Friday, January 13, 2006

Etchings from the Waverley Novels

The departure of the Gypsies
Drawn by Clark Stanton, Etched by C. de Billy

Carlaverock Castle
Photo–Etching by John Andrew and Son

Edie Ochiltree visits Miss Wardour
Drawing by W. McTaggart; etching by C. O. Murray

Disbanded
Painted by John Pettie, Etched by F. Huth

“Lady Wauverley! Ten thousand a year!”
Etching by George Cruickshank

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) created and popularized the historic novel genre. In a 13 year period he published 8 novels anonymously wherein the characters' lives were sketched against the background of 18th century turmoils and violence in his Scottish homeland. He gave equally balanced treatment to peasants and kings and he modestly advocated for social change in a reflection of the age of enlightenment.

Scott had already established a reputation as a fine poet and it was likely his wish to preserve his good name that caused him to release the experimental Waverley book without a named author in 1814. Despite this it was hugely popular and over time the public began to suspect that Scott was responsible. He kept up the (by then) joke until he officially announced his authorship in 1827.

Waverley, Guy Mannering and The Antiquary form the backbone of the Waverley series and are the sources for the illustrations here. There are about 15 etchings in each book, completed by a wide selection of artists.
O what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!--
A Palmer too! No wonder why
I felt rebuked beneath his eye:
I might have known there was but one
Whose look could quell Lord Marmion.

[Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field : Canto VI Stanza XVII]

Years ago a colleague of mine was generous enough to present me with a beautiful 1863 edition of Scott's Poetical Works which itself has 8 illustrations by Richard Corbould. I must admit I remember it better for the handwritten dedication inside than for the poetry...
"To Bluebeard
Oct 12th '65
A handful of good life
is better than a handful of learning"

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