Legal and Literary Activities, 1795-1797

Now in his twenty-third year (1793) Scott was studying and translating from German, notably the historical works of Burger and Goethe and he was a great admirer of the latter. Later this admiration was mutual and, in a letter to Scott in 1827, Goethe spoke favourably of the life of Napoleon just then published by Scott.

At this time the French revolution stimulated Scott's patriotism which features so often in his works. Yet it is a patriotism which is not narrow-minded but elevating. His military enthusiasm in defending his native country from a threatened danger of invasion found scope when he joined a body of volunteer cavalry. In 1805 when there was a false alarm of an invasion he rode one hundred miles in a day, a feat not unworthy of his moss-trooping hard-riding ancestors. They would have approved of him.

He was also working at the Bar and making good progress. The regular business habits he now acquired stood him later in good stead when he found that so much was expected and demanded of him in his literary writings.

His legal duties did not take up all his time. During the vacations he visited the Border country and also the Perthshire Highlands. He met many interesting people who told him much about bygone days and ways. All this was later put to good use in his narrative poems and novels, as well as in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. With his great interest in the past, Scott kept a watchful eye open for anything he came across of historical interest. Thus he acquired the large old Border war horn hanging still in the armoury at Abbotsford. With his wealth of historical knowledge and through meeting original characters on his excursions Scott became famous for his powers of story-telling and was soon known among his friends as Duns Scotus, after the famous Franciscan scholar of the thirteenth century.

Now in his early twenties, Scott had grown to be tall and strong; his figure was both powerful and graceful with broad chest and strong arms. He had a noble peaked head with light brown hair, grey-blue eyes, a deep voice and a pleasant Border burr. When he smiled his whole face lit up with a kindly expression. He was much attracted to. Williamina, the charming daughter of Sir J. Stuart-Belsches of Fettercairn in Kincardineshire, and they became very friendly with each other. Scott proposed marriage to her, but eventually in 1797 she married Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire. It was a hard blow for Scott. His natural fortitude came to the rescue and he recovered. It seems too he made his love the subject of some verses, such as the lyric 'The violet in her greenwood bower'.

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