Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, Sir Walter Scott
Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since Sir Walter Scott
The following entry presents criticism of Scott's novel Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since (1814). See also, Ivanhoe Criticism.
Generally regarded as the first historical novel, Walter Scott's Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since concerns a young Englishman who travels to Scotland and becomes caught up in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Published anonymously in 1814, the work spawned a vogue in historical fiction that not only elevated the novel to a status equal to that of poetry, but also helped shape the way history has been written and understood by subsequent generations. In addition, its unprecedented success prompted Scott to write more than two dozen novels in a similar vein—commonly designated the Waverley Novels—which describe the lives of ordinary individuals who become involved in great historical events and present in lavish detail the speech, manners, and customs of past ages. In Waverley, this past record focuses on the declining feudal culture of the Scottish Highlands prior to Scotland's absorption into Great Britain.
Plot and Major Characters
After informing his readers of those things that Waverley is not, including a tale of sentiment or Gothic horror, Scott goes on to explain how his young hero, Edward Waverley, was left in the care of his uncle, the chivalrous Sir Everard, at the ancestral home of Waverley-Honour, while his opportunistic father busied himself with schemes for accumulating wealth and power in London. Growing up with Everard, Edward receives a haphazard education, preferring instead to indulge his imagination in romantic tales. When the time comes to decide on a profession, Edward chooses the military, quickly rising to the rank of captain in the English dragoons. Assigned to a post in Scotland, Edward visits the village of Tully-Veolan and the nearby manor house belonging to the Baron of Bradwardine. He makes the acquaintance of the somewhat pedantic but hospitable Baron and his daughter, Rose. The Baron introduces Edward to the Mac-Ivors, a highland clan headed by Fergus Mac-Ivor. An ambitious and determined supporter of Jacobism, Fergus wants to see the current Hanoverian king of England, George II, overthrown and the exiled Stuart line restored to power. Later, Edward also meets Flora Mac-Ivor, Fergus's younger sister, and immediately falls in love with her, though pressing political matters hinder the romance. Caught up in the Jacobite cause by his association with the Mac-Ivors, Edward joins the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the pretender to the throne. Charles has only recently returned from France and mustered a force of sympathetic Highland warriors, whom he intends to lead to London. Meanwhile, visiting the village of Cairnvreckan, Edward is suspected of his involvement with the conspiracy and is arrested. After being interrogated by an English major named Melville, Edward is subsequently rescued by a small group of Highlanders. Soon the army of Prince Charles begins preparations to meet the English forces. The battle occurs at Prestonpans and ends in Jacobite victory. During the conflict Edward saves an English officer from the blow of a Scottish axe. Taken prisoner, the officer reveals himself as Colonel Talbot, a friend of Edward's uncle. An excellent soldier, thoroughgoing realist, and ardent supporter of England, Talbot assures Edward that the rebellion will be quashed. Nevertheless, Prince Charles has taken the city of Edinburgh and installed himself at Holyrood Palace—although Edinburgh Castle, held by forces loyal to King George, proves impenetrable. Lifting their siege of the castle, the Jacobite army marches into England and toward London. Charles and his Highlanders advance as far south as Derby before they are forced to retreat back to Scotland as the tide of the rebellion shifts. In an ensuing skirmish near the town of Clifton, the English capture Fergus Mac-Ivor and Edward is separated from his allies. By the time he rejoins the army back in Edinburgh, Edward learns that the rebellion is exhausted and Prince Charles's forces have been handed a final defeat at Culloden. In the aftermath, Fergus is tried and sentenced to execution for treason. An offer by the Highlanders to exchange the lives of a number of their men for that of their chieftain is regarded with disbelief by the English, and Fergus is sent to the gallows. The Baron of Bradwardine, though a Jacobite sympathizer, receives the King's pardon and survives with his life. Later he is able to buy back his confiscated manor, and Edward becomes engaged to the Baron's daughter Rose.
Much of the interest in Waverley focuses on its hero Edward Waverley, whose romantic imagination colors the work, though his illusions are consistently undercut by the situational ironies of Scott's narrative. The sweep of the novel is frequently interpreted as a progress from Edward's fascination with the romanticism of Highland culture to his inevitable disillusionment as the Jacobite rebellion turns from a stimulating adventure into a bloody and ultimately disappointing reality. Edward is naïve, and Fergus uses his infatuation with the beautiful Flora, an emblem of the mythic allure of the Highlands, to initiate Edward into the Jacobite cause. During the course of the novel, Edward's youthful enthusiasm for the rebellion is tempered by the events he witnesses. Likewise, his love for the ethereal Flora gives way to a more practical and sensible attraction to Rose Bradwardine. Overall, the thematic texture of Waverley is generally viewed as a struggle between romance and history, culminating in Edward's rejection of his early imaginative illusions as he comes to accept the harsh realities of life. A parallel movement occurs in the novel's historical plot, as the noble but anachronistic ideals of the Scottish Highlanders yield to modern actualities, represented by the English, and particularly voiced by the pragmatic Colonel Talbot. The novel also illustrates what many critics see as Scott's theory of history, in which the gradual but inevitable process of historical change guides the lives of ordinary individuals who are unable to alter its path, while the motivations of human nature—whether noble or wicked—remain unchanged.
Waverley proved a popular sensation when first published and quickly became the most successful work of its kind ever to appear. Contemporary critical reaction, though also positive, did cite certain deficiencies in the work, including careless construction and prolixity. Yet most early reviewers quickly acknowledged the strengths of the novel, noting its originality, vivid portrayal of history, and lively characters. Like most of Scott's novels, Waverley has fallen out of favor, although it continues to attract the attention of scholars interested in the view of history it offers. Such studies have been greatly influenced by the criticism of Georg Lukács in The Historical Novel. In this work, Lukàcs examined Scott as a dialectical historian, claiming that he “endeavors to portray the struggles and antagonisms of history by means of characters who, in their psychology and destiny, always represent social trends and historical forces.” Numerous critics have taken up Lukàcs's idea and applied this thinking to Edward Waverley as he represents a significant moment of cultural transition in Scottish and English history. Such analyses have demonstrated Waverley's enormous impact as the prototypical English historical novel, and its status as a pivotal work of nineteenth-century European literature.
The Eve of Saint John (poetry) 1800
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. 3 vols. [editor and contributor] (poetry) 1802-03
The Lay of the Last Minstrel (poetry) 1805
Ballads and Lyrical Pieces (poetry) 1807
Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field (poetry) 1808
The Lady of the Lake (poetry) 1810
The Vision of Don Roderick (poetry) 1811
The Bridal of Triermain; or, the Vale of St. John (poetry) 1813
Rokeby (poetry) 1813
Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since (novel) 1814
The Field of Waterloo (poetry) 1815
Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer (novel) 1815
The Lord of the Isles (poetry) 1815
The Antiquary (novel) 1816
*The Black Dwarf (novel) 1816
*Old Mortality (novel) 1816
Harold the Dauntless (poetry) 1817
*The Heart of Midlothian (novel) 1818
Rob Roy (novel) 1818
*The Bride of Lammermoor (novel) 1819
*The Legend of Montrose (novel) 1819
The Abbot (novel) 1820
Ivanhoe (novel) 1820
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SOURCE: Gordon, Robert C. “Waverley.” In Under Which King? A Study of the Scottish Waverley Novels, pp. 11-25. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1969.
[In the following excerpt, Gordon evaluates Waverley as a historical/political novel, focusing on its Jacobite theme and Scott's presentation of character.]
“… the contest between the loyalists and their opponents can never be obsolete …”
The incorporating Union that brought England and Scotland under one government in 1707 was, paradoxically, both a typical example of eighteenth-century political jobbery and a gesture of political faith—a premature ratification of things hoped for, if not seen.1 It could only acquire validity when Scotland began to profit as a partner in British commercial, political, and intellectual life. Otherwise Scotland risked becoming what Scott sometimes feared it would become—“a very dangerous North British neighbourhood.”2
For a long time after the passage of the Union there were few visible benefits to the Scots. They had, it seems, lost their independence for nothing, and when in 1736 the Crown pardoned the unpopular Captain Porteous of the Edinburgh City Guard, a man whose unruly authoritarianism had made him a symbol of London's oppression of Scotland, the Edinburgh...
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SOURCE: Raleigh, John Henry. “Waverley as History; or, 'Tis One Hundred and Fifty-Six Years Since.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 4, no. 1 (fall 1970): 14-29.
[In the following essay, Raleigh depicts Waverley as a realistic novel written in the satirical mode of the eighteenth century but also concerned with the progress of history and featuring a proto-modern hero.]
It was as history that Waverley and the Waverleys made their great impact, and it is history that they are really about. And like history itself the appeal was and is multifarious and many-layered. What appealed to the nineteenth century was Scott's concrete reconstruction of the past, the “what” of history. This was not only a question of the feelings of patriotic Scotchmen and nostalgic Englishmen but of the most serious and profound European minds brooding on the rapidly disappearing past and the rapidly expanding future and the enigmas of man's history. Not only French historians, like Thierry, but sociologists of the future, like Tocqueville. Thus Tocqueville in England:
This picture of Gothic feudalism in decay appears to have struck a rare romantic chord in Tocqueville, or at least awakened some ambition of youth. He traveled northward to see the castle of Warwick and rode one night amid the ruins of Kenilworth. In a vibrant letter he shared the experience with his...
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SOURCE: Hennelly, Mark M. “Waverley and Romanticism.” Nineteenth Century Fiction 28, no. 2 (September 1973): 194-209.
[In the following essay, Hennelly analyzes Waverley as a romantic novel characterized by Scott's extensive use of myth, dialectic, and romance elements in the narrative.]
Since Morse Peckham's now classic article, “Toward a Theory of Romanticism,”1 published in 1951, Romanticism has been picked to the bone by critical dissection and each of its parts labeled and catalogued. It is now time, I think, to reassemble and enflesh the skeleton by the close scrutiny of a single work that embodies those three elements of Romantic vision and methodology which have most prompted recent scholarly investigation, that is, the Romance, myth, and dialectic. Although there is obvious critical overlapping here since any perceptive student of the movement must adopt a somewhat holistic approach, still the respective work of Harold Bloom, Northrop Frye, and Albert Gérard most representatively isolates these problems.2 In his lengthy paper on “The Romantic Myth” Frye comes closest to the needed synthesis; but his provocative overview must yet be grounded in a detailed study of one example, which can subsequently act as a basis for the identification of common epistemological strains in Romantic poetry and prose fiction. This, as I see it, is one...
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SOURCE: Sroka, Kenneth M. “Education in Walter Scott's Waverley.” Studies in Scottish Literature 15 (1980): 139-64.
[In the following essay, Sroka argues that the theme of education is central to Waverley, especially as it pertains to the tension between reality and imagination in the novel.]
Early in the third chapter of Waverley (titled “Education”), the narrator pauses in his discussion of Edward Waverley's formal education to speak at length about the danger of excessively
rendering instruction agreeable to youth … an age in which children are taught the driest doctrines by the insinuating method of instructive games, has little reason to dread the consequences of study being rendered too serious or severe. The history of England is now reduced to a game at cards,—the problems of mathematics to puzzles and riddles,—and the doctrines of arithmetic may, we are assured, be sufficiently acquired, by spending a few hours a-week at a new and complicated edition of the Royal Game of the Goose. … It may … be subject of serious consideration, whether those who are accustomed only to acquire instruction through the medium of amusement, may not be brought to reject that which approaches under the aspect of study. …1
The passage has been called “simply irrelevant and distracting,” and...
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SOURCE: Ross, Alexander M. “Waverley and the Picturesque.” In Scott and His Influence: The Papers of the Aberdeen Scott Conference, 1982, edited by J. H. Alexander and David Hewitt, pp. 99-108. Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1983.
[In the following essay, Ross discusses imagery of landscape and character in Waverley, concentrating on Scott's use of picturesque theory and conventions in structuring his novel.]
‘From the splendid yet useless imagery and emblems with which his imagination was stored’, Edward Waverley conjured up, says Scott, ‘visions as brilliant and as fading as those of an evening sky’ (Waverley, Ch. 4). In this paper I intend to examine the nature of some of the imagery that appealed to Edward Waverley. I shall argue that, far from being useless, it is really very serviceable, especially that representation of landscape and character which can be thought of as picturesque. Notably it serves as a catalyst to stir the hero to a course of action and as a convenience to help the reader visualize the fictional world. Of course, one may argue that to Edward Waverley this imagery was really valueless because it misled him. But then, in Edward's ‘aberration from sound judgment’ (Ch. 5), we have the core of the novel.
Sir Walter Scott's own close acquaintance with the theory and practice of the picturesque is well...
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SOURCE: Valente, Joseph. “Upon the Braes: History and Hermeneutics in Waverley.” Studies in Romanticism 25, no. 2 (summer 1986): 251-76.
[In the following essay, Valente probes Scott's conception of history in Waverley, emphasizing the symbolic and thematic dialectic of romance and history illustrated by opposing characters and geographical locations in the novel.]
Scott's vision of history has become something of a critical chestnut: theses on it have passed through numerous restatements, and disputes have been thoroughly recycled. The same questions Lukacs and even Coleridge thought central are felt to be so today. As a result, the historiographical approaches to a text like Waverley,1 a locus classicus of the discussion, remain relatively homogeneous. The subject has not, however, reached the point of saturation. Adjusting our perspective will, I believe, open a new and various exchange.
The historical project in Waverley has been approached previously from two directions, the first concerned with Scott's representation of his age and its political import,2 the second with his historiography, specifically the relative importance of the uniformitarian model of the Enlightenment versus the incipient historicism of the romantic period.3 Both focus on history as an objective reality, whether local and empirical or...
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SOURCE: Smith, Louise Z. “Dialectic, Rhetoric, and Anthropology in Scott's Waverley.” Studies in Scottish Literature 21 (1986): 43-52.
[In the following essay, Smith contends that Scott synthesized the modern historical novel in Waverley by grafting “dialectical rhetoric” and “anthropological historicism” to the existing elements of eighteenth-century fiction.]
'Tis forty-eight years since Georg Lukács invented in The Historical Novel (1937) the definition of historical fiction for modern readers. Scott invented the “entirely new”1 historical novel, Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since (1814) for Lukács. But who invented it for Scott? And what is the nature of his invention? I think Scott's invention combined the elements familiar in eighteenth-century fiction with two closely related, newer elements: dialectical rhetoric and anthropological historicism. Dialectical rhetoric presents the narrator's shifting vision—sometimes sympathetic, sometimes objective—of the past. This dual vision presents anthropological details—of language, genealogy, ceremony, legend, and local association—both as facts of life in the on-going past and as artifacts revealing the past in the present. These anthropological details link the hero's personal development with historical change.
Dialectical rhetoric shows us two simultaneous views of the...
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SOURCE: Ferris, Ina. “Re-Positioning the Novel: Waverley and the Gender of Fiction.” Studies in Romanticism 28, no. 2 (summer 1989): 291-301.
[In the following essay, Ferris observes that the publication of Waverley in 1814 prompted a critical reevaluation of the novel by associating the genre with seriousness, rationality, and the accurate depiction of history and culture.]
When Henry Brougham reviewed The History of the Maroons in the Edinburgh Review in 1803, he emphasized its incompetence as a history by linking it generically to the novel: “The style is thoroughly wretched, and the composition is precisely that of a novel.”1 Writing in the same review a quarter of a century later, Thomas Babington Macaulay also linked the genres of history and the novel—but to a very different end. Contemporary historians, Macaulay declares in a well-known passage, would do well to look to the novels of Sir Walter Scott, which deploy “those fragments of truth which historians have scornfully thrown behind them, in a manner which may well excite their envy.”2 The difference underlines the degree to which by 1828 Macaulay no longer works within the same hierarchy of genres that allowed Brougham in 1803 to assume his readers' automatic reception of the word “novel” as the sign of a worthless writing removed from all standards of truth or literary...
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SOURCE: Oberhelman, David. “Waverley, Genealogy, History: Scott's Romance of Fathers and Sons.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 15, no. 1 (1991): 29-47.
[In the following essay, Oberhelman reorients the debate concerning Scott's historicism in Waverley from a dialectic of history and romance to a thematic opposition of genealogy and teleological history.]
As the first English “historical novel,” Walter Scott's Waverley introduces a set of complicated genre distinctions that affect his entire corpus. “History” and “romance,” the two terms Scott problematizes in his presentation throughout the Waverley Chronicles, become the focal points in a critical polemic revolving around his general claim to “historicism”—to a coherent theory of history manifested in his novels.1 Indeed, the abrupt shift from one of those generic terms to the other in the third volume of Waverley, “the romance of his life was ended, and … its real history had now commenced,”2 does not simplify the task of classification. Faced with such a dilemma, the critic of Scott must attempt to sort out the differences between genres operative in the Waverley Novels and in Scott's criticism before undertaking any consideration of Waverley itself (and its position between “history” and “romance”). Following such an analysis, then, the generic polarities of...
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SOURCE: Orr, Marilyn. “Real and Narrative Time: Waverley and the Education of Memory.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 31, no. 4 (autumn 1991): 715-34.
[In the following essay, Orr examines Scott's representation of time, imagination, history, and memory in Waverley.]
Beginning in Waverley, Scott the novelist sets himself “the task of tracing the evanescent manners” of the traditional culture of Scotland, for “there is no European nation which, within the course of half a century or little more, has undergone so complete a change as the little kingdom of Scotland.”1 Conscious of the completeness of this change, he writes in order to make readers “aware of the progress we have made” but also of the loss that this progress has entailed; and his novel is meant to help focus this change for the “we” who “fix our eye on the now distant point from which we have been drifted” (W, 72:364).2 Scott does not try simply to memorialize the difference of the ancient culture or figuratively to bring this “distant point” closer by enhancing the affinities between past and present. Instead “the Author of Waverley” compels his hero and challenges his readers to become active in the process by which “we have been drifted”—passive, despite our progress—by the movement of time. As the first of what will become his exemplary...
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SOURCE: Lamont, Claire. “Waverley and the Battle of Culloden.” Essays and Studies 44 (1991): 14-26.
[In the following essay, Lamont investigates thematic inconsistencies between the romantic and historical plots of Waverley, considering Scott's motive for intentionally relegating to the background the devastating defeat of the Jacobite army at Culloden.]
Walter Scott's first novel, Waverley, is set in the years 1744-46 and deals with the rising on behalf of the Jacobite claimant to the throne of George II known as ‘the '45’. The decisive battle of those years was that at Culloden in April 1746 where the Jacobites were finally defeated.1 A battle is presented in Waverley; but it is not Culloden. The battle that occurs in the novel is that fought at Prestonpans in September 1745, which was a Jacobite victory. Culloden is conspicuously absent. My purpose in what follows is to ask what is the consequence for our reading of Waverley of the subordination of the battle of Culloden?
Waverley was published in 1814 in three volumes. The first volume ends with chapters in which the young English hero, Edward Waverley, is introduced to the traditional and Jacobite culture of the Scottish Highlands in the household of the clan chieftain Fergus Mac-Ivor. The second volume ends with chapters describing the battle of Prestonpans in which...
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SOURCE: Hamilton, Paul. “Waverley: Scott's Romantic Narrative and Revolutionary Historiography.” Studies in Romanticism 33, no. 4 (winter 1994): 611-34.
[In the following essay, Hamilton assesses Scott's writing in Waverley as historicist, while illuminating Scott's ironic treatment of romanticism and his philosophical distance from revolutionary ideology in the work.]
More than most romantic novels, Scott's inaugural Waverley places itself within the contemporary scene of writing, reviewing its own possibilities quite openly—Gothic tale, Germanic romance, sentimental or fashionable upper-class yarn—and self-consciously pondering the problem of recovering a universal subject-matter in front of a modern audience sensitive to contemporary generic options. Like Friedrich Schlegel, Scott characterizes his audience as “this critical generation.” Like Wordsworth, he wishes to restore an understanding of “the human heart” through a historically colored reading of “the great book of nature, the same through a thousand editions” (5). Cervantes and Calderon, favorites of the romantic ironists, provide him with a background of larger, fashionable models of novelistic understanding. During his Jacobite experiences, Edward Waverley frequently feels that la vida es suena, a dream from which he awakes like Coleridge's Wedding Guest, “A sadder and a wiser man” (170,...
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SOURCE: Makdisi, Saree. “Colonial Space and the Colonization of Time in Scott's Waverley.” Studies in Romanticism 34, no. 2 (summer 1995): 155-87.
[In the following essay, Makdisi explores the mythic geography of the Scottish Highlands in Waverley and the related temporal and spatial conflicts between England and this imagined Scotland. The critic closes by suggesting that Scott's novel contains an implied justification of Highland subjugation by the British.]
It would be only a small exaggeration, I think, to say that the images that many of us associate with the Scottish Highlands have their origins in Walter Scott's first novel, Waverley. Scott started writing Waverley in 1805, though he dropped it for several years and only completed it in 1814. The novel, which is set mostly in Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, not only presented to its nineteenth-century readers a romanticized view of the Jacobite rebels and their leader, Bonnie Prince Charlie; it offered, virtually for the first time, an altogether new series of images and representations of the Scottish Highlands. Beginning with Waverley, in other words, Sir Walter Scott's image of the Highlands has in cultural terms virtually taken over from and supplanted “the real thing,” by which I mean something stronger than that Scott's representation has...
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SOURCE: Schmidgen, Wolfram. “Picturing Property: Waverley and the Common Law.” Studies in the Novel 29, no. 2 (summer 1997): 191-213.
[In the following essay, Schmidgen studies the theme of property in Waverley, particularly as it relates to the legitimatization of Scotland's absorption by Great Britain.]
In Sir Walter Scott's Waverley (1814), landed property functions as a register of political and cultural change. A number of critics have emphasized property's importance for Waverley. Ian Duncan, for example, persuasively argues that the Bradwardine estate is the “true secret place” of Scott's novel, a point of crystallization for its meaning. His claim, however, that Waverley's transformation of the Bradwardine property culminates in the “recovery” of some earlier state is inaccurate. Like other critics who have emphasized property, Duncan fails to recognize that, under the guise of recovery and continuity, the transformed Bradwardine estate articulates a fundamental break with the past.1
The present essay seeks to identify the cultural and political meaning of this break. I will argue that the transformation of the Bradwardine estate in Scott's novel symbolizes Scotland's incorporation into Great Britain. My analysis will be guided by an examination of the different concepts of property in the English and Scottish legal...
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Sutherland, John. “Abbotsford and Waverley (1811-1814).” In The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography, pp. 154-75. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995.
Describes Scott's delayed writing of Waverley and the novel's relationship to the political atmosphere of Europe in 1814.
Beiderwell, Bruce. “The Lesson of Waverley.” In Power and Punishment in Scott's Novels, pp. 11-27. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
Concentrates on the theme of social justice and issues raised concerning capital punishment in Waverley.
Bevan, Ernest, Jr. “Waverley and the Forms of Temporal Perception.” Massachusetts Studies in English 5, no. 4 (1978): 11-17.
Describes Scott's manipulation of time through his representation of personal, familial, political, and historical pasts in Waverley.
Brown, David. “Waverley.” In Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination, pp. 6-30. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.
Notes the unity of Waverley produced through Scott's skillful linking of the novel's dual plots—the private history of Edward Waverley's life and the political history of the failed 1745 Jacobite rebellion in Scotland.
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