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Chapter 14

If I may trust the flattering eye of sleep,
My dreams presage some joyful news at hand:
My bosom's lord sits lightly on his throne,
And all this day, an unaccustomed spirit
Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.
Romeo and Juliet.

The account of Sir Arthur's unhappy adventure had led Oldbuck somewhat
aside from his purpose of catechising Lovel concerning the cause of his
residence at Fairport. He was now, however, resolved to open the subject.
"Miss Wardour was formerly known to you, she tells me, Mr. Lovel?"

"He had had the pleasure," Lovel answered, to see her at Mrs. Wilmot's,
in Yorkshire."

"Indeed! you never mentioned that to me before, and you did not accost
her as an old acquaintance."

"I--I did not know," said Lovel, a good deal embarrassed, "it was the
same lady, till we met; and then it was my duty to wait till she should
recognise me."

"I am aware of your delicacy: the knight's a punctilious old fool, but I
promise you his daughter is above all nonsensical ceremony and prejudice.
And now, since you have, found a new set of friends here, may I ask if
you intend to leave Fairport as soon as you proposed?"

"What if I should answer your question by another," replied Lovel, "and
ask you what is your opinion of dreams?"

"Of dreams, you foolish lad!--why, what should I think of them but as the
deceptions of imagination when reason drops the reins? I know no
difference betwixt them and the hallucinations of madness--the unguided
horses run away with the carriage in both cases, only in the one the
coachman is drunk, and in the other he slumbers. What says our Marcus
Tullius--_Si insanorum visis fides non est habenda, cur credatur
somnientium visis, quae multo etiam perturbatiora sunt, non intelligo._"

"Yes, sir; but Cicero also tells us, that as he who passes the whole day
in darting the javelin must sometimes hit the mark, so, amid the cloud of
nightly dreams, some may occur consonant to future events."

"Ay--that is to say, _you_ have hit the mark in your own sage opinion?
Lord! Lord! how this world is given to folly! Well, I will allow for once
the Oneirocritical science--I will give faith to the exposition of
dreams, and say a Daniel hath arisen to interpret them, if you can prove
to me that that dream of yours has pointed to a prudent line of conduct."

"Tell me, then," answered Lovel, "why when I was hesitating whether to
abandon an enterprise, which I have perhaps rashly undertaken, I should
last night dream I saw your ancestor pointing to a motto which encouraged
me to perseverance?--why should I have thought of those words which I
cannot remember to have heard before, which are in a language unknown to
me, and which yet conveyed, when translated, a lesson which I could so
plainly apply to my own circumstances?"

The Antiquary burst into a fit of laughing. "Excuse me, my young friend
--but it is thus we silly mortals deceive ourselves, and look out of doors
for motives which originate in our own wilful will. I think I can help
out the cause of your vision. You were so abstracted in your
contemplations yesterday after dinner, as to pay little attention to the
discourse between Sir Arthur and me, until we fell upon the controversy
concerning the Piks, which terminated so abruptly;--but I remember
producing to Sir Arthur a book printed by my ancestor, and making him
observe the motto; your mind was bent elsewhere, but your ear had
mechanically received and retained the sounds, and your busy fancy,
stirred by Grizel's legend I presume, had introduced this scrap of German
into your dream. As for the waking wisdom which seized on so frivolous a
circumstance as an apology for persevering in some course which it could
find no better reason to justify, it is exactly one of those juggling
tricks which the sagest of us play off now and then, to gratify our
inclination at the expense of our understanding."

"I own it," said Lovel, blushing deeply;--"I believe you are right, Mr.
Oldbuck, and I ought to sink in your esteem for attaching a moment's
consequence to such a frivolity;--but I was tossed by contradictory
wishes and resolutions, and you know how slight a line will tow a boat
when afloat on the billows, though a cable would hardly move her when
pulled up on the beach."

"Right, right," exclaimed the Antiquary. "Fall in my opinion!--not a
whit--I love thee the better, man;--why, we have story for story against
each other, and I can think with less shame on having exposed myself
about that cursed Praetorium--though I am still convinced Agricola's camp
must have been somewhere in this neighbourhood. And now, Lovel, my good
lad, be sincere with me--What make you from Wittenberg?--why have you
left your own country and professional pursuits, for an idle residence in
such a place as Fairport? A truant disposition, I fear."

"Even so," replied Lovel, patiently submitting to an interrogatory which
he could not well evade. "Yet I am so detached from all the world, have
so few in whom I am interested, or who are interested in me, that my very
state of destitution gives me independence. He whose good or evil fortune
affects himself alone, has the best right to pursue it according to his
own fancy."

"Pardon me, young man," said Oldbuck, laying his hand kindly on his
shoulder, and making a full halt--"_sufflamina_--a little patience, if
you please. I will suppose that you have no friends to share or rejoice
in your success in life--that you cannot look back to those to whom you
owe gratitude, or forward to those to whom you ought to afford
protection; but it is no less incumbent on you to move steadily in the
path of duty--for your active exertions are due not only to society, but
in humble gratitude to the Being who made you a member of it, with powers
to serve yourself and others."

"But I am unconscious of possessing such powers," said Lovel, somewhat
impatiently. "I ask nothing of society but the permission of walking
innoxiously through the path of life, without jostling others, or
permitting myself to be jostled. I owe no man anything--I have the means
of maintaining, myself with complete independence; and so moderate are my
wishes in this respect, that even these means, however limited, rather
exceed than fall short of them."

"Nay, then," said Oldbuck, removing his hand, and turning again to the
road, "if you are so true a philosopher as to think you have money
enough, there's no more to be said--I cannot pretend to be entitled to
advise you;--you have attained the _acme'_--the summit of perfection. And
how came Fairport to be the selected abode of so much self-denying
philosophy? It is as if a worshipper of the true religion had set up his
staff by choice among the multifarious idolaters of the land of Egypt.
There is not a man in Fairport who is not a devoted worshipper of the
Golden Calf--the mammon of unrighteousness. Why, even I, man, am so
infected by the bad neighbourhood, that I feel inclined occasionally to
become an idolater myself."

"My principal amusements being literary," answered Lovel, "and
circumstances which I cannot mention having induced me, for a time at
least, to relinquish the military service, I have pitched on Fairport as
a place where I might follow my pursuits without any of those temptations
to society which a more elegant circle might have presented to me."

"Aha!" replied Oldbuck, knowingly,--"I begin to understand your
application of my ancestor's motto. You are a candidate for public
favour, though not in the way I first suspected,--you are ambitious to
shine as a literary character, and you hope to merit favour by labour and

Lovel, who was rather closely pressed by the inquisitiveness of the old
gentleman, concluded it would be best to let him remain in the error
which he had gratuitously adopted.

"I have been at times foolish enough," he replied, "to nourish some
thoughts of the kind."

"Ah, poor fellow! nothing can be more melancholy; unless, as young men
sometimes do, you had fancied yourself in love with some trumpery
specimen of womankind, which is indeed, as Shakspeare truly says,
pressing to death, whipping, and hanging all at once."

He then proceeded with inquiries, which he was sometimes kind enough to
answer himself. For this good old gentleman had, from his antiquarian
researches, acquired a delight in building theories out of premises which
were often far from affording sufficient ground for them; and being, as
the reader must have remarked, sufficiently opinionative, he did not
readily brook being corrected, either in matter of fact or judgment, even
by those who were principally interested in the subjects on which he
speculated. He went on, therefore, chalking out Lovel's literary career
for him.

"And with what do you propose to commence your debut as a man of
letters?--But I guess--poetry--poetry--the soft seducer of youth. Yes!
there is an acknowledging modesty of confusion in your eye and manner.
And where lies your vein?--are you inclined to soar to the, higher
regions of Parnassus, or to flutter around the base of the hill?"

"I have hitherto attempted only a few lyrical pieces," said Lovel.

"Just as I supposed--pruning your wing, and hopping from spray to spray.
But I trust you intend a bolder flight. Observe, I would by no means
recommend your persevering in this unprofitable pursuit--but you say you
are quite independent of the public caprice?"

"Entirely so," replied Lovel.

"And that you are determined not to adopt a more active course of life?"

"For the present, such is my resolution," replied the young man.

"Why, then, it only remains for me to give you my best advice and
assistance in the object of your pursuit. I have myself published two
essays in the Antiquarian Repository,--and therefore am an author of
experience, There was my Remarks on Hearne's edition of Robert of
Gloucester, signed _Scrutator;_ and the other signed _Indagator,_ upon a
passage in Tacitus. I might add, what attracted considerable notice at
the time, and that is my paper in the Gentleman's Magazine, upon the
inscription of OElia Lelia, which I subscribed _OEdipus._So you see I am
not an apprentice in the mysteries of author-craft, and must necessarily
understand the taste and temper of the times. And now, once more, what do
you intend to commence with?"

"I have no instant thoughts of publishing."

"Ah! that will never do; you must have the fear of the public before your
eyes in all your undertakings. Let us see now: A collection of fugitive
pieces; but no--your fugitive poetry is apt to become stationary with the
bookseller. It should be something at once solid and attractive--none of
your romances or anomalous novelties--I would have you take high ground
at once. Let me see: What think you of a real epic?--the grand
old-fashioned historical poem which moved through twelve or twenty-four
books. We'll have it so--I'll supply you with a subject--The battle
between the Caledonians and Romans--The Caledoniad; or, Invasion
Repelled;--let that be the title--it will suit the present taste, and you
may throw in a touch of the times."

"But the invasion of Agricola was _not_ repelled."

"No; but you are a poet--free of the corporation, and as little bound
down to truth or probability as Virgil himself--You may defeat the Romans
in spite of Tacitus."

"And pitch Agricola's camp at the Kaim of--what do you call it," answered
Lovel, "in defiance of Edie Ochiltree?"

"No more of that, an thou lovest me--And yet, I dare say, ye may
unwittingly speak most correct truth in both instances, in despite of the
_toga_ of the historian and the blue gown of the mendicant."

"Gallantly counselled!--Well, I will do my best--your kindness will
assist me with local information."

"Will I not, man?--why, I will write the critical and historical notes on
each canto, and draw out the plan of the story myself. I pretend to some
poetical genius, Mr. Lovel, only I was never able to write verses."

"It is a pity, sir, that you should have failed in a qualification
somewhat essential to the art."

"Essential?--not a whit--it is the mere mechanical department. A man may
be a poet without measuring spondees and dactyls like the ancients, or
clashing the ends of lines into rhyme like the moderns, as one may be an
architect though unable to labour like a stone-mason--Dost think Palladio
or Vitruvius ever carried a hod?"

"In that case, there should be two authors to each poem--one to think and
plan, another to execute."

"Why, it would not be amiss; at any rate, we'll make the experiment;--not
that I would wish to give my name to the public--assistance from a
learned friend might be acknowledged in the preface after what flourish
your nature will--I am a total stranger to authorial vanity."

Lovel was much entertained by a declaration not very consistent with the
eagerness wherewith his friend seemed to catch at an opportunity of
coming before the public, though in a manner which rather resembled
stepping up behind a carriage than getting into one. The Antiquary was
indeed uncommonly delighted; for, like many other men who spend their
lives in obscure literary research, he had a secret ambition to appear in
print, which was checked by cold fits of diffidence, fear of criticism,
and habits of indolence and procrastination. "But," thought he, "I may,
like a second Teucer, discharge my shafts from behind the shield of my
ally; and, admit that he should not prove to be a first-rate poet, I am
in no shape answerable for his deficiencies, and the good notes may very
probably help off an indifferent text. But he is--he must be a good poet;
he has the real Parnassian abstraction--seldom answers a question till it
is twice repeated--drinks his tea scalding, and eats without knowing what
he is putting into his mouth. This is the real _aestus,_ the _awen_ of
the Welsh bards, the _divinus afflatus_ that transports the poet beyond
the limits of sublunary things. His visions, too, are very symptomatical
of poetic fury--I must recollect to send Caxon to see he puts out his
candle to-night--poets and visionaries are apt to be negligent in that
respect." Then, turning to his companion, he expressed himself aloud in

"Yes, my dear Lovel, you shall have full notes; and, indeed, think we may
introduce the whole of the Essay on Castrametation into the appendix--it
will give great value to the work. Then we will revive the good old forms
so disgracefully neglected in modern times. You shall invoke the Muse
--and certainly she ought to be propitious to an author who, in an
apostatizing age, adheres with the faith of Abdiel to the ancient form of
adoration.--Then we must have a vision--in which the Genius of Caledonia
shall appear to Galgacus, and show him a procession of the real Scottish
monarchs:--and in the notes I will have a hit at Boethius--No; I must not
touch that topic, now that Sir Arthur is likely to have vexation enough
besides--but I'll annihilate Ossian, Macpherson, and Mac-Cribb."

"But we must consider the expense of publication," said Lovel, willing to
try whether this hint would fall like cold water on the blazing zeal of
his self-elected coadjutor.

"Expense!" said Mr. Oldbuck, pausing, and mechanically fumbling in his
pocket--"that is true;--I would wish to do something--but you would not
like to publish by subscription?"

"By no means," answered Lovel.

"No, no!" gladly acquiesced the Antiquary--"it is not respectable. I'll
tell you what: I believe I know a bookseller who has a value for my
opinion, and will risk print and paper, and I will get as many copies
sold for you as I can."

"O, I am no mercenary author," answered Lovel, smiling; "I only wish to
be out of risk of loss."

"Hush! hush! we'll take care of that--throw it all on the publishers. I
do long to see your labours commenced. You will choose blank verse,
doubtless?--it is more grand and magnificent for an historical subject;
and, what concerneth you, my friend, it is, I have an idea, more easily

This conversation brought them to Monkbarns, where the Antiquary had to
undergo a chiding from his sister, who, though no philosopher, was
waiting to deliver a lecture to him in the portico. "Guide us, Monkbarns!
are things no dear eneugh already, but ye maun be raising the very fish
on us, by giving that randy, Luckie Mucklebackit, just what she likes to

"Why, Grizel," said the sage, somewhat abashed at this unexpected attack,
"I thought I made a very fair bargain."

"A fair bargain! when ye gied the limmer a full half o' what she seekit!
--An ye will be a wife-carle, and buy fish at your ain hands, ye suld
never bid muckle mair than a quarter. And the impudent quean had the
assurance to come up and seek a dram--But I trow, Jenny and I sorted

"Truly," said Oldbuck (with a sly look to his companion), "I think our
estate was gracious that kept us out of hearing of that controversy.
--Well, well, Grizel, I was wrong for once in my life _ultra crepidam_
--I fairly admit. But hang expenses!--care killed a cat--we'll eat the

fish, cost what it will.--And then, Lovel, you must know I pressed you
to stay here to-day, the rather because our cheer will be better than
usual, yesterday having been a gaude' day--I love the reversion of a
feast better than the feast itself. I delight in the _analecta,_ the
_collectanea,_ as I may call them, of the preceding day's dinner, which
appear on such occasions--And see, there is Jenny going to ring the

Sir Walter Scott

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