Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott (1821)

I'm on a S.W.Scott tear and so after Durward I decided to stick with the 1500's and get into Kenilworth.
I have to admit however that the motivation to read it came from Owen Wister and the multiple references made to Kenilworth in The Virginian.
The message Wister was trying to send is very clear; Chivalry, court manners, and how ambition and talent are rewarded. Wister and his buddy Roosevelt were trying to create the mythology of American exceptional ism and the model was based on the Chivalry Europe.

Its a story of intrigue, love, deception, hate, and ambition (to name a few.)

This little 1928 copy of Kenilworth has tiny font!
Kenilworth is an excellent book.
Scott provides a huge wealth of English language knowledge that requires a close connection with a dictionary in order to keep up with the hundreds of unused and alternative meanings. For instance, being impolite in Court might be dis-courteous. The origins of polite society are rooted in the Courts of nobility.
A great deal of Court behavior and etiquette is relayed to the reader and in it we can see how much of our Curtseys and manners were developed, derived, and refined in those courts. 

This copy has a tremendous set of notes in the back, well worth finding a copy that includes them.

Just as in Durward, Kenilworth is Historical fiction, it is a tremendous lessen in history, QE I is the period and what a period it was. I would like to get into the Elizabethan history now.

Every period longs for the one that just past and Scott's is no exception; not only did Scott long for the Chivalry of the past but the characters in his story did as well.
In the story near the culmination of the intrigue there is a performance put on for QE that depicts the entire history of the English peoples. So again Wister could only fabricate for America what England had many versions of; a past.

We get introduced to Wayland Smith (Wayland Smithers?) a very talented smith that is mostly unappreciated. He is whom I relate to.

A great passage:
When the Queen finds out that Her Doctor was refused access to her liege:
The Queen answered hastily, and without affecting to disguise her satisfaction, "By my word, I am glad he is better. But thou wert over-bold to deny the access of my Doctor Masters. Knowest thou not the Holy Writ saith, 'In the multitude of counsel there is safety'?"
"Ay, madam," said Walter; "but I have heard learned men say that the safety spoken of is for the physicians, not for the patient." 
 Well little has changed.