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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 17 May 2019

"Guy Mannering" by Sir Walter Scott

This is an old-fashioned novel by the man who was the acclaimed and best-selling writer of historical novels. It is his second novel, following Waverley. The first edition of GM (published anonymously in 1815), 2000 copies, sold out on the day of publication.

As with novels of this age, there is little character development. Guy Mannering is as nuanced as they come. He is fundamentally nice and honorable, as befits a hero, and he is well-bred and rich and clever and brave. Glossin is a self-made man and therefore scheming and avarcicious and a cheat and a "wretch". Dominie Sampson is a poor ungainly ragged tongue-tied scholar whose fundamental role is to be laughed at (often by the author although he is at pains to point out the Dominie's essential goodness and allows Guy to reprove people who laugh at the poor Dominie). In general, the pedigreed are honorable and the low-born are bad. This is especially true of the character who is well-bred but, through misfortune, has a lowly status.

It is notable for the introduction of the gypsy queen and witch Meg Merrilies.

But for all its faults, Scott could certainly tell a story. The first ten chapters contain gypsies, smugglers, the mysterious death of an excise officer (complete with scene of crime evidence) and child abduction. Other thrills include a struggle for a gun which involves one goody shooting another, a very bad lawyer, a smuggler's raid on a house repulsed with gunfire, and a thrilling scene in which the hero has to hide from robbers in their lair.

It also amused me that all the many Scottish dialect words are footnoted but there is no explanation for the Latin.

Great phrases

  • "An excellent old Highlander, without a fault, unless a preference for mountain-dew over less potent liquors be accounted one." (Introduction)
  • "Like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grew worse daily; and, like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding." (Introduction)
  • "Does the devil mingle in the dance, to avenge himself for our trifling with an art said to be magical in origin?" (C 4)
  • "To those who lie out of the road of great afflictions, are assigned petty vexations, which answer all the purpose of disturbing their serenity." (C 5)
  • The Lake District is "the resort of walking gentlemen of all descriptions, poets, players, painters, musicians, who come to rave, and recite, and madden, about this picturesque land of ours." (C 16)
  • "A retired old soldier is always a graceful and respected character. He grumbles a little now and then,  but then his is licensed murmuring - were a lawyer, or a physician, or a clergyman, to breathe a complaint of hard luck or want of preferment, a hundred tongues would blame his own incapacity as the cause." (C 21)
  • "In civilised society, law is the chimney through which all that smoke discharges itself that used to circulate through the whole house, and put everyone's eyes out - no wonder, therefore, that the vent should sometimes get a little sooty." (C 39)
  • "The lawyer afterwards compared his mind to the magazine of a pawnbroker, stowed with goods of every description, but so cumbrously piled together, and in such total disorganisation, that the owner can never lay his hands on any one article at the moment he has occasion for it." (C 39)
  • "Speaking as if his utmost efforts were unable to unseal his lips beyond the width of a quarter of an inch, so that his whole utterance was a kind of compressed muttering" (C 41)
  • "Law's like laudanum; it's much more easy to use it as a quack does, than to learn to apply it like a physician." (C 56)
It's a great little read but you have to be tolerant of the old world style.

Other Walter Scott books I have read include The Talisman, Waverley, and Ivanhoe.

Other points:

  • Scott mentions the Bold Admiral Benbow as a ballad (C 6)
  • Scott in a footnote mentions that Adam Smith was, "for some hours", abducted by gipsies as a child (C 8)
  • At the time he is writing of Edinburgh New Town "was just then commenced" (C 36)
  • The game "High Jinks" involves making a member of the company, chosen by lot, pretend to be a fictitious character or say a funny poem. Another game mentioned (C 57) is "Hy Spy". Wikipedia states that this is nopt IO Spt as we know it today but a variant of Hide and Seek.
  • "The post was much more tardy than since Mr Palmer's ingenious invention has taken place" (C 40) Palmer was a theatre owner in Bath and Bristol whose experience of stage coach travel led him to set up the first mail coach service in August 1784.
  • He compares a gypsy with "Siddons herself" (C 53) Sarah Siddons (1755 – 1831)was a famed tragedienne.

May 2019; 408 pages

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