Walter Scott's prose is restored to full sexual vigour

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SIR WALTER SCOTT was censored, with material judged too racy for 19th-century readers removed by his publisher, writes David Lister. Studies in Britain and America into his manuscripts and letters show that the sex was often cut out and that all current editions of the Waverley novels are littered with mistakes.

The research, by the Scott Editorial Board, was reported last night at the Edinburgh Book Festival, where Edinburgh University Press launched what it says is the first authoritative edition of the Waverley novels, correcting mistakes and restoring some censored material.

The St Ronan's Well manuscript shows Scott wanted it to end with the two principal characters enjoying sexual relations. But under pressure from his more puritanical editor and publishing partner, James Ballantyne, he changed it to allow the heroine, Clara, to die a virgin. David Hewitt, the new editions' editor, said: 'Ballantyne hated indelicacy and objected strongly to the original ending.'

In The Tale of Old Mortality (formerly Old Mortality but restored to Scott's title) Scott wrote of the 'possession of Edith Bellenden's person and property'. Ballantyne made it 'possession of Edith Bell enden's worldly endowments'. Scott's injunction to one of his characters to 'sit on your arse' became 'take a seat'. Printers' errors and misreadings of Scott's awful handwriting are responsible for as many as 2,000 mistakes in Kenilworth, Dr Hewitt said. Some produced the opposite effect of what Scott, who was very precise with language, intended. Cicely became a 'tight' not a 'light' girl. Tight meant neat - light meant of loose morals.

Edinburgh guide, page 14

Leading article, page 17