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The sun-sets of this month are commonly glorious. The mighty luminary goes down pavilioned amidst clouds of every hue,-the splendour of burnished gold, the deepest mazarine blue, fading away, in the higher heavens, to the palest azure; and an ocean of purple shadow flung over the twilight of woods, or the far stretching and lovely landscape. The heart of the spectator is touched; it is melted and rapt into dreams of past and present,-pure, elevated, and tinged with a poetic tenderness which can never awake amidst the crowd of mortals or of books.
The state of nature we have described is just that which might be imagined to co-exist with perpetual summer. There are sunshine, beauty, and abundance, without a symptom of decay. But this will not last. We soon perceive the floridity of nature merging into a verdant monofony; we find a silence stealing over the landscape so lately filled with the voice of every creature's exultation. Anon the scythe is heard ringing, a sound happy in its immediate associations, but, in fact, a note of pre
paration for winter-a knell of the passing year. It re ninds us, in the midst of warmth and fertility, that we must prepare for nakedness and frost; and that stripping away of the earth's glorious robe which it begins, will never cease till it leaves us in the dreary tempestuous region of winter; so
TH HERE is no living name the sound of which calls up so brilliant and various an array of recollections, as that of Sir Walter Scott. It seems an unsatisfactory and cheerless labour to pry into the corners, and get be
That fair flower of beauty fades away,
Let us not, however, anticipate too sensitively the progress of time; let us rather enjoy the summer festivities which surround us. The green fruits of the orchard are becoming conspicuous, and the young nuts in the hedges and copses. Grasses are now in flower, and when the larger species are collected, and disposed tastefully, as we have seen them, by ladies, in vases, polished horns, and over pier-glasses, they retain their greenness through the whole year, and form, with their elegantly pensile panicles, bearded spikes, and silken plumes, exceedingly graceful ornaments.
Sheep-shearing, begun last month, is generally completed in this. The hay-harvest has commenced, and in some places, if the weather be favourable, completed; but next month may be considered the general season of hay-making.
SKETCHES OF CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS. No. I. SIR WALTER SCOTT.
hind the scenes, of a mind which we only know as the means of delighting us, by the society of hundreds of breathing and active beings—champions and kings, peasants and minstrels, weird beldames, fantastic spirits,
and joyous and delicate damosels. Yet, why should he, who has turned mankind into rich and bright romance, be himself exempted from the fortune to which he has subjected all the world beside; or claim to lie hid in the shadows of Abbotsford, and pace unnoticed the highways of 'Auld Reekie,' while century after century is unrolled before us in his pages, and our eyes are dazzled by the pageant of highlanders and chevaliers, monarchs and pilgrims. We must deal with the spell-monger beyond the circle of his power, and cope with him on other ground than the bushclad rocks of his lonely valleys, or the rugged circuit of shattered monasteries, the presence-chambers of palaces now desolate, or the throng of gallants whose very tombs are dust; and that mind, which has never shone upon us, but as the sun is seen through a pictured window, when lighting and animating crowds of saints, monarchs, and warriors, must, we fear, be looked at through that colourless glass, which is needful for the critic of mind, no less than for the physical experimentalist.
Sir Walter Scott is the greatest of observers. He seems to be, like the spirits, all eye and ear; but, unlike them, he has scarcely arrived at reflection, much less at intuition. He has looked with a close and searching, and, above all, with a sympathetic eye, on every thing around him, living or inactive. He has watched through the whole of his now waning life, (and may its final close be far distant!) the looks, the tones, the lightest indications of passion among men. He cannot be conceived as sitting for even an hour in a stage-coach or a coffee-room, with out having drawn out and measured the characters of all his companions. Every sensitive or irritable line about the lips, every hair of the eye-brow up-raised in the grimace and frankness of foolish admiration, or drawn together into the compressed strength of thought, every pugnacious or friendly trembling of the finger, bring him but for five minutes within
view of them, and he has them noted,
each of them the germ of a picture, or the hint of a personage. He is one of the few men of our generation, whom we may imagine actually going forth like Shakspeare and Ben Jonson to take humours ;' and it is a shrewd and curious art, in which he must, doubtless, be a thorough proficient: it is one in which a treasure of really kind and generous feeling is of more use than wealth, or rank, or even than those other prime requisites, caution and penetration. Seat him in the circle round the kitchen fire of a country ale-house, one of the blithest and most fertile scenes of study for an humble way-faring observer; and it is impossible to doubt that Scott would speedily win his way into the merry affections of the whole party, find out the secrets of a dozen rough-coated breasts, and know who are the rich ones, who the brave ones, who the beauty, and who the oracle, of the hamlet. The serving-maid would giggle while she filled his tumbler, the landlady smooth her apron with gracious attention while he spoke to her, the farmer open his mouth with astonishment at his knowledge of pigs and planting, the smith shake the rafters with a roar, when some good-humoured jest had hit the dusty miller; and the most widely celebrated mind of modern literature would become an intimate with ploughmen, and be held in honor by chimney-corner veterans. Or think of him benighted in some lonely cottage, how would he praise the ale, lay down a theory of peat-cutting, give grave advice on the roasting of potatoes, and teach some chubby-faced urchin to repeat a ballad, or bawl a Jacobite Pæan. We know no more of Sir Walter Scott than is known of him from the Vistula to the Ebro; but such things must have been done, such were done, by the author of Waverley. The fieldpreaching, the mart, the mess-room, the courts of law, and, meanest and most barren of them all, the tables of princes, he must have looked at each with this same scrutinizing good
nature, and hawk-eyed friendliness. He has not only gazed upon society, but been a part of it; he has dissected it in a spirit of joyousness, and pried into its secrets with a frank and freehearted curiosity. It is in the same vein that he has been a spectator of the outward and material world. He has never either turned from it in weariness, or seen it through a theory; but has obviously always found in the visible universe things interesting and beautiful, not as developments of any internal law, or as a lower range of phenomena than the human, yet filled with analogies to our own nature, but as wide and lofty, many-coloured and various facts, inexhaustible subjects for the healthy keenness of the senses, and feeding the mind with an endless succession of primary, uncompounded enjoy ments. The mountain and the lake, the pine-wood and the cataract, he has wandered among them neither with misanthropic moodiness nor quietest enthusiasm; but to make them in fancy the stage, not of vague demous or ministering angels, but of hundreds of busy men, clothed in deed in the dresses of all different times and countries, yet thinking and feeling, speaking and acting like ourselves. He has noted the hues of clouds and shapes of crags and precipices, the carvings of pinnacles and massiness of battlements, with the earnest and hearty simplicity of a child; and the fresh vividness of his paintings re-produces them similarly for us. If the description of outward objects were an end and not a means, Sir Walter Scott would be almost a perfect writer; for we view them in his pages through a medium nearly as pure and colourless as the water of his Scottish hills, or the air upon their summit; and herein he is honourably distinguished from many of his predecessors, and some of his contemporaries. He has used his own eyes, and written from his own perceptions; and his works exhibit a fidelity of detail, and a general truth, which are a delightful restorative after mere fancy pictures. The tendency
of mind, which has made him look in this way at the men and things around him, has also marked with its own peculiarities his mode of contemplating the past. For him, history is a pageant; and as the world is a finely painted scene, so are mankind a gay procession. He sees, in by-gone centuries, but heaps of brilliant facts. Every individual age and climate seems present to his thoughts, as made up of certain characteristics of appearance,-arms, clothes and horses, festivals and buildings, the diadem of its sovereign and the doublets of its peasants. All times and lands have thus in his memory a splendid and picturesque existence; and his mind is like the glass of the Italian Wizard, or the cave of Shakspeare's witches, across which the portraits of dynasties, and the symbols of nations aud epochs, are perpetually shifting and gleaming. The iron times of chivalry, the glittering magnificence of the East, the barbarian wildness of the Highlands, the prison of Mary, the Court of Elizabeth, the revel of Villiers, all pass before his view with equal brilliancy and motion; while the prime personages are accompanied by a train of inferior attendants, made out with the same beautiful accuracy, and animated by the same spirit of life and reality, which stir and thrill their leaders. The dim expanse of ages is thus illumined by the various array of a gallant and triumphant throng, winding on from beneath the porch of Abbotsford, through palace and wilderness, ruined minster and merry hostel, and leaving behind them a thousand glad remembrances, even when gilded spur, and sparkling carcanet, have faded from before us into mist.
Yet there is, in all his writings, the evidence of this main defect; he knows what is, but not how or why it is so. He has seen the outward, but he has not connected it with that which is within. He has looked at the conduct, and listened to the speech, of men; but he has not understood from what kind of central
source their deeds and words are drawn. He seems to have no fondness for referring things to their origin; and instead of considering men's actions as worth observation, only in so much as they illustrate the essential character of the being from which they spring, he has treated them as if they had in themselves a definite and positive value, modified, in the hands of the poet and the novelist, by nothing but the necessity of exciting interest and giving pleasure. It is not that he has no systematic theory of human nature, for if he had, he would to an absolute certain ty, be in error. But he does not appear to believe that there is any human nature at all, or that man is aught more than a means to certain external results, the which when he has described, he has done his task aud fulfilled his ministry. There is incomparably more freedom and truth in his picture of our species, than in the books of any of the systematic speculators, Locke, for instance, or Helvetius; because he has seen the inexhaustible varieties of our, doings, and has exhibited them fairly and sincerely, while such writ ers as those to whom we allude, have assumed some one small base, and attempted to rear upon it a fabric which, restricted and low as it is, is yet infinitely too wide and lofty for the narrowness of the foundation. But his idea of man is meagre and wretched, compared to that of the philosophers who have contemplated the mind, instead of measuring the footsteps; who have not sought to number the hairs upon our heads, but have dealt, as it were, with the very elements of our creation. This defect shows itself very strongly in every part of his works, where he attempts to cope alone with the thoughts of any of his personages. In his dialogues, he in some degree gets over the difficulty, by repartees, passion, and mimicry of the language of the time; but, in soliloquies, how barren and incomplete appears to be his psychology! and compare these, or even the best parts of the conver
sations, with a scene of Shakspeare, and the difference may at once be perceived between writers, the one of whom knows nothing but phenomena, while the other, with to the full as much of individual observation, was also imbued with the largest abundance that any man ever had of universal truth. There is scarce a page of Shakspeare that does not present us with the deepest and finest moral meditations, and with a living image of those thoughts which occupy men's minds, when they reflect upon their own nature, and attempt to overleap the bounds of the present and the actual. There is rarely any thing in Scott that pretends to this, the highest of all merit; we doubt if there are a dozen attempts at reflec tion in his voluminous works; and the standard of good which he exhibits, in so far as it differs from the merest worldliness, is only raised above it by something more than usual of a certain shrewd good-humour.
Exactly similar observations hold good with regard to his treatment of things inanimate. He sees neither in the world, nor in human works, any thing more than so much positive existence, more beautiful or more uninteresting, larger or smaller, as the case may be, but always something to be looked at solely for itself. And herein he would be perfectly right, if men had no faculty except that which has beauty for its object. There is doubtless a pleasure and a good in the contemplation of those things which are in conformity with the original idea of the beautiful in our minds; but there is also a nobler good in viewing all things around us, not merely by this one faculty, but as manifestations of still higher prin ciples, and in connection with moral and religious truth. Even as ends in themselves, almost all the objects around us have their beauty; but it is as forms and symptoms of superior and invisible powers, that it is most truly useful to regard them. Nor is it necessary to put forward broadly the intention of a writer on this
point; but if he has the feeling and the law within himself, their influence will be seen in every line he writes; just as in speaking of a picture, we need not explain the construction of the eye, or the science of optics, though it will be obvious that we could not have thought one word about the matter without possessing the faculty of sight. It is from the want of this habit of mind, that Sir Walter Scott's descriptions of scenery are in general so completely separate parts of his works; they stand out from the rest of the narrative, instead of being introduced casually, indicated by an occasional expression, or shown as the drapery of the thoughts.
Besides his mode of dealing with the results of his observations of men and nature, we mentioned, as connected with it, his way of regarding history; and this is certainly no less striking than the points we have just been treating of. If the narrative of past events exhibits them to us as naked facts, it does nothing; if it presents them with their immediate causes and consequences in the minds of the actors, it does much, and what few histories have done; if it displays them justly as exponents of principles, and results of the great scheme for the education of mankind, it does all that it can do. The knowledge of an occurrence is of no value whatsoever in itself. The most spirited description of it, which merely lets us know the dresses of the chief personages, how this man look ed, and what that man ate, and tells us whether a soverign died on a bed or a battle-field, gives us knowledge of nothing comparatively worth knowing. The points which deserve to be examined, are those which make manifest the feelings of the persons concerned, the spirit of the times, the great designs that were at work, and were spreading to embrace ages in their circuit, the peculiarities and progress of national character; in short, what the mind of the world was, and what means were operating to improve it. The events them
selves are of interest only as exhibiting human motives, either in the individual or the mass, and thereby opening to us some new recesses of the soul, containing perhaps powers of which we were previously unconscious, like titles to wealth, or symbols of empire, discovered in some dark and long-forgotten chamber. Yet, in reading history, it is not upon such matters as these that Sir Walter Scott has turned his attention, but to the mere external changes and salient occurrences, to triumphs or tournaments, battles or hunting matches, to whatever can be converted into a picture, or emblazoned in a show. He has not read the annals of the earth as they ought to be studied; but he would probably not be nearly so popular a writer if he had. As it is, he has filled his mind with all that is most stirring and gorgeous in the chronicles of Europe, superstitions the more impressive because forgotten, brilliant assemblages of kings, and barons, hard-fought battles, and weary pilgrimages, characters the most desperately predominating, and events the most terrible or fantastic. Of these he has made a long phantasmagoria, the most exciting and beautiful spectacle of our day; and who can wonder or complain, if he, who delights mankind with so glorious a pageant, is held by almost general consent to be the greatest of modern authors.
The tendency, which we have now dwelt upon at some length, to look at humanity and nature in their outward manifestations, instead of seizing them in their inward being, has decided in what class Sir Walter Scott must be placed with reference to the moral influence he exercises. He would commonly be called one of the most moral of writers; for he always speaks of religion with respect, and never depraves his writings by indecency. But ethics and religion would be the least important of studies, and the human mind the simplest object in the creation, if nothing more than this were needful to constitute a moral writer. How