‘Rave Reviewer: Scott on Frankenstein, Emma and Childe Harold’ tells the fascinating story of Walter Scott’s engagement and interaction with some of the most famous literature of the early nineteenth century: the works of Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and Lord Byron. Scott penned some of the most insightful, sympathetic and outstanding literary reviews of the age, thus, making him central to the setting up and popularity of John Murray’s Quarterly Review. With novelists and reviewers often writing anonymously, the story behind the exhibition is one where appearances can be deceiving. Few were as capable at playing this elaborate game as Scott – he even anonymously reviewed his own novels in 1816. This was without doubt, the harshest review these works received.
Two hundred years from the time that Mary Shelley first began work on Frankenstein, visitors will be able to see a very rare first edition of the gothic novel belonging to Walter Scott, one of only 500 copies originally circulated, along with his first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma. Among a number of items on show for the first time is also a selection of letters and manuscript reviews that bring to life the story behind preparing a work for publication and review, including original documents in the hand of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, on loan from the National Library of Scotland.
Mary Shelley was pleased with Scott’s review of Frankenstein but was rather
disappointed in his error in thinking the author was
her husband, which prompted this tactful letter, on display for the first time.
Scott was a great admirer of Byron's writing but even more than that, the manuscript review beautifully showcases Scott's process of writing, amending and finalising his review of Childe Harold.