Scottish flowering: turbulence or Enlightenment?

Brian Hamnett

in The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695041
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732164 | DOI:
Scottish flowering: turbulence or Enlightenment?

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Walter Scott did not invent the historical novel, yet his Scottish novels showed the possibilities inherent in this type of fiction. Well-versed in earlier French fiction, German historical drama, and English fiction of the eighteenth century, Scott brought romance back into the novel and did not shrink from adapting Gothic elements to his plots. Like his German forebears, he focused on rebels, outlaw bands, and lost causes. Historical characters almost never played the principal role in the action. John Galt’s portrayal of religious fanaticism in ‘Ringan Gilhaize’ outpaced even Scott’s ‘Old Mortality’. The latter’s exploration of the theme of national identity—Scotland after the Union with England and under the Protestant Succession—appealed to continental-European writers and readers concerned with national unification, as in Germany or Italy. The medieval novels ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Quentin Durward’ appealed greatly to French readers less concerned with the national problem. Scott had many continental translators and imitators, but reaction set in from the 1830s and his work rapidly lost popularity and esteem—perhaps regrettably.

Keywords: locality; dialect; rebellion; Jacobites; conspiracy; disguise; medievalism; Crusades; Covenanters; Protestantism

Chapter.  15590 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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