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there is a greater proportion of pleasing and tender passages, with much less antiquarian detail, and, upon the whole, a larger variety of characters, more artfully and judiciously contrasted. There is nothing so fine, perhaps, as the battle in Marmion, or so picturesque as some of the scattered sketches in the Lay of the Last Minstrel; hut there is a richness and a spirit in the Lady of the Lake, which does not pervade either of these poems; a profusion of incident, and a shifting brilliancy of colouring, that reminds us of the witchery of Ariosto, and a constant elasticity and occasional energy, which seem to belong more peculiarly to the author himself.
At this period Mr Scott had outstripped all his poetical competitors in the race of popularity. The mighty star of Byron had not yet risen; and we doubt whether any British poet had e\cr had so many of his books sold, or so many of his verses read and admired by such a multitude of persons in so short a time as Waller Scott. Confident in the force and originality of his own gcuius, he was not afraid to avail himself of diction and of sentiment, wherever they appeared to be beautiful and impressive, usiitg them, however, at all times, with the skill and spirit of an inventor; and, quite certain that he could not be mistaken for a plagiarist or imitator, he made free use of that great treasury of characters, images, and expressions, which had been accumulated by the most celebrated of his predecessors; at the s;ime time that the rapidity of his transitions, the novelty of his combinations, and the spirit and variety of his own thoughts and inventions, show plainly that he was a borrower from any thing but poverty, and took only what he could have given if he had been born in an earlier age. The great secret of his popularity at the time, and the leading characteristic of his poetry, consisted evidently in this, tint he made use of more common topics, images, and expressions, than any original poet of later times; and, at the same time, displayed more genius and originality than any recent author who had hitherto worked in the same materials. By the latter peculiarity, he entitled himself to the admiration of every description of readers; by the former he came recommended in an especial manner to the inexperienced, at the hazard of some little offence to the more cultivated and fastidious.
In the choice of his subjects, for example, he did not attempt to interest merely by fine observations or pathetic sentiment, but took the assistance of a story, and enlisted the reader's curiosity among his motives for attention. Then his rhiracters were all selected from the most comui'iii dramatis pcrsttmt of poetry—kings, warriors, knights, outlaws, nuns, minstrels, secluded dam
sels, wizards, and true lovers. He never ventnr to carry us into the cottage of the peasant, li Crabbe or Cowper; nor into the bosom of doini tic privacy, like Campbell; nor among creatui of the imagination, like Soulhey or Darwin. Supersonages, assuredly, are not in themselves interesting or striking as those to which 01 | poet devoted himself; but they are far less fan \ liar in poetry, and are therefore more likely 'engage the attention of those to whom poetry familiar. In the management of the |iassioti again, he pursued the same popular and comp ralively easy course. He raised all the most f miliar and poetical emotions, by the most obvio aggravations, and in the most compendious ar judicious way. He dazzled the reader with tl splendour, and even warmed him with the tra sient heat of various affections; but he nowbe fairly kindled him into enthusiasm, or rarlti him into tenderness. Writing for the world large (unlike Byron), he wisely abstained from a tempting to raise any passion to a height to whit worldly people could not be transported, an contented himself with giving his reader tl chance of feeling as a brave, kind, and arTectmi ate gentleman should often feel in the ordinal course of his existence, without trying to bread into him either that lofty enthusiasm which dl* dains the ordinary business and amusements < life, or that quiet and deep sensibility, which ac fits for all it* pursuits. With regard to dirtio and imagery, too, it is quite obvious that he tin cd not at writing in either a pure or very comino style. He seems to have been anxious only 1 strike, and to be easily and universally andei stood; and, for this purpose, to have culled til most glittering and conspicuous expressions, of th most popular authors, and to have interwove them in splendid confusion with his own nervot diction and irregular versification. Indifferer whether he coins or borrows, and drawing wii equal freedom on his memory and his imaginx tion, he went boldly forward, in full leliame o | a never-failing abundance, and dazzled, with hi richness and variety, even those who are moi apt to be offended with his glare and irregnla rity. There is nothing in Scott's poetry of tb severe and majestic st\le of Milton —or of th terse and fine composition of Pope—or of til elaborate elegance and melody of Campbell—0 even of the flowing and redundant diction « Southey; but there is a medley of bright imagic and glowing words, set carelessly and loosely to gether—a diction tinged successively with th careless richness of Sh.ikspeare, the harshness am antique simplicity of the old romances, the home liness of vulgar ballads and anecdotes, and tin sentimeutal glitter of the most modern poetry —
eog from the borders of the ludicrous to those (fikstWime—alternately minute and energetic -wartimes artificial, and frequently negligent, teaWw fall of spirit and vivacity—abounding aia^e* that are striking, at first sight, to minds * *tr\ emlextore—and never expressing a sena-rtf which it can cost the most ordinary reader Kt exertion to comprehend. Iffieag the peculiarities of Scott, as a poet, we t^fc notice his singular talent for description, ad epecullv for that of scenes abounding in sou* or action of any kind. In tins depart* nt, indeed, he may be considered almost wi thai i riral, either among modern or ancient br&;ud the character and process of his defoiftnas are as extraordinary as their effect is wKuaiag. He places before the eyes of his iskn a more distinct and complete picture, wtop*, than any other artist ever presented by ■orpvonls; and yet he does not enumerate all A; nuWe parts of the subject with any degree
* eiaotcBess, nor confine himself by any means t>tfc*t i> visible. The singular merit of his dearaUw*, on the contrary, consists in this, that, ■ttiiifew bold and abrupt strokes, he sketches i ma spirited outline, and then instantly kindles 'tfrta* Hidden light and colour of some moral *^"3ioa. There are none of his fine descriptions, wwliagly, which do not derive a great part of ^nr^orness and picturesque effect, as well as osiaterest, from the quantity of character and >nl expression which is thus blended with their £sk.aiid which, so far from interrupting the "ntfption of the external object, very |K>wervi •umulate the fancy of the reader to commit; and give a grace and a spirit to the ■w representation, of which we do not know *tert to look for a similar example. Walter **lhas many other characteristic excellencies, fcvemast not detain our readers any longer fi this imperfect sketch of his poetical cha
lathe list of poetical works given above, we "*» here to add two poems at first published
* aymouily, but since acknowledged, viz. «The **^«lofTriermain,»and -Harold the Dauntless;* "in 1811, a dramatic sketch called - Halidon ■*■• In his preface to the latter, the poet says, *a bis dramatic sketch is in no particular deeped or calculated for the stage, and that any
* tempt to produce it iu action will be at the peril ''isMewho make the experiment. The truth 'fcrt, like most of the higher poetical spirits of
* *ge, be has found out a far safer and surer 'ntoe<fa:table judgments and fame, than trusts'the hazardous presentment of the charac•*n he draws, bv the heroes of the sock and
buskin, and to the dubious and captious shouts of the pit and gallery.
That Halidon Hill is a native, heroic, and chivalrous drama—clear, brief, and moving in its story—full of pictures, living and breathing, and impressed with the stamp of romantic and peculiar times, and expressed in language rich and felicitous, must be felt by the most obtuse intellect; yet we are not sure that its success would be great on the stage, if for the stage it had ever been designed. The beauties by which it charms and enchains attention in the closet —those bright and innumerable glimpses of past times —those frequent allusions to ancient deeds and departed heroes—the action of speech rather than of body, would be lost in the vast London theatres, where a play is wanted, adapted to the eye rather than to the head or heart. The time of action equals, it is true, the wishes of the most limited critic; the place, too, the foot of Halidon, and its barren ascent, cannot be much more ample than the space from the further side of the stage to the upper regions of the gallery; and the heroes who are called forth to triumph and to die are native flesh and blood, who yet live in their descendants. It has all the claims which a dramatic poem can well have on a British audience; yet we always hoped it would escape the clutches of those who cut up quantities for the theatres.
The transfer which the poet has avowedly made of the incidents of the battle of Homildon to the Hill of Halidon, seems such a violation of authentic history., as the remarkable similarity of those two disastrous battles can never excuse. It is dangerous to attempt this violent shifting of heroic deeds. "1 lie field of Bannockburn would never tell of any other victory than the one winch has rendered it renowned: History lifts up her voice against it; nor can the Hill of Homildon tell the story of the Hill of Halidon, nor that of any other battle but its own.
It will scarcely be expected that, in this rapid sketch, we should enter into a respective analysis of those works, so well known, and so universally admired, bv the appellation of the « Waverley Novels.* The painful circumstances which compelled their author to disclose himself are still fresh in the recollection and the sympathy of the public: the motives, or no motives, which induced him so long and so pertinaciously to abstain from avowing himself, it is notour province to criticise, nor do we wish to make a boast of having always believed what could scarcely be ever doubted, viz. that the Great Unknown and the author of Marmion were « one and indivisible.
The annexed is a list of the novels in question,
Guy Mannering . . . i8i5
The Antiquary 1816
Tales of My Landlord,
First Series 1816.
Second Series . . 1818.
Third Series 1819.
Rob Roy 1818.
The Monastery .... 1820.
The Abbot i8ao.
Keiiil worth 1821.
The Pirate 1822.
The Fortunes of Nigel . 1822.
Quentin Durward . 1823.
Peveril of the Peak 1823.
St Honan's Well .... 1824.
Tales of the Crusaders . . 1825.
It may, then, be fearlessly asserted that, since the time when shakspeare wrote his thirty-eight plays in the brief space of his early manhood, there has been no such prodigy of literary fertility as the author of these novels. In a few brief years, he has founded a new school of invention, and embellished and endowed it with volumes of the most animated and original composition that have enriched British literature for a century—volumes that have cast into the shade all contemporary prose, and, by their force of colouring and depth of feeling, by their variety, vivacity, magical facility, ami living presentment of character, have rendered conceivable to this later age the miracles of the mighty dramatist. Shakspeare is, undoubtedly, more purely original , but it must be remembered that, in his time, there was much less to borrow—and that he too'has drawn freely and largely from the sources that were open to him, at least for his fable and graver sentiment; for his wit and humour, as well as his poetry, arc always his own. 'In our times, all the higher walks of literature have been so long and so often trodden, that it is scarcely pos>ible to keep out of the footsteps of some of our precursor*; and the ancients, it is well known, have anticipated all our bright thoughts, ami nut only visibly beset all ttie obvious approaches to glory, but swarm in such ambushed multitude)* behind, lh.it when we think we have gone fairly beyond their plagiarisms, ami honestly worked out an original excellence of our own, up starts some deep-read antiquary, and makes out, much to his own satisfaction, that,
Heaven knows how, many of these busy-bodies have been beforehand with us, both in the genus and the species of our invention.
Although Sir Walter Scott is certainly in less danger from such detections than any other we have ever met with, even in him the traces of imitation are obvious and abundant; and it is impossible, therefore, to give him the same credit for absolute originality as those earlier writer-, who, having no successful author to imitate, were obliged to copy directly from nature. In naming him along with Shakspeare, we mean still less to say, that he is to be put on a level with him, as to the richness and sweetness of his fancy, or that living vein of pure and lofty poetry which flows with such abundance through every part of his composition. On that level no other writer has ever stood, or will ever stand; though we do think that there are fancy and poetry enough in the Waverley Novels, if not to justify the comparison we have ventured to suggest, at least to save it from being altogether ridiculous. The variety stands out in the face of each of them, and the facility is attested, as in the case of Shakspeare himself, both by the inimitable freedom and happy carelessness of the style in which they aitcxecuted, and by the matchless rapidity with which they have been lavished on the public.
We must now, however, for the sake of keeping our chronology in order, be permitted to say a word or two on the most popular of these works.
The earlier novelists wrote at periods when society was not perfectly formed, and wc find that their picture of life was an emliodying of their own conceptions of the beau ideal. Heroes all generosity, and ladies all chastity, exalted above the vulgarities of society and nature, maintain, through eternal folios, their visionary virtues, without the stain of any moral frailty, or the degradation of any human necessities. Hut this high-llown style went out of fashion as the great ma»s of mankind became more informed of each other's feelings and concerns, and as nearer observation taught them that the real course of human life is a conflict of duty and desire, of \irtue and passion, of right and wrong: in the description of which it is difficult to say whether uniform virtue, or unredeemed vice, would be in the greater degree tedious and absurd.
The novelists next endeavoured to exhibit a general view of society. The characters in Gil Bias and Tom Jones arc not individuals so much as specimens of the human race; and these delightful works have been, are, and ever will be, popular; because they present lively and accurate delineations of ihe workings of the human soul, and that etery man who reads them is «h%ed to confess to himself, that, in similar cirica^ances with the personages of Le Sage and T*ite2^, he would probably have acted in the '. *n* which they are described to have done. F*o this species the transition to a third was ccsnf. The first class was theory—it was imprri tato a genuine description, and that again 'ri ix my to a more particular classification— icfyiog not of man in general, but of men of i teaiiiar nation, profession, or temper, or to go t*rpfarther—of individuals.
Itas Alexander and Cyrus could never have •x-ac1 in human society — they are neither fr&ri. nor English, nor Italian, because it is «!'ifleg»rically that they are men. Tom Jones isijiitSave Keen a Frenchman, and Gil Bias an Urisomao, because the essence of their character latminau nature, and the personal situation tf dg individual, are almost indifferent to the aces of the object which the author proposed to •adf; while, on the other hand, the characvr.ot the moU popular novels of later times are fet or Scotch, or French, and not, in the abmet, men. — The general operations of nature J?arcumscribed to her effects on an individual 3Kxur. and the modem novels of this class, esptted with the broad and noble style of the iH*r writers may be considered as Dutch pic»a. delightful in their vivid and minute details 1 otnon life, wonderfully entertdiuiug to ued«e observer of peculiarities, and highly ^^tMc to the accuracy, observation, and hur"tf of the painter, but exciting none of those v-fulted feelings, and giving none of those eriiewsof the human soul, which delight and 'J [he mind of the spectator of Raphael, Cor\>i »r Murillo. 'k object of Wavebxev was evidently to presi bithfnl and animated picture of the man»n lad state of society that prevailed in the ^tlern part of the island in the earlier part of isoatnrr ; and the author judiciously fixed up'tatri of the Rebellion in 1745, not only as • ntlioghis pages with the interest inseparably £2r'«d to the narration of such occurrences, but >< affording a fair opportunity for bringing out <;: tie contrasted principles and habits which ijopiUhedthe different classes of persons who '» divided the country, and formed among *£»elves the basis of almost all that was pecu"o the national character. That unfortunate 'Mention brought conspicuously to light, and '--liselaM time, the fading image of feudal chi*y m the mountains, and vulgar fanaticism in »plains; and startled the more polished parts .'theland with the wild but brilliant picture of Bt elevated valour, incorruptible fidelity, patri■uai brotherhood, and savage habits, of the
Celtic clans on the one hand, — and the dark, untractahle, and domiueering bigotry of the covenanters on the other. Roth forms of society had indeed been prevalent in the other parts of the country, but had there been so long superseded by more peaceable habits, and milder manners, that their vestiges were almost effaced, and their very memory nearly forgotten.
The feudal principalities hud been extinguished in the South for near three hundred years, and the dominion of the puritans from the time of the Restoration. When the glens of the central Highlands, therefore, were opened up to the gaze of the English, it seemed as if they were carried back to the days of the Heptarchy: when they saw the array of the West Country whigs, they might imagine themselves transported to the age of Cromwell. The effect, indeed, is almost as startling at the present moment; and one great source of the interest which the novel of Waverley possesses is to be sought in the surprise that is excited by discovering, that in our own country, and almost in our own age, manners and characters existed, and were conspicuous, which we had been accustomed to consider as belonging to remote antiquity, or extravagant romance. ,
The way in which they are here represented must at once have satisfied every reader, by an internal tact and conviction, that the delineation had been made from actual experience and observation;—experienced observation employed perhaps only on a few surviving relics and soeciinens of what was familiar a little earlier, but generalized from instances sufficiently numerous and complete, to warrant all that may have been added to the portrait.
The great traits of clannish dependence, pride, and fidelity, may still he detected in many districts of the Highlands, though they do not now adhere to the chieftains when they mingle in general society; aud the existing contentions of burghers aud antiburghers, and cameronians, though shrunk into comparative insignificance, and left indeed without protection to the ridicule of the profane, may still be referred to as complete verifications of all that is here stated about Gifted Gilfillan, or Ebenezer Cruickshanks. The traits of Scottish national character in the lower ranks can still less be regarded as antiquated or traditional; nor is there any thing in the whole compass of the work which gives us a stronger impression of the nice observation aud graphical talents of Sir Walter, than the extraordinary fidelity and felicity with which all the inferior agents in the story are represented. No one who has not lived long among the lower orders of all descriptions, and made himself familiar with their various tempers and dialects, can perceive the full merit of those rapid and characteristic sketches; but it requires only a general knowledge of human nature, to feel that they must be faithful copies from known originals; and to be aware of the extraordinary facility and flexibility of hand which has touched, for instance, with such discriminating shades, the various gradations of the Celtic character, from the savage imperturbability of Hugald Mahony, who stalks grimly about with his battle-axe on his shoulder, without speaking a word to any body, to the lively unprincipled activity of Galium Beg, the coarse unreflecting hardihood and heroism of | Evan Maccombich, and the pride, gallantry, eleI gance, and ambition of Fergus himself. In the I lower class of the Lowland characters, again, the | vulgarity of Mrs Flockhart and of Lieutenant j Jinker is perfectly distinct and original, as well as the puritanism of GiHillan and Cruickshanks, the depravity of Sirs Mucklewrath, and the slow solemnity of Alexander Saunderson. The Baron of Bradwardine, and Baillie Macwheeble, are caricatures no doubt, after the fashion of the caricatures in the novels of Smollett, —unique and extraordinary; but almost all the other personages in the history are fair representations of classes that are still existing, or may be remembered at least to have existed, by many whose recollections do not extend quite so far back as the year 1745.
The successful reception of Waverley was owing not only to the author's being a man of genius, but that he had also virtue enough to be true to nature throughout, and to content himself, even in the marvellous parts of his story, with copying from actual existences, rather than from the phantasms of his own imagination. The cbann which this communicates to all works that deal in the representation of human actions and characters is more readily felt than understood, and operates with unfailing efficacy even upon those who have no acquaintance with the originals from which the picture has been borrowed. It requires no ordinary talent, indeed, to cbuse such realities as may outshine the bright imaginations of the inventive, and so to combine them as to produce the most advantageous effect; but when this is once accomplished, the result is sure to be something more Hrm, impressive, and engaging, than call ever he produced by mere fiction. There is a consistency in nature and truth, the want of which may always be detected in the happiest combinations of fancy; and the consciousness of their support gives a confidence and assurance to the artist, which encourages him occasionally to risk a strength of colouring, and a boldness of touch, upon which he would scarce
ly have ventured iu a sketch that was pur ideal. The reader, too, who by these or s finer indications, speedily comes to perceive t he is-engaged with scenes and characters lliat copied from existing originals, naturally lent more eager attention to the story in -which ll are unfolded, and regards with a keener intei what he no longer considers as a bewilderiDg
'ries of dreams and exaggerations, but as au
i structive exposition of human actions aud en gies, and'of all the singular modifications wh
> our plastic nature receives from the circuinslan
; with which it is surrounded.
Although Guy Mannering is a production
; below Waverley, it is still a work of consider 1
! merit. Its inferiority to Waverley is, howev
1 very decided, not only as to general effect, but every individual topic of interest. Tlie slor; less probable, and is carried on with much ti chinery and effort; the incidents are less 11a
Iral; the characters are less distinctly paint and less worth painting ; in short, the whole u of the book is pitched in an inferior key.
The gratuitous introduction of siipe-mat': agency in some parts of this novel is certainly he disapproved of. Even Shakspeare, who I been called the mighty magician, was ne guilty of this mistake. His magic was employ
I in fairy-land, as in the Tempest; and bis gb< and goblins in dirk ages, as in Macbeth a Hamlet. When he introduces a witch in Hei: VI., it is because, historically, his representati was true; when he exhibits the perturlied drea of a murderer, in Richard 111., it was because representation was morally probable; but be 1
! ver thought of making these fancies actual agei in an historical scene. There are no ghosts Henry VIII., and no witches in the Merry Wi nf Windsor (except the merry ladies); and wh in one of his comedies, he chuses to wander < of nature, he modestly calls his drama a drea and mixes up fairies, witches, mythology, a common life, as a brilliant extravaganza, whi affects no historical nor even |>ossilde truth, a which pretends to represent neither actual 1 possible nature. Not so Guy Mannering: brings down witchery and supernatural arjeu into our own times, not to be laughed at by t belter informed, or credited by the vulgar; 1 as an active, effective, and real part of his n chinery. It treats the supernatural agency 1 as a superstition, but as a trudi; and the resull brought about, not by the imaginations of in deluded by a fiction, but by the actual oper.*tii of a miracle, contrary to the opinion aud belief all the parlies concerned.
The Antiquary is not free from this Main
'there are two or three marvellous dreams at