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THERE is an old prejudice which strikes its roots very deep in human nature. Christianity and commerce have hitherto striven in vain to destroy it. It takes different forms everywhere. In Scotland and Saxon England it exhibits itself in the distinction created by society between gentle and simple.
The imaginary separation of humanity into these classes is the key to the literary as well as the private character of Sir Walter Scott. The spirit of caste is indeed the source of frightful mischief in general, but it has its periods of utility and its graceful aspects. The latter appeared in their greatest elegance in the works and character of the Scottish bard. To inquire whether 80 amiable, so gifted, and so popular a person descended upon an age, which his genius was fitted to bless, were to open a question which the civilized world has long since settled for itself, by universal and prolonged acclamation.
Walter Scott was born on the 15th August 1771. The site of the house, which was his father's, is now covered by a part of the Edinburgh University. The poet's infancy and childhood were principally spent at his grandfather's farm of Sandyknowe, surrounding the village of Smailholm, near the banks of the Tweed, in the upper part of Berwickshire. Associations connected with tbis district accompanied him through life. The mentories of his ancestry, and the traditions of the wide family of his name, determined for ever the bent of his genius.
The child was remarkably vivacious. It seemed as if the tide of life could not sustain the double strain exerted by the infan. tine activities of spirit and body. The body yielded. The little imp was only eighteen months old, when his frolics were suspended by a sudden loss of power in the right leg. He was lame for life. Every effort failed to restore the proper powers of the limb. Yet the removals from place to place, involved in these attempts, excited the child's predispositions, and produced indelible local impressions. The growing boy indemnified himself by
flights of fancy for the restraints put upon the exertions of his body. Yet he grew up with a powerful frame. His infirmity disqualified him only for those exercises in which regularity and grace of motion are indispensable. He could and did indulge in long excursions on foot. With one arm on the shoulder of a companion, and the aid of a stick at the other side, he wandered in boyhood far and near, about the sides of Arthur Seat, “ the furzy hills of Braid," and the more distant Pentlands. The pleasant slopes that surround his “own romantic town Walter an indefatigable explorer. His imagination peopled every spot he trod or saw with the scenes and the inhabitants of former days; and as he conjured up the past with the glowing fancy of youth, he divested it of all its unwelcome elements. The systematic education of the schools was not successful in chaining down his mind to the rigorous processes required by the business of life. He received, indeed, some learning there, but his true education was the acquirement of the stores of knowledge which his hungry spirit gathered up from every source that could minister to the growth of fancy in the romantic direction it took.
Walter Scott, the elder, was a writer to the signet, or attorney at law, in Edinburgh. The family house was in George's Square, then new and fashionable, now somewhat antiquated, but still a favourite locality. But this neighbourhood involved the prudent man of business in nothing that was inconsistent with the most precise proprieties. The time was an age of form. The restraints of home appear to have forced young Walter, although without disregard of filial duty, into habits and opinions, in many respects the reverse of his father's. The latter was Calvinistic and Presbyterian in bis religious belief, and liberal in his politics. The former became Jacobite, Episcopalian, and a Tory. The son grew up in the worship of the modes of earlier generations. His feelings were all away from the present realities of the lawyer's home and office. But where the old tower of Harden reigns over the Border wilds of wood and heather, where the hills and streams of that poetic region, resonant with ballad snatches of wild humour and pathos, mingle the ever present music of nature with the fleeting echoes of the past, there young Walter was in spirit, if not in the body. Not the wordy caution of legal bonds, nor the ready witted shifts of courts of law delighted him, but the bold adventure of that region where law was none in the days of his ancestors. They, in reality a disgrace and a pest living mainly by plunder, shone out through the prison of his fancy with halos of romantic beauty, if not of honourable regard. Thus Scott, by the power of his genius alone, subsequently peopled Scotland throughout with airy forms, created by himself. These, wben
anited in the imagination with the present majesty of its scenery, have made Scotland the permanent delight, as well as the passing source of pleasure to millions of mankind.
In early youth there blazed through his eyes the light with which his soul was kindled. Every friend, every acquaintance saw in young Scott something beyond the common. It was not only that the lad was bright, but there was a witchery of fascina. tion that was irresistible. The spirit that was so powerful to conceive was also genial to impress. There was a fire of sympathy that drew all the life that surged around him into the compass and direction of his spirit. Walter was a favourite with young and old, and the acceptance he always met with drew out his powers in all societies. Essentially aristocratic in all his sentiments, there was yet a grace and kindliness about the lad that drew towards him all hearts, and this gentle spirit Scott ever cherished. It may not have been the true humility that possessed his soul. It may not have been the deepest or widest love that actuated his life. But there was that in his life and character which refined and soothed. In that age Europe was convulsed by war. The fiercest passions agitated for a length. ened time the whole arena of public affairs. But Scott, the magician, was there leavening society by the power of his art, with his own gentleness, through the images of softening beauty with which he filled the imaginations of men.
After leaving school, Walter Scott attended for a short time some of the classes of the Edinburgh University. But an illness interrupted these studies, whilst it promoted still further the education of his fancy. He was afterwards apprenticed to his father, as a preparation for the profession of advocate or barrister. He was then under fifteen. He acquired, during his apprenticeship, habits of regularity and method which never left him, and became accustomed to what would probably bave otherwise been the insufferable drudgery of writing. The manuscript pages of Waverley, exhibited in the Edinburgh Advocates' Library, show how valuable this exercise must have been to him. We are told, besides, that notwithstanding the discursive tendency of his mind, Scott piqued himself on being a man of business. Indeed, the subsequent course of his affairs indicate this part of the training of his youth. It appears as if the gratifications of a literary life demand some serious compensation to destroy the self-satisfaction to which its success gives rise. Thus Scott, partly through his own care to secure for himself all that he might of the inferior reward, and partly to preserve the reputation for honourable ing to which he ras justly entitled, sustained in later years a load of care which, but for a professional acquaint