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Calton-Hill, the inhabitants of “ Auld Reekie" can descry, or fancy they descry the peaks of Ben Lomond and the waving outline of Rob Roy's country: we who live at the southern extremity of the island can only catch a glimpse of the billowy scene in the descriptions of the Author of Waverley. The mountain air is most bracing to our languid nerves, and it is brought us in ship-loads from the neighbourhood of Abbot's-Ford. There is another circumstance to be taken into the account. In Edinburgh there is a little opposition and something of the spirit of cabal between the partisans of works proceeding from Mr. Constable's and Mr. Blackwood's shops. Mr. Constable gives the highest prices; but being the Whig. bookseller, it is grudged that he should do so. An attempt is therefore made to transfer a certain share of popularity to the second-rate Scotch novels, “ the embryo fry, the little airy of ricketty children,” issuing through Mr. Blackwood's shop-door. This operates a diversion, which does not affect us here. The Author of. Waverley wears the palm of legendary lore alone. Sir Walter may, indeed, surfeit us: his imitators make us sick! It may be asked, it has been asked, “ Have we no materials for romance in England ? Must we look to Scot
land for a supply of whatever is original and striking in this kind ?” And we answer“ Yes !” Every foot of soil is with us worked up: nearly every movement of the social machine is calculable. We have no room left for violent catastrophes; for grotesque quaintnesses; for wizard spells. The last skirts of ignorance and barbarism are seen hovering in Sir Walter's pages) over the Border. We have, it is true, gipsies in this country as well as at the Cairn of Derncleugh : but they live under clipped hedges, and repose in camp-beds, and do not perch on crag's, like eagles, or take shelter, like sea-mews, in basaltic subterranean
We have heaths with rude heaps of stones upon them: but no existing superstition converts them into the Geese of MicklestaneMoor, or sees a Black Dwarf groping among them. We have sects in religion: but the only thing sublime or ridiculous in that way is Mr. Irving, the Caledonian preacher, who “ comes like a satyr staring from the woods, and yet speaks like an orator !” We had a Parson Adams not quite a hundred years ago— a Sir Roger de Coverley rather more than a hundred!
Even Sir Walter is ordinarily obliged to pitch his angle (strong as the hook is) a hundred miles to the North of the “ Mo
dern Athens” or à century back. His last work,* indeed, is mystical, is romàntic in nothing but the title-page. Instead of " a holy-water sprinkle dipped in dew," he has given us à fashionable watering-place—and we see what he has made of it. He must not come down from his fastnesses in traditional barbarism and native rusticity: the level, the littleness, the frippery of modern civilization will undo him as it has undone us!
Sir Walter has found out (oh, rare discovery) that facts are better than fiction; that there is no romance like the romance of real life ; and that if we can but arrive at what men feel, do, and say in striking and singular situations, the result will be “ more lively, audible, and full of vent,” than the fine-spun cobwebs of the brain. With reverence be it spoken, he is like the man who having to imitate the squeaking of a pig upon the stage, brought the animal under his coat with him. Our author has conjured up the actual people he has to deal with, or as much as he could get of them, in “ their habits as they lived." He has ransacked old chronicles, and poured the contents upon his page ; he has squeezed out musty records ; he has consulted wayfaring pilgrims, bed-rid
* St. Ronan's Well.
sibyls; he has invoked the spirits of the air ; he has conversed with the living and the dead, and let them tell their story their own way; and by borrowing of others, has enriched his own genius with everlasting variety, truth, and freedom. He has taken his materials from the original, authentic sources, in large concrete masses, and not tampered with or too much frittered them away. He is only the amanuensis of truth and history. It is impossible to say how fine his writings in consequence are, unless we could describe how fine nature is. All that portion of the history of his country that he has touched upon (wide as the scope is) the manners, the personages, the events, the scenery, lives over again in his volumes. Nothing is wanting the illusion is complete. There is a hurtling in the air, a trampling of feet upon the ground, as these perfect representations of human character or fanciful belief come thronging back upon our imaginations. We will merely recall a few of the subjects of his pencil to the reader's recollection ; for nothing we could add, by way of note or commendation, could make the impression more vivid.
There is (first and foremost, because the earliest of our acquaintance) the Baron of Bradwardine, stately, kind-hearted, whimsical,
pedantic ; and Flora MacIvor (whom even we forgive for her Jacobitism), the fierce Vich Ian Vohr, and Evan Dhu, constant in death, and Davie Gellatly roasting his eggs or turning his rhymes with restless volubility, and the two stag-hounds that met Waverley, as fine as ever Titian painted, or Paul Veronese:—then there is old Balfour of Burley, brandishing his sword and his Bible with fireeyed fury, trying a fall with the insolent, gigantic Bothwell at the 'Change-house, and vanquishing him at the noble battle of Loudonhill; there is Bothwell himself, drawn to the life, proud, cruel, selfish, profligate, but with the love-letters of the gentle Alice (written thirty years before), and his verses to her memory, found in his pocket after his death : in the same volume of Old Mortality is that lone figure, like a figure in Scripture, of the woman sitting on the stone at the turning to the mountain, to warn Burley that there is a lion in his path; and the fawning. Claverhouse, beautiful as a panther, smooth-looking, bloodspotted ; and the fanatics, Macbriar and Mucklewrath, crazed with zeal and sufferings; and the inflexible Morton, and the faithful Edith, who refused to “ give her hand to another while her heart was with her lover in the deep and dead sea." And in The Heart of Mid