It will be observed that the greater part of this little book has been taken in one form or other from Lockhart’s Life of Sir Walter Scott, in ten volumes. No introduction to Scott would be worth much in which that course was not followed. Indeed, excepting Sir Walter’s own writings, there is hardly any other great source of information about him; and that is so full, that hardly anything needful to illustrate the subject of Scott’s life remains untouched. As regards the only matters of controversy — Scott’s relations to the Ballantynes, I have taken care to check Mr. Lockhart’s statements by reading those of the representatives of the Ballantyne brothers; but with this exception, Sir Walter’s own works and Lockhart’s life of him are the great authorities concerning his character and his story.
Just ten years ago Mr. Gladstone, in expressing to the late Mr. Hope Scott the great delight which the perusal of Lockhart’s life of Sir Walter had given him, wrote, “I may be wrong, but I am vaguely under the impression that it has never had a really wide circulation. If so, it is the saddest pity, and I should greatly like (without any censure on its present length) to see published an abbreviation of it.” Mr. Gladstone did not then know that as long ago as 1848 Mr. Lockhart did himself prepare such an abbreviation, in which the original eighty-four chapters were compressed into eighteen — though the abbreviation contained additions as well as compressions. But even this abridgment is itself a bulky volume of 800 pages, containing, I should think, considerably more than a third of the reading in the original ten volumes, and is not, therefore, very likely to be preferred to the completer work. In some respects I hope that this introduction may supply, better than that bulky abbreviation, what Mr. Gladstone probably meant to suggest — some slight miniature taken from the great picture with care enough to tempt on those who look on it to the study of the fuller life, as well as of that image of Sir Walter which is impressed by his own hand upon his works.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54