« AnteriorContinuar »
And must I ravel out
Richard II. Act IV.
Having undertaken to give an Introductory Ac- solitary and romantic environs of Arthur's Seat, count of the compositions which are here offered to Salisbury Crags, Braid Hills, and similar places in the public, with Notes and Illustrations, the Author, the vicinity of Edinburgh; and the recollection of under whose name they are now for the first time those holidays still forms an oasis in the pilgrimage collected, feels that he has the delicate task of speak- which I have to look back upon. I have only to ing more of himself and his personal concerns, than add, that my friend still lives, a prosperous gentlemay perhaps be either graceful or prudent. In this man, but too much occupied with graver business, particular, he runs the risk of presenting himself to thank me for indicating him more plainly as a to the public in the relation that the dumb wife in confident of my childish mystery. the jest-book held to her husband, when, having When boyhood advancing into youth required spent half of his fortune to obtain the cure of her more serious studies and graver cares, a long illimperfection, he was willing to have bestowed the ness threw me back on the kingdom of fiction, as other half to restore her to her former condition. if it were by a species of fatality. My indisposiBut this is a risk inseparable from the task which tion arose, in part at least, from my having broken the Author has undertaken, and he can only pro- a blood-vessel; and motion and speech were for a mise to be as little of an egotist as the situation will long time pronounced positively dangerous. For permit. It is perhaps an indifferent sign of a dis- several weeks I was confined strictly to my bed, position to keep his word, that having introduced during which time I was not allowed to speak above himself in the third person singular, he proceeds in a whisper, to eat more than a spoonful or two of the second paragraph to make use of the first. But boiled rice, or to have more covering than one thin it appears to him that the seeming modesty con- counterpane. When the reader is informed that I nected with the former mode of writing, is over- was at this time a growing youth, with the spirits, balanced by the inconvenience of stiffness and appetite, and impatience of fifteen, and suffered, of affectation which attends it during a narrative of course, greatly under this severe regimen, which some length, and which may be observed less or the repeated return of my disorder rendered indismore in every work in which the third person is pensable, he will not be surprised that I was abanused, from the Commentaries of Cæsar, to the doned to my own discretion, so far as reading (my Autobiography of Alexander the Corrector. almost sole amusement) was concerned, and still
I must refer to a very early period of my life, less so, that I abused the indulgence which left my were I to point out my first achievements as a tale- time so much at my own disposal. teller- but I believe some of my old schoolfellows There was at this time a circulating library in can still bear witness that I had a distinguished Edinburgh, founded, I believe, by the celebrated character for that talent, at a time when the ap- Allan Ramsay, which, besides containing a most plause of my companions was my recompense for respectable collection of books of every description, the disgraces and punishments which the future was, as might have been expected, peculiarly rich romance-writer incurred for being idle himself, and in works of fiction. It exhibited specimens of every keeping others idle, during hours that should have kind, from the romances of chivalry, and the ponbeen employed on our tasks. The chief enjoyment derous folios of Cyrus and Cassandra, down to the of my holidays was to escape with a chosen friend, most approved works of later times. I was plunged who had the same taste with myself, and alternately into this great ocean of reading without compass or to recite to each other such wild adventures as we pilot; and unless when some one had the charity to were able to devise. We told, each in turn, inter- play at chess with me, I was allowed to do nothing minable tales of knight-errantry and battles and save read, from morning to night. I was, in kindenchantments, which were continued from one day ness and pity, which was perhaps erroneous, howto another as opportunity offered, without our ever ever natural, permitted to select my subjects of study thinking of bringing them to a conclusion. As we at my own pleasure, upon the same principle that observed a strict secrecy on the subject of this the humours of children are indulged to keep them intercourse, it acquired all the character of a con- out of mischief. As my taste and appetite were cealed pleasure, and we used to select, for the gratified in nothing else, I indemnified myself by scenes of our indulgence, long walks through the becoming a glutton of books. Accordingly, I befieve I read almost all the romances, old plays, and at romantic composition by an author who has since epic poetry, in that formidable collection, and no written so much in that department. And those doubt was unconsciously amassing materials for the who complain, not unreasonably, of the profusion of task in which it has been my lot to be so much em- the Tales which have followed Waverley, may bless ployed.
their stars at the narrow escape they have made, At the same time I did not in all respects abuse by the commencement of the inundation which had the license permitted me. Familiar acquaintance so nearly taken place in the first year of the cenwith the specious miracles of fiction brought with it tury, being postponed for fifteen years later. some degree of satiety, and I began, by degrees, to This particular subject was never resumed, but seek in histories, memoirs, voyages and travels, and I did not abandon the idea of fictitious composition the like, events nearly as wonderful as those which in prose, though I determined to give another turn ' were the work of imagination, with the additional to the style of the work. advantage that they were at least in a great mea- My early recollections of the Highland scenery sure true. The lapse of nearly two years, during and customs made so favourable an impression in which I was left to the exercise of my own free the poem called the Lady of the Lake, that I was will, was followed by a temporary residence in the induced to think of attempting something of the country, where I was again very lonely but for the same kind in prose. I had been a good deal in the amusement which I derived from a good though old- Highlands at a time when they were much less acfashioned library. The vague and wild use which cessible, and much less visited, than they have been I made of this advantage I cannot describe better of late years, and was acquainted with many of the than by referring my reader to the desultory studies old warriors of 1745, who were, like most veterans, of Waverley in a similar situation; the passages easily induced to fight their battles over again, for concerning whose course of reading were imitated the benefit of a willing listener like myself. It natufrom recollections of my own.— It must be under- rally occurred to me, that the ancient traditions and stood that the resemblance extends no farther. high spirit of a people, who, living in a civilized age
Time, as it glided on, brought the blessings of and country, retained so strong a tincture of manconfirmed health and personal strength, to a degree ners belonging to an early period of society, must which had never been expected or hoped for. The afford a subject favourable for romance, if it should severe studies necessary to render me fit for my not prove a curious tale marred in the telling. profession occupied the greater part of my time; It was with some idea of this kind, that, about and the society of my friends and companions who the year 1805, I threw together about one-third part were about to enter life along with me, filled up the of the first volume of Waverley. It was advertised interval with the usual amusements of young men. to be published by the late Mr John Ballantyne, I was in a situation which rendered serious labour bookseller in Edinburgh, under the name of “Waindispensable; for, neither possessing, on the one verley, or 'tis Fifty Years since,”—a title afterwards hand, any of those peculiar advantages which are altered to “ 'Tis Sixty Years since,” that the actual supposed to favour a hasty advance in the profes- date of publication might be made to correspond sion of the law, nor being, on the other hand, ex- with the period in which the scene was laid. Having posed to unusual obstacles to interrupt my progress, proceeded as far, I think, as the Seventh Chapter, I might reasonably expect to succeed according to I showed my work to a critical friend, whose opinion the greater or less degree of trouble which I should was unfavourable ; and having then some poetical take to qualify myself as a pleader.
reputation, I was unwilling to risk the loss of it by It makes no part of the present story to detail attempting a new style of composition. I therefore how the success of a few ballads had the effect of threw aside the work I had commenced, without changing all the purpose and tenor of my life, and either reluctance or remonstrance. I ought to add, of converting a pains-taking lawyer of some years' that though my ingenious friend's sentence was afstanding into a follower of literature. It is enough terwards reversed, on an appeal to the public, it to say, that I had assumed the latter character for cannot be considered as any imputation on his good several years before I seriously thought of attempt taste; for the specimen subjected to his criticism ing a work of imagination in prose, although one did not extend beyond the departure of the hero for or two of my poetical attempts did not differ from Scotland, and, consequently, had not entered upon romances otherwise than by being written in verse. the part of the story which was finally found most Bat yet, I may observe, that about this time (now, interesting. alas! thirty years since) I had nourished the am- Be that as it may, this portion of the manuscript bitious desire of composing a tale of chivalry, which was laid aside in the drawers of an old writing desk, was to be in the style of the Castle of Otranto, with which, on my first coming to reside at Abbotsford, plenty of Border characters, and supernatural inci- in 1811, was placed in a lumber garret, and entirely dent. Having found unexpectedly a chapter of this forgotten. Thus, though I sometimes, among other intended work among some old papers, I have sub- literary avocations, turned my thoughts to the conjoined it to this introductory essay, thinking some readers may account as curious, the first attempts I see the Fragment alluded to, in the Appendix, N°. I. p. 8.
tinuation of the romance which I had commenced, antiquarian lore necessary for the purpose of comyet as I could not find what I had already written, posing the projected romance; and although the after searching such repositories as were within my manuscript bore the marks of hurry and incolereach, and was too indolent to attempt to write it | rence natural to the first rough draught of the author, anew from memory, I as often laid aside all thoughts it evinced (in my opinion) considerable powers of of that nature.
imagination. Two circumstances, in particular, recalled my As the Work was unfinished, I deemed it my recollection of the mislaid manuscript. The first duty, as Editor, to supply such a hasty and inarwas the extended and well-merited fame of Miss tificial conclusion as could be shaped out from the Edgeworth, whose Irish characters have gone so story, of which Mr Strutt had laid the foundation. far to make the English familiar with the charac- This concluding chapter is also added to the present ter of their gay and kind-hearted neighbours of Ire- Introduction, for the reason already mentioned reland, that she may be truly said to have done more garding the preceding fragment. It was a step in towards completing the Union, than perhaps all my advance towards romantic composition; and to the legislative enactments by which it has been fol- preserve the traces of these is in a great measure
the object of this Essay. Without being so presumptuous as to hope to Queen-Hoo-Hall was not, however, very successemulate the rich humour, pathetic tenderness, and ful. I thought I was aware of the reason, and
supalmirable tact, which pervade the works of my ac- posed that, by rendering his language too ancient, complished friend, I felt that something might be and displaying his antiquarian knowledge too libeattempted for my own country, of the same kind with rally, the ingenious author had raised up an obstacle tiat which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved to his own success. Every work designed for mere for Ireland --something which might introduce her amusement must be expressed in language easily natives to those of the sister kingdom, in a more comprehended; and when, as is sometimes the case favourable light than they had been placed hither- in Queen-Hoo-Hall, the author addresses himself to, and tend to procure sympathy for their virtues exclusively to the Antiquary, he must be content to and indulgence for their foibles. I thought also, be dismissed by the general reader with the critithat much of what I wanted in talent, might be cism of Mungo, in the Padlock, on the Mauritanian made up by the intimate acquaintance with the sub- music, “ What signifies me hear, if me no underject which I could lay claim to possess, as having stand?” travelled through most parts of Scotland, both High- I conceived it possible to avoid this error; and land and Lowland; having been familiar with the by rendering a similar work more light and obvious elder, as well as more modern race; and having had to general comprehension, to escape the rock on from my infancy free and unrestrained communi- which my predecessor was shipwrecked. But I was, cation with all ranks of my countrymen, from the on the other hand, so far discouraged by the indifScottish peer to the Scottish plouglıman. Such ideas ferent reception of Mr Strutt's romance, as to beoften occurred to me, and constituted an ambitious come satisfied that the manners of the middle ages branch of my theory, however far short I may have did not possess the interest which I had conceived; fallen of it in practice.
and was led to form the opinion that a romance, But it was not only the triumphs of Miss Edge- | founded on a Highland story, and more modern worth which worked in me emulation, and disturbed events, would have a better chance of popularity my indolence. I chanced actually to engage in a than a tale of chivalry. My thoughts, therefore, work which formed a sort of essay piece, and gave returned more than once to the tale which I had me hope that I might in time become free of the actually commenced, and accident at length threw craft of Romance-writing, and be esteemed a toler- the lost sheets in my way. able workman.
I happened to want some fishing-tackle for the In the year 1807-8, I undertook, at the request use of a guest, when it occurred to me to search of Jolin Murray, Esq. of Albemarle Street, to ar- the old writing-desk already mentioned, in which I range for publication some posthumous productions used to keep articles of that nature. I got access of the late Mr Joseph Strutt, distinguished as an to it with some difficulty; and, in looking for lines artist and an antiquary, amongst which was an un- and flies, the long-lost manuscript presented itself. finished romance, entitled “Queen-Hoo-Hall.” The I immediately set to work to complete it according scene of the tale was laid in the reign of Henry to my original purpose. And here I must frankly VI., and the work was written to illustrate the man- confess, that the mode in which I conducted the story ners, customs, and language of the people of Eng- scarcely deserved the success which the Romance land during that period. The extensive acquaintance afterwards attained. The tale of Waverley was put which Mr Strutt had acquired with such subjects together with so little care, that I cannot boast of in compiling his laborious “Horda Angel Cynnan," having sketched any distinct plan of the work. The his “Royal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities,” and his whole adventures of Waverley, in his movements “ Essay on the Sports and Pastimes of the People of England,” had rendered him familiar with all the
1 See Aprendix, *. II. p. 13.
op and down the country with the Highland cateran eager enquirers as made thie most minute investiBean Lean, are managed without much skill. It gation, was entirely at fault. suited best, however, the road I wanted to travel, But although the cause of concealing the author's and permitted me to introduce some descriptions name in the first instance, when the reception of of scenery and manners, to which the reality gave Waverley was doul was natural enouglı, it is an interest which the powers of the author might more difficult, it may be thought, to account for the hare otherwise failed to attain for them. And same desire for secrecy during the subsequent edithough I have been in other instances a sinner in tions, to the amount of betwixt eleven and twelve this sort, I do not recollect any of these novels, in thousand copies, which followed each other close, which I have transgressed so widely as in the first and proved the success of the work. I am sorry I of the series.
can give little satisfaction to queries on this subject. Among other unfounded reports, it lias been said I have already stated elsewhere, that I can render that the copyright of Waverley was, during the little better reason for choosing to remain anony book's progress through the press, offered for sale mous, than by saying with Shylock, that such was to various booksellers in London at a very inconsi- my humour. It will be observed, that I had not derable price. This was not the case. Messrs Con- the usual stimulus for desiring personal reputation, stable and Cadell, who published the work, were the the desire, namely, to float amidst the conversaonly persons acquainted with the contents of the tion of men. Of literary fame, whether merited or publication, and they offered a large sum for it undeserved, I had already as much as miglit have while in the course of printing, which, however, was contented a mind more ambitious than mine; and declined, the author not choosing to part with the in entering into this new contest for reputation, I copyright.
might be said rather to endanger what I had, than The origin of the story of Waverley, and the par- to have any considerable chance of acquiring more. ticular facts on which it is founded, are given in the I was affected, too, by none of those motives which, separate Introduction prefixed to that romance in at an earlier period of life, would doubtless have this edition, and require no notice in this place. operated upon me. My friendships were formed,-
Waverley was published in 1814, and as the title- my place in society fixed,-my life liad attained its page was without the name of the author, the work middle course. My condition in society was higher was left to win its way in the world without any of perhaps than I deserved, certainly as high as I the usual recommendations. Its progress was for wished, and there was scarce any degree of literary some time slow ; but after the first two or three success which could have greatly altered or improved months, its popularity had increased in a degree my personal condition. which must have satisfied the expectations of the I was not, therefore, touched by the spur of amAuthor, had these been far more sanguine than he bition, usually stimulating on such occasions; and prer entertained.
yet I ought to stand exculpated from the charge Great anxiety was expressed to learn the name of ungracious or unbecoming indifference to public of the author, but on this no authentic information applause. I did not the less feel gratitude for the could be attained. My original motive for publishi- public favour, although I did not proclaim it, -as ing the work anonymously, was the consciousness the lover who wears his mistress's favour in his bothat it was an experiment on the public taste which som, is as proud, though not so vain of possessing might very probably fail, and therefore there was it, as another who displays the token of her grace Do occasion to take on myself the personal risk of upon his bonnet. Far from such an ungracious disconfiture. For this purpose considerable pre- state of mind, I have seldom felt more satisfaction cautions were used to preserve secrecy. My old than when, returning from a pleasure voyage, I friend and schoolfellow, Mr James Ballantyne, who found Waverley in the zenith of popularity, and printed these Novels, had the exclusive task of cor- public curiosity in full cry after the name of the responding with the Author, who thus had not only author. The knowledge that I had the public apthe advantage of his professional talents, but also of probation, was like having the property of a hidder: his critical abilities. The original manuscript, or, as treasure, not less gratifying to the owner than if it is technically called, copy, was transcribed under all the world knew that it was his own. Another Mr Ballantyne's eye by confidential persons; nor advantage was connected with the secrecy which I was there an instance of treachery during the many observed. I could appear, or retreat from the stage years in which these precautions were resorted to, at pleasure, without attracting any personal notice although various individuals were employed at dif- or attention, other than what might be founded or, ferent times. Double proof-sheets were regularly suspicion only. In my own person also, as a suc. printed off. One was forwarded to the Author by cessful author in another department of literature, Mr Ballantyne, and the alterations which it received I might have been charged with too frequent inwere, by luis own hand, copied upon the other proof- trusions on the public patience; but the author of sheet for the use of the printers, so that even the Waverley was in this respect as impassible to the currected proofs of the author were never seen in critic, as the Ghost of Hamlet to the partisan of the printing-office; and thus the curiosity of such Marcellus. Perhaps the curiosity of the public, ir
ritated by the existence of a secret, and kept afloat I usually qualified my denial by stating, that, had by the discussions which took place on the subject I been the author of these works, I would have felt from time to time, went a good way to maintain an myself quite entitled to protect my secret by refusing unabated interest in these frequent publications. my own evidence, when it was asked for to accomThere was a mystery concerning the anthor, which plish a discovery of what I desired to conceal. each new novel was expected to assist in unravel- The real truth is, that I never expected or hoped ling, although it might in other respects rank lower to disguise my connexion with these Novels from than its predecessors.
any one who lived on terms of intimacy with me. I may perhaps be thought guilty of affectation, The number of coincidences which necessarily exshould I allege as one reason of my silence, a secret isted between narratives recounted, modes of exdislike to enter on personal discussions concerning pression, and opinions broached in these Tales, and my own literary labours. It is in every case a dan- such as were used by their author in the intercourse gerous intercourse for an author to be dwelling of private life, must have been far too great to continually among those who make his writings a permit any of my familiar acquaintances to doubt frequent and familiar subject of conversation, but the identity betwixt their friend and the Author of who must necessarily be partial judges of works Waverley; and I believe, they were all morally concomposed in their own society. The habits of self- vinced of it. But while I was myself silent, their importance, which are thus acquired by authors, belief could not weigh much more with the world are highly injurious to a well-regulated mind; for than that of others; their opinions and reasoning the cup of flattery, if it does not like that of Circe, were liable to be taxed with partiality, or confronted reduce men to the level of beasts, is sure, if eagerly with opposing arguments and opinions; and the drained, to bring the best and the ablest down to question was not so much, whether I should be gethat of fools. This risk was in some degree pre- nerally acknowledged to be the author, in spite of vented by the mask which I wore; and my own my own denial, as whether even my own avowal of stores of self-conceit were left to their natural the works, if such should be made, would be sufficourse, without being enhanced by the partiality cient to put nie in undisputed possession of that of friends, or adulation of flatterers.
character. If I am asked further reasons for the conduct I I have been often asked concerning supposed have long observed, I can only resort to the expla- cases, in which I was said to have been placed on nation supplied by a critic as friendly as he is in- the verge of discovery; but, as I maintained my telligent; namely, that the mental organization of point with the composure of a lawyer of thirty years' the Novelist must be characterised, to speak cranio- standing, I never recollect being in pain or confusion logically, by an extraordinary developement of the on the subject. In Captain Medwyn's Conversations passion for delitescency! I the rather suspect some of Lord Byron, the reporter states himself to have natural disposition of this kind; for, from the in- asked my noble and highly-gifted friend, “ If he stant I perceived the extreme curiosity manifested was certain about these Novels being Sir Walter on the subject, I felt a secret satisfaction in baffling Scott's ?" To which Lord Byron replied, “ Scott as it, for which, when its unimportance is considered, much as owned himself the Author of Waverley to I do not well know how to account.
me in Murray's shop. I was talking to him about that My desire to remain concealed, in the character novel, and lamented that its author had not carried of the Author of these Novels, subjected me occa- back the story nearer to the time of the Revolution sionally to awkward embarrassments, as it some
--Scott, entirely off his guard, replied, “Ay, I might times happened that those who were sufficiently have done so; but—' there he stopped. It was in intimate with me, would put the question in direct vain to attempt to correct himself; he looked conterms. In this case, only one of three courses could fused, and relieved his embarrassment by a precibe followed. Either I must have surrendered my pitate retreat.” I have no recollection whatever of secret, - or have returned an equivocating answer, this scene taking place, and I should have thought -or, finally, must have stoutly and boldly denied that I was more likely to have laughed than to apthe fact. The first was a sacrifice which I conceive pear confused, for I certainly never hoped to impose no one had a right to force from me, since I alone upon Lord Byron in a case of the kind; and from was concerned in the matter. The alternative of the manner in which he uniformly expressed himrendering a doubtful answer must have left me open self, I knew his opinion was entirely formed, and to the degrading suspicion that I was not unwill- that any disclamations of mine would only have ing to assume the merit (if there was any) which I savoured of affectation. I do not mean to insinuate dared not absolutely lay claim to; or those who might that the incident did not happen, but only that it think more justly of me, must have received such could hardly have occurred exactly under the ciran equivocal answer as an indirect avowal. I there- cumstances narrated, without my recollecting somefore considered myself entitled, like an accused per- thing positive on the subject. In another part of son put upon trial, to refuse giving my own evidence the same volume, Lord Byron is reported to have to my own conviction, and flatly to deny all that expressed a supposition that the cause of my not could not be proved against me. At the same time avowing myself the Author of Waverley may have