I’m just going to give a sketchy summary of the story so far. It should be from chapter 11 to chapter 20 but due to my confusion, and a lack of an actual book to leaf through as my own book is already packed away in one of my many boxes of books, I’m unsure about the length that the story gets to by chapter 10.
Wilfred (Ivanhoe) is the son of Cedric the Saxon and has just returned from a crusade. Soon after his return he saves Isaac the Jew from being robbed and probably murdered, so when Ivanhoe is wounded in the jousting it is Isaac’s daughter Rebecca who nurses him back to strength.
Meanwhile the upper class Norman hooligans who are sucking up to Prince John, have been hatching plans of their own and ambush Cedric and his companions, including Rebecca and Isaac. Front de Beouf imprisons them all in his castle. One of Cedric’s household manages to escape into the forest and luckily stumbles across the ‘men in green’ who are not at all happy about what Front de Boeuf and company have done. Obviously it’s Robin Hood and his merry men.
So far so good, I’m still enjoying Scott’s writing, it doesn’t take long to settle into his long sentences, I thought I would just say a bit about Scott’s choice of subject.
I believe that until he wrote this book he had been writing mainly about Scotland and although those books were very popular he was beginning to worry that people would eventually get fed up with Scotland so he decided to branch out and chose the tensions between the Normans and the Saxons which must have been around in England in the years after the Normans had invaded England. When you think that when Jane Austen was writing Pride and Prejudice she chose a French Norman name for her most fabulously wealthy character, Darcy – just imagine how French names and language of course must have rubbed the native Saxons up the wrong way. In fact there are still a lot of French names around in the UK and I can’t help thinking – hoity toity when I hear them. No doubt it was the same in Imperial Russia as the white Russians were speaking French while only the serfs and peasants spoke Russian. Anyway I’ve meandered from the subject as usual.
I’m wondering if Scott got the whole idea for the book because of the situation in Scotland. He was born in 1771 just 26 years after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion which of course failed. But the upshot of that failure was that the English and certain Lowland Scots tried to stamp out Highland traditions, the way of life, language and the clothing that was worn was banned. People couldn’t teach their children Gaelic because if they wee ones spoke it in front of anyone in a position of power then it was a death sentence for the whole family. Nowadays everybody thinks of Scotland when they see tartan fabric but at this time tartan was proscribed/outlawed. It was only in 1782 that tartan was decriminalised, so Scott would probably have been 11 years old before he saw anyone wearing tartan. If you want to read about Walter Scott and George IV’s visit to Scotland have a look here. Scott pulled out all the stops for this visit and it’s his designs that we have to thank or maybe blame for all the frou frou lace and velvet that is worn now by Scotsmen, mainly at weddings, in fact it seems that there is an unwritten law that there must be at least one man in a kilt at every wedding. Gordon was at a wedding last year and the bride especially asked him to wear his kilt. However Gordon did not wear his kilt with pink tights, which George IV apparently did.
Anyway, that’s my theory about Scott’s choice of subject matter, as he was growing up he must have felt the tensions in Scotland where there were garrisons full of English soldiers and probably Lowland Scots, just to make sure that they could squash out a rebellion at the merest whiff of one. It isn’t a big leap in the imagination to think what it would have been like for the native Saxon English to be treated like low life in their own land.
What do you think Judith – have I taken this too far?!