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it without exaggeration. As it was, they too often flew into a passion with the world, and narrowed the range of their vision by dwelling too much on particular objects. In their own domain of imagination, they were absolute sovereigns, and evinced wonderful power, and produced grand results; but that domain was limited by the pride and passion of personality. To Scott, alone, of all the poets of his time, belongs the merit of comprehension. Although his works could hardly have been written in any other period than the nineteenth century, they still are remarkably free from its egotism. No writer since Shakspeare has displayed such power in the creation and delineation of character, or such freedom from personal prejudices in describing life and manners. His charity, as has been remarked, extended even to opposite bigotries. The passions, sentiments, thoughts, prejudices of human nature, have free play in his writings. His three great contemporaries, when they attempted to delineate character, barely succeeded in delineating more than themselves, their opposites, or their ideals; but Scott, free from the shackles of this individualism, aimed to represent not one man, but human nature.
The life that he delineates is not, as some imagine, actual life. His beings are emphatically beings of the mind, created in accordance with the laws of human nature, and placed in natural situations, and exposed to the usual vicissitudes of life; but still they are not copies, but creations. They have an independent existence in a world of their own, a world acknowledged by the imagination as a reality, and affecting us almost as nearly as the actual world in which we live; but, at the same time, a world in which there is more moral harmony, and a nearer realization of the mind's desires, than that which comes under our immediate observation. Much of the confusion observed in general judgments on hooks and authors proceeds from the habit of blending our actual perceptions of life with the life we lead in thought; and the consequence is, that an author who represents in vivid colors the possibility of any form of actual life is often deemed merely its copyist. Scott, for instance, gave us no copy of life as it was in the middle ages; but he took the elements of which it was composed, moulded them into forms corresponding to their nature, and exhibited the whole as something possible to thought, after those elements were given. The actual history of the times is the mere raw material of the intellectual product.
In meditation, -in evolving the spiritual significance of sensible objects, - in that rapid-shaping imagination which robes in forms of dazzling beauty the abstract conceptions of the mind, in that sublime unrest of the soul, which forces the mightiest elements of the universe to become the servitors of its wide-wandering passions and impatient aspirations, - in that impulsive surrender of the whole nature to the feeling or thought of the moment, and coloring everything with its gloomy or glittering hues, — in all those sensitive qualities of intellect and passion, which all delight to associate with the bard, which, for the moment, take the mind captive, and feel their way in flame along every nerve of our being, — in these, Scott seems relatively deficient from the objectivity of his creations. The individual soul, merging all objects in itself, is not observable in his writings. But in his delineations of character, he well understood, and well represented, the influence of moods of the mind in modifying the shows of external nature,
and the burning emphasis with which imaginative passion utters the images which it seizes and shapes in moments of uncontrollable emotion. His works furnish numberless instances of the sharp, direct, smiting expres.. sion of passion, in words that leap right from the heart, and strike their objects instantly. As his power in this respect was displayed only at intervals, from the breadth and variety of character he delineated, the pauses of his passion have sometimes been laid to his weakness, when they are more properly referable to his comprehension. A poem penetrated throughout with intense individual feeling, in other words, one long-continued lyric, and a poem including many individuals and grades of feeling, are to be judged by different laws. Shakspeare could easily have expanded Hamlet into a poem. Had Hamlet lived in the nineteenth century, he might have “multiplied himself among mankind " like Byron, without passing beyond the individuality with which Shakspeare has gifted him. But Shakspeare comprehends him; he does not limit Shakspeare. So Scott, in creating characters, observes the conditions of their being; the wild, passionate utterance befitting one person, in one mood, at one time, would not befit all of his persons, in all moods, at all times.
It must be admitted, however, that Scott, with all his range of vision, with all his skill in painting scenery, with all his love of the beautiful and sublime in nature, evinces no very subtle perception of the spiritual mysteries of the universe. In this his great contemporaries, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Byron, are his superiors. In his description of nature there is no mystical charm, no
sense sublime of something still more deeply interfused.” We believe that this mystical element is an
objective as well as subjective reality, requiring only fineness of perception in a peculiar mood of mind to be perceived. But if Scott is here confessedly deficient, neither are his compositions “sicklied o'er” with that
paie cast of thought,” that unrest and diseased spirituality, which too often meet us in the sensitive mysticism of subjective poets. Scott is a hale, hearty man, through all his writings. In his domain of imagination, there is neither fog nor earthquake, but only cloud and sunshine. We cannot say that he was deficient in a sense of the supernatural, for that was a prominent ele ment in his genius, as in all genius; but the distinction we all feel to exist between the supernatural and the mystical, measures the difference between him and Wordsworth, in regard to the more refined processes of imagination and feeling.
The tendency of Scott's writings, like the tendency of all the great compositions of the nineteenth century, is in favor of human freedom and human happiness. However strong may have been the spell which the past exercised over his mind, whatever may have been his politics, he could not succeed in accurate delineation of character, without allowing his genius to follow its own instincts, and confer its titles of nobility only on the meritorious. Those who have attacked him for his supposed injustice to particular classes have generally been persons indisposed to do justice to the classes opposed to themselves. Critics who have been bigots in their hatred of him have generally been bigots in their love of some other order and development of genius. But the most pitiful lie that ever insinuated itself into
criticism above that of Grub-street, is the charge of aristocracy brought against his writings. He had not, forsooth, “any sympathy with the people"! If such a foolish fallacy be correct, then most assuredly he is not the author of the Waverley novels. The people, however, have not left the task of answering the charge to critics. But it is urged that he displays a childish love of rank and titles. This, in its essential meaning, is as false as the other. Who among the characters in “Ivanhoe” is drawn with the most power,
on whom has the author lavished the whole wealth of his heart and imagination ? Rebecca, the despised and untitled Jewess. In the “ Heart of Midlothian," there is an interview between Queen Caroline and Jeannie Deans. Now, this
queen is a case in point. She ruled her husband, who, after a fashion, ruled Great Britain. Yet the little Scotch peasant girl, with no other titles than those conferred upon her by the Most High, is so represented that every reader cannot but consider her as superior to the queen. Instances of a similar character might be quoted without number from Scott's poems and novels, to prove that his sympathy with his race, and especially with the humbler portions of it, has never been excelled by any writer of equal comprehension of heart and imagination. By casting it in a dramatic and narrative form, he made it more universally felt than if he had asserted it with more impassioned emphasis. He so exhibited human nature, that its worth might be perceived by all. Tyranny exists by virtue of misrepresenting man. It considers him a wild animal, who can be kept safely only by being caged. Like the malignant Furies, sent to taunt the godlike Titan, and give a sharper poignancy to the agonies he endured for humanity, it continually teaches that
" Those who do endure