Sir Walter Scott wrote in his journal on March 14, 1826:
I have amused myself occasionally very pleasantly during the last few days, by reading over Lady Morgan’s novel of _O’Donnel_, which has some striking and beautiful passages of situation and description, and in the comic part is very rich and entertaining. I do not remember being so much pleased with it at first. There is a want of story, always fatal to a book the first reading–and it is well if it gets a chance of a second. Alas! poor novel! Also read again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of _Pride and Prejudice_. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!
Scott’s journal entry for September 18, 1827, has the following reference to Austen:
September 18.–Wrote five pages of the _Tales_. Walked from Huntly Burn, having gone in the carriage. Smoked my cigar with Lockhart after dinner, and then whiled away the evening over one of Miss Austen’s novels. There is a truth of painting in her writings which always delights me. They do not, it is true, get above the middle classes of society, but there she is inimitable.
And this is Austen’s famous comment on Scott:
Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. – He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must…
[ Letter 108, 28 September 1814, to Anna Austen (Le Faye)]
Further reading on Scott:
- The Journal of Sir Walter Scott- read online at Readbookonline.net
- The Journal of Sir Walter Scott at Project Gutenberg
- Walter Scott Digital Archive at Edinburgh University Library, with many links to works, images, bibliographies, etc.
- Walter Scott at the Victorian Web
- Abbotsford – Scott’s home in Scotland
- Millgate, Jane. “Persuasion and the Presence of Scott,” Persuasions 15, 1993
- Sabor, Peter. “Finished up to Nature” : Walter Scott’s Review of Emma, ” Persuasions 13, 1991
- text of Scott’s review of Emma in the Quarterly Review (1816) at The Literary Encyclopedia
[Portrait image from University of Michigan website]