Waverley; Or 'Tis Sixty Years Since — Complete eBook: Page2

Walter Scott (2004)


  IT has been the occasional occupation of the Author of Waverley, forseveral years past, to revise and correct the voluminous series ofNovels which pass under that name, in order that, if they should everappear as his avowed productions, he might render them in some degreedeserving of a continuance of the public favour with which they havebeen honoured ever since their first appearance. For a long period,however, it seemed likely that the improved and illustrated editionwhich he meditated would be a posthumous publication. But the course ofthe events which occasioned the disclosure of the Author's name having,in a great measure, restored to him a sort of parental control overthese Works, he is naturally induced to give them to the press in acorrected, and, he hopes, an improved form, while life and healthpermit the task of revising and illustrating them. Such being hispurpose, it is necessary to say a few words on the plan of the proposedEdition.

  In stating it to be revised and corrected, it is not to be inferredthat any attempt is made to alter the tenor of the stories, thecharacter of the actors, or the spirit of the dialogue. There is nodoubt ample room for emendation in all these points,--but where thetree falls it must lie. Any attempt to obviate criticism, however just,by altering a work already in the hands of the public is generallyunsuccessful. In the most improbable fiction, the reader still desiressome air of vraisemblance, and does not relish that the incidents of atale familiar to him should be altered to suit the taste of critics, orthe caprice of the Author himself. This process of feeling is sonatural, that it may be observed even in children, who cannot endurethat a nursery story should be repeated to them differently from themanner in which it was first told.

  But without altering, in the slightest degree, either the story or themode of telling it, the Author has taken this opportunity to correcterrors of the press and slips of the pen. That such should exist cannotbe wondered at, when it is considered that the Publishers found ittheir interest to hurry through the press a succession of the earlyeditions of the various Novels, and that the Author had not the usualopportunity of revision. It is hoped that the present edition will befound free from errors of that accidental kind.

  The Author has also ventured to make some emendations of a differentcharacter, which, without being such apparent deviations from theoriginal stories as to disturb the reader's old associations, will, hethinks, add something to the spirit of the dialogue, narrative, ordescription. These consist in occasional pruning where the language isredundant, compression where the style is loose, infusion of vigourwhere it is languid, the exchange of less forcible for more appropriateepithets--slight alterations in short, like the last touches of anartist, which contribute to heighten and finish the picture, though aninexperienced eye can hardly detect in what they consist.

  The General Preface to the new Edition, and the Introductory Notices toeach separate work, will contain an account of such circumstancesattending the first publication of the Novels and Tales as may appearinteresting in themselves, or proper to be communicated to the public.The Author also proposes to publish, on this occasion, the variouslegends, family traditions, or obscure historical facts which haveformed the ground-work of these Novels, and to give some account of theplaces where the scenes are laid, when these are altogether, or inpart, real; as well as a statement of particular incidents founded onfact; together with a more copious Glossary, and Notes explanatory ofthe ancient customs and popular superstitions referred to in theRomances.

  Upon the whole, it is hoped that the Waverley Novels, in their newdress, will not be found to have lost any part of their attractions inconsequence of receiving illustrations by the Author, and undergoinghis careful revision.

  ABBOTSFORD, January, 1829.