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Sir Walter Scott's Waverly is the first major historical romance in the English Language,
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This review is from: Waverley (Penguin English Library) (Paperback)
Waverly is the granddaddy of all historical romance novels. It was published anonymously in 1814 in Edinburgh. Its author was Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) the famous poet. Among his many lyrics were "The Lady in The Lake" and
"Marmion." By 1814 his poetic star was fading while that of his rival Lord Byron was ascending into the heavenly realms of literary glory. Scott decided to take up novel writing producing over twenty famous novels.
Waverly is the first in the Waverly novels series. It is notable for many reasons:
1. Scott's book is considered to be the first major English historical novel. Scott sets his book during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie's quest to seize the throne of Great Britain for the Stuart dynasty. His opponent was the Hanover ruler George II (1714-27).
2. Scott wrote of war, adventure and love in a way to attract male readers. He shows us that novels are not to become the sole baliwick of feminine authors such as Jane Austen, Jane Porter, Marie Edgeworth, Fanny Burney and others of that scribbling sisterhood of authors.
3. Scott helped introduce the highlands and lowlands of Scotland to readers in England. Scotland became part of Great Britain following the union of 1707 but many English people were unfamiliar with their fellow citizens living north of the River Tweed.
4, Scott influenced the works of such later literary giants as Charles Dickens, Honore de Balzac and James Fenimore Cooper.
And yet....! Scott has grievious faults as a novelist! Consider:
1. His books are very hard to read in the twenty-first century due to their use of abstruse Scottish dialect, the mixing of Latin and Greek quotations and the author's wide use of classical references unfamiliar to a modern audience.
2. Scott's plots are hard to follow and overcomplicated. He is not good at drawing multidimensiional human beings. All of the characters in Waverly are cardboard figures.
3, Scott often interrupts the story to make authorial comments and engages in long digressions on Scottish history and customs. These comments may enlighten but they may also bore!
4. Scott's two major love interests in Waverly are Flora MacIvor and the lowland maide Rose. Both of these women are portrayed as if they were placed on a pedestal. They are not well drawn human beings.
With all of his faults I still give Scott a five star recommendation because of the importance of Waverly in the long procession of the great novels of English Literature. He deserves reading and the man could introduce to a way of life that is foreign and exotic.