Walter Scott's prose is restored to full sexual vigour

David Lister
Monday 16 August 1993 23:02
Comments

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

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in