A Fine Romance
History and Memory in Sir Walter Scott's Waverley
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The approximately nine years separating the completion of the first few chapters of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley from his accidental rediscovery of the manuscript in an old desk gave him ample time to reconsider and complicate what would become a tremendously successful first in British literary history. The words combined in that phrase, however, even if generally accepted as accurate, must not be deployed lightly in reference to what is often considered the English language’s premiere historical novel. Their suggestions of a united national identity, culture, and history are highly problematic when cast against the backgrounds of the 1745 Jacobite uprising in Scotland and the social, economic, and political landscapes of Scott’s time Sixty Years Since. Any attempt to construct a simple, unifying analysis of the work, author, or kingdoms, alone or in relation to one another, is bound to encounter tremendous difficulty. Scott’s novel is a deceptively complex portrayal of the nature of history as both an overarching and incontestable movement as well as the malleable subject of human motivation and interpretation.
With the exception of a few passing references to the achievements of William Wallace, provides little historical information about the by then ancient tradition of animosity in the British Isles before the 18th Century. By 1814, the year of Waverley’s publication, the flag flying above the Tower of London had been sporting for just over a decade its most recent and final addition. The new Union Jack was the heraldic product of centuries of warfare and political maneuvering. In 1536, Henry VIII saw the final submission of the Welsh dragon passant to the three English lions, though the deal technically had been made some three hundred years earlier, by the Statute of Rhuddlan. The crowns of England and Scotland were nominally tied when James VI went south to take a second job at Westminster in 1603; he was anointed in an English coronation throne above the Scottish Stone of Destiny, still there despite a two hundred seventy-five year old treaty promising its return. Then, in 1707, Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch ever to ascend that throne, signed a formal Act of Union and officially succeeded where all her royal predecessors and the Lord Protector failed. Finally, in January 1801, just as Sir Walter was marking his first full year as the Sheriff-Deputy of Selkirkshire (a position which afforded him a three hundred pound annuity and the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for more than half the year) the red cross saltire of St. Patrick was added to those of Saints George and Andrew, heralding the total, legal union of the three once autonomous nations that thereafter were known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. England, long the dominant power, had at last managed to yoke to its rule all the countries it could without crossing an ocean.
Waverley’s audience, bearing all this in mind, would have been far better prepared than the average modern reader to bring to the novel a more complete, if somewhat abstract, understanding of the circumstances preceding, surrounding, and following the events it portrays. Georg Lukacs, in The Historical Novel, suggests that the conceptual links between such real-life events as the union with Ireland, the Scottish uprisings, disarming act and Act of Proscription, and the pan-European upheavals of the 18th Century strengthened for the inhabitants of Britain "the feeling first that there is such a thing as history, that it is an uninterrupted process of change and finally that is has a direct effect upon the life of every individual" (23). Change is both inevitable and irresistible; the nation of Great Britain would be and do what it must, and make the changes it had to in order to survive in its new guise. Those conceptually outdated or paradoxical cultural simultaneities within its geographical space would have to be at the very least partially assimilated, or, as with the highlands, wholly effaced. Sir Walter Scott, Lukacs goes on to say, fully understood the phenomenon, and made it the spine upon which he supported the body of his novel.
In 1814, then, the year of Waverley’s publication, the still relatively new though permanently troublesome union with Ireland and the continuing aftermath of the last real armed Scottish uprising of 1745, evidenced by ongoing highland clearances, forced emigrations of highlanders to the new United States and Canada, and of course, the herds of Cheviot sheep increasingly covering the countryside, might have been deemed as nothing more than unfortunate historical necessities when viewed from a broad and coldly impersonally historic perspective. The landscape, real and political, was undoubtedly changing; Waverley offered a version of history in temporally backward anticipation of those changes. It was not, however, cold or impersonal. Waverley is as much an examination of the effects of history on individuals as those of individuals on history, simultaneous processes than can never be wholly reconciled to one another. The book itself is in many way s a demonstration of that irreconcilability, testing the reader’s ability to marry the myriad antiquarian details and factual circumstances of actual history to the nostalgic and romanticized memories of history that motivate its characters.
It is extremely easy to come away from Waverley believing in "historic" Scotland as imagined by its romantic Jacobites. Saree Makdisi stresses in Romantic Imperialism that "in its assertion of the new national identity of Great Britain, the novel needs to associate a distinctly Scottish nationalism with the past, and hence it needs to translate what it has so far identified as (invented) Highland 'traditions' into, more generally, Scottish traditions" (73). The novel needs to do no such thing, and does not. Admittedly, the conflation of "Highland" and "Scotland" certainly appears to have occurred in the wake of Waverley’s publication. Images of kilts, claymores and bagpipes have overwhelmed in the popular consciousness the untold cultural intricacies contained within the real geographical space of the nation, especially those aspects of the lowlands that distinguished them from their more northern neighbors. But a close reading of the text reveals a picture of Scotland very different than the one most take away from it, and Scott cannot be so easily implicated in the wholesale remapping of the nation’s past according to strictly Highland sensibilities, however he conceived (or misconceived) them.
Waverley’s "historical" Scotland of 1745 illustrates quite clearly the clan feuds, class distinctions, highland/lowland animosity, and general sociopolitical disarray that in fact crippled the Pretender’s ability to raise a large and loyal Scottish army that would make it to London in one piece. First, there is the ’45 rebellion itself—not a War of Succession in the Austrian sense, a War of Independence in the American sense, nor a revolution in the French. Though its goal might be as easily defined (the exchange of one leader for another), Scott leaves the significance of achieving that goal largely unaddressed. He gives no substantial casus belli, either as the narrator or through his characters, that could possibly inspire a nominally Scottish nation to support a likewise nominally Scottish monarch. The 1707 Act may have greatly hampered some aspects of Scottish independence—the country retained autonomy in the areas of education, church policy, and jurisprudence—but there is no indication that a Highland army marching into London on behalf of a potential James VIII and III would have restored them. Moreover, Scott does not fail to have "our hero," Edward Waverley, remind us during one of his many pro-Hanoverian vacillations that the legitimacy of the electorate had been established not only by the quiet departure of James II, but that "since that period, four monarchs had reigned in peace and glory over Britain, sustaining and exalting the character of the nation abroad, and its liberties at home" (141). Fergus MacIvor would hold an earldom; beyond that, we are told next to nothing of a victorious Bonnie Prince Charlie’s plans for Scotland, united, independent, or otherwise. He has little concept of a nation past his eventually being at the head of it—he exemplifies neither Scotland, nor even necessarily Highland, and as was historically demonstrated, he commanded forces in proportion to the numbers he represented.
Then of course there are those he commanded. If there was no unified vision of the value or necessity of the rebellion, its proponents marched in likewise fractured disarray. The divisions are not only political. The shifting accents and languages Edward hears throughout his journey are a significant portion of Scott’s portrayal of Scotland. Speech identifies education, class, political affiliation, and of course, geographical locale. Lowlanders in Waverley speak for the better part in English; in the highlands it gives way to Gaelic, but then only consistently amongst those whom Scott at one point terms the "inferior" classes. Fergus MacIvor and the Baron of Bradwardine slip in and out of regional colloquialism, to make a point or joke, and the Baron’s knowledge and extensive use of Latin reveal his scholarship and attachment to law. Flora MacIvor’s English is no different than Waverley’s, and the Prince of course speaks perfectly in both English and French, but utters no word in the highland language. The scene in which a French cavalry officer attempts to corral the troops in a mixture of French and broken English is particularly memorable, and demonstrative of all the stultifying linguistic complexity embodied by the Jacobite forces.
Other examples abound--the best part of the novel portrays no homogenous Scotland whatsoever. Such a notion is in fact rendered all but inconceivable by a social and governmental system of fealty completely antithetical to it. Donald Bean Lean steals cattle and undoubtedly much else from almost any target of opportunity before and after betraying Fergus MacIvor; blackmail is standard procedure; Waverley himself is forced to shoot a lowland blacksmith in self-defense when identified as a Jacobite by the Loyalist wife of a Whig husband. Even at the best moments, Scott reminds the reader that the whole is deceptively more than the sum of its parts. The column of the Young Pretender’s army, while impressive as a single unit, is deeply flawed and internally chaotic. The narrator’s description of the army makes use of a form of "confuse" three times in the space of two pages (212-13), and his cursory examination of the clan structure within the column does not bode well for victory:
Thus the M’Couls, though tracing their descent from Comhal, the father of Finn, or Fingal, were a sort of Gibeonites, or hereditary servants to the Stuarts of Appine. The Macbeaths, descended from the unhappy monarch of that name, were subjects to the Morays, and clan Donnachy, or Robertsons of Athole; and many other examples might be given, but for hurting any pride of clanship which may be left, and thereby drawing a Highland tempest into the shop of my publisher (214).
Priority is based on loyalty to the clan, not loyalty to Scotland, from the lowest foot soldier carrying a makeshift pike to Vich Ian Vohr himself, charging his men forward to draw first blood in battle lest the Camerons steal the honor (225). Charles Edward’s failure can be linked directly to Scotland’s ultimate heterogeneousness. "It is the very nature of nation, as Scott conceives it," Cairns Craig writes, "that its apparently bounded space is riddled with connections, visible or concealed, with other places, and that its apparently unified territory is full of concealed spaces and places" ("Scott’s Staging of the Nation," 21). The tragedy of the Jacobites’ story, the very reason for their failure, is that they completely misapprehended the depth and breadth of a true sense of Scottish national identity, across the country and amongst themselves, that might transcend internal rivalry and truly unify the nation. The weakening and disuniting influence of the clan system and the "modernizing" territorial cooption and sterilization that growing weakness permitted had already been going on for decades, perhaps centuries, as part of the historical movement that critics such as Makdisi, Wolfram Schmidgen, Richard Maxwell and Lukács claim the progressive Scott would have recognized, at worse, as a necessary evil. When the Prince landed on the coast with handful of men to raise his standard, there was no "Scotland" to rally to it. Had it been otherwise, he might have led the country—the whole country—to victory. A "distinctly Scottish nationalism," therefore, if it ever existed at all, was in 1745 already long a thing of the past, and if Waverley’s Jacobites did not recognize that, Scott most assuredly did.
Isolating any such nationalism—stranding it "on the banks of the river of Time"(Makdisi 75)—thus seems an unnecessary undertaking in 1814, by which time the highland way of life was no longer desperately flexing its muscles but taking its last choking breaths, all those who might still truthfully remember it being burned out of their homes and off their lands. As Scott writes in his chronologically "misplaced" postscript-preface, "the race has now almost entirely vanished from land, and with it, doubtless, much absurd political prejudice; but, also, many living examples of singular and disinterested attachment to the principles of loyalty which they received from their fathers, and of old Scottish faith, hospitality, worth, and honour" (340). While this observation certainly does conflate the concepts of Highland and Scotland, and though doubtless many of the Highlanders would have agreed that the terms were indeed interchangeable, it falls to the reader to remember that not all Jacobites were Highlanders, not all Highlanders Jacobites, and that the stripping of their historicity, as Makdisi phrases it, was more or less a fait accompli when Scott first took up the quill.
The historical novel does not admit of alternate futures. Its characters are subject to at least one level of reality, and at that level the action and conclusion of any such novel are to some extent a known entity. It is important to remember, therefore, that history makes up only part of the plan of Waverley. Waverley contains history, is very much aware and makes use of history, but keeps it, as Makdisi acknowledges, in the novel’s background (89). The Chevalier, for example, lands in a footnote (398). The battles at Prestonpans, Falkirk, and Inverness are secondhand stories, related to Edward after their conclusion. He is left out of the unfortunate strategizing that saw the Highland army abandon its push into England, and the Pretender’s escape to France at the end occurs with scarcely a word mentioned beyond the confirmation of his safety. The most significant events from the perspective of the historical movement are left out of the body of the novel.
We are left, then, with the other part of Waverley: the individual characters, affected by the movement of history but unable to change its course. Their motivations are crucial to the interpretation of Scott’s portrayal of history, incorporating as it does not only the overarching, inevitable influence that brought about the end of the highland way of life but also the means by which a form of that life—right, wrong, both, or neither—would endure. "What matters…in the historical novel," Lukacs writes, "is not the re-telling of great historical events, but the poetic awakening of the people who figured in those events. What matters is that we should re-experience the social and human motives which led men to think, feel, and act just as they did in historical reality" (42). This is precisely what occurs in Waverley. As Richard Maxwell writes:
The antiquary reconstructs the past so that large-scale social structures can become visible—ideally, in the communal social behavior of his own moment. Thus chivalry is, in Scott, at once a quaint, long-discarded system requiring learned investigation and the basis of modern manners, through which it filters in many different ways. Chivalry is both long gone and pervasive in our daily lives ("Inundations of Time: A Definition of Scott’s Originality" 422).
The sentiments expressed by the characters of Waverley live on; the novel reenacts them, fostering the readers’ ability to re-experience the motivations of the past. The past is not nor ever can it be "exorcized from the present," as Makdisi suggests (91). Every reading reintroduces the characters and their motivations, whatever history has done to them, to the reader in his own time.
Those motivations—the human side of historical movement—are not based on fact but memory, and it is this often fine and sometimes invisible distinction that is at the root of Waverley’s historically inaccurate (and popularly embraced) nostalgia. Scott’s more intimate portraiture of Scotland during the ‘45, through the characters, individual mannerisms, and highland traditions is, like the one hanging in the manor house at Tully-Veolan at the novel’s end, recreated from sketches and stories, experienced by Scott in his youth, or more often, heard second-hand. The author of Waverley did not create a romantic surrogate history of a nationalistic Scotland. He offered memories, true and false, that were already in the process of replacing the genuine article at the time he recorded them, overwriting the historical reality the novel also provides in its sweeping background action and painstaking antiquarian detail. It is of course extremely difficult entirely to separate fact from fiction in the novel, as it is in reality. It is undeniable that one comes away from the novel with a sense that the highland Jacobite sensibility is or should be that of all Scotland, but it is simultaneously evident in the novel that it is not and never could have been. This is the key problem in a historical novel—and also precisely the point. Maxwell continues: "by a kind of optical illusion, antiquarian nostalgia foreshortens history, personalizes it so that we can claim it for ourselves…or at least be near to it in an act of memory which spans but a few years" (423). This appropriation is the means by which notions of history continue to thrive and have influence, even or especially when real history is incompletely understood. It does not isolate, but connects, and the cycle is continuous. The same phenomenon is at work within the novel. The characters, like the reader, are easily seduced by the often selective and always open-to-interpretation imagery that memory creates.
To Edward Waverley, a contemporary tourist on an accidental quest and proxy of the reader, the Jacobites are all representatives of memory, and to some extent are memories in and of themselves, vainly fighting the tide of historical necessity in a bid for, from the perspective of 1814 and beyond, self-preservation. The actions and fates of the Bradwardines and, more drastically, the MacIvors, are determined by the dominance of memory in their consciousnesses over a cold appreciation of the necessary consequences of the historical movement in which they were caught—despite the effects of that movement upon them. The purpose of the most sincere Jacobite characters’ struggle may technically have been the restoration of the Stuart line, but within the story that objective is purely incidental to the greater goal: the preservation of their past and future historical memory, as inaccurately re-imagined and romanticized as memories of their own time Sixty Years Since. All to some degree or at some point relive the actions of their predecessors or repeat their own and encourage Waverley to take on an identity allied with them. The Young Pretender is perhaps the most obvious resurrection, his campaign in Britain little more than a memorial to his father, the Old Pretender and would-be James III. Fergus MacIvor, in addition to being the most recent Vich Ian Vohr and thus sharing his name with generations of clan chieftains, also followed in his father’s footsteps, which led the latter to failure in 1715, and the Baron of Bradwardine was himself a participant in that same venture, enjoying in Waverley his second time out.
The uprising of 1745, of course, was ultimately doomed to failure, as the author and every reader of Waverley well knew at the outset. The reader, contemporary or modern, cannot hope for a Jacobite military victory at the end of the novel, and the resurgence of a legitimately threatening Loyalist faction in 1814 must surely have seemed, with the Act of Proscription long repealed and some confiscated properties returning to the ownership of their former masters, a highly unlikely eventuality. Parliament clearly considered any rebellious highland Scottish elements subdued if not entirely integrated into the United Kingdom. The novel is tainted by a sense of hopelessness, a hopelessness that infects every Jacobite deed, sentiment, and character, even the most dedicated to the cause. As Richard Maxwell notes in "in point of fact, the Young Pretender never had a chance…he could by nothing more than the palest shadow of his ancestors." Maxwell goes on to call the highland campaign "perfectly meaningless despite the enormous destruction that followed in its wake," (444) and insofar as it failed to complete its historical goal he is correct. Any significance it had was in drawing attention to the lingering discontent in the North and the necessity to neutralize it once and for all, an effect its supporters could not have desired. Had Charles Edward stayed with his father in France instead of leaving its shores to repeat the catastrophe of 1715, it is conceivable that the highlanders could have happily gone on feuding with, stealing from, and blackmailing each other for at least another generation. Of course, Charles Edward could not have stayed. The events of the ’45 were "necessary consequences of the post-revolutionary character of England’s development at the time," (Lukacs 31) as was England’s swift and often brutal retribution.
Nor does Scott leave his Jacobite protagonists entirely ignorant of their place at the wrong end of historical necessity. Continuing his discussion of the futility of the rebellion, Maxwell writes, "‘It did not seem so at the time,' one who lived through the forty-five might object. But Scott does not assume this position or perspective; despite an occasional stab at surprise or mystification…he speaks in retrospect, as of events that have already happened and whose futility seems no less obvious to him than they do to Flora MacIvor after Charles Edward’s fall and flight to the continent." (444). He refers to the scene in which Waverley comes to visit Flora just before her brother’s execution, when all is certainly lost and the direction of Waverley’s loyalties finally and abundantly clear. Her revelation, however, is not strictly one of hindsight. "How often have I pictured to myself the strong possibility of this horrid issue, and tasked myself to consider how I could support my part, and yet how far has all my anticipation fallen short of the unimaginable bitterness of this hour?" (322) Flora asks herself. It is not the hour that is unimaginable, only the bitterness. The knowledge that their efforts were destined to fail is not produced of that failure, but precedes it. Flora recognized the "strong possibility," of disaster. She continues: "I do not regret his Fergus’ attempt, because it was wrong: O no; on that point I am armed; but because it was impossible it could end otherwise than thus" (323, italics added). Flora’s support of the rebellion was the most unwavering, and her love of the Stuart line one of the least self-interested; her fatalistic assessment of the events are somewhat unexpected and out of character.
If, as established earlier, her participation in the rebellion could not have originated from motivations of personal gain, political or religious ideology (that latter of which is never mentioned by her), or of a desire to see a Scotland unfettered from England (which as demonstrated was not explicitly intended), and if, most significantly, she believed throughout that the endeavor was destined to fail, all that remains to explain it is a fanatical devotion to the House of Stuart—for all intents and purposes a politically, economically, and from the perspective of 1814, nationally empty signifier. Its only contents are memory, Charles Edward nothing more than a living link to the ending Scottish highland Jacobite continuum. Flora’s identity is not based on the historical reality that brought that continuum to its end, but on the selective associations living on in her memory—nostalgia.
This romantic nostalgia and its manipulative power is perhaps best exemplified by the function of the memory of Captain Wogan, the historical figure Flora MacIvor intends to make the model of Captain Waverley’s present and future. According to the novel, Wogan, an English soldier in the Civil War, turned against Cromwell and the Commonwealth to follow Charles II, ultimately dying in the latter’s service. Flora, as her brother informs Waverley, had been "in love with the memory of the gallant Captain Wogan" since she could first read (236). He repeats the sentiment some twenty pages later, just before providing Edward with Flora’s verses on the subject of Wogan’s death and grave, with the addendum that she would be unlikely to love any living man that did not follow in the dead officer’s footsteps. In Flora’s attachment to Wogan, and Fergus' manipulation of the significance of that attachment, Scott makes two extremely powerful romantic elements into the defining characteristics of a central motivating character: passion and memory.
As always, these are often utterly divorced from reason and fact, and Scott does not fail to suggest that once again historical reality stands in contradiction to memory. The author offers two histories of the Captain, one through Fergus and one through the narrator, which are surprisingly enough almost identical and equally praising in their assessment of Wogan's exploits during the interregnum. An editor’s note verifies some of the facts alongside actual dates: Wogan once served in the New Model Army, and turned Royalist in 1648 (432). There, however, the accuracy of Flora’s memory ends. The title of Flora’s verses on Wogan—"To an Oak Tree in the Churchyard of —, in the Highlands of Scotland, Said to Mark the Grave of Captain Wogan, Killed in 1649"—contains one suspect detail and one outright error. The location of the body is a matter of mythological conjecture, verified only by tradition, and the editor’s note identifies 1654 as the date of Wogan’s death. It seems from the histories mentioned above that Scott knew this, or at least knew Flora to be wrong. The highland uprising led by the Earl of Glencairn and General Middleton that the narrator (in agreement with the editor’s note) said Wogan joined did not take place until 1653, which fact would certainly have been well documented and almost as certainly well known to Scott. To the individual, however—in this case Flora, Waverley, and the reader—it is the memory that counts, and 1649 evokes memories of a year far more likely to contribute to Wogan’s martyrdom than 1654. Charles I lost his life in that year; it more befits the romance of recollection that Wogan should have lost his at the same time.
Though its effect is great, the historical inaccuracy of the portrayal is subtle and easily attributed to the author’s desire to falsify and romanticize a history of Scottish valor. Scott does not directly call attention to the error with a footnote, as might be expected, but leaves the truth to be overlooked or, less likely, apprehended according to the reader’s prior knowledge. The novel is full of such subtleties, all contributing to the overall illusion Makdisi suggests Scott wishes to create; but not all examples of misremembered history are treated with such apparent authorial negligence. There is no more mention of Captain Wogan after Waverley’s arrest by Major Melville, just under halfway through the novel, and as the inevitability of historical movement increases the desperation of the highland campaign the flaws and dangers of romantic memory become ever more apparent, if no more escapable for those dominated by it.
Next to Flora, it is not Fergus but the Baron of Bradwardine whose attachment to the House of Stuart is the least corrupted by self-interest. His connection to historical reality is the strongest of any character in the book by virtue of his extraordinary appreciation of law and ancient feudal custom, embodied by frequently unnecessary (albeit endearing) displays of erudition. The train of facts is emanating from his memory is virtually unending, and his apparent authority enough to discourage open questioning of its veracity; but it too is not above suspicion. Early in the novel, for example, he recalls to Waverley the rather lengthy details of a long-remembered slight involving his family heraldry, the essence of which was the assertion by a third cousin that the Bradwardine name had been "quasi Bear-warden," and that the family coat of arms "had not been achieved by honourable actions in war, but bestowed by way of paranomasia, or pun, upon the family appellation…" The Baron obviously considers the idea ludicrous; in his mind, the arms were rightly and properly achieved "as the reward of noble and generous actions" (63). Waverley, however, is not enlightened to precisely what those actions might have been, and this time Scott includes a footnote immediately upon the conclusion of the Baron's monologue to advance his tacit commentary: "Although canting heraldry is generally reprobated," the footnote begins, "it seems nevertheless to have been adopted in the arms and mottos of many honourable families" (394). This is nothing less than the suggestion that in fact the cousin's assessment may have been correct. While not a clear-cut condemnation of the Baron’s belief, it is certainly enough to introduce to the reader an element of doubt regarding the accuracy of the Baron’s memory. It is important to note that Waverley does not have access to this additional information, and should not, according to the novel's plan. At this stage, Waverley must be willing and able to take the Baron's memories for his own.
Later on, though, there is a far more complicated event involving the Baron’s heraldry and feudal obligation, treated with much more open ridicule by character and author alike: the removal of the boots. The Baron, who as Fergus says "has heard and thought of it since infancy, as the most august privilege and ceremony in the world" (232) expends profound intellectual energy on justifying the appropriateness of enacting it upon the Prince. The ancient practice specifies boots and the person of the king, neither of which are technically available, for Charles Edward is only the Regent, and, more amusingly, "the Prince wears no boots, but simply brogues and trews." The Baron refers to the authority of Fergus and the court of France for a ruling on the problem of the Regent, and reaches far back to Roman antiquity—indeed, unreassuringly to the Emperor Caligula—for an interpretation of caligae, the footwear specified by the Latin dictum, that will enable him to perform the act in good conscience (231). Again, the article itself seems nearly insignificant—its origins lost to time, and its meaning adaptable to circumstance—but to the Baron the legitimacy of its execution is of the utmost importance, linked to the long memory of his family name and right. The "formal gazette" circulated following the Battle of Gladsmuir elevates that importance, and rather succinctly states the function of historical memory on a national level:
Since that fatal treaty which annihilated Scotland as an independent nation, it has not been our happiness to see her princes receive, and her nobles discharge, those acts of feudal homage, which, founded upon the splendid actions of Scottish valour, recall the memory of her early history, with the manly and chivalrous simplicity of the ties which united to the crown the homage of the warriors by whom it was repeatedly upheld and defended. But upon the evening of the 20th, our memories were refreshed with one of those ceremonies which belong to the ancient days of Scotland's glory" (239).
The unity of memory and history is clearly suggested, and false consciousness hard at work. The act is, as the Baron claims of his name and arms, based on "actions of valour," and the paper goes on to report the addition to the Bradwardine arms "a budget or boot-jack, disposed saltier-wise with a naked broad-sword, to be borne in the dexter cantle of the shield, and, as an additional motto on a scroll beneath, the words, 'Draw and draw off'" (240). The motto is an unmistakable play on words, much like the one upon which the Baron said his name and arms could never have been based. The act, like the name, in 1745 is disconnected from its realistic historical origin, a reification of only the preexisting conception—the inherited memory. One who has had no first-hand experience of an event in reality cannot have a realistic memory refreshed. The sanctity of the ritual and all it represents, that is, the nebulous, romantic memory of times forgotten long before 1707, are not to be credited by author, reader, or at the point at which it occurs, Waverley. Scott, now only one hundred pages away from his conclusion, begins to reinforce the doubts so willingly overlooked by romance earlier in the novel and openly ridicules the Baron in a chapter titled "Rather Unimportant."
One staunch Jacobite remains. Fergus MacIvor complicates this reading of Waverley because his attachment to memory and romantic nostalgia is corrupted by his widely recognized desire to promote his own interests. Ideally, he would have been more like his sister and the Baron, driven solely by fanciful memories of a chivalrous Royalist tradition extending far back into antiquity. The earldom he seeks should have had no bearing on his willingness to lead his clan into battle on behalf of the Chevalier, and his interest in Rose Bradwardine should not have been a function of economic and political gain. He even scoffs at the Baron's anxiety over the proper performance of his feudal obligation. Fergus MacIvor, it would seem, is not under the sway of any sort of romantic sensibility—that is, until the very end, when a romantic memory with no possible grounding in fact emerges to herald his doom. The Bodach Glas is a final and unquestionable separation from reality, its memory linked to the same historical personage whose identity Fergus carries: Ian nan Chaistel, the original Vich Ian Vohr. Fergus’ cynicism finally folds beneath the weight of superstition, and he takes it for "the truth, ascertained by three hundred years' experience at least." Surely Scott does not expect his comparatively modern British readers to accept as historical fact the existence of any such apparition. Even Waverley, the readers' representative, openly questions the myth and calls it nonsense (276). Fergus' three centuries of experience are nothing more than the same breed of inherited memory responsible for the Baron’s attachment to his heraldry and Flora’s love of Captain Wogan, exaggerated beyond the capacity to hold any genuine truth. The campaign is over, the romance no longer believable, and Scottish "factual" history as seen by the highland Jacobites revealed as mere and literally incredible memory.
Fergus MacIvor’s death is one of Lukacs' necessary consequences. His character represents, even more than Bonnie Prince Charlie's, the way of life that had to end in the name of progress. Of the key Jacobites in Waverley, Fergus is the only highland clan chieftain, his manners, methods, and motivations indicative of the highlanders' inability to unify under a single standard and claim victory over England. Fergus in life is far closer to the reality of Scotland than the Baron or Flora. His actions are dictated by political and economic ambition, his devotion to his clan the result of the power it gives him. As Lukacs says of all Scott’s "great historical figures, the leaders of the warring classes and parties," Fergus is a "human being with virtues and weaknesses, good qualities and bad" (45). The realistic aspects of his character are founded upon the practical. It is wholly appropriate that his most visceral romantic attachment is to a memory associated with dying. His life was not for "Scotland," but "Scotland" made his death.
It is no coincidence that Scott allowed Flora and the Baron to live, whereas Fergus had to die. The latter's execution by the English is representative of the end of the highlanders as a real historical force, politically active within and militarily threatening to Great Britain. The Baron and Flora, on the other hand, represent precisely that which cannot be destroyed merely by the drop of the axe, a power that would survive them all in any circumstance, as the conclusion of Waverley demonstrates. Their memories (not necessarily to be read as memories of them) continue to exist following the rebellion and solidification of Great Britain as a unified political entity, even through to the present day, when no Jacobites remain to carry them. Wolfram Schmidgen is ostensibly correct when he writes that "the transformation of the Bradwardine estate in Scott's novel symbolizes Scotland's incorporation into Great Britain" (191), but it does not, as he suggests, complete the work of the soldiers who originally intended to destroy it. The transfer of Tully-Veolan is a perfect and final illustration of Lukacs' "middle way," a new entity arising from the midst of two extremes, as "out of the struggle of the Saxons and Normans there arose the English nation, neither Saxon nor Norman" (32). Tully-Veolan, practically restored to its original Scottish form through English Hanoverian hands, is at the novel's end neither wholly English nor Scottish, but British. As determined by the dictates of 18th Century property law—Tully-Veolan is or will be wholly English upon the Baron's death, its ownership passing to the House of Waverley. The powers the Baron held over his lands and people are dissolved, and the hereditary order broken. These are the facts of the matter, presented by Scott in detail, if not entirely clearly, in the story's final chapter; the beginning of modernity as Scott and his audience knew it: Scotland finally and firmly in English hands, it history now part of their own.
The transfer of the estate to Edward Waverley meant not only gaining its lands but also maintaining its memories, superficially restored and, for the casual observer, now as divorced from historical reality as the romantic notions that led to that result. The house is not the really the same. As Schmidgen points out, on every level other than the visible "the estate—in spite of the meticulous restoration—has no connection to its earlier appearance" (213). Following the failure of the rebellion, the Baron's heraldic symbols lack the strength of their original significance; they can no longer be signs of a living system of property law, intimately connected as Schmidgen writes to notions of Scottish history, culture, and identity. Nonetheless, Scott's Englishmen left the rampant bears of Bradwardine to grace the gates and fountains of Tully-Veolan. The signs remain, to Edward—modern British subject and "our hero"—romantic emblems of a lost cause and past age, just as Captain Wogan and the Bodach Glas were to Flora and Fergus. The process of romanticizing the past into fanciful nostalgia continues, carried on by the new owners of that facet of Scottish history.
Edward Waverley's most consistent choice throughout the course of the novel is to participate in and propagate the romantic. The wisdom he gains during his journey through Scotland does not stop him from commissioning a painting of himself and Fergus leading the clan down a rocky mountain pass at full tilt and in highland dress, though the scene was sketched in Edinburgh and composed in London, at least two removes from reality. For all those who view it, including the Baron, it will stand in for and improve upon the truth, a document of a memory that never happened. Scott would seem to lead the reader to think the same way about all the romantic imagery of historic Scotland portrayed by Waverley, but he provides the necessary means to discover the middle way between seductive romantic memory and complex historical reality. The reader has access to information that Waverley does not, the opportunity to develop a more sophisticated understanding of history. The author does not want the reader simply to walk away from the novel holding its tales as gospel—there are too many occasions on which he undercuts and satirizes the romance. He is not, however, explicit. The reader must make the effort and pay close attention to detail if he is to overcome memory, but the choice is his. Belief is always the domain of the individual.
The pages upon pages of notes, unusual for a novel, are not the first indication of an undertaking greater than just a romance, though the first note occurs just before the end of the first chapter. Covered with empirical facts and antiquarian niceties, the pages presented as a collection at the end of the 1829 edition refer as often to cultural minutiae apparently irrelevant to the story as to major explanations or defenses of contestable passages. The notes comment upon or sometimes even contradict the content of the story—as fact will often interfere with memory—but do not always provide a resolution. Arguments are made, sources cited, sometimes with a discussion of their credibility, as is included in the long footnote about Scott's portrayal of the Chevalier (404). Scott openly admits that "something must be allowed…to the natural exaggerations of those who remembered him as the bold and adventurous Prince, in whose cause they had braved death and ruin" (404), and he continues for more than two pages with both an acknowledgment of the Prince’s probable flaws as well as a defense of his qualities based on several lengthy testimonials. It is left to the reader to decide.
In all, ninety notes appear in small print over twenty pages, and though they are indicated by tiny numerical superscripts throughout the novel’s entire body, they collectively compose a separate paratextual document, relevant only so far as the reader’s willingness to interrupt his progress through the romance to investigate them. Fortunately, though the most obvious, they are not the only evidence of Scott's plan. The chapter headings, some of which have been mentioned above, are additional clues to the reader to approach the most romantic moments with a degree of cynicism. Chapter L’s "Rather Unimportant" is one of the clearest warnings, and Chapter LXXI’s '‘This is no mine ain house, I ken by the bigging o’t' OLD SONG" (332), in reference to the newly remade Tully-Veolan, is another. There is also a final warning against taking for real history the attractively romantic pastiche that memory created or enhanced, of such importance to Scott that he took measures specifically to insure they would be read, instead of lost as part of another "optional" paratext—a preface. Read first by those who skipped to the end or last by those who did not, the "postscript that should have been a preface" makes clear that Scott has written his fiction from memory. "I have embodied in imaginary scenes," Scott writes, "and ascribed to fictitious characters, a part of the incidents which I then received from those who were actors in them" (340). Details of Charles Edward's escape were drawn from "intelligent eye-witnesses," and "the Lowland Scottish gentleman, and the subordinate characters, are not given as individual portraits, but are drawn from the general habits of the period, of which Scott witnessed some remnants in his younger days, and partly gathered from tradition" (341). The characters that drive the action forward, interacting through Waverley upon the reader and making history memorable, are stitched together according to the prejudices and partialities of memory. Appended to those memories is the documentation of historical reality upon which he based the Scotland of the novel; historical reality is included alongside the story’s romantic elements, the reader given a choice to seek it out and comprehend their interaction, or accept the reconstruction from memory without question.
William Hazlitt was incorrect when he wrote in The Spirit of the Age, "all that is to be is nothing to Scott." Scott’s portrayal of the past is intimately connected to his understanding of the present and future; Waverley is both an acknowledgement of the need for progress and change, and an analysis of how memory perpetually revives and recreates what by necessity was left behind. As Richard Maxwell writes in "Inundations of Time: a Definition of Scott's Originality," "neither Scott nor his printer James Ballantyne originally understood Waverley to be about the past at all" (437). It is not about the past exclusively. It is also about the ongoing process of historical reclamation and the formation of identity, personal and national, through memory, a process as hard at work in 1745 as in 1814, albeit from opposite sides.
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Hazlitt, William. "The Spirit of the Age." 1825
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Maxwell, Richard. "Inundations of Time: A Definition of Scott’s Originality." ELH 68.2 (2001): 419-68
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