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lic events of their age. What, indeed, is the history of such men, but that of the times? The life of Wellington, or of Bonaparte, is the story of the wars and revolutions of Europe. But ihat of Cowper, gliding away in the seclusion of rural solitude, reflects all those domestic joys, and, alas ! more than the sorrows, which gather round every man's fireside and his heart. In this way, the story of the humblest individual, faithfully recorded, becomes an object of lively interest. How much is that interest increased in the case of a man like Scott, who, from his own fireside, has sent forth a voice to cheer and delight millions of his fellow men ; whose life, indeed, passed within the narrow circle of his own village, as it were, but who, nevertheless, has called up more shapes and fantasies within that magic circle, acted more extraordinary parts, and afforded more marvels for the imagination to feed on, than can be furnished by the most nimblefooted, nimble-tongued traveller, from Marco Polo down to Mrs. Trollope, and that literary Sindbad, Captain Hall.
Fortunate as Sir Walter Scott was in his life, it is not the least of his good fortunes, that he left the task of recording it to one so competent as Mr. Lockhart; who, to a familiarity with the person and habits of his illustrious subject, unites such entire sympathy with his pursuits, and such fine tact and discrimination in arranging the materials for their illustration. We have seen it objected, that the biographer has somewhat transcended his lawful limits, in occasionally exposing what a nice tenderness for the reputation of Scott should have led him to conceal. But, on reflection, we are not inclined to adopt these views. It is, indeed, difficult to prescribe any precise rule, by which the biographer should be guided in exhibiting the peculiarities, and still more the defects, of his subject. He should, doubtless, be slow to draw from obscurity those matters which are of a strictly personal and private nature, particularly when they have no material bearing on the character of the individual. But whatever the latter has done, said, or written, to others, can rarely be made to come within this rule.
A swell of panegyric, where every thing is in broad sunshine, without the relief of a shadow to contrast it, is out of nature, and must bring discredit on the whole. Nor is it much better, when a sort of twilight mistification is spread over a man's actions, until, as in the case of all biographies of Cowper previous to
severe discipline and of the stagnating life of their garrisons, had always been, and were now, impatient for a new state of things. A revolution at Naples and Turin was now easier than ever ; and the principal actors in the conspiracy spoke of it with a boldness, which nothing but the certainty of success could inspire.
An unexpected incident, however, occurred to impede the regular march of affairs, and the impatience of the friends of liberty hurried on the project to its injury. Charles Felix, King of Sardinia, was on his deathbed ; bis heir apparent was that Charles Albert, Prince of Carignano, who had already espoused the popular party in 1821, and, in that first effervescence, had been hailed King of Italy. His subsequent treasons and his cowardly apostasy had somewhat dishonored his name ; still it was a general belief, that at his accession, through ambition at least, he would stand at the head of the movement. The immediate death of the old king would thus have prevented in Piedmont all effusion of blood, and its armies, sound and untouched, would have marched over Lombardy, where the great contest with Austria was to be waged.
France, meanwhile, had already succeeded in arming Belgium, Poland, and a good part of Germany in the cause of its own newly-adopted principles. Italy alone was still silent; and her apparent indolence, and the slow and cautious proceedings of her Carbonari, excited the discontent of the French court, which wished to see Austria engaged in some different work from that of watching its own policy.
Towards the end of December, 1830, under the administration of Perier and Sebastiani, the French government announced, that France assumed not to be the propagandist of liberal doctrines ; that she would never, directly or indirectly, conspire against the peace of her neighbours, or take part with the people against their legitimate governments ; but that, in return, no government, under the pretext of alliance, should interfere with the political revolutions which might take place in other countries, France being determined to use all her power to secure fair play for the two parties, in case of political differences between sovereign and subjects. This proclamation, too well known in Europe under the name of non-intervention, determined the course of the Italian revolutionists.
The existence of every one of the existing governinents of Italy depended exclusively upon the overbearing influence of The second work which we have placed at the head of this article, and from which the last remark of Sir Walter's was borrowed, is a series of notices originally published in “Fraser's Magazine,” but now collected, with considerable additions, into a separate volume. Its author, Mr. Robert Pierce Gillies, is a gentleman of the Scotch bar, favorably known by translations from the German. The work conveys a lively report of several scenes and events, which, before the appearance of Lockhart's book, were of more interest and importance than they can now be, lost, as they are, in the flood of light which is poured on us from that source. In the absence of the sixth and last volume, however, Mr. Gillies may help us to a few particulars, respecting the closing years of Sir Walter's life, that may have some novelty,
we know not how much to be relied on, for the reader. In the present notice of a work so familiar to most persons, we shall confine ourselves to some of those circumstances which contributed to form, or have an obvious connexion with, his literary character.
Walter Scott was born at Edinburgh, August 15th, 1771. The character of his father, a respectable member of that class of attorneys, who in Scotland are called Writers to the Signet, is best conveyed to the reader by saying, that he sat for the portrait of Mr. Saunders Fairford, in “ Redgauntlet.” His mother was a woman of taste and imagination, and had an obvious influence in guiding those of her son. His ancestors, by both father's and mother's side, were of “gentle blood,” position which, placed between the highest and the lower ranks in society, was extremely favorable, as affording facilities for communication with both. A lameness in his infancy, - a most fortunate lameness for the world, if, as Scott says, it spoiled a soldier, — and a delicate constitution, made it expedient to try the efficacy of country air and diet; and he was placed under the roof of his paternal grandfather at Sandy-Knowe, a few miles distant from the capital. Here his days were passed in the open fields, “ with no other fellowship,” as he says, "than that of the sheep and lambs”; and here, in the lap of Nature,
“ Meet nurse for a poetic child," his infant vision was greeted with those rude, romantic scenes, which his own verses have since hallowed for the
pilgrims from every clime. In the long evenings, his imagination, as he grew older, was warmed by traditionary legends of border heroism and adventure, repeated by the aged relative, who had herself witnessed the last gleams of border chivalry. His memory was one of the first powers of his mind, which exhibited an extraordinary developement. One of the longest of these old ballads, in particular, stuck so close to it, and he repeated it with such Stentorian vociferation, as to draw from the minister of a neighbouring kirk, the testy exclamation, “One may as well speak in the mouth of a cannon, as where that child is.”
On his removal to Edinburgh, in his eighth year, he was subjected to different influences. His worthy father was a severe martinet in all the forms of his profession, and it may be added, indeed, of his religion, which he contrived to make somewhat burdensome to his more volatile son. The tutor was still more strict in his religious sentiments, and the lightest literary divertissement in which either of them indulged, was such as could be gleaned from the time-honored folios of Archbishop Spottiswoode, or worthy Robert Wodrow. Even here, however, Scott's young mind contrived to gather materials and impulses for future action. In his long arguments with Master Mitchell, he became steeped in the history of the Covenanters, and the persecuted Church of Scotland, while he was still more rooted in his own Jacobite notions, early instilled into his mind by the tales of his relatives of Sandy-Knowe, whose own family had been out in the “affair of forty-five.” Amidst the professional and polemical worthies of his father's library, Scott detected a copy of Shakspeare; and he relates with what goût he used to creep out of his bed, where he had been safely deposited for the night, and, by the light of the fire, in puris naturalibus, as it were, pore over the pages of the great magician, and study those mighty spells, by which he gave to airy fantasies the forms and substance of humanity. Scott distinctly recollected the time and the spot where he first opened a volume of Percy's “ Reliques of English Poetry”; a work which may have suggested to him the plan and the purpose of the “ Border Minstrelsy.” Every day's experience shows us how much more actively the business of education goes on out of school, than in it. And Scott's history shows equally, that genius, whatever obstacles may be thrown in its way in one direction, will find room for its expansion in another; as the young tree sends forth its shoots most prolific in that quarter where the sunshine is permitted to fall on it.
At the High School, in which he was placed by his father at an early period, he seems not to have been particularly distinguished in the regular course of studies. His voracious appetite for books, however, of a certain cast, as romances, chivalrous tales, and worm-eaten chronicles scarcely less chivalrous, and his wonderful memory for such reading as struck his fancy, soon made him regarded by his fellows as a phenomenon of black-letter scholarship, which, in process of time achieved for him the cognomen of that redoubtable schoolman, Duns Scotus. He now also gave evidence of his powers of creation as well as of acquisition. He became noted for his own stories, generally bordering on the marvellous, with a plentiful seasoning of knight-errantry, which suited his bold and chivalrous temper. 66 Slink over beside me, Jarnie," he would whisper to his schoolfellow Ballantyne, cs and I'll tell you a story.' " Jamie was, indeed, destined to sit beside him during the greater part of his life.
The same tastes and talents continued to display themselves inore strongly with increasing years. Having beaten pretty thoroughly the ground of romantic and legendary lore, at least so far as the English libraries, to which he had access, would permit, he next endeavoured, while at the University, to which he had been transferred from the High School, to pursue the same subject in the Continental languages. Many were the strolls which he took in the neighbourhood, especially to Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, where, perched on some almost inaccessible eyrie, he might be seen conning over his Ariosto or Cervantes, or some other bard of romance, with some favorite companion of his studies, or pouring into the ears of the latter his own boyish legends, glowing with
" achievements high,
And circumstance of chivalry. A critical knowledge of these languages he seems not to have obtained; and, even in the French, made but an indifferent figure in conversation. An accurate acquaintance with the pronunciation and prosody of a foreign tongue, is undoubtedly a desirable accomplishment. But it is, after all, a mere accomplishment, subordinate to the great purposes for which a language is to be learned. Scott did not, as is too often the