The Life of Sir Walter Scott

By John Macrone; Daniel Grader | Go to book overview

Chapter III
1797–1815

Ballad-Hunting – First Meeting with Hogg – ‘Minstrelsy of the
Scottish Border’ Published and Praised – Imitation Ballads – Poetic
Diction – Settlement at Abbotsford – ‘The Field of Waterloo’ -
‘Paul’s Letters to His Kinsfolk’ – Friendship with Byron

Sir Walter now contemplated a new book, namely, a collection of the unpublished ballads of Scotland. In the course of official and other journeys, he would lose no opportunity of making himself acquainted with the meanest of the peasantry, and, seated familiarly at their turf fires, would delight to draw from the garrulous old crones interminable and merciless [sic] long songs about all-but-forgotten battles or border raids. He would listen, I am credibly informed, with the most laudable attention, and seldom failed, if the subject struck him as being novel, to retain the whole upon his mind and commit it to paper afterwards without misplacing a word. On leaving the cottage, he would generally slip a douceur into the hand of the youngest child and, patting its head, delight the parents by prophesying it would be ‘a braw bairn yet’.

A longer version of this passage runs as follows:

Scott saw that the genius of Goethe and Burger had raised the rude and uncouth German legends high in the ranks of the literature of their country; that they had given to gross matter a new spirit, and had clad the vulgar staple of nursery and boorish minstrelsy in rich and becoming apparel. An ambition to do the same for Scotland, a land rich in legendary lore and teeming with local tradition, possessed his mind; and, conscious of his own strength and deep antiquarian research, not only into recorded history, but into the fireside legend [sic], he set about his gigantic task with all the ardour of a pursuit congenial to his feelings. ‘He performed’, to quote the living poetry of Burns, ‘leisurely pilgrimages through Caledonia, sat on the fields of her battles, wandered on the romantic banks of her rivers, mused by stately

-77-

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The Life of Sir Walter Scott
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • The Afterglow of Abbotsford- John Macrone, Celebrity Culture, and Commemoration 49
  • Preface 63
  • Chapter I - Macrone at Abbotsford and Innerleithen in 1832 65
  • Chapter II - 1771–1797 70
  • Chapter III - 1797–1815 77
  • Chapter IV - The Novelist 85
  • Chapter V - Scott at Abbotsford 95
  • Chapter VI - Miscellaneous Traits and Anecdotes 102
  • Chapter VII - 1831–2 116
  • Chapter VIII - Eulogy 125
  • Appendix I - Macrone and Cunningham 130
  • Appendix II - A Fragment of Another Preface 132
  • Appendix III - Another Conclusion 133
  • Appendix IV - Hogg’s Anecdotes Introduced 134
  • Appendix V - Three Witnesses 136
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 155
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