Scott's 'Essay on Romance', first published in the supplement to the 1824 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, is a fascinating document which throws up many suggestions about a) how Scott interpreted his own literary career and b) Scott's views on literary history and the role of fiction, reality and romance. In this space I will set out some of the major conclusions which hopefully will encourage the reader to consider to what extent the ideas developed in this essay are applicable to Waverley.

The opening chapter of the novel discusses what the novel will not be through its description of different genres; this essay begins by stressing the importance of the supernatural and the fantastic elements of Romance, but adds: 
134 It is not meant...that in early ages such narratives were invented, as in modern times, in the character of mere fictions, devised to beguile the leisure of those who have time enough to read and attend to them. On the contrary, Romance and real history have the same common origin. It is the aim of the former to maintain as long as possible the mask of veracity; and indeed the traditional memorials of all earlier ages partake in such a varied and doubtful degree of the qualities essential to those opposite lines of composition, that they form a mixed class between them; and may be termed either romantic histories, or historical romances, according to the proportion in which their truth is debased by fiction, or their fiction mingled with truth.

According to Scott, the modern Romance has degenerated into a form of escapism which has no purpose other than help pass the time. Scott stresses that it is Romance - not real history - which maintains 'the mask of veracity'. It is doubtful whether Scott believed that real history existed other than as an ideal concept which therefore permits the Romance to be firmly rooted in reality, unlike its modern counterpart (I think the repetition is necessary). Consequently, one would assume that Waverley's literary education was faulty because he drifted through literature without acknowledging literature's foundation in the real world. Waverley may thus be seen as an attempt to recover the important role of ancient Romance while simultaneously criticising Scott's own contemporary scene not solely in the explicit opening chapter but through an examination of Waverley's personality up to, I would argue, his meditations at Ullswater in chapter 60. In addition, criticism of the contemporary novel is heightened when he describes the comic Romance: 
143 ...such jocular English narratives as the Wife Lapt in Moril's Skin, The Friar and the Boy, and similar humorous tales: of which the reader will find many examples in Riston's Ancient English Poetry, and in other collections. The scene of these gestes being laid in low, or at least in ordinary life, they approach in their nature more nearly to the class of novels, and may perhaps be considered as the earliest specimens of that kind of composition.

The novel, according to Scott is associated with 'low life' and the comic. This is by no means an original or enlightening statement in itself. It is surely a comment on contemporary novels; it would certainly be a distinguishing factor of the novel as opposed to the historical romance. But it might also remind us that Scott strove to incorporate 'ordinary life', it is difficult to imagine him describing low life in his novels. This is the point made by John Buchan when he refers to the humorous nature of Waverley in his biography of Scott, which I commented very briefly on in the analysis of chapter 2, which is precisely that same argument which proposes that the ordinary folk are the stars of the novels and the heroes basically uninteresting in comparison. One would imagine that Lockhart distrusted modern novels for their fixation on low life and on their championing of the imagination. But we can note that Scott insists that romance requires 'tributes from Imagination'(153-4). Finally, Scott comments, in Jungian terms on the importance of the fantastic: 
176 In fact, the foundation of these fables lieeep in human nature, and the superstructures have been imitated from various authorities by those who, living by the pleasure which their lays of chivalry afforded to their audience, were especially anxious to recommend them by novelty of every kind..


Scott, Walter.The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. vol vi, Edinburgh, Cadell, 1834

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