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    From William Wallace’s Sword to Walter Scott’s Pen…

    "The Scottish Chiefs" Jane Porter

    "The Scottish Chiefs" Jane Porter

    So, back again to Wallace, Janice, and old books too since I’ve just found a beautiful copy of The Scottish Chiefs. It’s an undated Routledge edition published circa 1884… look at the beautiful cover with its elaborate decoration. It has many black and white illustrations inside.

    "The Scottish Chiefs" Glen of Ellerslie

    "The Scottish Chiefs" Glen of Ellerslie

    An antiquarian find and the right kind of book to send you back in time ! Indeed, we saw many of them lining up on the shelves of the fabulous libraries we passed through in the castles we visited in Scotland or displayed amidst old toys in charming refurbished nurseries. Sure, it’s a book to treasure, not only for its contents but also because of its beauty.

    When The Scottish Chiefs was first published, in 1810, it quickly proved to be a “best-seller” in Scotland and abroad, especially in the United States. In France, Napoleon banned it …it would be interesting to know why ! Walter Scott was 39 years old then. The ‘Wizard of the North’, as he was then called, had just published The Lady of the Lake and he was about to launch a whole series of historical novels with the publication of the first of them, Waverley, in 1814. Walter Scott did know Jane Porter but as far as his feelings about her book are concerned it seems that they were quite mitigated. Just have a look at what James Hogg, a close friend of him and one of the greatest Scottish writers, wrote about that :

    “I think Sir Walter had a great veneration for the character of Sir William Wallace for I remember long ago when Miss Porter’s work ‘The Scottish Chiefs’ appeared he said to me one morning : ‘I am grieved grieved about this work of Miss Porter’s ! It is a work of which I wished to think highly and do think highly but as to her character of Wallace ! She has made him a brave fellow it is true and a fine gentleman. But lord help her ! He is not our Wallace at all.” (*)

    "Tales of a Scottish Grandfather" Walter Scott

    "Tales of a Scottish Grandfather" Walter Scott

    There is much bitterness in that comment…maybe Walter Scott had in mind his own story about William Wallace and Jane Porter had cut the ground under his feet. Indeed, he was to write one story himself but it would be a very short one and of a special kind too. The story simply entitled “William Wallace” appeared in 1828 as chapter IV of the first volume of Tales of a Scottish Grandfather. There would be four volumes in this series devoted to Scottish history. What is special about these stories is that they had been written for Walter Scott’s ten-year-old grandson John Hugh Lockhart, whom he nicknamed “Hugh Littlejohn, Esq” in his Dedication. The poor little boy was very unhealthy and he died in 1831. Tales of a Scottish Grandfather proved to be a great success among young and adult readers as well. The aim of the author had been clearly explained in his Dedication and Preface.

    Addressing to the little boy he said:

    “I have in this little book imitated one with which you are well acquainted, – I mean the collection of Stories taken from the History of England, and which has been so deservedly popular.

    (*) Stories from the History of England for Children by the Right Hon. J.W. Croker.

    And he wrote in his Journal:

    “The good thought came into my head to write stories for little Johnny Lockhart from the history of Scotland…

    A book that a child shall understand, yet a man will feel some tempation to peruse should he chance to take it up. It will require, however, a simplicity of style not quite my own. The grand and interesting consist in ideas, not in words.”

    So you see, Janice, a lot of ink has been spilled over William Wallace… blood and ink ! As far as blood is concerned see by yourself the photo of the big sword you’ve been asking me and try to imagine… Here it is, William Wallace’s sword ! A traditional two-handed broad sword, approximately 66 inches in length (1, 67 m). Isn’t it impressive? As impressive in fact as the man who used it… William Wallace was said to be at least 6 feet 6 inches tall (1,98 m) !!!

     Wallace's Sword The Wallace Monument

    Wallace's Sword The Wallace Monument

    Alba gu bragh !

    (*) Anecdotes of Scott, James Hogg, Edinburgh University Press, 2004 1st published 1834

     Wallace's Sword The Wallace Monument

    Wallace's Sword The Wallace Monument

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