Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott Volume V Part 5

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"Here chicks in eggs for breakfast sprawl, Here godless boys God's glories squall, Here Scotchmen's heads do guard the wall, But Corby's walks atone for all."

Would it not be a good quiz to advertise _The Poetical Works of David Hume_, with notes, critical, historical, and so forth--with an historical inquiry into the use of eggs for breakfast, a physical discussion on the causes of their being addled; a history of the English Church music, and of the choir of Carlisle in particular; a full account of the affair of 1745, with the trials, last speeches, and so forth, of the poor _plaids_ who were strapped up at Carlisle; and, lastly, a full and particular description of Corby, with the genealogy of every family who ever possessed it? I think, even without more than the usual waste of margin, the Poems of David would make a decent twelve-shilling touch. I shall think about it when I have exhausted mine own _century of inventions_.

I do not know whether it is perverseness of state, or old associations, but an excellent and very handsome modern house, which Mr. Howard has lately built at Corby, does not, in my mind, assimilate so well with the scenery as the old irregular monastic hall, with its weather-beaten and antique appearance, which I remember there some years ago.

Out of my Field of Waterloo has sprung an odd wild sort of thing, which I intend to finish separately, and call it The Dance of Death.[25] These matters take up my {p.072} time so much, that I must bid you adieu for the present. Besides, I am summoned to attend a grand _chasse_, and I see the children are all mounted upon the ponies. By the way, Walter promises to be a gallant horseman. Ever most truly yours,

Walter SCOTT.

[Footnote 25: This was published in the _Edinburgh Annual Register_ in 1815.--See _Poetical Works_ (Ed.

1834), vol. xi. p. 297 [Cambridge Ed. p. 421].]

I shall close this chapter with a transcript of some _Notes_ on the proof sheets of The Field of Waterloo. John Ballantyne being at Abbotsford on the 3d of October, his brother the printer addressed the packet containing the sheets to him. John appears to have considered James's observations on the margin before Scott saw them; and the record of the style in which the Poet repelled, or yielded to, his critics, will at all events illustrate his habitual good-nature.

John Ballantyne writes on the fly-leaf of the proofs, to his confidential clerk: "Mr. Hodgson, I beg these sheets and all the MS.

may be carefully preserved just as they stand, and put in my father's desk. J. B."

James prefaces his animadversions with this quotation:--

"Cut deep and spare not.--_Penruddock._"

The _Notes_ are these:--

STANZA I.--"Fair Brussels, thou art far behind."

_James Ballantyne._--I do not like this line. It is tame, and the phrase "far behind," has, to my feeling, some associated vulgarity.

_Scott._--Stet.

STANZA II.--"Let not _the_ stranger with disdain _The_ architecture view."

_James._--These two words are cacophonous. Would not _its_ do?

_Scott._--Th. is a bad sound. Ts. a much worse. Read _their_.

STANZA IV.--"A stranger might reply."

_James._--My objection to this is probably fantastical, and I state it only because, from the first moment to the last, it has always made me boggle. I don't like a _stranger_--Query, "The questioned"--The "spectator"--"gazer," etc.

_Scott._--_Stranger_ is appropriate--it means stranger to the circumstances.

{p.073} STANZA VI.--_James._--You had changed "garner-house profound," which I think quite admirable, to "garner under ground,"

which I think quite otherways. I have presumed not to make the change--must I?

_Scott._--I acquiesce, but with doubts; _profound_ sounds affected.

STANZA VIII.--"The deadly tug of war at length Must limits find in human strength, And _cease_ when these are passed.

Vain hope!" etc.

_James._--I must needs repeat, that the deadly tug _did_ cease in the case supposed. It lasted long--very long; but, when the limits of resistance, of human strength, were past--that is, after they had fought for ten hours, then the deadly tug _did_ cease. Therefore the "hope" was not "vain."

_Scott._--I answer, it did _not_,--because the observation relates to the strength of those actually engaged, and when _their_ strength was exhausted, other squadrons were brought up. Suppose you saw two lawyers scolding at the bar, you might say this must have an end--human lungs cannot hold out--but, if the debate were continued by the senior counsel, your well-grounded expectations would be disappointed--"Cousin, thou wert not wont to be so dull!"--

IBID.--"Nor ceased the _intermitted_ shot."

_James._--Mr. Erskine contends that "intermitted" is redundant.

_Scott._--"Nor ceased the _storm of shell and shot_."

STANZA X.--"---- Never shall our country say We gave one inch of ground away, _When battling_ for her right."

_James._--_In conflict?_

_John B._--_Warring?_ I am afraid _battling_ must stand.

_Scott._--All worse than the text.

STANZA XI.--"Peal'd wildly the imperial name."

_James._--I submit with diffidence whether this be not a somewhat tame conclusion to so very animated a stanza? And, at any rate, you will observe, that as it stands, you have no rhyme whatever to "The Cohort eagles _fly_."--You have no rhyme to _fly_. _Flew_ and _fly_, also, are perhaps too near, considering that each word closes a line of the same sort. I don't well like "_Thus_ in a torrent," either.

If it were, "In one broad torrent," etc., it strikes me that it would be more spirited.

_Scott._--Granted as to most of these observations--Read, "in one _dark_ torrent broad and strong," etc.--The "imperial name" is _true_, therefore must stand.

STANZA XII.--"Nor was one forward footstep _stopped_."

_James._--This staggering word was intended, I presume, but I don't like it.

{p.074} _Scott._--Granted. Read _staid_, etc.

IBID.--"Down were the eagle banners sent, Down, down the horse and horsemen went."

_James._--This is very spirited and very fine; but it is unquestionably liable to the charge of being very nearly a direct repetition of yourself. See _Lord of the Isles_, Canto vi. Stanza 24:--

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