The last twenty years or so have seen a remarkable revival of serious interest in Scott the novelist. It is, however, what might be called an academic revival. It can hardly be said that Scott’s novels have recovered the mass popularity they once had. Scott was once a great popular novelist, and it was the academic and highbrow critics who helped to dethrone him by presenting him as a romantic lover of the past incapable of engaging with adequate perceptiveness with the true problems of human society and human relationships. At the same time Scott carne under attack from other quarters for what was considered a pernicious idealising of a hierarchical past, as when Mark Twain accused him of being indirectly responsible for the American Civil War. Another line of attack, still maintained by some critics in the Leavisite tradition, is to condemn him for lack of artistic integrity, for culpable carelessness in dashing off novel after novel in order to raise cash.
The real reason why Scott lost popularity with the general reader had nothing to do with any of these lines of attack. It was simply that the novels carne to be considered too long and ponderous, too slow in getting into the action, for the reader seeking a series of