After inspecting the University and Blenheim, under the guidance of the Hebers, Scott returned to London, as appears from the following letter to Miss Seward, who had been writing to him on the subject of her projected biography of Dr Darwin. The conclusion and date are lost.

“I have been for about a fortnight in this huge and bustling metropolis, when I am agreeably surprised by a packet from Edinburgh, containing Miss Seward’s letter. I am truly happy at the information it communicates respecting the life of Dr Darwin, who could not have wished his fame and character intrusted to a pen more capable of doing them ample, and, above all, discriminating justice. Biography, the most interesting perhaps of every species of composition, loses all its interest with me, when the shades and lights of the principal character are not accurately and faithfully detailed;

* See “Life of Bishop Heber, by his Widow,” edition 1830, vol. i. p. 30.

nor have I much patience with such exaggerated daubing as
Mr Hayley has bestowed upon poor Cowper. I can no more sympathize with a mere eulogist than I can with a ranting hero upon the stage; and it unfortunately happens that some of our disrespect is apt, rather unjustly, to he transferred to the subject of the panegyric in the one case and to poor Cato in the other. Unapprehensive that even friendship can bias Miss Seward’s duty to the public, I shall wait most anxiously for the volume her kindness has promised me.

“As for my third volume, it was very nearly printed when I left Edinburgh, and must, I think, be ready for publication in about a fortnight, when it will have the honour of travelling to Lichfield. I doubt you will find but little amusement in it, as there are a good many old ballads, particularly those of ‘the Covenanters,’ which, in point of composition, are mere drivelling trash. They are, however, curious in an historical point of view, and have enabled me to slide in a number of notes about that dark and bloody period of Scottish history. There is a vast convenience to an editor in a tale upon which, without the formality of adapting the notes very precisely to the shape and form of the ballad, he may hang on a set like a herald’s coat without sleeves, saving himself the trouble of taking measure, and sending forth the tale of ancient time, ready equipped from the Monmouth Street warehouse of a commonplace book. Cadyow Castle is to appear in volume third.

“I proceeded thus far about three weeks ago, and shame to tell, have left my epistle unfinished ever since; yet I have not been wholly idle, about a fortnight of that period having been employed as much to my satisfaction as any similar space of time during my life. I was, the first week of that fortnight, with my invaluable friend George Ellis, and spent the second week at Oxford, which I
visited for the first time. I was peculiarly fortunate in having, for my patron at Oxford,
Mr Heber, a particular friend of mine, who is intimately acquainted with all, both animate and inanimate, that is worth knowing at Oxford. The time, though as much as I could possibly spare, has, I find, been too short to convey to me separate and distinct ideas of all the variety of wonders which I saw. My memory only at present furnishes a grand but indistinct picture of towers, and chapels, and oriels, and vaulted halls, and libraries, and paintings. I hope, in a little time, my ideas will develope themselves a little more distinctly, otherwise I shall have profited little by my tour. I was much flattered by the kind reception and notice I met with from some of the most distinguished inhabitants of the halls of Isis, which was more than such a truant to the classic page as myself was entitled to expect at the source of classic learning.

“On my return, I find an apologetic letter from my printer, saying the third volume will be despatched in a day or two. There has been, it seems, a meeting among the printers’ devils; also among the papermakers. I never heard of authors striking work, as the mechanics call it, until their masters the booksellers should increase their pay; but if such a combination could take place, the revolt would now be general in all branches of literary labour. How much sincere satisfaction would it give me could I conclude this letter (as I once hoped), by saying I should visit Lichfield and pay my personal respects to my invaluable correspondent in my way northwards; but as circumstances render this impossible, I shall depute the poetry of the olden time in the editor’s stead. My ‘Romance’ is not yet finished. I prefer it much to any thing I have done of the kind.” . . . .


He was in Edinburgh by the middle of May; and thus returns to his view of Oxford in a letter to his friend at Sunninghill:—

To George Ellis, Esq., &c. &c.
“Edinburgh, 25th May, 1803.
“My dear Ellis,

“ . . . . I was equally delighted with that venerable seat of learning, and flattered by the polite attention of Heber’s friends. I should have been enchanted to have spent a couple of months among the curious libraries. What stores must be reserved for some painful student to bring forward to the public! Under the guidance and patronage of our good Heber, I saw many of the literary men of his Alma Mater, and found matters infinitely more active in every department than I had the least previous idea of. Since I returned home, my time has been chiefly occupied in professional labours; my truant days spent in London having thrown me a little behind; but now, I hope, I shall find spare moments to resume Sir Tristrem and the Lay, which has acquired additional value in my estimation from its pleasing you. How often do Charlotte and I think of the little paradise at Sunninghill and its kind inhabitants; and how do we regret, like Dives, the gulf which is placed betwixt us and friends, with whom it would give us such pleasure to spend much of our time. It is one of the vilest attributes of the best of all possible worlds, that it contrives to split and separate and subdivide every thing like congenial pursuits and habits, for the paltry purpose, one would think, of diversifying every little spot with a share of its various productions. I don’t know why the human and vegetable departments should differ so excessively. Oaks and beeches, and ashes and
elms, not to mention cabbages and turnips, are usually arrayed en masse; but where do we meet a town of antiquaries, a village of poets, or a hamlet of philosophers? But, instead of fruitless lamentations, we sincerely hope
Mrs Ellis and you will unrivet yourselves from your forest, and see how the hardy blasts of our mountains will suit you for a change of climate. . . . . . . The new edition of ‘Minstrelsy’ is published here, but not in London as yet, owing to the embargo on our shipping. An invasion is expected from Flushing, and no measures of any kind taken to prevent or repel it. Yours ever faithfully,

W. Scott.”

This letter enclosed a sheet of extracts from Fordun, in Scott’s handwriting; the subject being the traditional marriage of one of the old Counts of Anjou with a female demon, by which the Scotch chronicler accounts for all the crimes and misfortunes of the English Plantagenets.

Messrs Longman’s new edition of the first two volumes of the Minstrelsy consisted of 1000 copies—of volume third there were 1500. A complete edition of 1250 copies followed in 1806; a fourth, also of 1250, in 1810; a fifth of 1500 in 1812; a sixth of 500 in 1820; and since then it has been incorporated in various successive editions of Scott’s Collected Poetry—to the extent of at least 15,000 copies more. Of the Continental and American editions, I can say nothing, except that they have been very numerous. The book was soon translated into German, Danish, and Swedish; and, the structure of those languages being very favourable to the undertaking, the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border has thus become widely naturalized among nations themselves rich in similar treasures of legendary lore. Of
the extraordinary accuracy and felicity of the German version of
Schubart, Scott has given some specimens in the last edition which he himself superintended—that of 1830.

He speaks in the Essay, to which I have referred, as if the first reception of the Minstrelsy on the south of the Tweed had been cold. “The curiosity of the English,” he says, “was not much awakened by poems in the rude garb of antiquity, accompanied with notes referring to the obscure feuds of barbarous clans, of whose very names civilized history was ignorant.” In writing those beautiful Introductions of 1830, however, Scott, as I have already had occasion to hint, trusted entirely to his recollection of days long since gone by, and he has accordingly let fall many statements, which we must take with some allowance. His impressions as to the reception of the Minstrelsy were different, when, writing to his brother-in-law, Charles Carpenter, on the 3d March, 1803, for the purpose of introducing Leyden, he said, “I have contrived to turn a very slender portion of literary talents to some account, by a publication of the poetical antiquities of the Border, where the old people had preserved many ballads descriptive of the manners of the country during the wars with England. This trifling collection was so well received by a discerning public, that, after receiving about £100 profit for the first edition, which my vanity cannot omit informing you went off in six months, I have sold the copyright for £500 more.” This is not the language of disappointment; and though the edition of 1803 did not move off quite so rapidly as the first, and the work did not perhaps attract much notice beyond the more cultivated students of literature, until the Editor’s own genius blazed out in full splendour in the Lay, and thus lent general interest to
whatever was connected with his name, I suspect there never was much ground for accusing the English public of regarding the Minstrelsy with more coldness than the Scotch—the population of the Border districts themselves being, of course, excepted. Had the sale of the original edition been chiefly Scotch, I doubt whether Messrs
Longman would have so readily offered £500, in those days of the trade a large sum, for the second. Scott had become habituated, long before 1830, to a scale of bookselling transactions, measured by which the largest editions and copy-monies of his own early days appeared insignificant; but the evidence seems complete that he was well contented at the time.

He certainly had every reason to be so as to the impression which the Minstrelsy made on the minds of those entitled to think for themselves upon such a subject. The ancient ballads in his collection, which had never been printed at all before, were in number forty-three; and of the others—most of which were in fact all but new to the modern reader—it is little to say that his editions were superior in all respects to those that had preceded them. He had, I firmly believe, interpolated hardly a line or even an epithet of his own; but his diligent zeal had put him in possession of a variety of copies in different stages of preservation; and to the task of selecting a standard text among such a diversity of materials, he brought a knowledge of old manners and phraseology, and a manly simplicity of taste, such as had never before been united in the person of a poetical antiquary. From among a hundred corruptions he seized, with instinctive tact, the primitive diction and imagery; and produced strains in which the unbroken energy of half-civilized ages, their stern and deep passions, their daring adventures and cruel tragedies, and even their rude wild humour, are reflected with almost
the brightness of a Homeric mirror, interrupted by hardly a blot of what deserves to be called vulgarity, and totally free from any admixture of artificial sentimentalism. As a picture of manners, the Scottish Minstrelsy is not surpassed, if equalled, by any similar body of poetry preserved in any other country; and it unquestionably owes its superiority in this respect over
Percy’s Reliques to the Editor’s conscientious fidelity, on the one hand, which prevented the introduction of any thing new—to his pure taste, on the other, in the balancing of discordant recitations. His introductory essays and notes teemed with curious knowledge, not hastily grasped for the occasion, but gradually gleaned and sifted by the patient labour of years, and presented with an easy, unaffected propriety and elegance of arrangement and expression, which it may be doubted if he ever materially surpassed in the happiest of his imaginative narrations. I well remember, when Waverley was a new book, and all the world were puzzling themselves about its authorship, to have heard the Poet of “the Isle of Palms” exclaim impatiently: “I wonder what all these people are perplexing themselves with: have they forgotten the prose of the Minstrelsy?” Even had the Editor inserted none of his own verse, the work would have contained enough, and more than enough, to found a lasting and graceful reputation.

It is not to be denied, however, that The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border has derived a very large accession of interest from the subsequent career of its Editor. One of the critics of that day said that the book contained “the elements of a hundred historical romances;” and this critic was a prophetic one. No person who has not gone through its volumes for the express purpose of comparing their contents with his great original works, can have formed a conception of the end-
less variety of incidents and images now expanded and emblazoned by his mature art, of which the first hints may be found either in the text of those primitive ballads, or in the notes, which the happy rambles of his youth had gathered together for their illustration. In the edition of the Minstrelsy published since his death, not a few such instances are pointed out; but the list might have been extended far beyond the limits which such an edition allowed. The taste and fancy of
Scott appear to have been formed as early as his moral character; and he had, before he passed the threshold of authorship, assembled about him, in the uncalculating delight of native enthusiasm, almost all the materials on which his genius was destined to be employed for the gratification and instruction of the world.