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The Life of Sir Walter Scott

By John Macrone; Daniel Grader | Go to book overview

Chapter V
SCOTT AT ABBOTSFORD

City and Country ‘A Silent Abstracted Mood’ The Composition of
‘Donald Caird’ Hospitality Busts and Portraits Rural Occupations -
‘Turn-again’ The Original of Oldbuck Antique Splendour -
Poetical Ephemera The Abbotsford Library

With the exception of these occasional attacks, Scott may be said to have been remarkably fortunate in regard to bodily health. No doubt his temperate habits, uniform course of living, and evenness of disposition contributed materially to confirm that most inestimable of all earthly blessings. To judge by his works, one would naturally suppose that most of his life was spent in the most laborious study and close confinement, and yet it is well known that no man ever had, or seemed to have, so much of leisure on his hands. Strong, robust, and healthful as he was by nature, he required violent and constant exercise to stimulate his powerful frame and reduce a tendency to grossness, which, previous to his illness in 1818, his constitution manifested. In Edinburgh, during the annual official labours which occupied his time in the Court of Session, he never felt himself so much in the disposition to native health. In a crowded metropolis, amid all the bustle of business on the one hand and the harassing attentions of well-meaning but troublesome friends on the other, he was deprived of much of that exercise of the imagination which was to him as the vital atmosphere. In the country, on the contrary, taking exercise on ‘his own ground’, he was at all times in proper trim. ‘The Muse’, says Burns, and no poet ever benefited more by the inspirations of solitude:

‘The Muse nae poet ever fand her
Till by himsel’ he learned to wander
Alang some wrinkling burn’s meander
And no think lang.’1

1. ‘The Muse, nae Poet ever fand her, / Till by himsel he learn’d to wander, / Adown some trottin burn’s meander, / An’ no think lang’ (‘To W. S*****n, Ochiltree’, 85–8, in Burns, Robert (1968), The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, ed. James

-95-

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