Such evidence compels us to re-read the General Preface and ask ourselves exactly
what went on. Peter Garside argues that focussing on two single dates helps reinforce critical
impressions of a double-backed novel: awkwardly innovatory in its early chapters (usually the first
seven are so isolated, sometimes five) the remainder the confident product of Scott's maturity
Since the first six chapters are set entirely in England, this view also associates the
novel's Scottishness almost exclusively with the later phase. At the same time, the earlier date
claws backwards to ensure Scott's virtually unrivalled precedence as the originator of 'national'
historical fiction. The retroactive story therefore helps to further the status of Scott the novelist as
the leading literary figure of his time.
Waverley, as a historical novel, contains no extensive description of a military campaign.
Scott describes Prestonpans, briefly mentions Falkirk and has virtually nothing to say about
Culloden. Claire Lamont tries to discover why. She points out that:
The famous dates of the summer of 1745 are not mentioned: Prince Charles raised his
dating in the novels is perhaps too reticent for those who do not know the succession of
events in the '45; slight hints are enough for those who do. The battle of Prestonpans is
described in detail at the end of Volume II, and the historicity of it is stressed by the
mention of the first of a series of dates marking the Jacobite campaign of the autumn of
On the one hand, Scott is sometimes deliberately vague, while on the other hand,
historicity is one of his prime concerns. What can possibly explain this ambiguous narrative
Claire Lamont proposes that Scott might have felt that, given the repressive political
atmosphere of 1814 in the climactic years of the Napoleonic years, to deal with such treasonable
material was a risky business. To this suggestion, we could add that such a supposition goes
some way towards explaining why a successful poet preferred to publish his politically sensitive
novel anonymously. However, whether it is silence or reticence, it is striking to note that Scott's
mention of Culloden, the historical conclusion to the events he narrates, is as brief as possible
and that he concludes his novel with only the briefest mention of a series of events that present
the perfect pretext for romance, if romance were Scott's main interest: Charles Stuart's heroic
adventures with Flora MacDonald and his escape to France.
Claire Lamont argues that 'Culloden is Scott's watershed.' Silence does not necessarily
mean that Culloden is insignificant, quite the opposite: she insists that 'the "absent" battle of
Culloden is the fact that is most centrally present in Waverley.' Its presence haunts the whole
novel as a 'modern myth'.
partner in the imperial enterprise would be an illustration of not Scottlish but British nationalism.