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Be that as it may, this portion of the manuscript was laid aside in the drawers of an old writing desk, which, on my first coming to reside at Abbotsford, in 1811, was placed in a lumber garret, and entirely forgotten. Thus, though I sometimes, among other literary avocations, turned my thoughts to the continuation of the romance which I had commenced, yet as I could not find what I had already written, after searching such repositories as were within my reach, and was too indolent to attempt to write it anew from memory,
I as often laid aside all thoughts of that nature.
Two circumstances, in particular, recalled my recollection of the mislaid manuscript. The first was the extended and well-merited fame of Miss Edgeworth, whose Irish characters have gone so far to make the English familiar with the character of their gay and kind-hearted neighbours of Ireland, that she may be truly said to have done more towards completing the Union, than perhaps all the legislative enactments by which it has been followed
up: Without being so presumptuous as to hope to emulate the rich humour, pathetic tenderness, and admirable tact, which pervade the works of my accomplished friend, I felt that something might be attempted for my own country, of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland-something which might introduce her natives to those of the sister kingdom, in a more favourable light than they had been placed hitherto, and tend to procure sympathy for their virtues and indulgence for
their foibles. I thought also, that much of what I wanted in talent, might be made up by the intimate acquaintance with the subject which I could lay claim to possess, as having travelled through most parts of Scotland, both Highland and Lowland; having been familiar with the elder, as well as more modern race; and having had from my infancy free and unrestrained communication with all ranks of my countrymen, from the Scottish peer to the Scottish ploughman. Such ideas often occurred to me, and constituted an ambitious branch of my theory, however far short I may have fallen of it in practice.
But it was not only the triumphs of Miss Edgeworth which worked in me emulation, and disturbed my indolence. I chanced actually to engage in a work which formed a sort of essay piece, and gave me hope that I might in time become free of the craft of Romance-writing, and be esteemed a tolerable workman.
In the year 1807-8, I undertook, at the request of John Murray, Esq. of Albemarle-street, to arrange for publication some posthumous productions of the late Mr Joseph Strutt, distinguished as an artist and an antiquary, amongst which was an unfinished romance, entitled «Queen-HooHall., The scene of the tale was laid in the reign of Henry VI, and the work was written to illustrate the manners, customs, and language of the people of England during that period. The extensive acquaintance which Mr Strutt had acquired with such subjects in compiling his laborious « Horda Angel Cynnan, his «Royal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, and his « Essay on the Sports
and Pastimes of the People of England,» had rendered him familiar with all the antiquarian lore necessary for the purpose of composing the projected romance; and although the manuscript bore the marks of hurry and incoherence natural to the first rough draught of the author, it evinced (in my opinion) considerable powers of imagination.
As the Work was unfinished, I deemed it my duty, as Editor, to supply such a hasty and inartificial conclusion as could be shaped out from the story, of which Mr Strutt had laid the foundation. This concluding chapter' is also added to the present Introduction, for the reason already mentioned regarding the preceding fragment. It was a step my
advance towards romantic composition; and to preserve the traces of these is in a great measure the object of this Essay.
Queen-Hoo-Hall was not, however, very successful. I thought I was aware of the reason, and supposed that, by rendering his language too ancient, and displaying his antiquarian knowledge too liberally, the ingenious author had raised up an obstacle to his own success. Every work designed for mere amusement must be expressed in language easily comprehended; and when, as is sometimes the case in Queen-Hoo-Hall, the author addresses himself exclusively to the Antiquary, he must be content to be dismissed by the general reader with the criticism of Mungo, in the Padlock, on the Mauritanian music, « What signifies me hear, if me no understand ?» I conceived it possible avoid this error; and
See Appendix, No. II.
by rendering a similar work more light and obvious to general comprehension, to escape the rock on which my predecessor was shipwrecked. But I was, on the other hand, so far discouraged by the indifferent reception of Mr Strutt's romance, as to become satisfied that the manners of the middle ages did not possess
the interest which I had conceived; and was led to form the opinion that a romance, founded on a Highland story, and more modern events, would have a better chance of popularity than a tale of chivalry. My thoughts, therefore, returned more than once to the tale which I had actually commenced, and accident at length threw the lost sheets in my way.
I happened to want some fishing-tackle for the use of a guest, when it occurred to me to search the old writing-desk already mentioned, in which I used to keep articles of that nature. I got access to it with some difficulty; and, in looking for lines and flies, the long-lost manuscript presented itself. I immediately set to work to complete it, according to my original purpose. And here I must frankly confess, that the mode in which I conducted the story scarcely deserved the success which the Romance afterwards attained. The tale of Waverley was put together with so little care, that I cannot boast of having sketched any distinct plan of the work. The whole adventures of Waverley, in his movements up and down the country with the Highland cateran Bean Lean, are managed without much skill. It suited best, however, the road I wanted to travel, and permitted me to introduce some descriptions of scenery and manners, to which the reality gave an interest
which the powers of the author might have otherwise failed to attain for them. And though I have been in other instances a sinner in this sort, I do not recollect any of these novels, in which I have transgressed so widely as in the first of the series.
Among other unfounded reports, it has been said that the copyright of Waverley was, during the book's progress through the press, offered for sale to various booksellers in London at a very inconsiderable price. This was not the case. Messrs Constable and Cadell, who published the 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 chusing 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 lie 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 pub