( Originally Published 1912 )
ENGLISH literature, with all its wealth of genius, does not afford another body of fiction so wide in its historical range, so varied in its types of character, so genial in its humanity as the series of romances which will be known while our speech lasts by the felicitous title of the Waverley Novels felicitous not merely because it is a good-sounding word, but because in Waverley Scott struck the characteristic note of his fiction. From Waverley, which appeared on the 7th July 1814, with an impression of one thousand copies, to Castle Dangerous, which was published at the close of November 1831, with an introduction sent from Naples in February 1832, was a period of seventeen years and twenty-seven books. Some of them were written at white heat, the last two volumes of Waverley in three weeks; some of them were written in agonising pain, as, for instance, The Bride of Lammermoor; many were written to pay a debt of honour. After the Fair Maid of Perth the first French critic of our day considers a rapid decline and symptoms of exhaustion were observed, and the same writer believes that in dying Sir Walter had not taken with him any great unfinished idea. " He had said enough for his glory and our delight . . . for the whole civilised world, a generous wizard and a kindly benefactor." From Count Robert of Paris, which is cast in the decadence of the Byzantine period " the tame worn-out civilisation of those European Chinese " and was a burden which poor Scott's now " staggering penmanship " could not carry, to St. Ronan's Well, which was contemporary with himself, embraces seven centuries. To the age of chivalry belong The Betrothed, The Talisman, and Ivanhoe. The fourteenth century has the Fair Maid of Perth, and the fifteenth is represented by Quentin Durward. To the sixteenth century are assigned The Abbot and The Monastery and Kenilworth, while the seventeenth lives before us in Woodstock and Peveril of the Peak for England and Old Mortality and the Legend of Montrose for Scotland. The eighteenth century is richly endowed by The Pirate, the Heart of Midlothian, Waverley, and Redgauntlet and Rob Roy. It is an achievement of the first order to travel through so many ages and in so many lands with unfailing sympathy and the most intimate touch, so that whatever be the value of Scott's history in the eyes of modern criticism, nothing human was strange to him and everything human was made to live in his pages. As Frederic Harrison, one of the most eloquent of our English critics, has said: " We see the dawn of our English nation, the de-fence of Christendom against the Koran, the grace and terror of Feudalism, the rise of monarchy out of baronies, the rise of Parliaments of monarchy, the rise of industry out of serfage, the pathetic ruin of chivalry, the splendid death struggle of Catholicism, the sylvan tribes of the mountains (remnants of our prehistoric forefathers) beating themselves to pieces against the hard advance of modern industry. We see the grim heroism of the Bible martyrs, the catastrophe of feudalism overwhelmed by a practical age which knew little of its graces and almost nothing of its virtues."
It was the distinction of Scott more, perhaps, than any other writer, to originate the " renaissance of wonder " in the nineteenth century, and his novels must be judged, not by the standard of historical science, but from the standpoint of imagination. It is perfectly true that he places Shakespeare's plays in the mouths of men when, as some one pleasantly remarks, Shakespeare was hardly old enough to rob an orchard, and on the other hand he will make Shakespeare die twenty years before his time. When Dr. Dryasdust starts to examine Scott's romances with a microscope, I am prepared to believe he will find a thousand inaccuracies in minute detail and also some intrepid handling of the larger facts, and I would offer this advice to the young student of history, when he is intent on dates and facts, to close his Scott and give diligent ear to Freeman and Creighton and Gardiner, and amongst contemporary Scots-men to Hume Brown and Hay Fleming and that fine young scholar, Mr. Rait. If you desire to be introduced to the men and women who made history and to see them live and move, not pictures on a wall but actors on a stage, till you catch the glint of the eye and the flush on the face, till you hear the burst of passion and start at the sudden glow, till the tears come to your eyes at the real tragedy, and you laugh aloud at the pleasant comedy, then turn to this theatre where the players are ever at their best because they are simply human, and the play never wearies be-cause it deals with the perennial drama of humanity. When we desire to pass a measured judgment upon the political or religious principles of any period, then must we seek some other teacher than this romanticist, but we have our own debt to pay to him. At the wave of his magical wand, knights rise before us in their steel armour; loyal blundering Cavaliers drink " a health to King Charles "; grim fighting Covenanters sing their Psalm as they face Claverhouse's dragoons; absent minded, kind hearted antiquaries discourse on their discoveries; hard-handed Scots, soldiers of fortune like Dugald Dalgetty and Balafrι, and broken, thieving caterans like Rob Roy. No one has ever given such a vivid likeness of King James VI., our Scots Solomon, with his awkward body, his foolish mouth, his undoubted learning, his timid nature, his kind heart, his mean ways, and his amazing self-conceit, and every student of morals must be grateful for his masterly study of Louis XI., so orthodox, superstitious, treacherous, cruel, able, a man of rat-like cunning, set amongst the gallant and honourable gentlemen of his court.
Mr. Maurice Hewlett has delighted us with an artistic portrait of Queen Mary, but there is not in the Queen's Quair any passage so commanding as that when Mary in Loch Leven Castle is reminded by tactless Lady Fleming of a certain masque in Holyrood; and while many a modern novelist has tried his hand upon King Charles II., it is in Peveril of the Peak we get our most vivacious picture of the charming manners, imperturbable good nature, political astuteness, unrecognised cleverness, and unblushing immorality of the Merry Monarch. It sometimes occurs to one that no writer has ever done more absolute justice to the Stuarts than Sir Walter, and none has felt more evidently the romantic charm of that ill-fated house. He is indeed in the first line of the great creative minds of the world, for he has " definitely succeeded in the ideal reproduction of historical types so as to preserve at once beauty, life, and truth," a task which a sound critic declares " not even Shakespeare himself entirely achieved."
Out of this large and wealthy place, the world of men, in which Scott was as much at home as Shakespeare, Scotland was that province where he was most familiar and where his hand was firmest. " There is," said La Rochefoucauld, " a country accent, not in speech only, but in thought, conduct, character, and manner of existing, which never forsakes a man," and no Scotsman was more entirely Scots than Sir Walter. What he did not know about Scotland, with one or two not-able exceptions on which I shall touch, is not knowledge. He had gone through the length and breadth of the land, and had met after a friendly fashion with all conditions. Pawky Scots provosts like him of Dumfries, who was a plain-spoken man, and kept right with both sides, advising Allan Fairford to keek into his letter of introduction before he delivered it, and hurrying off to the Council lest Bailie Laurie should be " trying some of his manoeuvres "; Bailie Nicol Jarvie, so innocently charged with self-importance, and so fearful that Bailie Graham should get a hold of the night's proceedings in the prison; border sheep farmers like big Dandie Din-mont, ready for a fight with a neighbour either at the fair or in the Law Courts, but scornful of the idea that he should take away his neighbour's land; local factors like Macwheeble, keeping together with hard toil their foolish clients' estates; Highland chiefs like M`Ivor, poor, proud, and passionate, yet loyal to their cause and to their kinsmen; country gossips like Meg Dods, the masterful hostess of the Cleikum Inn; pragmatical servants full of argument and advice, like Richie Moniplies and Andrew Fairservice; theological peasants, unwearied in controversy and matchless in distinctions, like David Deans; judges, advocates, sheriffs, sheriff-substitutes, country writers, school-masters, ministers, beggars, fisher-folk, gipsies, Highland clansmen, country lairds, great nobles. How distinct, how vivid, how convincing is each person in his album; as you turn the pages you identify the likeness by the representatives you have known yourself. Scott's novels have been translated into every civilised tongue, and Scott has become the most valuable commercial asset of his country, for the ends of the earth come to see the land of which he is the cicerone, and every third American is a lineal descendant of Queen Mary. With the United States as an annex of Scotland, through the conquering genius of Sir Walter, one may not make an exclusive boast, but apart from Americans, he may believe that Scott's genius reached its height in the novels of his own country, and that only a Scot can appreciate the confident and faultless skill with which he etches the character of his people.
Stevenson caught the romantic colour of Scots life, and could describe it with a distinction of style to which our author had no claim, and in his Weir of Hermiston Steven-son has given us a powerful Northern type of the morose order, but he was not in touch with ordinary life, as Sir Walter was. With Stevenson the people are apt to be picturesque figures, whom he has lighted on and brought into his study as artists find inspiration by accident, and turn it to account. With Scott they are gossips, men and women whom he has known, on the Tweed and the borders. He does not thrust exquisitely turned phrases into their mouths, but he lets them talk, and is pleased because they say the things which interest him. One class only was alien to him, the mercantile class, which was finding itself and coming into its kingdom, and passing re-form bills, and doing a hundred things which Scott did not appreciate. He gives a kindly part to " Jingling Geordie," because Heriot was a benefactor to his country, and did not pass from his own place at the beginning of the seventeenth century. And he deals pleasantly with the Glasgow Bailie, but one knows that he sympathises with Rob Roy's contemptuous rejection of a place in the Bailie's business for one of the young Macgregors. Scott did not set himself down to write the novel with a purpose, and his stories owe part of their charm to the fact that they are not studies in theology or the sexual question, but consciously or unconsciously they teach his gospel about society. When Carlyle complained that our highest literary man had no message whatever to deliver to the world he really is beside the mark, for Scott was charged in the marrow of his bones, as Carlyle used to say, with a creed, and it was one which Carlyle detested. Every novelist of the front rank who has produced an organic body of fiction, whether Balzac or Thackeray, Flaubert or Zola, has a spinal cord running through his books. It may not be carried to the tedious length of Balzac, or the pedantic genealogies of Zola, but it dominates the whole and is the pervading spirit. With Scott it was the ancient and dying spirit of feudalism. He was a stranger to the struggle of the times ; he was a lover of past ages. His is the charm of autumn, the delicate colouring of a summer that is over. He touched no question of religious doubt and stood for the simplicity of faith, and one knows he is speaking for himself in the unquestioning reverence of his cavaliers for authority, and the submission of Scots peasants to their ministers. According to his idea, society was a graded order (he ought to have been the novelist of the " Young England " school) wherein each rank found its recognised place, and had its own privileges in subordination to the whole. George IV. was, in this simple faith, an almost supernatural personage, and the humble enthusiastic loyalty with which he welcomed that obese and very vulgar monarch to Scotland would have greatly delighted the cynical humour of Thackeray and shows how perfectly qualified Scott was to appreciate a cavalier's attitude to Charles II. The Duke of Buccleuch was his chief, whose sorrows he shared as his own, and whose recognition, whenever the Duke was pleased to write to him, he deeply valued. For himself, he belonged to the gentry, the third order after the King and the nobility, and above the farmers and the tradesmen. With him were lawyers and soldiers and the professional classes generally. For some reason he took little notice of medical men, and indeed has only one good doctor in his Scots novels (the apothecary in the Fair Maid of Perth is detestable), and although he is altogether admirable, I do not think that Gideon Grey has touched the popular imagination. It has been a bad tradition in literature either to ignore or to depreciate the most beneficent of professions, and one is thankful for the slender mercy of The Surgeon's Daughter. Each class in society was to be preserved in its proper rights so long as it remained in its own sphere.
Scott was most friendly with his inferiors and most respectful to his superiors ever on the understanding that he knew his place and they knew theirs. No person in his novels rises and is made a hero because he has climbed from poverty to riches. The self-made man hardly appears, and when he does, he is treated contemptuously. Christie Steele, the prejudiced old housekeeper of the Croftangrys, acknowledged that Mr. Treddle's mill had given employment in the district, but Mr. Treddle's efforts to be a country gentleman only excited her acidulous humour. When Mr. Gilbert Glossin, the country lawyer in Guy Mannering, conciliates the pompous baronet and obtains a most condescending invitation to dinner, the achievement is understood to reflect credit on Glossin's adroitness. And Sir Arthur Wardour is furious when a lawyer addresses him in a letter as " Dear Sir " " He will be calling me 'Dear Knight' next." The Lord Keeper in The Bride of Lammermoor had scrambled up to his high position from a low estate, and there-fore he is a timid and propitiatory man, ill at ease among country sports, and afraid in the presence of the haughty young lord, who on his part, poverty-stricken but ancient born, dominates the Lord Keeper, as a hawk would terrify a barn-door fowl. Lady Ashton, on the other hand, one detests for her cruelty, but respects for her courage the difference was that she had good blood in her veins. Dugald Dalgetty was a sturdy old blade and carried a conscience in him, for he would never take service with the other side till his time had expired with their opponents; he was a man of his hands, too, and one of the most vivid scenes in all Scott's work is Dugald seizing the Duke of Argyll in his castle. But Dalgetty shows badly beside the Highland chiefs, because, although he was a cock laird in Aberdeenshire, you can see that after all he was only a " body." Although Scott laughs at Lady Margaret Bellenden for her aristocratic prejudices and her recurring allusions to Charles II., he has a sneaking fondness for her, and drew her character from some of the old Jacobite ladies he knew; and although he makes play with Baron Bradwardine, with his family tree, bears, boot-jack and all, yet you feel that he would be just as much concerned about his own pedigree. He believes in the better class showing kindness to the poorer, and there is an atmosphere every-where of good cheer, but it is the kindness of a chief to his clansmen. His men drink, and perhaps put away as much as Dickens's heroes, which is saying a great deal, but they drink like gentlemen, not like grooms. Mrs. Gamp is very taking, and a philosopher in her own way, but she would be quite out of place in the Waverley Novels. There are homely women in them, and Meg Dods had all Mrs. Gamp's force of character and native resolution, but no person is vulgar. Among all his peasants I do not remember one, with the doubtful exception of worthy Andrew Fair-service, who is mean. His poor Highlanders, the " Dougal cratur" and the rest of them, and his. Lowland ploughmen, Cuddie Headrigg, for instance, all command respect, as sound-minded and able-bodied men, just as much as their masters in their place. One of the finest and most discriminating things Scott ever did is the story of the two drovers, where the basal difference between the High-land and the Lowland character is admirably drawn, so that any one who reads it will understand that there is a gulf between, say a Yorkshire man and a Ross-shire man. They have different virtues and different vices, their blood runs at a different heat, and their eyes look on a different world. Scott rose to his height, and his imagination burned with its purest flame, when he describes the loyalty of a Highlander to his chief. " I was only ganging to say, my lord," said Evan Maccombich, when both his chief and he had been condemned to death at Carlisle Assizes, " that if your excellent honour and the honourable Court would let Vich Ian Vohr go free just this once, and let him gae back to France, and no to trouble King George's government again, that ony six o' the very best of his clan will be willing to be justified in his stead; and if you'll just let me gae down to Glennaquoich I'll fetch them up to ye mysell, to head or hang, and you may begin wi' me the very first man." And when a sort of laugh was heard in the Court, Evan looked round sternly. " If the Saxon gentlemen are laughing," he said, " because a poor man such as me, thinks my life or the life of six of my degree, is worth that of Vich Ian Vohr, it's like enough they may be very right; but if they laugh because they think I would not keep my word, and come back to redeem him, I can tell them they ken neither the heart of a Hielandman, nor the honour of a gentleman." He disliked the change from the old to the new, when the Treddles supplant the Croftangrys, and also new-f angled fashions, and would rather share the feudal and homely hospitality of Lord Huntingtower's house in the Fortunes of Nigel, than go with his profligate son, Lord Dalgarno, to the French eating-house and the gambling table. A clear distinction is drawn between the two apprentices in the same novel, because the one is only a London trader's son, and the other belongs to a poor, but gentle Northern house.
Some one was recently denouncing an ingenuous woman writer, beloved of shop-girls, and declaring her to be immoral, and his ground was that she was fond of marrying the shop-girl to the lord, or some other achievement of the same kind. Scott certainly was cleansed from all immorality of this kind (with the inevitable solitary exception), and no woman of gentle birth marries beneath her in Scott, and no man aspires to a woman above him. They marry and give in marriage each within his own degree. It is true that pretty Peggy Ramsay in the For-tunes of Nigel does become Lady Glenvarloch, but this exigency of the story is relieved by establishing some connection between the clockmaker's daughter and the great Dalhousie family. If Morton in Old Mortality marries Miss Bellenden, it is to be remembered he is an officer's son, although his father was a mean old laird, and that he does not marry her till he himself is a distinguished officer. The line between gentlefolk and the rest of creation is kindly, quietly, but constantly and firmly drawn.
His feudal gospel affords a more engaging illustration for the majority of people when he treats, as he loves to do, of the loyalty of a servant to his master. One of his most delightful minor creations is the " Dougal cratur," the type of dog-like fidelity. When he thinks it wise to fling up his post as turn-key in Glasgow gaol, he is careful to leave the doors unlocked so that his chief and Bailie Nicol Jarvie may not be caught in a trap, and when the Bailie is sore put to it in the public-house, Dugald jumped up from the floor with his native sword and target in his hand to do battle for the discomfited magistrate. " Her nainsell has eaten the town pread at the Cross o' Glasgow, and py her troth she'll fight for Bailie Sharvie at the Clachan of Aberfoyle tat will she e'en ! " Macwheeble was an abject and a worm of the dust, and one of the drollest scenes in Scott's vein of humour is the worthy man wishing to take charge of Vich Ian Vohr's purse on the campaign and to lay the money out at interest; and there's no end to the scheming and parsimony of the Bailie, but there was the honest feudal heart hid away beneath the dirt and dross. " If I fall, Macwheeble," said his master, Bradwardine, " you have all my papers and know all my affairs; be just to Rose," whereat the worthy factor set up a lamentable howl. " If that doleful day should come while Duncan Macwheeble had a boddle it should be Miss Rose's. He would scroll for a plack or she kenn'd what it was to want." And Scott has fewer more cunning scenes than Waverley's visit to Macwheeble when the war was over, and Macwheeble was suspiciously watching every visitor. For a while he listened to Waverley with anxiety lest he had come to claim assistance, was greatly cheered when he heard that it was well with him, and when he declared his intention of sharing his fortune with Miss Rose Bradwardine, the Bailie rose to his height. " He flung his best wig out of the window because the block on which it was placed stood in the way of his career, chucked his cap to the ceiling, caught it as it fell; whistled Tullochgorum; danced a High-land fling with inimitable grace and agility, and then threw himself exhausted into a chair exclaiming, " Lady Wauverley! ten thousand a year, the least penny! Lord preserve my poor understanding." And after making a hurried note on a sheet of paper, " a sma' minute to prevent parties fra resiling," he broke forth again. " Lady Wauverley, ten thousand a year! Lord be gude unto me it dings Balmawhapple out and out, a year's rent worth of Balmawhapple, fee and life rent, Lord make us thankful." Bradwardine himself lies concealed on his own estate and not a tenant will betray him, and he often finds " bits of things in my way that the poor bodies, God help them, put there be-cause they think they may be useful to me." Richie Moniplies is a preaching and provoking fool of a man-servant, but he is unflinchingly loyal to Nigel, and therefore Scott gives him a knighthood before he has done with him. Edie Ochiltree, the beggar man, when there is a threatening of invasion, lends a hand for the defence of the land he loves, and proves himself a dog of the old Scots breed a fighting terrier and not the shiftless, treacherous, cowardly tramp of our highways.
It is a mistake to suppose that any novelist can simply lift living persons into his pages. This would be a violation of the technique of his art, and were the same thing as if one pasted a photograph into the middle of a picture. The characters in real fiction have been his own creation, but his imagination has been fed with the material of life. Scott lived among the people of his novels before they took service with him in literature. If he deals very kindly with faithful Caleb Balderstone it was because his own household were so faithful to him. He took a fancy to a poacher that was brought before him for justice and passed him into his own service, and Purdie was his loyal henchman henceforward. When evil days befell Scott and he had to reduce his establishment, Pepe Mathieson, who used to be the coachman, was willing to be the ploughman, and Scott was most grateful for this fealty. " I cannot forget," says Lockhart, " how his eyes sparkled when he first pointed out to me Peter Mathieson guiding the plough on the Haugh. ' Egad,' he said, ` old Pepe and old Pepe's whistling at his darg. The honest fellow said a yoking in a deep field would do baith him and the blackies good. If things get round with me, easy shall be Pepe's cushion." One of the trials of Scott's life was the death of Thomas Purdie, the ex-poacher and trusty servitor. " I have lost," Scott writes, " my old and faithful servant, and am so much shocked that I really wish to be quit of the country and safe in town. I have this day laid him in the grave." This was the inscription on Purdie's tomb
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THE FAITHFUL AND ATTACHED SERVICES OF TWENTY-TWO YEARS, AND IN SORROW FOR THE LOSS OF A HUMBLE BUT SINCERE FRIEND, THIS STONE WAS ERECTED BY
SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART., OF ABBOTSFORD.
" Thou hast been faithful
This is the heart of the Waverley Novels, and Scott's sweetest note.
Thomson, the son of the minister of Melrose, who became tutor at Abbotsford, won Scott's heart because he lost his leg in an encounter of his boyhood and refused to betray the name of the companion that had occasioned the mishap. " In the Dominie, like myself, accident has spoiled a capital life-guardsman, and so many were his eccentricities, so rich his learning, and so sound his principles, that he sat for good Dominie Sampson." It may have struck the reader of the Fair Maid of Perth that the physical timidity of Conachar, the young Highland chief, and the disgrace of his flight from the battle on the North Inch of Perth, where his henchmen had died so bravely for him, was written with a certain sympathy of feeling. That passage in which one is made to pity the poor lad was Scott's atonement for perhaps the one cruel deed of his life, his contemptuous anger against a brother who had refused to fight a duel (he was willing to fight one in old age himself). A lover of all dumb animals, he pays his tribute to Maida and his other favourite dogs in Bevis, the noble hound of Woodstock, and many another friendly fellow, whom his hand touches gently in fiction. When the Baron of Bradwardine comes down to Janet's cottage and Waverley and he have their supper together, Ban and Buscar have also their share. They play their loyal part, too, and Scott is still teaching his lesson of fidelity as much as when he wrote the epitaph on old Maida
"Beneath the sculptured form, which late you wore, Sleep soundly, Maida, at your master's door."
When the Antiquary came forward at the young fisherman's funeral and said that, as landlord to the deceased, he would carry his head to the grave, it was Scott's own heart speaking, and old Alison B reck, among the fish-women, swore almost aloud, funeral though it was. " His honour Monkbarns should never want sax warp of oysters in the season (of which fish he was understood to be fond) if she should gang to sea and dredge for them herself, in the foulest wind that ever blew." It was when staying with a friend at Loch Lomond that he bethought himself of Rob Roy and laid out the scenery in his mind, and among his acquaintances he found the delightful Antiquary. The Epic of Jeanie Deans he took from actual life, and even the smugglers' secret cellars in Redgauntlet he had found at Berwick. The Covenanters of a later generation he had seen and not particularly loved, and the old Scots gossips who talk in the post-office scene one of the most successful interiors of Scott he had met in many a cottage. He is most convincing when he is dealing with Scots life; young Waverley, the English squire, is a shadow be-side the Antiquary, and Scott himself describes him as a sneaking piece of imbecility, and declared his conviction that " if he had married Flora M`Ivor she would have set him up upon the chimneypiece." The English peasant in Scott's novels is a wooden figure beside Cuddie Headrigg, and the London cashier a poor ghost in the presence of Bailie Nicol Jarvie. If his Scots lairds, and Scots peasants, and Scots women of the working class are not real, and do not carry them-selves as flesh and blood, then there is no reality in fiction.
With all his inherent nobility of soul and personal elevation above everything mean, Scott had a thorough appreciation of what has been called, and no word so accurately describes it, the " pawkiness " of Scots character, which is shared in some degree by all classes from ploughmen to ecclesiastics, and of which a Bailie is often the perfect impersonation. And this characteristic quality of the Scots people has been immortalised in one of Scott's most felicitous passages, when Niel Blane gives directions to his daughter how to manage the public-house in the trying days of Claverhouse and the Covenanters. " Jenny, this is the first day that ye are to take the place of your worthy mother in attending to the public; a douce woman she was, civil to the customers, and had a good name wi' Whig and Tory, baith up the street and doun the street. It will be hard for you to fill her place, especially on sic a thrang day as this; but Heaven's will maun be obeyed. Jenny, whatever Milnwood ca's for, be sure he maun hae't, for he's the captain o' the Popinjay, and auld customs maun be sup-ported; if he canna pay the lawing himsell, as I ken he's keepit unco short by the head, I'll find a way to shame it out o' his uncle. The curate is playing at dice wi' Cornet Grahame. Be eident and civil to them baith clergy and captains can gie an unco deal o' fash in thae times, where they take an ill-will. The dragoons will be crying for ale, and they wunna want it, and maunna want it they are' unruly chiels, but they pay ane some gate or other. I gat the humle-cow, that's the best in the byre, frae black Frank Inglis and Sergeant Bothwell for ten pund Scots, and they drank out the price at ae downsitting. . . . Whist! ye silly tawpie, we have naething to do how they come by the bestial they sell be that atween them and their consciences. Aweel.Take notice, Jenny, of that dour, stour-looking carle that sits by the cheek o' the ingle, and turns his back on a' men. He looks like one o' the hill folk, for I saw him start a wee when he saw the redcoats, and I jalouse he wad hae liked to hae ridden by, but his horse (it's a good gelding) was ower sair travailed; he behoved to stop whether he wad or no. Serve him cannily, Jenny, and wi' little din, and dinna bring the sodgers on him by speering ony questions at him; but let him no hae a room to himsell, they wad say ye were hiding him. For yoursell, Jenny, ye'll be civil to a' the folk, and take nae heed o' ony nonsense and daffing the young lads may say t'ye. Folk in the hostler line maun put up wi' muckle. Your mither, rest her saul, could put up wi' as muckle as mist women but off hands is fair play; and if onybody be uncivil ye may gie me a cry. Aweel, when the malt begins to get aboon the meal, they'll begin to speak about government in kirk and state, and then, Jenny, they are like to quarrel let them be doing anger's a drouthy passion, and the mair they dispute, the mair ale they'll drink; but ye were best serve them wi' a pint o' the sma' browst, it will heat them less, and they'll never ken the difference."
Scott's religious position has been, as was inevitable, the subject of keen controversy, for Scotland has ever been a land of theological debate, and is to-day living up with spirit to her ancient character. When Sir Walter opened the novel of Old Mortality on the 5th of May 1679, and plunged into the life of that day in the West of Scotland, he took his courage in both his hands, for he chose the period and the scene of the hottest conflict in Scots history. Owing partly to the wildness of the scenery and partly to the intensity of the people, the history of Scotland has been one long romance, and from the Reformation, religion was the original cause and burning fire of every controversy. No one can understand Scots history without fixing in his mind that religion has played the chief part in the making of Scots life, and that the Scots have been ready to argue and to fight, not only about the great principles which have divided, say the Roman from the Protestant faith, but also about the jots and tittles of their creed. Fine scruples have created parties within the Scots Kirk which are almost innumerable, and which certainly are now unintelligible to the modern mind. Sir Walter has crystallised the perfervidum ingenium of the Scots folk in this book, and staged not the politics only but the theology of Scotland. There were the Cavaliers under Claverhouse hunting the Presbyterians, who were hiding on the moors, and meeting in Conventicles for worship, and the Covenanters growing ever more bitter and determined under this persecution, till at last they were ready to renounce allegiance to the King, as well as to denounce the Bishops, and there were the less extreme Presbyterians who thought that their brethren had gone too far, and endeavoured to reconcile their own religious principles with loyalty to government. This was the situation of Old Mortality, and these the feelings which moved its characters. Scott's insight and fairness must be judged by his studies of Claverhouse on the one hand, and the Presbyterian ministers on the other, and it has been difficult to satisfy every person about Claverhouse. Macaulay, who is neither a Covenanter nor an advocate of their particular case, asserts that Claverhouse goaded the peasantry of the Western Lowlands into madness, and murdered a pious Covenanter called Brown before his wife's eyes, while in Napier's Memoirs of Dundee
Grahame is represented as a patriotic Scots-man as well as a gallant soldier, and this was also the portrait drawn by another Jacobite man of letters, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe. " Bloody Claverhouse " was the Covenanting nickname, and " Bonnie Dundee " was the Cavalier description of the same man, and it is only less dangerous to hold the scales of justice in the life of Claverhouse than in that of Queen Mary. It was to his credit that he was on bad terms with the drunken politicians of the day, and that he remained to the end of his career an unselfish loyalist, doing all that in him lay for the Stuart family, with very little thanks from either them or their advisers, and that he died at the battle of Killiecrankie fighting for a lost cause. It was not the least of his exploits that he won the heart of Lady Jean Cochrane, whose mother was an extreme Covenanter; but there seems little doubt that behind a fair face and graceful manner he hid a determined and un-swerving purpose, that to his friends he was tender and true, and to the enemies of his cause absolutely murderous, and that in spite of the apologies of his biographer, Napier, and the glamour cast round him in Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers, he treated the Covenanters with great cruelty and did not shrink from military murders. Upon the whole I am inclined to think that the study of Grahame in Old Mortality, although it has been so severely criticised in Covenanting quarters, is not far from the truth, for full justice is done to his personal attractiveness and disinterested loyalty, while his disregard of popular rights and his indifference to suffering are clearly represented.
Whether Scott has rendered equal justice to the other side is another question, and perhaps he ought not to have prejudiced the case by caricaturing the names of the Covenanting ministers. One is inclined beforehand to laugh at clergymen who are called Poundtext or Kettledrummle, or Habakkuk Mucklewrath. The reader must, however, remember that the names are only the license of a novelist, and that the Presbyterian minister did not pound his text any more clumsily, and that he was not any more a kettledrum in the matter of noise than the Episcopalian curate of the day. One cannot tell who sat for Poundtext, but for Kettledrummle and Mucklewrath one suspects that Scott depended upon the lives of Peden and Cameron, as told with remarkable felicity of style by Patrick 'Walker, in the book called Biographia Presbyteriana. Pat-rick Walker could tell a story with engaging vigour, and was a great favourite with Robert Louis Stevenson, who, in his Letters, vol. ii. p. 312, says : " I have lately been returning to my wallowing in the mire. When I was a child, and indeed until I was nearly a man, I consistently read Covenanting books. Now that I am a grey-beard - or would be if I could raise the beard I have returned, and for weeks back have read little else but Wodrow, Walker, Shields, &c." McBriar, whom Scott treats with more respect, is almost certainly Hugh McKail, a young clergyman of delicate constitution and beautiful character, who threw himself into the Covenanting cause, and was involved in the " Pentland Rising." He was taken prisoner and put to death in Edinburgh in the twenty-sixth year of his age. During his trial he was tortured in the "boots," and Scott has used the scene in Old Mortality. McKail was a high-spirited enthusiast, and his last words on the scaffold were: " I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God to my King and your King, to the blessed Apostles and Martyrs, and to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of Angels, to the general assembly of the first-born, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant; and I bid you all farewell, for God will be more comfortable to you than I could be, and He will be now more refreshing to me than you could be. Farewell, farewell in the Lord!"
From the moderate Presbyterian clergy, so poorly represented by Poundtext, Scott might have taken men like Robert Douglas, of whom it was written: " He was a great state preacher, one of the greatest of that age in Scotland, for he feared no man to declare the mind of God to him, yet very accessible and easy to be conversed with." Or Lawrence Charteris, who was described by Bishop Bur-net as " a perfect friend and a most sublime Christian. He did not talk of the defects of his kind like an angry reformer, but like a man full of a deep but humble sense of them." He used to say the defection among them has been " from the temper and conversation which the Gospel requires of us." Above all he could have chosen Leighton, who was first of all a Presbyterian minister and then a Bishop, but above all a Christian; and Carstairs, who was persecuted before the Reformation, and after the Reformation became the most powerful man in Scotland, who showed the greatest kindness to the party that had persecuted him, and was beyond question the ablest clergyman of his day. It is always a misfortune, and one may find a contemporary illustration, when any body of men are driven into extreme views and desperate actions, for they become either absurd or fanatical, and the real conscience and courage of the Covenanters have been much disfigured by a want of charity in their utterances and common sense in their policy. But it is well to re-member that they were not all Kettledrummles, and Scott declares in a note to Old Mortality, that if he had to rewrite the tale he would give the Moderate Party a better representative than Peter Poundtext, and even the severest critic of Scott from the Covenanting side must admit that in Jeanie Deans he drew a perfect type of humble Scots piety.
Is it wonderful that the extreme wing of Scots religion, which has not always been in profound sympathy with literature, has found some difficulty in accepting Scott as an interpreter of our nation, when Thomas Carlyle, who was by instinct a man of letters, has not dealt so generously with his distinguished fellow-countryman as those who love both men could desire. Among certain admirable doctrines of the Roman faith there is one called " invincible ignorance "which ought to be allowed greater play in every controversy, theological or political, and not least in racial misunderstandings. By our heredity and environment, by the books we have read and the men who have taught us, by the blood in our veins and the people among whom we have lived, we are apt to be so impressed and so biassed as to be blinded to the truth of a creed which is not ours, and the excellence of men who are of another type. It were a counsel of perfection to ask from a Puritan justice to Charles I. and Oliver Cromwell, and al-though it was a fine achievement of Erasmus to appreciate at their value both Luther and Pope Leo X., that humanist is a rare figure in history, and I am sorry to say not a force in affairs. People full of the strong wine of Scots controversy are apt to speak as if there has been only one Scotland; the Scotland created by John Knox and the ministers of the Kirk, by the theology of Calvin and the democratic education of the parish school, and represented admirably and successfully by that middle class which has supplied the elders to the Kirk and the traders to foreign parts, and up to this time has made Scotland intelligent and prosperous. They forget that there has been always another Scotland since the days of Queen Mary, of Catholics, Episcopalians, Jacobites, and Moderate Kirkmen, like that excellent man of sincerity and courtesy, who ended a note to John Knox, " Farewell in Christ, and endeavour to let truth prevail and not the man," and Archbishop Leighton who was weary of wrangling, and Carstairs who held the scales level between both sides, and the literary men who, at the close of the eighteenth century, made Edinburgh glorious through the world. Unto this Scotland be-longed for the most part the soldiers, the great lawyers, poets, and scholars, and of this line Scott had come. He was a Cavalier whose heart was with Prince Charles, though his reason was with King George, who could appreciate the courage of the Covenanters, but whose own attitude would have been that of Young Morton in Old Mortality. Scott in his geniality and charity, his sympathies with the virtues of a chivalrous past, and his instinctive dislike of religious extremity, was a Moderate, and has behind him a minority, perhaps, of the Scots people, but a minority commanding respect for its appreciation of a storied past, its devotion to Art and Letters, its love of peace and its principle of charity. It is to the credit of Sir Walter that he, the descendant of those border raiders, has been as comprehensive and as tolerant.
Carlyle, on the other hand, whatever may have been his former creed or his local surroundings, was all his days a Calvinist and a democrat, with the narrowness and sincerity, the strength and intolerance of the peasant class from which he sprung. It is natural for Carlyle to ridicule Sir Walter's desire to establish a county family, and one recognises that the ambitions of Abbotsford and Ecclefechan were hopelessly at variance, but as one who received his first literary inspiration from Carlyle's address to the students of Edinburgh University, and who has felt the iron of Carlyle's virile gospel pass as a tonic into his blood, I cannot but regret that Carlyle in his well-known essay did such poor justice to Scott and the Waverley Novels. When he speaks of him as writing daily "with the ardour of a steam-engine, that he might make fifteen thousand a year and buy upholstery with it," and pronounces that " his work is not profitable for doctrine or reproof or edification or building up or elevating in any shape," one knows that he has seen Scott in a glass darkly, and that because he had not come with open face. When he enlarges upon Scott as one of the healthiest of men, and allows with condescension that amusement in the way of reading can go no further than his tales, one wishes that Carlyle had left Scott alone and confined himself to Burns, whom he understood from the heart out, for they were by heredity of the same breed. Compare Lockhart's Scott; one of the most wholesome biographies in our literature, and the Life of Carlyle. Carlyle complains that Scott's biography had run to seven volumes, but his in one shape or other has run to several volumes more, and no one can be sure when it will be finally concluded, and his grave be left in peace. Carlyle is in serious doubt whether Scott was a great man, and while he admits he was a demi-god among the circulating heroes of the library, he sees no likelihood of a place for him among the great writers of all ages. Well, the books stand together upon the shelf of every student of literature and Scots history; we can form our own judgment of greatness. It is a means of grace to read Scott's life, in which, if nothing is set down in malice, nothing is extenuated, for his stain-less purity in which there was no touch of austerity, his winsome good nature which never seemed to fail, his kindliness to every person and creature that came into contact with him, his too generous help to second-rate writers and rash publishers, his generous forgiveness of the wrongs which he suffered in business affairs, his heroic endurance of the cruellest pain, his early romantic attachment which was the shadow on his life, his chivalrous service of his wife who was not his real love, his courage in the great crash of his affairs, his persistent toil to pay other men's debts, and his gentle, believing death, bring us into an atmosphere in which it is good to live. No woman had ever cause to complain of Scott's rudeness, no man heard him whine about his illnesses, no fellow-writer was contemptuously treated by him, no man was afraid to speak to him. He had no affectations, either in style or manner; he had neither grudges nor jealousies; every one loved him his wife, his children, his friends, his printers, his servants, his dogs. " Scott," says Lord Tennyson, " is the most chivalrous literary figure of this century, and the author with the finest range since Shakespeare." His was the greatness of faith and charity, and one may hold with reason that Scotland has never produced a finer instance of practical and persuasive religion.
The subtle quality of a man's character passes into his work and becomes its preserving salt, but a great writer must submit his work to the arbitrament, not of the popularity of his day, but of the criticism which is above every day. There are books which catch the ear of the people and pass away having served their purpose, there are books which remain and they are the classics. " The last discovery of modern culture," a competent writer says, " is that Scott's prose is commonplace. The young men at our universities are too critical to care for his artless sentences and flowing descriptions. As boys love lollipops, so these juvenile fops love to roll phrases under the tongue, as if phrases in themselves had any value apart from thoughts, feelings, great conceptions of human sympathy." From the circulars of publishers I learn that new editions of Scott are ever appearing, but from private observation I do not find the younger generation is reading Scott, and without any disrespect to the literary craftsmen of the day, this seems to me a calamity. It reminds me of Ruskin's saying, about wondering, not how much people suffer, but how much they lose. It may be that Scott has indulged too much in introductions, and has dared to add notes which are full of instruction, but which, on that account, this generation does not desire. Or it may be that he has not the trick of sensational plot, and did not strike upon the invention of the detective story. There is, how-ever, good ground for believing that his hold is permanent, and that in the end his vogue will be universal. When estimating Scott we must remind ourselves what he essayed to do, and his was that which is the first and will be the last form of literature. When the first half-dozen humans gathered in a cave one told how he had killed some monstrous beast, and that was the beginning of letters; when the last half-dozen huddle together on the cold earth some one will tell of his battle with a seal, and that will be the end of letters. Literature began with a story, and nothing so holds the human mind, and the genius of Sir Walter Scott was the genius of the story. Let us grant that his style was not " precious," let us even grant that it was sometimes redundant, if you please slipshod, he could afford even if he chose to be ungrammatical. His was the easy undress of one whose position was assured and who was indifferent to little conventionalities. Between the books of precocious moderns and the Waverley Novels there is the same difference as between the trim lawn and the neat little beds of a villa garden, and the mountain side with the swelling waves of purple heather and the emerald green between. It partakes of a debating society to inquire which is his greatest book, but I suppose his mightiest three are Old Mortality, the .dntiquary, and the Heart of Midlothian. With those three and his Shakespeare a man might be content. For this is the large and wealthy place of literature, where you breathe the air of Homer and of Virgil, of Dante and Milton. And for a single passage of passion and pathos I can only remember one other from Thackeray to be compared with the plea which Jeanie Deans made with the Queen for her sister's life:
"O, madam, if ever ye kend what it was to sorrow for and with a sinning and a suffering creature, whose mind is sae tossed that she can be neither ca'd fit to live or die, have some compassion on our misery! Save an honest house from dishonour, and an unhappy girl, not eighteen years of age, from an early and dreadful death ! Alas! it is not when we sleep soft and wake merrily ourselves that we think on other people's sufferings. Our hearts are waxed light within us then, and we are for righting our ain wrangs and fighting our ain battles. But when the hour of trouble comes to the mind or to the body and seldom may it visit your leddyship and when the hour of death comes, that comes to high and low lang and late may it be yours O, my leddy, then it isna what we hae dune for oursels, but what we hae dune for others, that we think on mist pleasantly. And the thought that ye hae intervened to spare the puir thing's life will be sweeter in that hour, come when it may, than if a word of your mouth could hang the haill Porteous mob at the tail of ae tow."
And yet, and I quote a modern: " This glorious poet, without whom our very conception of human development would have ever been imperfect, this manliest and truest and widest of romances, we neglect for some hothouse hybrid of psychological analysis, for the wretched imitators of Balzac and the jackanapes phrasemongering of some Osric of our day, who assure us that Scott is an " absolute Philistine." It remains, however, that a man may be greater than his work. If there be any goodness throughout the Waverley Novels, it was the inspiration of their writer. They have added to the company of our friends many high-spirited women and many gallant gentlemen, they have taught us to think more kindly of human nature and to seek after the highest things, but they have introduced us to no braver or truer man than Scott himself. Unintoxicated by prosperity and unbroken in adversity, toiling to redeem that dreadful debt while his wife lay dying, and after her death going back to his work without any public moan, he did his part right knightly. With Shakespeare he is the chief creative genius of our English literature, and with Burns he is the proud glory of Scots letters. And now, if in jealous affection we have complained that Carlyle did less than justice to Scott's work, we gladly accept his beautiful tribute to Scott's character. " When he departed he took a man's life along with him. No sounder piece of British manhood was put together in that eighteenth century of time. Alas, his fine Scotch face, with its shaggy honesty, sagacity, and goodness, when we saw it latterly on the Edinburgh streets, was all worn with care, the joy all fled from it: ploughed deep with labour and sorrow. We shall never forget it; we shall never see it again. Adieu, Sir Walter, pride of all Scotsmen, take our proud and sad farewell."