SCOTT—"THE WIZARD OF THE NORTH"
HE army, moving by its right from off the ground on which they
had rested, soon entered the path through the morass, conducting
their march with astonishing silence and great rapidity. The
mist had not risen to the higher grounds, so that for some time
they had the advantage of starlight. But this was lost as the
stars faded before approaching day, and the head of the marching
column, continuing its descent, plunged as it were into the heavy
ocean of fog, which rolled its white waves over the whole plain,
and over the sea by which it was bounded. Some difficulties were
now to be encountered, inseparable from darkness, a narrow,
broken, and marshy path, and the necessity of preserving union in
the march. These, however, were less inconvenient to
Highlanders, from their habits of life, than they would have been
to any other troops, and they continued a steady and swift
"The clan of Fergus had now gained the firm plain, which had
lately borne a large crop of corn. But the harvest was gathered
in, and the expanse was unbroken by trees, bush, or interruption
of any kind. The rest of the army were following fast, when they
heard the drums of the enemy beat the general. Surprise,
however, had made no part of their plan, so they were not
disconcerted by this intimation that the foe was upon his guard
 prepared to receive them. It only hastened their
dispositions for the combat, which were very simple.
" 'Down with your plaid, Waverley,' cried Fergus, throwing off his
own; 'we'll win silks for our tartans before the sun is above the
"The clansmen on every side stripped their plaids, prepared their
arms, and there was an awful pause of about three minutes, during
which the men, pulling off their bonnets, raised their faces to
heaven, and uttered a short prayer; then pulled their bonnets
over their brows and began to move forward at first slowly.
Waverley felt his heart at that moment throb as it would have
burst his bosom. It was not fear, it was not ardour—it was a
compound of both, a new and deeply energetic impulse, that with
its first emotion chilled and astounded, then fevered and
maddened his mind. The sounds around him combined to exalt his
enthusiasm; the pipes played, and the clans rushed forward, each
in its own dark column. As they advanced they mended their pace,
and the muttering sounds of the men to each other began to swell
into a wild cry. At this moment, the sun, which was not risen
above the horizon, dispelled the mist. The vapours rose like a
curtain, and showed the two armies in the act of closing. The
line of the regulars was formed directly fronting the attack of
the Highlanders; it glittered with the appointments of a complete
army, and was flanked by cavalry and artillery. But the sight
impressed no terror on the assailants.
" 'Forward, sons of Ivor,' cried their chief, 'or the Camerons
will draw the first blood!' They rushed on with a tremendous
"The rest is well known. The horses, who were commanded to
charge the advancing Highlanders in the flank, received an
irregular fire from their fusees as they ran on,
 and, seized
with a disgraceful panic, wavered, halted, disbanded, and
galloped from the field. The artillerymen, deserted by the
cavalry, fled after discharging their pieces, and the
Highlanders, who dropped their guns when fired, and drew their
broadswords, rushed with headlong fury against the infantry.
"The English infantry, trained in the wars in Flanders, stood
their ground with great courage. But their extended files were
pierced and broken in many places by the close masses of the
clans; and in the personal struggle which ensued, the nature of
the Highlanders' weapons, and their extraordinary fierceness and
activity, gave them a decided superiority over those who had been
accustomed to trust much to their array and discipline, and felt
that the one was broken and the other useless.
"Loud shouts now echoed over the whole field. The battle was
fought and won, and the whole baggage, artillery, and military
stores of the regular army remained a possession of the victors.
Never was a victory more complete."
Such is Scott's picture of the battle of Prestonpans. And
throughout the whole book we have wonderful pictures of Scottish
life as it then was—pictures of robbers' caves, and chieftains'
halls, of the chiefs themselves, and their followers, of
mountain, loch, and glen, all drawn with such a true and living
touch that we cannot forget them.
After Waverley other novels followed fast, each one adding to the
reputation of the unknown author, and now, from the name of the
first, we call them all the Waverley Novels.
Scott's was one of the most wonderful successes—perhaps the most
wonderful—that has ever been known
 in our literature. "As long
as Sir Walter Scott wrote poetry," said a friend, "there was
neither man nor woman ever thought of either reading or writing
anything but poetry. But the instant that he gave over writing
poetry, there was neither man nor woman ever read it more! All
turned to tales and novels."
Everybody read The Novels, from the King to the shepherd.
Friends, money, and fame came tumbling in upon the author. He
had refused to be made Poet Laureate, and passed the honor on to
Southey, but he accepted a baronetcy. He added wing after wing
to his beautiful house, and acre after acre to his land, and
rejoiced in being laird of Abbotsford.
The speed with which Scott wrote was marvelous. His house was
always full of visitors, yet he always had time to entertain
them. He was never known to refuse to see a friend, gentle or
simple, and was courteous even to the bores who daily invaded his
home. He had unbounded energy. He rose early in the morning,
and before the rest of the family was astir had finished more
than half of his daily task of writing. Thus by twelve o'clock
he was free to entertain his guests.
If ever man was happy and successful, Scott seemed to be that
man. But suddenly all his fair prospects were darkened over.
Sir Walter was in some degree a partner in the business both of
his publisher and his printer. Now both publisher and printer
failed, and Scott found himself ruined with them. At fifty-five
he was not only a ruined man, but loaded with a terrible debt of
It was a staggering blow, and most men would have been utterly
crushed by it. Not so Scott. He was proud, proud of his old
name and of his new-founded baronial hall. He was stout of heart
too. At fifty-five he began life again, determined with his pen
to wipe out
 the debt. Many were the hands stretched out to help
him; rich men offered their thousands, poor men their scanty
savings, but Scott refused help from both rich and poor. His own
hand must wipe out the debt, he said. Time was all he asked. So
with splendid courage and determination, the like of which has
perhaps never been known, he set to work.
But evil days had begun for Sir Walter. Scarcely four months
after the crash, his wife died, and so he lost a companion of
nearly thirty years. "I think my heart will break," he cries in
the first bitterness of sorrow. "Lonely, aged, deprived of my
family, an impoverished, an embarrassed man." But dogged courage
comes to him again. "Well, that is over, and if it cannot be
forgotten must be remembered with patience." So day after day he
bent to his work. Every morning saw his appointed task done.
Besides novels and articles he wrote a History of Napoleon, a
marvelous book, considering it was written in eighteen months.
Then Scott began the book which will be the first of all his
books to interest you, The Tales of a Grandfather. This is a
history of Scotland, and it was written for his grandson John
Hugh Lockhard, or Hugh Littlejohn as he is called in The Tales.
"I will make," said Scott, "if possible, a book that a child
shall understand, yet a man shall feel some temptation to peruse
should he chance to take it up."
Hugh Littlejohn was a delicate boy, indeed he had not long to
live, but many a happy day he spent, this summer (1827), riding
about the woods of Abbotsford with his kind grandfather,
listening to the tales he told. For Scott, too, the rides were a
joy, and helped to make him forget his troubles. When he had
told his tale in such a simple way that Littlejohn understood, he
returned home and wrote it down.
In the December of the same year the first part of The
 Tales was
published, and at once was a tremendous success, a success as
great almost as any of the novels. Hugh Littlejohn liked The
Tales too. "Dear Grandpapa," he writes, "I thank you for the
books. I like my own picture and the Scottish chief: I am going
to read them as fast as I can."
Two more volumes of Tales followed. Then there was no need to
write more for the dearly loved grandson, as a year or two later,
when he was only eleven, poor Littlejohn died. But already the
kind grandfather was near his end also, the tremendous effort
which he made to force himself to work beyond his strength could
not be kept up. His health broke down under it. Still he
struggled on, but at last, yielding to his friends' entreaties,
he went to Italy in search of health and strength. It gives us
some idea of the high place Sir Walter had won for himself in the
hearts of the people, when we learn that his health seemed a
national concern, and that a warship was sent to take him on his
journey. But the journey was of no avail. Among the great hills
and blue lakes of Italy Scott longed for the lesser hills and
grayer lochs of Scotland. So he turned homewards. And at home,
in his beloved Abbotsford, in the still splendor of an autumn
day, with the meadow-scented air he loved fanning his face, and
the sound of rippling Tweed in his ears, he closed his eyes for
ever. In the grass-grown ruin of Dryburgh Abbey, not far from
his home, he was laid to rest, while the whole countryside
mourned Sir Walter.
Before he died Scott had paid 70,000 pounds of his debt, an
enormous sum for one man to make by his pen in six years. He
died in the happy belief that all was paid, as indeed it all was.
For after the author's death, his books still brought in a great
deal of money, so that in fifteen years the debt was wiped out.
I have not told you any of Scott's stories here, because,
many of the books we have spoken of, they are easily to be had.
And the time will soon come, if it has not come already, when you
can read Sir Walter's books, just as he wrote them. It is best,
I think, that you should read them so, for Sir Walter Scott is
perhaps the first of all our great writers nearly the whole of
whose books a child can read without help. You will find many
long descriptions in them, but do not let them frighten you. You
need not read them all the first time, and very likely you will
want to read them the second time.
But perhaps before you read his novels you will like to read his
Metrical Romances. For when we are children—big children
perhaps, but still children—is the time to read them. Long ago
in the twelfth century, when the people of England were simple
and unlearned, they loved Metrical Romances, and we when we are
simple and unlearned may love them too. Many of these old
romances, however, are hard to get, and they are written in a
language hard for many of us to understand. But Sir Walter
Scott, in the nineteenth century, has recreated for us all the
charm of those old tales. For this then, let us thank and
"His legendary song could tell
Of ancient deeds, so long forgot;
Of feuds, whose memory was not;
Of forests, now laid waste and bare;
Of towers, which harbour now the hare;
Of manners, long since chang'd and gone;
Of chiefs, who under their grey stone
So long had slept, that fickle Fame
Had blotted from her rolls their name,
And twin'd round some new minion's head
The fading wreath for which they bled."