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Waverley (Penguin English Library) Paperback – February 26, 1981

4.2 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews
Book 1 of 19 in the Waverley Novels Series

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Paperback, February 26, 1981
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About the Author

Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771. Educated for the law, he obtained the office of sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire in 1799 and in 1806 the office of clerk of session, a post whose duties he fulfilled for some twenty-five years. His lifelong interest in Scottish antiquity and the ballads which recorded Scottish history led him to try his hand at narrative poems of adventure and action. The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808), and The Lady of the Lake (1810) made his reputation as one of the leading poets of his time. A novel, Waverley, which he had begun in 1805, was published anonymously in 1814. Subsequent novels appeared with the note “by the author of Waverley”; hence his novels often are called collectively “the Waverley novels.” Some of the most famous of these are Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe (1819), Kenilworth (1821), and Quentin Durward (1823). In recognition of his literary work Scott was made a baronet in 1819. During his last years he held various official positions and published biographies, editions of Swift and Dryden, tales, lyric poetry, and various studies of history and antiquity. He died in 1832.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin English Library
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (February 26, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140430717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140430714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,518,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Just about every work of historical fiction ever written owes its existence to Walter Scott and to Waverley, his first novel. At the time, it was a new way to write novels - indeed, combining historical fact with entertainment was a brilliant idea. By creating a fictional character and inserting him into the middle of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, Walter Scott was able to bring the culture and traditions of Scotland to life in the most staid bourgeois imagination. As a result, he achieved unprecedented popularity for his time, singlehandedly started a tourist industry in Scotland, and kicked off a new genre of fiction, which was then studiously adopted by countless authors, of whom Dumas and Fenimore Cooper are canonical examples.
Sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century, however, Scott's popularity took a nosedive, and has never recovered since. Unfortunately, after all the years and all the imitators, and after this kind of novel turned into an established genre, much of Waverley's charm has been lost, and the book no longer seems particularly impressive. Its length is sure to turn off many, especially given that for all the historical romance, there's relatively little action here. However, what still makes it worth your time is Scott's delightful and quintessentially British humour, which he applies through odd digressions and liberal use of comic anticlimax to alleviate tension. One also can't help but be impressed by his vocabulary; there are many passages in Waverley that are more or less devoid of content, but which are so elaborately constructed as to be a pleasure to read.
The story itself is no less worth one's attention than before, as far as its "educational value" goes, but the modern reader will not enjoy wading through the obfuscatory prose.
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Format: Hardcover
Kenilworth is set in 1575 during the reign of Elizabeth I. It is the story of Amy Robsart who has secretly married Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester. But Leicester is the Queen's favourite and fearful that he would lose his status if his marriage became public he keeps Amy secluded in Cumnor Hall. However, such secrets are hard to keep in an Elizabethan England full of plots and intrigues between factions vying for Elizabeth's favour and as Leicester entertains the Queen at Kenilworth castle the truth will out.
As usual Scott tells a good story in Kenilworth. He takes as his point of departure the known incidents of history and weaves his plot around them. He is not always faithful to the historical record, but he captures the mood of the time. His characterisation of Elizabeth is particularly fine, showing her fair and just but swift to take offence and with a devastating temper. Scott builds great tension into his plot, because it is a story rooted in a period where one false step can bring instant downfall, where the highest can be brought to the block in an instant, if Elizabeth's capricious mood turns angry.
Kenilworth is quite a difficult read. Scott's scholarship was such that he often uses the language of Elizabethan times and continually refers to historical events and literary texts which are now obscure. It is for this reason that it is important to read an edition of Scott which uses the best modern experts to clarify and explain the text. The Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, published by Edinburgh and Columbia University Press, is the definitive edition of Scott and is a stunning example of modern scholarship. The glossary is full and the notes are detailed and useful. The editor, J.H.
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Sir Walter Scott, I think, needs to be redeemed only in the eyes of people who don't know him. He has a bad rep in most English Departments--because most people (including English professors) haven't read him. Typically, the process goes like this: a professor will tell you that Cooper got the "historical novel format" from Scott, and then you read "The Last of the Mohicans," and you're cured forever. But really, Scott himself is the antidote to this hasty conclusion.
"Waverley" is a great novel. It takes some work though: you'll have to get over the sometimes convoluted language, the artificial dialogue, the idealized descriptions of character and setting. But once you do that, this novel is a blast. The hero may look like a sissy for most of the book, but after the Jacobites' retreat back to Scotland, Scott will show you that Waverley is a "real" character after all. The happy ending, after adventuring incognito through England back to London, may seem too romantic for a student in an English Department, but Scott never loses sight of the pain and bloodshed that are the inevitable result of civil war.
Romantically speaking, it's up to you. Rose or Flora? I always think it's sad that Scott has Waverley marry Rose instead of providing us with a super-happy ending, but perhaps this goes to show you--Scott is not that romantic after all. Romantically speaking, you got to love the couleur locale of the Highlands, the dirks and claymores, the unwavering loyalty of Evan Dhu, Flora's waterfall... Don't forget, all you professors and Ph.D.'s and M.A.'s, we also read to enjoy, and I enjoy the heck out of this novel!
This particular edition, like all the others by OUP, is very competent.
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