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By Simon Hay (auth.)
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Additional resources for A History of the Modern British Ghost Story
If the sympathy is to have some function, it will not be in Scotland but in England, in the production of philanthropic English subjectivities, and this production will continue to be, the story insists, at the expense of Highlanders. When the external narrator intrudes to offer us this ending, he replaces Mrs Baliol’s sympathy with a range of competing endings provided by different constituents of the Highland community. The ‘credulous’ believed the widow had been carried away by the evil spirits under whose inﬂuence she has acted; the ‘less superstitious’ that she must have fallen ‘by accident’ into the lake; and the local clergyman that her ‘instinct,’ like that of ‘various domestic animals,’ has led her to withdraw to die in secrecy and isolation (p.
But the change, though steadily and rapidly progressive, has, nevertheless, been gradual. (p. 3 The colonial setting of Scott’s historical novels is not accidental to its success in this historiographic project. History is especially visible in the colonies, or to put it the other way around, colonial history is accelerated and registers as thing-like, an automatic process or done deal; in the colonies – and perhaps only in the colonies – we can perform Lukács’s clean, reifying operation upon history.
In Waverley the Highlanders are the novel’s type whose moment, the book’s subtitle makes clear, has passed. They represent a way of life dead and gone, ‘the type of the unquiet ghost’ (Baucom 2005, p. 278), no longer accessible to those who have survived and moved on. These are characters brought before us from out of the past, the dead brought back, narratively, to life. It is the central – and sympathetic – focus on them that makes Waverley a historical novel: not the story of Edward Waverley at all, but of the Highlanders among whom he travels.