Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh

Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh

by Ian Duncan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691144269
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 08/02/2016
Series: Literature in History
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ian Duncan is professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel and the coeditor of Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism.

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Scott's Shadow The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh

By Ian Duncan Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2007
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-04383-8


How high the situation of poor Scotland ... in arts, in arms, and in literature-her universities every year more crowded-her philosophers advancing with so proud a career in the field of science-her little junta of accomplished men in the first literary journal that ever appeared in any country, giving law to the republic of letters-her moralists improving-her poets delighting the world. -Christian Isobel Johnstone, The Saxon and the Gaël; or, The Northern Metropolis (1814)

The poets, the orators, and the lawyers, of the flat Boetian region of the dull and muddy Thames, being under the influence of the envious spirit of conscious inferiority, make a point of rarely noticing the pre-eminent endowments of the northern Athenians.... The whole English people, the Irish, and all Europe, are chagrined at the superiority of the wise and learned of Edinburgh; yea, every other town that participates in the intellectualising keenness of the Scottish air, turns the sharpness of its wits against the pretensions of the provincial capital. -John Galt, Glenfell; or, Macdonalds and Campbells. An Edinburgh Tale of the Nineteenth Century (1820)

The tartan robe (which has got into vogue in France andFlanders) adorns the London fair ones; the border and other minstrelsy delight the lovers of literature; the Scottish novels turn the heads of the readers of light matter, and even those of the second class are found to amuse their perusers; the stage teems with imitations and representations from the former. -Felix MacDonogh, The Hermit in Edinburgh: or, Sketches of Manners and Real Characters and Scenes in the Drama of Life (1824)


In the early afternoon of 14 August 1822, the yacht The Royal George with its naval and civilian escort cast anchor off the Edinburgh port of Leith. Heavy rain postponed the King's landing until the following day. At about half past two on 15 August, a naval barge drew alongside the royal yacht, bearing, among other dignitaries, the home secretary, Robert Peel, and Sir Walter Scott, whose baronetcy had been gazetted on George IV's accession to the throne two years earlier. "Sir Walter Scott!" exclaimed the King; "The man in Scotland I most wish to see! Let him come up."

No reigning monarch had visited Scotland since its incorporation into the British state at the Treaty of Union in 1707. Under Scott's careful management, the "King's Jaunt" unfolded as a fortnight-long pageant of antique ceremonies-most of which were made up for the occasion. Here, in one of the centers of the European Enlightenment, Scott staged the sovereign's relation to "the ancient kingdom of Scotland" as the primitive, patriarchal relation of a Highland chieftain to his clan. The return of the king conjured up a vanished social formation. At the height of a new wave of forced clearances of tenantry to make way for sheep, Scott wrote to Highland landlords exhorting them to bring their traditional "tail" of kilted and armed retainers, and published a pamphlet instructing gentlemen attending the Grand Ball at the George Street Assembly Rooms to wear "the ancient Highland costume." The King himself appeared at his Holyrood Levee in an extravagant outfit (it cost u1,354. 18s. 0d.) of scarlet philabeg, jewelled weapons, and pink satin drawers. George was wearing the Royal Stuart plaid of his own grandfather's dynastic rival. With lavish insistence, the pageantry of the royal visit kept alluding to the last occasion on which Edinburgh had been visited by a claimant to the throne of Scotland-an outlaw one. Seventy-seven years earlier, for a few momentous days in September 1745, Prince Charles Edward Stuart had occupied the city with an army composed largely of Highlanders, whom many of the inhabitants regarded as savage banditti.

Commentators then and since have deplored the King's Jaunt as a garish travesty-the iconographic investiture of the British monarchy, as well as Scotland's postnational identity, with a bogus, retro-Jacobite, Highland pageantry. Much of that commentary has satisfied itself with denouncing the phoniness of Scott's "invention of Scotland" as a nation of Highlanders and Jacobites doing homage to a Hanoverian king. But in identifying the gouty ageing dandy, legitimate George, with the defeated but glamorous Chevalier, in dressing metropolitan Scotland in the robes of its desolated Gaelic hinterland, in redeeming a lost national cause for a modern imperial triumphalism, Scott was far from being the dupe of an antiquarian nostalgia. This was no deluded abolition of modernity for a regression to misty origins. Scott was assembling a gaudily up-to-date national spectacle that relied on the availability of sovereignty-its mystic link with the past decisively broken-as a sign among other signs that gathered its meaning in public circulation and consumption.

The political purpose of the Jaunt was clear at the time. The King's Scottish excursion followed a visit to Ireland the previous year: no doubt the tour of the Celtic provinces would endow the monarch with a measure of public dignity in the wake of the Queen Caroline scandal. In Scotland, the mass spectacle of sovereignty and reciprocal loyalty symbolically repaired the rifts of post-Union history: not just the dynastic conflict of the preceding century, but more recent civil tensions. Postwar recession and unemployment had driven the struggle over constitutional reform, muted for two decades by anti-Jacobin repression and war with France, to crisis pitch. Government spies, dragoons, and magistrates had put down working-class unrest in the western Lowlands only two years earlier, with exemplary ferocity. A journalistic warfare waged between Edinburgh and Glasgow Whigs and Tories set gentlemen as well as hacks (the difference was not always evident) at one another's throats in libels, lawsuits, brawls, and duels-James Stuart of Dunearn had shot dead Sir Alexander Boswell, son of the biographer, as recently as March 1822. The Scots Tory administrative junta, vexed by the clamor for reform, was attempting to shore up its legitimacy by laying claim to a transcendental national interest. In staging the royal visit as a mass loyalist pageant, Scott and his collaborators sought to replicate the outbursts of public festivity that had greeted the news of Napoleon's defeat in the spring of 1814 and again the following year after Waterloo. Some of the devices of these victory celebrations-parades, fireworks, illuminations, allegorical transparencies, the lighting of a beacon on top of Arthur's Seat-were repeated in 1822 (not always successfully: rain made the beacon a damp squib). The most suggestive of these recyclings was a double one: the adoption of Jacobite tokens such as the white cockade and tartan. In 1814-15 these had expressed solidarity with the House of Bourbon, restored to the French throne after a cataclysmic interlude. In 1822 they identified the once-revolutionary House of Hanover with the anciens régimes restored across Europe at the Congress of Vienna. The King's Visit staged the spectacle of legitimacy itself as a neoabsolutist politics: in William Hazlitt's sardonic phrase, "ingrafting the principles of the House of Stuart on the illustrious stock of the House of Brunswick."

The most elaborate of the loyalist accounts of the Visit took the form of a commemorative "Royal Number" of the vanguard Tory organ Black-wood's Edinburgh Magazine. Christopher North's closing sonnet "To the King" (printed in red capital letters) follows a three-act episode of the satirical dialogue series "Noctes Ambrosianae," which shamelessly identifies the interests of the sovereign with Blackwood's Magazine. Mr. Black-wood and his literati descend upon a local farmhouse. "This is maist as gude's a visit frae the King himself," cheers the Gudeman. His wife praises the magazine: "Siccan a buik I never read afore. It gars ane laugh, they canna tell how; and a' the time ye ken what ye're reading is serious, too-Naething ill in't, but a' gude-supporting the kintra, and the King, and the kirk." An item by the premier Blackwood's author of the day illustrates, however, the complexity of responses to the King's Jaunt even within the Tory camp.

The title of John Galt's comic sketch, "The Gathering of the West," mocks the strategy of Scott's pageant. Instead of the Gathering of the Clans, that topos of Jacobite revival, Galt narrates an invasion of Edinburgh by the citizens of its great industrial rival, the economic powerhouse of Scottish modernity as well as of "the radical distemper which lately raged in the west"-Glasgow and its outlying ports and burghs. Galt recounts how "the whole west began to move": "all the roads from Glasgow to Edinburgh were like so many webs of printed calico, stamped with the figures of coaches and carriages, horses and noddies, men, women, and children, and weavers from Paisley, who had abjured reform" (317). The Radicals butchered after the "Battle of Bonnymuir" had been weavers from Strathaven and Greenock (where Galt spent part of his childhood), not far from Paisley. In Galt's simile, the energies of popular resistance now feed the loyal mass movement without, however, being completely digested by it. The modern labor of weaving that constitutes the fabric of national patriotism, "like so many webs of printed calico," remains visible, and does not quite yield to the image it suggests, the dominant image of the Jaunt: tartan plaid. In Edinburgh, in the following chapter, the visitors behold "writers [solicitors] and writers' clerks ... trembling in the breeze, dressed in the Celtic garb, that their peeled, white, ladylike legs might acquire the healthy complexion of Highland boughs" (317). Galt's satire ends up confining itself to a harmless, indeed, healthy regional animosity and submitting to the general tone of celebration, but only after it has made its own distinctive-"western"-claim on the occasion. Rather than an ancient nation centered in Edinburgh, the King represents a modern commercial empire in which Glasgow's interests are crucial: "free trade and loyalty beget ease and affluence" (327).

The Scottish Whigs and Tories vied with one another to define the meaning of the Jaunt, contending whether its spectacles of mass enthusiasm showed that sovereignty descended from the King or rested with the consent of the people. Outright derision, much of it scurrilous, poured from the Radical press in London. Nor was a disillusioned view confined to the opposition. An impeccably ironical account of the royal visit turns up where it might perhaps be least expected, fifteen years later, in the monumental biography of Scott by John Gibson Lockhart-former Blackwood's fire-eater, now respectable editor of the Quarterly Review. "Before this time," Lockhart reminds his readers, "no Prince of the house of Hanover was known to have touched the soil of Scotland, except one, whose name had ever been held there in universal detestation-the cruel conqueror of Culloden,-'the butcher Cumberland.'" Lockhart understood very clearly what his father-in-law had been up to. The national humiliation marked by 1745 and its aftermath was to be healed through a ceremonial and comic reenactment. Lockhart saw, however, that what he called "Sir Walter's Celtified pageantry" alluded only secondarily to the historical event of Jacobite occupation. Before that, it referred to the literary medium that had given the '45 its mythic shape in the modern imagination. Scott's first novel Waverley (1814) had represented Charles Edward's Edinburgh sojourn as the moment when the Jacobite dream of a recaptured Scottish royalty achieved its greatest brilliance, above all as an evanescent series of civilian and military spectacles. Accordingly, referring to Daniel Terry's theatrical adaptations of the Waverley novels as well as his assistance in planning the royal visit, Lockhart calls Scott's management "a sort of grand terryfication of the Holyrood chapters in Waverley;-George IV, anno ætatis 60, being well contented to enact 'Prince Charlie,' with the Great Unknown himself for his Baron Bradwardine" (7:50). Scott staged the Royal Visit as the reenactment of a fictional representation of a historical event, the Jacobite project of restoration he had already exposed as theatrical, "romantic," and historically inauthentic, in Waverley. Charles Edward was, after all, a Pretender: his own performance the hapless, ghostly repetition of a Scottish sovereignty that had exited the stage of history with the removal to London of his ancestor James VI one hundred and forty years earlier. Jacobitism could only reiterate, with the blindly literal insistence of a tragic protagonist, the loss of a sovereign presence that the Stuart kings themselves had belatedly defended with the principle of Divine Right. Instead of the king's body (or its constitutional supplement, a parliamentary assembly), national order resided now in Edinburgh with the problematically textual institution of the law-as several Scottish novels, notably Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818) and Galt's The Entail (1822), would propound.

Lockhart narrates George IV's ceremonial reenactment of Charles Edward's attempt to replicate a lost ancestral sovereignty as a succession of tragedy by farce. Scott, treasuring the glass in which the King has toasted him, forgets he has it stowed away in a pocket until he sits down on it; the poet Crabbe, Scott's houseguest, finds himself surrounded by Gaelic-speaking Highlanders and stammers away at them in French ("what he considered ... the universal language," 7:55); best of all the King, in full Highland fig at Holyrood, confronts "a figure even more portly than his own, equipped, from a sudden impulse of loyal ardour, in an equally complete set of the self-same conspicuous Stuart tartans." This is the London alderman Sir William Curtis, whose "portentous apparition cast an air of ridicule and caricature over the whole of Sir Walter's Celtified pageantry" (7:64-65). Lockhart follows contemporary caricatures in making Sir William the King's "heroic doppel-ganger," the mirror image of an inauthentic Scotch Majesty. The absurd alderman exposes the King's own status as a facsimile, bound to the inorganic, metaphysically empty spatial and temporal axes of duplication and repetition. Duplication and repetition: sovereignty's modern origin is no divine Logos, nor any natural bond, but literary production in the mode of mechanical reproduction: industrial print technology. A genealogy showing George as legitimate heir of the Stuarts was duly got up for the occasion and circulated in the loyalist press. Scott's pageant reiterates the more spectacular topoi of the Romantic literature that flourished in Scotland in the decades since 1746: not just the meteoric transit of a Pretender (Waverley) but the dubious revival of extinct ancestral origins (James Macpherson's Fingal) and the metaphysically disastrous proliferation of the Double (James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner).

Lockhart wavers between describing the King's Jaunt as a blatant confection, its artifice plain to see ("the extent to which the Waverley and Rob Roy animus was allowed to pervade the whole of this affair," 7:58), and as "a hallucination" that had "completely ... taken possession" of spectators and participants (7:67). He describes, in short, the ambiguous subjectivity effect of a work of fiction, which takes possession of the imagination while the reader goes on knowing that it is just a fiction. Lockhart recognizes, even as he mocks, Scott's sophisticated staging of a disenchanted, thoroughly textualized figure of sovereignty in a modern commercial culture. Lockhart's treatment, along with the range and complexity of contemporary responses to the event, must complicate the gesture of ideological exposé with which the royal visit is typically dismissed: as though it is enough to denounce the "inauthenticity" of an occasion of which inauthenticity was the point. Observing the King's coronation at Westminster the previous year, Scott had been impressed by the ideological power of such public spectacles of invented tradition. The inauthenticity-the alienation, portability, and recursiveness-of the signifiers of sovereignty, ancestry, territoriality, and legitimacy was a chief end of the pageant, not its inadvertent by-product.


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi


Chapter 1: Edinburgh, Capital of the Nineteenth Century 3

A King and No King 3

The Modern Athens 8

A Post-Enlightenment 20

Scotch Novel Writing 31

Chapter 2: The Invention of National Culture 46

A Scottish Romanticism 46

From Political Economy to National Culture 50

"A fast middle-point, and grappling-place" 58

"Patriarch of the National Poetry of Scotland" 65

Chapter 3: Economies of National Character 70

Dirt 70

Purity 78

Beauty 82

Enjoyment 88

Traffic 91

Chapter 4: Modernity's Other Worlds 96

Scott's Highlands 96

Topologies of Modernization 101

Inside and Outside the Wealth of Nations 105

Modernity's Other Worlds 108

Chapter 5: The Rise of Fiction 116

Seeing Nothing 116

The Sphere of Common Life 119

The Rise of the Novel and the Rise of Fiction 123

Fiction and Belief 127

Historical Fiction 135

After History 138


Chapter 6: Hogg's Body 147

Ettrick Shepherd 147

Hogg's Scrapes 150

Men of Letters 155

Border Minstrels 159

The Suicide's Grave 166

Organic Form 173

Chapter 7: The Upright Corpse 183

The Mountain and Fairy School 183

Leagues and Covenants 187

Magical Realism 194

The Upright Corpse 207

Resurrection Men 212

Chapter 8: Theoretical Histories of Society 215

Local Theoretical History 215

Exemplarity: Annals of the Parish 223

Ideology: The Provost 230

Plot: The Entail 235

Chapter 9: Authenticity Effects 246

Post-Enlightenment Postmodernism 246

Revolutionary History 253

Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium 258

Technologies of Self and Other 264

Authenticity Effects 272

Chapter 10: A New Spirit of the Age 287

A Paper Economy 287

The Spirit of the Time 297

Recessional 306

Notes 311

Bibliography 349

Early Nineteenth-Century Periodicals 349

Sources Published before 1900 349

Sources Published after 1900 356

Index 375

What People are Saying About This

Jon Klancher

Ian Duncan's book is an accomplishment of the very first order, a powerful reconceptualizing of both the history of the British novel and of Romanticism. The sweep of Duncan's argument is grounded in one of the most highly focused, richly historical, and textually rigorous critical arguments I've ever read.
Jon Klancher, Carnegie Mellon University

Ina Ferris

Scott's Shadow is a splendid achievement. Rich, dense, and provocative, it rereads the novel's status as exemplary genre of national life in the nineteenth century. The most complete account to date of the dynamic matrix of Scottish literary production and reception in the years of Edinburgh's ascendancy as a publishing center, this book will rapidly become standard reading in the history of the British novel and in studies of Romanticism.
Ina Ferris, University of Ottawa

Susan Manning

Scott's Shadow is the product of years of immersion in the literary, political, and reviewing culture of Edinburgh. No one is better qualified to write this book than Ian Duncan, and he accomplishes it with a panache that matches his erudition. This is a compelling book, consistently—even grippingly—readable, and endlessly suggestive. It makes a major, decisive contribution to its subject.
Susan Manning, University of Edinburgh

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