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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 license 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 oldfashioned 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, I 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 tenor of my life, and of converting a painstaking lawyer of some years' standing into a follower of literature. It is enough to say, that I had assumed the latter character for several years before I seriously thought of attempting a work of imagination in prose, although one or two of my poetical attempts did not differ from romances otherwise than by being written in verse. But yet I may observe, that about this time (now, alas! thirty years since) I had nourished the ambitious desire of composing a tale of chivalry, which was to be in the style of the Castle of Otranto, with plenty of Border characters and supernatural incident. Having found unexpectedly a chapter of this intended work among some old papers, I have subjoined it to this introductory essay, thinking some readers may account as curious the first attempts at romantic composition by an author who has since written so much in that department. And those who complain, not unreasonably, of the profusion of the Tales which have followed Waverley, may bless their stars at the narrow escape they have made, by the commencement of the inundation, which had so nearly taken place in the first year of the century, being postponed for fifteen years later.
i See Appendix No. I.
This particular subject was never resumed, but I did not abandon the idea of fictitious composition in prose, though I determined to give another turn to the style of the work.
My early recollections of the Highland scenery and customs made so favourable an impression in the poem called the Lady of the Lake, that I was induced to think of attempting something of the same kind in prose. I
I had been a good deal in the Highlands at a time when they were much less accessible and much less visited than they have been of late years, and was acquainted with many of the old warriors of 1745, who were, like most veterans, easily induced to fight their battles over again for the benefit of a willing listener like myself. It naturally occurred to me that the ancient traditions and high spirit of a people who, living in a civilised age and country, retained so strong a tincture of manners belonging to an early period of society, must afford a subject favourable for romance, if it should not prove a curious tale marred in the telling.
It was with some idea of this kind that, about the year 1805, I threw together about one-third part of the first volume of Waverley. It was advertised to be published by the late Mr. John Ballantyne, bookseller in Edinburgh, under the name of Waverley; or, 'Tis Fisty Years Since — a title afterwards altered to 'T is Sixty Years Since, that the actual date of publication might be made to correspond with the period in which the scene was laid. Having proceeded as far, I think, as the seventh chapter, I showed my work to a critical friend, whose opinion was unfavourable; and having then some poetical reputation, I was unwilling to risk the loss of it by attempting a new style of composition. I therefore threw aside the work I had commenced, without either reluctance or remonstrance. I ought to add that, though my ingenious friend's sentence was afterwards reversed on an appeal to the public, it cannot be considered as any imputation on his good taste; for the specimen subjected to his criticism did not extend beyond the departure of the hero for Scotland, and consequently had not entered upon the part of the story which was finally found most interesting.
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 kindhearted 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 romancewriting, and be esteemed a tolerable workman.
In the year 1807-08 I undertook, at the request of John Murray, Esq., of Albemarle Street, to arrange for