Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walter Scott's Birthday

Walter Scott shared a birthday with one of his major subjects, Napoleon Bonaparte.  Napoleon (1769) was born two years before Scott (1771), but died 11 years before him.  It is 239 years since Sir Walter Scott's birth.  In 1825, Scott is reminiscing on the age he has achieved (54), in this journal entry from November 30:

'I am come to the time when those who look out of the windows shall be darkened. I must now wear spectacles constantly in reading and writing, though till this winter I have made a shift by using only their occasional assistance. Although my health cannot be better, I feel my lameness becomes sometimes painful, and often inconvenient. Walking on the pavement or causeway gives me trouble, and I am glad when I have accomplished my return on foot from the Parliament House to Castle Street, though I can (taking a competent time, as old Braxie[48] said on another occasion) walk five or six miles in the country with pleasure. Well—such things must come, and be received with cheerful submission. My early lameness considered, it was impossible for a man labouring under a bodily impediment to have been stronger or more active than I have been, and that for twenty or thirty years. Seams will slit, and elbows will out, quoth the tailor; and as I was fifty-four on 15th August last, my mortal vestments are none of the newest. Then Walter, Charles, and Lockhart are as active and handsome young fellows as you can see; and while they enjoy strength and activity I can hardly be said to want it. I have perhaps all my life set an undue value on these gifts. Yet it does appear to me that high and independent feelings are naturally, though not uniformly or inseparably, connected with bodily advantages. Strong men are usually good-humoured, and active men often display the same elasticity of mind as of body. These are superiorities, however, that are often misused. But even for these things God shall call us to judgment...'

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