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.
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
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
"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
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.