Confessions of a gentrified sinner: secrets in Scott and Hogg.
"You are right, my friend--you are right," replied poor Dick, his eye kindling with enthusiasm; "why should I shun the name of an--an"--(he hesitated for a phrase)--"an out-of-doors artist?" --Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor "That there are subjects of secrecy and confidence between us, is most certain; but to such, his communications to you could have no relation; and with such, I, as an individual, have no concern." --Walter Scott, Rob Roy
THE CONCLUDING SECTION OF JAMES HOGG'S PRIVATE MEMOIRS AND Confessions of a Justified Sinner burlesques an editorial apology and explanation for the disjointed state of the text. Our unnamed editor narrates his skeptical expedition, which is provoked by a letter James Hogg wrote to Blackwood's Magazine, to the Scottish Borders in search of the perfectly preserved corpse of a suicide lately uncovered. Hogg himself appears in the text, at an Ettrick livestock sale, and gives a fine performance of rural Scots obstinacy: "I hae mair ado than I can manage the day, foreby ganging to houk up hunder-year-auld banes." (1) The editor, despite Hogg's stubbornness, finds the body. He goes searching in the company of Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law John Gibson Lockhart and Scott's sometime steward at Abbotsford, William Laidlaw (half-heartedly disguised as "Mr. L--t of C--d" and "Mr. L--w") and even accepts Lockhart's offer to "procure a horse," from his father-in-law. The amateur investigators find that the lower half of the suicide's body has not been disturbed: "all the limbs, from the loins to the toes, seemed perfect and entire, but they could not bear handling. Before we got them returned again to the grave they were all shaken in pieces" (251). Concealed in the clothing is the sinner's narrative, which we have just finished reading. Neither Mr. Laidlaw nor Mr. Lockhart wishes to take possession of the document, though the former remarks that it "`will maybe reveal some mystery that mankind disna ken naething about yet'" (253). Lockhart responds, "`it is not for your handling, my dear friend, who are too much taken up about mysteries already'" (253). Such a rejoinder to a domestic employee of Walter Scott would seem to refer to a mystery that, in 1824, was officially still a mystery.
In practical terms, the mystery of "the Great Unknown," the Author of Waverley, was no mystery at all. In 1824 Waverley novels were appearing in both Europe and America under Scott's name, and in the same year William Hazlitt published The Spirit of the Age, including a substantial discussion of Scott and his novels. (2) Four years earlier, the first number of the London Magazine had announced, "we should be very much mortified were it afterwards to turn out that these fine works have been improperly attributed by the public voice to--Walter Scott," and three months later the same magazine, affecting no uncertainty, wished that Scott "would either declare himself, or give himself a nom de guerre, that we might speak of him without either a periphrasis or impertinence." (3) Of course I do not wish to deny that there was any interest in the identity of the Author; though, as Richard Waswo observes, "curiosity was in fact baffled neither very widely nor very long in the public world" (307). My interest is in the secret's Brobdingnagian protraction and overdetermination. Scott remained intent upon keeping up his incognito until 1827, when the bankruptcy of his publisher forced a public avowal. On that occasion, the London Magazine declared, "all the world stared, not so much at the unexpectedness of the disclosure, for it was virtually well known before, but that the declaration should be made at that particular moment"; and in Blackwood's John Wilson, writing as Christopher North, disdained "the silliest of all recorded controversies on the fathership of the novels and romances by the Author of Waverley. He, she, or it, that knew not that Sir Walter begot them all, was a fool of the first order, and that is all that need be said on the subject." (4) The anonymity of the Author of Waverley seems to have been little more than an occasional, frequently jesting collusion among British literary critics. Besides, anonymous authorship was not by any means a derelict practice in the early decades of the nineteenth century. (5) Certainly a histrionic expression like "the Great Unknown" savors more of hijinks than high romance. "Yet," North observed, "it ... served to keep up the mystery" (Blackwood's November 1827: 554).
A complex tangle of relations, positions, jests, and rivalries grew around Sir Walter's secret identity. The critical establishment, James Hogg, and Scott himself all contributed to this competitive and duplicitous comedy. Indeed, Scott put a good deal of work into enlivening his own mystery. In an 1817 review of his own Tales of My Landlord he remarks of the Author of Waverley: "Why he should industriously endeavour to elude observation by taking leave of us in one character, and then suddenly popping out upon us in another, we cannot pretend to guess without knowing more of his personal reasons for preserving so strict an incognito than has hitherto reached us." (6) Scott also made a big fuss of explaining his subterfuge and exculpating himself in his General Preface to the 1829 Author's Edition of the Waverley Novels--such a fuss, indeed, that the Author's identity seems a mere Maguffin after the pageant of its concealing and unveiling. The inadequate rewards of concealing and revealing identities had, after all, already been denounced by critics (including Scott himself) weary of Gothic fiction in the Radcliffean style. (7) We should take note of Captain Clutterbuck's encounter with the Author of Waverley in the introductory epistle to The Fortunes of Nigel. (8) Clutterbuck visits the "labyrinth of small dark rooms, or crypts" behind Constable's publishing house and, in "a vaulted room dedicated to secrecy and silence," he finds "the person or perhaps I should say the Eidolon, or representative vision, of the Author of Waverley." (9) Clutterbuck urges his "magnus parens" to avow his identity, or at least avoid the careless generosity of rushing out a story that is "hastily huddled up" to defend the Author--by means of the amusements it offers--against the charge of poor plotting. "I have heard Engineers say," Clutterbuck argues, "that one may betray the weak point to the enemy by too much ostentation of fortifying it" (xxix). One may also, presumably, better conceal a secret by too much ostentation of fortifying another, spurious secret. Perhaps the real secret of the Author lies undisturbed. Satisfying ourselves with Sir Walter's name, we remain his dupes.
I will treat Scott's prefatory writings as part of a discursive continuum with his critical interlocutors because he was himself one of those interlocutors. Accordingly, a disingenuous posing as one who feels himself besieged does not ring true to Scott's shrewd (if over-ambitious) business sense. I propose here to offer two partial explanations: a reason for the overelaboration of the secret, and an analysis of the challenge Hogg's dissonant mock-history presents to Scott and his secrets. I will concentrate my discussion largely on Scott's General Preface and Hogg's novel, both of which are something other than faithful confessions. I will frame my analysis upon the metapsychology of secrets developed by Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok in a set of essays published as "Cryptic Mourning and Secret Love." The combination of Abraham and Torok with Scott and Hogg has, I find, been tested before now, by Ian Duncan in a splendid article on The Lay of the Last Minstrel and Hogg's The Three Perils of Man. (10) In two other articles, Duncan has examined the Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and still other allusions to Scott in Hogg's novels. (11) I will press on with my analysis despite some territory shared with Duncan, because the rich productivity of Scott and Hogg's rivalry is by no means exhausted.
I. National Secrets
Psychoanalysis is a practice of allegorical reading. Dreamwork, symptom, and literary text are, in the analyst's vision, vehicles for concealed narratives--latent content--whose explication will make sense of contradictions and lacunae in the manifest content of dreams, behaviors, and texts. Every psychoanalytic reading, therefore, is also a reading of psychoanalysis itself; the systematicity analysis finds in symptomatic narrative is the system of psychoanalysis. In a sense, the secret that analysis always uncovers is not so much the trauma that initiates symptoms, as the operative presence of the analytic system where no system had seemed possible. (12) That process of textual organization is not unique to psychoanalysis; imposition of systematic narrative is also a defining characteristic of ideology, for instance. Psychoanalysis, particularly Abraham and Torok's theory of secrets, also offers a logic of figuration that is useful to me. Hence my reading of Scott's General Preface will construct an allegorical frame based on analytic principles, not for its own sake, but as a means of opening the text up to another kind of allegory--that of Hogg's Confessions. Allegory, arranged in a thoroughly ironic manner, is the means of signification Hogg presents in opposition to Scott's historiography. I want to demonstrate that Hogg uses allegory as a means to evoke voices and subject positions that the Waverley Novels have secretly suppressed, or rather suppressed under a sign of secrecy. At the same time, the establishment of that secret system--a secret whose sign is "The Author of Waverley"--fortifies Scott's position as the supreme figure of historical consciousness. Scott's mastery over the secrets of Scottish history makes him guardian of the boundary between modernity and all its antecedent histories. (13)
Abraham and Torok's specialized concept of the secret forms the central structure of what they call cryptophoric mourning--a reaction to a loss that fails to find resolution. (14) They propose that an experience of traumatic loss may lead to a powerful incorporation of the lost object into the ego in such a way that the object captures and closes off a portion of the ego. "The mechanism," they write, "consists of exchanging one's own identity for a fantasmic identification with the `life'--beyond the grave--of an object of love" (142). This process is opposed to the normative process of mourning--introjection--where a lost object is replaced by language, which substitutes, through figuration, for what is lost. Where mourning cannot, for some reason, accomplish that figural substitution, the lost object becomes imaginatively a secret part of the mourner's psyche. In Abraham and Torok's terms a secret is encrypted, which is to say both that it is sealed within a kind of psychic crypt and that it is rendered into language that misleads. The secret betokens what they call a "reality" whose entombed state between conscious and unconscious psychic life preserves that reality so it "cannot quite die, nor can it hope to revive" (159). Cryptophoric mourning "recreates in a single psychic area, system, or agency, the correlate of the entire topography, isolating the wound and separating it ... from the rest of the psyche and especially from the memory of what had been torn from it" (135). That secret psyche is a part of the containing psyche, but it is also utterly different, "a kind of artificial unconscious, lodged in the very midst of the ego" (159). The secret is both an inviolable place (best exemplified by a grave) and an artificial subject, the object as subject that "carries the ego as its mask" (141).
Because the secret's existence depends so thoroughly on its intensification of psychic divisions between interior and exterior, it must be defined in terms that are at least partially topographic. Consider this passage from William Godwin's Essay on Sepulchres (1809):
It is impossible therefore that I should not follow by sense the last remains of my friend; and finding him nowhere above the surface of the earth, should not feel an attachment to the spot where his body has been deposited ... the works of my friend, the words, the actions, the conclusions of reasoning and the suggestions of faith, we feel to depend, as far as they are solid to us, upon the operations of our own mind. They stand, and are sponsors, for my friend; but what the grave encloses is himself. (15)
Godwin's meditation is more a work of iterable mourning than the unspeaking melancholia that Abraham and Torok associate with cryptic secrets. Nevertheless, Godwin contrives a divided topography that focuses upon the boundary of the grave as a substitute for the absent friend; rather than absolutely gone, he is absolutely sealed off. In that sense the two topographies of the beloved object produce a kind of incomplete reanimation. He is not returned to life by the operations of the mind, but nor has he wholly departed. For Abraham and Torok,
Secret mourning erects a secret tomb inside the subject. Reconstituted from the memories of words, scenes, and affects, the objectal correlative of the loss is buffed alive in the crypt as a full-fledged person, complete with its own topography ... a whole world of unconscious fantasy is created, one that leads its own separate and concealed existence. (130)
The sudden, exclusively literal, and neither alive nor dead "himself" in Godwin's closed site--" nowhere above the surface of the earth"--halts any further exploration of the secret object-subject. The friend lives on in two persons, each closed off against the other. Nicholas Rand, introducing Section IV of The Shell and the Kernel, says the secret "designates an internal psychic splitting: as a result two distinct "people" live side by side, one behaving as if s/he were part of the world and the other as if s/he had no contact with it whatsoever" (100).
One who suffers this "endocryptic identification" is unable to release the ghostly consciousness entombed in his psyche. His attempts to express the secret he holds can only fail. The very terms of such an expression cannot fulfill the introjective function--make an abstract figure of the object's concrete absence. The cryptophore's words instead, bereft of their figural power to put the lost object into words, mislead, direct us away from the secret; "the goal of this type of construction is to disguise the wound because it is unspeakable, because to state it openly would prove fatal to the entire topography" (Abraham and Torok 142). I do not wish to diagnose Walter Scott as a cryptophoric mourner. I am not the "psychoanalytic biographer" to whom Richard Waswo appeals to explicate Scott's "wholly obscure desire" (307). (16) The crypt cannot substitute for a structure of desire; "it is neither the dynamic unconscious nor the ego of introjections" (Abraham and Torok 159). Rather, by designating the crypt as the site of a "reality," Abraham and Torok focus investigation upon its organizational effects instead of its hidden content. The crypt does not have content per se: it is the expression of psychic orders in topographic terms. To discover the secret of Scott's secrecy, therefore, will be to sketch relationships between authorship, authority, and, I will demonstrate, nationality.
Endocryptic identification and its topographies supply an analogy for the relation to history and Scottish national space Scott adopted when, in his last years, he finally exhumed his own authorship of the Waverley Novels. The avowed task of the General Preface--to confess and excuse his deceptions --conceals the fortifying of another kind of secret, that of his mastery of historical vision. This other kind of secret depends upon public knowledge that he is its keeper, much more than it depends upon the actual concealed content of the secret itself. Indeed, as I have already suggested, the secret of Scott's historical authority does not have any content. It is, rather, our own investment in the concept of a subject whose genius is lost to us. Scott has become the object buried in a cryptophoric national consciousness. The November 1832 number of Tait's features an account of Scott's funeral "by an Eyewitness," who laments: "Alas for Scotland! ... She can never view him as thus bereft of intellectual light. She can never think of him but as the living magician who so long held all her feelings under his control." (17) We do not wonder who he is, but what such a subject must be, to have conceived and produced these works. "The secret," suggests G. M. Young, "is to treat every document as the record of a conversation, and go on reading till you hear the people speaking." (18) What is buried with Scott is "a sensitivity to the historical components of place, geography, and social milieu ... the basis from which Scott's historical vision arose" (Shaw 151), the first of its kind and a limit on all those who follow. This sensitivity is a secret because it is absolutely impervious to reproduction through narrative or any other representation. It is the trace of a perfected and inviolable subjectivity, not available to our observation, only to our wondering speculation at what lies beyond the cryptic border.
The goal of the General Preface, I suggest, is to divert us from our investigation of the secret subject, to preserve what is unknown about "the Great Unknown." Indeed the incognito is exactly the kind of dead end towards which a cryptic identification might be expected to direct an investigator. When the cryptophoric ego "lets in some curious or injured parties, or detectives, it carefully provides them with false leads and fake graves" (Abraham and Torok 159). What is more, in light of Abraham and Torok's schema, Scott's nom de guerre, "The Author of Waverley" is remarkable for its entirely non-figural expression. As it applies to Scott, "the Great Unknown" is also no metaphor, though its parallel sense as a metaphor for death is suggestive. If the General Preface is to put into speech that which has been unspeakable before now, the Author's name will hardly suffice. If, on the other hand, Scott's purpose is the pretense of revelation, his name serves as the perfect distraction. He rebuilds here the fractured edifice of incognito with as much gusto as it was built in the first place. "The Author of Waverley was," Scott claims, "as impassable to the critic as the Ghost of Hamlet to the partisan of Marcellus" (WN I.xxiv). Aside from the wishful nature of this assertion, the choice of allusion is provocative. The partisan is Marcellus' spear, presented to the ghost in Act One, Scene One:
Marcellus: Shall I strike it with my partisan? Horatio: Do, if it will not stand. Barnado: `Tis here! Horatio: `Tis here! Marcellus: `Tis gone! We do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence, For it is as the air, invulnerable, And our vain blows malicious mockery. (19)
The incognito, then, is inviolable not because it is well armored, but because it is not there. And if as Freud suggests, Hamlet's revenge plot is a disguise for Oedipal conflict, (20) the General Preface's apology leitmotif may equally be a cover for another unconfessed transgression.
At first, the Author tells us, he chose anonymity because Waverley "was an experiment on the public taste which might very probably fail, and therefore there was no reason to take on myself the personal risk of discomforture" (WN I.xx). Once his success was unqualified, his incentive for anonymity became less clear: "from the instant I perceived the extreme curiosity manifested on the subject, I felt a secret satisfaction in baffling it, for which, when its unimportance is considered, I do not well know how to account" (WN I.xxvi). Excuses and anecdotes are offered, but more significantly the history of the incognito is revived, made real and vivid, just as the Waverley Novels reanimated the past. The General Preface is a bravura display of weak points fortified: "the question was not so much, whether I should be generally acknowledged to be the author, in spite of my own denial, as whether even my own avowal of the works, if such should be made, would be sufficient to put me in undisputed possession of that character" (WN I.xviii). That character resembles the encrypted subject of Abraham and Torok. The Author of Waverley has been interred with his work and cannot be fully revived because he is no more than the substance of a practice of secrecy. He has "thrown his story, as much as possible, into a dramatic shape," Scott himself writes in the 1817 Quarterly Review piece, and hence has been able to "compel the reader to think of the personages of the novel and not of the writer" (431). The Author of Waverley can no more reveal himself in public than any actor who plays the Ghost of Hamlet can possess that character. As long as we seek to expose the Author of Waverley as a structure of desire, played out in his own social and commercial motivations, we allow ourselves to be led astray.
"It may be some apology" for the self-aggrandizement of the Magnum Opus "that the publication was intended to be posthumous" (WN I.xxxvii). Besides, Scott says, in defense of the notes he added to his already copious first edition notes, soon enough no more explanation will be possible. What remains concealed after the Author's Edition will have a perfectly literal grave for its hiding place. The apologies and self-justifications that fill the General Preface admit the other important precipitate of secrecy, its imputation of crime or sin. As Abraham and Torok remark, secrecy implies shame or guilt, and what is more, "crypts are constructed only when the shameful secret is the love object's doing and when that object also functions for the subject as an ego ideal. It is therefore the object's secret that needs to be kept, his shame covered up" (Abraham and Torok 131; emphasis in original). Scott acknowledges himself a "sinner" who may be "thought guilty of affectation" (WN I.xxv), susceptible to "the charge of ungracious or unbecoming indifference to public applause" (xxiii), required to "submit to the shame of detection" (xxxii), and a target for those who would "assign some dishonourable and discreditable cause for his silence" (xxxii). Here the allegorical structure of my reading registers. Scott outlines his authorial persona (one that the meticulous pronouns and subordinate clauses of the General Preface never quite allow him to occupy) in two distinct parts. The first half of the double persona has always, albeit secretly, conducted itself according to the proprieties a public recognition would demand: "I have seldom felt more satisfaction than when, returning from a pleasure voyage, I found Waverley in the zenith of popularity" (xxiii). The second persona remains divorced from both the authorship and the secret: "I usually qualified my denial by stating, that, had I been the Author of these works, I would have felt myself quite entitled to protect my secret by refusing my own evidence, when it was asked for to accomplish a discovery of what I desired to conceal" (xxvii). We begin to suspect, because of the juridical and account-keeping language Scott adopts to discuss his relations to public sentiment, another secret shame--perhaps that attached to his financial discomfort. Debts contracted by the failure of his publisher and his heavy investment in the cultural iconography of his home at Abbotsford, as is very well known, left Scott struggling for the last five years of his life.
Certainly Scott does not confess in the General Preface to the commercial motivations behind the Author's Edition. (21) I will not, however, be satisfied to confine the secrets of the General Preface to the bottom line, as it were. (22) It is the maintenance of secrecy itself that monumentalizes Scott's work and persona, aligning it with (but also differentiating it from) figures of national mourning, like Old Mortality, Fergus Mac-Ivor, and Rob Roy MacGregor. The content of the secrets, whatever it may be, passes beyond the negative iteration of a textual unconscious or ideological schema. The secrets are not simply repressed material. They have a presence in the text that is substantially the quality of secrecy itself and cannot unveil any singular or plural truth. Scott might be said to anticipate his own mourning by a public whose bonds of domesticated nationality are figured by the mortar of his tomb. The manor house of modern Scotland is in a sense also Walter Scott's mausoleum. Frank Kermode suggests that textual secrets may be "generated [as though] from some unproblematic ur-text." (23) That is to say, those "difficult" parts of a text that require critical explication may provoke us to envision an ideal text whose content would be purely manifest, without latency or concealment--the whole truth, as it were. In psychoanalysis the concept of such an ur-text suggests nostalgia for pre-oedipal or presymbolic states, experience unmediated by language. With the help of Abraham and Torok a secret may signpost an ur-text, understood to be perfect and authentic because of its inaccessibility. Scott's dim vision of his own burial further suggests the entombing and/or encryption of an impossible and therefore doubly influential national ur-text both concealed and contained by the surviving texts of the Waverley Novels and kept alive by the cryptophoric mourning of a nation. (24)
2. The Sepulchral Writing Desk
To this point I have sketched the broader dimensions of Scott's secretive purpose, outlined his anticipation of his own encryption in the cultural field of Scottish modernity. With the help of the critics, he bequeathed his own inaccessible, but ineffaceable, ego to Scotland, which could no longer look upon itself without seeing him: he "fixed and delineated the remarkable features of a national character, such as no other people can parallel, and the very moment before it was too late. A little longer and the lively remembrance would have faded." (25) Christopher North says simply, "Scott has the whole history of his country in the core of his mind, on the top of his tongue, and on the tips of his fingers" (Blackwood's, November 1827: 553). Scott's triumph is to ensure that, beyond lan Duncan's observation that "just as there is no subject without a history, there is no history without a subject," (26) in Scotland there is no history without the Author. But Waverley historiography is more than the recollection of lost genius, and I have asserted that my reading will make space for Hogg's critique of Scott's historiography. The anticipation of encryption that occupies much of the General Preface is provisional; an encryption of another kind operates here. Before Sir Walter Scott was entombed in national consciousness, the prior and antiquated forms of Scottish nationality were entombed in him. Only the Scottish, the London Magazine ranted, "ever have afforded so great a variety of materials to construct historical and characteristic fictions ... and ... no people, not even the Scotch, will ever be so rich again" (January 1820: 18-19). The materials of history, according to the logic of literary marketplaces and cryptic mourning, are consumed by their own representations, nourishment for Scott's boundless appetite. The London Magazine, once again, declares, "His mind appears to possess ... the admirable property of digesting all its food into healthy chyle (January 1820: 11) and Christopher North finds that hunger echoed in the reading public: "as long as the mind is fed with natural and healthy food ... the mind will hunger and thirst after such good things" (Blackwood's, November 1827: 542).
The healthy form of consumption applauded here is identified--because it is genuinely figural--with introjection by Abraham and Torok and by lan Duncan in "Scott, Hogg, Orality and the Limits of Culture." "Scott's script of mourning," Duncan argues, "casts the reanimation of the past as a fantasy of incorporation succeeded by the rite of introjection, a malignant phantom first conjured up and then exorcised in order for real life to go forward" (62). Duncan is working with Abraham and Torok's baseline example of incorporative fantasy--cannibalism--in which "that alien core of loss cannot be acknowledged; the fantasy of incorporation is its reflexive substitute, baffling recognition by its literal representation of a swallowing of an object" (Duncan 61). That threatening representation is tamed in Scott by means of
the rite of mourning a cultural past, via the exorcism of "incorporative" phantasms of unassimilated traumatic disturbance, in order to make settled the modern present. By converting a lost world of social relations into literary figuration and literary tradition (and so marking it as lost), the modern poet at once consigns loss, as a category of experience, to the past, and secures it for the present in the aesthetic faculty of the imagination. (Duncan 66)
Hogg, on the other hand, in The Three Perils of Man, indulges incorporative fantasy in lurid scenes of cannibalism overseen by the sorcerer Michael Scott, the ancestor Walter Scott had evoked in The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Hogg refuses to sublimate these processes, and instead, "situates narrative ... within a perilous political economy of competition, dominance and devouring," an economy that parallels Hogg's experience of the Edinburgh literary world, "cannibalising the traditions it purported to revive and cannibalising its own producers" and denying the claim always implicit in Scott that we have transcended "the violence upon which the order of culture founds itself" (Duncan 70-71).
The allegorical mode of the Sinner's narrative bears out Hogg's challenge: that the arrival of modernity is not a limited outburst of incorporative violence distinctive to the older orders which ended by their passing. The allegorical register of the Confessions is precisely that violent imposition, repeated again and again. In Scott's historiography that violence is concealed, but, as Hogg shows us, not eradicated. Scott's display of normative, introjective mourning hides another process, a cryptophoric mourning, interrupted, or rather suppressed. In figural terms, this hiding means the suppression of overtly allegorical or symbolic material, usually in favor of narrative coherence. The subjective eccentricities of Scott's narrators and characters always fall into compliance with novelistic propriety. As Hayden White puts it, historical "events are made into a story by the suppression or subordination of certain of them and the highlighting of others, by characterization, motific repetition, variation of tone and point of view, alternative descriptive strategies, and the like--in short, all of the techniques that we would normally expect to find in the emplotment of a novel or a play." (27) Historical faithfulness consists here not in meticulous adherence to actuality, but in generic resemblance. In the introduction to Chronicles of the Canongate, for instance, Scott explains his use of locale: "I had no purpose of describing any particular local spot; and the resemblance must therefore be of that general kind which necessarily exists between scenes of the same character" (WN 41.xxiii). Harry Shaw argues that "Scott did not believe in changing history merely to suit his fictional convenience, though he was willing to alter specific historical details to reveal with greater clarity fundamental historical patterns" (150). The unreliability of Scott's fictional supplements to actuality tends to be justified by a displacement of history's secrets onto the cryptic border. Another way to express this displacement is to say the antiquarian impulse is dramatized as something in conflict with and restrained by the literary impulse. Old Mortality, for instance, is made "one compressed narrative" by its narrator Peter Pattieson from "many of the anecdotes which I had the advantage of deriving from Old Mortality" (WN 9.253). The horde of anecdotes has had its "tone of partiality" further cleaned up by Pattieson after interviewing moorland farmers, traveling merchants, country weavers, tailors, and "more than one descendant of ancient and honorable families" (WN 9.253-55).
The narrative of Old Mortality then survives the deaths of Old Mortality and his unfaithful amanuensis to make its way to Jedediah Cleishbotham, the executor of Pattieson's last wishes. Cleishbotham explains in the Introduction to the first series of Tales of My Landlord that his enterprise supersedes the wishes of Pattieson:
Now, therefore, the world may see the injustice that charges me with the incapacity to write these narratives, seeing, that though I have proved that I could have written them if I would, yet, not having done so, the censure will, deservedly fall, if at all due, upon the memory of Mr. Peter Pattieson; whereas I must be justly entitled to the praise, when any is due. (WN 9.xii)
Concealment of authentic narrative voices, behind otherwise interested editorial interference and the barrier of the speakers' deaths, makes an effective secret of the sources of the narrative. The editorial figures interposed between us and the Author have an introjective function that is not hindered by their parodic nature: they transform the incorporative energies of fictionalization into comic rivalries and pratfalls, whilst also diverting our investigations towards unthreatening figurations of literary and commercial ambition. The text exists as the proof of a secret genius, "the outward book, the mere husk or shell ... looks calmly through the wire window. But the inward book--that is, its immortal soul, is interfused with the light of setting suns, and the light of conscience and imagination" (Blackwood's, November 1827: 543). The secret endures, and authenticates. By the time Old Mortality was reprinted in the Magnum Opus edition in 1830, that authenticating secrecy had merged with the other authenticating secret, that of Scott's identity.
Far from apologizing for having produced secrets to cover secrets, Scott and his critical fraternity make a virtue of his fiction's harmonizing of babbling or uncooperative historical voices: "The facts are not Sir Waiter's own--he finds his facts all ready made to his hand, and he steals his facts to serve his own purposes. You ought to add, that he then hides, and conceals, and secretes them in his works" (Blackwood's, November 1827: 555). In the Magnum Opus introduction to Old Mortality Scott claims to have met Old Mortality himself: "His appearance and equipment were exactly as described in the novel" (WN 9.226). The gentleman was, however, uncommunicative, being "in a bad humour, and had, according to his phrase, no freedom for conversation with us" (227). With Old Mortality dead and gone--and indeed buried in a grave known to no-one, "without a single stone to mark out the resting place of his mortal remains" (205)--the novel becomes the last resting place of authentic memory. Fiction has provided the best and, paradoxically, most authentic medium to memorialize Old Mortality and distill his stories for mass consumption. His secrets, effectively himself, became the subject of a mourning played out as we explore the mysteries and revelations that make up the narrative of Old Mortality. The grave of Old Mortality, lost though it is, does not contain the secrets that can account for the narrative's coming into being in its present state. Nor is the traumatic loss underpinning Old Mortality hidden anywhere in its pages. All the many mysteries, disguises, and occlusions detailed in the story produce, as Jacques Derrida says, "A certain organization of places designed to lead astray." (28) We should not look in the cave where John Balfour of Burley hides for the "persecuted preachers and professors of nonconformity" (WN 11.100). Nor should we bother to look beneath the tartans of the clan Ivor--"a mark of distinction anciently general through the Highlands" (WN 2.65)--for the true costume of the proscribed clans.
Scott's romantic, anachronistic, and erotic intemperance in the handling of history does nothing to capsize his purposes. His refusal to defer to the specificity of history enables him to homogenize a British historical vision. In this case, the secret subject/lost love object, that is also guilty of its own damnation, is something like those representational and disseminatory forms that preceded and engendered the Waverley project. Scott's fiction retains, in encrypted form, what it has distilled into a reality: the muddled and contradictory voices of oral, folk, poetic, political, historical, gothic, and other pre-Waverley residues: history's "actual voices." (29) That this reality is an inadequate, substitutive one is quite the point. It buries those prior forms and ensures, because their loss is replayed, that their life is incorporated: "the reality cannot quite die, nor can it hope to revive" (Abraham and Torok 159). Peter Pattieson introduces the Tales of My Landlord with the edict, here obviously sophistical, that "the will of the dead must be scrupulously obeyed, even when we weep over their pertinacity and self-delusion" (WN 9.xiii). The same kind of fantasmic reality haunts the General Preface. The key image of that reality is the manuscript of the first seven chapters of Waverley that Scott claims to have composed in 1805. Prior to his flurry of explanations and apologies, he spends several pages of the General Preface tracing the document that became Waverley from its earliest preparation in a sickly childhood, endured "by becoming a glutton of books" (WN I.vi); through a premature regurgitative impulse: an "ambitious desire of composing a tale of chivalry, which was to be in the style of the Castle of Otranto" (ix); to a long digestion "in the drawers of an old writing desk, which, on my first coming to reside at Abbotsford, in 1811, was placed in a lumber garret, and entirely forgotten" (xii). The "mislaid manuscript" ("about one third part of the first volume of Waverley") lay buried in the recesses of Scott's home until "it occurred to me to search the old writing-desk already mentioned, in which I used to keep [fishingtackle]" (xvii-xviii).
Whether or not Scott's anecdote is true, its recording replicates in a domestic microcosm the documentary recovery of lost, forgotten, anonymous, and secret stories that are so often invoked to characterize his fiction. Scott acknowledges, for instance, his debt to Mr. Joseph Train for "many curious traditions and points of antiquarian interest"; to an "unknown correspondent" who provided a sketch of Jeanie Deans, "which I regret I am unable to present to the public"; and to "old and odd books, and a considerable collection of family legends" (WN 41.xiii-xv). (30) And just as the prefaces of Old Mortality incorporate the source of authentic memory as an anecdote among anecdotes, the anecdote of the manuscript of Waverley encloses historical and antiquarian investigation in a mise-en-abyme of contained narratives. Think, for instance of the dedicatory epistle to Ivanhoe, in which Laurence Templeton credits the "materials" of the narrative to a "singular Anglo-Norman MS" held by Sir Arthur Wardour, the gulled gentleman of The Antiquary. Sir Arthur, Templeton tells us, keeps this manuscript with "jealous care in the third drawer of his oaken cabinet, scarcely allowing any one to touch it, and being himself not able to read one syllable of its contents" (WN 16.xli). In keeping with the topographic uncertainty of Abraham and Torok's secret, we cannot be certain which narrative contains or is contained by which. Scott's conduit-for-history persona is armored rather than undermined by the revelation of the person inhabiting it and his accidental, homely development. He concludes the introduction to the Chronicles of the Canongate with a perfect condensation of his own progress with the process he bequeaths to the telling of history; "this long proem, prefixed to a work intended not to have any, may, however, serve to show how human purposes, in the most trifling as well as the most important affairs, are liable to be controlled by the course of events" (WN 41.xxix).
A greater weight than might seem proportionate is laid upon the buried draft of Waverley. The contrived and recounted accidents of Scott's private life align the domestic contexts of his fiction with the convergent national and political forces that inform his enterprise; accidents are meaningful in light of historical process. His eye sees history suppressing contingency under the narrative drive towards what now actually is--what Hayden White calls "the morally domesticating effect of consigning an event definitively to history" (31)--and what makes Scott a "prophesier of things past" in Hazlitt's elegant phrase (96). That eye can hardly have failed to notice the same inverted destiny in the loss and recovery of the first seven chapters of Waverley. The rescuing and completion of the manuscript here performs one of Scott's introjective rites, diverting us from the incorporative aspects of the novel itself. At first he "threw aside the work ... without either reluctance or remonstrance"; later he sometimes "turned his thoughts to the continuation of the romance," but in the absence of the manuscript, was "too indolent to attempt to write it anew from memory"; finally "the long-lost manuscript presented itself. I immediately set to work to complete it according to my original purpose" (WN I.xi-xviii). That process follows Freud's prescription for mourning: "the libido shall be withdrawn from its attachment to [the lost] object.... Against this demand a struggle of course arises--it may be universally observed that man never willingly abandons a libido position" and finally "when the work of mourning is completed the ego becomes free and uninhibited again. (32) It is a matter of historical record that the offspring of Scott's manuscript furnished much of the prosperity Scott expressed in a home devoted to personal opulence and to the gregarious display of national acculturation. (33) Scott's perennially disingenuous voice in the prefaces, introductions, and bodies of his novels directs his audience always away from his secrets, but symptomatically hints again and again that there are secrets. Their operation, the operation of a secret nationality, patrols a border behind which history's "actual voices" remain suspended between life and death, and in front of which domesticated nationality stretches out, transparent and homogeneous, reflecting upon its negative image and wondering at the figure whose grave lies at the frontier of the past. Hazlitt puts it more economically: "the old world is to him a crowded map; the new one a dull, hateful blank" (96). The British nation-as-home in Scotland, in the reconstructed vision of its Shakespeare, forges its figural partnerships both upon the model of its immediate neighbor and in the spatio-temporal vanishing point of a manuscript in a drawer in a writing desk in a disused room. The crypt is sealed within the home at the same moment that home itself is founded. Scott is the subject of history objectified as a one-man necropolis.
3. The Author's Three Heads
Scott's vision and the spatial order built around it are challenged by another buried and recovered manuscript, the one that makes up half of Hogg's Confessions. The novel remains one of the most intricate and uncooperative plays on displaced authorship in prose fiction. Hogg's novel was published not just anonymously, but as though by someone explicitly other than, and hostile to, Hogg. The fictive impetus for its production is disputed by the two "external" texts incorporated by the editor: the sinner's memoir and a letter published in Blackwood's Magazine for August 1823. The editor's explanatory postamble--reminiscent of the "Postscript, which should have been a Preface" that concludes Waverley--includes most of the letter, "signed JAMES HOGG, and dated from Altrive Lake, August 1st, 1823" (245). The editor avers that "it bears the stamp of authenticity in every line; yet so often had I been hoaxed by the ingenious fancies displayed in that Magazine, that when this relation met my eye I did not believe it; but ... I half formed the resolution of investigating these wonderful remains personally" (245). Hogg's letter describes the partial exhumation of a suicide's corpse "with a broad blue bonnet on its head, and its plaid around it, all as fresh as the day it was laid in!" although the correspondent admits he has "not had the curiosity to go and see the body myself" (244).
Hogg's lost manuscript is buried out of doors, in unhallowed ground, and proves itself the product of a writer who died, turned away from all homes because of the demons apparently dogging his flight. The editor, however, gives no credence to the sinner's story of hounding to suicide by a satanic doppelganger: "I believe no person, man or woman, will ever peruse [the manuscript] with the same attention that I have done, and yet I confess that I do not comprehend the writer's drift. It is certainly impossible that these scenes could ever have occurred" (253-54). The secrets that undoubtedly would, in a less mutinous gothic narrative, have been exploited vigorously are as vigorously deflated here. In the first paragraph of the Editor's narrative the story is disclaimed, "I am only relating to the greater part of the inhabitants of at least four counties of Scotland matters of which they were before perfectly well informed" (1), and on the last page of the book it is allowed "that the young Laird of Dalcastle [the sinner's brother] came by a violent death," but, "I account all the rest either dreaming or madness; or ... a religious parable," which, "with the present generation ... will not go down" (254). What parts of the tale do not live on in popular memory are too improbable, too allegorical to pass for authentic. A more self-assured editorial persona--one of Scott's, for instance--would have quashed or qualified these improbabilities. The only secret to which the editor shows any attachment is his promise not to reveal an old shepherd's involvement "in sic a profane thing [as the exhumation of the Sinner]" to his master (247). Because the Sinner's narrative is allegorical, or at least pretends to allegory, it upsets the coherence of the novel. Scott would never have allowed the manuscript to speak for itself in a Waverley Novel. Hogg's "sin" here is his refusal to encrypt the voice--and thus subjectivity--of his protagonist.
When he appears in the Confessions as the Ettrick Shepherd, Hogg, I have already noted, refuses to betray curiosity about the "Scotch mummy" beyond its value as an anecdote for Blackwood's. Even then he turns out to have given the wrong location for the grave. The editor treats the sinner's memoir with none of the gravity that the sinner himself attaches to it, except insofar as the editor claims to have obeyed its last edict: "cursed be he who trieth to alter or amend" (240). The Ettrick Shepherd's obstinacy and the editor's incomprehension and unwillingness actually to edit undermine any sense that the narrative has had contact with an historically sensitive consciousness. The sinner himself shows little interest in capturing historical specificity, showing far more interest in his own atypicality. He considers his readers only the mass who have escaped his scourging: "they may read and tremble, and bless their gods of silver and gold that the minister of heaven was removed from their sphere before their blood was mingled with their sacrifices" (97). His antinomian zeal imagines a kind of contemporaneity in iniquity for all. A fantasy of extra-historical agency inspires his bathetic over-estimation of his own potency, that is, an agency not at all like Scott's "human purposes ... liable to be controlled by the course of events" (WN 41.xxix). Yet that literary sin, which earns him the contempt of his editor, contributes strongly to the literary effect of the text, especially when paired with the contempt we share with the sinner for that self-same editor. Indeed a Waverleyized version of the Confessions would most certainly lose most of its demonic intensity.
There does not appear to be any point at which to fix authority, in the form of either a secret sensitive subjectivity or a documentary source whose connection to its temporal and spatial milieu is reliable. Our editor will do no more than historicize his text as an inadequate supplement to oral tradition: "I am only relating to the greater part of the inhabitants of at least four counties of Scotland matters of which they were before perfectly well informed" (Hogg 1). Magdalene Redekop declares that it is impossible to determine syntactically whether the sinner, the editor, or Hogg is meant by "this writer" in the final paragraph of the editor's conclusion: "It was a bold theme for an allegory, and would have suited that age well had it been taken up by one fully qualified for the task, which this writer was not." (34) Redekop's claim is dubious given what follows almost immediately, "or [we must conceive] that he was a religious maniac, who wrote and wrote about a deluded creature, till he ... believed himself the very object whom he had been all along describing." The editor's equivocation nevertheless leaves authorship the unassignable category of the text, a secret that dissolves historiography instead of focusing it. The cryptic border does not conceal any object of mourning, and certainly not one whose remembrance will help in the accretion of national consciousness or sentiment. Hogg's disingenuousness, unlike Scott's, disclaims the adequacy of fiction to history. The answer to the question--Who is the author of the Confessions?--is James Hogg, yet that is not much help since he refuses to take any of the praise or censure (as Jedediah Cleishbotham has it), which is so important to the conception of an author whose historiography obeys the proprieties of his subject. Richard Waswo explains in detail Scott's "paramount concern for the anxieties and satisfactions of `reputation,'" its constitutive role in the relationship between reader and author, and the location of "the social nexus of interpretation" in that relationship (314). Hogg is author, editor, and sinner, all hats that Scott too wears in his General Preface. The difference between the personae of the two writers is that Scott insists upon being, as he says in the preface to the third edition of Waverley, "like Cerberus--three gentlemen at once" (WN 1.3-4), while Hogg's three heads are at one another's throats.
The Ettrick Shepherd's three heads in the Confessions are all at pains to reveal one another's secrets. From the author's fraudulent role in the narrative, to the sinner's delusion of agency, to the editor's ambivalent motives and attitude towards authenticity, each shows up another as the one who will not confess. The policing of secrets within the narratives also takes up a good deal of energy: Rabina, the wife of the elder Laird of Dalcastle, conceals the paternity of her second son, Robert (the Sinner); her first son, George tries to hide his own whereabouts from his parasitic brother; Miss Logan, the Laird's companion after Rabina, lies to protect Arabella Calvert, who in turn knows something of the truth about George's slaying; Robert hides his bloody acts, his friendship with Gil-Martin and a good deal more; Gil-Martin conceals his diabolic identity behind his shape-changing (though constant assumption of other forms really ought to be a giveaway). What is at stake, one way or another, in all of these secrets is dispossession, often by expulsion from home. The Waverley Novels are likewise preoccupied--though perhaps not to such saturation--with secrecy. Most of Scott's protagonists adopt some kind of incognito during their adventures and all encounter others hiding, in disguise, or guarding mysterious motives and identities, either for political purposes or to evade them. Hence, the capacity to shelter fugitives puts all homes in the way of invasive surveillance. By and large, after the elimination or domestication of those characters who objectify the protagonist's identificatory options, housebreaking surveillance winds up legitimized. Because the home or the antiquated forms of domesticity that stand in for home are the primary site of secrecy in the Waverley Novels, eviction and modernization allow the incommensurables of Scottish history to be buried in the family crypt and mourned as secrets lost to time. The boundary of death and the boundary of secrecy, we have seen, have much in common. That conjunction of boundaries is, significantly, something Scott borrows more from Gothic fiction than from the literatures of history. We see repeated again and again in the Waverley Novels the nineteenth-century British imperial practice of domesticating other indigenous social forms, or aestheticizing their discontents as dead culture. James Buzard observes of Scott's prototypical example, Fergus Mac-Ivor, "The absence--actually, the judicial destruction and dismembering--of Fergus is the absolute precondition for an artwork that re-remembers him and the culture he is made to embody." (35)
The Confessions, on the other hand, thematizes dispossession and the uprooting of domestic privacy as an irrecuperable violence. The rivalry between Robert and his elder brother George revolves around paternity, legitimacy, and property--all matters relating to the family home (matters, we might say, relating to any family home). Robert is easily persuaded by Gil-Martin to consider George's iniquity, as well as his father's, grounds for a claim to the family estate of Dalcastle. He is also persuaded, less easily, to do away with George and have the blame attached to another of George's contemporaries. Having then taken possession of Dalcastle, Robert has his tenure there disturbed by what appears to be demonic possession; he remembers little and is deemed guilty of licentiousness obviously orchestrated by Gil-Martin. Arabella Calvert exposes Robert as George's killer and he flees the law, breaking the Colwan family's last connection to Dalcastle. That severance happens also to be the first gesture of the editor's narrative: "It appears from tradition, as well as some parish registers still extant, that the lands of Dalcastle ... were possessed by a family of the name of Colwan about one hundred and fifty years ago, and for at least a century previous to that period" (1). After his dispossession, Robert survives a few more months in a series of flights from one surrogate home to another, each humbler than the last. From each new place of asylum he is driven out because of nightly assaults by flocks of demons, which only Gil-Martin is able to restrain.
The concluding pages of the memoir resemble a phantasmagoric replay of the conclusion of Frances Burney's The Wanderer, with Hogg's climax reversing Burney's encompassing epiphany at Stonehenge. (36) After Robert has tried unsuccessfully to publish his memoir at an Edinburgh printing house where he has had a short employment, his manuscript decays further to a sporadic daily journal. In its very last entries, while he works as a cattleherd, "banished the dwelling-house by night ... to sleep in an outhouse by myself" (237), Robert loses contact with the world altogether. His last two entries mention nothing about place, setting him simply face to face with his "devoted friend," and bidding, "Farewell, world, with all thy miseries; for comforts or enjoyments thou hast none" (239). Hogg's letter to Blackwood's, reproduced in the editor's conclusion, relates Robert's last moments from the account of a sheep drover who saw "two people busily engaged at the Hay-rick going round it and round it" (242). Robert dies hanged from the hay-rick, completely cut off from domestic and national society. As a suicide he is buried in unhallowed ground, cursed, and with his skull crushed by the iron-heeled shoe of his last employer. The rite of mourning, let us note, is corrupted and debased. Secret nationality for Hogg equates to buried histories of dispossession and suppressed tales of expulsion from home. Robert has fallen into the void of signification outside (yet still within) Scott's nation-as-home; "`not being home' is a matter of realizing that home was an illusion of coherence and safety based on the exclusion of specific histories of oppression and resistance, the repression of differences even within oneself." (37) Scottish space will not function here as a coherent field of aesthetic experience. Instead it is a stratified, fragmented area of competing labor forms, discursive incongruity, violent death, and perverted sacrament, which fails to add to the archives of national figuration. Justification in this bleak anti-metaphoric context is a self-protective barring of doors, played out as often as not at the level of subsistence and survival. Redekop asserts that "it is only because the secret, like Poe's purloined letter, is hidden out in the open that so many of Hogg's learned readers have missed it. The golden rule does not need citing because it is as obvious now as it was in 1824--and that is just the point" (176). She is right to pick up the novel's reductive relation to literary thematics, but the golden rule (which she calls Hogg's "most unequivocal affirmation") is rather too free a dispensation to tally with Hogg's repeated dramatization of the failure of social intercourse to function according to generalized economies like family, home, and nation.
If we trace Robert's literary antecedence, we may find him a residue of the hyperactive heroes of epic romance, heroes who, as Hegel says, "acquire the right to be placed at the summit and to see the principal event in connection with their individual persons." (38) His claims of justification and super human agency--"I deemed myself as an eagle among the children of men, soaring on high, and looking down with pity and contempt on the grovelling creatures below" (116)--align him imaginatively with the heroes to whom Don Quixote appended himself. Robert's delusion is also structurally comparable to that of Don Quixote, but the more significant generic determinant of Robert's inadequacy is "Scott's well-known elimination of [the romance hero] and consequent modification of the structure of romance" (Waswo 309). The doubled narrative of the Confessions reveals not just Robert's deranged zealotry, but also the hostility of historical fiction to the subjects it purports to preserve--to do justice to. Ian Duncan argues that, in the world of Waverley historiography, "historical being can only be rationally possessed, recognized, as romance" (Modern Romance 61), romance as modified by the Author of Waverley. Belief in personal agency and subjectivity that operate outside the authorized discourses of national destiny becomes a delusion punishable by the most radical kind of expulsion. Robert, in a sense, suffers and dies because he affects a persona and style based on perverted, but nonetheless unreconstructed, epic form. That form, in the context of imperialist history and its flagship, the Waverley Novel, appears atavistic and barely intelligible. Harriet Martineau, writing soon after Scott's death, argues that "there is not a character from humble life in all [Scott's] library of volumes," and therefore, "no extensive regards to the interests of an entire nation," and "no suspicion that one class is in a state of privilege, and another in a state of subjugation, and that these things ought not to be." (39) We should recognize that Hogg's critique of Scott's class blindness in the Confessions is not essentially incompatible with the novel's more well-known censure of Calvinist fanaticism. To find a contradiction between these two critiques would be to maintain the kind of prohibition against ethical uncertainty upon which imperialist history is based. Indeed the Confessions is not fully comprehensible without an understanding of the dual critique. Both the Sinner and the editor are, as I have already observed, contemptible figures. We do not need to place our sympathy with one or the other, nor with the author, but rather feel the absence of a mediating, organizing consciousness, and of a resolving telos (either Calvinist predestination, or national manifest destiny).
4. The Year of Sheep
Allegory in the Confessions is doomed to failure. Robert's memoir details equivocations over divine authorization and stalls with interruption, not revelation. His last three entries pose three questions: "to what I am now reduced, let the reflecting reader judge"; "what I now am, the Almighty knows"; "Almighty God, what is this that I am about to do!" (238-40). Robert's every attempt to connect his narrative with divine ordination is defeated by earthly circumstance: law, public opinion, and political conflict, then subsistence, bodily endangerment, and his very sense of self. This futility is redoubled by the flippant inquiry of the graverobbers, the ghastly depiction of the exhumed limbs ("before we got them returned again into the grave they were all shaken to pieces, except the thighs, which continued to retain a kind of flabby form" (251), and the contemptuous treatment of the manuscript. The editor's willful incompetence, then, makes a clumsy recapitulation of the suppression of allegory characteristic of Waverley historiography and the treatment of the sinner's exhumed body is an analogous recapitulation of the violent imposition of culture. I should point out that the incompetence of Scott's editorial figures does not have the same function as Hogg's. The former mislead to steer us away from secrets. Hogg's editor is incompetent enough to mislead us right to his secrets.
It is, on the other hand, plausible to argue, because of the Confessions' editor Figure, that Hogg's primary satirical object is not Walter Scott himself, but rather Hogg's detractors in the Edinburgh literary scene. His depiction of himself as the Ettrick Shepherd plays upon the rustic clod created (with Hogg's mixed complicity and resistance) by the Edinburgh literati, especially Blackwood's. (40) We might parallel Hogg's hijacked persona to Gil-Martin's theft of Robert's person in the Confessions; Hogg wrote in 1834, "I have been trying my hand on a Noctes for these two or three days but Wilson has not seen it as yet I fear it will be all to re-write. I cannot imitate him and what is far more extraordinary I cannot imitate myself." (41) Robert complains on more than one occasion that he appears to have become two people: "Either I had a second self, who transacted business in my likeness, or else my body was at times possessed by a spirit over which it had no controul, and of whose actions my own soul was wholly unconscious" (182). The recognition that Scott is not the primary or only target of reproach in the Confessions, nonetheless, simply puts at second order the assault on Waverley historiography. The Edinburgh critics and editors are nothing if not adherents of Scott, and our editor's failings, while they demonstrate poor comprehension of Scott's historiographic technique, must typify the state of Waverley apprenticeship. The Confessions is not a direct parody of a Waverley Novel, but a satire on the encryption of Scottish history that begins with the Waverley Novels. It is, by the same token, Scott's incognito that Hogg sends up. And, as Ian Duncan makes clear, Fall Law, where the Sinner turns out to be buried, "is one of the stark hills behind St Mary's Loch and Altrive farm in the Vale of Ettrick. In short, the ancestral ground of the Scotts, the heritage claimed in The Lay of the Last Minstrel, is now the desolate site of Hogg's self-cancelling" ("Shadows of the Potentate" 22).
It is entirely appropriate, then, that the novel's Ettrick Shepherd figure should be too preoccupied by his sheep to join in with the editor's "queer fancy." Sheep, incongruous as it may seem, were among the most effective mercenaries of English colonial intervention in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century Scotland. Following the suppression of Jacobitism, land clearances for sheep farming became widespread, finally breaking down the social orders of the highlands: "The clearances, justified by a discourse of `improvement' ... accelerated through the Year of the Sheep (1792)--during which, in what proved to be the last major act of Highland resistance, the people of Ross revolted and drove the Lowland and English Cheviot sheep off their land, until the local landlords brought in the 47th regiment of the Black Watch and suppressed them." (42) Hogg himself was a lowlander, and the Confessions concludes in a lowland setting, but nonetheless sheep, to Hogg's contemporary audience, would readily figure the imposition of English rule through domestication. In an 1831 piece for the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, Hogg ascribes "the late decided change in the character of our peasantry" partially to "the gradual advancement of the aristocracy of farming ... district after district being thrown into large farms, which has placed such a distance between servants and masters, that in fact they have no communication whatever, and very little interest in common" (Shepherd's Delight 50, emphasis in original). The enclosure of land and introduction of sheep farming to the Border country was in fact happening in the lifetime of the justified sinner. Just a few pages before the end of his memoir, Robert reports that he has been hired as a shepherd, but, "I had not, however, gone many times to the sheep, before all the rest of the shepherds told my master that I knew nothing about herding, and begged of him to dismiss me" (236). The master does not turn him out altogether, but sets him instead to the lowlier, as well as more and more antiquated, task of herding cattle. Here Hogg offers us a bathetic version of "the typically human terms in which great historical trends become tangible" (Lukacs 35) that we now understand as Scott's great literary innovation. In the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture essay, Hogg describes farm hands' lives as "a state of absolute slavery, with only one amelioration, namely, the liberty, at each term, of selling themselves to the highest bidder. This last, with its concomitant evils, already stated, I consider as the principal cause of the radical change [in the peasantry]" (Shepherd's Delight 50-51).
The installation of English domesticity upon the Scottish landscape (fictive or actual) does, of course, import with it a logical complication. If the rule of England, aroused, spent, and then sedated under the sign of Britain, has created an isotropic administrative space, it has also, by its authorization of master-signs, caused Scotland, in a sense, to disappear; "to the extent that the Scots no longer were `other,' they could not achieve a separate subjectivity. They became worse than blank; they became invisible" (McCracken-Flesher 29). There is really no such thing as self-aggregated English space. The same is not more or less true of Britainized Scottish space. The difference between the two spheres, apart from the datable birth of the latter, is that Scottish space is always in some sense elsewhere. The definition or description or disruption of any Scottish space is localized by analogy to legislation, habitation, or habituation in spaces that cannot ever be only within Scottish space. English space is at least conceptually in the same bounded sphere as the figural equivalences that authorize it. (43) The colonial operation of the nation-as-home forces any social labor within the whole Scottish branch of the nation to identify itself with or differentiate itself from the ruling political figurations. Anything in contact with this authority that refuses, by whatever means (language other than English is a particularly prominent means), (44) to participate in that double bind becomes an occult or antique secret; it is encrypted. Secrecy covers and, as far as possible, disarticulates all that is opaque to the imperial vision. (45) Searching for Scotland, one finds oneself instead in Britain. The legitimation of colonial violence in historical fiction, then, functions as the concealment of a traumatic wounding: "the goal of this type of construction is to disguise the wound because it is unspeakable, because to state it openly would prove fatal to the entire topography" (Abraham and Torok 142). The principal events of the Confessions take place in the years immediately before and after the 1707 Act of Union, which founded the British topography I am describing. It is the encryption of Scotland that the Confessions reflects in its doublings: the two narratives are incommensurable to one another because they are divided by the boundary of cryptic secrecy. Robert's repeated assertions in the latter part of his narrative that, "I have two souls, which take possession of my bodily frame by turns, the one being all unconscious of what the other performs" (191-92) demonstrate a psychic splitting that also symbolizes his secret nationality. (46) As Caroline McCracken-Flesher notes of nineteenth-century Scottish fiction in general, "the narrator's sense of dislocation both from his community and from himself is a problem distinct to ... Scotland's post-colonial figuration" (25). The struggle between Robert and his brother George over the family possessions is likewise a struggle to define the legitimate Scottish subject--within, or in defiance of, the Britainized model.
Oddly, Scott also has a tale of fraternal dispossession to tell. Close to the end of the General Preface he adds another crypt, this one more literal than his writing desk, but just as diversionary. It is that of his younger brother Thomas, who had at some point been subject of "a report which ascribed a great part or the whole of [the Waverley] novels" to him (WN I.xxxiii). Scott introduces that rumor with a peculiar locution: "among all the rumours ... there was only one ... which had nevertheless some alliance to probability, and indeed might have proved in some degree true" (xxxii-xxxiii). The conditional tenses and qualifying qualifiers muddle the path to Thomas' grave, but once there we find that the same conditionals prevented his turning the rumors to public truth: he "had even fixed on a subject and a hero," and, "would probably have been highly successful" (xxxiv). Sadly, Thomas "was already affected by bad health, which wholly unfitted him for literary labour" (xxxiv-xxxv). This is unfortunate indeed considering it was ill health that drove Waker into the arms of the muse. In fact Thomas Scott, despite being Walter's favorite, was something of a crook. His misappropriation of rent moneys from an employer caused Walter considerable embarrassment and expense. (47) Thomas died in Canada under suspicion for his activities while paymaster for a British regiment. His misdemeanors ("certain family transactions") are acknowledged in the General Preface only with the suggestion "that if any person chance to evince particular curiosity on such a subject [the `transactions'], my brother was likely enough to divert himself with practising on their credulity" (xxxv). Two other brothers, John and Daniel, died alcoholics and in some state or other of obscurity and ignominy. The malfeasance of the Scott brothers is yet another secret confessed in the General Preface. Thomas "never, I believe, wrote a single line of the projected work; and I only have the melancholy pleasure of preserving in the Appendix, the simple anecdote on which he proposed to found it" (xxxv). The anecdote is duly included and finishes with a lament, "Of five brothers, all healthy and promising, in a degree far beyond one whose infancy was visited by personal infirmity ... I am, nevertheless, the only survivor" (xcvi). Not one extra crypt, but four decorate the General Preface. Walter the sinner is--as was Robert the sinner--the sickly brother who lived to dispossess his sibling(s). (48) Once again, though, the secrets of Walter's brothers are not the "real" secrets of the General Preface; they are also examples of Scott's historiography turned upon his own domestic (in this case familial) existence.
Walter the sinner is also, as was Robert, writing the terms of his own justification, but a very different order of justification. Indeed Walter's vindication ought to go by the name gentrification. His brother is the one buried with the preserved text. Once again the grave is brought indoors: Walter confesses, in effect, to having gained Abbotsford at the expense of his more talented and deserving brothers. That secret, where it proves the ruin of Robert and his manorial ambitions, gives Walter a domestic analogue to all the graves of covenanters, jacobites, peasants, nobility, wronged, and zealots, the appropriation of which has allowed him to build a nation-as-home. Scott displays the historical sensitivity that authorizes his fiction by applying its rules to himself. In a sense it is turning towards or away from the resolving figures of domestic nationality that separates Scott's fiction in general from Hogg's novel in particular. Scott's characters, whether headed for home or the gallows, tend to reconcile themselves to the evacuation of personal agency forced on them by national politics and what they seem to recognize as history. The characters in the Confessions are cut down unawares or go down protesting: "My last hour is arrived: I see my tormentor once more approaching me in this wild. Oh, that the earth would swallow me up, or the hill fall and cover me! Farewell for ever!" (238). The displacement of incongruity into secrecy, sealed in the crypts of consciousness and the tomb, will not resolve a seamless space-time for Hogg's protagonist. Subjectification by historiography and literary codes does not work for him. He resists what is effectively the forging of a public and private nationality cohering around uniform juridical, patriarchal, and property practices, and that resistance tears a hole in his editor's bumbling application of historiography.
(1.) Ed. John Carey (London: Oxford UP, 1969) 247.
(2.) "The maintenance of this secrecy with respect to the native public seems all the more coy and puzzling since the entire Continent had been singing his praises and putting his name on title pages since at least 1819," Richard Waswo, "Story as Historiography in the Waverley Novels," ELH 47.2 (Summer 1980): 304-30 (327, n. 8).
(3.) Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1820): 22; Vol. 1, No. 4 (April 1820): 437.
(4.) London Magazine, New Series, No. 28 (April 1, 1827): 533. "A Preface to a Review of the Chronicles of the Canongate," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 22.132 (November 1827): 531-56 (541).
(5.) "Jane Austen, as is well known, was not named on her title pages but referred to, in her later novels, as `The Author of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice,'" Patricia S. Gaston, Prefacing the Waverley Prefaces (New York: Peter Lang, 1991) 44.
(6.) Quarterly Review XIV (January 1817): 430-80 (430). Approximately the first two thirds of the review are attributed to Scott, the remainder is divided between William Gifford and John Erskine.
(7.) The English Review, for instance, predicted in 1797 that The Italian's readers, "As children who have been frightened by an ideal bugbear, and afterwards convinced that there was nothing in it, will cry, `no, no! We know what it is: you cannot frighten us again.'" Quoted in Dan J. McNutt, The Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism and Selected Texts (New York: Garland, 1975) 222. Scott wrote in his "Prefatory Memoir to Mrs. Radcliffe," "the interest terminates on the first reading of the volumes, and cannot, so far as it rests upon a high degree of excitation, be recalled upon a second perusal." Quoted in Deborah D. Rogers (ed.), The Critical Response to Ann Radcliffe (Westwood, CT: Greenwood P, 1994) 122.
(8.) Captain Clutterbuck is an editorial persona in The Fortunes of Nigel, as well as The Monastery, The Abbott, Peveril of the Peak, and The Betrothed. In the preface to The Fortunes of Nigel the Author deems him Jedediah Cleishbotham's successor and godfather to the new novel.
(9.) The Fortunes of Nigel, Author's Edition of the Waverley Novels, 48 Vols. (Edinburgh: Cadell, 1829-33) 26: xxiv-xxv. All quotations from Scott's novels will be drawn from the Author's Edition, and referenced by WN and volume number.
(10.) "Scott, Hogg, Orality and the Limits of Culture," Studies in Hogg and his World 8 0997): 56-74.
(11.) "The Upright Corpse: Hogg, National Literature and the Uncanny," Studies in Hogg and his World 5 (1994): 29-54, and "Shadows of the Potentate: Scott in Hogg's Fiction," Studies in Hogg and His World 4 (1993): 12-25.
(12.) Fredric Jameson paraphrases Deleuze and Guattari's censure of psychoanalysis as "a system of allegorical interpretation in which the data of one narrative tine are radically impoverished by their rewriting according to the paradigm of another narrative, which is taken as the former's master code or Ur-narrative and proposed as the ultimate hidden or unconscious meaning of the first one," The Political Unconscious (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1981) 22.
(13.) Scott's prolific allusiveness yields endless examples of symptomatic utterance. In this instance I quote from the Preface to the third edition of Waverley: "for the present at least, it must remain uncertain whether Waverley be the work of a poet or a critic, a lawyer or a clergyman, or whether the writer, to use Mrs. Malaprop's phrase, be `like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once'" (WN 1.3-4).
(14.) My account of Abraham and Torok's conceptual framework is drawn from Section IV: "New Perspectives in Metapsychology: Cryptic Mourning and Secret Love," In The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, Volume I, ed. and trans., Nicholas T. Rand (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994).
(15.) Quoted in Tim Marshall, Murdering to Dissect: Graverobbing, Frankenstein and the Anatomy Literature (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1995) 180.
(16.) I do not mean to suggest that there is no validity to an inquiry which pursues a biographical answer to the question, What attached Scott to his secrets? I will offer some biographical detail in support of my argument. In fact Waswo's essay seems to me far more satisfying than any "psychoanalytic biography." Waswo is correct, for instance, when he suggests that "the effect [of the incognito] would seem to be the creation of a deeper and more implicit bond with his readers, an oblique way of insisting that they recognize the presence of the Olympian storyteller" (308).
(17.) Tait's Edinburgh Magazine 8 (November 1832): 196.
(18.) Quoted in Harry E. Shaw, The Forms of Historical Fiction: Sir Walter Scott and His Contemporaries (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983) 151.
(19.) Hamlet I.i.140-46, in G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin (General Editors), The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997) 1191.
(20.) "From understanding this tragedy of destiny [Oedipus Rex] it was only a step further to understanding a tragedy of character--Hamlet, which had been admired for three hundred years without its meaning being discovered or its author's motives guessed. It could scarcely be a chance that this neurotic creation of the poet should have come to grief, like his numberless fellows in the real world, over the Oedipus complex," Sigmund Freud, "An Autobiographical Study" 63, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. xx, trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth P, 1959): 1-70.
(21.) By the time Chronicles of the Canongate (first publication, 1827) has its turn to be reprinted in the Author's Edition, the manuscripts of the Waverley Novels are, a footnote casually informs us, "at present (August 1831) advertised for public sale, which is an addition, though a small one, to other annoyances" (Scott WN 41.x).
(22.) An investigation under the rubric of queer studies would find much to discuss in this "coming out" of Scott's. He doesn't exactly dodge the prurient implications attendant upon a subject "with a history." I don't mean we should investigate in order to demonstrate anything about the sexuality of the Author of Waverley, but in order to sift this secret shame and its obvious implication of perversity for evidence towards Scott's role in the suppression and development of queer histories. Very good work (as yet unpublished) in this vein is being undertaken by Oliver Buckton, Clare Simmons and Mark Scroggins.
(23.) "Secrets and Narrative Sequence," Critical Inquiry 7 (Autumn 1980): 83-101 (87). Kermode is tinkering with the fabula and suzet of the Russian Formalists: "we may like to think, for our purposes, of narrative as the product of two intertwined processes, the presentation of a fable and its progressive interpretation (which of course alters it). The first process tends toward clarity and propriety (`refined common sense'), the second toward secrecy, toward distortions which cover secrets" (86).
(24.) This national ur-text bears some resemblance to Edmund Burke's conception of the great volume of history and its legislative counterpart, the unwritten British Constitution, which, in Jon Klancher's words, "would violently unravel should it be committed to a real reading," The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832 (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1987) 103. History, says Burke, is a "great volume ... unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind," Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993) 141.
(25.) "The Author of the Scotch Novels," London Magazine 1: 1 (January, 1820): 11-22 (21).
(26.) Modern Romance and Transitions of the Novel: Gothic, Scott, Dickens (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992) 60.
(27.) "The Historical Text as Literary Artifact," in The Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1978) 84.
(28.) "Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok," trans. Barbara Johnson, in Abraham and Torok's The Wolf Man's Magic Word, trans. Nicholas Rand (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986) xi-xlviii (xxi).
(29.) We can hardly neglect Hogg's complaint of the Border Minstrelsy that it led "to the disuse of song," which occurred because, "when Mr Scott's work appeared their arcanum was laid open, and a deadening blow was inflicted on our rural literature and principal enjoyment by the very means adopted for their preservation." "On the Changes in the Habits, Amusements and Condition of the Scottish Peasantry," Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, vol. 111 (February 1831-September 1832), reprinted in A Shepherds Delight, ed. Judy Steel (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1985) 40-51 (42).
(30.) Among Mr. Train's contributions is the description of the eponymous Cameronian and his death quoted at length in the Magnum Opus introduction to Old Mortality.
(31.) Quoted in Ina Ferris, The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History, and the Waverley Novels (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1991) 172.
(32.) "Mourning and Melancholia," trans. Joan Riviere, in General Psychological Theory (New York: Collier, 1963) 164-79 (165-66).
(33.) John Sutherland calls Abbotsford,
a miracle of eclecticism: combining Scottish Picturesque, Scots-Jacobean, English manor-house, with Scottish Castle and monastic styles. Inside, Scott's imagination ran wild, Suits of armour and old weaponry ... covered the walls. He had a library-study, with secret recessed compartments (shades of Northanger Abbey). His `curio room' was dominated by Rob Roy's long-barrelled gun, pouch and dirk. Scott collected or commissioned paintings to celebrate his family's history and lore. Heraldic devices were posted up in the main hall. [Daniel] Terry's theatrical touch is felt strongly in the interior decoration.... Abbotsford was an immensely influential house--as influential on building styles as was Waverley on the Victorian novel" (The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography [Oxford: Blackwell, 1995] 156-57).
(34.) "Beyond Closure: Buried Alive with Hogg's Justified Sinner" ELH 52.1 (Spring 1985): 159-84 (159).
(35.) "Translation and Tourism: Scott's Waverley and the Rendering of Culture," The Yale Journal of Criticism 8.2 (Fall 1995): 31-59 (48).
(36.) Burney's heroine, Juliet, lacking proof of her legitimate identity, has been expelled by unkind aristocrats and pursued by unwanted suitors for 750 pages, until she finds herself alone at Stonehenge. Unaware of any friendly intentions towards her in the world, and humiliated by complete exposure, she reaches a kind of origin point of her "loved, long lost, and fearfully recovered native land" (751). She falls into entranced communion with "this abandoned spot, far from the intercourse, or even view of mankind," which "blunted, for the moment, her sensibility, by removing her wide from all the objects with which it was in contact; and insensibly calmed her spirits; though not by dissipating her reverie" (766). National space finally crystallizes around Juliet. Touching but not touched by all space, Salisbury Plain is arranged, by Juliet's meditation, into a center where all the novel's oppositions intersect; present and past, English and foreign, figural and literal geographies, address and destination, sympathy and antipathy, refinement and poverty, self-abasement and self-fulfillment, concealment and exposure. A mere hundred or so pages later, Juliet's rescue and legitimation is complete. Quotations are from The Wanderer, ed. Margaret Anne Doody, Robert L. Mack, and Peter Sabot (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991).
(37.) Biddy Martin and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, "Feminist Politics: What's Home Got to Do with It?" in Teresa de Lauretis, ed., Feminist Studies/Critical Studies (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986) 191-212 (196).
(38.) Quoted in Georg Lukacs, The Historical Novel, trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell (Boston: Beacon P, 1963) 36.
(39.) "The Achievements of the Genius of Scott," Tait's No. 10 (January 1833): 445-60 (452-54)
(40.) Between 1822 and 1835 Blackwood's included monthly editions of the Noctes Ambrosianae, dialogues largely composed by John Wilson, "on which has been founded the popular idea of Hogg as a quaint, uncouth, boozing, strangely talented shepherd," Louis Simpson, James Hogg: A Critical Study (New York: St. Martin's P, 1962) 35.
(41.) Quoted in Caroline McCracken-Flesher, "You Can't Go Home Again: James Hogg and the Problem of Scottish `Post-Colonial' Return," Studies in Hogg and His World 8 (1997): 24-41 (35), emphasis in original.
(42.) Saree Makdisi, "Colonial Space and the Colonization of Time in Scott's Waverley" SiR 34.2 (Summer 1995): 155-87 (182).
(43.) I discuss the English side of the spatial equation in "Ann Radcliffe's Gothic Narrative and the Readers at Home," Studies in the Novel 31.4 (Winter 1999): 409-31.
(44.) "Our hero now endeavoured to address them, but was only answered with `Cha n'eil Beurl' agam' i.e. `I have no English,' being, as Waverley well knew, the constant reply of a Highlander, when he either does not understand, or does not choose to reply" (Scott WN 2.63).
(45.) A further development of this still operative conversion of cultural material into secrecy may be found in one of tourist literature's great cliches, the `best-kept secret' of this or that otherwise thoroughly English-speaking and plumbed-in destination.
(46.) My explanation of Robert's two-souls fantasy implies that Gil-Martin is in some sense an embodiment of English imperial power. I think such an implication is plausible. Robert misrecognizes Gil-Martin as "Czar Peter of Russia," a convenient figure for imperial might and to begin with Robert feels "disposed to yield to such a great prince's suggestions without hesitation" (130). We might readily detect, behind Robin Ruthven's narrative of the devil and the people of Auchtermuchty (198-203), the figure of James n, and we might also note the tendency in narratives about the suppression of covenanters in the 1680s to depict the leader of the suppression, John Graham of Claverhouse, as a satanic monster.
(47.) After Thomas' embezzlement from the Marquis of Abercorn's rents came to light he took an alias and went into hiding, "leaving his wife (just delivered of a new child) and his children to face the shame and his brother Walter to repair the damage" (Sutherland 117).
(48.) I persist in denying that my work has the character of psychoanalytic biography. The Author of Waverley cannot be exposed in residues of desire. Nor are Scott's desires clarified by his concealment of the family venalities. We may say for certain only that all the secrecy and subterfuge here appears to protect someone else besides Scott himself.
University of Alabama
I wish to acknowledge and thank the Newberry Library for a short-term fellowship that enabled me to undertake valuable research towards this article. I would also like to thank Deanna Kreisel for her essential editorial oversight.
SCOTT MACKENZIE teaches in the English Department at the University of Alabama. He has also published an essay and book reviews in Studies in the Novel, Comparative Literature Studies, and Women: A Cultural Review. This essay is part of a work in progress on domestic images of British nationality and national images of British domesticity in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
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|Title Annotation:||Walter Scott, author James Hogg|
|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2002|
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