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    November 2021
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    Waverley Novels: Guy Mannering or The Astrologer (1815)

    As soon as I received the last issue of The Scots Magazine (August 2021) I browsed through its pages to read the two articles devoted to Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) for his 250th birthday anniversary, on 15 August 2021.

    “How you can mark 250 years of Sir Walter Scott” … I read on the magazine’s cover.  Personally, as I had explained in my last post,  my way of celebrating Sir Walter’s anniversary is to fulfill the promise Janice and I made to the great Scottish writer in 2006, in the magnificent library of Abbotsford. A promise? Yes, we did promise to read the whole of Sir Walter’s work, poetry, fiction and essays as well. I will do it, I’m doing it!

    Presently I’m reading The Antiquary, (1816) the third volume of the Waverley novels. My last post was devoted to Waverley (1814), Sir Walter’s 1st novel. Today I will focus on Guy Mannering, or the Astrologer, (1815) the second one.

    Abbotsford Walter Scott's Library Scotland © 2015 Scotiana

    Abbotsford Walter Scott’s Library Scotland © 2015 Scotiana

    My first aim with this challenge is, of course, to fulfil my promise to Sir Walter Scott which is a good way to learn to know better the great Scottish writer, the man and the master of Abbotsford, his family and friends. It will also be a good opportunity to discover more about Sir Walter’s Scotland through his description of scenery and history.  And last but not least to immerse in Scottish literature.

    I’m now settled in my new office (a temporary one) and surrounded by a carefully selected choice of books by my favourite authors (Sir Walter Scott – George Mackay Brown – Iain Crichton Smith – Kenneth White – Stevenson – Neil Gunn – John Prebble – Nigel Tranter – Alistair Moffat – Mandy Haggith… ). So, from this day I’m ready to face my challenge in the best conditions ;-). We live in a petit coin de paradis… a beautiful and peaceful place quite suitable for concentration ;-).

    Below is a first selection of my favourite books about Sir Walter Scott including his autobiographical book,  his son-in-law’s biography (John Lockart) and his friend’s memories (James Skene). I will add more of them au fil des pages

    • Sir Walter Scott’s Journal
    • Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott Bart. by John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1838). On my desk is an old, dusty and fragile 1865 edition of the book !
    • The Country of Sir Walter Scott by Charles Olscott – 1913. I have the 1st edition of this book which can also be read online on Gutenberg. I’ve just downloaded it on my kindle.
    • Sir Walter Scott – Henri Suhamy (French book)
    • Memories of Sir Walter Scott by James Skene


    Scott Monument Edinburgh Walter Scott and Maida statue Sir John Steel Princes Street 2007

    As I’ve just said before The Scots Magazine has published two articles about Sir Walter Scott.

    “Renaissance Man” by Gayle Anderson & Scott Paterson

    “It isn’t every day you celebrate someone’s 250th birthday, but Sir Walter Scott wasn’t just anybody.

    Born on August 15, 1771, Scott – a poet, novelist, historian and advocate – was a true Renaissance man who almost single-handedly created an idea of Scotland that sticks to this day.”

    “The Great Eight” by Kirsty Archer Thomson.

    Here, Kirsty Archer Thomson, the collections and interpretations manager at Abbotsford, picks the top eight must-see exhibits.

    • The Culloden Oatcake Crumb
    • Scott’s Elbow Chair
    • Napoleon’s Blotter
    • The Abbotsford Library
    • The Maida Mounting Block
    • The Torrs Chamfrein
    • Watercolour Of Prince Charles Stuart
    • The Byron Urn
    Abbotsford library memorabilia show case © 2001 Scotiana

    Abbotsford library memorabilia show case © 2001 Scotiana

    Most of the pictures inserted in the second article ring a bell for we often visited Abbotsford since 2000 and took many pictures inside and outside. In 2000 we were very lucky to fall on Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott herself, the charming descendant of Sir Walter Scott who died in 2004. We exchanged a few words with her and she gave us permission to linger around the house after closing time.

    Now, back to Guy Mannering, a book I like very much. I’ve learned a number of interesting things about Scotland in its pages.

    Guy Mannering or The Astrologer Walter Scott Penguin Classics

    Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer is the second of the Waverley novels by Walter Scott, published anonymously in 1815. According to an introduction that Scott wrote in 1829, he had originally intended to write a story of the supernatural, but changed his mind soon after starting. The book was a huge success, the first edition selling out on the first day of publication.


    Guy Mannering Sir Walter Scott Illustration Ellangowan Castle


    Guy Mannering is set in the 1760s to 1780s, mostly in the Galloway area of southwest Scotland, but with episodes in Cumberland, Holland, and India. It tells the story of Henry “Harry” Bertram, the son of the Laird of Ellangowan, who is kidnapped at the age of five by smugglers after witnessing the murder of a customs officer. It follows the fortunes and adventures of Harry and his family in subsequent years, and the struggle over the inheritance of Ellangowan. The novel also depicts the lawlessness that existed at the time, when smugglers operated along the coast and thieves frequented the country roads.



    The Country of Sir Walter Scott Charles Olcott London Cassell & CO, Limited 1913

    The Country of Sir Walter Scott by Charles S. Olcott is one of my favourite books about Sir Walter Scott. I will quote it extensively in my posts.

    “On the first day of May, 1911, we began our exploration of the ‘Scott Country’ (…) This was the beginning of a tour which eventually led into nearly every county of Scotland, as far north as the Shetland Islands, and through a large part of England and Wales. We went wherever we thought  we might find a beautiful or an interesting picture, connected in some way with the life of Sir Walter, or mentioned by him in some novel or poem.” (Charles Olcott)

    A few places connected with Guy Mannering :

    “For the principal scenery of Scott’s second novel, we found it desirable to change our headquarters to the city of Dumfries, a royal burgh of great antiquity, on the banks of the river Nith. A mile or more to the north, where the Cluden flows into the Nith, are the picturesque ruins of Lincluden Abbey, to which Robert Burns made many a pilgrimage. His favourite walk was along the opposite bank of the stream, and here, at the close of a summer’s day, he would promenade in the twilight, enjoying the calm of the evening while he composed his lyrics. Several miles farther north is Ellisland, where Burns endeavoured to combine the pursuit of farming with the collection of the king’s revenue in the excise service, and incidentally ‘met the Muses’ to the extent of producing ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ and several other well-known poems.” (Charles Olcott)


    The Lincluden Collegiate Church near Dumfries - John Greig 1805

    The Lincluden Collegiate Church near Dumfries – John Greig 1805

    Lincluden Abbey ? We visited a number of very picturesque abbeys in the South of Scotland but this name didn’t ring a bell when I read it. I searched for information in Wikipedia   and what I found did interest me quite a lot. What an inspiring place! We’ll certainly visit it next time we go to Scotland.

    “Lincluden Collegiate Church, known earlier as Lincluden Priory or Lincluden Abbey, is a ruined religious house, situated in the historic county of Kirkcudbrightshire and to the north of the Royal Burgh of Dumfries, Scotland. Situated in a bend of the Cluden Water, at its confluence with the River Nith, the ruins are on the site of the Bailey of the very early Lincluden Castle, as are those of the later Lincluden Tower. This religious house was founded circa 1160 and was used for various purposes, until its abandonment around 1700. The remaining ruins are protected as a scheduled monument.”

    Robert Burns visited Lincluden and was inspired to write a song ” The Minstrel of Lincluden”, (1794), the first verse of which is:

    As I stood by yon roofless tower,

    Where the wa’flow’r scents the dewy air,

    Where the howlet mourns in her ivy bower,

    And tells the midnight moon her care.

    Burns also wrote the song, ”Ca’ the Yowes to the Knowes’ at Lincluden.

    Yonder Clouden’s silent towers,

    Where, at moonshine’s midnight hours,

    O’er the dewy-bending flowers,

    Fairies dance sae cheery.

    Ca’ the yowes to the knowes.

    Robert Louis Stevenson visited with his father in September 1873 while on their walking tour of Carrick and Galloway.

    And there you can also find Princess Margaret’s grave.

    Lincluden Collegiate Church, tomb of Princess Margaret

    Lincluden Collegiate Church, tomb of Princess Margaret – Wikipedia

    Princess Margaret Stewart Douglas, Lady of Galloway was born between 1367 and 1385. She was the daughter of Robert III Stewart, King of Scotland and Annabel Drummond. She married Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas before 1390. She died between 26 January 1450 and September 1456 at Threave Castle, Galloway, Scotland.

    Sweetheart Abbey Dumfries & Galloway Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    Sweetheart Abbey Dumfries & Galloway Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    “South of the city the Nith is a tidal river, gradually broadening until it becomes an arm of the Solway Firth. Two fine old ruins guard its outlet, one on either side. On the west is Sweetheart Abbey, a beautiful ruin in an excellent state of preservation. Its name comes from a pretty story. The Lady Devorgilla, mother of John Baliol, who became King of Scotland, founded the abbey in 1275 and erected a tomb near the high altar. At her husband’s death, six years before, she had caused his heart to be embalmed and enclosed in a casket adorned  with precious stones, which she ever after carried with her wherever she went. She gave orders that at her death her body should be laid in the tomb which she had built and that the precious casket should be laid on her breast. Thus the two ‘sweethearts’ were to rest together. In the opening chapter of the novel, Scott refers to some monastic ruins which the young English gentleman, Guy Mannering, had spent the day in sketching. Doubtless Sweetheart Abbey was in his mind, or possibly Lincluden.”

    “It was in the beginning of the month of November 17–when a young English gentleman, who had just left the university of Oxford, made use of the liberty afforded him to visit some parts of the north of England; and curiosity extended his tour into the adjacent frontier of the sister country. He had visited, on the day that opens our history, some monastic ruins in the county of Dumfries, and spent much of the day in making drawings of them from different points, so that, on mounting his horse to resume his journey, the brief and gloomy twilight of the season had already commenced.”

    (Guy Mannering Chapter 1)

    Ellangowan Castle - Drawn by John MacWhirter, Etched by Alex. Ansted

    Ellangowan Castle – Drawn by John MacWhirter, Etched by Alex. Ansted

    Caerlaverock Castle aerial view r1 Bebop Drone © 2015 Scotiana

    Caerlaverock Castle aerial view r1 Bebop Drone © 2015 Scotiana

    In a footnote* to Guy Mannering Scott mentions Caerlaverock Castle as the model for his description of Ellangowan Castle: On entering the gateway, he found that the rude magnificence of the inner court amply corresponded with the grandeur of the exterior. On the one side ran a range of windows lofty and large, divided by carved mullions of stone, which had once lighted the great hall of the castle; on the other were various buildings of different heights and dates, yet so united as to present to the eye a certain general effect of uniformity of front. The doors and windows were ornamented with projections exhibiting rude specimens of sculpture and tracery, partly entire and partly broken down, partly covered by ivy and trailing plants, which grew luxuriantly among the ruins. (…)

    *The outline of the above description, as far as the supposed ruins are concerned, will be found somewhat to resemble the noble remains of Carlaverock Castle, six or seven miles from Dumfries, and near to Lochar Moss.

    “On the opposite side of the river, or of the bay, for it is difficult to tell where the river ends and the Solway begins, is the fine old ruin of Caerlaverock Castle, the original of ‘Ellangowan Auld Place,’ the ancestral home of the Bertram family and the place around which revolves the whole plot of ‘Guy Mannering.’

    The day after our arrival at Dumfries we set out to examine this ruin, stopping first at Glencaple, a small town on the Nith just below the place where the river begins to widen into an arm of the sea. It was low tide, and there was a sandy beach of extraordinary width which the receding waters had sculptured in waving lines of strange contour. The sky above was filled with fleecy clouds, and in the distance the summit of Criffell reared its height in a majestic background. It was on such a coast that Van Beest Brown, or Harry Bertram, landed when he returned to Scotland after many years, and found himself at the ruins of the house of his ancestors. The locality might be taken for the original of Portanferry, if geographical relations were to be considered.

    Caerlaverock Castle is one of the most picturesque ruins in Scotland. Enough of the original walls remain to show the unusual extent of the building. It was triangular in form, with two massive round turrets at one angle, forming the entrance, and a single turret at each of the others. The two entrance turrets and one of the others are still intact and well preserved. The turret which once stood at the third angle has completely disappeared. Between the front towers is a very tall arched doorway, now reached by a little wooden bridge over the moat. Many of these old ruins have mounds showing where the moat used to be, but this is one of the few in which the water still remains. For centuries the lofty turrets have been appropriated by rooks, and the moat is now a safe retreat for geese. (…)”

    Caerlaverock Castle model Historic Scotland

    Caerlaverock Castle model Historic Scotland

    When we visited Caerlaverock Castle we didn’t know it had served as a model in one of Sir Walter Scott’s novel and we had no idea it was situated not far from the seaside… or to be more precise from the Solway Firth. We also found the ruins of an older castle.

    Dumfriesshire Google map Lincluden abbey, Sweetheart abbey, Caerlaverock

    “The surroundings of Caerlaverock do not in any way correspond with the environments of Ellangowan Auld Place. I had already learned, however, not to depend too much upon geographical considerations. It requires only a superficial knowledge of Scott’s method of work to understand that while he was a most careful observer of all that interested him and wrote many accurage descriptions of scenery, he did not hesitate to use his material with a free hand. It was perfectly simple for him to transplant an old ruin, which admirably fitted one requirement of the story, to a rocky coast, thirty  or forty miles away, where the other necessary features were to be found, or even to combine two different parts of the coast for his purpose. (…)” (Charles Olcott)


    Engraving of Sarah Egerton as Meg Merrilies in Guy Mannering (1817)

    Engraving of Sarah Egerton as Meg Merrilies in Guy Mannering (1817)

    I’ve selected a few characters from Guy Mannering. The most unforgettable and my favourite ones. Again, I’m calling upon to Charles Olcott to light our way:

    “As in many of his other novels, Scott makes the subordinate characters of ‘Guy Mannering’ the most interesting. Dominie Sampson, Dandie Dinmont, Meg Merrilies, Dirk Hatteraick, and Paulus Pleydell are original creations of strong, dramatic interest. Each had a prototype in real life, but it was the genius of the novelist that brought them into existence in the sense that Mr. Pickwick and Becky Sharp are real people, and  conferred upon them a kind of immortality that will be as sure to delight the generations of the future as they have been successful in appealing to the readers of the past century.

    • Guy Mannering, afterwards a colonel in the Indian army : “As to Colonel Mannering himself, I need only repeat the exclamation of James Hogg when he first read the novel:—’Colonel Mannering is just Walter Scott painted by himself!’ Though doubtless not intended for a portrait, the fine, dignified, soldierly, and scholarly colonel is the picture of a perfect gentleman, intended to embody the high ideals which were a part of Scott’s own character and for which we like to remember him. “
    • Julia Mannering, his daughter
    • Godfrey Bertram, of Ellangowan
    • Margaret Bertram, his sister
    • Harry Bertram, his son, alias Vanbeest Brown
    • Dominie Sampson, a failed minister, and afterwards Harry’s tutor : “When the family came to live at Abbotsford, a tutor for Walter, the eldest son, was required. Scott, always eager to help the unfortunate, employed George Thomson, ‘a gallant son of the church,’ who by accident had lost a leg. He was ‘tall, vigorous, athletic, a dauntless horseman, and expert at the single-stick.’ Scott often said of him, ‘In the Dominie, like myself, accident has spoiled a capital lifeguardsman.’ He was a man of many eccentricities and peculiarities of disposition, among them a remarkable absent-mindedness, but kind-hearted, faithful, upright, and an excellent scholar. In these respects he was the prototype of Dominie Sampson, though the story of the latter’s devotion to Lucy Bertram in the days of her adversity is based upon an incident in the life of another person.”
    • Meg Merrilies, a gipsy : “At ‘Mump’s Ha’, Bertram first met the old witch, Meg Merrilies, who played so important a part in his destiny. Scott, as a boy attending school at Kelso, had made several visits to Kirk Yetholm, a village near the English Border, then known as the capital of the gipsies. A certain gipsy soldier, having rendered a service to the Laird of Kirk Yetholm in 1695, was allowed to settle on his estate, which thereafter was the headquarters of the tribe. Scott remembered being accosted on one of his visits by a ‘woman of more than female height, dressed in a long red cloak,’ who gave him an apple. This woman was Madge Gordon, who was the Queen of the Yetholm tribes. She was a granddaughter of Jean Gordon, whom she greatly resembled in appearance. An interesting story of the latter, who was the real Meg Merrilies, is told in the Introduction to ‘Guy Mannering.’ “
    • Gabriel Faa (Tod Gabriel), her nephew : “The royal name of the gipsies was Faa, supposed to be a corruption of Pharaoh from whom they claimed descent. Gabriel Faa, the nephew of Meg Merrilies, was a character whom Scott met when on an excursion with James Skene. ‘He was one of those vermin-destroyers,’ says Skene, ‘who gain a subsistence among the farmers in Scotland by relieving them of foxes, polecats, rats, and such-like depredators. The individual in question was a half-witted, stuttering, and most original-looking creature, ingeniously clothed in a sort of tattered attire, to no part of which could any of the usual appellations of man’s garb be appropriately given. We came suddenly upon this crazy sportsman in one of the wild glens of Roxburghshire, shouting and bellowing on the track of a fox, which his not less ragged pack of mongrels were tracking around the rocky face of a hill. He was  like a scarecrow run off, with some half-dozen grey-plaided shepherds in pursuit of him, with a reserve of shaggy curs yelping at their heels.’ “
    • Dirk Hattaraick, a Dutch smuggler
    • Dandie Dinmont, a farmer
    • Counsellor Pleydell, whom Dominie Sampson regarded as ‘a very erudite and fa-ce-ti-ous person,’ was generally identified, by those who knew Edinburgh a century ago, with Mr. Andrew Crosbie, a flourishing member of the Scottish Bar of that period. Eminent lawyers were then in the habit of meeting their clients in taverns, where important business was transacted to the accompaniment of drinking and revelry. This typical old Scottish gentleman of real life lived in Lady Stair’s Close and later in Advocate’s Close, both resembling the quarters assigned to Counsellor Pleydell. In those days, the extremely high buildings, crowded closely together in that part of the Old Town nearest to the Parliament House, were occupied by the elite of Edinburgh society. They were ten and twelve stories high and reached by narrow winding stairs. Access from High Street was gained by means of narrow and often steep alleyways or closes. As a rule the more aristocratic and exclusive families lived on the top floors, and as there were no elevators, it might be said, the higher a man’s social position, the more he had to work for his living.

    Like his brethren in the profession, Mr. Crosbie had his favourite tavern, where he could always be found by any of the ‘cadies’ in the street. This was Dawny Douglas’s tavern in Anchor Close, the meeting-place of the ‘Crochallan Fencibles,’ a convivial club of which William Smellie, a well-known printer and editor of the day, was the inspiring genius, and where Robert Burns, when in Edinburgh, joined heartily in the bacchanalian revels which were famous for their duration and intensity. Smellie’s printing-office in this close was frequented by some of the most eminent literary men of the day.”

    Edinburgh Advocate's Close © 2006 Scotiana

    Edinburgh Advocate’s Close © 2006 Scotiana


    I could could tak for hours about Guy Mannering: the story and the multiple stories it contains, the different places, the characters…  about its genial author, his vivid style, his humour… it would be une histoire sans fin… but toutes les bonnes choses ont une fin ;-). My hope is that I made you want to read or re-read Guy Mannering or still better to follow in my steps and read all Sir Walter’s books. Why not?

    To conclude this page what about a glimpse of Caerlaverock Castle in winter… at its best I would say… far from the crowd… just imagine  the white and wonderful landscape… the mysterious and lonely ruined castle… with only the murmur of the wind and the croaking of the jackdaws flying to and fro in the turrets…

    Enjoy ! Á bientôt. Keep tuned for my notes about the third volume of the Waverley Novels: The Antiquary.


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