Sir Walter Scott: The Black Dwarf (1816)
The Black Dwarf was published as the first volume of the first series of Tales of My Landlord; the other three were occupied by Old Mortality. Scott doubted if the Black Dwarf material was up to scratch, allowed a friendly reader to confirm his own suspicions, and so brought the curtain down more quickly than he'd originally planned. Here the classic Scott gear-change is more jarring than thrilling.
This, at any rate, is Scott's account of the matter in the final paragraph of his 1830 Introduction. But the Edinburgh University Library page gives a different impression. According to this page the ending was rushed because Scott was being pressured by his new publishers Blackwood and Murray. It also seems to suggest that the original plan for Tales of My Landlord was four one-volume tales. That could be reconciled with Scott's own account only if this plan was a short-lived idea that was already on the scrapheap by the time Scott was composing the The Black Dwarf. Anyway, Old Mortality was surely conceived on spacious lines from the first.
The main deficiency that Scott talks about is the Black Dwarf himself, and certainly this static creation (Note 1) doesn't convince as a realistic portrait. Nevertheless I'm sure that Scott's insights into the anguish of being cursed with a monstrous appearance must have influenced the young Mary Shelley, who was just starting to write Frankenstein when The Black Dwarf appeared*.
Besides the deficiencies of the lead character, the book has a perfunctory insurrection (how unlike the one in Old Mortality!) and a double kidnap that incomprehensibly fizzles out. So reading the book is more a matter of salvaging lovely details than committing to the tale as a whole. But the details are worth your trouble. This is Scott in 1816, after all!
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