Walter Scott & the “Big Bow Wow”

November 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm (books, diaries, history, research) (, , , , , )


Scholars and readers of Jane Austen remember well that Walter Scott wrote of his inability to create the quiet fiction of Austen, but was great at what he called “the big bow wow”.

While Austen’s prose interests me for its precise picture of life when my girls — Emma and Mary — were growing up, it’s Scott’s correspondence that provides the interest: he was the guardian of the Maclean Clephane girls. Margaret Maclean Clephane married the Smiths’ cousin Spencer Compton (Lord Compton, later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton). Scott’s letters shed light on the periods of time when the young family was abroad; while Emma’s diaries comment on the young man’s marriage with a Scottish beauty!

But back to Walter Scott..

As you see from the image, there are 12 volumes of letters, published in the 1930s. You can find these letters ONLINE!

Here’s a short list of items, as delineated on the page entitled “Authentic Austen, Scott, Waldie“:

  • Millgate Union Catalogue of Walter Scott Correspondence, at the National Library of Scotland, gives a fully searchable database. You’ll Find Lady Compton and the Clephanes well represented…
  • A recent discovery, and, although not quite as handy as the book volumes, I am grateful to find all the published edition of Letters online and fully searchable. The line numeration is a bit of a pain (though you always know which page you’re on in which volume!), and the notes seem missing, but this should prove an exceptionally useful source. One wish: someone needs to clean up the scanned text a bit.
  • Also useful is, of course, Scott’s Journal. Editions found online: Online Literature; Books.Google; Project Gutenberg

I’m very “bullish” on anything “authentic” — letters, diaries, first editions, etc etc., so do check out the other items on this blog page: https://smithandgosling.wordpress.com/authentic-austen/

A reader who wrote to me about Lachlan Macquarie might be interested to know that according to the Millgate Catalogue, there is one 1821 letter. (BTW, I noticed a broken link there; note that it has now been updated!)

The letter is dated 24 Nov 1821, from Government House, Sydney NSW. Seems Lachlan Macquarie was a relation to my dear Margaret, Lady Compton! The original letter is at the National Library of Scotland.

A short note here to add that if anyone has the book THE COMPTONS OF COMPTON WYNYATES, I’d love to see the chapters on the 1st and 2nd Marquesses — and the portrait of Maria, Lady Northampton by her sister Eliza Chute!!

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3 Comments

  1. Charlotte Frost said,

    Congrats for this. Today we underestimate Scott’s importance in late Georgian Britain.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Thanks for commenting, Charlotte. Scott was certainly a literary “star” – so it’s rather sobering to realize he wrote some of those novels to get himself out of debt! How things never change…; still, artists starve. I forget if it’s the letters or the journal that mention his problems (probably the letters), but the man wrote fast and furious to make money. He lucked out: he did make money.

      I don’t think I’ve read much Scott — know him through films (Ivanhoe) and opera (Lucia di Lammermoor).

      k

  2. How do I love thee: The Browning Letters « Two Teens in the Time of Austen said,

    [...] the correspondence of Walter Scott [...]

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