Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Still Reading Scott

I'm about half way through 'Waverley' now and the tension is picking up. Something big is brewing and our hero is slowly being radicalised into the Jacobite cause - I'm pretty sure the Prince is about to turn up and the clans rise at any moment. 

It's easy to forget just how influential Scott is, but he pioneered numerous fiction genres and his particular, and particularly romantic, vision of Scotland is woven into our collective conscious - quite literally as he's credited with inventing the idea of clan tartans. Reading 'Waverley' now, at a point where the union between England and Scotland looks ever more precarious is interesting.

Meanwhile it's also a lot of fun, and sometimes he just delights me. Having battled through the last couple of chapters of volume one (there's a lot of poetry and lengthy descriptions of scenery) volume two starts like this:
"Shall this be a short or a long chapter?- This is a question in which you, gentle reader, have no vote, however much you may be interested in the consequences; just as probably you may (like myself) have nothing to do with the imposing if a new tax, excepting the trifling circumstance of being obliged to pay it. More happy surely in the present case, since, though it lies within my arbitrary power to extend my materials as I think proper, I cannot call you into Exchequer if you do not think proper to read my narrative." 

And then, bless him, he goes on to tease the reader with what is essentially a page long list of wines and things that might be hunted and eaten before promising to "...proceed in my story with all the brevity that my natural style of composition, partaking of what scholars call the periphrastic and amabagitory, and the vulgar the circumbendibus, will permit me."

Coming, as it does, at the point where our hero is getting thoroughly out of his depth it's a chance to take a pause and get to know the story teller as well as the story. I love Scott for giving me the chance to share the joke with him for a moment, that and introducing me to the word circumbendibus. 

10 comments:

  1. One of my favorite book finds was when I noticed a cardboard box of matching books under a table at an old junk store. When I looked at them, I saw it was a complete set (25) of Sir Walter Scott's novels in the 1900 Dryburgh edition, annotated. Some of them are more worn than others, but they're not junk either. I paid $3.50 for the whole box! I still love the books and the novels. I haven't read them all, but maybe I'll try Waverley next.

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    1. What a brilliant find. Definitely recommend Waverley, I'm really enjoying it.

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  2. I would have paid $3.50 for that box. What a deal.

    I would and will never read them all - some have a pretty dim reputation - but Scott at his best is good fun. Waverleyrewarded re-reading.

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    1. I tried reading The Pirate once but gave up after a bit. I'll have another go some day because I'm interested in the location (Shetland) but it's generally out of print for a reason. Scott at his best is a different matter, and certainly rewarding to read for fun.

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  3. I love Scott's novel's as well. I read Waverley many years ago. I have also read novels by other authors such as Balzac and Pushkin where his influence has been apparent. Balzac directly mentions Scott in a few of his books, whilst in "The Captain's Daughter" by Pushkin, the edition I read had a footnote mentioning how one scene was inspired by a scene from "Heart of Midlothian".

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  4. Ha, that is a recurring theme at Wuthering Expectations. "Scott is important! Read Scott!" For all the good it does.

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  5. Scott IS important and worth reading because of it, he tells a good story too and Is worth reading for that as well. It's a shame he's so under appreciated. Reading Waverley I can't help but feel it would make an excellent bbc style Sunday night series. It's not just the plot, but a knack he has for making me visualise his descriptions that makes me really want to see the book performed.

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  6. I capitulate. Your posts on Waverly have gotten to me and I've bought a Kindle version of all of Scott's novels. Waverly begins today.

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  7. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did (a lot). Later Scott can be a bit turgid (if 'The Pirate' is anything to go by) but Waverley is worth seeing through, though in my case it did demand a bit of time and effort it was worth every bit of it and more.

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    1. So far, so good. (Of course, I'm on page 8.)

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