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Posted July 5, 2006
In THE MONASTERY (1820) Sir Walter Scott uses a compact number of real and fictitious characters to express some of his beliefs about history and Scotland. As in other novels there are winners and losers and the losers would do well to accept their fate. *** Ultimate winners will be English imperialists, increasingly intent on liquidating Scotland as a separate kingdom. Winners in the short term will be Scottish Protestants and their fiery, close-to-the- people,religious leaders. *** Two teen age brothers are torn between the old and the new. One, the athletic, pugnacious Halbert, wins the noble maiden Mary whom his younger brother Edward also covets. Mary's family is protected by a less than angelic sylvan spirit, the White Lady, whose vitality waxes and wanes with the fortunes of the increasingly marginalized Avenels. The Lady nudges Mary to read the Bible and reject the old religion in order to restore her family's ruined fortunes. *** Religious controversies of the 1550s are also shown in two men of the older generation, the sub-prior (later Abbot) Eustace and his onetime close friend at a foreign university, the reforming preacher Henry Warden. *** Walter Scott believes that God intended the reformation to succeed as a truer, simpler form of Christianity. But, ironically, if the novel has a grown-up hero, it is Sub-prior Eustace who fights for his lost cause as stubbornly and gallantly as Robert E. Lee in the trenches at Petersburg. *** Scott shows in THE MONASTERY that even during cataclysmic events like the Reformation in Scotland, life goes on. People are silly and foppish like the English Catholic knight Sir Piersie Shafton. Girls fall in love as the tomboy Mysie, daughter of the Monastery's miller, does with Sir Piersie. Barons raid the borders for cattle as does Julian Avenel. Politicians seek church reform primarily to increase their own power and wealth. And so it may well have been. -OOO-
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Posted March 22, 2011
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