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The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century EuropeRepresentations of Reality in History and Fiction$
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Brian Hamnett

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199695041

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695041.001.0001

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Scottish flowering: turbulence or Enlightenment?

Scottish flowering: turbulence or Enlightenment?

(p.71) 4 Scottish flowering: turbulence or Enlightenment?
The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Brian Hamnett

Oxford University Press

Walter Scott did not invent the historical novel, yet his Scottish novels showed the possibilities inherent in this type of fiction. Well-versed in earlier French fiction, German historical drama, and English fiction of the eighteenth century, Scott brought romance back into the novel and did not shrink from adapting Gothic elements to his plots. Like his German forebears, he focused on rebels, outlaw bands, and lost causes. Historical characters almost never played the principal role in the action. John Galt’s portrayal of religious fanaticism in ‘Ringan Gilhaize’ outpaced even Scott’s ‘Old Mortality’. The latter’s exploration of the theme of national identity—Scotland after the Union with England and under the Protestant Succession—appealed to continental-European writers and readers concerned with national unification, as in Germany or Italy. The medieval novels ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Quentin Durward’ appealed greatly to French readers less concerned with the national problem. Scott had many continental translators and imitators, but reaction set in from the 1830s and his work rapidly lost popularity and esteem—perhaps regrettably.

Keywords:   locality, dialect, rebellion, Jacobites, conspiracy, disguise, medievalism, Crusades, Covenanters, Protestantism

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