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Scott's Shadow:
The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh
Ian Duncan

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Chapter 1


How high the situation of poor Scotland . . . in arts, in arms, and in literature—her universities every year more crowded—her philosophers advancing with so proud a career in the field of science—her little junta of accomplished men in the first literary journal that ever appeared in any country, giving law to the republic of letters—her moralists improving—her poets delighting the world.
—Christian Isobel Johnstone, The Saxon and the Gaël; or, The Northern Metropolis (1814)
The poets, the orators, and the lawyers, of the flat Boetian region of the dull and muddy Thames, being under the influence of the envious spirit of conscious inferiority, make a point of rarely noticing the pre-eminent endowments of the northern Athenians. . . . The whole English people, the Irish, and all Europe, are chagrined at the superiority of the wise and learned of Edinburgh; yea, every other town that participates in the intellectualising keenness of the Scottish air, turns the sharpness of its wits against the pretensions of the provincial capital.
—John Galt, Glenfell; or, Macdonalds and Campbells. An Edinburgh Tale of the Nineteenth Century (1820)
The tartan robe (which has got into vogue in France and Flanders) adorns the London fair ones; the border and other minstrelsy delight the lovers of literature; the Scottish novels turn the heads of the readers of light matter, and even those of the second class are found to amuse their perusers; the stage teems with imitations and representations from the former.
—Felix MacDonogh, The Hermit in Edinburgh: or, Sketches of Manners and Real Characters and Scenes in the Drama of Life (1824)


In the early afternoon of 14 August 1822, the yacht The Royal George with its naval and civilian escort cast anchor off the Edinburgh port of Leith. Heavy rain postponed the King’s landing until the following day. At about half past two on 15 August, a naval barge drew alongside the royal yacht, bearing, among other dignitaries, the home secretary, Robert Peel, and Sir Walter Scott, whose baronetcy had been gazetted on George IV’s accession to the throne two years earlier. “Sir Walter Scott!” exclaimed the King; “The man in Scotland I most wish to see! Let him come up.”1

No reigning monarch had visited Scotland since its incorporation into the British state at the Treaty of Union in 1707. Under Scott’s careful management, the “King’s Jaunt” unfolded as a fortnight-long pageant of antique ceremonies—most of which were made up for the occasion.2 Here, in one of the centers of the European Enlightenment, Scott staged the sovereign’s relation to “the ancient kingdom of Scotland” as the primitive, patriarchal relation of a Highland chieftain to his clan. The return of the king conjured up a vanished social formation. At the height of a new wave of forced clearances of tenantry to make way for sheep, Scott wrote to Highland landlords exhorting them to bring their traditional “tail” of kilted and armed retainers, and published a pamphlet instructing gentlemen attending the Grand Ball at the George Street Assembly Rooms to wear “the ancient Highland costume.” The King himself appeared at his Holyrood Levee in an extravagant outfit (it cost £1,354. 18s. 0d.) of scarlet philabeg, jewelled weapons, and pink satin drawers. George was wearing the Royal Stuart plaid of his own grandfather’s dynastic rival. With lavish insistence, the pageantry of the royal visit kept alluding to the last occasion on which Edinburgh had been visited by a claimant to the throne of Scotland—an outlaw one. Seventy-seven years earlier, for a few momentous days in September 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart had occupied the city with an army composed largely of Highlanders, whom many of the inhabitants regarded as savage banditti.

Commentators then and since have deplored the King’s Jaunt as a garish travesty—the iconographic investiture of the British monarchy, as well as Scotland’s postnational identity, with a bogus, retro-Jacobite, Highland pageantry. Much of that commentary has satisfied itself with denouncing the phoniness of Scott’s “invention of Scotland” as a nation of Highlanders and Jacobites doing homage to a Hanoverian king.3 But in identifying the gouty ageing dandy, legitimate George, with the defeated but glamorous Chevalier, in dressing metropolitan Scotland in the robes of its desolated Gaelic hinterland, in redeeming a lost national cause for a modern imperial triumphalism, Scott was far from being the dupe of an antiquarian nostalgia. This was no deluded abolition of modernity for a regression to misty origins. Scott was assembling a gaudily up-to-date national spectacle that relied on the availability of sovereignty—its mystic link with the past decisively broken—as a sign among other signs that gathered its meaning in public circulation and consumption.

The political purpose of the Jaunt was clear at the time. The King’s Scottish excursion followed a visit to Ireland the previous year: no doubt the tour of the Celtic provinces would endow the monarch with a measure of public dignity in the wake of the Queen Caroline scandal. In Scotland, the mass spectacle of sovereignty and reciprocal loyalty symbolically repaired the rifts of post-Union history: not just the dynastic conflict of the preceding century, but more recent civil tensions. Postwar recession and unemployment had driven the struggle over constitutional reform, muted for two decades by anti-Jacobin repression and war with France, to crisis pitch. Government spies, dragoons, and magistrates had put down working-class unrest in the western Lowlands only two years earlier, with exemplary ferocity. A journalistic warfare waged between Edinburgh and Glasgow Whigs and Tories set gentlemen as well as hacks (the difference was not always evident) at one another’s throats in libels, lawsuits, brawls, and duels—James Stuart of Dunearn had shot dead Sir Alexander Boswell, son of the biographer, as recently as March 1822. The Scots Tory administrative junta, vexed by the clamor for reform, was attempting to shore up its legitimacy by laying claim to a transcendental national interest. In staging the royal visit as a mass loyalist pageant, Scott and his collaborators sought to replicate the outbursts of public festivity that had greeted the news of Napoleon’s defeat in the spring of 1814 and again the following year after Waterloo.4 Some of the devices of these victory celebrations—parades, fireworks, illuminations, allegorical transparencies, the lighting of a beacon on top of Arthur’s Seat—were repeated in 1822 (not always successfully: rain made the beacon a damp squib). The most suggestive of these recyclings was a double one: the adoption of Jacobite tokens such as the white cockade and tartan. In 1814–15 these had expressed solidarity with the House of Bourbon, restored to the French throne after a cataclysmic interlude. In 1822 they identified the once-revolutionary House of Hanover with the anciens régimes restored across Europe at the Congress of Vienna. The King’s Visit staged the spectacle of legitimacy itself as a neoabsolutist politics: in William Hazlitt’s sardonic phrase, “ingrafting the principles of the House of Stuart on the illustrious stock of the House of Brunswick.”5

The most elaborate of the loyalist accounts of the Visit took the form of a commemorative “Royal Number” of the vanguard Tory organ Black-wood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Christopher North’s closing sonnet “To the King” (printed in red capital letters) follows a three-act episode of the satirical dialogue series “Noctes Ambrosianae,” which shamelessly identifies the interests of the sovereign with Blackwood’s Magazine. Mr. Black-wood and his literati descend upon a local farmhouse. “This is maist as gude’s a visit frae the King himself,” cheers the Gudeman. His wife praises the magazine: “Siccan a buik I never read afore. It gars ane laugh, they canna tell how; and a’ the time ye ken what ye’re reading is serious, too— Naething ill in’t, but a’ gude—supporting the kintra, and the King, and the kirk.”6 An item by the premier Blackwood’s author of the day illustrates, however, the complexity of responses to the King’s Jaunt even within the Tory camp.

The title of John Galt’s comic sketch, “The Gathering of the West,” mocks the strategy of Scott’s pageant. Instead of the Gathering of the Clans, that topos of Jacobite revival, Galt narrates an invasion of Edinburgh by the citizens of its great industrial rival, the economic powerhouse of Scottish modernity as well as of “the radical distemper which lately raged in the west”7—Glasgow and its outlying ports and burghs. Galt recounts how “the whole west began to move”: “all the roads from Glasgow to Edinburgh were like so many webs of printed calico, stamped with the figures of coaches and carriages, horses and noddies, men, women, and children, and weavers from Paisley, who had abjured reform” (317). The Radicals butchered after the “Battle of Bonnymuir” had been weavers from Strathaven and Greenock (where Galt spent part of his childhood), not far from Paisley. In Galt’s simile, the energies of popular resistance now feed the loyal mass movement without, however, being completely digested by it. The modern labor of weaving that constitutes the fabric of national patriotism, “like so many webs of printed calico,” remains visible, and does not quite yield to the image it suggests, the dominant image of the Jaunt: tartan plaid. In Edinburgh, in the following chapter, the visitors behold “writers [solicitors] and writers’ clerks . . . trembling in the breeze, dressed in the Celtic garb, that their peeled, white, ladylike legs might acquire the healthy complexion of Highland boughs” (317). Galt’s satire ends up confining itself to a harmless, indeed, healthy regional animosity and submitting to the general tone of celebration, but only after it has made its own distinctive—“western”—claim on the occasion. Rather than an ancient nation centered in Edinburgh, the King represents a modern commercial empire in which Glasgow’s interests are crucial: “free trade and loyalty beget ease and affluence” (327).

The Scottish Whigs and Tories vied with one another to define the meaning of the Jaunt, contending whether its spectacles of mass enthusiasm showed that sovereignty descended from the King or rested with the consent of the people. Outright derision, much of it scurrilous, poured from the Radical press in London.8 Nor was a disillusioned view confined to the opposition. An impeccably ironical account of the royal visit turns up where it might perhaps be least expected, fifteen years later, in the monumental biography of Scott by John Gibson Lockhart—former Blackwood’s fire-eater, now respectable editor of the Quarterly Review. “Before this time,” Lockhart reminds his readers, “no Prince of the house of Hanover was known to have touched the soil of Scotland, except one, whose name had ever been held there in universal detestation—the cruel conqueror of Culloden, —‘the butcher Cumberland.’ ”9 Lockhart understood very clearly what his father-in-law had been up to. The national humiliation marked by 1745 and its aftermath was to be healed through a ceremonial and comic reenactment. Lockhart saw, however, that what he called “Sir Walter’s Celtified pageantry” alluded only secondarily to the historical event of Jacobite occupation. Before that, it referred to the literary medium that had given the ’45 its mythic shape in the modern imagination. Scott’s first novel Waverley (1814) had represented Charles Edward’s Edinburgh sojourn as the moment when the Jacobite dream of a recaptured Scottish royalty achieved its greatest brilliance, above all as an evanescent series of civilian and military spectacles. Accordingly, referring to Daniel Terry’s theatrical adaptations of the Waverley novels as well as his assistance in planning the royal visit, Lockhart calls Scott’s management “a sort of grand terryfication of the Holyrood chapters in Waverley; —George IV, anno ætatis 60, being well contented to enact ‘Prince Charlie,’ with the Great Unknown himself for his Baron Bradwardine” (7:50). Scott staged the Royal Visit as the reenactment of a fictional representation of a historical event, the Jacobite project of restoration he had already exposed as theatrical, “romantic,” and historically inauthentic, in Waverley.10 Charles Edward was, after all, a Pretender: his own performance the hapless, ghostly repetition of a Scottish sovereignty that had exited the stage of history with the removal to London of his ancestor James VI one hundred and forty years earlier. Jacobitism could only reiterate, with the blindly literal insistence of a tragic protagonist, the loss of a sovereign presence that the Stuart kings themselves had belatedly defended with the principle of Divine Right. Instead of the king’s body (or its constitutional supplement, a parliamentary assembly), national order resided now in Edinburgh with the problematically textual institution of the law—as several Scottish novels, notably Scott’s The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818) and Galt’s The Entail (1822), would propound.

Lockhart narrates George IV’s ceremonial reenactment of Charles Edward’s attempt to replicate a lost ancestral sovereignty as a succession of tragedy by farce. Scott, treasuring the glass in which the King has toasted him, forgets he has it stowed away in a pocket until he sits down on it; the poet Crabbe, Scott’s houseguest, finds himself surrounded by Gaelic-speaking Highlanders and stammers away at them in French (“what he considered . . . the universal language,” 7:55); best of all the King, in full Highland fig at Holyrood, confronts “a figure even more portly than his own, equipped, from a sudden impulse of loyal ardour, in an equally complete set of the self-same conspicuous Stuart tartans.” This is the London alderman Sir William Curtis, whose “portentous apparition cast an air of ridicule and caricature over the whole of Sir Walter’s Celtified pageantry” (7:64–65). Lockhart follows contemporary caricatures in making Sir William the King’s “heroic doppel-ganger,” the mirror image of an inauthentic Scotch Majesty.11 The absurd alderman exposes the King’s own status as a facsimile, bound to the inorganic, metaphysically empty spatial and temporal axes of duplication and repetition. Duplication and repetition: sovereignty’s modern origin is no divine Logos, nor any natural bond, but literary production in the mode of mechanical reproduction: industrial print technology. A genealogy showing George as legitimate heir of the Stuarts was duly got up for the occasion and circulated in the loyalist press. Scott’s pageant reiterates the more spectacular topoi of the Romantic literature that flourished in Scotland in the decades since 1746: not just the meteoric transit of a Pretender (Waverley) but the dubious revival of extinct ancestral origins (James Macpherson’s Fingal) and the metaphysically disastrous proliferation of the Double (James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner).

Lockhart wavers between describing the King’s Jaunt as a blatant confection, its artifice plain to see (“the extent to which the Waverley and Rob Roy animus was allowed to pervade the whole of this affair,” 7:58), and as “a hallucination” that had “completely . . . taken possession” of spectators and participants (7:67). He describes, in short, the ambiguous subjectivity effect of a work of fiction, which takes possession of the imagination while the reader goes on knowing that it is just a fiction. Lockhart recognizes, even as he mocks, Scott’s sophisticated staging of a disenchanted, thoroughly textualized figure of sovereignty in a modern commercial culture. Lockhart’s treatment, along with the range and complexity of contemporary responses to the event, must complicate the gesture of ideological exposé with which the royal visit is typically dismissed: as though it is enough to denounce the “inauthenticity” of an occasion of which inauthenticity was the point. Observing the King’s coronation at Westminster the previous year, Scott had been impressed by the ideological power of such public spectacles of invented tradition.12 The inauthenticity—the alienation, portability, and recursiveness—of the signifiers of sovereignty, ancestry, territoriality, and legitimacy was a chief end of the pageant, not its inadvertent by-product.13


The royal visit reflected the civic confidence of an Edinburgh that showed itself off as a national metropolis more than a century after Scotland had lost the last of its institutions of sovereignty. The city was not only tartan decked for the occasion, dressed in the trophies of a North British “internal colonialism,” but more durably adorned with the edifices and monuments of an imperial classicism. The adoption of James Craig’s plans for a New Town in 1767 had initiated a sixty-year boom of construction and civic improvement, fuelled by the Edinburgh Town Council’s combination of visionary enthusiasm and deficit spending. By the early nineteenth century Edinburgh’s professional and gentry elite had deserted the medieval city, huddled precipitously around the Royal Mile, for the townhouse-lined piazzas of the South Side and the boulevards spreading beyond the North Loch. This was the post-Enlightenment era of “The Modern Athens,” unfolding lavishly in the completion of Robert Adam’s palatial frontage on Charlotte Square (commissioned in 1791 but interrupted by the French wars), the extension of the New Town in the Rae-burn and Moray estates to the northwest of Princes Street (1813–22), and a series of splendid public works, from the Regency triumphalism of Waterloo Place (1815–19) to civic temples such as William Playfair’s Royal Institution (now the Royal Scottish Academy) on Princes Street itself (1822–26). The Leith docks, too, had been improved and beautified (1806–17), at a cost that would hasten the city’s bankruptcy in 1833.14 This spectacular, monumental, and imperial urban landscape, dominated by the work of William Playfair and Thomas Hamilton, exploiting the unevenness and sheer verticality of the city’s topography, marked a shift from the rational, horizontal, rectilinear conception of Craig’s residential New Town. The city magistrates encouraged the change, commissioning William Stark (1814) and, on Stark’s death, his student Playfair (1819) to develop Calton Hill and the adjacent lands. Calton Hill, its romantic prospects newly illustrated by J.M.W. Turner, was the site of ambitious plans for a monumental acropolis crowned with an observatory (1818), model temples to Robert Burns (1830) and Dugald Stewart (1831), a Nelson memorial (1807–16), Hamilton’s Royal High School (1825–29), and a National Monument (1822–29), the foundation stone of which was laid during the royal visit.15 The staging of the visit revealed all this to be something more grandiose than regional civic pride. Edinburgh was promoting and redefining itself as a new kind of national capital—not a political or commercial metropolis, but a cultural and aesthetic one.

Henry Cockburn attributed the postwar civic improvements to a spirit of emulation fired by national victory and renewed access to the Continent:

It was the return of peace that first excited our attention, and tended to open our eyes. Europe was immediately covered with travellers, not one of whom . . . failed to contrast the littleness of almost all that the people of Edinburgh had yet done, with the general picturesque grandeur and unrivalled sites of their city. It was about this time that the foolish phrase, “The Modern Athens,” began to be applied to the capital of Scotland; a sarcasm, or a piece of affected flattery, when used in a moral sense; but just enough if meant only as a comparison of the physical features of the two places. . . . There were more schemes, and pamphlets, and discussion, and anxiety about the improvement of our edifices and prospects within ten years after the war ceased, than throughout the preceding one hundred and fifty years.16

The antiquarian James Stuart seems to have been the first to compare the physical settings of Edinburgh and Athens in 1762, although, as Cock-burn suggests, the epithet “Modern Athens” did not become widely current until after Waterloo.17 Cockburn’s discomfort with the “foolish phrase” stems from its association with the Whig cultural ascendancy of the Edinburgh Review, with which Cockburn himself was linked. Peacock makes it the boast of the mulish modernist Mr. MacQuedy in Crotchet Castle (1831): “Morals and metaphysics, politics and political economy, the way to make the most of all the modifications of smoke, steam, gas, and paper currency; you have all these to learn from us; in short, all the arts and sciences. We are the modern Athenians.”18 In the year of the Royal Visit, the Tory wits of Blackwood’s Magazine poured scorn:

In the days of Smith, and Hume, and Robertson, we were satisfied with our national name, and so we were during a later dynasty of genius, of which old Mackenzie still survives; but now-a-days, when with the exception of Scott, yourself North, and myself, and a few others, there is not a single man of power or genius in Edinburgh, the prigs call themselves Athenians! Why, you may just as appropriately call the first Parallelogram, that shall be erected on Mr Owen’s plan, the Modern Athens, as the New Town of Edinburgh. . . . We are Scotsmen, not Greeks. We want no Parthenon—we are entitled to none. There are not ten persons in Edinburgh—not one Whig I am sure, who could read three lines of Homer “ad aperturam libri.” There are pretty Athenians for you! Think of shoals of Scotch artisans, with long lank greasy hair, and corduroy breeches, walking in the Parthenon!19

Edinburgh’s title to Athenian glory was a topic of lively controversy. Descriptions and illustrations of “picturesque Edinburgh” formed an aesthetic hinge for the turn from a “Classical” to a “Romantic” city, secured by the accession of a sublime vocabulary. The political terms of this shift involved the displacement—bitterly contentious—of an oligarchic and republican ideal of citizenship based on civic virtue, developed in the moral philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment and sustained by the Edinburgh reviewers, to an aesthetically based cultural nationalism promoted by the Blackwood’s literati.

Partisanship and scandal inflame the many books, pamphlets, essays, and reviews published about Edinburgh in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century. Lockhart’s Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1819) founds a Tory cultural politics on the critique of Scottish public figures and institutions, while the anonymous Edinburgh: A Satirical Novel (1820) scarcely glances up from its trough of scurrilous gossip, and Felix MacDonogh’s The Hermit in Edinburgh (1824) offers “Sketches of Manners and Real Characters and Scenes” in “Edina, the pride of the North.”20 The city’s metropolitan pretensions come under hostile scrutiny in Robert Mudie’s The Modern Athens: A Dissertation and Demonstration of Men and Things in the Scotch Capital (1825). Mudie (the son of a Tayside weaver) had attempted to exploit the postwar vogue for Scottish novels in Glenfergus (1820), which was respectfully reviewed but by no means a hit on the scale of Scott or even Hogg (with whose Winter Evening Tales the publishers coupled it in their advertisements).21 Since 1820 Mudie had been working in London for the radical Morning Chronicle, and he returned north to cover the royal visit for the paper. A first, obsequiously exhaustive spin-off, A Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland (which went through four editions in 1822), preceded the polemical Modern Athens.

In The Modern Athens, Mudie argues that Edinburgh’s civic prominence constitutes an illegitimate claim on national representation. He fastens his critique upon a semantic shift in the term “nation”:

[T]he idea of building a national monument for Scotland, or in other words, a monument for the Scottish nation, may seem a work not of supererogation merely, but of folly; because the Scottish nation, so far from running any risk of becoming extinct and being forgotten, is in a very lively and flourishing state; and there are no people that, wherever they may go, cherish so carefully and proclaim so loudly, the praise of their country, as the Scotch.22

In rehearsing a traditionally English complaint about the infestation of office-hunting Scotchmen, Mudie pitches a reductively local, tribal sense of “nation” against the newer, conceptually more ambitious usage forged through the Napoleonic wars as an ideological shield against revolutionary republicanism. The clannish advancement of the Scots throughout the imperial state and civil apparatus, bragging all the while of a regional distinctiveness they have opportunistically abandoned, precludes their larger claim on a British national identity—and on the status of Edinburgh as a British metropolis. Mudie insists on a literal construction of sovereignty as a condition that has definitively lapsed for Scotland with the Union. Edinburgh’s current pretensions take the form of a cultural nationalism that is no more than a deluded attempt to compensate for that political loss: “she is in herself not only the capital of Scotland, but all that Scotland has localized as an apology for a king; and therefore, besides assuming the consequence due to a royal seat, she puts on the air of royalty itself, and worships her own shadow in the mirror of the passing time” (162). A “widowed metropolis” unable to renounce the vanities of lost youth, Edinburgh has locked herself into a narcissistic and fetishistic circuit of pure representation. The result is a grotesque confusion of categories: “the Athens, taking her nominal and her real situation into the account, is both metropolitan and provincial” (163). What Mudie names but refuses to recognize is a new kind of nationality, a “nominal” one, which inheres in publicly circulated representations rather than in a determinate territory, body, or bloodline. By commanding a certain symbolic capital, a province can indeed claim metropolitan status in a new kind of imperial polity: one not bound by political borders but diffused across the globe in mainly maritime lanes and links of trade, secured by naval power. By 1815 the Scots had “thoroughly and systematically colonized all areas of the British empire from commerce to administration, soldiering to medicine, colonial education to the expansion of emigrant settlements,” from Canada and the Caribbean to India.23

Mudie focuses his critique on the projected National Monument on Calton Hill. Plans to commemorate Scotland’s contribution to the victory over Napoleon with some sort of monument were floated as early as 1817. Both Scott and Cockburn were among the promoters who appealed, in the year of the King’s visit, for a public subscription of £42,000 “to erect a facsimile of the Parthenon” in Edinburgh. Construction began in 1826, four years after the laying of the foundation stone, but ceased when funds ran out in 1829, leaving the skeletal fragment that frames the east end of Princes Street today.24 In 1819–20 Blackwood’s Magazine devoted a series of articles to the controversy surrounding the Monument and the attendant issues of Edinburgh’s civic improvements and national status. The first of these, “On the Proposed National Monument at Edinburgh” (July 1819), sets out with exemplary clarity the new ideology of an imperial cultural nationalism developed at Blackwood’s.25

The writer, the younger Archibald Alison, deprecates “a want of the due sense of the importance of the proposed edifice on national character” on the part of those who think that a monument in London will suffice “since the two kingdoms have now been so long united into one great empire” (377). On the contrary, the empire’s moral and political welfare requires the cultivation of its ancient national distinctions. Alison combines the argument, most cogently made by Adam Ferguson, that the political competitiveness of small republics supplies the most favorable conditions for the exercise of patriotism, with the counterargument that such states are also most vulnerable to political turbulence; an extensive empire maintains better order and security, but at the cost of authoritarian centralization. However, “the union of three kingdoms promises to combine for this country the advantages of both these forms of government without the evils to which either is exposed”: the Pax Britannica will be preserved from despotic stagnation by “the rivalry of the different nations of whom the empire is composed” (379). To maintain this dynamic balance, each nation must cultivate the remembrance of a distinctive identity located in the past:

It is quite right that the Scotch should glory with their aged sovereign in the name of Britain: and that, when considered with reference to foreign states, Britain should exhibit an united whole, intent only upon upholding and extending the glory of that empire which her united forces have formed. But it is equally indisputable that her ancient metropolis should not degenerate into a provincial town; and that an independent nation, once the rival of England, should remember, with pride, the peculiar glories by which her people have been distinguished. Without this, the whole good effects of the rivalry of the two nations will be entirely lost; and the genius of her different people, in place of emulating and improving each other, will be drawn into one centre, where all that is original and characteristic will be lost in the overwhelming influence of prejudice and fashion. . . . The city and the nation which have produced David Hume, and Adam Smith, and Robert Burns, and Henry Mackenzie, and Walter Scott, would cease to exist; and the traveller would repair to her classical scenes, as he now does to Venice or Ferrara, to lament the decay of human genius which follows the union of independent states. (379)

The national obsolescence of Scotland, its consignment to a “classical” antiquity, can be prevented by cultivating that past, by converting the foundation of national identity from politics to culture. The National Monument will “fix down, in a permanent manner, the genius of Scotland to its own shores” (380), replacing evanescent oral tradition as the modern medium of public virtue. To locate national distinction in the past, the ideal time of dead ancestors and lost origins, is to divert it from the contentious arena of contemporary politics. Thus national identity is split between a political and economic dimension (imperial Union) and a supplemental cultural one (national distinctiveness). Where once political competition generated the ancient republics (according to Ferguson), and economic competition has generated modern commercial society (according to Adam Smith), now culture is the medium of that national-subject-tempering activity of “emulation and rivalry.”

The division of ideological labor magically recovers Edinburgh’s status as a national metropolis—asserting it as a natural rather than historical endowment, fixed by canons of taste:

[W]hile London must always eclipse this city in all that depends on wealth, power, or fashionable elegance, nature has given to it the means of establishing a superiority of a higher and more permanent kind. The matchless beauty of its situation, the superb cliffs by which it is surrounded, the magnificent prospects of the bay, which it commands, have given to Edinburgh the means of becoming the most beautiful town that exists in the world. (385)

The modern topos of Edinburgh’s beauty is born in the conversion of the old language of a strategic, military, and commercial eminence to the new language of an aesthetic eminence:

And thus, while London is the Rome of the empire, to which the young, and the ambitious, and the gay, resort for the pursuit of pleasure, of fortune, or of ambition, Edinburgh might become another Athens, in which the arts and the sciences flourished, under the shade of her ancient fame, and established a dominion over the minds of men more permanent even than that which the Roman arms were able to effect. (385)

Alison recommends the Parthenon of Athens as the ideal model for the National Monument, on the paradoxical grounds of its being devoid of national associations: “this impression [of beauty] would be far greater, just because it arose from a style of building hitherto unknown in this country” (384). Lacking, in other words, the divisive political associations of national history, “the work of Phidias” can represent pure aesthetic form. (Although the Monument would remain unfinished, this Hellenic ideal was realized in Hamilton’s Royal High School on the southern flank of Calton Hill.) The condition for an authentically national feeling turns out to be the suppression of actual specific, local, or traditional markers of national identity.

Edinburgh’s status as cultural metropolis turns out to reside not in its fabric of civic institutions but in a natural ensemble of vistas, prospects, and panoramas, composed in the trained aesthetic sensibility of an observer. Edinburgh’s beauty of setting had become a commonplace with the closing of the Continent in the French wars and the development of domestic tourist itineraries. The appreciation of the city as a panorama coincided with the formal invention of the device. In June 1787 an Edinburgh portrait painter named Robert Barker patented “an entire new contrivance or apparatus, called by him La Nature à Coup d’ Œil, for the purpose of displaying Views of Nature at large.” Barker’s 360-degree paintings of the prospects from Calton Hill and the steeple of St. Giles’s went on display in the city.26 A dozen years later, Sir John Stoddart—friend of a not-yet-famous Walter Scott—began to apply the aesthetic canons of Edmund Burke and William Gilpin, hitherto trained on wild or rustic landscapes, to the view of Edinburgh:

I shall not easily forget the singular impression, which I received, on first crossing the North Bridge, and beholding the strange contrast between the New and Old Town, the mixture, or rather confusion, of hill, and rock, and valley, with churches, and houses, and other works of art piled together, as it were, in a chaotic mass. The effect, at the first view, is equally unfavourable to the poet, and to the painter, neither of whom can work to advantage on scattered parts, which have no uniting principle. Yet the very circumstance of its being so entirely out of all rule, gives an interest to the general view; and after a short observation, the different parts arrange themselves into numerous picturesque combinations.27

Stoddart’s paragraph mimes the transition from a Neoclassical to a Romantic aesthetics, in which sublimity gains over beauty as the dominant principle of the picturesque.

In another two decades the conversion was complete. Even the truculent Mudie would grant his narrator sensations of “sublimity” and “witchery” in the view from Holyrood Palace (Modern Athens, 49–55). In Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk, Lockhart gives an account of Edinburgh as the aesthetic site of an imperial nationalist ideology that encodes the Tory politics promoted in Blackwood’s Magazine. The narrator admires the city’s “sublimity of situation and scenery”:

Edinburgh, even were its population as great as that of London, could never be merely a city. Here there must always be present the idea of the comparative littleness of all human works. Here the proudest of palaces must be content to catch the shadows of mountains; and the grandest of fortresses to appear like the dwellings of pigmies, perched on the very bulwarks of creation. Everywhere—all around—you have rocks frowning over rocks in imperial elevation, and descending, among the smoke and dust of a city, into dark depths such as nature alone can excavate. The builders of the old city, too, appear as if they had made nature the model of their architecture. Seen through the lowering mist which almost perpetually envelops them, the huge masses of these erections, so high, so rugged in their outlines, so heaped together, and conglomerated and wedged into each other, are not easy to be distinguished from the yet larger and bolder forms of cliff and ravine, among which their foundations have been pitched. There has been a certain gloomy indistinctness in the formation of these fantastic piles, which leaves the eye, that would scrutinize and penetrate them, unsatisfied and dim with gazing.28

Edinburgh’s civic forms are at once miniaturized and magnified by the natural landscape in which they are embedded, filling a vertical, hierarchical, Gothic space of “imperial elevation” and “dark depths.” The spectator is left disoriented, “unsatisfied,” before a vision of power characterized by a blurring of the boundaries between art and nature. Aesthetic consolation—a pleasure recovered from abasement—resides, however, in the very “indistinctness” that yields the intimation of an organic principle of totality. The visitor climbs Calton Hill: “It seems as if you had not quitted the city, so easy is the ascent; and yet where did streets or city ever afford such a prospect! The view changes every moment as you proceed; yet what grandeur of unity in the general and ultimate impression!” (1:11). If Lockhart’s Edinburgh sublime follows (and vulgarizes) a Kantian aesthetic scheme, the political analogy comes from Burke.29 The city’s prospects disclose (to the properly disciplined observer) the counterrevolutionary vision of a national constitution folded in the timeless order of nature. Meanwhile Lockhart avoids using the title “Modern Athens,” presumably because of its republican associations.


Literary fame, still more than civic improvement, made plausible the idea of Edinburgh as Modern Athens, even in the twilight of a heroic age of Scottish philosophy. In Cockburn’s summary, the appearance of the Edinburgh Review “elevated the public and the literary position of Edinburgh to an extent which no-one not living intelligently then can be made to comprehend”; its publisher “made Edinburgh a literary mart, famous with strangers, and the pride of its own citizens”; and Scott’s romances “threw a literary splendour over his native city, which had now the glory of being at once the seat of the most popular poetry, and the most powerful criticism of the age.”30 Scotch novels and Scotch reviewers were the most brilliant constellations in a northern literary galaxy which included—besides the historical romance and critical quarterly—a professionalized intellectual class, the entrepreneurial publisher, the nationalist ballad epic, and the monthly magazine. If not all absolutely original, here these genres and institutions acquired their definitive forms and associations, and a prestige they would bear throughout the nineteenth century. Their potent ideological distillations, political economy and cultural nationalism, informed a British imperial hegemony long after the fading of the city’s literary splendor. Edinburgh, the seat of the Tory political establishment known as the “Dundas despotism,” thus occupies, in its character as capital city of modern literature, the threshold of what we are used to reading as a Victorian story of world empire.

The year 1802 saw the publication of the first number of the Edinburgh Review, founded by a quartet of ingenious Whig lawyers who had been blocked from preferment under the Pitt-Dundas regime, as well as a two-volume collection of traditional ballads, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, edited by their Tory colleague and coeval Walter Scott. The Edinburgh Review was financed by an ambitious bookseller, Archibald Constable, who also had a share in the Minstrelsy and would remain the principal publisher of Scott’s works until his own and Scott’s ruin in 1826. Constable’s “vigorous intellect, and liberal ideas have not only rendered his native country the mart of her own literature, but established there a Court of Letters, which must command respect, even from those most inclined to dissent from many of its canons,” Scott paid tribute, well after his own defection.31 Commentators then and since have credited Constable with enacting the functional conversion of the eighteenth-century bookseller into the modern entrepreneurial publisher.32 Whether or not they have exaggerated the change, Constable played a key role in the institutional transformation of Scottish literature after 1800, in which it devolved from the academic infrastructure of the Lowland Enlightenment to an industrializing marketplace. As Edinburgh became the nation’s main publishing center besides London, the curricular genres of moral and natural philosophy gave way to the booksellers’ genres that would dominate the nineteenth-century trade—periodicals and novels. The Edinburgh Review, first of the great critical quarterlies, established the authoritative forum of cultural commentary for the age. Its Tory rival the Quarterly Review (1809) was also in large part a Scottish project, founded by a renegade Edinburgh reviewer (Scott) in collusion with a second-generation emigrant Scots publisher (Murray), and planted in London for the sake of proximity to government.33 In postwar Edinburgh the politically revanchist but culturally avant-garde Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1817) revitalized the genre of the monthly miscellany for a more determinately middle-class readership. If the Romantic magazine became, as one scholar contends, “the preeminent literary form of the 1820s and 1830s in Britain,” Blackwood’s led the way, its innovations of style and format copied by political opponents (John Scott’s London Magazine) as well as fellow travelers (William Maginn’s Fraser’s Magazine).34 In 1832 the Reform legislation encouraged several new, liberal Edinburgh periodicals, the most consequential of which were a monthly, Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, a Radical riposte to Blackwood’s, and Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, which successfully inaugurated the cheap-but-respectable weekly miscellany aimed at tradesman and artisan readers.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, the Scottish novel on national and historical themes became one of the leading genres of European Romanticism. In 1819 one reviewer sums up the “important change” that has taken place “within these few years in the general taste and literature of Scotland”: in a strange reversal of “the usual progress of the human mind,” the “grave and metaphysical propensities of our countrymen” have succumbed to a “rage for works of fancy.”35 The novel, according to another commentator, has assumed the role of epic to represent “the different modes of national existence . . . in modern times.”36 Scott had held the wartime role of national minstrel for a half-dozen years, outselling all rivals (even Byron) in the genre of long verse-romance his success established. In 1814, with the anonymous publication of Waverley, the “Wizard of the North” refashioned himself as “the Great Unknown,” the dominant author of the age, who “sold more novels than all the other novelists of the time put together.”37 The Scottish Novels (to give them their contemporary title) fixed all the general trends in British Romantic fiction publishing recently summarized by Peter Garside: the displacement of poetry by the novel, the novel’s heightened definition as a genre, the professionalization of production and marketing, the standardization of format for new works (three volumes, post-octavo, 31s. 6d. the set), and even a masculine takeover of what had been understood to be a feminine kind of writing.38

As well as boosting a general increase in British novel production in the decade after Waterloo, Scott’s success fuelled the local takeoff in Edinburgh fiction publishing. Scotland had accounted for a mere 0.5 percent of all novels published in the British Isles in the first decade of the nineteenth century; this figure rose to 4.4 percent in the following decade and to 12 percent in the 1820s, reaching 15 percent, or 54 out of 359 titles, in the peak years 1822–25—a rate of growth far steeper than the national average.39 William Blackwood arose as Constable’s chief rival in novel as well as periodical publishing, attempting to take over Scott (with the first series of Tales of My Landlord, 1816) and going on to become the most prolific publisher of fiction in Edinburgh (bringing out twenty-seven titles between 1820 and 1826, versus Constable’s twenty-one).40 Black-wood’s list established a distinctive profile of fiction on Scottish national and regional themes, some of which (e.g., tales by Hogg and Galt) first appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Itself experimenting with fictional devices, the magazine wove formal as well as thematic and ideological ties with the novel that were more intimate than could be maintained by the austere quarterlies. Critics have identified a Blackwoodian school of Scottish fiction in competition with Scott’s, characterized by comic and sentimental depictions of regional, especially rural or small-town settings and manners, and sensational “terror tales,” which flourished in the years (from 1820) when Scott himself turned from the making of modern Scotland to more exotic horizons.41 The chief fiction writers associated with Blackwood were Hogg, Galt, Lockhart, John Wilson, David Macbeth Moir, Thomas Hamilton, and Susan Edmonstone Ferrier (the only one not also a contributor to the magazine). Such was the house’s prestige that even a writer so antipathetic to its politics as Christian Isobel Johnstone would publish her best novel there (Elizabeth de Bruce, 1827). In the early 1820s Hogg and Galt emerged as the most original authors of Scottish prose fiction besides Scott, masters of the distinctive genres developed in the Blackwood orbit, regional tale and fictitious autobiography (although Hogg published his novel-length works away from Blackwood).

The rise of an Edinburgh publishing industry and the reorientation of Scottish writing to periodicals and fiction justify the framing of a distinct period, a “post-Enlightenment,” for the literary history of the early nineteenth century. Scholars have argued that the French Revolution and Waterloo supplied British Romanticism with historiographic paradigms of rupture and closure that framed a new kind of historical consciousness. That consciousness apprehended the historicity of the present, understood as itself part of a chronological order, a period.42 Scots writers articulated their period consciousness by looking back at the preceding epoch, the half-century from the 1745 rising to the recent French wars covered in the first trilogy of “Waverley novels,” in which the drastic if uneven modernization of Scottish life provided a material context for the Enlightenment conception of history as wholesale social change.43 They characterized their “last purely Scotch age” in terms, usually nostalgic, of vanishing manners and customs, but were also keenly aware of the transformations in literary genres and modes of production. “[T]here were men of literature in Edinburgh before she was renowned for romances, reviews, and magazines,” Scott reminded readers (not without irony) in an 1827 retrospect of the Enlightenment philosophers.44

The Edinburgh post-Enlightenment may conveniently be divided into three phases, of which the rise of Scottish prose fiction and Blackwood’s Magazine—the topic of this book—occupies the middle, postwar decade (1814–25). The first stage (1802–13) is constituted by the wartime ascendancy of the Edinburgh Review and a vogue for national ballad collections and ballad-based metrical romances (from Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border to Hogg’s The Queen’s Wake). The third stage lasted from the 1826 crash through the death of Scott, the Reform Bill, and the bankruptcy of the Edinburgh Town Council in the early 1830s: a terminus marked by a flowering of liberal periodicals and a dearth in the quality and quantity of Scottish fiction. Besides ruining Scott and Constable, the crash damaged the wider networks of British publishing and depressed the market for new novels into the next decade.45 When the industry recovered in the 1840s, literary production was decisively London based, including the management of the major Edinburgh periodicals, although the city’s printing presses kept their national, even imperial preeminence due to the supply of well-educated cheap labor in Lowland Scotland. Two major works signalize the end of the Edinburgh post-Enlightenment. Lockhart’s Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (1837–38) made up the epoch’s literary monument. An antithetical limit, parodic and de-constructive, is drawn in Carlyle’s antinovelistic magazine serial and pseudo-memoir Sartor Resartus (1833–34), which darkly figures its author’s departure from Scotland as well as undoing the symbolic complex of national bildungsroman installed two decades earlier with Waverley.

In the shadow of a counterrevolutionary world war, literary production in Edinburgh was linked to the politics of the Whig and Tory party establishments. Pre-Reform Scotland, in Cockburn’s vivid if tendentious account, was “not unlike a village at a great man’s door”: with “no popular representation, no emancipated burghs, no effective rival of the Established Church, no independent press, no free public meetings, and no . . . trial by jury,” patronage was “really all the government that the country then admitted of.”46 Thirty-three electors (out of a population of 160,000) comprised the Edinburgh Town Council, controlled by a Westminster-appointed proconsular manager. An almost uninterrupted half century of Tory government after 1782 ensured the virtual dynastic rule of the Dundas family, who had well-nigh absolute disposal of Scottish jobs and appointments. Anti-Jacobin repression in the mid-1790s, more ruthlessly efficient in Scotland than in England, provoked a crisis of ideological legitimation in the institutions of civil society and effectively shut down the so-called Scottish Enlightenment. Scottish judges jailed and transported leaders of “Friends of the People” while chilling admonitions were issued to Girondist professors like John Millar and Dugald Stewart as well as to plebeian hotheads like Burns. Tightening its monopoly over patronage and institutions (including university appointments), the regime saturated public life with a counterrevolutionary surveillance and closed off all space of political debate: “As a body to be deferred to, no public existed.”47 Cockburn goes on to credit the Edinburgh Review, founded as an organ of polite, moderate, antirevolutionist but proreform liberalism in the brief respite from wartime regimentation opened by the Peace of Amiens, with inaugurating the fitful, contentious rebuilding of a Scottish public sphere in the long dusk of the Dundas despotism. “[It] was only through the press that [party] intolerance could be abated, or our policy reformed.”48

Politics thus hastened, if it did not solely drive, the commercial devolution of the Scottish Republic of Letters. The transition took the form, at first, of a displacement of Enlightenment cultural formations into “the press” rather than their replacement with something new. The Edinburgh reviewers, Scott as well as Jeffrey, Brougham, and Horner, were trained at the premier academic institutions of late-Enlightenment Edinburgh— the High School, University, and Faculty of Advocates. The Scottish legal and educational systems, their national distinctiveness preserved by the articles of Union, had supplied Lowland Scotland with a strong foundation of civic institutions that supported a liberal, professional culture of intellectual work and literary production, independent (to a limited but effective degree) from both the state and market, although enmeshed in regional patronage networks. This civic infrastructure differentiated the Scottish republic of letters from its more thoroughly commercial English counterpart in the “Age of Johnson.”49 Dustin Griffin has insisted that, far from there occurring any “sudden change from a patronage economy to a literary marketplace” in eighteenth-century England, the period “is characterized by overlapping ‘economies’ of patronage and the marketplace.”50 With patronage regulating political life in pre-Reform Scotland still more strongly than in England, the “overlapping economies” of literary production are correspondingly densely entangled. Patronage frames the professional culture of polite letters in the Scottish Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment, differentiating it from the more thoroughly market-based professional culture that would emerge later in nineteenth-century Britain. Optimally, the Scottish republic of letters was constituted by a productive relation between the professions and the market. The adjacency of the larger English trade, with new colonial markets looming beyond, provided a dynamic opening for eighteenth-century Scottish literary production; but while such philosophical blockbusters as The Wealth of Nations or the histories of Hume and Robertson were produced for the British trade, they were incubated in the Scottish universities (and at accessory institutions such as the Speculative Society and Faculty of Advocates’ Library). The Scottish men of letters, nearly all of them professors or placed ministers, provided intellectual capital for the “loose-knit printing and publishing syndicate[s]” of London-based Scots booksellers (Strahan, Millar, Cadell) and their Edinburgh associates.51

Prompt to exploit the crisis of legitimacy in the Scottish institutions of civil society after 1800, Constable translated these Enlightenment conditions of authorship into the genres of the market. He was able to reclaim the tradition of a professional rather than merely commercial class of men of letters by paying unprecedentedly high fees to his editors and contributors: an investment that saved their status as gentlemen and, conversely, cast the publisher himself as an enlightened patron rather than a tradesman. Constable and the Edinburgh reviewers were thus able to reconfigure, in the early nineteenth-century press, a functional equivalent of the cultural authority of the Enlightenment philosophers.52 Authorship became, following the cue of the Edinburgh Review, a professionalizing formation—closing the circuit between professional career and literary production established in eighteenth-century Scotland. “The lawyer of former days was esteemed irrevocably lost to his profession, if he meddled with literature,” Scott wrote in 1819, looking back at his father’s generation: “But now the most successful professional men are both aspirants after, and dispensers of, literary fame; and there is spread throughout society at large a more general tinge of information and good conversation than is to be met with elsewhere.”53 This professionalized literary culture, prototypical of later developments in Victorian Britain, thus constitutes itself upon a potent, uneven combination of “modern” and “traditional” elements—an industrializing, globalizing market involving volatile new financial mechanisms of capitalization and credit as well as new technologies and circuits of production and distribution, patronage networks entangled with tribal, collegial, and partisan loyalties, and the Enlightenment academy’s mixed ethos of public spirit, meritocracy, and corporate privilege.

Scottish literary production after 1800 dialectically combines a reorientation from the academy to the market with an elevation of the commercial genres of periodical and fiction to civic, indeed national, dignity, as these assume the professional ethos of Enlightenment together with its philosophical themes. The Edinburgh Review opened a new public domain of literary and scientific culture, which it defined in professional, judicial terms as a disciplinary court of judgment and evaluation rather than a marketplace of information and opinion. Jeffrey and his fellow advocates convened a critical equivalent of the Court of Session, a literary reinvention of the old Scottish Parliament-House. The ideological project of the Edinburgh Review was to provide a scientific basis for Reform by yoking opposition policy to Scottish Enlightenment political economy.54 At first, this agenda was not especially divisive, since it appealed to an intellectual heritage shared by Edinburgh Whigs and Tories alike. The Edinburgh Review could claim to represent a civic and national interest rather than a party-political one, as it seemed to revive the Moderate, Old-Whig consensus of the Scottish Enlightenment that had been torn apart in the anti-Jacobin reaction.55 Scott, although a Tory, was a contributor alongside Jeffrey and his set, because they were all products of that tradition; they had all, for instance, attended the lectures of Dugald Stewart, the Edinburgh professor of moral philosophy and most influential interpreter of Enlightenment thought for the new generation.

But the neomoderate consensus proved too fragile to survive the resumption of war against France. In 1809 Scott broke with the Edinburgh Review over its refusal to support British intervention against Napoleon in Portugal and Spain, and instigated the progovernment Quarterly. Its critics began to accuse the Edinburgh Review of a blatant politicization of the literary field, in the teeth of any claims to liberal disinterestedness. Christian Johnstone’s characterization (in 1814) of a “little junta of accomplished men . . . giving law to the republic of letters” casts the Edinburgh Review as a mirror image of the Dundas Despotism it opposes. The politicization of Edinburgh literary culture—immanent in the patronage system—would erupt in the decade after Waterloo, when the ideological resources mobilized in the cause of wartime patriotism recoiled upon a domestic situation of economic recession, high grain prices, mass unemployment, and growing agitation for reform. In Edinburgh a series of public occasions—university appointments, assemblies to petition parliament, antislavery meetings, banquets in honor of Burns and Fox—became battlefields between the entrenched Tory administration and the Whigs, as the star of Reform rose in the south.56 The periodical press became the main arena of this conflict, constituting indeed (in Jon Klancher’s account) a new kind of national public sphere—one splintered by competing claims and interests.57 The Edinburgh Review was the official platform of opposition policy in the country, but however obnoxious, it was at least socially respectable, a rival gentlemen’s establishment. It was soon apparent that the quarterlies were too ponderous to fight the kind of guerrilla war the postwar terrain required. The advent of a Whig weekly newspaper in Edinburgh, the Scotsman (January 1817), provoked the outbreak of Blackwood’s, instantly scandalous for the ferocity of its attacks on Whigs and “Cockneys.” In the years from the so-called “Radical war” of 1819–20 to George IV’s visit, the literary feuding boiled over into verbal and physical violence, much of it inflamed by Blackwood’s and the irregulars of the Tory press.

Blackwood’s momentous achievement was the construction of a “Romantic ideology” to oppose the neo-Enlightenment liberalism of the Edinburgh Review, which it denounced for Jacobin tendencies of skepticism and materialism. Blackwood’s equipped Tory politics with a counter-Enlightenment aesthetic ideology of cultural nationalism shaped by the magazine’s innovative mixture of literary forms and discourses, among them fiction. Although the quarterlies had condescended to review novels, beginning with Maria Edgeworth and then Scott, they tended to maintain a neoclassical suspicion of fiction as such; Blackwood’s, in contrast, not only published fiction in varying styles and formats but juxtaposed poems and tales with essays and reviews, rather than segregating them as had been the practice in earlier magazines, and introduced fictional devices into nonfictional articles. Hybrid works of serial fiction and cultural criticism, notably Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk and the “Noctes Ambrosianae,” gave especially potent expression to the Blackwood’s marshalling of cultural nationalism against Whig political economy. Ideological contest took the form of an antagonism between literary genres and discourses that would frame the British debate about modernity well into the twentieth century.

This set of political, commercial, and generic antagonisms—Whig versus Tory, Blackwood versus Constable, review versus magazine, essay versus fiction, political economy versus national culture—had important consequences for the development of the Scottish novel. Ina Ferris shows how the Waverley novels set themselves above the ruck of common fiction by claiming a share in the “literary authority” of the quarterlies, and thus a measure of critical respectability, through Scott’s synthesis of romance with Enlightenment historicism as well as the alignment of his authorial role with the Edinburgh Review’s professional ethos.58 The keenest of the Blackwood’s critics, Lockhart, attacked the professional culture of the Edinburgh Review, arguing that its commercial basis drove a fatal wedge between the reviewers’ claims to judicial disinterest and their praxis of a partisan politics. Instead of extending the critique to Scott’s poems and novels, Lockhart appropriated them for the rival camp on the basis of their successful occupation of an aesthetic high ground of national representation. In an argument Lockhart developed in Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk, Scott’s totalizing representation of Scottish historical life fitted him to become the figurehead of the new Tory cultural nationalism formulated in the pages of Blackwood’s.

Lockhart was able to base this symbolic appropriation on a wider platform than Scott’s role as literary viceroy of the Dundas despotism and patron of several Blackwood’s authors, including his future son-in-law. Politics did not settle everything: Scott made a business decision to return to Constable when Blackwood mishandled Tales of My Landlord in 1817. The “overlapping economies” of patronage and the market are part of a larger historical complex. Tory in his politics but ideologically a product of the Whig Enlightenment, Scott stood between the literati of his own generation (Jeffrey and the Edinburgh reviewers) and the Young Turks at Blackwood’s, strong enough to encompass both sides rather than fall between them. The Author of Waverley could personify the “moderate” Enlightenment ethos that the Edinburgh Review had revived and then forfeited with its parti pris, and plausibly (although far from uncontroversially) represent a national culture in all its historical variety and complexity. The Author of Waverley could play that role more plausibly, certainly, than Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford, client of Dundas and Buccleuch patronage and backer of Tory periodicals from the high-toned Quarterly to the blackguardly Beacon and Sentinel. Crucial here was the status of the novel as the ascendant genre of national life.

In the early nineteenth century, according to Clifford Siskin, the novel triumphed over periodical genres to become the normative literary form of middle-class culture, since novels rhetorically unified a modern reading public, in their invocation of national life, whereas magazines and reviews politicized its social divisions.59 Edinburgh was the decisive site for this development and the Waverley novels its decisive agent. It is a version, after all, of the story Scott’s novels are supposed to tell—the (Humean) history of a modernizing nation formation out of the bitter clash of factions, out of “politics” and “ideology” as such. Just as crucial to the cultural work done by Scott’s novels as their topical assumption of Enlightenment historicism, in this light, is their powerful, categorical investment in the rhetoric of fiction, abstracted and historicized under the title of “romance.” Fiction is the discursive category that separates novels from history, from periodicals and other kinds of writing, in its designation of a strategic difference from reality—a distance or obliquity in the relation between narrative and world, a figurative disguise or darkening of the real—in contrast to the referential immediacy that charges the very premise of periodical publication.

More thoroughly than a book of poems, with its subscription list and dedication to a patron, a novel belongs to the market and the reading public convened there. And in contrast to a review’s or magazine’s explicit intervention and position taking in the historical here and now, a novel lays itself open to imaginative appropriation by different communities and interests and for divergent intentions. But the corollary of this is that, for the same reason, fiction tends to occupy a fugitive, unreliable, duplicitous, even resistant relation to any determinate identity or stance in the world. In other words, this designation of the novel’s special quality— its fictionality—opens rather than closes the question of its relation to historical and political contexts. Lockhart’s appropriation of Scott (in Peter’s Letters) shifted from critical appreciation of the work of fiction to a cult of the author, around whom cultural authority could be reassembled in the fully counter-Enlightenment mode that Carlyle would later call “hero-worship.” At the same time, this Tory Romantic apotheosis required the amputation of Scott’s own roots in the culture of Enlightenment, which Lockhart identifies with the skeptical philosophy of David Hume. In Lockhart’s account, Scott’s is a charismatic authority that compels his readers’ belief, just as Scott’s novels supply a necromantic medium for historical truth and national spirit.

Nevertheless it was Hume who provided the philosophical justification for Scott’s combination of history and romance. The Humean trajectory of enlightenment traces a skeptical dismantling of the metaphysical foundations of reality and their replacement with a sentimental investment in “common life,” intermittently recognized as an imaginary construction of reality ratified by custom. Thus Waverley narrates not just the emergence of modern civil society through the final conquest of an ancient regime but a Humean dialectical progression from metaphysical illusion through melancholy disenchantment to a sentimental and ironical reattachment to common life. Reflexively insistent upon their fictional status, Scott’s novels activate skepticism rather than faith as the subjective cast of their reader’s relation to history, which includes, in the logic of metafictional reflection, the reader’s own historical situation. Following Hume, Scott made fiction the performative technique of a liberal ideology—an ideology that stakes its modernity on the claim of having transcended primitive modes of belief (superstition and fanaticism) through a moral and cognitive abstraction from the submerged life of history, the blind rage of politics.

Scott’s novels commanded a cultural centrality—a national representativeness—in post-Enlightenment Edinburgh that the reviews and magazines, because of their partisan alignment, could not claim. That centrality overlays, but is not reducible to, their author’s location at the center of the Scottish network of Tory patronage and his quasi-monopolistic control of an Edinburgh apparatus of literary production by the early 1820s. These topological relations remained as stressed as the moral relations between Sir Walter Scott, the Author of Waverley, and the secret partner in Ballantyne and Company. Accordingly, Lockhart’s claim on Scott as author breaks down the division of labor encoded in Scott’s anonymity: between the person, involved in webs of patronage and influence, and the novels, convening a national reading public in the open forum of the market. The identification of Scott’s works with a Tory Romanticism required a measure of symbolic violence that did not go uncontested. Although Lockhart went on to secure (and modify) his account of Scott with his great biography (the genre that canonically closes a circuit between life and works), other voices challenged it—some, in a reciprocal symbolic violence, collapsing the works into their author, flattening the Waverley novels into a pageantry of Tory prejudice, and others, more ambitiously, reopening the categorical difference between them.

The critique of Scott as national author appeared as early as Jeffrey’s review of Marmion (1808), which deplored the faulty patriotism of a poem celebrating Scotland’s worst military defeat as well as the poet’s Tory prejudices.60 After 1818 the complaint informs a sharper scrutiny of Scott’s cultural authority as grey eminence of the Dundas despotism, blamed for abetting the hooliganism of the Tory press. William Hazlitt’s commentary provides a locus classicus for the conjunction of admiration of Scott’s art with detestation of his politics. “His works (taken together) are almost like a new edition of human nature. This is indeed to be an author!”61 Their author’s magnanimity makes “the political bearing of the Scotch Novels . . . a considerable recommendation to them”: “The candour of Sir Walter’s historic pen levels our bristling prejudices . . . and sees fair play between Roundheads and Cavaliers, between Protestant and Papist. He is a writer reconciling all the diversities of human nature to the reader” (231). Hazlitt goes on, however, to sever this myriad-minded author from the Scott who intervenes in contemporary politics, a move that requires a radical division of agency within the author function. Hazlitt picks up a slighting allusion to the “Peterloo massacre” in Ivanhoe, in which Scott likens the crowd assembled to witness Rebecca’s fate to a modern “meeting of radical reformers” who are liable for whatever harm may befall them:

He is indeed so besotted as to the moral of his own story, that he has even the blindness to go out of his way to have a fling at flints and dungs (the contemptible ingredients, as he would have us believe, of a modern rabble) at the very time when he is describing a mob of the twelfth century—a mob (one should think) after the writer’s own heart, without one particle of modern philosophy or revolutionary politics in their composition, who were to a man, to a hair, just what priests, and kings, and nobles let them be, and who were collected to witness (a spectacle proper to the times) the burning of the lovely Rebecca at the stake for a sorceress, because she was a Jewess, beautiful and innocent, and the consequent victim of insane bigotry and unbridled profligacy. And it is at this moment (when the heart is kindled and bursting with indignation at the revolting abuses of self-constituted power) that Sir Walter stops the presses to have a sneer at the people, and to put a spoke (as he thinks) in the wheel of upstart innovation!62

The great work of the Author of Waverley is interrupted by another figure, the censorious editor “Sir Walter,” whose intrusion occurs subsequently to the time of composition: he “stops the presses.” Sir Walter’s reactionary sneer, the emanation of a local, historically contingent subjectivity, breaks the sympathetic circuit between author and reader (“when the heart is kindled and bursting”) that constitutes the authentic medium of “human nature” and “the Spirit of the Age.” At the end of his essay Hazlitt turns to that historically contingent domain to denounce the political corruption of “the finest, the most humane and accomplished writer of his age”: “who took the wrong side, and defended it by unfair means,” and “associated himself with and encouraged the lowest panders of a venal press.”63

Scott’s death, coinciding with Reform, inspired a reprise of Hazlitt’s critical strategy, the separation of Scott’s politics from his art, by Radical feminist critics. Christian Johnstone (in The Schoolmaster) and Harriet Martineau (in Tait’s) sought to reclaim Scott’s achievement for a liberal and progressive spirit of the age. The Waverley novels are the property of all mankind, not just of a party interest. Now that the Tory regime is falling into the past, they can belong, at last, to the nation’s future.64 Scott’s opponents shared a commitment to the novel as a representation of national life that should exceed local, social, and political differences to enfold a greater reading public. They reaffirm the genre that Scott set in place, even while they might criticize him for inadequately realizing it.


The general name of these works, “the Scotch novels,” will always indicate an era in our literary history, for they add a new species to the catalogue of our native literary productions, and nothing of the same nature has ever been produced any where else. . . . [T]he Scotch novels, as they are the first of their class, so they are inimitable—perfectly, hopelessly inimitable for the time to come. . . . [W]e pronounce that the Scotch novels must remain alone, forming their own class, which is a new one in literature, and which they may be considered to have both commenced and finished. We should much sooner expect another author equal to the Paradise Lost, than another equal to Guy Mannering and Rob Roy.65

In the early 1820s, in William St. Clair’s only slightly hyperbolic summary, “Scott and his partners achieved an ownership of the whole literary production and distribution process from author to reader, controlling or influencing the initial choice of subjects, the writing of the texts, the editing, the publishing, and the printing of the books, the reviewing in the local literary press, [and] the adaptations for the theatre.”66 This “vertical and horizontal concentration of media ownership” was accompanied by a bewildering dispersal of the Author of Waverley across the literary field, refracted through the figure’s formal anonymity. The uncannily prolific Great Unknown, dashing off novel after novel alongside his other, professional and public and domestic careers, already constituted himself as Scott’s Shadow. “A shadow—and an impersonal author is nothing better—can cast no shade,” declares “the Eidolon, or Representation, of the Author of Waverley” in the preface to The Fortunes of Nigel (1821).67 But shades of Scott’s shadow were everywhere. In the preface to The Monastery (1820) the Eidolon had ruefully observed the renegade career of one of them, Jedediah Cleishbotham, who “misbehaved himself so far as to desert his original patron, and set up for himself,” in an inauthentic “New Series” of Tales of My Landlord. Challenged in the press by John Ballantyne, the publisher called the Scott consortium’s bluff: “The Fourth Series, collected and arranged by Jedediah Cleishbotham, is no more spurious than the First, the Second, or the Third.”68

Scott’s saturation of the literary field, in the view of some contemporaries, was symptomatic of a degradation of originality—the literary value that the Author of Waverley was supposed to typify—by the pressure of commerce or politics. Sarah Green’s burlesque Scotch Novel Reading (1824) mocks the dissolution of the author function into a generic, quasi-mechanized Scotch Novel industry. Writing under the anti-Blackwoodian pseudonym “A Cockney,” Green complains of a Scottish invasion of English literature: “We have been now, for some years, inundated with showers of Scotch novels, thicker than the snow you see falling.” The blame for the blizzard lies less with Scott himself (grudgingly acknowledged to be a superior author) than with a proliferation of cheap knockoffs: Green’s heroine “never reads any novels than Walter Scott’s; though no-one, but herself, seems really to know who the deuce it is that scribbles away so fast.”69 That proliferation cancels the original distinction of an achievement so facilely mass-reproduced, so that Scott himself sinks to being one of his own imitators, and conversely any display of originality by a Scotch novelist, such as James Hogg, may stamp him as just another of Scott’s brand names.70

Francis Jeffrey’s 1823 Edinburgh Review article “Secondary Scottish Novels” implies that politics is the force that thwarts originality and condemns the new generation of Tory literati to mechanical reproduction of their master. Jeffrey discusses titles by Galt, Lockhart, and Wilson, mainstays of Blackwood’s list in the early 1820s; in addition, Wilson and Lockhart performed editorial roles at Blackwood’s Magazine, and Galt was rumored to.71 He ignores other authors who are Scott protégés, even those with strong claims to consideration such as Ferrier (who did not publish in the magazine) and Hogg (no longer a Blackwood author). These Blackwood products are mere copies of a “great prototype.”72 “In intimating that we regard them as imitations of the inimitable novels, — which we, who never presume to peep under masks, still hold to be by an author unknown, —we have already exhausted more than half their general character.” By respecting the decorum of anonymity, Jeffrey keeps intact Scott’s status as original author—in order to draw the contrast with his followers, lapsed under the laws of the market. “In the arduous task of imitating the great novellist [sic], they have apparently found it necessary to resort to the great principle of division of labour; and yet they have not come near to equal the work of his single hand”: Galt develops Scott’s comic vein, while Wilson and Lockhart exaggerate his pathos (160).

Politics also moved John Scott, editor of the London Magazine, to condemn the “bad precedent” set by the “mystery as to the authorship” of what were evidently works by Sir Walter Scott. “The example given by the author of the Scotch Novels in this respect, is leading to a fashion of hoaxing and masquerade, in regard to authorship, which must degrade, and is degrading, the character of our literature”: the worst offenders being “the Veiled Conductor of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine” and his avatars—“Z.,” “Wastle,” and “Peter Morris”—disguises worn by Wilson and Lockhart.73 This virulent pullulation of shadows corrupts the originality, “co-extensive . . . with nature itself,” that the editor of the London Magazine had only a few months earlier granted to his namesake, in a panegyric on the singular and unrepeatable genius of the Author of Waverley: “The general name of these works, ‘the Scotch novels,’ will always indicate an era in our literary history, for they add a new species to the catalogue of our native literary productions, and nothing of the same nature has ever been produced any where else. . . . [W]e pronounce that the Scotch novels must remain alone, forming their own class, which is a new one in literature, and which they may be considered to have both commenced and finished.”74

Indeed few novels were published in Scotland before that “era in our literary history” opened by Waverley in the late summer of 1814.75 Gar-side and Schöwerling list barely a dozen titles from 1800 through 1813, the most notable of which are Elizabeth Hamilton’s The Cottagers of Glenburnie (1808) and Mary Brunton’s Self-Control (1811; Brunton’s Discipline appeared five months after Waverley). Reviewers assigned Brunton’s and Hamilton’s works to a tradition of female-authored domestic fiction reaching from Frances Burney through Maria Edgeworth, who gave the tradition its “national” (Irish) development, and Hannah More, who supplied an evangelical didacticism.76 Scott himself differentiated this tradition from his own, and hailed Susan Ferrier (daughter of a fellow Clerk of Session) as its local adept, the Scots equivalent of Edge-worth in Ireland and Jane Austen in England. Ferrier admired Hamilton and Brunton (as well as More, Edgeworth, and Austen), and began her first novel, Marriage, under their aegis in 1810.77 Despite the anterior presence of the tradition, Ferrier remained its only notable practitioner in Scotland after 1814. Brunton died in childbed in 1818, leaving the didactic fragment Emmeline. The only other Scottish Romantic woman novelist to enjoy significant success, Christian Johnstone, kept her distance from domestic fiction, mocking it by literalizing it, in a quasi-fictional guide to domestic economy (The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, 1826), or combining the depiction of Scottish manners (in Clan-Albin, 1815, and Elizabeth de Bruce, 1827) with the more dissident Irish mutations of the national tale practiced by Sydney Owenson and Charles Maturin—to the extent that Johnstone might be claimed as an Irish novelist, much as Edge-worth might be claimed as a Scottish one.

Marriage was one of two titles with which Blackwood launched the movement of “secondary Scottish novels” in 1818, the other being a set of tales by Hogg, The Brownie of Bodsbeck. Although Hogg claimed (plausibly) he had written it earlier, The Brownie appeared as a popular riposte to Scott’s treatment of the Covenanters in Old Mortality, the main work in the first series of Tales of My Landlord. This was the title with which Blackwood first challenged Constable in the field of Scottish fiction publishing at the end of 1816, after moving his premises from the Old Town to fashionable Princes Street. When he lost Scott back to Constable a year later Blackwood began his aggressive, no doubt compensatory investment in other authors (and in his magazine). Tales of My Landlord opened a path for the characteristically “Blackwoodian” fiction that followed. Compared with the studiously approximate settings of his first three novels, Scott emphasizes a more decisively regionalist representation of national life in the medium of a set of “tales.” “To his loving countrymen,” goes the dedication, “whether they are denominated Men of the South, Gentlemen of the North, People of the West, or Folk of Fife, these Tales, illustrative of ancient Scottish manners, and of the Traditions of their Respective Districts, are respectfully inscribed.”78 The most gifted of the Blackwood authors would develop this emphasis, making regional identity (the traditions of their respective districts) the foundation for their own claims upon originality. Hogg’s tales—The Brownie of Bods-beck and its successors, Winter Evening Tales (1820), The Shepherd’s Calendar (1829), Altrive Tales (1832)—root their narrative matter and manner in the popular traditions of the Scottish Borders, centering on Ettrick but ranging from Berwick to Dumfries. Galt conceived of his characteristic fiction as a series of “Tales of the West,” emanating from and representing Glasgow and Ayrshire as a world socially and culturally distinct from Edinburgh.79 Hogg and Galt gave the tale its most striking formal development, the first-person fictional memoir grounded in local patterns of experience and discourse (developed, in Galt’s case, from Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent). Galt had his imitators in the vein, such as David Moir (Mansie Wauch, Tailor at Dalkeith, 1824), Andrew Picken (Tales and Sketches of the West of Scotland, 1824), and Thomas Hamilton (The Youth and Manhood of Cyril Thornton, 1827). The novels and tales of Lockhart and Wilson, who also emerged, like Galt, from the West (but via Oxford), forgo regional specificity for typical rather than particularized provincial settings, drawing upon the moral-evangelical tradition.

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine became the leading British forum for publishing nonnovelistic kinds of prose fiction in the 1820s, establishing the modern short story as a genre and developing a range of experimental styles and formats, including serialization (Galt’s The Ayrshire Legatees and The Steam-Boat, 1820–21; Moir’s Mansie Wauch). As well as mixing fictional with nonfictional articles, the magazine infiltrated its essays and reviews with fictional devices such as disguised or fictitious contributors and narrative and dramatic frames. Ethnographic sketch and satirical mock-autobiography graduate insensibly into outright works of invention, with historical and imaginary characters jostling each other on the page. The most elaborate of these Blackwoodian para-or pseudofictions included Lockhart’s novelized anatomy of the Scottish cultural scene, Peter’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1819), and the symposium series “Noctes Ambrosianae” by Wilson, Lockhart, Maginn, and others (1822–35).

Mere copies, spin-offs and outright rip-offs of the Waverley novels tended to issue elsewhere: the spurious series of “Tales of My Landlord” (1820, 1821) and “Tales of My Landlady” (1818) in London, or Walladmor (1825), a German fabrication posing as a translation from Scott retranslated or rather refabricated into English by Thomas De Quincey.80 Scott imitation at its most mechanical can be found in the novels of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, brought out by Scott’s publisher Constable: Lochandhu: A Tale of the Eighteenth Century (1824), The Wolfe of Badenoch: A Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century (1827).81 In a “Preliminary notice” to the latter, Lauder addresses critics who have accused him of “being an imitator of the Great Unknown.” The apology confirms the charge: “In truth, his greatest anxiety has been to avoid intruding profanely into the sacred haunts of that Master Enchanter. But let it be remembered, that the mighty spirit of the Magician has already so filled the labyrinth of Romance, that it is not easy to venture within its precincts, without feeling his influence.”82 The figure of the magician or enchanter revives the antique, astrological sense of “influence,” emanations from the stars, as though the Author of Waverley, unnameable, ineffable, occupies the station that the ascendant (Romantic) conception of literary influence has granted the illustrious dead. If modern English literature is haunted by Shakespeare and Milton, the labyrinth of Scottish romance is haunted (stranger still) by a living author.

Blackwood provided the base where an ambitious novelist might claim to be something better than an “imitator of the Great Unknown,” if by no means outside the eldritch zone of his influence. In 1821 Galt wrote to his publisher:

For although the Legatees is apparently my first Scottish work, the fact is that the Pastor [Annals of the Parish] was begun many years ago, and before Waverley appeared I wrote to Constable proposing to execute a Scottish story. It is also a curious coincidence, that long before the appearance of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, I, then very young, in sending some trifle to the Scotch magazine mentioned my design of executing a series of historical ballads & dramas from Scottish history—What a cursed fellow that Walter Scot has been, to drive me out of my old original line.83

Galt told the story of his proposal at greater length in his Autobiography (diplomatically muting the snarl against Scott). Cold-shouldered by Constable, he shoved the manuscript into a drawer, and rediscovered it several years later when setting his papers in order: the similarity with Scott’s famous account of the hatching of Waverley (itself a redaction of the Gothic-antiquarian “found manuscript” topos) rather undermines the point being made.84 Several other Scots authors besides Galt claimed to have written or conceived a work of fiction on national themes before or around the appearance of Waverley. Some of them had also taken their proposals to Constable. In May 1813, buoyed by the success of his romantic ballad sequence The Queen’s Wake, Hogg offered Constable a collection of Scottish rural tales, most of them adapted from his magazine the Spy (1810–11); but Constable was not interested, and Hogg’s fiction did not begin to appear in book form until several years later. Ferrier had begun writing Marriage as early as 1810, although it too would not be published until 1818. Lockhart wrote to Constable five months after Waverley announcing the completion of a novel, “The Romance of the Thistle”: “I am sensible that much has been done of late years in the description of our national manners, but there are still, I apprehend, many important classes of Scotch society quite untouched.”85 In the summer of 1814 Mary Brunton was completing the third volume of Discipline, with its Highland idyll, when Waverley came out: “The worst of all is, that I have ventured unconsciously over Waverley’s own ground, by conveying my heroine to the Highlands!”86 In her preface to Clan-Albin (1815) Christian Johnstone claimed that “the first half of this Tale was not only written but printed long before the animated historian of the race of Ivor had allured the romantic adventurer into a track, rich, original, and unexplored, and rendered a second journey all but hopeless.”87 And Mary Johnston’s preface to The Lairds of Glenfern; or, Highlanders of the Nineteenth Century (published in London, 1816) anticipates charges that she has imitated “those exquisite delineations of Scottish scenery and manners which have lately appeared, under the titles of Waverly [sic], Discipline, &c.” with an avowal that “the whole of the first, and great part of the second volume, have been written nearly four years.”88

Christian Johnstone tempered her declaration of independence by dedicating the second edition of Clan-Albin to Scott, while Brunton expressed her admiration of Waverley and Guy Mannering in her correspondence. Galt’s Autobiography conceals any private resentment at Scott’s success beneath fulsome praise, including two eulogistic poems (which are so bad, however, as to arouse suspicion that the author’s characteristic irony may be at work). Even authors who happened not to be protégés of Scott could not help but acknowledge his ascendancy. All concurred in viewing the publication of Waverley as (in John Scott’s phrase) “an era in our literary history”—an event that opened up the field of Scottish fiction, but at the same time colonized it with a particular model of historical romance. Scott’s presence and example were unavoidable, especially for those novelists who would assert their own originality. Not surprisingly, we find them reckoning with that presence—with Scott’s cultural centrality, his social and literary influence—in their own works of fiction.

Several novels, for instance, feature characters who are engrossed in reading Scott. Old Mr. Ramsay in Ferrier’s The Inheritance (1824) disdains the modern trash of novels—until one day, “in a paroxysm of ennui,” he takes up Guy Mannering and finds himself addicted: “In short, Uncle Adam’s whole being was completely absorbed in this (to him) new creation; while, at the same time, he blushed even in private at his own weakness in filling his head with such idle havers, and indeed could never have held it up again if he had been detected with a volume in his hand.”89 Scott’s art is so potent as to enchant even the antiromantic (although Uncle Adam’s susceptibility is index to his buried but potent sensibility). Galt’s first canonical Scottish tale, The Ayrshire Legatees, contrasts the Rev. Charles Snodgrass’s fashionable enthusiasm for the newly published Ivanhoe with the response of another naïve reader, the small-town minister Dr. Pringle, to what he conceives to be “a History of the Rebellion, anent the hand that an English gentleman of the name of Waverley had in it.” The doctor’s acceptance of the book as an authentic chronicle encourages one of his correspondents to speculate whether “Waverley’s History of the Rebellion” might not be “another doze o’ the radical poison in a new guise.”90

Robert Mudie’s Glenfergus (1820) introduces the fair Amelia “accompanying the gifted Gilfillan in his march to Stirling,” while her sister Flora (“all romantic affectation, and fine sentiment”) strums her harp.91 The scene combines the reading of Waverley with a second type of representation, the inclusion of characters derived from Scott’s novels. Baillie Nicol Jarvie’s widow makes a pompous appearance in Galt’s masterpiece The Entail (1823); readers had last encountered her as the servant girl Mattie, whose marriage to Jarvie was foretold at the end of Rob Roy (1818). Since reviewers of Rob Roy were giving Scott credit for putting Glasgow on the literary map, Galt’s appropriation of one of his characters issues a rebuke to that claim, sharpening the Glasgow-Edinburgh rivalry articulated elsewhere in The Entail.92 The hero of an earlier novel, Sir Andrew Wylie (1822), shares his name with an offstage character in Rob Roy, while the title of a chapter in Galt’s Blackwood’s serial (and Ayrshire Legatees sequel) The Steam-Boat, “A Jeanie Deans in Love” (August 1821), acknowledges the provision of a type rather than the actual character. A servant girl goes to London to petition the Duke of York to grant a commission to her lover, a ne’er-do-well who rejects her anyway, so she marries another suitor: Galt’s conclusion supplants romance with irony.93 Galt startles the reader of Rothelan (1824) with the insertion of a chapter called “Redgauntlet”—containing a variant of one of the interpolated tales in Scott’s eponymous novel. Johnstone’s Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826) begins as though it is a Waverley novel, a sequel to Saint Ronan’s Well (1824), before settling into the business of recipes and instructions. Alongside Scott’s nabob Peregrine Touchwood and landlady Meg Dods, Johnstone brings in the English epicure Dr. Redgill from Ferrier’s Marriage. The blending of characters from different sources, as well as of different genres, echoes the satirical dialogue series “Noctes Ambrosianae” (then at the height of its popularity in Blackwood’s Magazine), in which more-and less-fictionalized versions of “real” persons of the day (Lord Byron, the English Opium-Eater, the Ettrick Shepherd, Christopher North) rub shoulders with characters out of novels—including Galt’s Sir Andrew Wylie and Leddy Grippy from The Entail, one of very few female voices to speak in the series. Galt himself, in the late fictional memoir Bogle Corbet (1831), has his protagonist encounter “the afterwards justly renowned Cyril Thornton” on the road from Glasgow to London. This is not a Scott character, for once, but the eponymous hero of Thomas Hamilton’s 1827 novel, which had paid tribute to Galt’s inventions in its pages. Galt extends the roman-fleuve technique of his own “Tales of the West” to encompass a Glasgow school of fiction in competition with Scott’s.94

Meanwhile Hogg devised The Three Perils of Man (1822) as a special-effects-packed “prequel” to The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805). Hogg’s Border romance narrates the demonic apotheosis of the mighty wizard (and Scott ancestor) Michael Scott, who haunts Scott’s poem; still more presumptuously, it called its hero “Sir Walter Scott” until Scott made Hogg change the name in proofs.95 This contentious instance opens onto yet another type of Scott allusion—episodes in which Scott is introduced into the fiction in propria persona (although usually kept offstage). Early in Hogg’s next novel The Three Perils of Woman (1823) the Border farmer Daniel Bell describes Scott sitting at his post in the Court of Session and recalls his childhood exploits on his grandfather’s farm at Sandyknowe; Scott was not amused. The “Editor’s Narrative” that closes the anonymous Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) alludes to Scott, without however naming him, and brings onto the page instead his son-in-law, “L———t,” together with a truculent shepherd called “Hogg.” Again, the episode extends the literary game-playing of Blackwood’s serials such as the “Noctes Ambrosianae” or Galt’s Steam-Boat. Thomas Duffle, the narrator of The Steam-Boat, catches sight of “an elderly man, about fifty, with a fair gray head, and something of the appearance of a gausey good-humoured country laird” while attending the coronation of George IV in London. Mrs. Pringle (of The Ayrshire Legatees) identifies him as the “Author of Waverley,” whose “most comical novel” was mistaken by her husband for “a true history book”; he converses affably with Galt’s characters, although little relishing Duffle’s tirade against the “old tyrannical House of Stuart.” Later Duffle meets another literary lion, “the great Odontist,” “whose genius and talents . . . make such a figure in Blackwood’s Magazine.”96 This too was an actual person, an ordinary Glasgow dentist named James Scott, whom the Black-wood’s wits had turned into modern culture’s first instance of media-manufactured virtual celebrity. The “Small Known” ended up embracing the role Blackwood’s had invented for him, claiming the magazine’s songs and squibs as his own. In Elizabeth de Bruce (1827) Christian Johnstone sends the pious minister Gideon Haliburton, incensed by a slur on the reputation of Presbyterian heroine Jenny Geddes, to denounce the editor of the newly published Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Scott and his companions (by now embedded in an earlier historical moment) charm Gideon out of his wrath with the assistance of draughts of champagne— innocents are as susceptible to social cheer as they are to romance.

These representations of and allusions to Scott, some of which will be revisited in the following chapters, articulate a complex mixture of responses: emulation, homage, critique, mockery, defiance, rejection. The authors who (as these examples suggest) were most intensely engaged with working through Scott’s influence were also the most original, Hogg and Galt. Their high-profile interventions in the so-called Old Mortality controversy, inflamed by criticisms of Scott’s depiction of the Covenanters by evangelical reviewers and Scott’s defense of his art in the Quarterly Review, have drawn the attention of modern critics. Old Mortality applies the Waverley plot of a “moderate” hero embroiled in rebellion and threatened by extremists on both sides to the religious civil wars of the late seventeenth century. The evangelicals denounced Scott’s Moderatism as a partisan rather than neutral stance, and deplored the corruption of history by fiction.97 Hogg and Galt published Covenanter historical novels contesting Scott’s. Both take pains to undo Scott’s conflation of Presbyterian enthusiasm with an archetypal revolutionary fanaticism, as well as to counter Scott’s formal aesthetic of historical and fictional distantiation with their very different narrative investments in memory and “reenactment.”98 Hogg stresses the natural piety of the regional community in The Brownie of Bodsbeck, while Galt draws a distinction between the popular zeal of the Scottish Reformation and its terrorist remnant, warped by government persecution. Galt explicitly designated Ringan Gilhaize as a riposte to Scott, rebuking the “levity” of his treatment of “the defenders of the Presbyterian Church,” although the novel appeared a half-dozen years after Old Mortality and on the heels of Galt’s own series of “local theoretical histories” of the eighteenth-century West. (One of the inset tales in The Steam-Boat, “The Covenanter,” has a trial run at the refutation of Old Mortality in 1821.) Douglas Mack has argued that Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner responds, in turn, to Galt’s representation of the “fanaticism of former days” in Ringan Gilhaize. Galt’s challenge may also have stimulated Scott’s return to the canonical form of the “Scotch novel” in 1824, Redgauntlet: a work contemporaneous with Hogg’s masterpiece, and uncannily doubling its formal as well as thematic features (which include uncanny doubling).99

The web of responses and exchanges, provocations and revisions, extends, in other words, beyond the conspicuous topic of Claverhouse and the Covenanters. The major novels in the first two series of Tales of My Landlord stand out, even more than Waverley, Rob Roy, or Ivanhoe, as the works that challenged Scott’s rivals. Their ripostes clarify the division of Scott’s sequence of Scottish historical novels according to major political themes, the armed resistance movements of revolutionary Presbyterianism and counterrevolutionary Jacobitism, which (Paul Hamilton argues) Scott had begun by casting (in Waverley) as equivalent fanaticisms.100 The great novels in which Scott narrates the political and cultural legacies of the Covenant in Lowland Scotland, Old Mortality and The Heart of Mid-Lothian, provide touchstones for the Blackwoodian development of the “secondary Scottish novel.” Old Mortality represents history at zero degree, in the civil crisis that Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben call “the state of exception.” The Heart of Mid-Lothian revisits the failure of Presbyterian revolution a generation later. As the novel shifts focus from the veteran Covenanter, the rigidly righteous patriarch David Deans, to his two daughters, it displaces the public plot of civil insurrection onto a domestic crisis of maternity and sisterhood. That crisis gains allegorical density as it reveals the scandalous place of the female body in the modern symbolic order of the nation. Jeanie Deans’s pilgrimage redeems popular Presbyterianism by domesticating and feminizing it—relocating it from a political to a moral arena. At the same time, the novel explores the instability of those distinctions and the legal and symbolic structures founded on them.101

The evidence of Galt’s fiction shows The Heart of Mid-Lothian to have been the Scott novel he recognized as posing an especially formidable challenge. The Provost (1821) recombines key themes and episodes— popular riot, fornication and infanticide, women’s silence—from The Heart of Mid-Lothian, while his most ambitious work, The Entail, takes on Scott’s novel wholesale, with its family chronicle focused on a legal crux that encodes a national-scale social and moral crisis. Hogg’s experiments in book-length prose fiction in the early 1820s unfold a serial quarrel with Scott, culminating in that alarming parody of post-Enlightenment historical romance The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. These works contest not just the subject matter but the terms of each other’s achievement. The formal technique of Ringan Gilhaize,a triple-generation amplification of the first-person voice of fictional memoir, carries Galt’s political theme, the popular experience of modernization as a “long revolution,” and so challenges the narratology as well as historiography of Scott’s skeptical Moderatism. And both Scott’s and Hogg’s recourse to fragmented, heterogeneous narratives as well as to the theme of “fanaticism” in their masterworks of 1824 answer, in turn, Galt’s challenge, in very different ways—with Hogg’s juxtaposition of fictional memoir and editorial framework also taking aim at Scott.

Clearly a zero-sum accounting of these rivalries—the conception of one achievement as trumping or cancelling another—cannot do justice to the creative wealth of Scottish novel production in Edinburgh in the fifteen years after Waterloo, especially during its height in the early 1820s. Hogg and Galt wrote their best work in response to Scott’s, turning from their characteristic experiments in nonnovelistic prose fiction (“tales”) to address the three-volume national historical romance that Waverley and its successors had made canonical. And Scott’s work, far from hardening into the official monolith implied by the title “the Waverley Novels,” itself kept mutating, deftly responsive to developments in Scottish fiction (as well as in English, Irish, and Continental European literature). To read these novels together is to understand intertextuality not as an arbitrary or abstract collocation of texts but as a force field of local conditions of production and reception—a charged proximity of works, authors, publishers, and reviewers in a relatively confined political economy. If the critical category of influence has lost some of its currency since Harold Bloom’s work in the 1970s, the loss should not obscure the insights Bloom brought to the work of writing, such as his insistence on influence as a dialectically productive dynamic and on originality as a site of contest. The Bloomian concentration on psychodrama can be productively enlarged (unlikely as the conjunction might seem) through Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of the “literary field”:

[The literary field] is a force-field acting on all those who enter it, and acting in a differential manner according to the position they occupy there . . . and at the same time it is a field of competitive struggles which tend to conserve or transform this force-field. And the position-takings . . . are not the result of some kind of objective collusion, but rather the product and the stake of a permanent conflict.102

Scott’s Shadow treats influence, the subjective field of “position taking,” as the historically dense, overdetermined medium in which literary value becomes legible. Its dynamics are psychological but also social, political (informed by Scott’s roles as patron and grandee), and commercial (the imperative to be similar but different with which novels, like other commodities, compete for market share).

The coordinates of influence and position taking trace the contours of “a gendered literary landscape.” As Adriana Craciun insists, “patronage and membership in a literary circle were central to literary publication in Romantic-period Edinburgh,” and these institutions were overwhelmingly controlled by men.103 The masculine cast of 1820s Edinburgh literary life, with its high-energy competitive intimacy, becomes explicit in the “Noctes Ambrosianae.” The convivial dialogues rehearse an extended metacommentary on the Edinburgh literary scene, which they represent in the guise of a private party at a tavern—a sentimental apotheosis of the clubs and societies that incubated masculine literacy of all classes, from weavers and field workers to lawyers and professors, in Enlightenment Scotland.104 The “Noctes” offers the symposium of Tory good fellows as a fantastic allegorical masquerade of the commercial and patronage structures of the Scottish culture industry. Conversation unfolds through a succession of whisky-fuelled, testosterone-charged feats of boasting, brawling, and singing of songs: a festive counterblast to the Whig junta of the Edinburgh Review. The rarity of female voices at the feast glosses the phenomenon mentioned earlier, the relative weakness of the feminine tradition of domestic fiction in Scotland. Ferrier was practically its sole representative after Scott’s advent and Brunton’s death, as well as the only woman novelist published more than once by Blackwood. Garside and Schöwerling show an even stronger correlation in Scotland between the net rise in novel production and the proportional decline in female authorship that characterize British publishing as a whole in the decade up to 1825.105 Their findings confirm recent critical accounts of the rhetorical accession of masculine “authority” over feminine “romance” in the early reception of Scott’s novels, and those novels’ internal allegories of a male encroachment on aboriginal female powers.106 In this regard the boisterous and sentimental masculinism of the “Noctes Ambrosianae” follows the cue of the Edinburgh Review, which (it seems) returned the eighteenth-century term “blue-stocking” to derogatory currency in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.107

Not just Scott’s example, then, but the patronizing and professionalizing ethos that framed it, the larger cultural legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment, contributed to a relative exclusion of women authors from the literary boom in Edinburgh. (Scotland was the source of the two most influential female conduct books of the later eighteenth century, William Fordyce’s Sermons for Young Women and John Gregory’s A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters.)108 Brunton and Ferrier, gifted as they were, anxiously avoided public visibility and any claim to professional status:

I would rather, as you well know, glide through the world unknown, than have (I would not call it enjoy) fame, however brilliant. To be pointed at— to be noticed and commented upon—to be suspected of literary airs—to be shunned as literary women are, by the more unpretending of my own sex; and abhorred as literary women are, by the pretending of the other! —My dear, I would sooner exhibit as a rope dancer—I would a great deal rather take up my abode by that lone loch on the hill.109

Brunton wrote these sentences in a letter to Eliza Izett shortly before the publication of Self-Control.110 According to a family tradition Ferrier kept the composition of Marriage a secret from her censorious father and read the completed manuscript to him without telling him what it was, confessing her authorship only after he told her how much he enjoyed it. The anecdote, as Ferrier’s biographer admits, “bears a suspicious likeness to the well-known story of Miss Burney.”111 Ferrier was paid a copyright fee of one thousand pounds for her second novel, The Inheritance, and the still-more-impressive sum of seventeen hundred pounds for Destiny (1831). Despite this, she refrained from representing herself as a professional author. Scott liked to praise Ferrier and her compatriot Joanna Baillie for having conversation and manners “without the least affectation of the bluestocking.”112 After Destiny Ferrier would write no more novels although she lived until 1854.

Christian Johnstone, the most versatile of the Scottish women writers, presents the contrasting case of a successful professional career. De Quincey—writing in Johnstone’s own periodical Tait’s—paid tribute: “Mrs Johnstone, of Edinburgh, has pursued the profession of literature— the noblest of professions, and the only one open to both sexes alike— with even more assiduity, and as a daily occupation; and, as I have every reason to believe, with as much benefit to her own happiness, as to the instruction and amusement of her readers: for the petty cares of authorship are agreeable, and its serious cares are ennobling.”113 Johnstone’s forays into prose fiction were framed by her experience as a journalist, first at the Inverness Courier and later at a succession of Edinburgh Radical magazines. She was able to sustain this career by standing behind her husband, master printer John Johnstone, whose name appears on the title pages of the magazines she edited. When Elizabeth de Bruce did not meet with the success anticipated, Johnstone gave up writing Scottish novels— Elizabeth de Bruce registers the form’s exhaustion—for the magazine genres of tale, essay, and review. She did her most influential work as chief author and de facto editor of Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, where she assumed the editorial privilege of patronage, publishing some of the late work of Hogg and Galt, and fostering younger writers such as Robert Nicoll, who dedicated his poems to her.114

Not that male novelists proved any more effective, or even as effective, when it came to managing a career. Despite the ideological prestige of professionalism in post-Enlightenment writing and publishing, the historical practice of a literary profession, in the shape of a career, was always precarious. The nexus between patronage and commerce that sustained authorship would often fail, undone by the surge and recoil of market forces. Scott concealed his authorship under his professional identities as Sheriff and Clerk of Session, and beneath his authorship concealed another identity, partner in Ballantyne & Co., chained to an unstable network of credit and deficit. The crash of his fortunes was triggered by a speculation in hops by Constable’s London associate Robinson. Scott’s subsequent struggle to write his way out of debt might have constituted an ethical redemption, but it also killed him, setting a cautionary example to authors for the rest of the century. Discouraged by cold publishers and carping reviews, Hogg retreated from novel-length fiction (and book-length poems) after 1824, and reverted to the magazine genres with which he had launched his career. Hogg never emerged from financial insecurity, and his failed investment in a farm at Mount Benger echoes the grander folly of Abbotsford. Galt led the most frankly entrepreneurial of all these careers: writing across a miscellany of fiction and nonfiction genres, striking a characteristic vein of Scottish tales in the early 1820s but then moving away from it, in alternation with nonliterary ventures, notably colony-building in Upper Canada. His experience of economic downturn included a spell in a debtors’ prison. When Galt wrote his memoirs, he brought out two different versions—an Autobiography devoted to his business career and a separate Literary Life. With this avocational schism Galt formalizes the Scottish topos of the “divided self” that subsequent critics have read into the careers of his contemporaries: “Ettrick Hogg” and “Edinburgh Hogg,” a Scott sentimentally split between Hanoverian-Enlightenment improvement and Tory-baronial nostalgia.115 Lockhart and Wilson were able to keep up professional careers as men of letters, thanks to their editorial positions (like Johnstone’s) at major periodicals; but they also gave up writing fiction, as the market for Scottish novels declined through the 1830s.

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File created: 10/31/2007

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