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from the instant I perceived the extreme curiosity | manifested on the subject, I felt a secret satisfaction in baffling it, for which, when its unimportance is considered, I do not well know how to account.
My desire to remain concealed, in the character of the Author of these novels, subjected me occasionally to awkward embarrassments, as it sometimes happened that those who were sufficiently intimate with me would put the question in direct terms. In this case, only one of three courses could be followed. Either I must have surrendered my secret,- -or have returned an equivocating answer,-or, finally, must have stoutly and boldly denied the fact. The first was a sacrifice which I conceive no one had a right to force from me, since I alone was concerned in the matter. The alternative of rendering a doubtful answer must have left me open to the degrading suspicion that I was not unwilling to assume the merit (if there was any) which I dared not absolutely lay claim to; or those who might think more justly of me, must have received such an equivocal answer as an indirect avowal. I therefore considered myself entitled, like an accused person put upon trial, to refuse giving my own evidence to my own conviction, and flatly to deny all that could not be proved against me. At the same time, I usually qualified my denial by stating, that, had I been the author of these works, I would have felt myself quite entitled to protect my secret by refusing my own evidence, when it was asked for to accomplish a discovery of what I desired to conceal.
The real truth is, that I never expected or hoped to disguise my connection with these Novels from any one who lived on terms of intimacy with me. The number of coincidences which necessarily existed between narratives recounted, modes of expression, and opinions broached in these tales, and such as were used by their author in the intercourse of private life, must have been far too great to permit any of my familiar acquaintances to doubt the identity betwixt their friend and the Author of Waverley; and I believe they were all morally convinced of it. But while I was myself silent, their belief could not weigh much more with the world than that of others; their opinions and reasoning were liable to be taxed with partiality, or confronted with opposing arguments and opinions; and the question was not so much, whether I should be generally acknowledged to be the author, in spite of my own denial, as whether even my own avowal of the works, if such should be made, would be sufficient to put me in undisputed possession of that character.
I have been often asked concerning supposed cases, in which I was said to have been placed on the verge of discovery; but as I maintained my point with the composure of a lawyer of thirty years' standing, I never recollect being in pain or confusion on the subject. In Captain Medwyn's Conversations of Lord Byron, the reporter states himself to have asked my noble and highly gifted friend, 'If he was certain about these novels being Sir Walter Scott's?' To which Lord Byron replied, Scott as much as owned himself the Author of Waverley to me in Murray's shop. I was talking to him about that novel, and lamented that its author had not carried back the story nearer to the time of the Revolution-Scott, entirely off his guard, replied, "Ay, I might have done
so; but-" there he stopped. It was in vain to attempt to correct himself; he looked confused, and relieved his embarrassment by a precipitate retreat.' I have no recollection whatever of this scene taking place, and I should have thought that I was more likely to have laughed than to appear confused, for I certainly never hoped to impose upon Lord Byron in a case of the kind; and from the manner in which he uniformly expressed himself, I knew his opinion was entirely formed, and that any disclamations of mine would only have savoured of affectation. I do not mean to insinuate that the incident did not happen, but only that it could hardly have occurred exactly under the circumstances narrated, without my recollecting something positive on the subject. In another part of the same volume, Lord Byron is reported to have expressed a supposition that the cause of my not avowing myself the Author of Waverley may have been some surmise that the reigning family would have been displeased with the work. 1 can only say, it is the last apprehension I should have entertained, as indeed the inscription to these volumes sufficiently proves. The sufferers of that melancholy period have, during the last and present reign, been honoured both with the sympathy and protection of the reigning family, whose magnanimity can well pardon a sigh from others, and bestow one themselves to the memory of brave opponents, who did nothing in hate, but all in honour.
While those who were in habitual intercourse with the real author had little hesitation in assigning the literary property to him, others, and those critics of no mean rank, employed themselves in investigating with persevering patience any characteristic features which might seem to betray the origin of these novels. Amongst these, one gentleman, equally remarkable for the kind and liberal tone of his criticism, the acuteness of his reasoning, and the very gentlemanlike manner in which he conducted his inquiries, displayed not only powers of accurate investigation, but a temper of mind deserving to be employed on a subject of much greater importance; and I have no doubt made converts to his opinion of almost all who thought the point worthy of consideration.* Of those letters, and other attempts of the same kind, the author could not complain, though his incognito was endangered. He had challenged the public to a game at bo-peep, and if he was discovered in his hidinghole,' he must submit to the shame of detection.
Various reports were of course circulated in various ways; some founded on an accurate rehearsal of what may have been partly real, some on circumstances having no concern whatever with the subject, and others on the invention of some importunate persons, who might perhaps imagine, that the readiest mode of forcing the author to disclose himself, was to assign some dishonourable and discreditable cause for his silence.
It may be easily supposed that this sort of inquisition was treated with contempt by the person whom it principally regarded; as among all the rumours that were current, there was only one, and that as unfounded as the others, which had nevertheless some alliance to probability, and indeed might have proved in some degree true.
I allude to a report which ascribed a great part,
* Letters on the Author of Waverley; Rodwell & Martin, London, 1822.
or the whole, of these novels to the late Thomas Scott, Esq., of the 70th Regiment, then stationed in Canada. Those who remember that gentleman will readily grant, that, with general talents at least equal to those of his elder brother, he added a power of social humour, and a deep insight into human character, which rendered him an universally delightful member of society, and that the habit of composition alone was wanting to render him equally successful as a writer. The Author of Waverley was so persuaded of the truth of this, that he warmly pressed his brother to make such an experiment, and willingly undertook all the trouble of correcting and superintending the press. Mr. Thomas Scott seemed at first very well disposed to embrace the proposal, and had even fixed on a subject and a hero. The latter was a person well known to both of us in our boyish years, from having displayed some strong traits of character. Mr. T. Scott had determined to represent his youthful acquaintance as emigrating to America, and encountering the dangers and hardships of the New World, with the same dauntless spirit which he had displayed when a boy in his native country. Mr. Scott would probably have been highly successful, being familiarly acquainted with the manners of the native Indians, of the old French settlers in Canada, and of the Brulés or Woodsmen, and having the power of observing with accuracy what, I have no doubt, he could have sketched with force and expression. In short, the Author believes his brother would have made himself distinguished in that striking field, in which, since that period, Mr. Cooper has achieved so many triumphs. But Mr. T. Scott was already affected by bad health, which wholly unfitted him for literary labour, even if he could have reconciled his patience to the task. He never, I believe, wrote a single line of the projected work; and I only have the melancholy pleasure of preserving in the Appendix (No. III.), the simple anecdote on which he proposed to found it.
To this I may add, I can easily conceive that there may have been circumstances which gave a colour to the general report of my brother being interested in these works; and in particular that it might derive strength from my having occasion to remit to him, in consequence of certain family transactions, some considerable sums of money about that period. To which it is to be added, that if any person chanced to evince particular curiosity on such a subject, my brother was likely enough to divert himself with practising on their credulity.
It may be mentioned, that while the paternity of these novels was from time to time warmly disputed in Britain, the foreign booksellers expressed no hesitation on the matter, but affixed my name to the whole of the novels, and to some besides to which I had no claim.
The volumes, therefore, to which the present pages form a Preface, are entirely the composition of the Author by whom they are now acknowledged, with the exception, always, of avowed quotations, and such unpremeditated and involuntary plagiarisms as can scarce be guarded against by any one who has read and written a great deal. The original manuscripts are all in existence, and entirely written (horresco referens) in the Author's own hand, excepting during the years 1818 and 1819, when, being affected with severe illness, he
was obliged to employ the assistance of a friendly amanuensis.
The number of persons to whom the secret was necessarily entrusted, or communicated by chance, amounted I should think to twenty at least, to whom I am greatly obliged for the fidelity with which they observed that trust, until the derangement of the affairs of my publishers, Messrs. Constable and Co., and the exposure of their accompt-books, which was the necessary consequence, rendered secrecy no longer possible. The particulars attending the avowal have been laid before the public in the Introduction to the Chronicles of the Canongate.
The preliminary advertisement has given a sketch of the purpose of this edition. I have some reason to fear that the notes which accompany the tales, as now published, may be thought too miscellaneous and too egotistical. It may be some apology for this, that the publication was intended to be posthumous, and still more, that old men may be permitted to speak long, because they cannot in the course of nature have long time to speak. In preparing the present edition, I have done all that I can do to explain the nature of my materials, and the use I have made of them; nor is it probable that I shall again revise or even read these tales. I was therefore desirous rather to exceed in the portion of new and explanatory matter which is added to this edition, than that the reader should have reason to complain that the information communicated was of a general and merely nominal character. It remains to be tried whether the public (like a child to whom a watch is shown) will, after having been satiated with looking at the outside, acquire some new interest in the object when it is opened, and the internal machinery displayed
had my title borne Waverley, a Romance from
THE title of this work has not been chosen | she had heard in the servants' hall? Again, without the grave and solid deliberation which matters of importance demand from the prudent. Even its first, or general denomination, was the result of no common research or selection, although, according to the example of my predecessors, I had only to seize upon the most sounding and euphonic surname that English history or topography affords, and elect it at once as the title of my work, and the name of my hero. But alas! what could my readers have expected from the chivalrous epithets of Howard, Mordaunt, Mortimer, or Stanley, or from the softer and more sentimental sounds of Belmour, Belville, Belfield, and Belgrave, but pages of inanity, similar to those which have been so christened for half a century past? I must modestly admit I am too diffident of my own merit to place it in unnecessary opposition to preconceived associations; I have, therefore, like a maiden knight with his white shield, assumed for my hero, WAVERLEY, an uncontaminated name, bearing with its sound little of good or evil, excepting what the reader shall hereafter be pleased to affix to it. But my second or supplemental title was a matter of much more difficult election, since that, short as it is, may be held as pledging the author to some special mode of laying his scene, drawing his characters, and managing his adventures. Had I, for example, announced in my frontispiece, 'Waverley, a Tale of other Days,' must not every novel-reader have anticipated a castle scarce less than that of Udolpho, of which the eastern wing had long been uninhabited, and the keys either lost, or consigned to the care of some aged butler or housekeeper, whose trembling steps, about the middle of the second volume, were doomed to guide the hero, or heroine, to the ruinous precincts? Would not the owl have shrieked and the cricket cried in my very title-page? and could it have been possible for me, with a moderate attention to decorum, to introduce any scene more lively than might be produced by the jocularity of a clownish but faithful valet, or the garrulous narrative of the heroine's fille-de-chambre, when rehearsing the stories of blood and horror which
By fixing, then, the date of my story Sixty Years before the present 1st November 1805, I would have my readers understand, that they will meet in the following pages neither a romance of chivalry nor a tale of modern manners; that my hero will neither have iron on his shoulders, as of yore, nor on the heels of his boots, as is the present fashion of Bond Street;
and that my damsels will neither be clothed 'in purple and in pall,' like the Lady Alice of an old ballad, nor reduced to the primitive nakedness of a modern fashionable at a rout. From this my choice of an era the understanding critic may farther presage, that the object of my tale is more a description of men than manners. A tale of manners, to be interesting, must either refer to antiquity so great as to have become venerable, or it must bear a vivid reflection of those scenes which are passing daily before our eyes, and are interesting from their novelty. Thus the coat-of-mail of our ancestors, and the triplefurred pelisse of our modern beaux, may, though for very different reasons, be equally fit for the array of a fictitious character; but who, meaning the costume of his hero to be impressive, would willingly attire him in the court dress of George the Second's reign, with its no collar, large sleeves, and low pocket-holes? The same may be urged, with equal truth, of the Gothic hall, which, with its darkened and tinted windows, its elevated and gloomy roof, and massive oaken table garnished with boar's-head and rosemary, pheasants and peacocks, cranes and cygnets, has an excellent effect in fictitious description. Much may also be gained by a lively display of a modern fête, such as we have daily recorded in that part of a newspaper entitled the Mirror of Fashion, if we contrast these, or either of them, with the splendid formality of an entertainment given Sixty Years since; and thus it will be readily seen how much the painter of antique or of fashionable manners gains over him who delineates those of the last generation.
and knocked him on the head as he endeavoured
Iris, then, sixty years since + Edward Waverley, the hero of the following pages, took leave of his family, to join the regiment of dragoons in which he had lately obtained a commission. It was a melancholy day at Waverley-Honour when the young officer parted with Sir Everard, the affectionate old uncle to whose title and estate he was presumptive heir.
A difference in political opinions had early separated the Baronet from his younger brother Richard Waverley, the father of our hero. Sir Everard had inherited from his sires the whole train of Tory or high-church predilections and prejudices, which had distinguished the house of Waverley since the Great Civil War. Richard, on the contrary, who was ten years younger, beheld himself born to the fortune of a second brother, and anticipated neither dignity nor entertainment in sustaining the character of Will Wimble. He saw early, that, to succeed in the race of life, it was necessary he should carry as little weight as possible. Painters talk of the difficulty of expressing the existence of compound passions in the same features at the same moment: it would be no less difficult for the moralist to analyze the mixed motives which unite to form the impulse of our actions. Richard Waverley read and satisfied himself, from history and sound argument, that, in the words of the old song,
Considering the disadvantages inseparable from this part of my subject, I must be understood to have resolved to avoid them as much as possible, by throwing the force of my narrative upon the characters and passions of the actors ;— those passions common to men in all stages of society, and which have alike agitated the human heart, whether it throbbed under the steel corslet of the fifteenth century, the brocaded coat of the eighteenth, or the blue frock and white dimity waistcoat of the present day.* Upon these passions it is no doubt true that the state of manners and laws casts a necessary colouring; but the bearings, to use the language of heraldry, remain the same, though the tincture may be not only different, but opposed in strong contradistinction. The wrath of our ancestors, for example, was coloured gules; it broke forth in acts of open and sanguinary violence against the objects of its fury. Our malignant feelings, which must seek gratification through more indirect channels, and undermine the obstacles which they cannot openly bear down, may be yet reason would have probably been unable to rather said to be tinctured sable. But the deep-combat and remove hereditary prejudice, could ruling impulse is the same in both cases; and the proud peer who can now only ruin his neighbour according to law, by protracted suits, is the genuine descendant of the baron who wrapped the castle of his competitor in flames,
*Alas! that attire, respectable and gentlemanlike in 1805, or thereabouts, is now as antiquated as the Author of Waverley has himself become since that period! The reader of fashion will please to fill up the costume with an embroidered waistcoat of purple velvet or silk, and a coat of whatever colour he pleases.
Passive obedience was a jest,
Richard have anticipated that his elder brother, Sir Everard, taking to heart an early disappointment, would have remained a bachelor at seventy-two. The prospect of succession, however remote, might in that case have led him to endure dragging through the greater part of his life as Master Richard at the
+ The precise date (1745) was withheld from the original edition, lest it should anticipate the nature of the tale by announcing so remarkable an era.
Hall, the baronet's brother,' in the hope that ere its conclusion he should be distinguished as Sir Richard Waverley of Waverley-Honour, successor to a princely estate, and to extended political connections as head of the county interest in the shire where it lay. But this was a consummation of things not to be expected at Richard's outset, when Sir Everard was in the prime of life, and certain to be an acceptable suitor in almost any family, whether wealth or beauty should be the object of his pursuit, and when, indeed, his speedy marriage was a report which regularly amused the neighbourhood once a year. His younger brother saw no practicable road to independence save that of relying upon his own exertions, and adopting a political creed more consonant both to reason and his own interest than the hereditary_faith of Sir Everard in high-church and in the house of Stuart. He therefore read his recantation at the beginning of his career, and entered life as an avowed Whig, and friend of the Hanover succession.
The ministry of George the First's time were prudently anxious to diminish the phalanx of opposition. The Tory nobility, depending for their reflected lustre upon the sunshine of a court, had for some time been gradually_reconciling themselves to the new dynasty. But the wealthy country gentlemen of England, a rank which retained, with much of ancient manners and primitive integrity, a great proportion of obstinate and unyielding prejudice, stood aloof in haughty and sullen opposition, and cast many a look of mingled regret and hope to Bois le Duc, Avignon, and Italy.* The accession of the near relation of one of those steady and inflexible opponents was considered as a means of bringing over more converts, and therefore Richard Waverley met with a share of ministerial favour, more than proportioned to his talents or his political importance. It was, however, discovered that he had respectable talents for public business, and the first admittance to the minister's levee being negotiated, his success became rapid. Sir Everard learned from the public News-Letter, -first, that Richard Waverley, Esquire, was returned for the ministerial borough of Barterfaith; next, that Richard Waverley, Esquire, had taken a distinguished part in the debate upon the Excise bill in the support of government; and, lastly, that Richard Waverley, Esquire, had been honoured with a seat at one of those boards, where the pleasure of serving the country is combined with other important gratifications, which, to render them the more acceptable, occur regularly once a quarter.
Although these events followed each other so closely that the sagacity of the editor of a modern newspaper would have presaged the last two even while he announced the first, yet they came upon Sir Everard gradually, and drop by drop, as it were, distilled through the cool and procrastinating alembic of Dyer's Weekly
*Where the Chevalier Saint George, or, as he was termed, the Old Pretender, held his exiled court, as his situation compelled him to shift his place of residence.
Letter. For it may be observed in passing, that instead of those mail-coaches, by means of which every mechanic at his sixpenny club may nightly learn from twenty contradictory channels the yesterday's news of the capital, a weekly post brought, in those days, to WaverleyHonour, a Weekly Intelligencer, which, after it had gratified Sir Everard's curiosity, his sister's, and that of his aged butler, was regularly transferred from the Hall to the Rectory, from the Rectory to Squire Stubbs' at the Grange, from the Squire to the Baronet's steward at his neat white house on the heath, from the steward to the bailiff, and from him through a huge circle of honest dames and gaffers, by whose hard and horny hands it was generally worn to pieces in about a month after its arrival.
This slow succession of intelligence was of some advantage to Richard Waverley in the case before us; for, had the sum total of his enormities reached the ears of Sir Everard at once, there can be no doubt that the new commissioner would have had little reason to pique himself on the success of his politics. Baronet, although the mildest of human beings, was not without sensitive points in his character; his brother's conduct had wounded these deeply; the Waverley estate was fettered by no entail (for it had never entered into the head of any of its former possessors that one of their progeny could be guilty of the atrocities laid by Dyer's Letter to the door of Richard), and if it had, the marriage of the proprietor might have been fatal to a collateral heir. These various ideas floated through the brain of Sir Everard, without, however, producing any determined conclusion.
He examined the tree of his genealogy, which, emblazoned with many an emblematic mark of honour and heroic achievement, hung upon the well-varnished wainscot of his hall. The nearest descendants of Sir Hildebrand Waverley, failing those of his eldest son Wilfred, of whom Sir Everard and his brother were the only representatives, were, as this honoured register informed him (and, indeed, as he himself well knew), the Waverleys of Highley Park, com. Hants; with whom the main branch, or rather stock, of the house had renounced all connexion, since the great lawsuit in 1670.
This degenerate scion had committed a farther offence against the head and source of their gentility, by the intermarriage of their representative with Judith, heiress of Oliver Bradshawe, of Highley Park, whose arms, the same with those of Bradshawe, the regicide, they had quartered with the ancient coat of Waverley.
These offences, however, had vanished from Sir Everard's recollection in the heat of his resentment; and had Lawyer Clippurse, for whom his groom was despatched express, arrived but an hour earlier, he might have had the benefit of drawing a new settlement of the lordship and manor of Waverley
Long the oracle of the country gentlemen of the high Tory party. The ancient News-Letter was written in manuscript and copied by clerks, who addressed the copies to the subscribers. The politician by whom they were compiled picked up his intelligence at coffee-houses, and often pleaded for an additional gratuity, in consideration of the extra expense attached to frequenting such places of fashionable resort.