The Tale of Old Mortality describes the lives - and often violent deaths - the hopes, and the struggles, of the Covenanters in late seventeenth-century Scotland. A tale of extremism, bigotry and cruelty, it is redeemed by its characters' courage and loyalty, and their passionate belief in religious and civil liberty. Considered to be one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century, its influence pervades European writing from Stendhal to Tolstoy.
|Publisher:||Edinburgh University Press|
|Series:||Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels EUP Series|
|Product dimensions:||8.60(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
The late Douglas S. Mack was formerly Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Stirling.
Table of Contents
|The Waverley Novels in Penguin||ix|
|Chronology of Walter Scott||xxx|
|A Note on the Text||xlii|
|THE TALE OF OLD MORTALITY|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A very early (1816) historical novel set in Scotland in 1679 during the religious wars against the last Stuart kings. Scott is recognised as having created the genre of historical novels in the Waverley series, and this book seems like a fully fledged modern historical novel - a mix of fictional and real characters set in a realistic context. It is good stuff, but the Scots dialog is a little inpenetrable, and needed 100+ pages of noted to translate, and to explain. The author balances the views of the different sides - enough good and bad on both sides to allow the reader to draw their own conclusion. Seems very modern for its time, but includes the fantastic plot twists that are familiar from other 19th century fiction. Read February 2009
Imagine you are a young man dragged willy nilly into a civil war. No, this book is not GONE WITH THE WIND or Georgia in 1861. It is about the west of lowland Scotland in 1679. Two months after tale's beginning the hero of the TALE OF OLD MORTALITY, Henry Morton, a moderate Presbyterian, has been arrested by the Royalists, seen them defeated in battle by downtrodden religious dissenters, saved the life of a defeated nobleman who is also a rival for the hand of Lady Edith Bellenden, joined the rebels himself, led them in both triumph and defeat, been condemned to death by a band of ultra-Puritanical Covenanters, then been rescued by a Royalist and finally exiled by the Council of Scotland to the Netherlands. *** Ten years later he returns to Scotland, having attained the rank of Major General while fighting against Louis XIV for the Prince of Orange who is now, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the King of both England and Scotland. After final flurries of action and danger, Henry Morton, representing Scotland's peaceful, rational, non-fanatical future, wins the hand of Edith, a relic of Scotland's aristocratic, loyalist past. They have sons and daughters and lead happy, prosperous lives. The old, violent, superstitious order of Scotland gives way to a stable, bright future for all the land. *** 'Old Mortality' was a nickname given to the real Scotsman Robert Paterson whom Walter Scott had met around 1790. Like his younger American contemporary 'Johnny Appleseed' (John Chapman), Paterson had mounted a life-long one-man mission. For Old Mortality that mission was to move systematically around Scotland restoring graves of and memorials to increasingly forgotten Covenanting Presbyterian 'martyrs' to cruelty of the Stuart Kings. The novel supposedly draws on a retelling of tales told by Old Mortality, as corrected by a fictional narrator's research into other points of view. *** The Penguin edition of THE TALE OF OLD MORTALITY is blessed by a glossary of Scots English words and phrases as well as hundreds of textual notes giving the historical background of Scotland in the late 17th century. That was a generally cruel and dreary era. Well described characters debate, contend and otherwise bring to life the complete spectrum of political and religious views in the dying years of three centuries of Stuart dynasty rule. Once this struggle was over, kings would rule by consent of the governed and no longer by divine right. *** This is a very good read. THE TALE OF OLD MORTALITY blows the dust off otherwise mind-numbing minutiae of Scottish history. -OOO-