Thursday, December 31, 2009


According to Scott biographer John Hay:

But of all the ancient ceremonies of olden times none gave him greater delight than "Hogmanay".  On the morning of that day he received a visit from all the children of his estate, when 

"The cottage bairns sang blythe and gay
At the ha' door for Hogmanay."

Nothing touched the heart of Sir Walter more than the gratitude of the children as he doled out to them from his own hands the hogmanay cakes and silver pennies.

The word from Normandy, "hoguinane", a new-year's gift, certainly appears to be a close fit as the derivation of hogmanay.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Wars of the Roses

"...The Queen's dress was black, without any adornment except a gold coronel of an inch in breadth, restraining her long black tresses, of which advancing years, and misfortunes, had partly altered.  There was placed within the circlet a black plume with a red rose, the last of the season, which the good father who kept the garden had presented to her that morning, as the badge of her husband's house..."

The quote above is from Walter Scott's "Anne of Geierstein".  The wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster, which took place between 1455 - 1487, may have come down to us by a different name, if it were not for this novel.  Though set in central Europe (esp. Switzerland), rather than England,  Scott's use of the rose device fed familiarity of this episode in English history.  Time-wise, the novel is set after the Battle of Tewkesbury, which was a victory for Yorkist forces. 

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, was killed in one of the earlier battles; Wakefield.  On December 30, 1460, York and his forces left their stronghold of Sandal Castle to attack Lancastrian forces who had taken the city of York.  Richard died during the fight, and his head was later displayed by the Lancastrians on a spike over Micklegate Bar at York.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thomas Becket's Martyrdom

Thomas Becket's birth was celebrated recently.  On December 29, 1170, Becket met his death at the hands of four of Henry II of England's knights.  There are multiple accounts of the scene near the cloister in Canterbury Cathedral.  According to one: Reginald FitzUrse struck the first glancing blow to Becket's head.  William de Tracy aimed next, partially intercepted by the arm of a monk who attempted to intercede in Becket's defense.  Tracy ultimately stunned the archbishop; Richard le Breton (or de Brito) then severed his head with a strong blow.  Hugh de Morville, the fourth knight, is not mentioned in the action.

Becket's destiny may have been sealed when he refused to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon, which were designed by King Henry to rein in the independence of the clergy.  Subsequently, Becket was tried and convicted on charges of contempt of royal authority.  He fled to France, where he lived for several years.  Through diplomatic efforts involving Pope Alexander III, a reconciliation was effected, and Becket returned to Canterbury in 1170.

A key element leading to Henry's final command, or interpreted command, to kill Becket was Becket's excommunication of the archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had presided in Henry's son's coronation.  This office was reserved for the Bishop of Canterbury.

Continuing from the December 21 post from "Ivanhoe":

“...—Tracy, Morville, Brito
loyal and daring subjects, your names, your spirit, are extinct!
and although Reginald Fitzurse hath left a son, he hath fallen
off from his father’s fidelity and courage.’’
“He has fallen off from neither,” said Waldemar Fitzurse;
“and since it may not better be, I will take on me the conduct
of this perilous enterprise..."

Monday, December 28, 2009


John Logan was a Scottish minister and poet.  Logan is perhaps best known for his sermons and hymns.  Born into a family that worshiped in the Secession Church, he later left that sect, and was licensed in 1770 as a preacher in the Presbytery of Haddington.

Logan's father was a farmer.  As second born, John may have been destined by his parents to be a minister.  He was provided with an education, and exhibited a significant affinity for learning.  He was sent to Edinburgh College, and at one point served as a tutor for John Sinclair - later Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster.

Logan's connection to Sir Walter Scott derives from his tragedy "Runnamede", which was produced in 1783.  Scott saw a production of Runnamede as a youth.  In this play, Normans and Saxons were presented on opposite sides of the stage.  This play is thought to have influenced Scott's creativity in the writing of his novel "Ivanhoe".

John Logan died on December 28, 1788.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feast of Saint John the Evangelist

December 27 is the feast day of Saint John, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of James the Greater.  Salome may have been a cousin of Mary (Jesus' mother).  The two sons of Zebedee may then have been Jesus' first cousins, as well as ultimately his apostles.  John, the "disciple who Jesus loved" was the only apostle to die a natural death.  Not that life was easy for him.  At one point, he was accused by Roman authorities of subverting the religion of the Roman Empire.  His punishment was to be cast in a vat of boiling oil.  Legend has it he remained in the cauldron for an extended period of time, emerging unscathed and invigorated.

In Edinburgh, on Princes Street, is Saint John the Evangelist, a Scottish Episcopal Church.  It was completed in 1818.  One of it's early residents, in the burial sense, is Anne Rutherford, Sir Walter Scott's mother.  She is buried in the Dormitory, along with painter and cousin Henry Raeburn, who painted Walter in 1822.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saint Stephen's Day

Saint Stephen's Day is the first day after the celebration of Christ's birth, in honor of Saint Stephen having been the first of Jesus' followers to become martyred.  Stephen was stoned to death.

On Stephen's Day, on old and no longer practiced tradition involved the letting of horses blood.  The thinking was that this would protect the horses against sickness in the coming year.

More from Marmion:

"...Then followeth Saint Stephen’s Day, whereon doth every roan
His horses jaunt and course abroad, as swiftly as he can.
Until they do extremely sweat, and then they let them blood,
For this being (lone upon this day, they say doth do them good,
And keeps them from all maladies and sickness through the year,
As if that Stephen any time took charge of horses here...."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas at Abbotsford

From Scott's Journal, 12/25/1825

Arrived here last night at seven. Our halls are silent compared to last year, but let us be thankful—when we think how near the chance appeared but a week since that these halls would have been ours no longer. Barbarus has segetes? Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia. There shall be no lack of wisdom. But come—il faut cultiver notre jardin. Let us see: I will write out the "Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee"; I will sketch a preface to La Rochejacquelin for Constable's Miscellany, and try about a specimen of notes for the W[averley Novels]. Together with letters and by-business, it will be a good day's work. "I make a vow,
And keep it true."

Next day, Scott was too sick to do anything; kidney stones, it sounded like.  Even he could overreach, and perhaps his body had been overworked, and was in revolt.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

From Scott's Marmion (1808):

On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then opened wide the baron's hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And Ceremony doffed his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ' post and pair.

All hailed, with uncontrolled delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down!

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table's oaken face,
Scrubbed till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar's-head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where the monster fell
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas-eye;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce,
At such high-tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.'

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Frederick Augustus I of Saxony

Frederick Augustus was born in Dresden; December 23, 1750. Saxony became a kingdom (December 11, 1806) following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire under Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine (July 12, 1806). The confederation was formed after Napoleon defeated the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II at the Battle of Austerlitz. Frederick Augustus thus served as Elector of Saxony, as part of the HRE, and King of Saxony under the Rhine Confederation.

Scott covers Frederick Augustus in his "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte". The Battle of Leipzig (October 16-19, 1813) in Saxony proved very costly to Napoleon. Though he ultimately prevailed over German forces, this battle was a prelude to his abdication and exile in Elba. Per Scott, Napoleon appreciated Frederick's character:

"...Perhaps also, Napoleon might be influenced by the feeling of what was due to the confidence and fidelity of Frederick Augustus of Saxony, who, having been so long the faithful follower of his fortunes, was now to be abandoned to his own. To have set fire to that unhappy monarch's city, when leaving him behind to make terms for himself as he could, would have been an evil requital for all he had done and suffered in the cause of France..."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Landing at Peterhead

The Jacobite Rising was a favorite backdrop for Scott, and in particular Rob Roy is set with "The Fifteen"; the rising of 1715. This First Jacobite Rebellion moved into action during the summer of 1715. James Stuart, The Old Pretender as he came to be known, was in communication with John Erskine, the Earl of Mar. Stuart convinced Mar to raise the clans in rebellion to the English throne. Mar traveled to Braemar, in Aberdeenshire, for a clan "hunting match" in August of that year. On September 6th, Mar proclaimed James Stuart as lawful sovereign. Mar and the clans in attendance at the hunting match began taking the highlands by force.

Success was short lived, as the English soon reacted, and Highlanders found fewer recruits than necessary. Two of the larger battles during this uprising were the Battles of Preston and Sheriffmuir during November 1715. Finally, on December 22, 1715, James Francis Edward Stuart landed on Scottish soil, at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. Stuart was feverish and apparently depressed over his prospects. He briefly set up a court at Scone, in Perthshire, but retreated to France on February 4, 1716, leaving the Highland Chieftans to fend for themselves.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thomas Becket

"Come hither, Waldemar," said Prince John. "An unhappy prince am I. My father, King Henry, had faithful servants - he had but to say that he was plagued by a factious priest, and the blood of Thomas-a-Becket, saint though he was, stained the steps of his own alter. - Tracy, Morville, Brito..."

- From Scott's "Ivanhoe".

Thomas Becket is best known for his death, at the hands of his childhood friend Henry II of England's men. Today is his birthday; December 21, 1117. Thomas was the son of a London merchant. While, as a young man, employed by the sheriff of London, Thomas met Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald sent him to study civil law in Italy and France. Becket was very successful in his studies, and among those who noticed was Henry II. Henry raised Thomas to the position of chancellor of the realm (1158), a post which he filled admirably. Trusting that Becket was of the same mind as he, and wanting to check the power of the church, Henry further promoted the future saint to become Archbishop of Canterbury. The seeds of dissension that led to Thomas-a-Becket's death will be covered in a future post.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Poet's Corner - Westminster Abbey

On Monday, December 20, 1784, Samuel Johnson's remains were buried in Westminster Abbey. Johnson, who died a week earlier (on the 13th), joined several other illustrious poets/writers interred or memorialized in Poet's Corner. Geoffrey Chaucer was the first poet buried there. Others include John Dryden, Lord Tennyson, and Robert Browning.

Memorials includes such famous poets/writers as John Milton, William Blake, Robert Burns, and, of course, Sir Walter Scott. Scott himself is buried in Dryburgh Abbey, near his Abbotsford.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Turner passed this day, December 19, in 1775. Always a private individual, Turner had a residence in Chelsea which he holed up in, preparing to die. Friends found him the day before his death.

Turner was the son of a barber, and was born in his father's shop. The elder Turner supported the son's interest in art, and the two remained close throughout life. In 1789, Turner entered the Royal Academy (RA) as a student. In 1802 he was elected an academician. In 1807, he became professor of perspective at the RA. That year, his "Liber Studiorum" was issued, full of engravings by himself and others. The "Liber Studiorum" was issued in several volumes over several years, and included several Walter Scott related subjects. In 1831, Scott's publisher Robert Cadell wrote to Turner, asking him to illustrate a new edition of "Scott's Poetical Works". Turner replied favorably, offering 24 designs at 25 guineas each; well under the rate Cadell anticipated.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Saint Gatian

December 18 is the feast day of Saint Gatian, the first Bishop of Tours. Saint Gatian reached Gaul in the mid-third century. He proceeded to convert many of the Gauls to Christianity.

Scott includes the Church of St. Gatian - the Cathedral of Tours - in his Quentin Durward. This cathedral was erected between the 13th and 16th centuries.

"...The towers of the church of Saint Gatien were also visible, and the gloomy strength of the Castle, which was said to have been, in ancient times, the residence of the Emperor Valentinian..."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O. P. Riots

The OP, or Old Prices riots came about as a result of the burning down of the Covent Garden theater, on September 20, 1808. The theater was rebuilt, reopening a year later with higher ticket prices. At this time, it was illegal to see a Shakespeare production anywhere but Covent Garden or Drury Lane, which theaters held an effective monopoly. The price increase, therefore, severely impacted anyone who wished to see the bard's plays.

The proprietor of Covent Garden was a man named John Kemble. Kemble addressed the price increase when the theater opened:

"Solid our building, heavy our expense;
We rest our claim on your munificence;
What ardour plans a nation's tastes to raise,
A nation's liberality repays."

Kemble's verse failed to appease many theater-goers. A boisterous group of O.P. advocates disrupted all productions once the rebuilt theater began operations. Finally, on December 17th (1809), a Treaty of Peace was framed.

Scott references the O.P. Riots in his "Life of Kemble":

"...A blackguard transaction ought to have its name from the dictionary of the vulgar tongue, and the continued riot raised about the increase of entrance money, which had remained the same for one hundred years, while all the expenses of the theater were increased in a tenfold proportion, became the ground of the O.P. Row, as was called a continuous riot which lasted sixty-six nights..."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jane Austen

"Also read again, for the third time at least, Miss Austen's very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going, but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me..."

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775. Austen read Scott, and Scott read Austen, as evidenced by the entry above, which is from Scott's Journal of March 14, 1826.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whigs and Tories

December 15, 1826 - from Scott's Journal:

"...Our discussion went off very decently; no discussions or aggravating speeches. Sir John Jackass seconded the Whig's nominee. So much they will submit to get a vote. ... The Tory interest was weak among the old stagers, where I remember it strong, but preferment, country residence, etc., has thinned them..."

James Boswell provided this Samuel Johnson description of the difference between a Whig and a Tory (Life of Johnson):

"A wise Tory and a wise Whig, I believe, will agree. Their principles are the same, though their modes of thinking are different. A high Tory makes government unintelligible; it is lost in the clouds. A violent Whig makes it impracticable: he is for allowing so much liberty to every man, that there is not power enough to govern any man. The prejudice of the Tory is for establishment: the prejudice of the Whig is for innovation. A Tory does not wish to give more real power to Government; but that Government should have more reverence. Then they differ as to the Church. The Tory is not for giving more legal power to the Clergy, but wishes they should have a considerable influence, founded on the opinion of mankind: the Whig is for limiting and watching them with a narrow jealousy."

Monday, December 14, 2009

James V of Scotland

James V died on December 14, 1542, soon after the Battle of Solway Moss. James did not join the field of battle, but was situated at Lochmaben. He retreated to Falkland Palace after his Scottish forces were routed by English forces under the command of Sir Thomas Wharton. James' troops were to have been led by Lord (Robert) Maxwell, but Maxwell fell ill, leaving command uncertain. Sir Oliver Sinclair de Pitcairns attempted to assume command, but allegiance was to Maxwell; the battle was lost. James died two weeks after Solway Moss, leaving his newborn daughter Mary as hier. James commented as death approached "It came wi' a lass, and it shall go wi' a lass".

Besides the English, James had difficulties with the powerful Douglas clan. Scott's most popular poem, "The Lady of the Lake", covers the feud between James V and James Douglas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Iam Moriturus

"I who am about to die." reads the translation of today's title. Samuel Johnson was quotable up to his last days. As 2009 is the 300th anniversary of Johnson's birth, two new biographies were published this year. This entry will focus on his last days. Johnson's most famous biographer James Boswell stated "My feeling was just one large expanse of Stupor...I could not believe it. My imagination was not convinced." Author Fanny Burney visited him near the end. He traveled to George Strahan's home to die. He seems to have been most comfortable with his friend Bennet Langton, who cared for him most closely during his final days.

Samuel Johnson died December 13, 1784. He was buried at Westminster Abbey on December 20th. Johnson's influence on writing, and his (and Boswell's) travels, have served as fodder for this blog. Scott published a fond "memoir" of Johnson, prefixed to the Novelists' Library edition of Rasselas in 1823. Scott commented that he "had more pleasure in reading "London" and "The Vanity of Human Wishes" than any other poetical composition he could mention.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

James Hogg

"Hogg came to breakfast this morning, having taken and brought for his companion the Galashiels bard David Thompson as to a meeting of "huzz Tividale poets"..".

From Scott's Journal, December 12, 1825. James Hogg, the self-taught "Ettrick Shepherd" contributed to Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Robbie Burns

..."When once life's day draws near the gloaming,
The farewell careless social roaming,
And farewell cheerful tankards foaming,
And social noise;
And farewell dear deluding women,
The joy of joys!"

Long life to thy fame and peace to thy soul, Rob Burns. When I want to express a sentiment which I feel strongly, I find the phrase in Shakespeare - or thee."...

From Scott's Journal, December 11, 1826; a creative inspiration for Scott.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mississippi Scheme

On December 10, 1720, John Law, Scottish financier and former comptroller-general of France, was forced to leave Paris. Law was the son of Edinburgh goldsmith and banker William Law, who through a successful career in finance, was able to purchase Lauriston Castle, and settle the family there.

Son John was perhaps not as rigorous in his methods as William; more of an adventurer. He arrived in Paris after a long period of wandering the continent to avoid the law, after killing Beau Wilson (Law was later pardoned for this killing) in a duel.

In an appropriate corollary to today's economic bubbles, Law is responsible for one of the largest booms and busts in history. In the Mississippi scheme, Law purchased most of the Companie du Mississippi (1717), and was granted a 25 year monopoly on trade with North America and the West Indies. This company ultimately became the Company of the Indies, which, among other things, is responsible for building the city of New Orleans, in Louisiana.

Through successful marketing, shares in the Company of the Indies began to grow rapidly in value. Everyone in France, it seemed, wanted to buy in, and Law obliged by issuing more and more shares. Law himself could not appear in public without being accosted for a piece of the action. At the height of the bubble, in 1720, shares rose to 15,000 Livres, from 500 Livres the year before. This bubble ended the way all bubbles do; popped. By the end of 1720, shares had declined significantly, bankrupting many, and causing economic distress throughout the country.

Law's scheme, as Scott refers to it appears in his "The Bride of Lammermoor":

"...notwithstanding Captain Craigengelt had proposed to him a most advantageous mode of vesting the money in Law's scheme..."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John Milton

"John Milton!" exclaimed Sir Henry in astonishment-"What! John Milton, the blasphemous and bloody-minded author of the Defensio Populi Anglicani!- the advocate of the infernal High Court of Fiends; the creature and parasite of that grand impostor, that loathsome hypocrite, that detestable monster, that prodigy of the universe, that disgrace of mankind, that landscape of iniquity, that sink of sin, and that compendium of baseness, Oliver Cromwell! "

" Even the same John Milton, answered Charles..."

These lines are from Scott's Woodstock, which was published during the economic downturn of 1826. The novel's setting is the English Civil War (c. 1651), and the quote given to Sir Henry Lee is clearly unfavorable to a supporter of Cromwell. Samuel Johnson, a devout Tory, described Milton as "an acrimonious and surly republican."

John Milton was born December 9, 1608.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mary, Queen of Scots

"...It was with these feelings of hope and apprehension, that I venture to awaken, in a work of fiction, the memory of Queen Mary, so interesting by her wit, her beauty, her misfortunes, and the mystery which still does, and probably always will, overhang her history."

Thus Scott introduced his new work "The Abbot"; January 1, 1831. The Abbot followed The Monastery as one of the two "Tales from Benedictine Sources" novels (following "The Monastery"). The novel is set between July 1567 and May 1568, and covers Mary's imprisonment at Lochleven Castle, abdication, escape, and eventual flight to England.

Mary Stuart was born on December 8, 1542

Monday, December 7, 2009

Marshal Michel Ney

"Le brave des braves", as Napoleon called him after commanding the rear guard in the retreat from Moscow, Michel Ney was killed this day in Paris, in 1815. It was no stray bullet that felled one of Napoleon's elite marshals, but the work of a firing squad. Soon after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and subsequent exile, Ney was charged with treason, tried, and found guilty by the Chamber of Peers.

The Chamber of Peers consisted of nobles under the Bourbon reign, which was restored to power following Napoleon's first defeat; at Paris. Ney facilitated Napoleon's abdication after this defeat, for which King Louis XVIII raised him to the level of Peer. When Napoleon returned from exile, Ney intercepted him with the stated intent of supporting Louis. Napoleon convinced him otherwise, and the 100 days campaign ensued. Marshal Ney was in charge of the left wing of the French army at Waterloo, which became trapped; a direct cause of the French defeat.

True to his Napoleonic sobriquet, Ney faced his firing squad without a blindfold, and in fact issued the orders to fire upon himself.

Scott includes the Marshal Ney in his "Life of Napoleon", his name appearing in the text more than 50 times.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sir David Baird

A contemporary of Walter Scott, David Baird was born on December 6, 1757. Baird made his mark in the military, mostly in India. His first tour of duty was as a captain, with Sir Hector Munro in India. During battle, the whole force Baird was assigned to was destroyed; Baird himself captured, and held for 4 years. Several years after his release, Baird purchased a lieutenant-colonelcy and returned to India. Here, in the battle of Seringapatam, Baird distinguished himself, and was promoted to colonel.

Baird continued successful military actions in India, but was disappointed not to advance further. A command he expected to receive went to Colonel Arthur Wellesley, beginning a pattern of disappointment that would embitter Baird through his career. He was, however, knighted in 1804.

Scott was familiar with Baird, and in a personal letter to his own son Walter, described Baird:

"Respecting David Baird, besides being always a man of courage himself, and a successful general, it should never be forgotten that the army, Britain, and the whole world owe the Duke of Wellington entirely to him."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Francis II of France

Francis, the Dauphin of France, married Mary, Queen of Scots in 1558. Both were extremely young at the time; Francis just 14, and Mary 16. The marriage was arranged 10 years earlier, by Francis' father, King Henry II of France. Mary was four at that time, and had just been crowned Queen of Scotland, following the death of her father James V, King of Scots. Through this marriage, any offspring would inherit the Scottish throne, and also have a potential claim to the English crown through Mary's great-grandfather Henry VII of England.

Francis acceeded to the French throne in 1559, but there were to be no children to pursue future French acquisition. Francis was a sickly child all his life, and he died a year after taking the reins due to an infection that impacted his brain. He died on December 5, 1560.

Sir Walter Scott includes reference to Francis in Kenilworth. After Francis' death, Mary returned to Scotland, and Scott uses a suggestion made by Elizabeth I that Mary could Leicester, with whom she was extremely close, could gain a thone through marrying Mary.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle was born on December 4, 1795, in Ecclefechen, Scotland. Carlyle began his career as a math teacher, and later became a historian, satyrical writer and essayist. One of his best known quips is his labeling of economics as "the dismal science". He developed an interest in the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Ficthe and German Idealism, which followed from the work of Immanuel Kant, and led to Georg Hegel.

One concept that Carlyle accepted from his absorption in German philosophy was the idea of the great man; the heroic leader. He published his "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History" in 1841; a study of several heroic leaders, including, among others- Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, Odin, and Sir Walter Scott. The following is from this work:

"Of Rousseau's literary talents...not genuinely poetical...Look at a Shakespeare, at a Goethe, even at a Walter Scott! He who has once seen into this, has seen the difference of the True from the Sham-True, and will discriminate them ever afterwards."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A miss is as good as a mile

The title is a quote from Scott's journal, dated December 3, 1825. Scott was referring to Robert Pierce Gillies, who was losing his estate. According to Scott "...he was very near to being a poet-but a miss is as good as a mile, and he always fell short of the mark."

Both Scott and son-in-law Lockhart tried to help Gillies, who was a member of the Scotch Bar.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Saint Francis Xavier

December 2, 1552; death of Saint Francis Xavier. St. Francis was sent to the University of Paris for schooling, where he roomed with a Peter Faber. Later, Ignatius Loyola, 15 years Xavier's senior arrived at the University. Xavier did not take to Loyola initially, but after one of Xavier's particularly successful lectures in philosophy, Loyola approached him, whispering in his ear "What shall it profit a man if he gain the world, and lose his own soul?" Xavier and Loyola became friends on reflection of these words, and along with Faber and three others founded the Jesuit order, the Society of Jesus.

Xavier soon travelled to India, and through his good work became known as the Apostle of the Indies. Sir Walter Scott had this to say about Xavier: "One cannot deny him the courage and patience of a martyr, with the good sense, resolution, ready wit, and address of the best negotiator that ever went on a temporal embassy."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Henry I of England

December 1, 1135 - King Henry I of England dies. Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror. Discussion including Henry (and his brothers) is included in Scott's Ivanhoe.

"...Is Richard's title of primogeniture more decidedly certain than that of Duke Robert of Normandy, the Conqueror's eldest son? And yet William the Red, and Henry, his second and third brothers, were successively preferred to him by the voice of the nation...."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saint Andrew

"By Saint Andrew, there were foul mistake though," answered the page..

This brief section is taken from The Waverley Novels, volume 21.

Saint Andrew was the son of Jonah, a fisherman of Bethsaida, in Galilee. He was Simon Peter's brother. Andrew was at one point a disciple of John the Baptist, but recognized Jesus as the Messiah when he first saw him. Andrew the apostle was martyred by crucifixion at Patras, in Achaea. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland in the middle of the tenth century. November 30 is his feast day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Roger Mortimer

On November 29, 1330, Earl of March Roger Mortimer was hanged at Tyburn. The charge was treason. The charges were brought by King Edward III of England, who had been under Mortimer's tutelage while a minor, after Edward II was forced to abdicate the throne.

Edward II's departure was brought on by Mortimer himself, along with Edward's own wife Isabella of France. Mortimer and Isabella had become lovers while both were in France; Mortimer due to refusing Edward's summons, Isabella merely to escape from Edward. Mortimer launched an invasion of England from Flanders, and successfully deposed Edward (1327).

As Edward III was underage at the time his father abdicated, he could not take the throne. Mortimer effectively ruled for three years, until Edward, now 18 and weary of Mortimer's control, decided to take matters into his own hands. Around Michaelmas 1330, Edward summoned a parliament at Nottingham, to approach Mortimer's castle. The castle being heavily guarded, the castle gatekeeper was approached instead. Sir William Eland knew of an underground passage into the castle that even Mortimer himself was unaware of. The opening, which became known as Mortimer Hole, was used to gain access, arrest Mortimer, and take him out with none of the guards being aware.

Scott includes a reference to Roger Mortimer in his Kenilworth.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Washington Irving

Author Washington Irving passed on November 28, 1859. Irving was the son of William Irving, originally from Orkney, who arrived in Manhattan with his English wife Sarah Sanders about 1763. Washington was born in April of 1783, just as the Revolutionary War was ending. Irving is named for American hero General George Washington. Irving's last contribution as a writer was his five volume "Life of George Washington" (1855-1859).

Irving is probably best known for his stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". These stories appeared in his "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (the Sketch Book)". This work was published in London, and became enormously popular with Europeans. Publication was facilitated by Sir Walter Scott.

Irving met Scott in 1817 through an introduction by author Thomas Campbell. Scott wrote to Campbell afterwards to thank him for one of the best and pleasantest acquaintances he had met in many a day. When Irving couldn't find a publisher for his "Sketch Book", Scott introduced him to his publisher John Murray, who gave Irving L200 for the copyright, later doubling that figure.

Friday, November 27, 2009

John Murray

Publisher John Murray II was born on November 27, 1775. Murray's father John Murray I (1745-1793) founded an eponymously named publishing house in 1768. The house gained fame for its high stature list of authors. Edinburgh-born Murray (I), who had been a Royal Marines officer, published for Isaac D'Israeli.

But it was John Murray II who pulled in eminent authors such as Lord Byron, Jane Austen, Washington Irving, George Crabbe, and Sir Walter Scott. Murray (II) built the family business to its pinnacle, successfully publishing several unknown authors (such as Lord Byron), recognizing talent that others had missed. On June 27, 1843 Murray turned the business over to John Murray III.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Dundas Dynasty

November 26, 1827 - from Scott's Journal: Dined with Robert Dundas of Arniston, Lord Register, etc. An agreeable evening.

Robert was one of a long line of legal Dundas's of that forename. An earlier (b. around 1665) Robert Dundas served as MP and judge in Scotland. This Robert's son, also Robert (1685 - 1753), was known as Robert the Elder. Robert the Elder served as Solicitor General and Lord Advocate, among other posts. Robert the Elder had another Robert; the Younger (1713-1787). This Dundas also served the same two posts in later years. This Robert in turn sired a Robert (1758 - 1819); again these two posts were served by a Robert Dundas as late as 1789 (Solicitor General) and 1801 (Lord Advocate). Finally, we reach the Robert that Walter Scott dined with; Robert (1804-1887). This Robert Dundas later changed his surname to Nisbet-Hamilton, names gained through his marriage to Lady Mary Bruce, when she succeeded to these estates (Dirleton Castle/Acherfield House).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

John Gibson Lockhart

John Gibson Lockhart died in November 25, 1854. Lockhart was born in Lanarkshire, near Glasgow. Lockhart joined Blackwood Magazine in 1818, helping to publish what was a Tory oriented magazine in Whig dominated Edinburgh. Lockhart attracted the notice of Sir Walter Scott, which led to a friendship, and ultimately marriage between Lockhart and Scott's eldest daughter Sophia. Lockhart is best known for his Life of Sir Walter Scott.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

David II of Scotland

David II was the only surviving son of Robert the Bruce, when Bruce died in 1329. David was born in 1324, when Robert was 50. When David was 4, he was married to 7 year old Joan, sister of Edward III of England. On November 24, 1331, David was crowned at Scone, as King of Scotland.

David is included in Scott's Tales of a Grandfather: Liberation and Death of King David II. David died in Edinburgh Castle in 1371, without issue. The Bruce line thus ended, and the Stuart line began with the accession of Robert II of Scotland. King Robert Stuart was the son of Marjorie, who was Robert the Bruce's daughter, and Walter Stuart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Louis, Duke of Orleans

On November 23, 1407, Louis, Duke of Orleans, was assassinated in Paris. The murder was undertaken at the behest of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgandy. The source of Louis and John's dispute was the guardianship of the children of Louis eldest brother, Charles the Mad.

Louis is included as a character in Scott's Quentin Durward:

"...Upon the arm of his relation Dunois, ...came Louis Prince of Orleans, the first prince of the Royal Blood (afterwards king, by the name of Louis XII)..."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Robin Hood

Today's entry for November 22 covers the legendary Robin Hood. Robin Hood may have been the Earl of Huntington, who turned to raiding Sherwood Forest and its wealthy travelers after wasting his inheritance. King Edward II determined to eliminate Robin, and dressing his men and himself as monks, set himself as bait in order to capture Robin.
The ruse works. Robin Hood unknowingly extracts money from the king, then invites Edward to dinner. After a shooting contest, Hood and his men realize that they are not in the presence of monks, but of rank; including King Edward. Robin Hood begs forgiveness, which Edward grants, demanding that Robin serve as his court. Evidence of this service is contained in the royal Exchequer report, which lists payments to a Robin Hode at this time.
A year later, Robin asks for his release, which he receives on November 22, 1324. Hood rejoins his comrades after leaving Edward, and a 22 year period of robbery ensued.
Scott draws on the Robin Hood legend in his classic Ivanhoe. In Ivanhoe, Scott includes Lockesley (Robin Hood), Friar Tuck, Allen-a-dale, and Little John. Scott's Ivanhoe portrays remnants of Saxon England in conflict with the new Norman overlords.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sir Thomas Gresham

Sir Thomas Gresham died on November 21, 1579. Gresham was a merchant and financier whose career included stints with King Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I. His father, Sir Richard Gresham had been knighted by King Henry VIII, for his efforts in securing foreign loans for Henry.

Sir Thomas also made his mark in financial dealings, being called in by Edward VI to restore the value of the Pound, which had fallen due to financial mismanagement. Though initially out of favor, when Mary succeeded Edward, he was soon reinstated. Elizabeth I gained the crown in 1558, continuing to rely on Gresham for financial matters. In 1559, Elizabeth asked Gresham to serve as ambassador at the court of the Duchess of Parma, and he was knighted soon before he departed on his mission.

In 1565, Gresham proposed a plan for an exchange, based on the Antwerp Bourse. This plan was adopted, and became the Royal Exchange.

Sir Walter Scott was familiar with Gresham, and among the inclusions in Scott's work is a reference in the Waverley Novels to Gresham college. The college itself was comprised largely of Gresham's own property in London. Lectures commenced in June 1597, one year after the death of Thomas' widow Anne.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Caroline of England

On November 20, 1737, Queen Caroline passed. Caroline was born in Ansbach, Germany. She married George August (1705), who was son of the elector of Hanover, and who later became King George II of England (1714).

It is to Caroline, in London, that Jeanie Deans travels, in Scott's "The Heart of Midlothian". Jeanie walks from Edinburgh to London for an audience with Caroline, to seek a remedy for her sister's conviction on a charge of infanticide. The penalty was to be death. Many critics view this novel as Scott's finest.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Charles I of England

Yet another Dunfermline connection. Charles I was born on November 19, 1600, in Dunfermline Palace.  Charles appears as an infant in Scott's "The Fortunes of Nigel".  This novel focuses on King James I, who enjoyed bestowing nicknames on people he was fond of.  In this passage, "Steenie" (George Villers) and "Babie Charles" (Charles I):

"To grant the truth," he said, after he had finished his hasty perusal, "this is a hard case; and harder than it was represented to me, though I had some inkling of it before. And so the lad only wants payment of the siller due from us, in order to reclaim his paternal estate? But then, Huntinglen, the lad will have other debts—and why burden himsell with sae mony acres of barren woodland? let the land gang, man, let the land gang; Steenie has the promise of it from our Scottish Chancellor—it is the best hunting-ground in Scotland—and Babie Charles and Steenie want to kill a buck there this next year— they maun hae the land—they maun hae the land; and our debt shall be paid to the young man plack and bawbee, and he may have the spending of it at our Court; or if he has such an eard hunger, wouns! man, we'll stuff his stomach with English land, which is worth twice as much, ay, ten times as much, as these accursed hills and heughs, and mosses and muirs, that he is sae keen after."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sir David Wilkie

The Scottish painter David Wilkie was born this day in 1785. The son of a minister in Fife, Wilkie took to art early in life, and began formal training under John Graham. Wilkie traveled extensively through Europe, which greatly influenced his style. In 1823, Wilkie was named Royal Limner for Scotland, and he undertook sittings with King George IV, to commemorate his visit to Scotland. In 1830, Wilkie was appointed painter in ordinary to the king, and he was knighted in 1836.

Wilkie and Scott were familiar to each other. Wilkie visited Abbotsford in 1818, and painted Scott's family. All were depicted in Scottish peasant dress for the painting. which is titled "The Abbotsford Family".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mary I of England

On this day in 1558, Queen Mary I of England died. Mary earned the sobriquet "Bloody Mary" for her persecution of non-Catholics. The only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon and King Henry Viii, Mary's reign was short; only 5 years.

Mary is covered in Scott's Kenilworth, with reference to the Dudley family, which attempted to raise Lady Jane Grey to the throne, following the death of King Edward VI, Henry's only son (by Jane Seymour).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland

Today's feature is a person who is recognized as a saint in both the Catholic and Anglican faiths. Margaret is the third reference reported on in the past week from a related timeframe, and group of sovereigns. Margaret was the second wife of King Malcolm III. She arrived in Scotland through unusual circumstances. In 1066, her uncle, King (and Saint) Edward (the Confessor) died. Margaret's brother Edgar Aetheling made an attempt at claiming the throne. When William the Conqueror took England instead, Margaret's mother, Agatha, felt it was in the family's best interest to leave England for hte continent. Their boat was driven by a storm to Scotland, where Malcolm III protected them, later marrying Margaret.

Margaret and Malcolm married in 1070, at the Castle of Dunfermline. Margaret later established Dunfermline Abbey, which is one point of connection with Sir Walter Scott's works.

Margeret died on November 16, 1093, three days after hearing the news of her husband Malcolm's and son Edward's deaths at the Battle of Alnwick. Malcolm's son Duncan from his previous marriage took the Scottish throne after Malcolm died, only to be murdered, nearly a year to the day after Malcolm died. Three of Margaret and Malcolm's eight children (Edgar, Alexander I, David I) successively ascended the Scottish throne after Duncan II's death.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Duel Between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Mohun

The year was 1712. Anne, of the House of Orange, ruled England. Efforts to restore the Stuart Monarchy were being undertaken by the Tories. The Duke of Hamilton in 1712, according to Scott, was named ambassador extraordinary to Paris. Hamilton had a lawsuit with Lord Mohun, whose character is described historically as being of the basest sort. Hamilton met with Mohun to settle the suit, during which meeting Mohun challenged Hamilton to a duel. The two men, along with their seconds, met a the Ring in Hyde Park for a sword fight. Mohun was soon slain, but Hamilton fell mortally wounded, dying soon afterward. The two seconds also fought, and according to the story told by Hamilton's kinsman and second, Colonel Hamilton, it was Mohun's second, a General Macartney who slayed the Duke. Macartney fled to the continent after the fight.

Tories felt that Mohun had been put up to the challenge by fanatical Whigs. Eventually Macartney returned to England to face trial. There was insufficient evidence to prove the case against Macartney.

Scott includes this story in his Waverly Tales: Tales of a Grandfather.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth was an author, daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, also an author. Ms. Edgeworth published more than 20 books during her lifetime, the first being Rackrent, which brought the Irish peasant to life for many people. Rackrent had a significant influence on Scott's Waverly, which was published in 1814. Upon reading Waverley, Ms. Edgeworth immediately wrote to Scott, thus beginning what was to be a long correspondence between the two. In 1823, Edgeworth spent two weeks with Scott at Abbotsford. Scott returned the favor two years later, visiting Edgeworth at Edgeworthstown in County Longford, Ireland.

On this day in 1827, Sir Walter wrote to Maria Edgeworth to thank her for acknowledging reciept of a volume (of Life of Napoleon? Chronicles of the Canongate?):

"My dear Miss Edgewowrth-I received your acknowledgement this day, which is more than a hundred of the volumes acknowledged..."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Malcolm III of Scotland

Yesterday's post covered the death of Duncan II of Scotland. Duncan was Malcolm's son. After Malcolm died, the Scottish throne went to his brother Donalbane, rather than to Duncan or one of Malcolm's other sons. In fact, the throne would have gone to Duncan's half-brother, were it not for the fact that this son of Malcolm's was killed with him during the battle of Alnwick. Duncan, with tacit support from King William II of England, seized the throne from his uncle. Malcolm's death came nearly to the day, one year prior to Duncan's murder.

Scott includes King Malcolm III in his Tales of a Grandfather:

"...This King Malcolm Canmore was a brave and wise prince, though without education. He often made war on King William the Conqueror of England, and on his son and successor the year 1093...Malcolm besieged the border fortress of Alnwick, where he was unexpectedly attacked by a great Norman baron, Robert de Moubray...Malcolm Canmore was killed in action, and his eldest son was killed by his side..."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Duncan II of Scotland

On this day in 1094, King Duncan II was murdered. Duncan was the son of Malcolm III, who died during the invasion of Northumbria in 1093 (Battle of Alnwick). Along with Malcolm, his son Edward, Duncan's half brother, also died.

Duncan had not been considered by his father as a successor. Duncan's early life was spent in the English court of William I, at first as a hostage (beginning 1072), but later as a member of court. William's successor, William II ultimately knighted Duncan.

After Malcolm died, his brother Donalbane took the Scottish throne. Duncan, with the support of William II, challenged Donalbane, and was victorious. Duncan's reign was short lived, as we was soon murdered by one of Donalbane's supporters, known as Mael Patair.

Duncan is buried at Dunfermline Abbey, a place Scott was familiar with. Scott's Abbotsford contains oak paneling from the old church in Dunfermline Abbey. This fact is reported in biographer Lockhart's Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott, as described by Scott himself in a letter (10/10/1822) to solicitor D. Terry.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


November 11th is the feast of St. Martin of Tours, who was a Roman soldier. He became famous for having saved the life of a beggar by cutting his own cloak in half and giving it to the beggar to shelter him during a snowstorm.

In Scotland during the middle ages, Martinmas was a "term day", one of four which divided the legal year. On these days, rent and interest were due.

Scott incorporated Martinmas into more than one of his novels. In Rob Roy, for example:

"...Ye're mad Rob," said the Bailie --"mad as a March hare -- though wherefore a hare suld be mad at March mair than at Martinmas, is mair than I can weel say..."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Martin Luther

Today, in 1483, the church reformer Martin Luther was born. Scott mentions Luther in his Miscellaneous Prose Works, under the title Cumberland's De Lancaster:

"...De Lancaster proceeded-'What then shall we say of the famous Martin Luther, who being ordained to act so conspicuous a part in opposition to the papal power, came into the world fully equipped for controversy...wearing a square cap on his head..."

A fable about Luther's being born in theologian's garb.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cadyow Castle

On November 9, 1773, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell reach Edinburgh, after their 83 day trip to the Hebrides. Boswell persuades Johnson to view the Duke of Hamilton's house, which was so fine as to be called the palace of Hamilton.

Scott wrote a poem about a more ancient Hamilton house, called Cadyow Castle:

"When princely Hamilton's abode
Ennobled Cadyow's noble towers,
The song went round, the goblet flow'd,
And revel sped the laughing hours.

This palace was unfortunately demolished in 1921, as mining activity had compromised the grounds. The original Cadyow, or Cadzaw Castle, the original seat of the Hamilton clan lies in ruins nearby.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Madame Roland

Madame Roland was once on the cutting edge of the French Revolution. She ended life under the guillotine, on this day in 1793. Madame Roland and her husband were among the Girodonist faction, so named due to the predominant geographic sourcing of its members from the region of the Gironde estuary (where the mouths of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge); comprised of much of the former provinces of Guyenne and Gascogne.

Madame Roland held a salon in her house, which became the meeting place for the Girodonists. This group became powerful prior to the actual revolution, forcing King Louis XVI in 1792 to appoint a ministry comprised of its adherents. One of these was Roland's husband, Jean-Marie Roland de la Platiere.

The Girodonists wound up in a power struggle with the Montagnards, whose leading members included Robespierrre, Marat and Danton. Eventually, the Girodonists were destroyed. Mssr. Roland fled to Rouen, while Madame Roland was imprisoned, and eventually beheaded - quite possibly to get at her husband. Madame Roland is remembered for her remark on the Statue of Liberty in the Place de la Revolution, where she was to be executed: "Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name."

Scott includes Madame Roland in his "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte" seven times, with a reference also to her husband as the husband of Madame Roland.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chronicles of the Canongate - Second Series

From Scott's Journal: On November 7, 1827, Scott is struggling to work, and again exhibits the work ethic that helped enable him to produce in such a prolific manner:

"...Commenced a review-that is an essay, on Ornamental Gardening for the Quarterly. But I stuck fast for want of books. As I did not wish to leave the mind time to recoil on itself, I immediately began the Second Series of the Chronicles of the Canongate, the First having been well approved..."

This second series became "St. Valentine's Day, or The Fair Maid of Perth"

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Legend of Littlecote Hall

There is a legend that dates to the 6th of November, 1575, involving Littlecote Hall in Wiltshire England. The legend involves the Darrell family. Jane Seymour was the granddaughter of Elizabeth Darrell, and Jane was courted at Littlecote Hall by Henry VIII.

But the legend has little to do with Jane Seymour. It involves William Darrell, who married grandmother Elizabeth. William allegedly had an affair, with his neighbor Sir Walter Hungerford's wife. The legend comes in that a midwife named Mother Barnes was brought blindfolded to Littlecote one night, to deliver a baby. Immediately after the child was born, it was thrown on the fire to burn to death. Mother Barnes went to the authorities after that night, and was able to provide sufficient detail that it was determined that Littlecote was the scene of the murder. Darrell was brought to trial, and so the story goes, bought his freedom by transferring Littlecote Hall to the Judge, John Popham.

This story was told to Sir Walter Scott by Lord Webb Seymour. Scott included the legend as a romance in his poem "Rokeby", and also included the story in his published notes to the poem.

The Littlecote story has made its way into other artist's works. It is included in Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities". JMW Turner painted his watercolor "Rokeby", depicting a gorge between Rokeby and Martham (County Durham, England). Turner painted in eight lines from Scott's poem on boulders in the foreground. The image of Turner's Rokeby above is courtesy of the Trustees, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, England.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Gunpowder Plot

The gunpowder plot, led by Robert Catesby and Guy Fawkes, occurred in 1605. The plotters (through Thomas Percy) rented a house adjacent to Parliament, and eventually rented a coal cellar below the House of Lords, which was to serve as a place to set their 36 barrels of gunpowder off. The plot was discovered, by means that are far from clear, and the conspirators fled London. Guy Fawke was caught in London, and executed. Catesby, along with two others was slain when apprehended.

Scott's "The Fortunes of Nigel" was written for a timeframe immediately around the Gunpowder Plot, during the reign of James I. His introduction contains a reference to it:

"...The gunpowder fright is got out of all our heads, and we are going on hereabout as if the devil was contriving every man should blow up himself by wild riot, excess, and devastation of time and temperance...."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saint Clarus

On this date, about 894, Saint Clarus was martyred. Clarus was of English extraction, and was murdered at the behest of a local noble woman, described historically as lewd and impious. The village where Clarus was martyred, on the Epte River in France, bears his name. Clarus is one derivation of the St. Clair, Sinclair family names.

Scott writes of the St. Clair faimly often, including in the Lay of the Last Minstrel. Scott is very familiar with Roslin Chapel, which has become popular now with the publication of Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code".
"So still they blaze when fate is nigh,
The lordly line of high St. Clair.

There are twenty of Roslin's barons bold,
Lie buried within that proud Chapelle..."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Slept ill...

November 3, 1827...Bad it must be whatever the alternative...I believe in God who can change evil into good...

Scott facing bankruptcy

Monday, November 2, 2009

Central Park's Literary Walk

On November 2nd, 1872, a statue of Sir Walter Scott was unveiled in New York City's Central Park. The statue was created by Sir John Steell. Steell's statue depicts Scott sitting on a rock, holding pen and book, with his faithful dog Maida by his side.

The statue was the brainchild of a group of Scottish citizens, who enlisted the Aberdeen-born sculptor. Steell had earlier crafted the statue of Scott in the Scott Memorial on Princes Street in Edinburgh. The Scottish version was made from white Carrara marble. The statue in Central Park is cast bronze (photo mine).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

All Saints Day has been important in the Catholic/Anglican calendars, and in Christian countries. The Edinburgh Edition of the Waverly Novels includes the short story "The Two Drovers". There is a note in this work concerning the annual fair schedule in Rosley (SW of Carlisle), in which cattle, sheep, cloth and other goods were sold. The main event occurred on Whitsun Monday, and the fairs continued every fortnight thereafter, until All Saints Day.
The source of this note is The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


It is Halloween, and the author of "Demonology and Witchcraft" is not without a contribution for this day. Scott's Tamlane is not an original story, but is his favorite version of a well known Scotch folk tale. The tale starts:

"Oh I forbid ye, maidens a'
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or go by Carterhaugh,
For young Tamlane is there.

There's none that goes by Carterhaugh,
But maun leave him a wad,
Either gowd rings or green mantles,
Or else their maidenheid.

According to Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Carterhaugh is a plain, at the confluence of the Ettrick and Yarrow, Selkirkshire... Thus, this tale has a historical place, at least.

Tamlane himself was the son of the Earl Murray, and Burd Janet the daughter of Dunbar, the Earl of March. Tamlane and Janet are trothed, and make love before their marriage, after which Tamlane disappears, taken by elves. Janet finds Tamlane in Carterhaugh in a much reduced state (elf-sized), now a knight for the elf-queen. Tamlane tells Janet how to save him, which involves covering him with her green mantle to protect him from elfin magic.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Burning of the Tower of London

That warm feeling? In 1841? It started in the Bowyer Tower, and consumed the armory. Most of the jewels and historical items were spared.

The Tower of London appears in at least two of Scott's novels. In the fortunes of Nigel, it is not so much the Tower, but one of its implements. The so-called Duke of Exeter's Daughter, or the rack. The rack in the Tower was named after John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, who served as constable of the Tower in 1447.

In Kenilworth, the reference is to Sir Owen Hopton who was lieutenant of the Tower, and therefore in charge of torture, in the mid 1500's.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hester Chapone

Hester Mulso Chapone was born this day, in 1727, and was contemporary with Scott. Chapone wrote advice books for women, and is best known for her "Letters on the Improvement of the Mind" (1773). Samuel Johnson was familiar with her work, publishing four of her pieces on women in The Rambler.

Chapone was a friend of Elizabeth Montagu, and a bluestocking women herself. The Bluestocking Society in England was formed by Ms. Montagu around 1750, in imitation of a French group of the same name. The appelation "Bluestocking" may refer to worsted stockings that were worn casually in the 18th century, but more likely refers to a blue stocking that fashionable Parisian women wore at that time. In any event the society consisted of women who pursued intellectual ambitions, which went against the grain of English society in the 1700's.

Monday, October 26, 2009

George Jacques Danton

Danton, one of the leading revolutionaries in the early stages of the French Revolution, was born this day in 1759. Scott was familiar with Danton, mentioning him in his Journal, along with Robespierre and Marat; the holy triumvirate, as he referred to them. Study of these figures would have been essential to Scott's study of Napoleon. Scott's Life of Napoleon Buonaparte was published in 1827.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

King Stephen of England

Stephen of Blois was the grandson of William the Conqueror, and King of England from 1135 - 1154, when he died (October 25th). Stephen is mentioned briefly in Scott's Woodstock, more as story setting than an important part of plot:

"She could tell too, exactly, where King Stephen sat when he darned his own princely hose..."

Stephen was the last of the Norman line of Kings, though his line of descent came through his mother Adela, who was the Conqueror's daughter, rather than through William's son Henry. Henry (I) preceded Stephen to the throne, and named his daughter Matilda to succeed him. Stephen initially supported Matilda, but later claimed that on Henry's deathbed, he had named Stephen as heir to the throne. Matilda was unpopular, and the nobles supported Stephen, who won the crown. His reign was marked however, by civil war with Matilda. This time of troubles was known as The Anarchy. It was settled by the Treaty of Wallingford, which named Matilda's son Henry Curtmantle as heir to the throne after Stephen. Henry II became king in 1154, following Stephen's death.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Slough of Despond

..."Vilely low in spirits. I have written a page and a half, and doubt whether I can write more to-day. A quick throbbing at my heart, and fancies thronging on me. A disposition to sleep, or to think on things melancholy and horrible while I wake....

...I wrested myself so far out of the Slough of Despond as to take a good long walk, and my mind is restored to its elasticity..."

From Scott's Journal, October 24, 1827.

Good example of one benefit of exercise. Also the challenges of creative work, and the workings of the mind.  The Slough of Despond is one of several phrases taken by Scott from John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge was born on this day, in 1772. He was contemporary with Scott, and unwittingly played a major role in Scott's success. In the fall of 1802, Scott heard an unpublished version of Coleridge's "Christabel"; recited by John Stoddart. Scott published his "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" in 1805, well before Christabel was published. It did not take long before Coleridge's friends noticed similarities in the two works. In fact, some of the verses are nearly identical. For example, Scott used the refrain, "Jesu Maria, shield us well!" Coleridge's original was "Jesu Maria, shield her well!"

Coleridge was charged with plagiarism by an anonymous reviewer when his Christobel was published. The opposite was more true. It took until 1824 for Scott to confess to Lord Byron that he had been influenced by Coleridge's work. Finally in 1830, in his Poetical Works, Scott publicly admitted to borrowing from Coleridge.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Belted Will

Lord William Howard died this day, in 1640. Belted, or Bold Will was the 3rd son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, who was an extremely powerful noble. When Will was nine, Elizabeth I beheaded his father, Duke Thomas, over Thomas' devotion to Mary Queen of Scots. Will was imprisoned several times during the 1580's on suspicion of treasonable intentions. He became Catholic in 1584, after his first imprisonment by Elizabeth I. Elizabeth dispossessed Howard of some of his estates at this point. These were later restored for a fine of 10,000 pounds. Howard's stronghold was Naworth Castle.

Scott wrote about Belted Will in his Lay of the Last Minstrel:

'Costly his garb, his Flemish ruff,
Fell o'er his doublet, shaped of buff,
With satin slash'd and lined;
Tawny his boot and gold his spur,
His cloak was all of Poland fur,
His hose with silver twined;
His Bilboa blade, by marchmen felt,
Hung in a broad and studded belt.'

Monday, September 7, 2009

Elizabeth I

Today, in 1533, Elizabeth I was born. Elizabeth was depicted in Scott's "Kenilworth", that being the castle of Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Dudley. The story line covered the death, and possible murder of Amy Robsart, Dudley's first wife. Scott's novel may have been inspired by a ballad he knew from his youth, William Julius Mickle's Cumnor Hall. As Scott's biographer Lockhart asserts, Cumnor Hall was the original name of the novel. Scott's publisher, Constable, insisted the name be Kenilworth, which is how the novel was published.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

John Home

September 5, 1808 is the day John Home died. Home authored "Douglas", and according to Scott's biographer/son-in-law, John Lockhart, Sir Walter became acquainted with Home during his early years. Scott was taken from Edinburgh when very young, to the country, to improve his health. When he was 5 years of age, he was taken for a time to Bath, a period which provided Scott his introduction to Home. Scott was probably absorbing all sorts of border tales and songs, and basic Scottish interests at this period of his life.

Friday, September 4, 2009

St. Cuthbert

St. Cuthbert was a shepherd boy, early in life, and rose to become Bishop of Lindisfarne, a Northumbrian island. His fame increased in death, due to his body being moved several times, and appearing to be uncorrupted, though many years had passed. He died in 688, and required his order of monks to remove from Lindisfarne, with his remains, in the event of invasion by the Danes. It was 11 years later that Cuthbert's remains were exhumed, in this instance to provide him with a more honorable resting place. It was at this exhumation that stories of Cuthbert's incorruptible body started; miracles soon followed.

Nearly 200 years later, in 875, the Lindisfarne monks did indeed have to flee, due to a Danish threat. They took Cuthbert with them. It took until 882 for Cuthberts remains to find a temporary resting place; in Chester-le-Street; county Durham, England. In 995, Cuthbert was on the move once more. Danes again. This wandering ended in Duirholm (deer's meadow), where Cuthbert's wanderings stopped. The Cathedral of Durham was built on the spot where Cuthbert was lain.

Cuthbert is covered in Scott's Marmion:

St. Cuthbert's Beads

On a rock by Lindisfarne,
Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The sea-borne beads that bear his name:
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
And said they might his shape behold,
And hear his anvil sound;
A deadened clang - a huge dim form,
Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm,
And night were closing round...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oliver Cromwell

September 3rd was a meaningful date for Cromwell. In 1650, that date saw Cromwell's first victory over Scotch Protestants, at the battle of Dunbar. His final battle in this campaign occured the following year, at Worcester. The third time was not the charm, however, as it spelled his death; 1658.

Scott writes on Cromwell in his "Woodstock".

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


On September 2nd, 1773, Johnson and Boswell reached the Isle of Skye. MacDonald territory. They were to meet Flora MacDonald, who helped the Bonnie Prince Charlie escape; more on that in another post.

The Isle of Skye has hidden more than one famous fugitive. Scott was inspired by the story of Robert the Bruce's evasive journey, after killing John Comyn. Bruce was forced into hiding, not long after murdering Comyn, and being crowned King of Scotland (1306). He probably fled to Ireland, and returned to the mainland in 1307.

Scott visited Skye twice, first on his trip to the Western Isles, and later (1814) he joined the Commissioners for the Northern Lighthouse Service on their rounds in the Western Isles. That trip included Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather (also Robert). This latter trip provided fodder for his Lord of the Isles, inspired by Bruce's flight and return.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Sun Sets

On September 1, 1715, Louis XIV, France's Sun King, passed. Scott refers to Louis in Old Mortality:

"As few, in the present age, are acquainted with the ponderous folios to which the age of Louis XIV gave rise, that they combine the dulness of metaphysical courtship with all the improbabilities of the ancient romance of chivalry. Their character will most easily be learned from Boileau's Dramatic Satire, or Mrs. Lennox's Female Quixote."

Louis is also referenced several times in Scott's Life of Napoleon.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fort Augustus

August 31, 1773, Boswell and Johnson depart from Fort Augustus, which is situated by Loch Ness. The fort served as a launching point for them to cross the Highlands. Johnson writes on the fort's utility. Scott, in his "The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland" remarks that "No one will stay an hour in Fort Augustus if he can avoid it." Both Johnson and Scott discuss the common perception that Loch Ness does not freeze. Johnson speculates that high wind must agitate the surface so that freezing is not possible. Scott does not speculate, but comments on the futility of uninformed attempts to explain the unexplainable. Scott is referring to common philosophies, not on Dr. Johnson's attempt to rationally explain this phenomena.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Louis XI

This day (August 30) in 1483 saw the death of France's Louis XI. According to Wikipedia, Louis was largely responsible for undermining the fuedal system. The changing structure of political life was a focus of Scott's Quentin Durward. From that novel:

"...Among those who were the first to ridicule and abandon the self-denying principals in which the young knight was instructed, and to which he was so carefully trained up, Louis XI was the chief. The sovereign was of a character so purely selfish - so guiltless of entertaining any purpose unconnected with his ambition, covetousness and desire of selfish enjoyment - that he seems almost an incarnation of the devil himself, permitted to do his utmost ot corrupt our ideas of honour at the very source."

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Johnson and Boswell are in Inverness today; the year is 1773. Johnson's commentary depicts what I think is not unusual of the English perspective toward Scotland at this time.

"...Yet what the Romans did to other nations, was in a great degree done by Cromwell to the Scots; he civilized them by conquest, and introduced by useful violence the arts of peace. I was told at Aberdeen that the people learned from Cromwell's soldiers to make shoes and plant kail..."

Compare to with some of Scott's description (The Highland and Western Isles of Scotland):

"Inverness has been strangely underrated. To compare the country again with Edinburgh, there is a careless wealth of surface about it...contrasted with the dry and cold economy of Edinburgh, where the trees that are to be seen only remind us of the million that are wanting, and where every field and road is deformed by a stone wall, as if it was a land of thieves and law, as if the bones of a country were appearing through its meager surface

Friday, August 28, 2009


On August 28th in 1773, Sam Johnson and James Boswell start their day in Calder, reaching Inverness by nightfall. They began their Highlands tour on the 18th of August, so were 10 days in at that point.

Scott too toured the Highlands, and he describes, in his "The Highlands and Western Isles of Scootland", meeting a local, and perceiving how unpopular English roads were. According to Scott, the roads were viewed as a form of tyranny. Many still walked, or rode horseback, on the old country tracks, rather than use the newer roads; especially to avoid the "turnimspike".

Thursday, August 27, 2009

St. Malrubius

Today is the feast day of St. Malrubius, a hermit who re-entered the world after Norwegians invaded his region of Scotland, to tend to the people and convert the Norwegians. He ended up a martyr. Malrubius' region was Mearns, now roughly Kincardine. It was in Kincardine Castle that John Baliol was forced to confess his rebellion against England's King Edward, and to forfeit his Scottish throne, creating the power vacuum that led ultimately to William Wallace's rise to fame (see 8/23/09).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Black Prince

August 26th, 1346 saw the Battle of Crecy, with the English battling the French for Edward III's claim to the French throne. Edward's son (Edward, Prince of Wales) was known as the black prince, and he distinguished himself in this battle. It is possible that this battle included the first use of cannon.

There is a connection between the black prince and Scott's Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe was the name of one of the three manors that were forfeited by a John Hampden, who had unwisely struck the black prince, possibly during a jousting match.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

David Hume

The historian David Hume died this day in 1776. Hume published a History of England that became the standard for many years. Scott covered Hume's letters in the Edinburgh Annual Register, volume 2.

Monday, August 24, 2009

St. Bartholomew's Day

August 24th is associated with the apostle St. Bartholomew, who was flayed alive while on mission in Armenia. The feast of St. Bartholomew's day appears in several of Scott's novel's, including Kenilworth, Peveril of the Peak, and Quentin Durward. St. Bartholomew's symbol is the knife, in remembrance of Bartholomew's horrible death. It is an ill portent, when the day appears in Scott's stories.

There was also the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, which began on 8/24/1572. The initial violence occurred in Paris, where Catholic (Queen Mother) Catherine de Medici's daughter Marguerite was to be married to Huguenot Prince Henry of Navarre. Thousands of Huguenots were killed (est. 8k - 20k) in the on-going slaughter, which persisted into September of that year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

William Wallace

No Scots oriented thought would be complete without considering William Wallace, who died, decapitated, on this day in 1305. Scott wrote about Wallace in his Exploits and Death of William Wallace, the 'Hero of Scotland". It is an interesting read, focusing on the power vacuun that England's Edward I exploited after Alexander III's death. John Baliol became king, though in name only. For all intents and purposes, Scotland became a dependency of England. In 1296, after Baliol had made an alliance with Philip of France, Edward invaded Scotland, slaughtering thousands. Baliol surrendered, but the Scottish people never capitulated. Out of this environment, Wallace arose. Scott includes Wallace's story in "Tales of a Grandfather".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Warren Hastings

There is a connection to this date, August 22nd, Walter Scott, and the impeached (later acquitted) Warren Hastings (died 8/22/1818), who was the first Governor-General of Bengal (1773 - 1785). Apparently Hastings appropriated a group of unusually shaped stones for his property, that had been the subject of local superstition and folklore. The stones were known as the Grey Geese of Addle-strop Hill. The legend (in Scott's version) was that a witch was driving her geese to market, when, losing patience with their waywardness, she suddenly exclaimed: 'Deevil! that neither they nor I ever stir from this spot more!' and instantly she and her flock were transformed into blocks of stone, as they had ever since remained, until the Black Dwarf appropriated them for the building of his lonely cottage.

Scott employed the setting of this in the opening of his "The Tales of My Landlord", calling the stones the Grey Geese of Mucklestane Moor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Henrie Winde

The description of the clan battle in Scott's Maid of Perth is very close to Henry Adamson's poem in his "Muses Threnodie", including the role Henrie Winde played in the battle; right down to the last of the losing clan escaping into the Tay.

...None fought so fiercely, nor so well deserved
As this their hired souldier, Henrie Winde,
For by his valour victory inclinde
Unto that side; and ever since those dayes
This proverb current goes, when any sayes-
How come you here 1 this answer doth he finde,
I'm for mine owne hand, as fought Henrie Winde.
So finely fought he, ten with him escap't,
And of the other but one, in flood who leap't
And sav'd himself by swimming over Tay,
But to speak more of this we might not stay...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Bowlt did Cleave the Clouds

The Edinburgh edition of "Fair Maid of Perth" lists Henry Adamson's "The Muses Threnodie" as a source document for Scott's story. A cursory scan quickly reveals the name Henrie Winde; Scott's hero. The selection of Adamson's work reproduced here highlights Perths reputation for archery, both for warfare and sport.

...And with a strong and steadfast eye and hand,
So valiantly your bow yee did command,
A sliddrie shaft forth of its forks did fling,
Clank gave the bow, the whistling air did ring;
The bowlt did cleave the clouds, and threat the skyes,
And thence down falling to the mark it flies:...

Source: google books

Monday, August 17, 2009


The Fair Maid of Perth is my most recent Scott read, which means there will be several entries about this text in the near future. Highlighting one quote today: "...It was a wild inaccessible spot, where the Campbells at a subsequent period founded their strong fortress of Finlayrigg..."

The death of Clan Quhele's chief was an important plot development, leading up to the suicide of the new chieftan, which has been the subject of some literary discussion. I have found no historical reference for a Finlayrigg fortress.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne

Another entry, another birthday. Carolina Oliphant was born on August 16, 1766; five years before Scott. The "flower of Streatearn", so named because of her beauty, collected folk songs, a la Robert Burns and James Hogg, putting her own words to them.

Carolina was born into a strongly Jacobite family. Both her father and grandfather fought with Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. She was born in Gask, in Perthshire.

Gask (or Findogask, after St. Findoc) is not far from Perth, the setting for Scott's "Fair Maid of Perth". On September 11, 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart breakfasted in Gask on his way south from Perth.

Carolina became Lady Nairne in 1824, largely due to Scott's efforts to have peerages and titles that had been forfeited due to the Jacobite uprising restored.

In 1846, her collected songs "Lays of Streathearn" was published. One arrangement was done by Finlay Dun.

Sources: Wikipaedia, Rampant Scotland

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Sir Walter - 238 Years

The primary purpose of this blog is to bring a bit of the perspective of Scottish life and times that Walter Scott wrote about into the current world situation. Scott romanticized much of Scottish history; the highlander, for example. This blog will cover Scottish historical figures, economics, creative thought, and just about anything else that I care to write about.

This blogger has been struck particularly by the accounts of the Highland Clearances that John Prebble wrote about. Also by the opposing English/economic point of view as embodied in the opinions of Samuel Johnson. The timeframe of the Clearances finds a current parallel in the downsizing of, among other industries, financial services.

So, happy birthday 8/15.