It was Waverley (considered "indescribably sensational" by one American scholar) that may be considered as the instrument of Scott's success—the historical novel, properly speaking, did not exist before he wrote it. Yet, as the critic George Saintsbury put it: "In a few years the whole of Europe was greedily reading historical novels, and a considerable part of the literary population of Europe was busily writing them."
In Waverley, his highly readable story of a romantic young man in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Scott blends realism and romance, the old world and the new, Enlightenment and Romanticism. Waverley stands ultimately for peace and stability, for social and political cohesion and harmony—qualities which may, consciously or unconsciously, account for its immense popularity.
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