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Environmental and ecological readings

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Philippe Laplace

Part I. Nature and the Environment: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

How Walter Scott Wrote the Scottish National Landscape. A Study of the Sublime and the Picturesque in Three Jacobite Novels

Sarah Bisson

Texte intégral

  • 1 Cristie L. March, Rewriting Scotland: Welsh, McLean, Warner, Banks, Galloway and Kennedy (Mancheste (...)
  • 2 ASH Consulting Group, ‘The Borders Landscape Assessment’, Scottish Natural Heritage Review (1998) N (...)

1Walter Scott’s works, even though largely unread nowadays, paradoxically still inform contemporary representations of Scotland. Cristie L. March thus deplores that the literary representation of Scotland in the collective imagination is generally limited to that of Scott’s ‘historical novels celebrating the Highlands and Scottish heroes such as Bonnie Prince Charlie.’1 The name of the wizard of the North is indeed frequently referred to in Scottish tourism leaflets and travel books, especially when the landscapes of the Borders or the Highlands are commented on. The following statement which appears in a report published by the Natural Scottish Heritage on the Borders could also apply to the Highlands: ‘It is to Scott himself that we now turn, for he undoubtedly was the dominating influence in shaping an enduring image and identity for the landscape of the Borders.’2

2It seems therefore indispensable to analyze how Scott represents the Scottish landscape in order to understand the influence of his writing on shaping the national landscape. It is immediately apparent that the space devoted to the description of places is quite substantial in the economy of Scott’s work. These written representations of landscapes have often been characterized as ‘pictorial’ by critics who declare that Scott’s art should first and foremost be conceived of in visual terms. Although writing about Scotland’s natural landscapes was no novelty at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Sir Walter Scott considerably renewed the genre. A brief comparison between the depictions of Loch Lomond in Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker and in Walter Scott’s Rob Roy clearly reveals the extent of the shift in perspective initiated by Scott:

  • 3 Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771; Oxford: O.U.P., 1984), p. 238.
  • 4 Walter Scott, Rob Roy (1817; Oxford: O.U.P., 1998), p. 415. Subsequent references to t text will be (...)

It [the country-house belonging to commissary Smollett] is situated like a Druid’s temple, in a grove of oak, close by the side of Lough-Lomond, which is a surprising body of pure, transparent water, unfathomably deep in many places, six or seven miles broad, four and twenty miles in length, displaying above twenty green islands, covered with wood; some of them cultivated for corn, and many of them stocked with red deer – They belong to different gentlemen, whose seats are scattered along the banks of the lake, which are agreeably romantic beyond all conception.3
I was not awakened from my apathy, until, after a long and toilsome walk, we emerged through a pass in the hills, and Loch Lomond opened before us. I will spare you the attempt to describe what you would hardly comprehend without going to see it. But certainly this noble lake, boasting innumerable beautiful islands, of every varying form and outline which fancy can frame, – its northern extremity narrowing until it is lost among dusky and retreating mountains, – while, gradually widening as it extends southward, it spreads its base around the indentures and promontories of a fair and fertile land, affords one of the most surprising, beautiful, and sublime spectacles in nature.4

3If both narrators underline the ineffable nature of their aesthetic experience, their modes of expression are strikingly and radically different: Humphry Clinker’s narrator resorts to numbers while Rob Roy’s focuses on the spatial combination of shapes to express the unspeakable. Scott’s subjective but also considerably more visual, and thus pictorial, representation sharply contrasts with Smollett’s quasi-topographical coldness.

  • 5 Walter Scott, Redgauntlet (1824; Oxford: O.U.P, 1985). Subsequent references to the text will be gi (...)

4Scott’s imagination and the vision he had of his art were clearly the product of his education and were influenced by the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment, which placed the sense of sight at the centre of their speculations on the interactions between man and the material world. As the significance of the sense of sight was thus reassessed, there appeared a new passion for painting along with abundant aesthetic speculations which gave birth to new categories such as the sublime and the picturesque. It is our contention that Scott made use of these aesthetic categories in order to impose his vision of the national landscape and the specificity – as well as the effectiveness – of his representation of the Scottish landscape rests on the way he integrates and articulates the sublime and the picturesque in his writing. His influence in shaping Scotland’s national identity will therefore be studied here through a careful analysis of his representation of the Scottish landscape in three “Jacobite” novels: Waverley, Rob Roy and Redgauntlet.5

  • 6 Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une Nation? et autres écrits politiques (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 19 (...)

5The Jacobite uprisings play an important part in the history of Scotland and Great Britain and the last attempt to restore the Stuart dynasty in 1745 proved to be a powerful shock which triggered off intense debates on national identities within Great Britain. Despite the ruthless repression that followed the battle of Culloden, the rebels’ exploits remained engraved in the memories of many Scots while Scotland was absorbed within the British nation. When Walter Scott chose to situate the narrative of Waverley during the 1745 rebellion and that of Rob Roy during the 1715 uprising, he obviously indicates his intention to deal with the question of Scotland’s national identity. In the same respect, the entirely fictional Jacobite failed attempt in Redgauntlet is to be read as the creation, through the evocation of a heroic past, of the ‘social capital’ which constitutes the basis of a national idea6, as formulated by Ernest Renan.

6The plots of the three novels studied here could be summed up as travels: Waverley and Francis Osbaldistone (in Rob Roy) leave the comfort of their English homes to discover the Highlands while Darsie Latimer (in Redgauntlet) gets away from Edinburgh to explore the mysterious and violent region of the Solway Firth, which separates Scotland from England. The protagonists do not reach their destinations immediately and what matters are their journeys which are punctuated with frontiers to cross, which represent significant moments and introduce them to radically different worlds.

7These frontiers are always represented as geographical obstacles barring access to what lies beyond. The mountains that mark the border between the Lowlands and the Highlands appear as a threateningly impassable obstacle in Waverley’s eyes: ‘Edward gradually approached the highlands of Perthshire, which at first had appeared a blue outline in the horizon, but now swelled into huge gigantic masses, which frowned defiance over the more level country that lay beneath them.’ (Waverley, p. 32) In the same way, the natural landscape takes on a menacing and wild aspect, reminding Francis Osbaldistone of his vulnerability as he enters the Highlands:

The hills now sunk on its margin so closely, and were so broken and precipitous, as to afford no passage except just upon the narrow line of the track which we occupied, and which was overhung with rocks, from which we might have been destroyed merely by rolling down stones, without much possibility of offering resistance. (Rob Roy, p. 347)

8Everything in these landscapes brings to mind the aesthetics of Burke’s sublime: the proportions become extreme, the space is organized vertically, and a sensation of chaos and the fear of falling pervade the description.

[T]hey approached more closely those huge mountains which Edward had hitherto only seen at a distance. It was towards evening as they entered one of the tremendous passes which afford communication between the High and Low Country; the path, which was extremely steep and rugged, winded up a chasm between two tremendous rocks, following the passage which a foaming stream, that brawled far below, appeared to have worn for itself in the course of ages. A few slanting beams of the sun, which was now setting, reached the water in its darksome bed, and showed it partially, chafed by a hundred rocks, and broken by a hundred falls. The descent from the path to the stream was a mere precipice, with here and there a projecting fragment of granite, or a scathed tree, which had warped its twisted roots into the fissures of the rock. On the right hand, the mountain rose above the path with almost equal inaccessibility […]. (Waverley, p. 76)

9Darsie Latimer also experiences a form of sublime terror as he beholds the raging waters of the Solway Firth which separate Scotland and England:

There lay my native land [...] – there it lay, within a furlong of the place where I yet was; that furlong which an infant would have raced over in a minute, was yet a barrier effectual to divide me for ever from England and from life. I soon not only heard the roar of this dreadful torrent, but saw, by the fitful moonlight, the foamy crests of the devouring waves, as they advanced with the speed and fury of a pack of hungry wolves. (Redgauntlet, p. 176)

10The waves take on the aspect of fanged beasts, their crests evoking the coats of wolves and their roar mingled with the violent wind is compared with the howling of a monstrous creature:

On we went, the sky blackening around us, and the wind beginning to pipe such a wild and melancholy tune as best suited to the hollow sounds of the tide, which I could hear at a distance, like the roar of some immense monster defrauded of its prey. (Redgauntlet, p. 36)

  • 7 Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (London and New York, 1998), p. 45.
  • 8 See for instance Evan Dhu’s extremely comical answer to Waverley’s questions as to their destinatio (...)

11Here the metaphor emphasizes the impression of danger and compensates for the ineffability of the experience of sublime terror. It seems therefore quite logical to observe, as Moretti aptly notes about Waverley, that ‘ [n]ear the border, figurality goes up’7: caves gape like devouring mouths or turn into ‘palaces of fairies’, various demons and monsters of all kinds invade the narrative, which takes on an uncanny, Gothic aspect. Near the border, proportions are altered, and familiar shapes suddenly look eerie. The limits between reality and imagination become blurred and the creatures living in these regions seem to belong to both worlds, like Rob Roy, who continually moves between Highlands and Lowlands and whose physical description reveals a rather disturbing duality: ‘… this want of symmetry […] gave something wild, irregular, and, as it were unearthly to his appearance, and reminded me […] of the old Picts who […] were a sort of half-goblin, half-human beings.’ (Rob Roy, p. 273) These Gothic elements make the borderlands appear as a place characterized by its essential otherness, which is further emphasized by the rather unsettling irruptions of Gaelic language, especially in Waverley.8

12As a result, when approaching the border, the protagonists lose their bearings. They enter a shady world where the king’s law does not apply. Wandering in those lawless lands that lie in the in-between can therefore be equated to a form of transgression. However the protagonists’ decision to cross the border cannot be limited to the expression of a will to transgress: circumstances as well as an irrepressible power of attraction push them into these mysterious borderlands. If they wander off the straight path, it is mainly because they are literally seduced by the border and what lies beyond. Waverley thus feels an uncontrollable urge to penetrate beyond the chain of mountains that separate the Highlands and the Lowlands as soon as he sees it, just as Darsie Latimer seems to be fascinated, even mesmerized, by the Solway Firth: ‘my feet slowly and insensibly approached the river which divided me from the forbidden precincts, though without any formed intention… ’ (Redgauntlet, p. 33)

  • 9 Flora McIvor explicitly makes a parallel between the sublime landscapes and herself when she inform (...)

13The landscape invites and convinces the heroes to leave the path they are supposed to follow. The attraction nature exerts on the character-spectator reaches its climax when Flora McIvor leads Waverley through a maze of rocks to her garden at Glennaquoich, a setting which will not fail to seduce the young man and make him join the Jacobite cause. The protagonist’s progress through the curvy maze corresponds to an erotic initiation: the highly sexualized landscape, which consists in an alternation of jutting rocks and hollow cracks and cavities, both frightens and delights Waverley. When Flora starts playing the harp, Waverley then experiences a state of sublime9 trance that has all the characteristics of an orgasm: ‘Indeed the wild feeling of romantic delight, with which he heard the first notes she drew from her instrument, amounted almost to a sense of pain.’ (Waverley, p. 107)

  • 10 Pierre Morère, ‘La quête identitaire dans Waverley de Walter Scott’, QWERTY, 8 (1998), p. 22.

14The seductive power of the sublime landscape has an obvious erotic dimension, which appears to be essentially feminine. Indeed the protagonists feel the force of attraction of natural settings which abound with dark caves, deep dales, valleys, precipices and chasms. The protagonists, who all turn out to have no mother, thus undertake a journey which, through their discovery of wild and primitive regions, is a return to the historical origins, a descent into the ‘ancient times’,10 with an obvious regressive dimension.

15Of course the narratives recount the ascending progress of the heroes towards awe-inspiring and lofty summits, but they focus more on the descending movements. The characters go down into deep valleys – ‘cradles’ – whose numbers seem to increase dramatically when Darsie Latimer enumerates the vocabulary at his disposal: ‘At length, our course was crossed by a deep dell or dingle, such as they call in some parts of Scotland a den, and in others a cleuch or narrow glen.’ (Redgauntlet, p. 36)

  • 11 Waverley, p. 177; Redgauntlet, p. 65 and pp.175-77.

16Not only do the characters have to face the difficulties of the descent, they are confronted with the pitfalls of an unstable and treacherous ground that constantly threatens to give way under their feet and swallow them, such as the bogs that are scattered over the moors in Rob Roy or the quicksand of the Solway Firth in Redgauntlet where it is quite easy to get astray. The landscape becomes a labyrinth in which the characters continue their regressive journey into the dark recesses of the unconscious. The heroes’ passivity is quite significant in this respect: they are constantly guided, led and even carried like babies.11 Such passivity also recalls the awe induced in the viewer when experiencing the sublime.

  • 12 As he progresses within the depths of the smugglers’ underground labyrinth, Alan Fairford cannot he (...)
  • 13 Waver indeed means to hesitate in English but also to stray, to wander out of the way in Scots.

17The characters’ wanderings within the labyrinth also mirror their mistakes and errors. The narrative repeatedly makes this parallel explicit12. Waverley, whose name is quite revealing13, undertakes a journey that resembles the labyrinth nightmare described by Gaston Bachelard:

  • 14 Gaston Bachelard, La Terre et les rêveries du repos (Paris: José Corti, 1948), p. 213.

Engageons-nous dans cet étroit chemin, au moins nous n’hésiterons plus. Revenons à la croisée des chemins, au moins nous ne serons plus entraînés. Mais le cauchemar du labyrinthe totalise ces deux angoisses et le rêveur vit une étrange hésitation : il hésite au milieu d’un chemin unique. Il devient matière hésitante, une matière qui dure en hésitant.14

18Indeed, Waverley keeps on wavering between his allegiance to the Hanoverian dynasty and his fascination for the Jacobite cause, which he eventually joins, a little despite himself as he is swept along by a flow of events and carried away by his enthusiasm:

Rejected, slandered, and threatened upon the one side, he was irresistibly attracted to the cause which the prejudices of education, and the political principles of his family, had already recommended as the most just. These thoughts rushed through his mind like a torrent, sweeping before them every consideration of an opposite tendency, – the time, besides, admitted of no deliberation, – and Waverley, kneeling to Charles Edward, devoted his heart and sword to the vindication of his rights. (Waverley, p. 193)

19Rivers, which are omnipresent in the landscapes described by Scott, hold a particularly significant symbolic value. When Waverley follows Flora McIvor to her garden at Glennaquoich, the path he has to take already foreshadows his joining the Jacobite cause:

In a spot, about a quarter of a mile from the castle, two brooks, which formed the little river, had their junction.. […] The larger was placid, and even sullen in its course, wheeling in deep eddies, or sleeping in dark blue pools; but the motions of the lesser brook were rapid and furious, issuing from between precipices, like a maniac from his confinement, all foam and uproar.
It was up the course of this last stream that Waverley, like a knight of romance, was conducted […]. (Waverley, pp. 104-05)

20Helen McGregor, who appears as a true figure of passion, makes use of the same metaphor when she answers Bailie Nichol Jarvie who tries to mollify her by reminding her of their kinship: ‘The virago lopped the genealogical tree, by demanding haughtily, “If a stream of rushing water acknowledged any relation with the portion withdrawn from it for the mean domestic uses of those who dwelt on its banks?”’ (Rob Roy, p. 358) The Highlander’s fury culminates when she orders her attendants to execute the hostage who guarantees her husband’s safety. The scene is all the more terrifying in that the fall into the precipice is not seen, but heard; the sounds are dilated with the repetition of the adjective ‘dreadful’ which reproduces the echoes of the victim’s screams, thus showing how ineffable and powerful the experience of sublime terror can be (Rob Roy, p. 364).

  • 15 Waverley, p. 251. Waverley describes Fergus as ‘a second Lucifer of ambition and wrath’, p. 267.

21The streams and waterfalls manifestly symbolize the indomitable forces of wild nature and mirror the violent and apparently boundless passions the characters who are associated with these sublime landscapes. Fergus McIvor’s hubris is so powerful and uncontrollable that his whole body takes on a demonic aspect when his ambitions are thwarted.15 Quite similarly, Redgauntlet, whose abode is first described on a stormy and violent night, is depicted in the following terms: ‘one whose passions seem as violent as his means of gratifying them appear unbounded.’ (Redgauntlet, p. 186) Such violence obviously arouses fear, but also some sort of admiration that pertains to the sublime:

  • 16 Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (Dublin, 1783) vol. 1, p. 62.

[W]here virtue has either no place, or is but imperfectly displayed, yet if extraordinary vigour and force of mind be discovered, we are not insensible to a degree of grandeur in the character; and from the splendid conqueror, or the daring conspirator, whom we are for from approving, we cannot withhold our admiration.16

22 Darsie Latimer thus cannot help being fascinated by his uncle’s violent and enigmatic personality: ‘Strange as it may seem, a thrill of awe, which shot across my mind at that instant, was not unmingled with a wild and mysterious feeling of wonder, almost amounting to pleasure.’ (Redgauntlet, p. 207)

23Quite significantly Fergus McIvor and Redgauntlet are often characterized as ‘enthusiasts’. It should be recalled that enthusiasm was commonly perceived as a form of fanaticism in the eighteenth century and therefore had derogatory connotations as in the following extract from David Hume’s essay entitled ‘Of Superstition and Enthusiasm’:

  • 17 David Hume, “Of Superstition and Enthusiasm” Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, vol. 1 (1777 (...)

[…] when this frenzy once takes place, which is the summit of enthusiasm, every whimsy is consecrated: Human reason, and even morality are rejected as fallacious guides: And the fanatic madman delivers himself over, blindly, and without reserve, to the supposed illapses of the spirit, and to the inspiration from above.17

24Unlike reason, enthusiasm can only be the source of trouble and chaos:

  • 18 David Hume, “Of Superstition and Enthusiasm”, p. 79.

Enthusiasm being founded on strong spirits it naturally begets the most extreme resolutions; especially after it rises to that height as to inspire the deluded fanatic with the opinion of divine illuminations, and with a contempt for the common rules of reason, morality and prudence.
It is thus enthusiasm produces the most cruel disorders in human society.18

  • 19 Georges Gusdorf, Les principes de la pensée au siècle des Lumières (Paris: Payot, 1971), p. 541.

25Enthusiasm, a deviant and confused form of thought19 and so a source of danger, is most often mentioned in the text to describe the Jacobites and their fervour. Flora McIvor’s ‘enthusiastic zeal’ (Waverley, p. 135) consists in devoting her whole life to the Jacobite cause, which resembles religious fanaticism. Her excesses (‘For this she was prepared to do all, to suffer all, to sacrifice all’, Waverley p. 100), make her appear as a more polished, less animal version of Helen McGregor whose enthusiasm reminds the narrator of the fervour depicted on the paintings of Catholic saints (Rob Roy, p. 357). Fergus McIvor and Redgauntlet also live for only one cause; the latter’s monomania verges on madness, which is constantly underlined by the irruptions of Peter Peebles, whose mental disorder is a comic and pitiful reflection of Redgauntlet’s obsession.

26 Such an extreme sense of the term ‘enthusiasm’ does not however correspond to all the occurrences of the word in the three novels studied here. The dialogue between Flora McIvor and Waverley in which the young man declares his love to the young Jacobite rebel, proves particularly useful as the same term – repeated six times in just a few paragraphs – contrasts Waverley’s loving enthusiasm, his ‘enthusiastic tenderness of disposition’ to Flora’s fanatical enthusiasm (Waverley, pp. 134-37). It emerges from this that these two forms of enthusiasm are not only mutually exclusive, but also that their difference is a matter of intensity. Indeed Flora McIvor’s enthusiasm is more in keeping with the blind frenzy described by Hume, while the young man’s enthusiastic disposition resembles more the exaltation of the powers of imagination. It is a far cry from the violence of passion and fanaticism but the triumph of imagination over reason is nevertheless dangerous: Waverley, Francis Osbaldistone and Darsie Latimer are all led to err because of their enthusiasm. The excess of imagination appears as a prism that only produces delusions and affects both the intellect and the sense of sight, as Andrew Fairservice comically sums it up in his caricature of Francis Osbaldistone:

[…] he’s crack-brained and cockle-headed about his nipperty-tipperty poetry nonsense – He’ll glowr at an auld-warld barkit aik-snag as if it were a queezmaddam in full bearing; and a naked craig, wi’ a bum jawing ower’t, is unto him as a garden garnish with flowering knots and choice pot-herbs. (Rob Roy, pp. 251-52)

27Scott’s use of the codes of the sublime to depict the landscapes associated with the Jacobite rebels serves two purposes; it allows him to present their cause as fascinating and powerfully attractive while apparently condemning its subversiveness without appeal. The systematic use of the term enthusiasm suggests that the author intends to convince his readers that he disapproves of the uprisings which are to be read as a nationalist rejection of the Act of Union. Indeed, the Forty-five is clearly equated with a nationalist cause when, as Waverley is led to meet Prince Charles Edward, the narrative voice interweaves analeptic and proleptic elements that refer to battles won and lost:

The travellers now passed the memorable field of Bannockburn, and reached the Torwood, a place glorious or terrible to the recollections of the Scottish peasant, as the feats of Wallace, or the cruelties of Wude Willie Grime, predominate in his recollection. At Falkirk, a town formerly famous in Scottish history, and soon to be again distinguished as the scene of military events of importance, Balmawhapple proposed to halt. (Waverley, p. 190)

28 In the same way, when Redgauntlet strives to convince Darsie to join the Jacobite cause, his main argument does not only rest on his loyalty to the Stuart dynasty, but also on his wish for Scottish independence: ‘I have to propose to you an undertaking, second in honour and importance to none since the immortal Bruce stabbed the Red Comyn, and grasped, with his yet bloody hand, the independent crown of Scotland.’ (Redgauntlet, p. 338) He also deplores his English sister-in-law’s plan to turn Darsie into a British lawyer, ‘one of those mongrel things, that must creep to learn the ultimate decision of his causes to the bar of a foreign Court, instead of pleading before the independent and august Parliament of his own native kingdom.’ (Redgauntlet, p. 338) Andrew Fairservice holds a similar nationalist position when he bitterly replies to Bailie Nichol Jarvie’s extolling of the commercial benefits of the Union:

  • 20 Rob Roy, p. 313. Jarvie’s smug approval of the Union is further debunked by the sharp contrast that (...)

That it was an unco change to hae Scotland’s laws made in England; and that, for his share, he wadna for a’ the herring-barrels in Glasgow, and a’ the tobacco-casks to boot, hae gien up the riding o’ the Scots Parliament, or sent awa’ our crown, and our sword and our sceptre, and Mons Meg, to be keepit by thae English pock-puddings in the Tower o’ Lunnon. What wad Sir William Wallace, or auld Davie Lindsay, hae said to the Union, or them that made it?20

  • 21 Julian Meldon D’Arcy, Subversive Scott: The Waverley Novels and Scottish Nationalism (Reykjavik: Un (...)

29Julian Meldon D’Arcy quite aptly points out that Scott could not openly criticize the British government or the Union, as his fiction would then probably have been banned, but nevertheless managed to subtly voice a politically incorrect, ‘dissonant discourse’, aimed at his Scottish audience, within his novels.21 This carefully hidden patriotic message is blatantly unveiled in the note the author wrote about Mons Meg in Rob Roy, as he refers to the Union as the ‘odious surrender of national independence, ’ (Rob Roy, p. 462) thus echoing and explicitly condoning Fairservice’s virulent nationalist tirade.

  • 22 David Dacihes, ‘Scott’s Achievement as a Novelist’ (1951), in Walter Scott: Modern Judgements, ed. (...)

30Sir Walter Scott has however long been considered an advocate of the Union, who resignedly and rationally embraced the economic and social developments it entailed, while feeling a strong emotional attachment to a glorious and romantic Jacobite Scottish past, his evocation of the rebellions appearing then merely as an innocuous form of nostalgia.22 The reason for such a reading is certainly – at least partly – to be found in Scott’s representation of the national landscape when order is eventually established.

  • 23 Henry Home Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 7th ed. (Edinburgh, 1788), vol. 1, p. 248.

31The ideal landscape illustrating the restoration of peace cannot, for obvious reasons of political correctness in the context of Hanoverian Britain, be sublime. The endings of Scotts’ novels suggest a balanced, middle-of-the-road course that imposes limits, a framework in order to defuse the potential danger of the enthusiasm of the Jacobite rebels. In this respect, Scott’s proposal is quite in keeping with the Longinian tradition of the sublime: its impulses should be controlled, or as Kames wrote it, the sublime must be ‘circumscribed within proper bounds.’23

32The adventures of the heroes of Waverley, Rob Roy and Redgauntlet reach an end when the Jacobite rebels no longer threaten to overthrow the established power and the more enthusiastic of them simply disappear from the narrative. The young narrator of Rob Roy then settles in Osbaldistone Hall, a place that becomes emblematic of the final balance found at the term of the story, just as Tully-Veolan, where Waverley chooses to live at the end of the novel. The two old mansions have quite a few notable points in common. Their geographical situation bears considerable symbolic significance: they are both located in borderlands, the first in Northumberland, and the other in the Lowlands, close to the Highlands. The border is however no longer perceived as a dividing line to cross, but rather as a spatial area where the harmonious combination of formerly incompatible parts can be achieved – a process that is illustrated by the unions between the heroes and Jacobite young ladies. Waverley’s and Osbaldistone’s new estates, like Father Crackenthorp’s public house where the epilogue of Redgauntlet takes place, are moreover placed within particular landscapes, whose descriptions pertain to the picturesque – and not the sublime – mode. As the characters approach Old Crackenthorp’s house, the narrative voice underlines the picturesque aspect of the hilly landscapes of Skiddaw and Glanamara (Redgauntlet, p. 269), while Francis Osbaldistone notices that the Cheviots hold a distinctive charm that captures the imagination without attaining the sublime character of younger and steeper mountains (Rob Roy, p. 100). Waverley’s eyes identify and delight in undeniably picturesque features in the village of Tully-Veolan, despite the pervasive impression of squalor and melancholy, as he evokes the paintings of Italian masters:

Three or four village girls, returning from the well or brook with pitchers and pails upon their heads, formed more pleasing objects; and with their thin, short gowns and single petticoats, bare arms, legs, and feet, uncovered heads, and braided hair, somewhat resembled Italian forms of landscape. (Waverley, p. 33)

  • 24 Rob Roy, p. 106 and p. 229; Waverley, pp. 34-36
  • 25 There is a striking resemblance between Scott’s descriptions of the heroes’ mansions and Uvedale Pr (...)

33Osbaldistone Hall and the mansion of Tully-Veolan are also quite similar as far as architecture is concerned. The descriptions of both Gothic-style houses linger on their irregular, complex and even crooked aspect.24 The enumeration of the elements composing the buildings thus conjures up impressions of variety and complexity, which, according to the aesthetic theories of the time, are core elements of the picturesque.25

  • 26 Waverley eventually fulfills Flora’s (rather scornful) prediction: “I will tell you where he will b (...)
  • 27 Hubert Teyssandier, Les formes de la création romanesque à l’époque de Walter Scott et de Jane Aust (...)
  • 28 Alexander M. Ross, ‘Waverley and the Picturesque’, in Scott and his Influence, ed. by J.H. Alexande (...)
  • 29 Michel Foucault, ‘Des espaces autres’, Dits et écrits 1954-1988 (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), vol. 4, p (...)

34The picturesque therefore appears to be the mode of representation of the places where order is restored after the disruption caused by the Jacobite rebellions. In Waverley, the hero undertakes the restoration of Tully-Veolan, thus literally inscribing the restoration of the initial order into space and also echoing the ‘Castle-Building’ of Chapter IV. Waverley then finds again the domestic felicity he had enjoyed when he lived in Waverley Honour, his uncle’s home.26 Quite significantly, many similarities can be noticed between the description of Waverley Chase and the depiction of the garden and natural surroundings of Tully-Veolan as seen from Rose Bradwardine’s balcony. The two landscapes are organized along pictorial and picturesque lines. The ruined tower observed from Rose’s window is immediately associated to historical anecdotes and legends and recalls the description of Waverley Chase, where the ruins of Queen’s Standing and of the tower named Strength of Waverley give the narrator the opportunity to evoke the glorious past of Waverley’s family. The ruins are not mentioned only as purely aesthetic objects which play a part within a picturesque composition, they also generate a phenomenon of association of ideas, which is here quite in keeping with the intellectual pleasures Sir Walter Scott enjoyed as an ‘antiquarian’. The picturesque landscape thus becomes a place where present and past – and even the future – mingle: as Hubert Teyssandier shows it for Waverley – Chase and Alexander M. Ross demonstrates it for Tully-Veolan, these descriptions both contain numerous proleptic elements: Mirkwood Mere appears as a sort of domestic version of Donald Bean Lean’s loch, while the tower called Strength of Waverley announces the hero’s future commitment to the Jacobite cause;27 similarly, the small wooded glen described from Rose’s balcony conceals Janet Gellatley’s hut and the cave where the baron of Bradwardine will go into hiding after the rebels’ defeat.28 Everything seems to gather and combine within these picturesque places: past, present and future are assembled, thus turning the landscape into a sort of heterotopia, being simultaneously “the smallest parcel of the world and the totality of the world”.29 Father Crackenthorp’s public house play a somewhat similar part at the end of Redgauntlet: all the characters of the novel, all the political factions, the Jacobites and Bonnie prince Charlie on the one hand and the Hanoverian troops on the other, as well as Darsie Latimer, his sister Lilias, Alan Fairford, a young lawyer and thus a figure representing the law, smugglers, Peter Peebles, a man driven crazy through excessive litigation, Quaker Geddes and Wandering Willie, a blind minstrel, are gathered in the same place, forming an incongruous and impossible assembly. This motley and yet peaceful crowd can be compared to a final picture which aims to resolve all tensions and to present a new form of unity between heterogeneous and incompatible elements.

  • 30 William Gilpin, Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; on Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landsc (...)

35The ideal landscape seems to lie on the border, in the marches, establishing a fair balance between roughness and softness, darkness and light. The picturesque mode of representation proves to be particularly appropriate as ‘picturesque composition consists in uniting in one whole a variety of parts.’30 It seems quite logical that Scott should use the codes of the picturesque to obtain a picture of the nation that embraces all the apparently discordant facets of Scotland and could not be perceived as threatening by his English/British readers:

  • 31 Uvedale Price, Essay, p. 39. Such an ideal government is of course conservative.

A good landscape is that in which all the parts are free and unconstrained, but in which, though some are prominent and highly illuminated, and others in shade and retirement; some rough, and others more smooth and polished, yet they are all necessary to the beauty, energy, effect, and harmony of the whole. I do not see how a good government can be more exactly defined.31

36Unity in Scott’s works – the picturesque synthesis – therefore does not rest on the idea of continuity but on the principle of contrast. This synthesis is quite significantly illustrated in the form of a portrait painting at the end of Waverley: ‘ […] the ardent, fiery, and impetuous character of the unfortunate Chief of Glennaquoich was finely contrasted with the contemplative, fanciful, and enthusiastic expression of his happier friend.’ (Waverley, p. 338) This painting is presented as the only ‘addition’, the only change that was performed when Tully-Veolan was restored. The reader is thus led to understand that its role is more than anecdotal: the painting symbolizes the result of the protagonist’s journey, which culminates in a compromise between reason and imagination, between the sublime and the practical realities of everyday life. The contrast between the two friends is indeed underlined but an important common point is to be noted: they are dressed alike. Like a reflection, or rather a negative print, Fergus appears as the dark double of Waverley who, when dressed as a Highlander becomes a ‘complete son of Ivor’ (Waverley, p. 197) and therefore Fergus’s brother.

  • 32 The figure of the double in the three novels studied here symbolizes a duality which can be bearabl (...)

37The theme of the double also structures the plot of Rob Roy, which originates in a disastrous swap: Francis Osbaldistone goes to live with his uncle in Northumberland while his duplicitous cousin Rashleigh takes Francis’s position in London. The reader quickly understands that despite a few obvious differences, the two characters look strangely alike. As rivals for Diana’s hand, they are devoured by jealousy and the references to Othello that punctuate the text reveal the extent of the narrator’s ambiguity. Indeed, comparing Rashleigh’s deviousness with Iago’s goes without saying, but when Francis quotes the same Iago to excuse his odious attitude while inebriated, the narrator’s apparent frankness suddenly becomes suspicious. What is more Francis forgets to mention who utters the sentence in Shakespeare’s play and Diana points to the meaning of such an omission (Rob Roy, pp. 180-81). The narrator’s speech clearly follows a repressive pattern: unlike Waverley, he rejects his double and refuses to accept his darker side. This may explain why the resolution of tensions at the end of Rob Roy is tarnished by an impression of failure: no sooner has the union between the narrator and his beloved been alluded to than its end is brutally announced with Diana’s death.32

38The sense of barrenness and loss that pervades Francis Osbaldistone’s union with Diana may also indicate something else; the marriage that unites the English narrator to the beautiful half-Scottish Jacobite can be seen as a veiled criticism of the Union. In the same way, Julian Meldon D’Arcy notes that

  • 33 Julian Meldon D’Arcy, Subversive Scott, p. 71.

[…] through all the final chapters describing the wedding, nuptial feast and reoccupation of Tully-Veolan, Rose remains silent. To the Scottish reader she is indeed the Scottish bride of the union with England, and as with her fate, the fate of Scotland: she has become a voiceless nonentity.33

39All is not well that ends well in the apparently idyllic picture that closes the narratives: what appears as extremely positive on the surface contains serious flaws that invite other possible readings of Scott’s representation of Scotland. The precipitous and rather grotesque series of events that lead to Francis Osbaldistone’s inheritance of Osbaldistone Hall clearly points to the artificiality of the final – and seemingly ideal – situation. The picturesqueness of the village girls Waverley meets in Tully-Veolan is also humorously commented on, and debunked by the narrator:

Nor could a lover of the picturesque have challenged either the elegance of their costume, or the symmetry of their shape, although, to say the truth, a mere Englishman, in search of comfortable, a word peculiar to his native tongue, might have wished the clothes less scanty, the feet and legs somewhat protected from the weather, the head and complexion shrouded from the sun, or perhaps might even have thought the whole person and dress considerably improved by a plentiful application of spring water, with a quantum sufficit of soap. The whole scene was depressing […]. (Waverley, p. 33)

  • 34 Archibald Alison, Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, (1790; Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verla (...)

40Picturesque Scotland, for all its attractiveness, is far from perfect and here the reader is shown that the economic situation in the post-Union Lowlands was not universally prosperous. Finally, the very names of the places where Scott’s picturesque synthesis is carried out suggest possible cracks in the picture. Tully-Veolan evokes – to the Scottish reader – images of inconstancy and instability, an association which ironically deconstructs the final restoration of order, as in Scots, “tully” refers to a board attached to a long pole inside a chimney, which swings about according to the wind. In the same way, Scott quite significantly places the final scene of Redgauntlet near Burgh by Sands, whose name cannot fail to trigger off a subversive ‘train of thoughts’34 in his Scottish readers which is certainly not in favour of the Union. The nationalist dissonant discourse aimed at the Scottish readers is therefore ironically embedded within the ideal pro-Union representation of the national landscape addressed to the English/British readers.

41Scott’s novels are to be read as initiatory experiences which start with a certain sluggishness as the reader gets literally bogged down in the narrative quagmire of the first chapters which mirrors the labyrinthine progress of the protagonists. The narrative voice repeatedly compares the reading contract with a journey, thus implicitly establishing a parallel between the protagonists’ travels and the reader’s progress. The metaphor has a double function: it gives the narrator the opportunity to maintain his reader’s interest while explaining his choices and it clearly invites the reader to take part in an initiatory process.

I beg pardon, once and for all, of those readers who take up novels merely for amusement, for plaguing them so long with old-fashioned politics, and Whig and Tory, and Hanoverians and Jacobites […] I do not invite my fair readers, whose sex and impatience give them the greatest right to complain of these circumstances, into a flying chariot drawn by hippogriffs, or moved by enchantment. Mine is a humble English post-chaise, drawn upon four wheels, and keeping his Majesty’s highway. […] Those who are contented to remain with me will be occasionally exposed to the dullness inseparable from heavy roads, steep hills, sloughs, and other terrestrial retardations; but, with tolerable horses and a civil driver (as the advertisements have it), I engage to get as soon as possible into a more picturesque and romantic country, if my passengers incline to have some patience with me during my first stages. (Waverley, p. 24)

  • 35 ‘Wandering Willie’s Tale’, whose irrationality makes it potentially subversive, is quite aptly embe (...)
  • 36 ASH Consulting Group, ‘The Borders Landscape Assessment’, p. 218.
  • 37 Anne-Marie Thiesse, La Création des identités nationales (Paris: Seuil, 2001), p. 187.

42During this process, the narrative invariably plunges the reader into the torments of sublime landscapes, and then elaborates the picturesque synthesis which unites, thanks to contrast, contradictory elements in order to make the reader discover an acceptable and consistent picture of the Scottish nation that can be integrated within Great Britain. This results in a picturesque picture, whose form is mirrored by the text itself as it is framed with numerous prefaces, postscripts, appendixes and notes. The obscure elements which could formerly be perceived as subversive and incompatible with the Union now fit in a politically acceptable picture.35 In other words, ‘ [Scott’s] readers were taught to place a value upon those very aspects in the landscape which had once appeared matters of shame.’36 Scott’s (re) writing of the national landscape proved to be timely as the Scottish nation had to define itself as different from its powerful ally. The author’s use of Scots as well as an effectively evocative topography allowed him to voice a more subversive, nationalist discourse to his fellow countrymen, while offering a portrait of Scotland that was both politically correct to his British readers and seductive to all. Thanks to a massive diffusion of the Waverley novels, which were the first best-sellers of the history of literature, Scott brought to the fore of the literary scene a country that was little known and the landscape he depicted became the summary and emblem of the nation.37

Notes

1 Cristie L. March, Rewriting Scotland: Welsh, McLean, Warner, Banks, Galloway and Kennedy (Manchester and New York: Manchester UP, 2002), p. 1.

2 ASH Consulting Group, ‘The Borders Landscape Assessment’, Scottish Natural Heritage Review (1998) No 112, p. 218.

3 Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771; Oxford: O.U.P., 1984), p. 238.

4 Walter Scott, Rob Roy (1817; Oxford: O.U.P., 1998), p. 415. Subsequent references to t text will be given in brackets.

5 Walter Scott, Redgauntlet (1824; Oxford: O.U.P, 1985). Subsequent references to the text will be given in brackets.

6 Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une Nation? et autres écrits politiques (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1996), p. 240.

7 Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (London and New York, 1998), p. 45.

8 See for instance Evan Dhu’s extremely comical answer to Waverley’s questions as to their destination: ‘ “Ta cove was tree, four mile; but as Duinhé-wassal was a wee taiglit, Donald could, tat is, might – would – should send ta curragh” This conveyed no information’ (Waverley, p. 78.)

9 Flora McIvor explicitly makes a parallel between the sublime landscapes and herself when she informs Edward that the wooer of the Celtic muse must ‘love the barren rock more than the fertile valley’ (Waverley, p. 107)

10 Pierre Morère, ‘La quête identitaire dans Waverley de Walter Scott’, QWERTY, 8 (1998), p. 22.

11 Waverley, p. 177; Redgauntlet, p. 65 and pp.175-77.

12 As he progresses within the depths of the smugglers’ underground labyrinth, Alan Fairford cannot help recalling the judicial maze in which his client Peter Peebles has been wandering for years. Francis Osbaldistone analyses his wanderings across Scotland in the following terms: ‘the maze in which my fate had involved me.’ (Rob Roy, p. 388), just as the narrator sums up Waverley’s adventures with these words: ‘the labyrinth in which he had been engaged.’ (Waverley, p. 309)

13 Waver indeed means to hesitate in English but also to stray, to wander out of the way in Scots.

14 Gaston Bachelard, La Terre et les rêveries du repos (Paris: José Corti, 1948), p. 213.

15 Waverley, p. 251. Waverley describes Fergus as ‘a second Lucifer of ambition and wrath’, p. 267.

16 Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (Dublin, 1783) vol. 1, p. 62.

17 David Hume, “Of Superstition and Enthusiasm” Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, vol. 1 (1777; Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2002), p. 76.

18 David Hume, “Of Superstition and Enthusiasm”, p. 79.

19 Georges Gusdorf, Les principes de la pensée au siècle des Lumières (Paris: Payot, 1971), p. 541.

20 Rob Roy, p. 313. Jarvie’s smug approval of the Union is further debunked by the sharp contrast that is made between the narrator’s enchanted reaction to the breathtaking scenery of Loch Lomond and Bailie Nichol Jarvie’s purely pragmatic assessment of its economic potentialities. The Lowlander’s infamous suggestion to drain the lake in order to provide farmland is undoubtedly to be seen as a shocking caricature of the capitalist system that stems from the Union. (Rob Roy, pp. 415-16)

21 Julian Meldon D’Arcy, Subversive Scott: The Waverley Novels and Scottish Nationalism (Reykjavik: University of Iceland Press, 2005), pp. 27-30.

22 David Dacihes, ‘Scott’s Achievement as a Novelist’ (1951), in Walter Scott: Modern Judgements, ed. by D.D. Devlin (London: Macmillan, 1968), pp. 33-62.

23 Henry Home Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 7th ed. (Edinburgh, 1788), vol. 1, p. 248.

24 Rob Roy, p. 106 and p. 229; Waverley, pp. 34-36

25 There is a striking resemblance between Scott’s descriptions of the heroes’ mansions and Uvedale Price’s study of gothic buildings in An Essay on the Picturesque: ‘In Gothic buildings, the outline of the summit presents such a variety of forms, of turrets and pinnacles, some open, some fretted and variously enriched, that even where there is an exact correspondence of parts, it is often disguised by an appearance of splendid confusion and irregularity. In the doors and windows of Gothic churches, the pointed arch has as much variety as any regular figure can well have; the eye too is not so strongly conducted from the top of the one, to that of the other, as by the parallel lines of the Grecian; and every person must be struck with the extreme richness and intricacy, of some of the principal windows of our cathedrals and ruined abbeys. In these last is displayed the triumph of the picturesque; and its charms to a painter’s eye are often so great as to rival those of beauty itself.’ (Uvedale Price, An Essay on the picturesque, as compared with the sublime and beautiful; and, on the use of studying pictures, for the purpose of improving real landscape, (London, 1796), pp. 64-65.)

26 Waverley eventually fulfills Flora’s (rather scornful) prediction: “I will tell you where he will be at home, […] in the quiet circle of domestic happiness […] and he will draw plans and landscapes […] and rear temples, and dig grottoes” (Waverley, p. 250.)

27 Hubert Teyssandier, Les formes de la création romanesque à l’époque de Walter Scott et de Jane Austen, 1814-1820 (Didier: Paris, 1977), p. 278.

28 Alexander M. Ross, ‘Waverley and the Picturesque’, in Scott and his Influence, ed. by J.H. Alexander and David Hewitt (Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1983), p. 100.

29 Michel Foucault, ‘Des espaces autres’, Dits et écrits 1954-1988 (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), vol. 4, p. 759.

30 William Gilpin, Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; on Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape: to Which is Added a Poem, on Landscape Painting, 2nd ed (London, 1794), p. 19.

31 Uvedale Price, Essay, p. 39. Such an ideal government is of course conservative.

32 The figure of the double in the three novels studied here symbolizes a duality which can be bearable only when the two sides, and especially the darker side, are accepted, integrated and united in a ‘just opposition’, in a contrastive balance. The case of Quaker Geddes perfectly illustrates the unhealthy imbalance that appears whenever the dark, animal and unconscious side is repressed and denied. In other words, ‘he lacks a demon’ (James Reed, Sir Walter Scott: Landscape and Locality (London: The Athlone Press, 1980), p. 161). The Quaker denies his origins: he has chiseled away the escutcheon of his ancestors, thus eradicating the animal – the ‘ged’ – that was the emblem of his family. The way the Quaker has organized the landscape around his house is also quite significant: he has created a perfect garden, a sort of parcel of paradise amidst the wilderness of the Borders, thus effecting ‘a distortion of nature’ as Scott, who did not approve of the methods of the ‘improvers’ in landscape gardening, called it. (Sir Walter Scott, ‘On Ornamental Plantations and Landscape Gardening’, Quarterly Review 37.74 (March 1828), p. 309.) Geddes’s garden is indeed beautiful but its artificiality is stifling and Darsie Latimer soon wishes to escape ‘into […] free and unconstrained nature’ (Redgauntlet, p. 92). It is quite interesting to notice that heraldic beasts also play a significant symbolic part in Waverley and Rob Roy where they clearly symbolize the past and a certain form of animality. Waverley strives to restore each and every bear that are emblematic of the house of Bradwardine and Francis Osbaldistone is fascinated by the monstrous creatures that ornate the chimneys in Osbaldistone Hall.

33 Julian Meldon D’Arcy, Subversive Scott, p. 71.

34 Archibald Alison, Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste, (1790; Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968), p. 49. Archibald Alison describes the pleasant exercise of the imagination produced by the process of associationism in the following terms: ‘The Sublime is increased […] by whatever tends to increase this exercise of imagination. No man, acquainted with English history, can behold the field of Agincourt, without some emotion of this kind. The additional conceptions which this association produces, and which fill the mind of the spectator on the prospect of that memorable field, diffuse themselves in some measure over the scene, and give it a sublimity which does not naturally belong to it.’ (Alison, p. 18). In this light, the nature of Scott’s ‘exquisite pleasure’ when ‘wandering over the field of Bannockburn’ can be better understood. J.G. Lockhart, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, vol. 1 (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 39.

35 ‘Wandering Willie’s Tale’, whose irrationality makes it potentially subversive, is quite aptly embedded within the frame of Redgauntlet’s main narrative.

36 ASH Consulting Group, ‘The Borders Landscape Assessment’, p. 218.

37 Anne-Marie Thiesse, La Création des identités nationales (Paris: Seuil, 2001), p. 187.

Auteur

Teaches English in Paris Teachers’ Training College (Université Paris Sorbonne). Her training and work experience has led her to conduct research into both Scottish literature and didactics. After focusing on the representation of space in Sir Walter Scott’s novels, she is now interested in narrative strategies in contemporary Scottish literature. She has published articles on Sir Walter Scott’s Jacobite novels and secondary school English textbooks.

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