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It has been the occasional occupation of the Author of Waverley, for several years past, to revise and correct the voluminous series of Novels which pass under that name ; in order that, if they should ever appear as his avowed productions, he might render them in some degree deserving of a continuance of the public favour with which they have been honoured ever since their first appearance. For a long period, however, it seemed likely that the improved and illustrated edition which he meditated would be a posthumous publication. But the course of the events which occasioned the disclosure of the Author's name, having, in a great measure, restored to him a sort of parental control over these Works, he is naturally induced to give them to the press in a corrected, and, he hopes, an improved form, while life and health permit the task of revising and illustrating them. Such being his purpose, it is necessary to say a few words on the plan of the proposed Edition.
In stating it to be revised and corrected, it is not to be inferred that any attempt is made to alter the tenor of the stories, the character of the actors, or the spirit of the dialogue. There is no doubt ample room for emendation in all these points, - but where the tree falls it must lie. Any attempt to obviate criticism, however just, by altering a work already in the hands of the public, is generally unsuccessful. In the most improbable fiction, the reader still desires some air of vraisemblance, and does not relish that the incidents of a tale familiar to him should be altered to suit the taste of critics, or the caprice of the author himself. This process of feeling is so natural, that it may be observed even in children, who cannot endure that a nursery story should be repeated to them differently from the manner in which it was first told.
But without altering, in the slightest degree, either the story or the mode of telling it, the Author has taken this opportunity to correct errors of the press and slips of the pen. That such should exist cannot be wondered at, when it is considered that the Publishers found it their interest to hurry through the press a succession of the early editions of the various Novels, and that the Author had not the usual opportunity of revision. It is hoped that the present edition will be found free from errors of that accidental kind.
The author has also ventured to make some emendations of a different character, which, without being such apparent deviations from the original stories as to disturb the reader's old associations, will, he thinks, add something to the spirit of the dialogue, narrative, or description. These consist in occasional pruning where the language is redundant, compression where the style is loose, infusion of vigour where it is languid, the exchange of less forcible for more appropriate epithets—slight alterations, in short, like the last touches of an Artist, which contribute to heighten and finish the picture, though an inexperienced eye can hardly detect in what they consist.
The General Preface to the New Edition, and the Introductory Notices to each separate work, will contain an account of such circumstances attending the first publication of the Novels and Tales, as may appear interesting in themselves, or proper to be communicated to the public. The Author also proposes to publish, on this occasion, the various legends, family traditions, or obscure historical facts, which have formed the ground-work of these Novels, and to give some account of the places where the scenes are laid, when these are altogether, or in part, real ; as well as a statement of particular incidents founded on fact ; together with a more copious Glossary, and Notes explanatory of the ancient customs, and popular superstitions, referred to in the Romances.
Upon the whole, it is hoped that the Waverley Novels, in their new dress, will not be found to have lost any part of their attractions in consequence of receiving illustrations by the Author, and undergoing his careful revision.
ABBOTSFORD, January, 1829.
And must I ravel out
Richard II. Act IV.
HAVING undertaken to give an Introductory Account of the compositions which are here offered to the public, with Notes and Illustrations, the author, under whose name they are now for the first time collected, feels that he has the delicate task of speaking more of himself and his personal concerns, than- may perhaps be either graceful or prudent. In this particular, he runs the risk of presenting himself to the public in the relation that the dumb wife in the jest-book held to her husband, when, having spent half of his fortune to obtain the cure of her imperfection, he was willing to have bestowed the other half to restore her to her former condition. But this is a risk inseparable from the task which the author has undertaken, and he can only promise to be as little of an egotist as the situation will permit. It is perhaps an indifferent sign of a disposition to keep his word, that having introduced himself in the third person singular, he proceeds in the second paragraph to make use of the first. But it appears to him, that the seeming modesty connected with the former mode of writing, is overbalanced by the inconvenience of stiffness and affectation which attends it during a narrative of some length, and which may be observed less or more in every work in which the third person is used, from the Commentaries of Cæsar, to the Autobiography of Alexander the Corrector.
I must refer to a very early period of my life, were I to point out my first achievements as a tale-teller — but I believe some of my old schoolfellows can still bear witness that I had a distinguished character for that talent, at a time when the applause of my companions was my recompense for the disgraces and punishments which the future romance-writer incurred for being idle himself, and keeping others idle, during hours that should have been employed on our tasks. The chief enjoyment of my
holidays was to escape with a chosen friend, who had the same taste with myself, and alternately to recite to each other such wild adventures as we were able to devise. We told, each in turn, interminable tales of knight-errantry and battles and enchantments, which were continued from one day to another as opportunity offered, without our ever thinking of bringing them to a conclusion. As we observed a strict secrecy on the subject of this intercourse, it acquired all the character of a concealed pleasure, and we used to select, for the scenes of our indulgence, long walks through the solitary and romantic environs of Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Crags, Braid Hills, and similar places in the vicinity of Edinburgh ; and the recollection of those holidays still forms an oasis in the pilgrimage which I have to look back upon. I have only to add, that my friend still lives, a prosperous gentleman, but too much occupied with graver business to thank me for indicating him more plainly as a confident of my childish mystery.
When boyhood advancing into youth required more serious studies and graver cares, a long illness threw me back on the kingdom of fiction, as if it were by a species of fatality. My indisposition arose, in part at least, from my having broken a blood-vessel ; and motion and speech were for a long time pronounced positively dangerous. For several weeks I was confined strictly to my bed, during which time I was not allowed to speak above a whisper, to eat more than a spoonful or two of boiled rice, or to have more covering than one thin counterpane. When the reader is informed that I was at this time a growing youth, with the spirits, appetite, and impatience of fifteen, and suffered, of course, greatly under this severe regimen, which the repeated return of my disorder rendered indispensable, he will not be surprised that I was abandoned to my own discretion, so far as reading (my almost sole amusement) was concerned, and still less so, that I abused the indulgence which left my time so much at my own disposal.
There was at this time a circulating library in Edinburgh, founded, I believe, by the celebrated Allan Ramsay, which, besides containing a most respectable collection of books of every description, was, as might have been expected, peculiarly rich in works of fiction. It exhibited specimens of every kind, from the romances of chivalry, and the ponderous folios of Cyrus and Cassandra, down to the most approved works of later times. I was plunged into this great ocean of reading without compass or pilot ; and unless when some one had the charity to play at chess with me, I was allowed to do nothing save read, from morning to night. I was, in kindness and pity, which was perhaps erroneous, however natural, permitted to select my subjects of study at my own pleasure, upon the same principle that the humours of children are indulged to keep them out of mischief. As my taste and appetite were gratified in nothing else, I indemnified myself by becoming a glutton of books. Accordingly, I believe I read almost all the romances, old plays, and epic poetry, in that formidable collection, and no doubt was unconsciously amassing materials for the task in which it has been my lot to be so much employed.
At the same time, I did not in all respects abuse the licence permitted me. Familiar acquaintance with the specious miracles of fiction brought with it some degree of satiety, and I began, by degrees, to seek in histories, memoirs, voyages, and travels, and the like, events nearly as wonderful as those which were the work of imagination, with the additional advantage that they were at least in a great measure true. The lapse of nearly two years, during which I was 'left to the exercise of my own free will, was followed by a temporary residence in the country, where I was again very lonely, but for the amusement which I derived from a good though old-fashioned library. The vague and wild use which I made of this advantage I cannot describe better than by referring my reader to the desultory studies of Waverley in a similar situation ; the passages concerning whose course of reading were imitated from recollections of my own. It must be understood that the resemblance extends no farther.
Time, as it glided on, brought the blessings of confirmed health and personal strength, to a degree which had never been expected or hoped for. The severe studies necessary to render me fit for my profession occupied the greater part of my time ; and the society of my friends and companions who were about to enter life along with me, filled up the interval, with the usual amusements of young men. I was in a situation which rendered serious labour indispensable ; for, neither possessing, on the one hand, any of those peculiar advantages which are supposed to favour a hasty advance in the profession of the law, nor being, on the other hand, exposed to unusual obstacles to interrupt my progress, 1 might reasonably expect to succeed according to the greater or less degree of trouble which I should take to qualify myself as a pleader.
It makes no part of the present story to detail how the success of a few ballads had the effect of changing all the purpose and