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and opinions; and the question was not so much, whether I should be generally acknowledged to be the author, in spite of my own denịal, 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
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 in
sinuate 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. I 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 «hiding-hole,» he must submit to the shame of detection.
Various reports were of course circulated in various ways; some founded on an inaccurate 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 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, 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 a
Letters on the Author of Waverley. Rodwell and Martin, London, 1822.
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 superintendpress.
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 emigrațing 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 pre
serving in the Appendix,' 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
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.
! See Appendix, No. III.