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us back to Ashestiel and, as the sub-title indicates, to the year 1805. The opening, describing the hero's birth and early years in England, was then written and shown to someone-almost certainly William Erskine. The critic was but faintly interested, and Scott, then in the first flush of his fame as the author of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, did not feel inclined to risk publishing at the end of the year, as he had originally intended. He flattered himself after the completion. of the work that he had designedly made his first volume uninteresting in order to avoid the falling-off which he had so often observed in other novels.
So Waverley was put away unheeded till, five years later, the success of The Lady of the Lake made Scott, when he by chance lighted upon the MS. fragment, think it worth showing to James Ballantyne. The printer, though less adverse in his opinion than the original confidant, was not so much impressed by the Highland novel as he had been by the Highland poem ; and the former was once more laid aside. Finally, towards the end of 1813, he again looked at the MS., and this time was induced, by his own favourable judgment, to go on with the story. So rapidly did he execute his purpose that almost two-thirds of the book was written in three weeks. How Scott's power of work impressed a stranger is evidenced by the story of Lockhart's friend, Menzies, who, as he sat drinking his wine after dinner in his father's house at Edinburgh, was haunted by the sight of a hand in the opposite window writing un
ceasingly hour after hour during the long June evenings. For the "small, anonymous sort of a novel" (so different from the sumptuous quarto poem which had been wont to issue in his name) the author anticipated but little success outside Scotland, where he trusted that the local and legal humour would be understood. Erskine and James Ballantyne had finally come round to his own favourable judgment of the book, but the great Constable did not think himself safe in offering to do more than share profits. Erskine and the Ballantynes only, with Morritt of Rokeby (to whom Scott with characteristic kindness sent a copy to amuse his sick wife), were at first let into the secret of the authorship, afterwards so marvellously kept by more than twenty
As to the financial success of the new venture there was never a doubt from the first. Though issued early in July-a most unfavourable season-the thousand copies which made up the first edition disappeared almost within the month, and before the end of the year some four thousand more copies had been sold. Such a sale would be sufficiently gratifying nowadays to an unknown author; in times when fiction was by no means in high repute it was thought stupendous. At the present day anonymity is not infrequently found to be a bait to the reading public; but though Scott's experience with the Waverley novels probably originated the notion, no such motive actuated him or his advisers. What, then, were his reasons for keeping
back his name? They appear to have been a compound of prudence, hatred of publicity, and love of mystification for its own sake. The last was really the most important, for the first naturally soon became inoperative, and Scott was not unduly sensitive. Curiously enough, in giving the author's own account of the completion of Waverley, Lockhart has mixed together two letters (both of them to Morritt); and the sentences in which Scott explains his preference for anonymity refer properly not to the novel, but to The Bridal of Triermain. As, however, they show what he felt about the prose work also, they may be quoted
"The truth is that this sort of muddling work amuses me, and I am something in the condition of Joseph Surface, who was embarrassed by getting himself too good a reputation; for many things may please people well enough anonymously, which, if they have me in the title-page, would just give me that sort of bad name which precedes hanging-and that would be in many respects inconvenient, if I thought of again trying a grande opus."
When his correspondent, mightily pleased with the book, strenuously urged him to acknowledge it, he gave as his chief reason against such a course that it would deprive him of the pleasure of writing again. Indeed, he half jocularly persisted that for a Clerk of the Court of Session to put his name to so frivolous (!) a work might be considered an infraction of professional etiquette.
Scott could not hope to deceive his own particular
friends, who traced his hand in a variety of little touches and allusions. Thus when Will Clerk came to the place where the hero arrives at Tully Veolan, and read of the huge bear which "predominated" over the stone basin in the courtyard, he immediately recognised an expression that had been used by himself when in company with Scott years before at Craighall, Perthshire. The phrase had impressed the latter at the time, and had frequently been in his mouth since.
Lady Louisa Stuart declared that the authorship of Waverley had been to her mind. from the first "as distinguishable as a man's handwriting," from the little touches, modes of expression, "slight words that raise a picture in one's mind with all the force of a long simile, hints which in the same way awaken feeling or excite deep reflection." But there were some who were sure that Jeffrey had written the book to while away the tedium of a voyage to the United States; whilst others declared circumstantially that Mrs. Thomas Scott was creator of Waverley and its three successors, "with some help from her husband, and some licking over by her brother-in-law." Scott had actually written to his brother in Canada begging him to countenance the report by
"looking knowing when Waverley is spoken of," and to take advantage of it by really writing a novel which he himself promised to revise and finance in anticipation of certain success, but Tom Scott remained mute and inglorious.
To protect his secret against direct questioners, the real author had recourse to a barely qualified denial. His legal training probably led him to look upon this as natural: he was the accused person refusing to give evidence to secure his own conviction, and quite entitled to his plea of "not guilty" to help him to secure at least the Scotch verdict of "not proven." His answer to the Prince Regent at Carlton House, when he had pledged the author of Waverley in Scott's presence, or made some less direct attempt to commit him-for the exact circumstances are in doubt was something like this: "Your Royal Highness looks as if you thought I had some claim to the honours of this toast. I have no such pretensions, but shall take good care that the real Simon Pure hears of the high compliment that has now been paid him." And so for years the anonymous novelist became "The Great Unknown" to the world at large; and the designation even among Scott's own circle —ay, and even in his own family—was not seldom heard. And now a word as to the story itself.
With great skill he chose a period which even the most ignorant could not term "ancient history," while it was still sufficiently in the past to avoid offending personal susceptibilities and to have acquired something