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Chapter 4
I have already hinted, that the dainty, squeamish, and fastidious taste acquired by a surfeit
of idle reading, had not only rendered our hero unfit for serious and sober study, it had
even disgusted him in some degree with that in which he had hitherto indulged.
He was in his sixteenth year, when his habits of abstraction and love of solitude became
so much marked, as to excite Sir Everard's affectionate apprehension. He tried to
counterbalance these propensities, by engaging his nephew in field sports, which had
been the chief pleasure of his own youthful days. But although Edward eagerly carried
the gun for one season, yet when practice had given him some dexterity, the pastime
ceased to afford him amusement.
In the succeeding spring, the perusal of old Isaac Walton's fascinating volume determined
Edward to become 'a brother of the angle.' But of all diversions which ingenuity ever
devised for the relief of idleness, fishing is the worst qualified to amuse a man who is at
once indolent and impatient; and our hero's rod was speedily flung aside. Society and
example, which, more than any other motives, master and sway the natural bent of our
passions, might have had their usual effect upon the youthful visionary: but the
neighbourhood was thinly inhabited, and the homebred young squires whom it afforded,
were not of a class fit to form Edward's usual companions, far less to excite him to
emulation in the practice of those pastimes which composed the serious business of their
There were a few other youths of better education, and a more liberal character; but from
their society also our hero was in some degree excluded. Sir Everard had, upon the death
of Queen Anne, resigned his seat in Parliament, and, as his age increased and the number
of his contemporaries diminished, had gradually withdrawn himself from society; so that
when, upon any particular occasion, Edward mingled with accomplished and well-
educated young men of his own rank and expectations, he felt an inferiority in their
company, not so much from deficiency of information, as from the want of the skill to
command and to arrange that which he possessed. A deep and increasing sensibility
added to this dislike of society. The idea of having committed the slightest solecism in
politeness, whether real or imaginary, was agony to him; for perhaps even guilt itself
does not impose upon some minds so keen a sense of shame and remorse, as a modest,
sensitive, and inexperienced youth feels from the consciousness of having neglected
etiquette, or excited ridicule. Where we are not at ease, we cannot be happy; and
therefore it is not surprising, that Edward Waverley supposed that he disliked and was
unfitted for society, merely because he had not yet acquired the habit of living in it with
ease and comfort, and of reciprocally giving and receiving pleasure.
The hours he spent with his uncle and aunt were exhausted in listening to the oft-repeated
tale of narrative old age. Yet even there his imagination, the predominant faculty of his