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    Re-discovering Sir Walter Scott’s novels: KENILWORTH…

     

    Walter Scott at his desk in his Abbotsford study  © 2006 Scotiana

    What a good idea, Janice, to have drawn our attention to Kenilworth, one of the famous historical novels by Sir Walter Scott. I’m a great admirer of  ‘The Magician of the North’ and I’ve not forgotten our promise to read all his books when we visited his home at Abbotsford, I mean the books he wrote and not those contained in his magnificent and very extensive library!  Not easy challenge anyway and, considering the number of volumes he did write, we’d better resume our reading now if we want to keep up our promise before going back to Abbotsford!

    So, our  re-discovering of Sir Walter Scott’s novels will begin with Kenilworth. It’s the 13 th volume of  the ‘Waverley Novels’ which comprises 28 volumes if we include the ‘Tales of My Landlord series’ and two novels published posthumously. The ‘Waverley series’ (*) begins with Waverley, Sir Walter’s first novel which was  published anonymously in 1814, the  following volumes bearing the mention “by the author of Waverley”.

    A Day with Scott May Byron Hodder & Stoughton

    But before concentrating on Kenilworth, let us go back in time,  in company of May Byron, the author of A Day with Scott to try and catch a glimpse of the author writing at his desk.  Between 1814 and 1832 Sir Walter wrote no less than 28 novels (the last one, Bizarro, being unfinished) and the writing of a novel could take to him as little as eight weeks!

    Sir Walter Scott's desk Abbotsford © 2001 Scotiana

    Sir Walter Scott’s desk Abbotsford © 2001 Scotiana

    As morning slowly lightened above the flow of the river Tweed, running broad and luminous over its pearl-white pebbles, Walter Scott, arrayed in a rough shooting jacket, might have been seen lighting his library fire and seating himself at his desk. Never later than six a.m. he was well at work,  – his papers neatly arranged before him, his books of reference set orderly beside him on the floor,  – every tool and detail of his craft to hand, as befits a sound and scrupulous workman. ‘ (…)

    Abbotsford view upon the Tweed River © 2007 Scotiana

    Abbotsford view upon the Tweed River © 2007 Scotiana

    Hour by hour, line by line, stanza by stanza, the poet wrote steadily on: he was never charged with hurrying or scamping his work. The early dawn is not, one would suppose, the period most conducive to the divine afflatus : “thoughts that breathe and words that burn” are rarely associated with the chilly morning twilight. But Scott’s genius was of a singularly sane character, robust and well-controlled as the man himself. “When at his desk,” says Lockhart, “the truth is that he did little more, as far as regarded poetry, than write down the lines which he had fashioned in his mind” already, while pursuing out-of-door vocations. No line of verse – whether his own or other people’s  – was ever lost from that astonishing memory.

    (A Day with Scott by May Byron Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., Publishers London)

    Kenilworth Walter Scott Boivin & Cie Editeurs 1929

    Kenilworth Walter Scott Boivin & Cie Editeurs 1929

    In 1821, when Kenilworth was published,  Sir Walter seemed to have definitely turned from poetry to fiction and he had already become a very successful novelist with Waverley (1814), Rob Roy (1818) or Ivanhoe (1819) to mention only the best known novels.  Kenilworth just comes after The Monastery (1820) and The Abbot (1820).

    Walter Scott has often been considered as the inventor of the historical novel and he influenced a number of European and American novelists. In France  he had (and still has) great admirers like Balzac (1799-1850), Victor Hugo (1802-1885) or Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) .  Only a few years after the publication of Kenilworth, Victor Hugo wrote Amy Robsart a five-act play based on Kenilworth which was first performed in Paris at the théatre de l’Odéon on 13 February 1828.

    Kenilworth Castle Keep from south Source Wikimedia Commons

    (Kenilworth Castle Keep from south Source Wikimedia Commons)

    More than half of the Waverley Novels are set in Scotland but Kelniworth takes place in England (as Ivanhoe).

    Kenilworth Castle gatehouse atehouse landscape Wikipedia

    Kenilworth Castle gatehouse atehouse landscape Wikipedia

    The title of the novel  novel refers to Dudley’s Kenilworth Castle in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

    Below are the main characters of Kenilworth.

    • Giles Gosling, host of the “Black Bear” at Cumnor
    • Michael Lambourne, his nephew
    • Edmund Tressilian, a Cornish gentleman, Amy’s former lover
    • Wayland Smith, his servant
    • Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex
    • Sir Nicholas Blount, master of house to the Earl of Sussex
    • Sir Walter Raleigh, a gentleman in the household of the Earl of Sussex
    • Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester
    • Richard Varney, his squire
    • Anthony Foster, steward of Cumnor Place
    • Master Erasmus Holiday, a village pedagogue
    • Dickie Sludge, alias Flibbertigibbet, one of his pupils
    • Doctor Doboobie, alias Alasco, an astrologer
    • Sir Hugh Robsart, of Lidcote Hall, Devonshire
    • Amy Robsart, his daughter
    • Janet Foster, her attendant at Cumnor
    • Queen Elizabeth, at Kenilworth


    Portrait of an unknown lady by Levina Teerlin c1550 Yale University

    Portrait miniature  of an unknown lady by Levina Teerlin c1550 Yale UniversityPortrait, possibly Amy Robsart on the occasion of her wedding, 1550 (Wikipedia)

     

    Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester c. 1564 Wikimedia Commons

    (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, c. 1564.)

    In the background are the devices of the Order of Saint Michael and the Order of the Garter;
    Robert Dudley was a knight of both.

    Ward Leicester and Amy Robsart at Cumnor Hall Edward Matthew Ward 1866

    (Leicester and Amy Robsart at Cumnor Hall)

    (1866 Painting of the Historicism school, inspired by Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth.)

    Queen Elizabeth and Leicester miniatures by Hilliard Wikipedia

    (Elizabeth and her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, c. 1575)

    Pair of stamp-sized miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard.

    The Queen’s friendship with Dudley lasted for over thirty years, until his death.

    (Source Wikipedia)

     

    Now that we know a little more about the characters and the setting of Kenilworth let us focus on the story.

    Plot introduction

    Kenilworth is apparently set in 1575, and centers on the secret marriage of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart. The tragic series of events begins when Amy flees her father and her betrothed, Tressilian, to marry the Earl. Amy passionately loves her husband, and the Earl loves her in return, but he is driven by ambition. He is courting the favour of Queen Elizabeth I, and only by keeping his marriage to Amy secret can he hope to rise to the height of power that he desires. At the end of the book, the queen finally discovers the truth, to the shame of the Earl. But the disclosure has come too late, for Amy has been murdered by the Earl’s even more ambitious steward, Varney.

    The story begins:

    Giles Gosling, the innkeeper, had just welcomed his scape-grace nephew Michael Lambourne on his return from Flanders. He invited the Cornishman, Tressilian, and other guests to drink with them. Lambourne made a wager he would obtain an introduction to a certain young lady under the steward Foster’s charge at Cumnor Place, seat of the Earl of Leicester, and the Cornish stranger begged permission to accompany him. On arriving there Tressilian found that this lady was his former lady-love, Amy. He would have carried back to her home, but she refused; and as he was leaving he quarrelled with Richard Varney, the earl’s squire, and might have taken his life had not Lambourne intervened. Amy was soothed in her seclusion by costly presents from the earl, and during his next visit she pleaded that she might inform her father of their secret marriage, but he was afraid of Elizabeth’s resentment.

    Warned by his host against the squire, and having confided to him how Amy had been entrapped, Tressilian left Cumnor by night, and, after several adventures by the way, reached the residence of Sir Hugh Robsart, Amy’s father, to assist him in laying his daughter’s case before the queen. (…)

    (Source: Wikipedia)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kenilworth_%28novel%29&printable=yes

    So far, I’ve only reached chapter 12 (there are 41 chapters in the novel). In this chapter Tressillian arrives at Lidcote Hall, the residence of Sir Hugh Robsart, Amy’s father in  A. Montémont’s French translation. I’ve tried to read Kenilworth in my old Furne edition of ‘Oeuvres Complètes de Walter Scott, traduites par A.J. B. Defauconpret’ which was published in the years 1835-1836  (I have only 26 out of the 30 volumes). But the musty smell of my books was such that it made me sneeze repeatedly so that I had to give up and turn to my kindle…

    The novel opens at Cunmor Place, near Abingdon in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) first at the  the Black Bear Inn and then at Cumnor Place, seat of the Earl of Leicester where Amy Dudley lives under the custody of Anthony Foster.

    West side of the Quadrange of Cumner Place 1805 engraving

    Cumnor Place – 1805 engraving from Lyson: Magna Brittanica.

    (Source: “AMY ROBSART AND CUMNOR PLACE”  Peggy Inman article (Cumnor History Society)

    http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/external/cumnor/articles/inman-robsart.htm

    The dews of summer night did fall;
    The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
    Silver’ed the walls of Cumnor Hall,
    And many an oak that grew thereby.

    (from a ballad of the Scotch poet, Mickle, entitled ‘Cumnor Hall’)

    Charles S. Olcott The Country of Sir Walter Scott Cassell edition 1913

    Charles S. Olcott The Country of Sir Walter Scott Cassell edition 1913

    I always try when reading a novel, and still more if it is a historical novel, to try and know more about the place where the story is supposed to have taken place and I’ve found nothing better, to help me in my present investigations about Kenilworth, than to have a look at  The Country of Sir Walter Scott by Charles S. Olcott. In company of his wife, Charles S. Olcott visited most of the places linked with Sir Walter Scott and the result is extremely interesting. The book can even be read as a literary travel guide. Chapter XX is entitled ‘Kenilworth’ and it is illustrated with black and white pictures.

    Here’s what Charles S. Olcott says about Cunmor:

    Cunmor is one of those lovely little villages in the Midlands of England where Father Time employs his talents as an artist, softening the outlines of the stone walls and fences with graceful mantles of dark green ivy and imparting richer and deeper shades of brown to the old thatched roofs of the cottages.

    ………..

    We did not ruin our reputation as travellers by failing to ‘wet a cup at the bonny Black Bear,’ for that ‘excellent inn of the old stamp,’ if indeed it ever existed, has disappeared as effectually as its famous landlord, Giles Gosling.

    ………..

    Cumnor Place has likewise disappeared. The site where it stood appears to be a comparatively small piece of land, near the street, but well covered with large trees. It was not an extensive park with formal walks and avenues, nor was the house itself so large or high as the structure described in the novel. It was a single-story building or series of buildings, forming an enclosure about seventy feet long and fifty feet wide. It was built about1350 as a country residence for the Abbot of Abingdon an as a sanitarium for the monks. After two centuries its useby the monastery ceased and Cumnor Place passed into the hands of the Court physician, George Owen, who leased it to Anthony Foster. As the servant of Lord Robert Dudley, Foster received into his house the ill-fated Amy Robsart, whom that gentleman had married in 1550.

     

    About Cumnor I’ve also found on the web a very interesting article written by a lady who is member of Cumnor History Society. It is appropriately entitled ‘Wandering with a pen and pencil’ for it contains not only very interesting facts about Sir Walter Scott’s sources for his novel but also very useful old engravings.  There is even the mention of a ghost  ;-)

     

    There follows an account of Cumnor’s connection with Abingdon abbey and -much overwritten- of Leicester’s neglect of Amy Robsart and of her murder, as described in Scott’s novel. The authors, however, have a problem in reconciling the virtuous Forster, as described on his tomb in Cumnor church, and the villainous accomplice to Amy’s murder. They tell us that Sir Walter, to acquire material for the book, visited Cumnor ‘where he is well remembered’, (see also the innkeeper, quoted below). Whether this is their invention or the villagers’ we cannot say but Sir Walter was almost certainly never in Cumnor. In his preface to ‘Kenilworth’ he refers to Mickle’s ballad and Ashmole’s ‘Antiquities of Berkshire’ as his inspiration. ‘I like’, he wrote from Abbotsford to his publisher in Edinburgh, ‘to be as minutely local as I can’ and asked for any material about Cumnor from Lyson’s ‘Magna Brittanica’, or elsewhere. Scott was friendly with Dr Thomas Hughes, the vicar of Uffington and with his son John of Donnington Priory near Newbury, and their respective wives. Mrs Thomas Hughes told Scott that ‘if you had been in every part of the country you could not have drawn it more accurately’. She also said that crowds visited Curnnor in consequence of the publication of ‘Kenilworth’ and that she had heard that lord Abingdon had been ‘ready to hang himself for flinging away’ an asset like Cumnor Place, pulled down in 1810. There were traditions current in the village about the building. Even after Amy’s death, our book says, ‘the spectre of poor Amie Leicester attired in courtly apparel, pearls and brocade, was seen to linger in faint coloured beautiful light upon the great stairs at nightfall. The place was abhorred, even until it was forsaken’. In fact for much of the time the building had been occupied, in one way or another, right up to the end. Scott wrote to Mrs Hughes that he was amused by ‘the hasty dexterity of the good folk of Cumnor …. getting all their traditionary lore into such order as to meet the taste of the public’. William Clarke said that when he visited Cumnor in 1817 there were no traditions about the Place among the villagers. By his account they were invented, rather than organised, after 1821 to please the likes of our authors!

    (from ‘Wandering with a Pen and Pencil’, an article written  by Mrs Peggy Inman (Cumnor History Society), for ‘Cumnor and Thereabouts’, CHS, 1995)

    http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/external/cumnor/articles/wanderings-inman.htm

    So it appears that Sir Walter’s source of inspiration comes from an old ballad by William Julius Mickle, a Scottish poet born at Langholm. This name rings a bell! How can we forget the hours passed there, during our last journey to Scotland in 2012, in company of the very friendly and erudite lady in charge of Langholm library. She guided us through an exhibition dedicated to Hugh Mac Diarmid and even read one of his poems to us. Below is a fountain dedicated to William Julius Mickle.

    Fountain in memory of William Julius Mickle Langholm Dumfriesshire Wikimedia

    Drinking fountain in Langholm town centre A pink granite drinking fountain set into a corner of the town hall building in High Street, with an inscribed granite stone above. Presented by the London Eskdale Society in 1896. The inscription on the stone above reads:

    WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE POET BORN AT LANGHOLM 29TH SEPTEMBER 1734

    DIED AT FORREST HILL, NEAR OXFORD 1788.

    TRANSLATOR OF “THE LUSIAD” AUTHOR OF “CUMNOR HALL”

    AND “THERE’S NAE LUCK ABOOT THE HOOSE”.

    William Julius Mickle (* Langholm, in Dumfrieshire, on the 29th of Sept. 1734 † Forest Hill, on the 28th of October, 1788) was a Scottish poet.

    Son of the minister of Langholm, Dumfriesshire, he was for some time a brewer in Edinburgh, but failed. He moved to England where he worked as a corrector for the Clarendon Press at Oxford. In 1771-75 Mickle lodged at the manor house in Forest Hill, Oxfordshire. Mickle had various literary failures and minor successes until, while at Forest Hill, he produced his translation of the Lusiad, from the Portuguese of Luís de Camões. This was a success that brought him both fame and money.

    In 1777 he went to Portugal, where he was received with distinction. In 1784 he published the ballad of Cumnor Hall, which suggested to Scott the writing of Kenilworth. He is perhaps best remembered, however, by the beautiful lyric, There’s nae luck aboot the Hoose, which, although claimed by others, is almost certainly his.

    In 1781 Mickle married Mary Tomkins, the daughter of his former landlord in Forest Hill, and settled in Wheatley.[2] He died in 1788 while on a visit to his in-laws, and is buried in Forest Hill churchyard.[3]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Julius_Mickle

     

    Last but not least, and before concluding this introduction to Kenilworth, I’d like to invite the fans of Walter Scott and of Scottish pubs to go to Rose Street in Edinburgh for at n° 152-154 they will find a bar called ‘The Kenilworth’

    Bonne lecture ! A bientôt !Mairiuna

    (*) The Waverley Novels

    (including the  ‘Tales of my Landlord’ series not always included and two novels published posthumously)

    • Waverley, or, Tis Sixty Years Since (1814)
    • Guy Mannering, or The Astrologer (1815)
    • The Antiquary (1816)
    • Tales of my Landlord 1st series
      • The Black Dwarf (1816)
      • The Old Mortality (1816)
    • Rob Roy (1818)
    • Tales of my Landlord 2nd series
      • The Heart of Midlothian ’1818)
    • Tales of my Landlord 3rd series
      • The Bride of Lammermoor (1819)
      • A Legend of Montrose (1819)
    • Ivanhoe (1819)
    • The Monastery (1820)
    • The Abbot (1820)
    • Kenilworth (1821)
    • The Pirate (1822).
    • The Fortunes of Nigel (1822).
    • Peveril of the Peak (1822).
    • Quentin Durward (1823).
    • St. Ronan’s Well (1824).
    • Redgauntlet (1824).
    • Tales of the Crusaders
      •  The Betrothed (1825)
      • The Talisman (1825).
    • Woodstock (1826).
    • Chronicles of the Canongate, second series
      • St Valentine’s Day, or, The Fair Maid of Perth (1828).
      • Anne of Geierstein, or, The Maiden in the Mist (1829).
    • Tales of my Landlord 4th series
      • Count Robert of Paris
      • Castle Dangerous
    • The Siege of Malta (1831–1832, published posthumously 2008).
    • Bizarro (1832, published posthumously 2008).

     

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    Behind Long-Loved Fables Are Great Stories!

    Indeed, behind long-loved fables of gallants and fairy tales, are great stories, but … are they true?

    walter-raleigh-cloak-on-puddle-illustration

    Let’s take for example the fable about Sir Walter Raleigh, a very handsome gentleman, quick-witted gallant, who’s story is said to have laid down his cloak over a mud puddle when Elizabeth I, Queen of England passing by with her retinue stopped near him.

    His kind gesture and courtesy did impressed the Queen which in turn gave him a much heartfelt smile of gratitude. Ain’t this not a romantic and fateful meeting of two great historic personalities?

    The story became very popular and much impressed the imaginary of people hearing about it, even though this great happening may have never happened!

    It has also been perpetuated by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Kenilworth (1821).

    Below is an extract of Chapter 15 where the author describes the scene.

    .
    Kenilworth-Novel-Walter-Scott

    (…)

    At this moment the gates opened, and ushers began to issue forth in array, preceded and flanked by the band of Gentlemen Pensioners. After this, amid a crowd of lords and ladies, yet so disposed around her that she could see and be seen on all sides, came Elizabeth herself, then in the prime of womanhood, and in the full glow of what in a Sovereign was called beauty, and who would in the lowest rank of life have been truly judged a noble figure, joined to a striking and commanding physiognomy. She leant on the arm of Lord Hunsdon, whose relation to her by her mother’s side often procured him such distinguished marks of Elizabeth’s intimacy.

    Sir-Walter-RaleighThe young cavalier we have so often mentioned had probably never yet approached so near the person of his Sovereign, and he pressed forward as far as the line of warders permitted, in order to avail himself of the present opportunity. His companion, on the contrary, cursing his imprudence, kept pulling him backwards, till Walter shook him off impatiently, and letting his rich cloak drop carelessly from one shoulder; a natural action, which served, however, to display to the best advantage his well-proportioned person.

    Unbonneting at the same time, he fixed his eager gaze on the Queen’s approach, with a mixture of respectful curiosity and modest yet ardent admiration, which suited so well with his fine features that the warders, struck with his rich attire and noble countenance, suffered him to approach the ground over which the Queen was to pass, somewhat closer than was permitted to ordinary spectators. Thus the adventurous youth stood full in Elizabeth’s eye—an eye never indifferent to the admiration which she deservedly excited among her subjects, or to the fair proportions of external form which chanced to distinguish any of her courtiers.

    Accordingly, she fixed her keen glance on the youth, as she approached the place where he stood, with a look in which surprise at his boldness seemed to be unmingled with resentment, while a trifling accident happened which attracted her attention towards him yet more strongly.

    The night had been rainy, and just where the young gentleman stood a small quantity of mud interrupted the Queen’s passage. As she hesitated to pass on, the gallant, throwing his cloak from his shoulders, laid it on the miry spot, so as to ensure her stepping over it dry-shod.

    Sir-Walter-Raleigh

    Elizabeth looked at the young man, who accompanied this act of devoted courtesy with a profound reverence, and a blush that overspread his whole countenance. The Queen was confused, and blushed in her turn, nodded her head, hastily passed on, and embarked in her barge without saying a word.

    “Come along, Sir Coxcomb,” said Blount; “your gay cloak will need the brush to-day, I wot. Nay, if you had meant to make a footcloth of your mantle, better have kept Tracy’s old drab-debure, which despises all colours.”

    “This cloak,” said the youth, taking it up and folding it, “shall never be brushed while in my possession.” (…)

    Source: Kenilworth by Walter Scott. Chapter XV  .

    Googling about the fable on the Web brought up the trivia.library.com website on which it is said that the story probably originated with historian Thomas Fuller:

    ‘Sir Walter Raleigh Never Laid His Cloak Before Queen Elizabeth’

    About the true story behind the myth that Sir Walter Raleigh laid his clock at the feet of Queen Elizabeth.

    GREAT HAPPENINGS THAT NEVER HAPPENED

    Seaman, courtier, explorer, poet, privateer, and soldier of fortune, Sir Walter Raleigh was unquestionably the hands-down favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, even though he was far from handsome, being endowed with a long face, a high forehead, and “pig eyes.” However, that he once stepped forth from a crowd, gallantly doffed his cloak, and threw it over a mud puddle to protect the feet of the passing queen is pure fiction.

    Raleigh, who was born in Devonshire about 1552, first caught the queen’s attention in 1581, when, with great cogency and wit, he urged England to conquer Ireland. The queen rewarded Sir Walter with honors and wealth, granting him extensive landholdings and estates in England and Ireland and business monopolies in such varied enterprises as wine licenses and the export of textiles. He was knighted in 1584 and named captain of the queen’s guard two years later. But Sir Walter incurred Elizabeth’s displeasure in 1592 for an illicit love affair with one of her maids of honor. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, later freed, and ultimately beheaded for treachery.

    The story of the cloak and the mud puddle probably originated with historian Thomas Fuller, known for his imaginative elaborations on historical fact.

    Later, Sir Walter Scott kept the myth alive in his 1821 Elizabethan romance, Kenilworth. “Hark ye, Master Raleigh, see thou fail not to wear thy muddy cloak,” the queen exhorts Sir Walter, “in token of penitence, till our pleasure be further known.” Sir Walter vows never to clean the cloak, and later the queen, delighted with his gallantry, invites him to visit the royal wardrobe keeper that he may be fitted for “a suit, and that of the newest cut.”

    Source: trivia-library.com

     

    Nevertheless, I love tales and fables, be they true or untrue, as they open up a story to wonder and adventure, and are such inspiring.

    Enjoy!

    Janice



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