Waverley 1
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
Scott and the ‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
Scott and the question of empire
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
• Walter Scott – a poet turned novelist
• Waverley, first novel, 1814
• Success of the Waverley Novels (Scott’s
business interest in James Ballantyne &
Co., printers)
• Scott uses his fame to promote the career
of JA and, more generally, ‘a style of novel
[which] has arisen, within the last fifteen or
twenty years’
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
• This ‘new’ novel presents to the reader ‘instead
of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a
correct and striking representation of that which
is daily taking place around him’
• The ‘exceptionally fluid’ (Eagleton) literary situation in the era of the Romantic novel grows
more stabilized as the newly crystallized mature
realism becomes the dominant mode of fiction
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
• Waverley a remarkably ‘well read’ novel –
gathers up into itself previous modes of
prose fiction
• ME amongst those who are ‘gathered up’
in this way
• See W, vol. 3, ch. 25: ‘A Postscript, which
should have been a Preface’
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
• WS: ‘It has been my object to describe
these persons [his novel’s Scottish characters], not by a caricatured and exaggerated use of the national dialect, but by
their habits, manners, and feelings; so as,
in some distant degree, to emulate the
admirable Irish portraits drawn by Miss
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
• WS influenced by ME’s ‘regional’ novel –
an interest in regionalism makes for a
realist emphasis in fiction
• ME’s ‘Irish’ regionalism replicated in terms
of JA’s ‘English’ regionalism (Northamptonshire and the enclosures) in MP
and WS’s ‘Scottish’ regionalism in W – the
novel emerges as a history of nation
Scott, Austen, and Edgeworth
• With W, WS develops ME’s regional novel
into a full-blown ‘historical novel’
• ME – a general interest in Irish affairs
‘before 1782’
• WS – a general interest in Scottish affairs
specifically with reference to the Jacobite
Rebellion of 1745 = W as a historical novel
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• W the first ‘historical novel’
• Georg Lukács: ‘What is lacking in the socalled historical novel before Sir Walter
Scott is precisely the specifically historical,
that is, derivation of the individuality of
characters from the peculiarity of their age’
(The Historical Novel (1937), p. 15)
• History in so-called historical novels ‘treated as mere costumery’ (ibid., p. 15)
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• What is it about the history of the Romantic era that determines the rise of the historical novel proper in the shape of W in
• GL: ‘It was the French Revolution, the
revolutionary wars and the rise and fall of
Napoleon, which for the first time made
history a mass experience, and moreover
on a European scale’ (p. 20)
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• History post 1789 – accelerated pace of
change felt on the pulses
• History post 1789 – creation of mass
armies (contrast with the professionalized
armies of preceding periods)
• History post 1789 – Napoleon singlehandedly redraws the map of Europe
(hence correlatively a concern with borders and regions)
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• History post 1814 – the Napoleonic endgame (Britain gains ascendancy in Europe
and on the world stage)
• History post 1814 – sense of 1814 itself as
a watershed in European history (what
course has history been following up to
this point? what course is it likely to follow
in the immediate future?)
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• Questions about the history of the past,
present, and future are precisely those
which inspire WS in the work he carries
out for W
• Waverley; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since –
begun in 1805 (laid aside), resumed in
1810 (laid aside), completed in 1814
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• Jacobite Rebellion, 1745-46 – Jacobites
vs. Hanoverians; uprising led by (the
Catholic) Charles Edward Stuart (the
‘Young Pretender’), ends with the Battle of
Culloden (1746)
• Scottish civil war – Highlands (romance)
vs. Lowlands (realism)
• Romantic old Scotland defeated by its
‘modernizing’, pragmatic counterpart
Waverley as a ‘historical novel’
• The lesson of 1745 (‘Sixty Years Since’):
‘realism’ the order of the day, both in politics and in novel-writing
• Romance and realism in Scott: admiring
attachment to the ways and passions of
Highland clan society, but he is enough of
a realist to realize that the future lies along
the path of ‘modernization’ and moderation
Scott and the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
• Edward Waverley – ‘Waverley’ by name
and by nature
• See Fiona Robertson, ‘Waverley’, in Duncan Wu, ed., A Companion to Romanticism (1998), pp. 211-18
Scott and the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
• FR: ‘The technical innovation of Waverley
is to tell a story of national history through
the Bildungsroman (a novel tracing an
individual’s growth into adulthood)…. In
order to investigate the events of 1745
Scott invents a hero who, as his name
indicates, is inclined to waver in his
political loyalities’ (p. 213, emphasis added)
Scott and the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
• Waverley’s wavering – brought up in part
by his father (a Hanoverian) and in part by
his uncle (Jacobite leanings)
• In Scotland, develops an attachment to the
Jacobite cause via his relationship with
Flora Mac-Ivor
• Rejected by Flora, he eventually marries
Rose Bradwardine (following his rehabilitation amongst the English forces)
Scott and the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
• Marriage to Rose rather than Flora – the triumph
of realism over romance: ‘the romance of his
[W’s] life was ended . . . its real history had now
commenced’ (Vol. III, Ch. xiii)
• Telling a national story through a Bildungsroman – WS relates the history of the Scottish civil
war from a popular viewpoint rather than from
• Thus the idea that history has become a mass
experience is affirmed by W
Scott and the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
• Note WS’s repeated deployment of the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero in his fiction –
see Ivanhoe’s relationship to the Saxons
and the Normans in Ivanhoe, for example
• Typically, the ‘fanaticism’ of extremes is
rejected in favour of the conservatism of
the ‘middle way’
Scott and the
‘middle-of-the-road’ hero
• The ideological programme of WS’s fiction
– history is a series of crises, the way out
of which in each case lies along the golden mean between opposing parties
• WS sees it that the nation needs to be organized – not unlike a realist novel – in
terms of an accommodation of the local
within a larger structure
Scott and the question of empire
• On the idea of organizing nations as
though they were forms of realist fiction
(preserving what is local within a greater
whole), see Eagleton, The English Novel
• TE: ‘The empire must be like this too, as
Britain seeks to govern its colonial peoples, not despite their customs and beliefs,
but through them’ (p. 101)
Scott and the question of empire
• TE: ‘A nation thus fortified [by accommodation of
the local, by adopting the ‘middle way’] is then all
the better furnished for its imperial role in the
wider world’ (p. 101)
• W raises the question of Scotland as ‘colonial’ in
relation to England as a metropolitan centre
• See further Michael Simpson, ‘Wavering on
Europe: Walter Scott and the Equilibrium of
Empires’, Romanticism, 11/2 (2005), 127-42
Scott and the question of empire
• MS: ‘Having sympathized in turn with the Lowlanders, the Highlanders and now even with the
French, Waverley finally projects his sympathy
into the perspective of the English and looks at
the Scots and the French as an Englishman
would’ (p. 140)
• . . . Scotland seen as existing in a strategic alignment with England in WS’s imagination
Scott and the question of empire
• At the same time W seems – like MP – remarkable for how little, in respect of its
strategic imagination, it stands in the way
of ‘the accelerating imperial process’
(Said) post 1814
• A concern about slavery appears now replicated in terms of a concern with regionalism . . .
Scott and the question of empire
• The material dependency of the centre on
the margins (colonies, regions) a marked
feature of the organization of the British
empire in the nineteenth century (see also
Jane Eyre)
• The degree of this dependency means
that interrogation of colonialist practices is
left off the political agenda
Scott and the question of empire
• The realist novel emerges as a literary
form with which to ratify a silence about
the imperial process in this period

Waverley 1