Waverley (novel)

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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
Pages three volumes originally
Followed by Guy Mannering

Waverley is a 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.

Edward Waverley, an English gentleman of honour, chooses an occupation in the army at the time just before the Jacobite uprising of 1745 on advice of his father. He has an officer's commission. On leave from army training, he visits friends of his family in Scotland, as he is not far from their place. He enjoys their Scottish hospitality. His head is full of the romantic notions of his unstructured education, including much reading, and he is startled to find himself in the midst of rebels who support the return of the Stuart king, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie to his supporters and as the usurper to his foes. His honour is often challenged as others interfere to push him to the rebel side, where he is in battle, and he meets two women with whom he falls in love in turn, until he chooses one. His gentlemanly actions gain him friends in this precarious situation, on both sides of the rebellion, who stand him in good stead when he is at risk from his own government when the rebellion is put down.

The book became so popular that Scott's later novels were published 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". The novel was well-received by contemporary critics, and well-liked by those who purchased novels in the early 19th century. It has continued in favor with later critics.



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.

Plot summary[edit]

Edward is at ease in the family estate owned his uncle, Sir Everard Waverley, who maintains the family's traditional Tory and Jacobite sympathies. He spends time with his parents as well, though less time after his mother dies when he is about 12 or 13 years old. His Whig father works for the Hanoverian government in nearby Westminster. Edward has a sense of his honour, but he starts life with no political affiliation. Edward is given a commission in the Hanoverian army by his father and posted to Dundee. After some military training, he takes leave to visit Baron Bradwardine, a friend of his uncle, and meets the peer's lovely daughter Rose.

Disbanded, Waverly in Highland garb, illustration to 1893 edition, by J Pettie.

When wild Highlanders visit Bradwardine's castle, Edward is intrigued and goes to the mountain lair of the Clan Mac-Ivor, meeting the Chieftain Fergus and his sister Flora, who turn out to be active Jacobites preparing for the insurrection. Edward has overstayed his leave and is accused of desertion and treason, 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, with whom he is charmed.

Encouraged by the beautiful Flora Mac-Ivor, Edward goes over to the Jacobite cause and takes part in the Battle of Prestonpans of September 1745. The battle is recounted in some detail. Undaunted by the light, inaccurate guns, the Highlander army continues its charge; however, the centre becomes bogged down in marshy land, and in driving forward the men's different speeds of advance cause them to form into a "V". One of the soldiers who tumbles into the marsh is the Hanoverian Colonel Talbot, whom Waverley picks up on his horse, saving his life. This man is a close friend of his Waverley uncle. Edward gets separated from Fergus and both their bands in one battle that the government troops were winning. Edward finds local people who take him in until he can leave safely after events are calmer and the snows are gone. He sees a newspaper that informs him that his father has died, so he heads to London.

When the Jacobite cause fails in 1746, Talbot intervenes to get Edward a pardon. Edward visits the decrepit estate of Baron Bradwardine, attacked by soldiers. After making contact with the Baron, he asks for his daughter's hand in marriage, and soon is the established lover of Rose. the Baron is also pardoned. Edward seeks Flora the day before her brother's trial; she plans to join a convent in France. Edward then attends the trial in Carlisle at which Fergus Mac-Ivor is condemned to death, and is with him in the hours before his execution. Edward then returns to his uncle and aunt on the Waverley Honour and begins preparations for their wedding and also to make the legal appearances to assure the pardons of Edward and his future father-in-law. The Talbots restore the Baron's estate, taken from him for his Jacobite activities, and repair it completely, restored to the original appearance with Bradwardine's family crests. The Talbots bought their own estate near Waverley Honour, while the Baron's family estate is restored to his ownership by Edward Waverley, using the funds from selling his late father's home.

Major characters[edit]

  • Sir Everard Waverley, uncle to Edward Waverley and owner of the family estate, Tory
  • Richard Waverley, father of Edward, 10-years-younger brother of Sir Everard, and a Whig who had success in government
  • Edward Waverley, protagonist
  • The Clan Mac-Ivor (or MacIvor, M'Ivor)
  • Chieftain Fergus Mac-Ivor, head of the Clan Mac-Ivor
  • Flora Mac-Ivor, dark-haired sister of Fergus
  • Baron Bradwardine
  • Rose Bradwardine, fair-haired daughter of the Baron
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie
  • Davie Gellatley, an 'innocent' or 'fool'
  • Colonel Talbot, professional soldier, friend of Sir Everard, helper of Edward
  • Lady Emily, wife of Colonel Talbot, once courted by Sir Everard.

Themes and motifs[edit]


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."[1]

According to L J Swingle, discussing the writers of the Romantic period:

This inquiry as to the distinctive natures of different things explains 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[2]


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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.

Yet another view considers Flora to be the woman representing the past, while Rose symbolises a modern rational Scotland in the post-Union settlement.[5]


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][8]

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."[9]

Fear of civil war[edit]

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][8][10]


As Scott describes him, Edward Waverley is like Don Quixote in his manner of educating himself by much reading, but as "an unstructured education", and as Scott says in the novel "consisting of much curious, though ill-arranged and miscellaneous information."[11] Critics of Scott's novels did not see the influence of Cervantes in the same way as Scott describes it.[11] Scott further clarifies the degree of this similarity to Quixote in the novel, 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[edit]

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.[5] The contemporary critics were warm in their praise, particularly Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review ( of which he was the editor), who extolled its truth to nature, fidelity to "actual experience", force of characterization, and vivid description. Some reviewers, notably John Wilson Croker, a 19th century critic for the Quarterly Review, expressed reservations about the propriety of mixing history and romance.[12]

Despite Scott's efforts to preserve his anonymity, almost every reviewer guessed that Waverley was his work. Many readers too recognized his hand. Contemporary author 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".[13]

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."[14]

In 1815, Scott was given the honour of dining with George, Prince Regent, who wanted to meet "the author of Waverley". It is thought that at this meeting Scott persuaded George that as a Stuart prince he could claim to be a Jacobite Highland Chieftain, a claim that would be dramatised when George became King and visited Scotland.[15]

20th century[edit]

E. M. Forster is renowned as one of Scott's fiercest and unkindest critics.[16] 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 Allan 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][8]

Georg Lukács re-established Scott as a serious novelist.[17] Lukács is most adamant in his belief that Waverley is the first major historical novel of modern times. This is clear from the distinction he draws between the eighteenth-century novel of manners, 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 Waverley 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."


  • The Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland was named after the novel.
  • Waverly, Pennsylvania, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, draws its name from the novel by Sir Walter Scott.
  • Waverley Station in Edinburgh takes its name from the novel, as did the streets Waverley Park and Waverley Place, 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.[18]
  • The Waverley Pen made by MacNiven & Cameron of Edinburgh was named after the novel, after the Waverley nib was first made in 1850. The pen was marketed from 1864.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.
  • The neighbouring suburbs of Glen Waverley and Mount Waverley in Melbourne, Australia.
  • The city of Waverly, Iowa was named after the novel.



  1. ^ "Sir Walter Scott, Scottish Novelist and Poet" (PDF). Lucidcafé Library. 17 August 2005. Retrieved 22 June 2018. 
  2. ^ Swingle, L J (1979). "The Poets, the Novelists, and the English Romantic Situation". The Wordsworth Circle. 10: 218–28. 
  3. ^ a b Welsh, A. 1993. The Hero of the Waverley Novels. Princeton: Princeton University Press
  4. ^ Williams, M. 1984. Women in the English Novel, 1800-1900. London: Macmillan
  5. ^ a b "Walter Scott: Waverley". Edinburgh University Library. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Buchan, J. 1933. Sir Walter Scott. London: Cassell
  7. ^ a b c Waverley Hypertext Project[dead link]
  8. ^ a b c Curbet, Joan (1999). "Andrew MONNICKENDAM.The Waverley hypertext homepage". Reviews. Links & Letters. pp. 143–145. Retrieved 23 June 2018. 
  9. ^ Waverley, chapter lvii, cite in: Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Adullam". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 218. 
  10. ^ Monnickendam, Andrew (1998). A Hypertextual Approach to Walter Scott's Waverley. Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona. ISBN 978-8449011955. 
  11. ^ a b Gaston, Patricia S (1991). "The Waverley Series and Don Quixote: Manuscripts Found and Lost". Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America. 11 (1): 45–59. 
  12. ^ "Scott the Novelist: Waverley". Edinburgh University Library. 23 January 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2018. 
  13. ^ Austen, Jane (28 September 1814). "Letter to Anna Austen from Jane Austen". Retrieved 23 June 2018. 
  14. ^ Eckermann, Johann Peter (1901) [1836]. Conversations with Goethe. New York: M Walter Dunne. 
  15. ^ a b Prebble, John (2000). The King's Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 'One and Twenty Daft Days'. Birlinn Publishers. ISBN 1-84158-068-6. 
  16. ^ Forster, E.M. 1941. Aspects of the Novel. London: Edward Arnold
  17. ^ Lukacs, G. 1937. The Historical Novel. Moscow.
  18. ^ "Waverly Place", The Street Book, Henry Moscow.
  19. ^ "The Waverly Pen by MacNiven and Cameron". Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History. Retrieved 22 June 2018. 
  20. ^ Earl Arnett; Robert J. Brugger; Edward C. Papenfuse. Maryland: A New Guide to the Old Line State. p. 425. 
  21. ^ Russell, B. 1905. On Denoting.
  22. ^ Husband, M. F. A. (1910). Dictionary of the Characters in the Waverley Novels of Sir Walter Scott. London: George Routledge and Sons. p. 101. 
  23. ^ Billings, Robert William (1901). Baronial and ecclesiastical antiquities of Scotland. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p. 189. 

Original volumes[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]