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Waverley (novel)

Illustration to 1893 edition, by J. Pettie.
Author Sir Walter Scott
Original title Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since
Country United Kingdom
Language English, Lowland Scots, some Scottish Gaelic and French
Series Waverley Novels
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Archibald Constable
Publication date
7 July 1814
Followed by Guy Mannering

Waverley is an 1814 historical novel by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832). Published anonymously in 1814 as Scott's first venture into prose fiction, it is often regarded as the first historical novel in the western tradition. It became so popular that Scott's later novels were advertised as being "by the author of Waverley". His series of works on similar themes written during the same period have become collectively known as the "Waverley Novels".


  • Plot 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Summary 1.2
  • Characters 2
  • Themes and motifs 3
    • Tolerance 3.1
    • Heroines 3.2
    • Humour 3.3
    • Fear of civil war 3.4
    • Quixotism 3.5
  • Reception 4
    • 19th century 4.1
    • 20th century 4.2
  • Namesakes 5
  • Miscellany 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8



It is the time of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 which sought to restore the Stuart dynasty in the person of Charles Edward Stuart, known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie". A young English dreamer and soldier, Edward Waverley, is sent to Scotland that year. He journeys north from his aristocratic family home, Waverley-Honour, in the south of England, first to the Scottish Lowlands and the home of family friend Baron Bradwardine, then into the Highlands and the heart of the rebellion and its aftermath.


Edward has been brought up in the family home by his uncle, Sir Everard Waverley, who maintains the family Tory and Jacobite sympathies, while Edward's Whig father works for the Hanoverian government in nearby London. Edward is given a commission in the Hanoverian army and posted to Dundee, then promptly takes leave to visit Baron Bradwardine, a Jacobite friend of his uncle, and meets the Baron's lovely daughter Rose.

When wild Highlanders visit the Baron's castle, Edward is intrigued and goes to the mountain lair of Clan Mac-Ivor, meeting the Chieftain Fergus and his sister Flora, who turn out to be active Jacobites preparing for the insurrection. But Edward has overstayed his leave and is accused of desertion and treason, and then arrested. The highlanders rescue him from his escort and take him to the Jacobite stronghold at Doune castle then on to Holyrood Palace where he meets Bonnie Prince Charlie himself. Encouraged by the beautiful Flora Mac-Ivor, Edward goes over to the Jacobite cause and takes part in the Battle of Prestonpans (September 1745). The battle is recounted in some detail. Undaunted by the light, inaccurate guns, the Highlander army continued its charge; however, the centre became bogged down in marshy terrain, and as they continued forward their different speeds of advance caused them to form into a "V". One of the soldiers who tumbles in the marsh is the Hanoverian Colonel Talbot, whom Waverley picks up on his horse, saving his life. This man turns out to be a close friend of his uncle. When the Jacobite cause fails in 1746, Colonel Talbot intervenes to get Edward a pardon. After attending the trial in Carlisle at which Fergus is condemned, Edward is rejected by the passionate Flora, a representative of the romantic past, and marries the Baron's daughter, the calmer Rose Bradwardine who symbolises a modern rational Scotland in the post-Union settlement.[1]


  • The Clan Mac-Ivor (or MacIvor, M'Ivor)
  • Chieftain Fergus Mac-Ivor
  • Flora Mac-Ivor, sister of Fergus
  • Sir Everard Waverley
  • Edward Waverley, protagonist
  • Baron Bradwardine
  • Rose Bradwardine, daughter of the Baron
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie
  • Davie Gellatley, an 'innocent' or 'fool'

Themes and motifs


Scott's work shows the influence of the 18th-century Enlightenment. He believed every human was basically decent regardless of class, religion, politics, or ancestry. Tolerance is a major theme in his historical works. The Waverley Novels express his belief in the need for social progress that does not reject the traditions of the past. He was the first novelist to portray peasant characters sympathetically and realistically, and was equally just to merchants, soldiers, and even kings.[2] According to L.J. Swingle:

The Romanticist inquiry into the distinctive natures of different things is considered to explain why particular mental orientations or crucial turns of thought in the literature of the period are frequently marked by some kind of "species" identification. Probably the most dramatic example occurs in Frankenstein, when the title character -- after wavering between opposed truth-possibilities in a manner that recalls Scott's Edward Waverley -- finally finds himself (literally) in identification with his own species.[3]


The literary critic Alexander Welsh suggests that Scott exhibits similar preoccupations within his own novels. The heroines of the Waverley series of novels have been divided into two types: the blonde and the brunette, along the lines of fairness and darkness that marks Shakespearean drama, but in a much more moderate form.[4] Welsh writes:

The proper heroine of Scott is a blonde. Her role corresponds to that of the passive hero - whom, indeed, she marries at the end. She is eminently beautiful, and eminently prudent. Like the passive hero, she suffers in the thick of events but seldom moves them. The several dark heroines, no less beautiful, are less restrained from the pressure of their own feelings...They allow their feelings to dictate to their reason, and seem to symbolize passion itself.[4]

This is evident in Waverley. Rose is eminently marriageable; Flora is eminently passionate. However, we should also note that Welsh is, first, establishing a typology which in part is age-old, but also reinforced throughout the Waverley Novels; second, that Scott, or his narrators, allow the female characters thoughts, feelings and passions which are often ignored or unacknowledged by the heroes, such as Waverley.

A different interpretation of character is provided by Merryn Williams.[5] Recognising the passivity of the hero, she argues that Scott's women were thoroughly acceptable to nineteenth-century readers. They are – usually – morally stronger than men, but they do not defy them, and their self-sacrifice "to even the appearance of duty" has no limits. Thus, Flora will defy Waverley but not Fergus to any significant extent, and has some room to manoeuvre, even though limited, only after the latter's death.


The opening five chapters of Waverley are often thought to be dour and uninteresting, an impression in part due to Scott's own comments on them at the end of chapter five. However, John Buchan thought the novel a "riot of fun and eccentricity",[6] seemingly a minority opinion. Scott does, however, attempt to be comic, or at least to follow the conventions of the picaresque novel. The comments on the relay of information via Dyers Weekly Letter, the self-explanatory name of the lawyer, Clippurse, Sir Everard's desire and courting of the youngest sister, Lady Emily, all point in this direction.[7]

Scott uses a common humorous reference to the Old Testament story that David and supporting malcontents took refuge from Saul in a cave near the town of Adullam. When the Jacobite army marches south through the North of England, they are greeted with distrust rather than the anticipated support from English Jacobites or Tories. Eventually a few diehards or desperate individuals do join them, and the Baron of Bradwardine welcomes these recruits while remarking that they closely resemble David's followers at the Cave of Adullam; "videlicet, every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, which the vulgate renders bitter of soul; and doubtless" he said "they will prove mighty men of their hands, and there is much need that they should, for I have seen many a sour look cast upon us."[8]

Fear of civil war

The division in the Waverley family had been caused by the English Civil War of the mid-seventeenth century. Fear of civil war is ever-present in Waverley not just as subject matter or historical reality, but a primal fear as deep in Scott as in Shakespeare as manifested by various allusions throughout the novel and by direct references to Henry V and Henry VI in chapter 71.[7]


Edward Waverley is like Don Quixote in that his worldview is the result of his reading, an unstructured education consisting of much curious, though ill-arranged and miscellaneous information.[9] Although Scott himself notes in his instructions to his readers that:

From the minuteness with which I have traced Waverley's pursuits, and the bias which they unavoidably communicated to his imagination, the reader may perhaps anticipate, in the following tale, an imitation of Cervantes. But he will do my prudence injustice in the supposition. My intention is not to follow the steps of that inimitable author, in describing such total perversion of intellect as misconstrues the objects actually presented to the senses, but that more common aberration from sound judgment, which apprehends occurrences indeed in their reality, but communicates to them a tincture of its own romantic tone and colouring.


19th century

Upon publication, Waverley had an astonishing success. The first edition, consisting of one thousand copies, sold out within two days of publication, and by November the fourth edition was at the presses. The critics were warm in their praise too, particularly Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, who extolled its truth to nature, fidelity to "actual experience", force of characterization, and vivid description. Some reviewers, though, notably John Wilson Croker for the Quarterly Review, expressed reservations about the propriety of mixing history and romance.[10]

Despite Scott's efforts to preserve his anonymity, almost every reviewer guessed that Waverley was his work. Many readers too recognized his hand. One, Jane Austen, wrote: "Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people's mouths.– I do not like him, and do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must".[11]

In Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe, Goethe lauded Waverley as "the best novel by Sir Walter Scott," and he asserted that Scott "has never written anything to surpass, or even equal, that first published novel." He regarded Scott as a genius and as one of the greatest writers of English of his time, along with Lord Byron and Thomas Moore. Discussing Scott's talent as a writer, Goethe stated, "You will find everywhere in Walter Scott a remarkable security and thoroughness in his delineation, which proceeds from his comprehensive knowledge of the real world, obtained by lifelong studies and observations, and a daily discussion of the most important relations."[12]

In 1815, Scott was given the honour of dining with visited Scotland.[13]

20th century

E. M. Forster is renowned as one of Scott's fiercest and unkindest critics.[14] His critique has received fierce opposition from Scott scholars, who believe his attack is a symptom of his ignorance, perhaps of literature, but more certainly of all things Scottish. This hostility reaches academic circles, as is made evident by Alan Massie's lecture The Appeal of Scott to the Practising Novel, the inaugural lecture at the 1991 Scott conference. Defence of Scott subsumes a defence of a national culture against the attacks of Englishness. Others have, however, suggested that this misrepresents Forster's case.[7]

  • Online Edition at eBooks@Adelaide
  • Waverley at Project Gutenberg
  • The Waverley Novels. Old and Sold Antiques Digest. (Originally Published 1912).

External links

  1. ^ "Waverley". Edinburgh University Library. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Sir Walter Scott. Lucidcafe Library.
  3. ^ : 218-2810 The Wordsworth CircleSwingle, L.J. 1979. The Poets, the Novelists, and the English Romantic Situation.
  4. ^ a b Welsh, A. 1993. The Hero of the Waverley Novels. Princeton: Princeton University Press
  5. ^ Williams, M. 1984. Women in the English Novel, 1800-1900. London: Macmillan
  6. ^ Buchan, J. 1933. Sir Walter Scott. London: Cassell
  7. ^ a b c Waverley Hypertext Project
  8. ^ Waverley, chapter lvii, .Encyclopædia BritannicaAdullam. 1911.
  9. ^ 11.1: 45-59.Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of AmericaGaston, P.S. 1991. The Waverley Series and Don Quixote: Manuscripts Found and Lost.
  10. ^ Sir Walter Scott Digital Archive. Edinburgh University Library.
  11. ^ Austen, J. 1814. letter to Anna Austen of 28 September.
  12. ^ Eckermann, Johann Peter. 1836. Conversations with Goethe. New York: M. Walter Dunne, 1901.
  13. ^ a b Prebble, John. The King's Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 'One and Twenty Daft Days'. Birlinn Publishers.  
  14. ^ Forster, E.M. 1941. Aspects of the Novel. London: Edward Arnold
  15. ^ Lukacs, G. 1937. The Historical Novel. Moscow.
  16. ^ "Waverly Place", The Street Book, Henry Moscow.
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ Earl Arnett, Robert J. Brugger, Edward C. Papenfuse. Maryland: A New Guide to the Old Line State. p. 425. 
  19. ^ .On DenotingRussell, B. 1905.
  20. ^ Husband, M. F. A. (1910). Dictionary of the Characters in the Waverley Novels of Sir Walter Scott. London: George Routledge and Sons. p. 101. 
  21. ^ Billings, Robert William (1901). Baronial and ecclesiastical antiquities of Scotland. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p. 189. 


  • Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since. In Three Volumes. Edinburgh: Printed by James Ballantyne and Co. For Archibald Constable and Co. Edinburgh; And Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London, 1814.



  • The character of "Fergus Mac-Ivor" in Waverley was drawn from the flamboyant Chieftain King's visit to Scotland, Glengarry made several dramatic unplanned intrusions on the pageantry.[13]
  • The proposition "Scott is the author of Waverley" is one of the examples whose meaning Bertrand Russell studied in his paper "On Denoting".[19]
  • The character of Davie Gellatley, who is described as "an innocent" or a "fool",[20] is thought to be based on Jamie Fleeman, the Laird of Udny's Fool.[21]


  • Waverley Station in Edinburgh takes its name from the novel, as did the Waverley Line between Edinburgh and Carlisle, and the paddle steamer Waverley. The Scott Monument is near the station.
  • Waverly Place in Greenwich Village, New York City, was named for the novel in 1833, a year after Scott's death, though the name was misspelled.[16]
  • The Waverley Pen made by MacNiven & Cameron of Edinburgh was named after the novel, and was marketed from 1864.[17]
  • The town of Waverley, New Zealand also takes its name from the novel.
  • The town of Waverly, Ohio was named after the novel.
  • Waverley (West Point, Mississippi) was named after the novel.
  • The town of Waverly, Nebraska was named after the novel. Several of the street names also get their name from the novel.
  • Waverly (Marriottsville, Maryland), A 1700s slave plantation in America.[18]
  • Waverley, Sydney New South Wales, Australia Waverley takes its name from a home built near Old South Head Road in 1827 by Barnett Levey (or Levy) (1798–1837). It was named Waverley House, after the title of his favourite book, Waverley, by author Sir Walter Scott. Waverley Municipality was proclaimed in June 1859. The house was a distinctive landmark and gave its name to the surrounding suburb.


marks an important watershed is firmly stated in Lukács' opening sentence, that "The historical novel arose at the beginning of the nineteenth century at about the time of Napoleon's collapse." Waverley, where social realities are described with little attention to diachronic change, and the eruption of history in the lives of communities, as occurs in historical novels. Furthermore, that novel of manners is the first major historical novel of modern times. This is clear from the distinction he draws between the eighteenth-century Waverley Lukács is most adamant in his belief that [15]

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