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lishing 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 proofsheet 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, 10 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 chusing to remain anonymous, than by saying with Shylock, that such was my humour. It will be observed, that I had not the usual stimulus for desiring personal reputation, the desire, namely, to float amidst the conversation of men. Of literary fame, whether merited or undeserved, I had already as much as might have contented a mind more ambitious than mine; and in 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 its 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 it,
as the lover who wears his mistress's favour in 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 liave seldom felt more
satisfaction than when, returning from a pleasure voyage, I found Waverley in the zenith of popularity, 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 attracting 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 partizan 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 in 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 selfimportance, 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 stores of self-conceit were left to their natural course, without being enhanced by the partiality 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 intelligent; 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, 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 count.
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
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 connexion 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