“On Hallow-Mass Eve the Night-Hag will ride”

In Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley  (1814), a book often heralded as one of the first historical novels, Edward Waverley pays a visit to the Baron of Bradwardine at Tully-Veolan. While there, the Baron’s daughter, Rose Bradwardine sings a haunting ballad about “a projecting peak of an impending crag” that had acquired the strange name of ‘Saint Swithin’s Chair.’ Saint…

How One Author’s Bankruptcy Changed the History of the English Novel Forever

In the teens of the 19th century, Walter Scott was enjoying a wave of financial success as a novel-writer that was perhaps unprecedented in the history of literature.  His series of historical novels, published under the pseudonym “The Author of Waverley”, were selling in huge numbers, and his fans were legion, including – among others…

Insult of the Week: inferior poets are absolutely fascinating

Ah, poetry.  One of the great literary forms, with a history stretching back as far as the earliest written word!  Beloved genre of such giants as Sappho, Homer, Chaucer, and the anonymous author of The Poetic Works of a Weird (1827).  Being writers themselves, surely our novelists must have a healthy respect for the poetical…

A Net of Influence: interreference between 18th and 19th-century novels

As a taster of the content that’s going up on our shiny new website, here’s an image that I put together earlier: This, as you can probably tell, is a draft version, but what it shows is a map of interreference between novels and novelists in our corpus. Writers, unsurprisingly, are generally people who enjoy…

Insult of the Week: this inquisitive hag – damn her gooseberry wig

In chapter 61 of Waverley, our misfortunate hero finds himself sharing a conveyance – “the northern diligence”, described as “a huge old-fashioned tub” – with a companion he would really rather avoid, if at all possible. Mrs. Nosebag is … the lady of Lieutenant Nosebag, adjutant and riding-master of the — dragoons, a jolly woman…

An injured body: novelists disapproving of novels

In chapter 5 of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen starts off by describing the activities of Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe, but gets sidetracked rather quickly, and spends almost the entire second half in a delightful rant about the hypocrisy of novelists who deride their own genre: I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom…