The Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, Edinburgh University Press, 2011, 541 p, plus 37 p Essay on the Text, 48 p Emendation list, 2 p list of end-of-line “hard” hyphens, 7 p Historical Note, 72 p Explanatory Notes, 18 p Glossary, i p Foreword, vi p General Introduction to the Edinburgh Edition, and iii p Acknowledgements. One of the Herald’s “100” best Scottish Fiction Books.
See my review of The Heart of Mid-Lothian for the intent behind the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels.
We start in Edinburgh where the titular antiquary, Mr Oldenbuck, known as Oldbuck of Monkbarns, is awaiting the arrival of a coach to take him to South Queensferry to catch the tide there. He makes the acquaintance of a Mr Lovel, also to be travelling on the coach and on to the same final destination, the town of Fairport, near which lies Oldbuck’s estate of Monkbarns. Oldbuck is forever animadverting on the derivations of place names and the like and seeking out antiquarian antecedents for objects – and is often mistaken in his attributions. The usual longueurs and prolixity which beset Scott’s novels are again present, here exacerbated by the novel taking a long time to get into its stride. Different plot strands are set off and pursued and these appear at first to be almost occurring at random. Only about two thirds of the way through do the connections between several of the characters become apparent and that in a way which is immediately obvious to the modern reader but may well have been more of a novelty in Scott’s time. As with The Heart of Mid-Lothian the strands are eventually tied together a bit too neatly and in this case perfunctorily.
Scott here rather over-indulges in nominative descriptivism. We have mention of a Dr Dryasdust, the local minister is Mr Blattergowl, the bailiff Mr Cleansweep, Mrs Mailsetter deals with the post, the butcher’s wife is Mrs Heukbane, Mrs Shortcake is married to the baker, and there is a German con-man, Herman Dousterswivel.
Despite its title the book focuses more on the gaberlunzie (i.e. licenced beggar) Edie Ochiltree, than on Oldbuck. We first meet Ochiltree when he contradicts Oldbuck’s views about the presence of remains of a Roman camp on the latter’s estate by saying, “I mind the bigging o’t,” (in other words the structure’s origins lie within living memory) but thereafter he is the active force in many of the scenes. He also speaks in very broad Scots. This surely must have been disconcerting to Scott’s English readers on first publication, but it is of course the marker of his importance to Scottish literature.
Pedant’s corner:- on the inside cover flap; Lovell (the text always has Lovel.) The usual Scott renderings, sprung, sunk, sung, etc as per the Scottish usage of the time but here also run for ran. Similarly we have the usual stupified, but then, surprisingly, stupefaction. In one case a new speaker’s new paragraph is not indented. “‘He had had the pleasure,’ Lovel answered, ‘to see her at Mrs Wilmot’s, in Yorkshire.’” (Since it is Lovel who is speaking – about himself – should that “he” not be “I”? Or else remove the quote marks.) “No. I.,” (Scott’s punctuation?) At least three different spellings of ecstasy (two of them with an x,) invaasion (an explanatory note says this is the spelling in Scott’s manuscript. I can only think this indicates an idiosyncratic pronunciation by Ochiltree.) In the explanatory notes; “(who gave his name both to the Cameronian sect)” (????) Hary (Harry, as in Blind Harry, author of the poem The Wallace,) tansfer (transfer,) marriage marriage (unnecessary repeat of marriage.)