Reading Sir Walter:

The Chronicles of the Canongate

(Chapter 16) 

Read by Caroline McCracken-Flesher

The previous years had proved traumatic for Scott. A financial crash echoed through the publishing world and bankrupted him; his wife died; he was outed as 'the Author of Waverley'.  

Scott produced two texts to renegotiate his relationship with his country and his audience: the "Malachi Malagrowther" letters successfully defended the Scottish banks from English encroachment - and so Scott features today on his country's bank notes;

Chronicles of the Canongate experimented with new prose forms, as Scott came out from behind his curtain of anonymity and sought to build his career anew.

The Chronicles feature the ne'er-do-well Chrystal Croftangry as the narrator of short stories he collects from his friends. Chrystal is a bankrupt; he has fled his homeland and now returns to a different place. The stories, too, are of lack and loss. But Chrystal's biggest problem is to find an audience and thus a recognised place for himself in this society.   

Previous editions of the Chronicles separated Chrystal's interwoven narrative about seeking an audience from the stories that he tells. Claire Lamont, as Editor for the Chronicles in the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, reinstates Scott's plan for the book.

We now join Chrystal as he anxiously awaits his audience's verdict on the third tale, "The Surgeon's Daughter." Moving from the Scottish Borders to an India of which neither Chrystal nor Scott knows much, the story's success is not assured.

November 2009

The Surgeon's Daughter. A steel engraving made in 1833 by R. Grave . Used with the permission of the Walter Scott Digital Archive Image Collection.