Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 726


Fairport. Fictional town on the eastern coast of Scotland that forms the novel’s central setting. Fairport is based on the real Scottish coastal town of Arbroath. Like its original, Fairport is a lively provincial mercantile town. Throughout The Antiquary, it functions not only as a setting, but also as a symbol for the energetic, if sometimes vulgar, present. In contrast to most of the novel’s main characters, the people of Fairport have little interest in the past. Their modern focus is on making money, gossip, and the threat of invasion at a time when Great Britain was locked in war with France.

St. Ruth’s Priory

St. Ruth’s Priory. Beautiful gothic ruin near Fairport and the scene of many of the novel’s most important episodes. It is here that Lovel and the Highlander Hector duel, that Dousterswivel practices his necromancy, that Sir Arthur Wardour seeks the treasure of Misticot, that the old Countess Glenallen is buried at night, and that Oldbuck explains antiquities to his friends. Although the priory is a peaceful and serene ruin, it functions as the novel’s main symbol for the past and its power. As such, it reveals and represents the antiquated Scottish Highland pride of Hector, the exploitation of the past by Dousterswivel, the aristocratic credulity toward the past of Sir Arthur, the guilty and arrogant past of Countess Glenallen, and the pedantic obsession with the trivialities of the past in Oldbuck.


Monkbarns. Home of Jonathan Oldbuck, the antiquary who gives the novel its title. Oldbuck is a kindly and generous man whose good qualities are often obscured by his crusty manner and his devotion to old books, artifacts, and antiquities in general. Oldbuck is often referred to as “Monkbarns,” and indeed his house reflects his character and qualities. Monkbarns is an old monastic structure. Its many rooms are oddly joined together, and those rooms are filled with a huge collection of dusty and often useless fragments of the past. Monkbarns even has a “Green Room” which seems literally haunted by the past. Despite all this, Monkbarns is in the end a place of humanity, vitality, and hospitality. Like its owner, Monkbarns is an odd combination of the antiquated and the warmly human.

Glenallen House

Glenallen House. Grand mansion of the Glenallen family. This great house is dark, gloomy, and melancholy. Its rooms are draped in black, and the subjects of its paintings are martyrdoms and torments. The earl of Glenallen lives here in bleak and broken solitude, haunted by guilt and grief. The house is a perfect reflection of the lofty pride of an ancient family and of a family history overshadowed by insane arrogance, intrigue, suicide, and supposed incest.

Knockwinnock Castle

Knockwinnock Castle. Family home of Sir Arthur and Isabella Wardour. Like Sir Arthur himself, Knockwinnock is a combination of the aristocratic and the vulnerable. The splendor of the house reflects Sir Arthur’s aristocratic pride and his mad dreams of grand estates and limitless wealth. Sir Arthur at Knockwinnock is essentially Scott’s symbol of an outmoded aristocracy that can no longer deal adequately with the world of reality. Sir Arthur’s folly and credulity about the past, his family history, and money nearly bring ruin to Knockwinnock, which is under a modern siege from creditors and lawyers.

Mucklebacket cottage

Mucklebacket cottage. Humble home of the Mucklebackets, a family of fishermen. Scott vividly describes the cottage as a center of vigorous, if somewhat chaotic, peasant life. The human dignity of the Mucklebackets is reflected in their sense of the sanctity of their dwelling. When grief comes to Mucklebacket cottage, the genuineness of feeling seen here is a marked contrast to the icy inhumanity of life at Glenallen House. Old Elspeth Mucklebacket’s broken tales of the dark Glenallen past form a strange contrast to the cottage in which they are told, and show how long and dark the shadows of the past are in The Antiquary.


Sands. Coastal path between Monkbarns and Knockwinnock. Here, early in the novel, a great storm nearly kills Sir Arthur and Isabella as they are caught between a raging sea and rocky cliffs. Scott’s unforgettable account of their peril and rescue by Edie Ochiltree and Lovel is a brilliant foreshadowing of how the Wardours are later rescued by Edie and Lovel from financial ruin.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249

Daiches, David. “Scott’s Achievement as a Novelist.” In Scott’s Mind and Art, edited by A. Norman Jeffares. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1970. Clear analysis of Scott’s depiction of character in The Antiquary, finding the portrayal of the merchant class more sympathetic than that of the nobility. Discusses the novel’s unusual use of comic atmosphere.

Johnson, Edgar. Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1970. Extensively researched biography that explores Scott as a man and as a writer. Praises The Antiquary’s rich portrayal of life in Scotland and discusses the need to understand the past to live in the present. An excellent introductory source.

Millgate, Jane. The Making of a Novelist. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984. Good introductory source that analyzes character and theme in The Antiquary and discusses the novel’s structure and the importance of Oldbuck as a central figure. Compares the novel’s treatment of past and present with Guy Mannering (1815).

Sutherland, John. The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995. Interesting literary analysis that characterizes The Antiquary as a middle-aged man’s story, with Oldbuck a fictionalized portrait of Scott himself. Praises plot development in the first two volumes, but asserts that the third demonstrates rushed, conventional plotting.

Wagenknecht, Edward. Sir Walter Scott. New York: Continuum, 1991. Provides clear analysis of setting and character in The Antiquary, finding the novel most effective in its portrayal of the lower classes. Discusses the importance of the character of Elspeth.

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