Ivanhoe HTML version

The Author of the Waverley Novels had hitherto proceeded in an unabated course of
popularity, and might, in his peculiar district of literature, have been termed "L'Enfant
Gate" of success. It was plain, however, that frequent publication must finally wear out
the public favour, unless some mode could be devised to give an appearance of novelty
to subsequent productions. Scottish manners, Scottish dialect, and Scottish characters
of note, being those with which the author was most intimately, and familiarly
acquainted, were the groundwork upon which he had hitherto relied for giving effect to
his narrative. It was, however, obvious, that this kind of interest must in the end
occasion a degree of sameness and repetition, if exclusively resorted to, and that the
reader was likely at length to adopt the language of Edwin, in Parnell's Tale:
"'Reverse the spell,' he cries, 'And let it fairly now suffice. The gambol has been
Nothing can be more dangerous for the fame of a professor of the fine arts, than to
permit (if he can possibly prevent it) the character of a mannerist to be attached to him,
or that he should be supposed capable of success only in a particular and limited style.
The public are, in general, very ready to adopt the opinion, that he who has pleased
them in one peculiar mode of composition, is, by means of that very talent, rendered
incapable of venturing upon other subjects. The effect of this disinclination, on the part
of the public, towards the artificers of their pleasures, when they attempt to enlarge their
means of amusing, may be seen in the censures usually passed by vulgar criticism
upon actors or artists who venture to change the character of their efforts, that, in so
doing, they may enlarge the scale of their art.
There is some justice in this opinion, as there always is in such as attain general
currency. It may often happen on the stage, that an actor, by possessing in a
preeminent degree the external qualities necessary to give effect to comedy, may be
deprived of the right to aspire to tragic excellence; and in painting or literary
composition, an artist or poet may be master exclusively of modes of thought, and
powers of expression, which confine him to a single course of subjects. But much more
frequently the same capacity which carries a man to popularity in one department will
obtain for him success in another, and that must be more particularly the case in literary
composition, than either in acting or painting, because the adventurer in that department
is not impeded in his exertions by any peculiarity of features, or conformation of person,
proper for particular parts, or, by any peculiar mechanical habits of using the pencil,
limited to a particular class of subjects.
Whether this reasoning be correct or otherwise, the present author felt, that, in confining
himself to subjects purely Scottish, he was not only likely to weary out the indulgence of
his readers, but also greatly to limit his own power of affording them pleasure. In a
highly polished country, where so much genius is monthly employed in catering for