The Life of Sir Walter Scott

By John Macrone; Daniel Grader | Go to book overview

Chapter IV
THE NOVELIST

The State of Fiction in 1815 -Waverley – Guy Mannering – ‘Natural
Characters’ – The Antiquary – The Heart of Mid-Lothian- A Legend of
Montrose – The Talisman – Critical Reception – Self-Reviewing in the
Quarterly – Authorship and Anonymity – The Prince Regent
Controverted – Finances

The era of Waverley may well be considered the most extraordinary in the annals of literature. It was an experiment upon public taste which was no less boldly than powerfully conceived, for it is difficult to imagine the degraded condition to which that peculiar species of composition called novel-writing had, with a few splendid exceptions, [blank in manuscript] at the time when Sir Walter issued his celebrated work. The booksellers’ shelves groaned under the accumulated weight of mawkish translations from the French, vapid and fusionless specimens from the English school, romances from the German, choked full of horrors and subterranean wit; and the disgusted readers in vain turned over the leaves in search of something racy and original. This vade mecum1 was destined to be filled by the author of Marmion, who, conscious of his own strength, and aware what the public wanted, put forth a work which at once redeemed the novel school from annihilation, routing the whole milk and water disciples of literature, and, with one leap, placed himself at the head of this species of composition, as he had formerly done in the school of poetry. He was evidently, however, cautious in this appeal to public taste. Like the Ivanhoe of his own immortal pages, he first entered the lists with his beaver down, without crest or cognisance,2 and if defeat had been the reward of his chivalrous exertions in the cause of the insulted Nine, he could at least retire from the combat with untarnished fame, and repose upon the laurels which he had already so nobly won. This probably may have

1. Thus in the manuscript. Macrone meant to write ‘vacuum’.

2. Scott, Walter [1819] (1998), Ivanhoe, ed. Graham Tulloch, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p. 114.

-85-

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The Life of Sir Walter Scott
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • The Afterglow of Abbotsford- John Macrone, Celebrity Culture, and Commemoration 49
  • Preface 63
  • Chapter I - Macrone at Abbotsford and Innerleithen in 1832 65
  • Chapter II - 1771–1797 70
  • Chapter III - 1797–1815 77
  • Chapter IV - The Novelist 85
  • Chapter V - Scott at Abbotsford 95
  • Chapter VI - Miscellaneous Traits and Anecdotes 102
  • Chapter VII - 1831–2 116
  • Chapter VIII - Eulogy 125
  • Appendix I - Macrone and Cunningham 130
  • Appendix II - A Fragment of Another Preface 132
  • Appendix III - Another Conclusion 133
  • Appendix IV - Hogg’s Anecdotes Introduced 134
  • Appendix V - Three Witnesses 136
  • Bibliography 149
  • Index 155
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