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sources; it is not for me that hints break forth, and anecdotes transpire, and oracular whispers circulate; and even if I were thus privileged, it certainly is not to you that I should offer such communications as either novel or curious, for a packet of literary news transmitted from my hands to yours would appear almost as preposterous, to use the vulgar similitude, as a London collier unlading in the Tyne.
I would, however, suggest two or three observations applying rather to the personal conduct and circumstances of the novelist and the poet, than to the character or peculiar features of the novels or poems, and which it may be as well to consider shortly by themselves in the beginning of our inquiry. The facts I propose to touch upon are all sufficiently notorious, and may already have led many persons to draw the inferences about to be stated.
If the author of Waverley be any other than the excellent poet so often alluded to, it is astonishing that he should be able to remain concealed. The various literary accomplishments and the distinguished qualifications for society so strongly evinced in all his works, would excite observation in the most crowded community, and could not but shine conspicuously in a narrow circle. That he has passed his latter years in seclusion, or in a remote country, or in any situation estranged from active life and polished intercourse, is a supposition which, although it once obtained some countenance, must now, I think, be totally abandoned. If then we cast our eyes among those persons whose talents and acquirements have in any degree attracted general attention, how many shall we find who have given proofs of a genius, I will not say equal, but strikingly correspondent to that which has produced the celebrated novels? One such there is, but we look in vain for a second. I therefore reason like Prince Manfred's servants in the Castle of Otranto, who when they had seen the leg of an armed giant in the gallery, and his hand upon the staircase, concluded that this same preternatural personage was owner of the gigantic helmet which lay unclaimed in the court-yard.
As concealment would be difficult under these circumstances, the desire of it, too, seems unaccountable. In an author whose name has become familiar to the public, it may be excellent policy to present himself under a mask, or like Mirabel's mistress, assail the heart of the fastidious Inconstant by stratagems and disguises. He who fearfully commits his first performance to the discretion of critics has intelligible motives for suppressing his name; but it is difficult to believe that a writer who has been repeatedly crowned with public applause, who has acquired a reputation far more solid and exalted than belongs in ordinary cases to a successful novelist, and who has never sullied it by a single page which the most religious and virtuous man would be ashamed to own, should deny himself the pleasure of receiving the popular homage in his own character, unless he had enjoyed other opportunities of rendering his name illustrious, and had already tasted, perhaps to satiety, the sweets of literary distinction. An author cloyed with success and secure of fame, may dally with his honours, and content himself with the refined and fanciful gratification of overhearing, as it were, the praise of his unacknowledged labours; but this coyness would be unnatural and incomprehensible in a young or hitherto unknown adventurer. I apply to our novelist the observation which very naturally suggested itself to Dryden's contemporaries on his anonymous publication of Absalom and Achitophel.
Sure thou already art secure of fame,
Recommendatory verses, signed R. D.
It is not with fine writings as with virtuous actions, which of themselves reward the doer, although his merits should remain a secret to the world: a work of genius has mankind alone for its judges, and its only full and appropriate recompense is the approbation of mankind bestowed upon the author. It is true that the internal consciousness of having excelled 'may often supply the place of celebrity unjustly withheld or delayed; but where is the philosopher who, when he might, by a single word, secure to himself that dazzling prize, can patiently sit down in obscurity, and content himself with private self-congratulation? Is such a cynic the author of Waverley? I cannot think so.
This reasoning, however, is merely drawn from the ordinary tenor of worldly transactions, and the common principles of human conduct; and no man, of course, can pronounce it absolutely impossible that the mysterious novelist may have unguessed and peculiar motives for desiring concealment. I pretend only to point out probabilities; and if I knew of a single argument wholly incontrovertible, that argument should at once begin and close the present discussion.
It was just now mentioned, as a matter of supposition, that an author who had been long before the public might from policy, or even caprice, abandon his character of an established favourite, and pursue his fortune in disguise. But have we not seen this very stratagem put in practice and recently acknowledged, and by whom? I need not remind you, Sir, of the distinguished name which has at length been affixed to the Bridal of Triermain and Herold the Dauntless, for you, I remember, undoubtingly ascribed the first of these
to its real author, when its parentage was as much a secret as that of Waverley. I might also mention the anonymous publication of Paul's Letters; but I will not urge this point so confidently, as I do not know that there has ever been, on the one hand, any positive avowal, or on the other, any studious concealment, with respect to this work. It is enough, however, to have shown by one conspicuous instance, that the mental organization of the poet, as well as of the novelist, is characterized (to speak craniologically) by an extraordinary developement of the passion for delitescency.
An observation of some force when combined with those already stated, is, that the author of Marmion has neglected his poetical vein, in proportion as the author of Waverley has cultivated his talent for prose narration. It certainly is not to 'be expected that a writer should continue through life to produce metrical romances in six cantos; but there are other walks of poetry to invite his
genius; and it seldom happens that an author, who has dedicated a great part of his riper years to that fascinating art, pursuing it with equal enthusiasm and success, becomes at once a truant to his muse, or at best a sparing and unfrequent votary. Again, it is scarcely less remarkable that the author of Waverley, who appears to enjoy, in a high degree, the gifts that constitute a poet, and who does not want either ambition or activity, should never (as