Chronicles of the Canongate is unique among Scott's works as it is his only collection of shorter fiction. It contains his best-known tales, 'The Highland Widow' and 'The Two Drovers', and a third, less well known but of startling originality, 'The Surgeon's Daughter'. The three are set within the framing narrative of Chrystal Croftangry, an old bankrupt with pretensions to literature, who must inevitably be seen as a portrait of the artist facing up to his own insolvency in 1826. Tales in a framework have a long ancestry in European and Oriental literature, and in Chronicles of the Canongate Scott adapts the genre with consummate skill. Each of the stories and Croftangry's narrative may be read independently, but together they constitute a themed work in which the narrator treats of the cultural conflicts in the new Britain and its growing empire in the thirty years from 1756. This edition of Chronicles of the Canongate recovers a truly inventive work which is here republished in its original form for only the second time since Scott's death in 1832.
Claire Lamont is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Newcastle.
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