This essay examines the relationship between a popular but neglected subgenre of nineteenth-century historical fiction, the classical-historical novel, and the Waverley novels of Walter Scott. Using John Gibson Lockhart's Valerius; a Roman Story (1821), the first of the classical-historical novels to appear in the wake of the Waverley novels, as a test-case, the essay demonstrates how this subgenre highlights the limits of Scott's model for historical fiction. The essay first outlines the nature of Scott's favored brand of historicism, which it argues was a genealogical one centered on the oral testimony of witnesses to the past events in question (or their near-descendants). It then assesses Lockhart's attempt to adapt Scott's historicist model to his novel's second-century setting, and argues that for reasons having to do both with the temporal and cultural remoteness of that setting, and with the special status of late antiquity in the nineteenth century, Scott'smodel was not available to Lockhart and subsequent classical-historical novelists. Lockhart's novel thus stands as an instructive "false start" for the nineteenth-century classical-historical novel.
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