Alexander Campbell Sir Walter Scott (1833)




Number I.-----Volume IV.

January 1833.

Sir Walter Scott.

      SIR WALTER SCOTT, the star that beamed with such effulgence in the heavens of romance, has vanished from the gaze of mortals. The lovers of poetry and fiction are in deep mourning; [26] and all the votaries of Waverly are clothed in sadness. The fall of a monarch, from the giddy heights of his ambition; or the demise of some mighty chief, who guided the destinies of nations, could not call forth such a display of sorrow, as the exit of this most accomplished story-teller. The genius, the admirable genius of the author of fifty tales of fashion, dwells upon the tongues of all the young Misses and Masters, who riot upon the delicious products of imagination. The veteran maids and the ruthless odd fellows, who frequent enchanted fields and castles, exclaim, that the immortal author of a hundred romantic visions has "paid the debt of nature," and that mortal eyes shall never see his like again. The critics and reviewers, the poetasters and novelists, the romancers and fabulists, are in bitterness because their model is no more--because this liberal purveyor for their amusement has left the world of shadows, and has mingled with the nations of the dead in the world of realities.

      The world often most admires that which has the least true merit. If some extraordinary genius, or some giant of prodigious stature, appear upon the stage, the pigmies are all amazed, and know not how to limit their admiration. But if real goodness, which is only another name for real greatness, happen to appear among us, only one in a thousand sees any thing divine in it. Yet even the giddy multitude, in some reflecting moment, is constrained to admit that no person is worthy of praise for his intellectual stature, more than for his animal dimensions: and that matters of choice, and not of contingence, are the proper subjects of praise or blame.

      But no man is a scholar, a poet, or an author by the mere force of genius. Much labor, care, and toil are necessary to furnish the most splendid genius with the materials for future creations. Grant all this, and more: the miser too is laborious; so are all the votaries of pleasure. Neither talent nor toil, apart, or united, are worthy of admiration, unless consecrated to some high end, pregnant with real good to man.

      To whom, then, let us ask, is the memory of Sir Walter Scott most dear? To those, doubtless, to whom the labors of his pen administered the most gratification. And who are they?--

      We ask not whether he offered incense to the Whigs or Tories, or labored to prop the falling glories of the British Throne in his Life of Napoleon. We ask not, whether he sought to rivet again the chains of a heartless hierarchy upon the lacerated necks of an oppressed people. We do not inquire whether he labored to erase from the escutcheons of English Lords and Scottish Peers the stigmata of their ancestors, either in his poems or his novels; but we ask, To what taste, and to what fashion, and to what sort of minds did he devote the whole labors of his life?--The airy, frothy, and fantastic minds of those who live without an object, and die without a hope.

      But "he wrote some sermons." So did the author of Tristram Shandy and the far-famed Swift. Yes, these versatile genii have ministered to the stage, the toilet, and the pulpit with equal impartiality and eclat. They have made the theatres resound with acclamations; and on Sundays, their sermons, well pronounced, have extorted from the [27] eyes of sinners, tears of the deepest contrition. Admirable men! No wonder the glare of their genius so dazzles the eyes of their admirers that they cannot see objects of real worth.

      The world, however, knows how to appreciate them that appreciate it, and will be lavish of its praises upon them who minister to its taste. But it has no honors nor encomiums for them who honor God and their own race. The closest imitator of the great model of every perfection--the most devoted follower of the Saviour of the world, who spends his days and nights in acts of human kindness--who points the perishing sinner to the Lamb of God--who visits the abodes of affliction and distress--who wipes the tear of misery from the cheek of woe, and pours the wine and oil of Christian sympathy into the wounds and bruises of the unfortunate--gives up the ghost, and the world is silent! No panegyrist dilates upon his excellencies, or recounts his hundred acts of heaven-born charity, the least of which will shine with incomparably superior splendor in the true heaven of real glory, than ever shone this meteor in the ideal heavens of the idolators of fiction.

      It is thus, however, the god of this world holds in homage to himself the sons of the flesh; and by such rewards he allures and binds to his interests the best talents, as well as the thoughtless crowds who feel not the majesty of Almighty Love, and brooke not submission to the Prince of Peace. Alas, for the times! Alas, for Christian nations! when the taste and fashion, which fill the higher circles and the lofty places in society, can bestow such unmeasured praises on the inventor of a thousand fables, because he has told them in a graceful style; and allow to die neglected and unnoticed the sons of God, the unassuming disciples of him who assiduously went about doing good.

      But they are not of this world, and the world acknowledges them not. Yet there is a world where they will shine in brighter glories; where their virtues will be all appreciated: for there is one whose judgment of human worth, of true greatness, and true goodness, cannot be biassed by false appearances, and which infinitely preponderates over the reviews, and criticisms, and verdicts of the whole race of sycophants who judge after the flesh. He it is that can bestow an immortality of fame on earth, and an eternity of honor in the highest heavens. It was he who said, 'Wheresoever in all this world the gospel is preached, this token of love to my person, which this woman has bestowed, shall be told to her honor.'

      Christians, let us aspire to the honor which comes from God, and let us devote our talents, whether few or many, to the honor of our Lord, and to the good of those he loves; and thus our names, though not enrolled amongst the mighty, and the noble, and the illustrious on earth, will be found engraven on the heart of him who wears the eternal crown of unfading glory in the Palace of the Universe.

"These characters will fair abide,
Our everlasting trust;
When gems, and monuments, and crowns
Are moulder'd down to dust.

EDITOR. [28]      

[The Millennial Harbinger 4 (January 1833): 26-28.]


      Alexander Campbell's "Sir Walter Scott" was first published in The Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1833. The electronic version of the essay has been produced from the College Press reprint (1976) of The Millennial Harbinger, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell,January 1833), pp. 26-28.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained.

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 31 January 1999.
Updated 7 July 2003.

Alexander Campbell Sir Walter Scott (1833)

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