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Inspiration of Scott’s Waverley
Two problems with sources for this question.
- A source is cited for the statement that the connection is claimed on a sign at the site entrance; this is http://www.waverley.gov.uk/abbey/wav_abbey.htm but that is a "page not found" today (2013-01-04)
- The next sentence asserts "this is probably not the case" but does not discuss it except to say Scott "chose to adopt the name" and gives no source at all for the assertion.
The section rather disappointingly called Miscellany in the article Waverley (novel) mentions several places and things named after the novel but there seems no mention of what the character who gives his surname to the novel is named after apart from saying "He journeys north from his aristocratic family home, Waverley-Honour, in the south of England".
The modern administrative district of Waverley is named after the (long since ruined) Abbey and it is in west Surrey so definitely in "the south of England". So what grounds are there for asserting that the Abbey ruins being the inspiration for Scott so naming this character and his fictional home is "probably not the case"?
The sentence after the one above enlarges on it and has a reference to the abbey page of a website called Astoft. A statement there can serve as a source for the first statement above (about the sign at the entry to the ruins) and it proceeds to state that the sign is "quite misleading" and quoting from Scott's remarks "at the beginning of Waverley".
However, Scott was quite possibly being disingenuous in his quoted denial. That is to say, if we have the word "Waverley", which the novelist asserts he conjured out of nowhere, and yet we have a place with that same exact name "in the south of England" where there was an abbey, long since in ruins but after which is still named an entire administrative district of modern 21st century England, in south west Surrey and containing in its boundaries those abbey ruins, so that the ruins and the place surrounding them have been known as Waverley for many centuries, can we really believe that this novelist had never come across the name “Waverley” and that he made the name up out of his head? I don't think so.
Let me just clarify: it depends on what you take to be the meaning of "inspiration". I claim that Scott got the name — the word — for his "family home in the south of England" from Waverley the locality named after the abbey that is the subject of this Wikipedia article; I say this because it is too improbable to assert that he made the name up yet got it pronounced and spelled identically to a place he had never heard of. I do not claim that at any point Scott stood in the field by these famous ruins and shut his eyes and the plot for his first novel of the famously long series sprang into his head fully formed as a result of his visiting these ruins; maybe it is this latter notion that people deny when they say the abbey ruins are not the inspiration for the novel.
But I say this: the sheer fact of the word Waverley, its spelling, its use as the name both of a house and of a family "in the south of England" in a novel, says clearly to me that any claim of this being a coincidence, that Scott did not in fact get the word by which that first novel was named from this real place is at best disingenuous on Scott's part. He was a salesman as well as a novelist; he wanted to sell this novel in huge numbers and thus to avoid any possibility of the title and contents suggesting any more than the word might appear to promise (quotation at Astoft site). This is what he says in those remarks at the beginning of that novel. I find it too unlikely that he made up this name for something that was in fiction exactly what this place is in fact.
Not necessarily the Abbey, but the ruins being the source of the name of the district and also of Waverley Abbey House, built in 1723 set in well landscaped grounds, which could obviously be the prototype of a fine country house "in the south of England" that is the family seat of a young man who goes north like the title character in the novel. End of (= "conclusive"), surely.
- I am not entirely sure what your argument is, but certainly the Waverley novels were not influenced or inspired by Waverley Abbey. As I recall, the information sign at Waverley Abbey states that Waverley was inspired by the Annals of Waverley rather then the abbey itself, but I don't think there is anything to support this assertion either. Scott himself stated: "I have, therefore, like a maiden knight with his white shield, assumed for my hero, Waverley, an uncontaminated name, bearing with its sound little of good or evil, excepting what the reader shall hereafter be pleased to affix to it." BabelStone (talk) 18:57, 4 January 2013 (UTC)
If you still are "not sure what my argument is" after carefully reading what I wrote above, I will try again.
- You cannot base your counterargument on what Scott "stated" (wrote). He was writing as a salesman for his own first novel of what became a very successful series. He might well deny any connection with or knowledge of the district called Waverley; that does not prove anything. He was trying to maximize future sales of the book. You quote him as though all novelists then or now are utterly honest when it comes to selling their books. Nowadays I dare say most novelists are utterly honest but there are a few who do such things as posting fulsome praise of their own books under assumed names on a website forum here or there. Back then, in a wild and primitive publishing world, I would not put anything past a man seeking to make his fortune by writing novels and selling great numbers of copies of them. For Scott, it clearly worked. But in fact he does not say he made up the name; he merely waffles about reader expectations and is clearly talking about having avoided choosing to borrow the surname of any actual (well known or not) historical family for his purely fictional story.
- If you claim Scott did not get the name "Waverley" from the district and the abbey ruins of that name near Farnham in Surrey, you must contend that he made the name up out of thin air and that it just happened, by pure chance, to be identical to these. Given that the name of the novel is the surname of a family in the story, and is also the name of their family seat "somewhere in the south of England", this was an incredibly lucky (or unlucky depending on viewpoint) chance if he really did dream up the word "Waverley" out of this air. I find it unlikely. I say with great confidence, perhaps 98%, that he had heard of the place in Surrey and just used it. As I say, the claim about "influenced or inspired" depends on what you mean by those. I am talking about where he got the name from, and I am confident he had heard the name. I can expand that claim to Waverley being a place in the south of England that has existed with that name since the 12th century, where even before the country house present in Scott's lifetime (built around 1724) also with the name Waverley there could have been a family seat for centuries past, going back to the era in which the novel is set.
- The importance of the abbey ruins in this question is this: in the 12th century record keeping was not what it later became, that is quuite good. But (witness the usage of the words cleric and clerk) many more priests and monks were among the literate than were ordinary people, so records were better kept. We have the date of the founding of the abbey. We also know of the destruction under Henry VIII. Now go back to the abbey's founding. Why was it called Waverley Abbey? Was this a religious name brought from elsewhere? Or was it the name of the place where the abbey was built? We are told that the modern district was named after the ruined abbey; but what was that abbey named after when they built it there nearly 900 years ago? This article Waverley Abbey does not actually say. It does say it was built "in a bend of the River Wey". Maybe the word Waverley is a Saxon (old English) reference to a meadow at a bend in that river. And thus, maybe, the locality was already called Waverley — or at least the 12th century version of that word — at the moment when the monks first arrived. Without evidence to the contrary this is possible. It is also possible that there was a manor house of some sort of a local aristocrat or "lord of the manor" back then, in other words well before the building of Waverley Manor. (Note: quite incidentally, there are evidently many buildings or organizations across the world called "Waverley Manor" ranging from London to Canada and South Africa.) Even if before the 18th century house the buildings were of relatively ephemeral construction or were, simply, completely demolished to make room for their successors, the known date of the founding of the abbey would give Walter Scott a basis for a surmise that there had been a place called Waverley where there could have been a manor house of a notable family as far back as the 12th century, which would have been what he wanted --- perhaps before he decided to write his supposed denial that he got the name from anywhere. In fact I do not read his denial as being of that; what he is doing is explaining why he did not choose as the surname of his protagonist any known name of a historical figure whose existence and exploits are known about from history. In my view, that is all Scott is doing. The existence of the Abbey and the notability of its name as far back as 1129 or so was all he needed in order for it to be a suitable choice. As I say, I am satisfied that this is where he got the name, if nothing else: the name itself, the word and its current spelling, were all he needed.
Waverley Abbey House
Recent additions and changes to this article have introduced confusion between Waverley Abbey and Waverley Abbey House; the former is the Cistercian abbey ruins whilst the latter (shown incorrectly as Waverley Manor in the photo caption) is the nearby 1723 built country house which incorporated materials from the old abbey. The two are separated by the lake (not the River Wey as stated in the caption). I will try to find time to clarify the article but, if anyone else is able to do so in quicker time, that would be very welcome. Weydonian (talk) 11:07, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
- Those don't appear to be recent changes, but have been there for years. Anyhow, I agree with you, and have removed the picture of Waverley Abbey House and the section discussing the 19th century ownership of Waverley Abbey House as they are not relevant to this article. BabelStone (talk) 12:41, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
- I disagree about it being relevant. A very large proportion of the old monastic estates were converted for domestic use following the dissolution; when we look at the articles for other monasteries they universally talk about what happened to the estate following the dissolution. After all that is actually the greater part of the history- Waverley has spent longer in ruins than it did as a functioning monastery. Some houses are notable or have enough to write about to deserve their own article (eg. Longleat Priory and Longleat House), others include it into one article (eg. Revesby Abbey); with clear definition between the monastic and domestic establishments.
- The history doesn't "end" at the dissolution .