Memories of Glasgow

From Montrose to Culloden

Sir Walter Scott,
page 13 of 17

and doing, and a sleepless night sometimes furnishes good ideas. Alas! I have no companion now with whom I can communicate to relieve the loneliness of these night-watches.”

Divested now of the veil of mystery under which he had gained his greatest triumphs, and bereaved of the sympathy of her who had cheered him in all former trials, he proceeded to retrench his expenditure in every direction. He sold off his town house, and closed the gates of Abbotsford. The man who had never worked under the spur of necessity sat down in his lonely home to his task of penitential drudgery. It is rarely that imaginative work of the best kind is produced under such stern conditions. Milton wrote his “Paradise Lost” in evil days,

“With darkness and dangers compassed round,”

but his visions were untroubled by thoughts of material gains. The later years of Burns were clouded by cares and anxieties, but his inimitable lyrics were as spontaneous as the songs of the nightingale. We do not wonder that the wizard hand of the novelist forgot its wonted cunning; let us marvel, rather, that he wrote so well. He published a “Life of Napoleon,” which extended to nine elaborate volumes; completed a series of tales, entitled “The Chronicles of the Canongate;” and issued a new edition of the “Waverley Novels,” enriched with valuable prefaces. Of all the works which he produced during these laborious years, “The Tales of a Grandfather” secured the largest share of public favour, attracting readers by its racy simplicity of style and its stirring battle-scenes. “Letters on Demonology,” a “History of Scotland,” for Lardner’s Encyclopaedia, and numerous forgotten contributions to general literature belong to this period. He continued to make new inroads into the realm of romance. In 1829 appeared “The Fair Maid of Perth,” which exhibits much of the vigorous delineation of men and manners which characterised “Waverley” and “Rob Roy.” His last work of genius, the romance of “Anne of Geierstein,” published in the following year, is suffused with a genial but pensive fancy-the tender grace of the dying day. Pursuing his self-imposed duty with invincible purpose, he had raised, in four years, the extraordinary sum of £70,000. Had his brain and body for ten years longer endured the strain, he might not only have redeemed his position, but created a large fortune. Such, however, was not his destiny. In the spring of 1830 he had a slight shock of paralysis, but his pen never for a moment stood still. Even after another attack his mind went on weaving fictions mechanically, fictions like “Count Robert” and “Castle Dangerous,” which men perused with melancholy interest to note the progress of the writer’s decay. His potent art had accomplished its work: but he could not, like Prospero, bury his wonder-working wand, and renounce for ever the magic which had served him so long.

It was considered that a long voyage and a southern residence might conduce to his recovery, and accordingly a ship-of-war conveyed him first to Malta and then to Naples. He was little impressed with the many-coloured life and imposing scenery which attract travellers from afar to the Italian city; and the soft Mediterranean air made him sigh for the heath-scented breezes of Ettrick and Tweed. On the 16th of April, 1832, he proceeded to Rome. There he moved about listlessly among the monumental glories of the Cæsars, which in early days would have strongly appealed to his historic imagination. One longing possessed his heart-t6 return to Scotland, to look once more on Abbotsford and his beloved Tweed. Leaving Rome in May, he sailed for England. When he reached London a


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