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...."