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CONTENTS OF VOL.I.
AN ESSAY ON CHIVALRY, RO-
MANCE, AND THE DRAMA.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE AMERICAN EDITION
COMPLETE WORKS OF SIR WALTER SCOTT.
The writings of Walter Scott will be referred to hereafter as marking an era in English literature. With a genius expansive as the broad field of letters, his was the intellectual capacity to master every subject it approached. Familiar with the accumulated knowledge of dead ages, he brought to his task, whatever were its nature, a mind richly stored with all that was beautiful and apt for illustration, description, or analogy.
Criticism has failed in its attempt to confine the acknowledged superiority of Scott to any distinctive range of subjects. The reader who finds surpassing beauty and thrilling pathos in the “ Lay” and “ Marmion,” before he records his admiration will recall the graphic force and splendid imagery of “ Waverley" and " Ivanhoe.”- Though in the simple and natural sketches of the "Lives of the Novelists," he becomes entranced by the wizard power of the writer, yet will he not forget that the historic page which tells of Bruce, or Napoleon, bears an evidence of the writer's genius equally brilliant and enduring.
Scott's great and peculiar merit is admitted to be his invincible truth to nature. In the regions of poetry and romance, with an imagination that never slumbers, and which gives light and life to every picture of its creation, there is still a naturalness that wins upon the heart, till fiction becomes reality. It is here that the magician's power is felt, though the arm that lifts the wand is unseen. On the busy, life-like pages of biography, his deep knowledge of human character, and universal benevolence of disposition, are alike discernible. Charity tempers the justice of all his inferences, and there is ever a pouring forth of that spirit of kindness which “delights to praise, but falters to condemn.” It is perhaps on the graver themes of history, that the triumph of Scott's genius is most remarkable. So irresistible are the charms of style which he throws around historical subjects, that what in other hands is dry and uninteresting detail, comes from his pen with the force of truth, adorned with all the attractive grace of fiction.
The works of an author like Scott cannot be too extensively diffused. No one can rise from the perusal of his writings without having been instructed as well as amused. The cause of religion, and virtue, and morality, finds an advocate on every page ; vice will seek encouragement from the same source in vain.
It has been well observed by an able and eloquent American critic, that " if ever writer deserved universal citizenship, it was Sir Walter Scott. He was the poet of nature, the delineator of his species in every climate, and on every soil; so that, wherever his works were known, there was he to be regarded as a native and a denizen."
It is in this spirit that the publishers of the American edition of Scott's complete works, have undertaken to present them to the American people. They have supposed that they could not render a better or more acceptable service to the great mass of readers, than by placing such a publication within their reach. The revised uniform Edinburgh edition, from which this is reprinted, comprises between ninety and a hundred volumes, the cost of which is about one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The American edition now published contains the entire matter, with the latest emendations, in seven octavo volumes, stereotyped, and printed on excellent paper. The price of this edition is about one hundred dollars less than that of the Edinburgh.
The text of the "Life of Napoleon" was revised by Sir Walter himself, and two corrected copies are now in the possession of his literary executor, J. G. Lockhart, Esq. It will contain copious editorial notes, with brief notices of many distinguished men who acted a prominent part in the eventful wars which followed the French revolution.