Imágenes de página

-And must I ravel out

My weaved-up follies? RICHARD II. Act iv. HAVING undertaken to give an Introductory | tures as we were able to devise. We told, each in Account of the compositions which are here offered turn, interminable tales of knight-errantry and to the public, with Notes and Illustrations, the battles and enchantments, which were continued Author, under whose name they are now for the from one day to another as opportunity offered, first time collected, feels that he has the delicate without our ever thinking of bringing them to a task of speaking more of himself and his personal conclusion. As we observed a strict secrecy on concerns, than may perhaps be either graceful or the subject of this intercourse, it acquired all the prudent. In this particular, le runs the risk of character of a concealed pleasure ; and we used to presenting himself to the public in the relation that select, for the scenes of our indulgence, long walks the dumb wife in the jest-book held to her husband, through the solitary and romantic environs of when, having spent half of his fortune to obtain the Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Crags, Braid Hills, and cure of her imperfection, he was willing to have similar places in the vicinity of Edinburgh; and bestowed the other half to restore her to her former the recollection of those holidays still forms an oasis condition. But this is a risk inseparable from the in the pilgrimage which I have to look back upon. task which the Author has undertaken, and he can I have only to add, that my friend t still lives a only promise to be as little of an egotist as the prosperous gentleman, but too much occupied with situation will permit. It is perhaps an indifferent graver business, to thank me for indicating him sign of a disposition to keep his word, that having more plainly as a confidant of my childish mystery. introduced himself in the third person singular, When boyhood advancing into youth required he proceeds in the second paragraph to make use more serious studies and graver cares, a long illof the first. But it appears to him that the seeming ness threw me back on the kingdom of fiction, as modesty connected with the former mode of writing, if it were by a species of fatality. My indisposiis overbalanced by the inconvenience of stiffness and tion arose, in part at least, from my having broken affectation which attends it during a narrative of a blood-vessel; and motion and speech were for a some length, and which may be observed less or long time pronounced positively dangerous. For more in every work in which the third person is several weeks I was confined strictly to my bed, used, from the Commentaries of Coesar, to the during which time I was not allowed to speak Autobiography of Alexander the Corrector. * above a whisper, to eat more than a spoonful or

I inust refer to a very early period of my life, two of boiled rice, or to have more covering than one were I to point out my first achievements as a tale thin counterpane. When the reader is informed tellerbut I believe some of my old schoolfellows that I was at this time a growing youth, with can still bear witness that I had a distinguished the spirits, appetite, and impatience of fifteen, and character for that talent, at a time when the ap suffered, of course, greatly under this severe regiplause of my companions was my recompense for | men, which the repeated return of my disorder renthe disgraces and punishments which the future dered indispensable, he will not be surprised that romance-writer incurred for being idle himself, I was abandoned to my own discretion, so far as and keeping others idle, during hours that should reading my almost sole amusement) was concerned, have been employed on our tasks. The chief en and still less so, that I abused the indulgence which joyment of my holidays was to escape with a chosen left my time so much at my own disposal. friend, who had the same taste with myself, and There was at this time a circulating library in alternately to recite to each other such wild adven Edinburgh, founded, I believe, by the celebrated

Allan Ramsay, which, besides containing a most *(ALEXANDER THE CORRECTOR, a name assumed by respectable collection of books of every description, Alexander Cruden, best known as the author of the Con was, as might have been expected, peculiarly rich cordance, Among various other pamphlets, he published in three parts 'The Adventures of Alexander the Corrector,' 1754 and 1755—'exhibiting,' says Alexander Chalmers, 'a + [John Irving, writer to the Signet, Edinburgh, died species of insanity which is almost unique.']


in works of fiction. It exhibited specimens of | which was to be in the style of the Castle of Otranto, every kind, from the romances of chivalry, and the with plenty of Border characters, and supernatural ponderous folios of Cyrus and Cassandra, down incident. Having found unexpectedly a chapter of to the most approved works of later times. I was this intended work among some old papers, I have plunged into this great ocean of reading without subjoined it to this introductory essay, thinking compass or pilot; and unless when some one had some readers may account as curious, the first the charity to play at chess with me, I was allowed attempts at romantic composition by an author to do nothing save read, from morning to night. who has since written so much in that department. * I was, in kindness and pity, which was perhaps And those who complain, not unreasonably, of erroneous, however natural, permitted to select my the profusion of the tales which have followed subjects of study at my own pleasure, upon the | Waverley, may bless their stars at the narrow same principle that the humours of children are escape they have made, by the commencement of indulged to keep them out of mischief. As my the inundation which had so nearly taken place taste and appetite were gratified in nothing else, in the first year of the century, being postponed for I indemnified myself by becoming a glutton of fifteen years later. books. Accordingly, I believe I read almost all This particular subject was never resumed, but the romances, old plays, and epic poetry, in that I did not abandon the idea of fictitious composition formidable collection, and no doubt was uncon- | in prose, though I determined to give another turn sciously amassing materials for the task in which to the style of the work. it has been my lot to be so much employed.

My early recollections of the Highland scenery At the same time I did not in all respects abuse and customs made so favourable an impression in the license permitted me. Familiar acquaintance the poem called the Lady of the Lake, that I was with the specious miracles of fiction brought with induced to think of attempting something of the it some degree of satiety, and I began, by degrees, same kind in prose. I had been a good deal in to seek in histories, memoirs, voyages and travels, the Highlands at a time when they were much less and the like, events nearly as wonderful as those accessible and much less visited than they have which were the work of imagination, with the been of late years, and was acquainted with many additional advantage that they were at least in a of the old warriors of 17 45, who were, like most great measure true. The lapse of nearly two years, veterans, easily induced to fight their battles over during which I was left to the exercise of my own free again for the benefit of a willing listener like mywill, was followed by a temporary residence in the self. It naturally occurred to me that the ancient country, where I was again very lonely but for the traditions and high spirit of a people who, living amusement which I derived from a good though | in a civilised age and country, retained so strong old-fashioned library. The vague and wild use a tincture of manners belonging to an early period which I made of this advantage I cannot describe of society, must afford a subject favourable for better than by referring my reader to the desultory romance, if it should not prove a curious tale

studies of Waverley in a similar situation ; the marred in the telling.t •passages concerning whose course of reading were It was with some idea of this kind that, about

imitated from recollections of my own.-It must be the year 1805, I threw together about one-third understood that the resemblance extends no farther. part of the first volume of Waverley. It was

Time, as it glided on, brought the blessings of advertised to be published by the late Mr. John confirmed health and personal strength, to a degree Ballantyne, bookseller in Edinburgh, under the which had never been expected or hoped for. The name of 'Waverley, or 'Tis Fifty Years Since,' severe studies necessary to render me fit for my ' a title afterwards altered to ''Tis Sixty Years profession occupied the greater part of my time; Since,' that the actual date of publication might and the society of my friends and companions who be made to correspond with the period in which the were about to enter life along with me, filled up scene was laid. Having proceeded as far, I think, the interval with the usual amusements of young as the seventh chapter, I showed my work to a men. I was in a situation which rendered serious critical friend, whose opinion was unfavourable ; labour indispensable ; for, neither possessing, on and having then some poetical reputation, I was the one hand, any of those peculiar advantages unwilling to risk the loss of it by attempting a new which are supposed to favour a hasty advance in style of composition. I therefore threw aside the the profession of the law, nor being, on the other work I had commenced, without either reluctance hand, exposed to unusual obstacles to interrupt my or remonstrance. I ought to add, that though my progress, I might reasonably expect to succeed ac | ingenious friend's sentence was afterwards reversed cording to the greater or less degree of trouble which on an appeal to the public, it cannot be considered I should take to qualify myself as a pleader. as any imputation on his good taste, for the

It makes no part of the present story to detail specimen subjected to his criticism did not extend how the success of a few ballads had the effect of beyond the departure of the hero for Scotland, changing all the purpose and tenor of my life, and | and, consequently, had not entered upon the part of of converting a painstaking lawyer of some years' the story which was finally found most interesting. standing into a follower of literature. It is enough Be that as it may, this portion of the manuscript to say, that I had assumed the latter character for was laid aside in the drawers of an old writing. several years before I seriously thought of attempt desk, which, on my first coming to reside at ing a work of imagination in prose, although one Abbotsford in 1811, was placed in a lumber garret, or two of my poetical attempts did not differ from and entirely forgotten. Thus, though I someromances otherwise than by being written in verse. But yet, I may observe, that about this time (now,

* See Fragment alluded to, in Appendix No. I. p. 179. alas ! thirty years since) I had nourished the

† See Appendix No. IV. p. 185, Preface to Third Edition, ambitious desire of composing a tale of chivalry, I 1814; and No. V. p. 186, Introduction, 1829.

times, among other literary avocations, turned my | duty, as editor, to supply such a hasty and thoughts to the continuation of the romance which inartificial conclusion as could be shaped out I had commenced, yet as I could not find what I from the story, of which Mr. Strutt had laid the had already written, after searching such reposi- foundation. This concluding chapter* is also tories as were within my reach, and was too added to the present Introduction, for the reason indolent to attempt to write it anew from memory, already mentioned regarding the preceding fragI as often laid aside all thoughts of that nature. ment. It was a step in my advance towards

Two circumstances in particular recalled my | romantic composition, and to preserve the traces of recollection of the mislaid manuscript. The first these is in a great measure the object of this Essay. was the extended and well-merited fame of Miss Queenhoo-Hall was not, however, very successful. Edgeworth, whose Irish characters have gone so | I thought I was aware of the reason, and supposed far to make the English familiar with the cha- that, by rendering his language too ancient, and racter of their gay and kind-hearted neighbours displayinghis antiquarian knowledge too liberally, of Ireland, that she may be truly said to have the ingenious author had raised up an obstacle to done more towards completing the Union than his own success. Every work designed for mere perhaps all the legislative enactments by which it amusement must be expressed in language easily has been followed up.

comprehended ; and when, as is sometimes the case Without being so presumptuous as to hope to in Queenhoo-Hall, the author addresses himself exemulate the rich humour, pathetic tenderness, and clusively to the Antiquary, he must be content to be admirable tact, which pervade the works of my dismissed by the general reader with the criticism of accomplished friend, I felt that something might Mungo, in the Padlock, on the Mauritanian music, be attempted for my own country of the same kind 'What signifies me hear, if me no understand ?' with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately I conceived it possible to avoid this error ; and achieved for Irelandsomething which might by rendering a similar work more light and introduce her natives to those of the sister kingdom obvious to general comprehension, to escape the in a more favourable light than they had been rock on which my predecessor was shipwrecked. placed hitherto, and tend to procure sympathy for But I was, on the other hand, so far discouraged their virtues and indulgence for their foibles. I by the indifferent reception of Mr. Strutt's romance, thought also that much of what I wanted in talent as to become satisfied that the manners of the might be made up by the intimate acquaintance middle ages did not possess the interest which I with the subject which I could lay claim to possess, had conceived ; and was led to form the opinion as having travelled through most parts of Scotland, that a romance founded on a Highland story, and both Highland and Lowland; having been familiar more modern events, would have a better chance with the elder as well as more modern race; and of popularity than a tale of chivalry. My thoughts, having had from my infancy free and unrestrained therefore, returned more than once to the tale communication with all ranks of my countrymen, which I had actually commenced, and accident from the Scottish peer to the Scottish ploughman. at length threw the lost sheets in my way. Such ideas often occurred to me, and constituted I happened to want some fishing-tackle for the an ambitious branch of my theory, however far use of a guest, when it occurred to me to search short I may have fallen of it in practice.

the old writing-desk already mentioned, in which But it was not only the triumphs of Miss I used to keep articles of that nature. I got access Edgeworth which worked in me emulation, and to it with some difficulty, and in looking for lines disturbed my indolence. I chanced actually to and flies the long-lost manuscript presented itself. engage in a work which formed a sort of essay I immediately set to work to complete it according piece, and gave me hope that I might in time to my original purpose. And here I must frankly become free of the craft of romance-writing, and confess that the mode in which I conducted the story be esteemed a tolerable workman.

scarcely deserved the success which the romance In the year 1807-8 I undertook, at the request afterwards attained. The tale of Waverley was of John Murray, Esq., of Albemarle Street, to put together with so little care, that I cannot boast arrange for publication some posthumous produc of having sketched any distinct plan of the work. tions of the late Mr. Joseph Štrutt, distinguished | The whole adventures of Waverley, in his moveas an artist and an antiquary, amongst which ments up and down the country with the Highland was an unfinished romance, entitled 'Queenhoo cateran Bane Lane, are managed without much Hall.' The scene of the tale was laid in the skill. It suited best, however, the road I wanted reign of Henry VI., and the work was written to to travel, and permitted me to introduce some illustrate the manners, customs, and language of descriptions of scenery and manners to which the the people of England during that period. The reality gave an interest which the powers of the extensive acquaintance which Mr. Strutt had author might have otherwise failed to attain for acquired with such subjects in compiling his them. And though I have been in other instances laborious · Horda Angel Cynnan,' his 'Royal a sinner in this sort, I do not recollect any of these and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, and his Essay novels in which I have transgressed so widely as on the Sports and Pastimes of the People of in the first of the series. England, had rendered him familiar with all Among other unfounded reports, it has been the antiquarian lore necessary for the purpose of said that the copyright of Waverley was, during composing the projected romance ; and although the book's progress through the press, offered for the manuscript bore the marks of hurry and sale to various booksellers in London at a very incoherence natural to the first rough draught of inconsiderable price. This was not the case, the author, it evinced (in my opinion) considerable Messrs. Constable and Cadell, who published the powers of imagination. As the work was unfinished, I deemed it my |

* See Appendix No. II. p. 181.

[ocr errors]

work, were the only persons acquainted with the contents of the publication, and they offered a large sum for it while in the course of printing, which, however, was declined, the author not choosing to part with the copyright. The origin of the story of Waverley, and the particular facts on which it is founded, are given in the separate Introduction prefixed to that romance in this edition, and require no notice in this place. Waverley was published in 1814, and as the title-page was without the name of the author, the work was left to win its way in the world without any of the usual recommendations. Its progress was for some time slow; but after the first two or three months, its popularity had increased in a degree which must have satisfied the expectations of the author, had these been far more sanguine than he ever entertained. Great anxiety was expressed to learn the name of the author, but on this no authentic information could be attained. My original motive for publish*ng the work anonymously, was the consciousness that it was an experiment on the public taste which might very probably fail, and therefore there was no occasion to take on myself the personal risk of discomfiture. For this purpose considerable precautions were used to preserve secrecy. My old friend and schoolfellow, Mr. James Ballantyne, who printed these novels, had the exclusive task of corresponding with the Author, who thus had not only the advantage of his professional talents, but also of his critical abilities. The original manuscript, or, as it is technically called, copy, was transcribed under Mr. Ballantyne's eye by confidential persons; nor was there an instance of treachery during the many years in which these precautions were resorted to, although various individuals were employed at different times. Double proof. sheets were regularly printed off. One was forwarded to the author by Mr. Ballantyne, and the alterations which it received were, by his own hand, copied upon the other proof-sheet for the use of the printers, so that even the corrected proofs of the author were never seen in the printing office; and thus the curiosity of such eager inquirers as made the most minute investigation, was entirely at fault. But although the cause of concealing the author's name in the first instance, when the reception of Waverley was doubtful, was natural enough, it is more difficult, it may be thought, to account for the same desire for secrecy during the subsequent editions, to the amount of betwixt eleven and twelve thousand copies, which followed each other close, and proved the success of the work. I am sorry I can give little satisfaction to queries on this subject. I have already stated elsewhere, that I can render little better reason for choosing to remain anonymous, than by saying with Shylock, that such was my humour. It will be observed, that I had not the wsual stimulus for desiring personal reputation, the desire, namely, to float amidst the conversation of men. Of literary fame, whether merited or wndeserved, I had already as much as might have contented a mind more ambitious than mine ; and tin entering into this new contest for reputation, I might be said rather to endanger what I had, than to have any considerable chance of acquiring more. I was affected, too, by none of those motives which, at an earlier period of life, would doubtless have operated upon me. My friendships were formed,

—my place in society fixed,—my life had attained fits middle course. My condition in society was higher, perhaps, than I deserved, certainly as high as I wished, and there was scarce any degree of literary success which could have greatly altered or improved my personal condition. I was not, therefore, touched by the spur of ambition, usually stimulating on such occasions; and yet I ought to stand exculpated from the charge of ungracious or unbecoming indifference to public applause. I did not the less feel gratitude for the public favour, although I did not proclaim fit, -as the lover who wears his mistress's favour tn his bosom, is as proud, though not so vain of possessing it, as another who displays the token of her grace upon his bonnet. Far from such an ungracious state of mind, I have seldom felt more satisfaction than when, returning from a pleasure voyage, I found Waverley in the zenith of popwlarity, and public curiosity in full cry after the name of the author. The knowledge that I had the public approbation, was like having the property of a hidden treasure, not less gratifying to the owner than if all the world knew that it was his own. Another advantage was connected with the secrecy which I observed. I could appear, or retreat from the stage at pleasure, without attractfing any personal notice or attention, other than what might be founded on suspicion only. In my own person also, as a successful author in another department of literature, I might have been charged with too frequent intrusions on the public patience; but the Author of Waverley was in this respect as impassible to the critic, as the Ghost of Hamlet to the partisan of Marcellus. Perhaps the curiosity of the public, irritated by the existence of a secret, and kept afloat by the discussions which took place on the subject from time to time, went a good way to maintain an unabated interest in these frequent publications. There was a mystery concerning the author, which each new novel was expected to assist tn unravelling, although it might in other respects rank lower than its predecessors. I may perhaps be thought guilty of affectation, should I allege as one reason of my silence, a secret dislike to enter on personal discussions concerning my own literary labours. It is in every case a dangerous intercourse for an author to be dwelling continually among those who make his writings a frequent and familiar subject of conversation, but who must necessarily be partial judges of works composed in their own society. The habits of self*mportance, which are thus acquired by authors, are highly injurious to a well-regulated mind ; for the cup of flattery, if it does not, like that of Circe, reduce men to the level of beasts, is sure, if eagerly drained, to bring the best and the ablest down to that of fools. This risk was in some degree prevented by the mask which I wore ; and my own stores of self-conceit were left to their natural course, without being enhanced by the wartiality of friends, or adulation of flatterers. If I am asked further reasons for the conduct I have long observed, I can only resort to the explanation supplied by a critic as friendly as he is *ntelligent; namely, that the mental organization of the novelist must be characterised, to speak craniologically, by an extraordinary development of the passion for delitescency! I the rather suspect some natural disposition of this kind; for,

« AnteriorContinuar »