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.'