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historical thread consisting of John's attempt to usurp his brother Richard's crown which runs through the work, we cannot class Ivanhoe with serious attempts to depict a previous age, like its predecessors Waverley and Old Mortality, or some of its successors, such as Quentin Durward or The Abbot. It was described by its author as “a tale of chivalry,” in which no great efforts were made to attain a high degree of accuracy.
The contrast between Norman and Saxon, which is used with so much artistic effect by Scott, had no such marked character at the period of which he writes; whilst the descendant of the Saxon kings, who, to please Ballantyne, is made almost to rise from the dead after being stricken down by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, is of course entirely mythical. The Jewish group, Isaac of York, his daughter Rebecca and the rest, were the fruit of the reminiscences of Skene of Rubislaw, who had recently returned from Germany, and amused his friend's sick-bed with talk of the Ghetto and the wandering race which lived therein. Rebecca is certainly far more lifelike and interesting than the highborn “Saxon” Rowena, the destined bride of the almost equally colourless hero, Wilfred of Ivanhoe. The real strength of the story lies in its vigorous open-air cheerfulness, which the hard knocks of the Ashby lists—that “gentle and joyous passage of arms” in which only some dozen knights lost their lives—and even the more serious shock of mortal strife in the storming of Front de Bæuf's castle, no more
make us forget, than the remembrance of its having been dictated from a bed of pain.
It seems almost incredible that not only the terrible death of Ulrica and her victim in the burning castle of Torquilstone, but also the carousings and buffetings of the Black Knight with the jolly Clerk of Copmanhurst, and that triumph of light-hearted humour—the scene in which Robin Hood makes his captives, the rich Jew and the luxurious Prior, fix the amount of each other's ransom—should be the issue of an invalid's fancy. Yet the present generation has seen its like in the works of Robert Louis Stevenson.
As a piece of character drawing, however, we have to set off against the slightly melodramatic figure of the Templar, with the possibly too heroic Richard and the bowman who could split a willow wand at five-score yards, the really subtly-imagined wise fool Wamba, to my thinking among Scott's finest creations.
He and Gurth, and possibly Isaac of York, are the only real and convincing characters in the book. The others are unlike the men of that or any other period. If an Englishman naturally places Ivanhoe in the first rank, it is because he gets more pleasure from its perusal. The Scottish dialect, the Scottish character, must always present some difficulty to him, and obstruct that perfect sympathy and ease of apprehension necessary to full enjoyment in reading. Again, Scott had not that intimate acquaintance with and keen perception of the
remote past of England that he had of the remote past of Scotland. Thus his touch is uncertain and his pictures vague and superficial. In a word Ivanhoe is a rollicking good story, but it is little more, and all modern critics will agree with Lockhart that as a work of genius it is inferior to Waverley, Guy Mannering, and The Heart of Midlothian.
SIR WALTER, QUEEN MARY, AND QUEEN ELIZABETH
HE year 1820, the first of a new reign, was one of renewed vigour to Scott. He was now
able to accomplish his long-deferred journey to London to receive his baronetcy, having first got a fresh novel finished, and made arrangements for his eldest daughter's marriage with John Gibson Lockhart. In the autumn a sequel to The Monastery appeared ; and by the end of the year a second English romance had been completed. Moreover, besides other “literary amusements," he had begun, for the benefit of little John Ballantyne, the series of excellent, but not quite successful, introductions to the Novelist's Library. Yet, in writing to a friend concerning the sneer of a certain Whig Member of Parliament that “Walter Scott wrote more books than any other man could read,” he could boast that so far from neglecting his official duties, he had often not only to discharge his own but to take on himself those of colleagues ill or otherwise disabled. As to the way in which he employed his leisure, he said he would answer his calumniator as the child did the clergyman continually asking from the pulpit, “Why do you
do this?” “Why will you do that?" and looking,
as he thought, at his own pew in particular, replied, “What's your business ?”
Some considerable part of The Monastery had been written while Ivanhoe was under way, and it was looked upon by the writer as a rest for his imaginative faculty. In spite of Mr. Ruskin's tenderness for the story, one is constrained to relegate it to the second class. It is almost the solitary exception which goes to prove the rule of the general superiority of the Scottish novels over those where the scene is laid in other lands. I should like, however, to put in a word for the euphuist Sir Piercie Shafton, whose whimsicalities of
TOWER OF GLENDEARG speech and splendours of apparel serve as a foil to the rough bluntness of Christie of the Clinthill
nthill —- that vivid realisation of a moss-trooper.
The chief point of interest relating to this romance is that of the locality in which it is placed—Saint Mary's of Kennaquhair. The Monastery represents the religious house whose ruins the laird of Abbotsford was so fond of showing to his guests; and