1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Paul Jones

Walter Scott, 1824; in Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Recollections of a Lifetime (1857) 2:202-03.



"I have not seen the Pioneers," said Scott; "but I have read the Pilot by the same author, which has just been published. It is very clever, and I think it will turn out that his strength lies in depicting sea life and adventure. We really have no good sea-tales, and here is a wide field, open to a man of true genius."

"But, papa," said our hostess, "I should think it rather a narrow field. Only a few persons go to sea, and the language of sailors is so technical as to be hardly understood by people generally. It seems to me that sea-tales can never excite the sympathy of the great mass of readers, because they have had no experience of its life and manners."

"It is no doubt a task of some difficulty," said Sir Walter, "to bring these home to the hearts of the reading million; nevertheless, to a man of genius for it, the materials are ample and interesting. All our minds are fall of associations of danger, of daring, and adventure with the sea and those who have made that element their home. And besides, this book to which I refer — the Pilot — connects its story with the land. It is perhaps more interesting to me, because I perfectly well recollect the time when Paul Jones — whose character is somewhat reflected in the hero of the story — came up the Solway in 1778 in the Ranger, though I was then less than ten years old. He kept the whole coast in a state of alarm for some time, and was in fact the great scarecrow of that age and generation."