Waverley HTML version

Chapter 2
Waverley-Honour---A Retrospect
It is, then, sixty years since Edward Waverley, the hero of the following pages, took leave
of his family, to join the regiment of dragoons in which he had lately obtained a
commission. It was a melancholy day at Waverley-Honour when the young officer parted
with Sir Everard, the affectionate old uncle to whose title and estate he was presumptive
A difference in political opinions had early separated the Baronet from his younger
brother, Richard Waverley, the father of our hero. Sir Everard had inherited from his sires
the whole train of Tory or High-Church predilections and prejudices, which had
distinguished the house of Waverley since the Great Civil War. Richard, on the contrary,
who was ten years younger, beheld himself born to the fortune of a second brother, and
anticipated neither dignity nor entertainment in sustaining the character of Will Wimble.
He saw early, that, to succeed in the race of life, it was necessary he should carry as little
weight as possible. Painters talk of the difficulty of expressing the existence of compound
passions in the same features at the same moment: it would be no less difficult for the
moralist to analyse the mixed motives which unite to form the impulse of our actions.
Richard Waverley read and satisfied himself, from history and sound argument, that, in
the words of the old song,
Passive obedience was a jest,
And pshaw! was non-resistance;
yet reason would have probably been unable to combat and remove hereditary prejudice,
could Richard have anticipated that his elder brother, Sir Everard, taking to heart an early
disappointment, would have remained a batchelor at seventy-two. The prospect of
succession, however remote, might in that case have led him to endure dragging through
the greater part of his life as 'Master Richard at the Hall, the baronet's brother,' in the
hope that ere its conclusion he should be distinguished as Sir Richard Waverley of
Waverley-Honour, successor to a princely estate, and to extended political connexions as
head of the county interest in the shire where it lay. But this was a consummation of
things not to be expected at Richard's outset, when Sir Everard was in the prime of life,
and certain to be an acceptable suitor in almost any family, whether wealth or beauty
should be the object of his pursuit, and when, indeed, his speedy marriage was a report
which regularly amused the neighbourhood once a year. His younger brother saw no
practicable road to independence save that of relying upon his own exertions, and
adopting a political creed more consonant both to reason and his own interest than the
hereditary faith of Sir Everard in High Church and in the house of Stewart. He therefore
read his recantation at the beginning of his career, and entered life as an avowed Whig,
and friend of the Hanover succession.