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SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART.
WILLIAM CHAMBERS, LL.D.
SIR WALTER SCOTT, the fourth child of Walter Scott, Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, was born in that city on the 15th of August, 1771. He came of the old Border family, the Scotts of Harden, an offshoot from the house of Buccleuch. Though he matured into a man of robust health, and of strength nearly herculean, as a child he was feeble and sickly, and very early he was smitten with a lameness which remained with him through life. His childhood was passed for the most part at Sandyknowe, the farm of his grandfather, in Roxburghshire. Here the foundations of his mind were laid; and his early and delighted familiarity with the ballads and legends then floating over all that part of the country, probably did more than any other influence to determine the sphere and modes of his future literary activity. Between the years 1779 and 1783 he attended the High School of Edinburgh, where, despite occasional flashes of talent, he shone considerably more on the playground as a bold, high-spirited and indomitable little fellow, with an odd turn for story-telling, than within he did as a student. In 1783 he went to the University, and for three years he remained there, is it seemed, not greatly to his advantage. Afterwards, in the height of his fame, he was wont to speak with deep regret of his neglect of his early opportunities. But though leaving college but scantly furnished with the knowledge formally taught there, in a desultory way of his own he had been hiving up stores of valuable, though unassorted information.
From his earliest childhood onward, he was a ravenous and insatiable reader; his memory was of extraordinary range and tenacity, and
of what he either read or observed he seems to have forgot almost nothing. Of Latin he knew little; of Greek, less; but a serviceable, if somewhat inexact knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish and German he had acquired, and he continued to retain. On the whole, for his special purposes, his education was perhaps as available as if he had been the pride of all his preceptors. In 1786 he was articled apprentice to his father, in whose office he worked as a clerk till 1792, in which year he was called to the bar. In his profession he had fair success, and in 1797 he was married to Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, a lady of French birth and parentage. Towards the end of 1799, through the interest of his friends, Lord Melville and the Duke of Buccleuch, he was made sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire, an appointment which brought him £300 a year, with not very much to do for it. Meantime, in a tentative and intermittent way, his leisure had been occupied with literature, which more and more distinctly announced itself as the main business of his life.
His first publication, a translation of Bürger's ballads, Lenore and The Irild Iluntsman, was issued in 1796. In 1798 appeared his translation of Goethe's drama of Goetz von Berlichingen ; and in the year following he wrote the fino ballads, Glenfinlas, the Eve of St. John, and the Grey Brother. The year 1802 gave to the world the first two volumes of his Border Minstrelsy, which were followed in 1803 by a third and final one. This work, the fruit of those “ raids ".
-as he called themover the Border counties, in which he had been wont to spend his vacations, was most favourably received by the public, and at once won for him a prominent place among the literary men of the time. In 1894 he issued an edition of the old poem, Sir Tristrem, admirably edited and elucidated by valuable dissertations. Meantime, The Lay of the Laul Minstrel had been in progress, and by its publication in 1805, he became at a bound the most popular author of his day.
During the next ten years, besides a mass of miscellaneous work, the most important items of which were elaborate editions of Dryden (1808) and of Swift (1814), including in either case a Life, he gave to the worid the poems Jarmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810), The Vision of Don Roderick (1811), Rokeby (1813), The Bridal of Triermain, anonymously published (1813), The Lord of the Isles, and The Field of Waterloo.
The enthusiasm with which the earlier of these works were received somewhat began to abate as the series proceeded. The charm of novelty was no longer felt; moreover, a distinct deterioration in quality is not in the later poems to be denied; and in the bold ontbursts of Byron, with his deeper vein of sentiment and concentrated