Letters On Demonology & Witchcraft
Letters On Demonology & Witchcraft

Letters On Demonology & Witchcraft

by Sir Walter Scott

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Sir Walter Scott's "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft" were his
contribution to a series of books, published by John Murray, which
appeared between the years 1829 and 1847, and formed a collection of
eighty volumes known as "Murray's Family Library." The series was
planned to secure a wide diffusion of good literature in cheap
five-shilling volumes, and Scott's "Letters," written and published in
1830, formed one of the earlier books in the collection.

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge had been founded in
the autumn of 1826, and Charles Knight, who had then conceived a plan of
a National Library, was entrusted, in July, 1827, with the
superintendence of its publications. Its first treatises appeared in
sixpenny numbers, once a fortnight. Its "British Almanac" and "Companion
to the Almanac" first appeared at the beginning of 1829. Charles Knight
started also in that year his own "Library of Entertaining Knowledge."
John Murray's "Family Library" was then begun, and in the spring of
1832--the year of the Reform Bill--the advance of civilization by the
diffusion of good literature, through cheap journals as well as cheap
books, was sought by the establishment of "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal"
in the North, and in London of "The Penny Magazine."

In the autumn of that year, 1832, on the 21st of September, Sir Walter
Scott died. The first warning of death had come to him in February,
1830, with a stroke of apoplexy. He had been visited by an old friend
who brought him memoirs of her father, which he had promised to revise
for the press. He seemed for half an hour to be bending over the papers
at his desk, and reading them; then he rose, staggered into the
drawing-room, and fell, remaining speechless until he had been bled.
Dieted for weeks on pulse and water, he so far recovered that to friends
outside his family but little change in him was visible. In that
condition, in the month after his seizure, he was writing these Letters,
and also a fourth series of the "Tales of a Grandfather." The slight
softening of the brain found after death had then begun. But the old
delight in anecdote and skill in story-telling that, at the beginning of
his career, had caused a critic of his "Border Minstrelsy" to say that
it contained the germs of a hundred romances, yet survived. It gave to
Scott's "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft" what is for us now a
pathetic charm. Here and there some slight confusion of thought or style
represents the flickering of a light that flashes yet with its old
brilliancy. There is not yet the manifest suggestion of the loss of
power that we find presently afterwards in "Count Robert of Paris" and
"Castle Dangerous," published in 1831 as the Fourth Series of "Tales of
My Landlord," with which he closed his life's work at the age of sixty.

Milton has said that he who would not be frustrate of his hope to write
well in laudable things, ought himself to be a true poem. Scott's life
was a true poem, of which the music entered into all he wrote. If in his
earlier days the consciousness of an unlimited productive power tempted
him to make haste to be rich, that he might work out, as founder of a
family, an ideal of life touched by his own genius of romance, there was
not in his desire for gain one touch of sordid greed, and his ideal of
life only brought him closer home to all its duties. Sir Walter Scott's
good sense, as Lord Cockburn said, was a more wonderful gift than his
genius. When the mistake of a trade connection with James Ballantyne
brought ruin to him in 1826, he repudiated bankruptcy, took on himself
the burden of a debt of £130,000, and sacrificed his life to the
successful endeavour to pay off all. What was left unpaid at his death
was cleared afterwards by the success of his annotated edition of his
novels. No tale of physical strife in the battlefield could be as heroic
as the story of the close of Scott's life, with five years of a
death-struggle against adversity, animated by the truest sense of
honour. When the ruin was impending he wrote in his diary, "If things go
badly in London, the magic wand of the Unknown will be shivered in his
grasp. The feast of fancy will be over with the feeling of independence.
He shall no longer have the delight of waking in the morning with bright
ideas in his mind, hasten to commit them to paper, and count them
monthly, as the means of planting such scaurs and purchasing such
wastes; replacing dreams of fiction by other prospective visions of
walks by

'Fountain-heads, and pathless groves;
Places which pale passion loves.'

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940014928243
Publisher: SAP
Publication date: 07/15/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 294 KB

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