The authorship of the Waverley Novels was a mystery until 1827, when Sir Walter Scott was revealed as the writer behind them. They were some of the most popular and widely read books in Europe, and reinforced Scott’s reputation as a literary superstar. The first novel, Waverley, sold its first edition of 1, 000 copies in two days and went on to sell more than all the novels published in 1814 put together. It depicts the 1745 Jacobite rising and is regarded as the first work of historical fiction.
It’s probable that Scott kept his authorship of Waverley a secret because his switch from writing poetry to historical prose fiction was such a personal experiment. It’s also likely that the buzz surrounding the mystery of the author was good for book sales, and perversely enjoyable for Scott. Such was the success of Waverley that the subsequent novels were simply ascribed to ‘the Author of Waverley’.
Scott had told only a handful of friends about the book, and they spent years trying to convince him to reveal himself.
His cover was finally blown at the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund dinner at the Assembly Rooms by judge Lord Meadowbank in front of three hundred fellow guests, who all burst out cheering.
The Waverley series was originally published by Archibald Constable and Co., Edinburgh between 1814 and 1831:
Waverley, or, Tis Sixty Years Since: 1814
Guy Mannering, or, The Astrologer: 1815
The Antiquary: 1816
Tales of my Landlord, 1st Series:
The Black Dwarf: 1816
The Tales of Old Mortality: 1816
Rob Roy: 1818
Tales of my Landlord, 2nd Series:
The Heart of Midlothian: 1818
Tales of my Landlord, 3rd Series
The Bride of Lammermoor: 1819
A Legend of Montrose: 1819
The Monastery: 1820
The Abbot: 1820
The Pirate: 1822
The Fortunes of Nigel: 1822
Peveril of the Peak: 1822
Quentin Durward: 1823
St. Ronan’s Well: 1824
Tales of the Crusaders:
The Betrothed: 1825
The Talisman: 1825
Woodstock, or The Cavalier: 1826
Chronicles of the Canongate, 2nd Series
St Valentine’s Day or The Fair Maid of Perth: 1828
Anne of Geierstein, or The Maid in the Mist: 1829
Tales of my Landlord, 4th Series
Count Robert of Paris: 1831
Castle Dangerous: 1831
In 2008 The Siege of Malta was finally published having been finished by Scott just months before his death. The Tales of my Landlord series was not published as by ‘the Author of Waverley’ so is not always counted as part of the Waverley Novels.
A definitive set with new introductions and appendices by Scott was published by Robert Cadell between 1829 and 1833. A 30 volume set was published by Edinburgh University Press and Columbia University Press in the 1990s. Three of Scott’s novels have been published by Luath, edited for the modern reader.