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Posted May 25, 2006
Sir Walter Scott's 1824 novel REDGAUNTLET is the greatest of the 'WAVERLEY' series of historical tales of Scotland. Such tales abound in dialog in the lowland Scots language of Scott and Robert Burns, with many learned tags from Latin and allusions to European classics in several languages. The average American reader can make better sense of REDGAUNTLET and related novels by Scott if the text is embedded in a volume fitted out with end notes, linguistic glossary and an historical setting. For this purpose there is no better series than the PENGUIN CLASSICS. *** Two very young, unworldly male friends, the dreamy Darsie Latimer and the slightly older, newly minted Scottish lawyer Alan Fairford are forced to grow up quickly. The orphaned, still under age Darsie (whose lineage is a mystery to him) is kidnapped by a rebellious uncle Hugh of the ancient house of Redgauntlet as part of a fictitious 1765 plot to place the Young Pretender back on the thrones of England and Scotland. Alan abandons his first case in Edinburgh to race to the borderlands along the Firth of Solway to find his missing friend Darsie. In the progress of this tale, Darsie discovers that a beautiful miss with whom he is briefly smitten is his sister and that he is the heir of wealth in England and of an attainted title in Scotland. The friends fall in with Quaker fishers who dam streams with nets and hostile Catholic horsemen who fish the tidal shallows with lances, with hypocritical Presbyterian smugglers and a cast of unforgettable rogues, heroes and even Prince Charles Edward Stuart himself. Memorable is the blind fiddler, Wandering Willie, who communicates with captive Darsie in a code based on popular Scottish folk songs. Shades of Richard the Lion-Hearted imprisoned in Austria and his minstrel Blondel who finds the King through song! *** When asked to say a grace before meals acceptable to their Presbyterian guest Darsie Latimer, a Catholic servant of the Laird of the Lochs pithily sets off the liturgical difference between Protestants and Catholics: 'if the gentleman is a whig, he may please himself with his own mummery. My faith is neither in word nor writ, but in barley bread and brown ale' [Catholic code words for bread and wine, elements of the Christian Eucharist], (p.28). There is also pointed debate in the novel about free will versus destiny. *** Many intertwined personalities come together in a grand finale on the shores of the Solway. REDGAUNTLET is the grandest tale by Scotland's greatest teller of tales. -OOO-
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Posted May 24, 2013
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