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HISTORICAL GRound-work of Scott's Novels. 411
greater part have an historical ground-work. Scottish history and Scottish soil were invested by the genius of Scott with a new lustre. Tourists came from all parts of the world to see the places where Fitz-James, Rob Roy, and Jeanie Deans had played their fancied parts. Nor was the Wizard himself forgotten amid the romance of the magical scenes his genius had conjured up. Abbotsford is still one of the sights of Scotland. But Scott was not the man to work a vein until it began to yield a base, inferior ore. When he felt that he had fallen below the level of his earlier poetical works, he turned to prose; and when “Waverley,” “The Antiquary,” “Old Mortality,” “Rob Roy,” “The Heart of MidLothian,” and soforth, had gone deep into the pictured life of Scottish history and society, he felt that it was time to break new ground. So, turning to English annals, he reproduced in “Ivanhoe” the brilliant, chivalrous days of the Lion-hearted King. And then followed several novels founded upon the most striking eras of English history. Of these, “Kenilworth,” a picture of Elizabeth and her court—“The Fortunes of Nigel,” dealing with London life in the reign of James the First—“Peveril of the Peak,” a story of the Restoration era—and “Woodstock,” a tale of Cromwell's time —may be named as the chief specimens. “The Talisman” carries us to the East during the third Crusade, and “Quentin Durward” introduces us to the French court during the reign of that strange mixture of cruelty, cunning, and superstition, King Louis XI. So the theme was varied, and thus the interest was maintained. Well might Byron say of this wonderful master of fiction, “He is a library in himself.” The chief work of actual history by Scott is his “Life of Napoleon.” It is not a satisfactory performance. Written too near the time of which it treats to be quite impartial, it also bears in many places the marks of haste and imperfect execution. The training through which Scott had been going for the previous ten years, was not of a kind to fit him for working with perfect patience upon a theme so vast and difficult. The laborious research and the careful balancing of conflicting evidence, which such a work required, were not the things to which Scott had been accustomed
SPECIMEN OF SCOTT'S PROSE.
in his literary toils. The complete change of literary habits involved in this work has been noticed during the progress of our sketch.
KNIGHTHOOD IN THE LISTS.
At length, as the Saracenic music of the challengers concluded one of those long and high flourishes with which they had broken the silence of the lists, it was answered by a solitary trumpet, which breathed a note of defiance from the northern extremity. All eyes were turned to see the new champion whom these sounds announced; and no sooner were the barriers opened than he paced into the lists. As far as could be judged of a man sheathed in armour, the new adventurer did not greatly exceed the middle size, and seemed to be rather slerder than strongly made. His suit of armour was formed of steel, richly inlaid with gold; and the device on his shield was a young oak-tree pulled up by the roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited. He was mounted on a gallant black horse ; and as he passed through the lists he grace. fully saluted the Prince and the ladies by lowering his lance. The dexterity with which he managed his steed, and something of youthful grace which he displayed in his manner, won him the favour of the multitude, which some of the lower classes expressed by calling out, “ Touch Ralph de Vipont's shield !touch the Hospitaller's shield; he has the least sure seat; he is your cheapest bargain !"
The champion, moving onward amid these well-meant hints, ascended the platform by the sloping alley which led to it from the lists, and, to the astonishment of all present, riding straight up to the central pavilion, struck with the sharp end of his spear the shield of Brian de Bois-Guilbert until it rang again. All stood astonished at his presumption, but none more than the redoubted knight, whom he had thus defied to mortal combat, and who, little expecting so rude a challenge, was standing carelessly at the door of the pavilion.
When the two champions stood opposed to each other at the two extremities of the lists, the public expectation was strained to the highest pitch. Few augured the possibility that the encounter could terminate well for the Disinherited Knight; yet his courage and gallantry secured the general good wishes of the spectators.
The trumpets had no sooner given the signal than the champions vanished from their posts with the speed of lightning, and closed in the centre of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The lances burst into shivers up to the very grasp ; and it seemed at the moment that both knights had fallen, for the shock had made each horse recoil backwards upon its haunches. The address of the riders recovered their steeds by use of the bridle and spur; and having glared on each other for an instant with eyes which seemed to flash fire through the bars of their visors, each made a demivolt, and, retiring to the extremity of the lists, received a fresh lance from the attendants.
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A loud shout from the spectators, waving of scarfs and handkerchiefs, and general acclamations, attested the interest taken by the spectators in this encounter; the most equal, as well as the best performed, which had graced the day. But no sooner had the knights resumed their station than the clamour or applause was hushed into a silence so deep and so dead, that it seemed the multitude were afraid even to breathe.
A few minutes' pause having been allowed, that the combatants and their horses might recover breath, Prince John with his truncheon signed to the trumpets to sound the onset. The champions a second time sprang from their stations, and closed in the centre of the lists, with the same speed, the same dexterity, the same violence, but not the same equal fortune as before.
In this second encounter, the Templar aimed at the centre of his antagonist's shield, and struck it so fair and forcibly, that his spear went to shivers, and the Disinherited Knight reeled in his saddle. On the other hand, that champion had, in the beginning of his career, directed the point of his lance towards BoisGuilbert's shield, but, changing his aim almost in the moment of encounter, he addressed it to the helmet, a mark more difficult to hit, but which, if attained, rendered the shock more irresistible. Fair and true he hit the Norman on the visor, where his lance's point kept hold of the bars. Yet, even at this disadvantage, the Templar sustained his high reputation; and had not the girths of his saddle burst, he might not have been unhorsed. As it chanced, however, saddle, horse, and man rolled on the ground under a cloud of dust.
OWING to the multitude of names that crowd upon us as we approach our own day, we must, in this and the similar chapter of the Ninth Era, depart from the simple division into Poets and Prose Writers, hitherto adopted in the last chapter of each period, and class authors under nine heads, viz., Poets, Dramatists, Historians, Novelists, Essayists and Critics, Scientific Writers, Theologians and Scholars, Travellers, and Translators. Those names which limited space prevents us from noticing at any length, will form a list at the end of each section.
SAMUEL ROGERS, a London banker, whose reputation as a poet stands very high, was born in 1763, at Stoke Newington, a metropolitan suburb. His chief poems are The Pleasures of Memory
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(1792); Columbus (1812); Human Life (1819); and Italy, of which the first part appeared in 1822. A graceful and gentle spirit fills the poetry of Rogers. His love for the beautiful in nature and in art led him to delight in “a setting sun, or lake among the mountains,” and at the same time to fill his house in St. James's Place with the finest pictures wealth could buy. The breakfasts he gave in this pleasant home used to draw some of the first men in London round his table. Never weary of benevolence, especially to the literary struggler, this kindly, clever man, lived far into the present century, dying in 1855. JAMES Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, was born in Selkirkshire in 1770. He began by writing songs, and gathered some pieces for Scott's “Border Minstrelsy.” The Queen's Wake, a legendary poem published in 1813, stamped him as a true poet. Among the ballads supposed to be sung to Queen Mary is the exquisite fairy tale, Kilmeny. From the nature of his themes, this poet may be classed with Spenser, as a bard of romantic and legendary strain. Madoc of the Moor, in Spenser's stanza, and The Pilgrims of the Sun, in blank-verse, are among the most important of his later works. Many of his songs are very fine; and several novels, too, came from his untaught pen. As a farmer he was unsuccessful, like Burns. His chief residence was a cottage at Altrive, where he died of dropsy in 1835. JAMEs MontgomERY, well known as the author of two richly descriptive poems, Greenland and The Pelican Island, was born in 1771, at Irvine in Ayrshire. Much of his life was spent in the wearing toil of a journalist, as editor of the Sheffield Iris. He was twice imprisoned for imputed libels. In addition to the works already named, he wrote The Wanderer in Switzerland, The West Indies, Prison Amusements, The World before the Flood, and many other poems. He died in 1854, having long enjoyed a pension of £200 a year. THOMAS MooRE was born in Dublin on the 28th of May 1779. At fourteen he contributed verse to a magazine. Having studied at Trinity College, he entered the Middle Temple in London as a student of law. His first important literary undertaking