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.