Sir Walter Scott,
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severe apoplectic shock deprived him of motion and almost of consciousness, and in this condition he was conveyed to Newhaven by sea. In Lockhart’s “Life” it is stated:—
“At a very early hour on the morning of Wednesday (1832) we again placed him in his carriage, and he lay in the same torpid condition during the first two stages on the road to Tweedside. But as we descended the Vale of the Gala he began to gaze about him, and by degrees it was obvious that he was recognising the features of that familiar landscape. Presently he murmured a name or two — ‘Gala Water, surely — Buckholm — Torwoodlee.’ As we rounded the hill at Ladhope, and the outlines of the Eildons burst on him, he became greatly excited; and, when turning himself round on the couch, his eye caught at length his own tower at the distance of a mile, he sprang up with a cry of delight.
“Mr. Laidlaw was waiting at the porch and assisted us in lifting him into the dining room where his bed had been placed. He sat bewildered for a few moments, and then, resting his eye on Laidlaw, said, ‘Ha! Willie Laidlaw! 0 man, how often have I thought of you!’ By this time his dogs had assembled about his chair; they began to fawn upon him and lick his hands, and he alternately smiled or sobbed over them till sleep oppressed him. A day or two after they tried to take him outside, but he fell asleep in the chair. When he was awakened, Laidlaw said to me, ‘Sir Walter has had a little repose.’ ‘No, Willie,’ said he, ‘no repose for Sir Walter but in the grave,’ and tears filled his eyes. ‘Friends,’ said he, ‘don’t let me expose myself; get me to bed, that’s the only place.’ ”
Lockhart has very tenderly and gracefully told the touching story of Sir Walter’s last days: “He listened attentively while they read to him passages from the Bible, and from the poems of Crabbe, whose fine rural scenes and homely pathos he had always admired. No allusion to his own works ever passed his lips, even in the frequent wanderings of delirium. Sometimes he fancied that he was about to receive a visit from the Duke of Wellington, and made preparations to receive him with fitting state; at other times, assuming the language of a judge, he tried the members of his family for imaginary crimes. His strength ebbed slowly with the waning summer, but he lived to hear the rustle of the falling leaves.” The closing scene of this strange eventful history is described by Lockhart in language which lingers in the memory of every reader: “About half-past one, on the 21st September, 1832, Sir Walter breathed his last in the presence of all his children. It was a beautiful day — so warm that every window was wide open; and so perfectly still that the sound of all others most delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around his bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes.”
So died, at the age of sixty-one, the most prolific, versatile, and popular of modern authors. No writer ever rose to fame by less apparent effort. Gifted in a high degree with the rare common sense “which makes the whole world kin,” he knew the public well, and seldom appealed to it in vain. By a happy departure from conventional forms and themes, he held for a time the foremost place among contemporary poets. The immense popularity of his sparkling narrative verse is little understood by readers imbued with the poetical traditions of the last fifty years; but Scott’s bright pictures of Highland glens, peopled by lawless clans, as well as his stirring tales of breezy, Border life, responded directly to the universal longing for nature, freedom and change. Let us also remember that there arose at that era a deep and just