Ivanhoe – chapters 41 – 44 the end

So at last I got to the end of Ivanhoe, slower than planned as life in general got in the way, mainly in the shape of looking for a new home, not as easy as I thought it would be, maybe I’m too fussy.

Poor Rebecca has been carried off by Brian de Bois Guilbert who is very much enamoured of her. Malvoisin his superior is disgusted by this as Rebecca is a Jew and he has decided that Rebecca must have used witchcraft on de Bois Guilbert, all trumped up nonsense of course, which would end up with Rebecca being burnt at the stake. She is being accused of having unnatural power of healing!

If Rebecca can find a champion to take her side and fight for her against de Bois Guilbert and win then she’ll be saved. Guilbert tries to get her to run off with him but Rebecca decides that she would rather be dead than be tied to him for life, sensible woman!

Eventually after a skirmish in the forest involving Robin Hood and King John’s supporters, the Black Knight (Richard) and Ivanhoe make their way to Torquilstone where Rebecca is being held.

When they get there Rebecca doesn’t want Ivanhoe to fight for her as he is so weak but in the end de Bois Guilbert falls over after one blow, he is dead, presumably having had some sort of brain seizure brought on by his passions.

Rebecca and her father decide that they must leave the country and try their luck in Granada where they hope that they won’t meet with the same sort of bigotry they have had to deal with in England.

I did enjoy Ivanhoe although I think that Scott uses too many words – that reminds me that someone said of Mozart that he used too many notes! I think we’ve just got used to more succinct story telling nowadays, maybe in Scott’s days they didn’t feel that they were getting their money’s worth if books were shorter.

Scott was hugely popular in his day, below is a photo which I took a while ago in Edinburgh and the large gothic, pointy building on the left hand side is the Scott monument in Princes Street.

A bagpiper

Sir Walter Scott was quite a character himself, he was obviously very fair-minded and in Ivanhoe he was doing his best against anti-semitism which was quite common at the time, although not so much in the UK as elsewhere in Europe, essentially he was trying to get Jews the vote, but even Roman Catholics didn’t have the vote at the time that Ivanhoe was published. The Templars who feature in Ivanhoe would of course all have been RCs.

Scott played a big part in King George IV’s visit to Scotland, we have Scott to blame for all the highland dress frippery which is on view at just about any wedding that you go to. No Highlander would have worn a kilt as we know it, they had a length of tartan fabric which they wrapped around their body and it doubled as a blanket too. I believe that George IV was thrilled to bits with his Highland costume, he added the pink tights himself I think! You can see what Georgie Porgie looked like here.

The most amazing fact about Scott is that he was given the task of finding the Scottish crown jewels and found them! They had been put away somewhere in Edinburgh Castle for safe keeping after King James VI went down to England when he succeeded to the throne on the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Scott found the jewels in a padlocked chest in the castle, just imagine what it must have been like when he got it opened and found them all in there.

You can see images of them here.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – chapters 20 to 30

Continuing the adventures of Ivanhoe, last time we left them Cedric and his company, including his daughter Rowena and Isaac the Jewish moneylender and his daughter Rebecca had all been taken prisoner by the Norman lord, Front de Boeuf.

Front de Boeuf has split up his prisoners and poor Isaac is taking the brunt of the bad treatment with his Norman captives threatening him with being placed on an iron grid suspended above a fire, if he doesn’t pay over a huge amount of silver coins, which he doesn’t have. Rebecca and Rowena are both under siege by the Norman lords, but just in time the men in green (Robin Hood/Locksley and his Merry Men) besiege the castle and Front de Boeuf is mortally wounded in the fight.

Ivanhoe, who is wounded and being nursed by Rebecca has been able to witness some of the action and has been impressed by the sight of a mysterious knight dressed in black armour.

So it’s all go at the moment and I can see why Ivanhoe was so popular when it was first published, I think that at times the language is a bit archaic which is what puts people off from reading Scott’s books now but it doesn’t take long to get used to it. So I hope to be writing about chapters 31 to 40 soonish.

Ivanhoe – to chapter 20

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.

Now for the next 10 chapters, for next Thursday I hope! I am of course reading Ivanhoe for Peggy’s Read Scotland 2014 challenge, as is Judith Reader in the Wilderness.

What do you think Judith – have I taken this too far?!

Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe – to chapter 10

Well I say to chapter 10 but numbers never were my strong point and I’ve just checked the original comments between myself and Judith and realise that although we had agreed on chapter 10, I’ve read on to chapter 14 – silly me.

Anyway, so far Ivanhoe is turning out to be a breeze to read, people do moan that Scott is too wordy for the modern reader, and he is of the variety of author who writes 50 words when 20 might have done the job, but then you would miss out on all the lovely detailed description of people’s clothing and the settings and scenery.

Ivanhoe is set in the 12th century, the Normans had successfully invaded England in 1066 of course and since then they have been taking over from the Saxons, most of the so-called nobility are Normans and very much look down on the Saxons, even those who have managed to hang on to their land. So the Saxons are abused and mocked in their own country, for the clothes they wear, their manners and the way they speak and the Normans are very much the top dogs.

Prince John is behaving badly (did you know that the name John is still avoided by the royal family?) and is obviously hoping that his brother King Richard (Lionheart) will never make it back to England, he has been taken captive on his way back from a crusade.

The prince has been borrowing money from Isaac the Jewish money lender, I say borrowing but it is really demanding gold with menaces and Isaac has no option but to hand the coins over. Isaac’s complaints are similar to those of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and it’s easy to see whose side Scott is on.

Ivanhoe was written in 1820 and this was a time when pressure was being put on parliament to allow Jews to become M.P.s but it was to be another 38 years before the first Jew took his seat at Westminster. If you want to read more about the Emancipation of Jews in Britain have a look here.

So I’m looking forward to getting on with more of Ivanhoe, reading to chapter 20 for around about this time next week. What are your thoughts on it, Judith, or anyone else?

I’m reading Ivanhoe as part of the Read Scotland 2014 challenge.