Monday, October 20, 2014

Quentin Durward by Sir Walter Scott (1823) Illu.

Well I can see a limited appeal for this book in today's audience. It is a little slow going but if you are a fan of the period then it is a wonderful review of the Louis XI and his world. With an internet connection nearby one can look up the dozens of references to other historic figures and events that Scott weaves into the narrative.

A nice old copy pub. 1906
And only two illustrations:
Interesting that Quentin disappears for about a quarter of the the book as the author develops the the story around Louis and Duke Charles of Burgundy.
I would say that a lot of the fiction is less intriguing than what really happened and that is why it is so interesting to look at the actual events while reading.

Scott's human insights are grand!
Very early on a paragraph caught my eye:
"The eldest and most remarkable of these men in dress and appearance, resembled the merchant or shopkeeper of the period. His jerkin, hose, and cloak were of a dark uniform colour, but worn so threadbare that the acute young Scot conceived that the wearer must be either very rich or very poor, probably the former. The fashion of the dress was close and short, a kind of garment which was not then held decorous among gentry, or even the superior class of citizens, who generally wore loose gowns which descended below the middle of the leg"
In the suburb of Detroit where I live there are some old money running around and in the very same way that the Scot conceived the shabby clothed gent could be either rich or poor we too have our share of them

In this paragraph Quentin is lectured by the Bohemian:
""Simply," replied the Zingaro, "that those who know aught of the Most Christian King, are aware that the purpose about which he is most anxious, is always that which he is least willing to declare. Let our gracious Louis send twelve embassies, and I will forfeit my neck to the gallows a year before it is due, if in eleven of them there is not something at the bottom of the ink horn more than the pen has written in the letters of credence.""
 A very period way of saying "more than meets the eye."

De Comines corrects his majesty on the merits of "moderation"
""At least I would have your Majesty be in a condition to discuss them all."
"Yet moderation, De Comines, moderation in success, is—no one knows better than you—necessary to its ultimate advantage."
"So please your Majesty, the merit of moderation is, I have observed, most apt to be extolled (praised) by the losing party. The winner holds in more esteem the prudence which calls on him not to leave an opportunity unimproved.""

Quentin's conversation with the Bohemian at his moment of death is captivating:
""Unhappy, most unhappy being! Think better! let me speed for a priest—these men will delay yet a little longer. I will bribe them to it," said Quentin. "What canst thou expect, dying in such opinions, and impenitent?"
"To be resolved into the elements," said the hardened atheist, pressing his fettered arms against his bosom; "my hope, trust, and expectation is that the mysterious frame of humanity shall melt into the general mass of nature, to be recompounded in the other forms with which she daily supplies those which daily disappear, and return under different forms—the watery particles to streams and showers, the earthy parts to enrich their mother earth, the airy portions to wanton in the breeze, and those of fire to supply the blaze of Aldebaran and his brethren.—In this faith have I lived, and I will die in it!—Hence! begone!—disturb me no farther!—I have spoken the last word that mortal ears shall listen to.""
 He is talking about dust to dust & ashes to ashes, Scott is able to calmly discuss the various views of the world and the after life with out judgment.