Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (essay date 1819)

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SOURCE: "Ivanhoe" in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. VI, No. 33, December, 1819, pp. 262-72.

[ In the following excerpt, an early reviewer describes the plot and characters of Ivanhoe, and praises the complexity and originality of the work.]

As this exquisite romance belongs to a class generically different from any of the former tales of the same author, it is possible that many readers, finding it does not tally with any preconceptions they had formed, but requires to be read with a quite new, and much greater effort of imagination, may experience, when it is put into their hands, a feeling not unlike disappointment.1 In all his former novels the characters, both prominent and subordinate, were such as might have been found in actual existence at no far back period; but the era to which Ivanhoe relates is so remote, that the manners are, of course, unlike any thing either the author or the readers of the present times could have had any opportunity of knowing by personal observation. Hence the writer has found it necessary to set them forth with much minuteness and elaboration; so that in the opening the narrative appears like a curious antiquarian exhibition—not having many traits that are calculated to take hold of the reader's ordinary sympathies,—although the unexampled beauty of language and of fancy, in which the whole picture is embodied, cannot fail to arrest and delight, from the beginning, the eye of the more critical, philosophical, or imaginative student.

After the first hasty perusal of a work which unites so much novelty of representation with a depth of conception and a power of passion equal, at the least, to what had been exhibited in the best of its predecessors, it is no wonder that we should find ourselves left in a state of excitement not much akin to the spirit of remark or disquisition. Such has been the mastery of the poet—such the perfect working of the spell by which he has carried us with him back into his troubled but majestic sphere of vision, that we feel as if we had just awakened from an actual dream of beauty and wonder, and have some difficulty in resuming the consciousness—to say nothing of the more active functions—of our own ordinary and prosaic life.—Never were the long-gathered stores of most extensive erudition applied to the purposes of imaginative genius with so much easy, lavish, and luxurious power—never was the illusion of fancy so complete—made up of so many minute elements,—and yet producing such entireness of effect. It is as if the veil of ages had been, in truth, swept back, and we ourselves had been, for a time, living, breathing, and moving in the days of CŒUR DE LION—days how different from our own! the hot—tempestuous—chivalrous—passionate—fierce Youth of Christendom. Every line in the picture is true to the life—every thing in the words, in the gestures—every thing in the very faces of the personages called up before us, speaks of times of energetic volition—uncontrolled action—disturbance—tumult—the storms and whirlwinds of restless souls and ungoverned passions. It seems as if the atmosphere around them were all alive with the breath of trumpets, and the neighing of chargers, and the echo of war-cries. And yet, with a true and beautiful skilfulness, the author has rested the main interest of his story, not upon these fiery externals, in themselves so full of attraction, and every way so characteristic of the age to which the story refers, but on the workings of that most poetical of passions which is ever deepest where it is most calm, quiet,...

(This entire section contains 9811 words.)

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and delicate, and which, less than any other, is changed, even in its modes of manifestation, in conformity with the changes of time, manners, and circumstances. For the true interest of this romance of the days of Richard is placed neither in Richard himself, nor in the knight of Ivanhoe,2 the nominal hero—nor in any of the haughty templars or barons who occupy along with them the front of the scene, but in the still, devoted, sad, and unrequited tenderness of a Jewish damsel—by far the most fine, and at the same time the most romantic creation of female character the author has ever formed—and second, we suspect, to no creature of female character whatever that is to be found in the whole annals either of poetry or of romance.

Wilfrid of Ivanhoe is the son of Cedric of Rotherwood, one of the last of the Saxon nobles, who preserved, under all the oppressions of Norman tyranny, and in spite of all the attractions of Norman pomp, a faithful and religious reverence for the customs and manners of his own conquered nation. Wilfrid, nevertheless, has departed from the prejudices of his father and his kindred—he has followed the banner of Cœur de Lion into the Holy Land,

Where from Naphthaly's desert to Galilee's wave, The sands of Semaar drank the blood of the brave—

and he returns from thence covered with all the glory of Norman and Christian chivalry—exhibiting in his own person a specimen, without doubt historically true, of the manner in which—prejudices on both sides being softened by community of dangers, adventures, triumphs, and interests—the elements of Saxon and Norman nature, like those of Saxon and Norman speech, were gradually melted into English beneath the sway of the wiser Plantagenets. This young man, however, has been disinherited by his father Cedric, in consequence of what appears to the old Saxon, his wicked apostacy from the manners of his people. The love which he has conceived and expressed for Rowena, a princess of the blood of Alfred, has also given offence to his father—because it interfered with a plan which had been laid down for marrying this highborn lady to another scion of Saxon royalty, Athelstane, lord of Coningsburgh—which union, as had been fondly hoped, might have re-united the attachments of their scattered and depressed race, and so perhaps enabled their leaders to shake themselves free, by some bold effort, from the yoke of the Norman prince. Ivanhoe, therefore, is in disgrace at home—and his fate is quite uncertain at the period when the story opens—for Richard, his favourite master, is a prisoner in Austria, and neither Cedric nor Rowena have heard any later intelligence in regard to the celebrated, but as yet unfortunate exile.

The story opens with a view of the old English forest which in those days covered the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in the midst of which the residence of Cedric the Saxon is situated. In one of the green and grassy glades of this forest, the Swineherd and the Fool of the Saxon Franklin, are seen conversing together beneath the shadow of an oak, which might have grown there ever since the landing of Julius. Both of these personages are described at great length, and it is fit they should be so—for much use is made of them in the sequel of the story. One trait—the concluding one—in the picture of Gurth the Swineherd, is too remarkable to be omitted.

One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be suppressed; it was a brass ring, resembling a dog's collar, but without any opening, and soldered fast round his neck, so loose as to form no impediment to his breathing, yet so tight as to be incapable of being removed, excepting by the use of the file. On this singular gorget was engraved in Saxon characters, an inscription of the following purport:—'Gurth, the son of Beowulph, is the born thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood.'

This Born-Thrall has some difficulty in getting together his herd, and asks the aid of "Wamba, the son of Witless, the thrall of Cedric of Rotherwood"—for he too wears a collar, although it is of more delicate materials.

'Truly,' said Wamba, without stirring from the spot, 'I have consulted my legs upon this matter, and they are altogether of opinion, that to carry my gay garments through these sloughs, would be an act of unfriendship to my sovereign person and royal wardrobe; wherefore, Gurth, I advise thee to call off Fangs, and leave the herd to their destiny, which, whether they meet with bands of travelling soldiers, or of outlaws, or of wandering pilgrims, can be little else than to be converted into Normans before morning, to thy no small ease and comfort.' 'The swine turned Normans into my comfort!' quoth Gurth; 'expound that to me, Wamba, for my brain is too dull, and my mind too vexed, to read riddles.'

'Why, how call you these grunting brutes running about on their four legs?' demanded Wamba.

'Swine, fool, swine,' said the herd, 'every fool knows that.'

'And swine is good Saxon,' said the jester; ' but how call you the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and lung up by the heels like a traitor?'

'Pork,' answered the Swine-herd.

'I am very glad every fool knows that too,' said Wamba, 'and pork, I think, is good Norman French; and so when the brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to feast among the nobles; what do'st thou think of this, friend Gurth, ha?'

'It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into thy fool's pate.'

'Nay, I can tell you more,' said Wamba, in the same tone; 'there is old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer Calve, too, becomes Monsieur de Veau in the like manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment.'

'By St Dunstan,' answered Gurth, 'thou speakest but sad truths; little is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been reserved, with much hesitation, clearly for the purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders. The finest and the fattest is for their board; the loveliest is for their couch; the best and bravest supply their foreign masters with soldiers, and whiten distant lands with their bones, leaving few here who have either will or power to protect the unfortunate Saxon.'

They are interrupted by a cavalcade passing through the wood, which we shall quote, because it at once introduces our readers to some of the principal characters of the story, and is, besides, one of the most beautifully executed things in the whole book.

Their numbers amounted to ten men, of whom the two who rode foremost seemed to be persons of considerable importance, and the others their attendants. It was not difficult to ascertain the condition and character of one of these personages. He was obviously an ecclesiastic of high rank; his dress was that of a Cistercian Monk, but composed of materials much finer than those which the rule of that order admitted. His mantle and hood were of the best Flanders cloth, and fell in ample, and not ungraceful folds around a handsome though somewhat corpulent person. His countenance bore as little the marks of self-denial, as his habit indicated contempt of worldly splendour. His features might have been called good, had there not lurked under the pent-house of his eye, that sly epicurean twinkle which indicates the cautious voluptuary. In other respects, his profession and situation had taught him a ready command over his countenance, which he could contract at pleasure into solemnity, although its natural expression was that of good-humoured social indulgence. In defiance of conventual rules, and the edicts of popes and councils, the sleeves of this dignitary were lined and turned up with rich furs, his mantle secured at the throat with a golden clasp, and the whole dress proper to his order as much refined upon and ornamented, as that of a quaker beauty of the present day, who, while she retains the garb and costume of her sect, continues to give to its simplicity, by the choice of materials and the mode of disposing them, a certain air of coquettish attraction, savouring but too much of the vanities of the world.

This worthy churchman rode upon a well-fed am-bling mule, whose furniture was highly decorated, and whose bridle, according to the fashion of the day, was ornamented with silver bells. In his seat he had nothing of the awkwardness of the convent, but displayed the easy and habitual grace of a well-trained horseman. Indeed, it seemed that so humble a conveyance as a mule, in however good case, and however well broken to a pleasant and accommodating amble, was only used by the gallant monk for travelling on the road. A lay brother, one of those who followed in the train, had, for its use upon other occasions, one of the most handsome Spanish jennets ever bred in Andalusia, which merchants used at that time to import, with great trouble and risk, for the use of persons of wealth and distinction. The saddle and housings of this superb palfrey were covered by a long foot-cloth, which reached nearly to the ground, and on which were richly embroidered, mitres, crosses, and other ecclesiastical emblems. Another lay brother led a sumpter mule, loaded probably with his superior's bag-gage; and two monks of his own order, of inferior station, rode together in the rear, laughing and con-versing with each other, without taking much notice of the other members of the cavalcade.

The companion of the church dignitary was a man past forty, thin, strong, tall, and muscular; an athletic figure, which long fatigue and constant exercise seemed to have left none of the softer part of the human form, having reduced the whole to brawn, bones, and sinews, which had sustained a thousand toils, and were ready to dare a thousand more. His head was covered with a scarlet cap, faced with fur,—of that kind which the French call mortier, from its resemblance to the shape of an inverted mortar. His countenance was therefore fully displayed, and its expression was calculated to impress a degree of awe, if not of fear, upon strangers. High features, naturally strong and powerfully expressive, had been burnt almost into Negro blackness by constant exposure to the tropical sun, and might, in their ordinary state, be said to slumber after the storm of passion had passed away; but the projection of the veins of the forehead, the readiness with which the upper lip and its thick black moustaches quivered upon the slighest emotion, plainly intimated that the tempest might be again and easily awakened. His keen, piercing, dark eyes, told in every glance a history of difficulties subdued, and dangers dared, and seemed to challenge opposition to his wishes, for the pleasure of sweeping it from his road by a determined exertion of courage and of will; a deep scar on his brow gave additional sternness to his countenance, and a sinister expression to one of his eyes, which had been slightly injured upon the same occasion, and of which the vision, though perfect, was in a slight and partial degree distorted.

The upper dress of this personage resembled that of his companion in shape, being a long monastic mantle, but the colour being scarlet, shewed that he did not belong to any of the four regular orders of monks. On the right shoulder of the mantle there was cut, in white cloth, a cross of a peculiar form. This upper robe concealed what at first view seemed rather inconsistent with its form, a shirt, namely, of linked mail, with sleeves and gloves of the same, curiously plaited and interwoven, as flexible to the body as those which are now wrought in the stocking loom, and of less obdurate materials. The fore-part of his thighs, where the folds of his mantle permitted them to be seen, were also covered with linked mail; the knees and feet were defended by splints, or thin plates of steel, ingeniously jointed upon each other; and mail hose reaching from the ancle to the knee, effectually protected the legs, and completed the rider's defensive armour. In his girdle he wore a long and double-edged dagger, which was the only offensive weapon about his person.

He rode not a mule, like his companion, but a strong hackney for the road, to save his gallant war-horse, which a squire led behind, fully accoutred for battle, with a chamfrom or plaited headpiece upon his head, having a short spike projecting from the front. On one side of the saddle hung a short battle-axe, richly inlaid with Damascene carving; on the other the rider's plumed head-piece and hood of mail, with a long two-handled sword, used by the chivalry of the period. A second squire held aloft his master's lance, from the extremity of which fluttered a small banderole, or streamer, bearing a cross of the same form with that embroidered upon his cloak. He also carried his small triangular shield, broad enough at the top to protect the breast, and from thence diminishing to a point. It was covered with a scarlet cloth, which prevented the device from being seen.

These two squires were followed by two attendants whose dark visages, white turbans, and the oriental form of their garments, shewed them to be natives of some distant eastern country. The whole appearance of this warrior and his retinue was wild and outlandish; the dress of his squires was gorgeous, and his eastern attendants wore silver collars round their throats, and bracelets of the same metal upon their swarthy legs and arms, of which the former were naked from the elbow, and the latter from mid-leg to ancle. Silk and embroidery distinguished their dresses, and marked the wealth and importance of their master; forming, at the same time, a striking contrast with the martial simplicity of his own attire. They were armed with crooked sabres, having the hilt and baldrick inlaid with gold, and matched with Turkish daggers of yet more costly workmanship. Each of them bore at his saddle-bow a bundle of darts or javelins, about four feet in length, having sharp steel heads, a weapon much in use among the Saracens, and of which the memory is yet preserved in the martial exercise called El Jerrid, still practised in the eastern countries.

The singular appearance of this cavalcade not only attracted the curiosity of Wamba, but excited even that of his less volatile companion. The monk he instantly knew to be the Prior of Jorvaulx Abbey, well known for many miles around as a lover of the chase, of the banquet, and, if fame did him not wrong, of other wordly pleasures still more inconsistent with his monastic vows.

These personages are all on their way to a great passage of arms or tournament, about to be held by Prince John, the cruel and traitorous viceroy of his brother, at Ashby-de-la-Zouche. They choose to take up their quarters for the night at the abode of Cedric, where they arrive in spite of the wilful misdirections of Gurth and Wamba; and although not over welcome, are treated with all the abundant hospitality of the age. A strange group are assembled this evening in the hall of the old Franklin. In addition to the personages already noticed, there is the stately Saxon Princess Rowena, on the right hand of the master of the feast, and her train of damsels. The retainers of the household occupy their places at the same table, but of course "below the salt,"—while around the hearth, at the nether extremity of the hall, are assembled some poorer way-farers, not admitted even to that measure of honour. Among these is an aged Jew, and apparently a very poor one; who, in the sequel, turns out to be a near kinsman to that celebrated Jew of York, that had so many teeth pulled out of his jaws by King John; he also is so far on his way to Ashby, there to seek his profit among the numerous actors or attendants of the approaching festival. Another lonely guest wears the scallop-shell and cloak of a Palmer. He is Ivanhoe, unknown and unregarded in the hall of his ancestors. At night, however, he is sent for by Rowena, whose questions concerning the holy shrines the Palmer has visited, betray the object on whom most of her imagination centre. The Palmer does not reveal himself—he too is on his way to the tournament, and hopes to have there some nobler opportunity of making himself known to his mistress and his kindred. The suspected wealth of the Jew in the meantime has excited the curiosity of the fierce templar Bois-Guilbert, and his Moslem slaves have received secret orders, in an oriental tongue, of which, it is well for Isaac, the Palmer has acquired some knowledge. The Jew is informed of his danger, and assisted and accompanied early in the morning in his escape by Ivanhoe, who takes Gurth also in his train. These three enter Ashby together, where the kindness and protection of the knight are repaid by the Jew's offer to equip him with horse and arms for the tourney.

The description of this tournament is by far the most elaborate—and certainly one of the most exquisite pieces of writing to be found in the whole of these novels. It possesses all the truth and graphic precision of Froissart—all the splendour and beauty of Ariosto—and some of its incidents are impregnated with a spirit of power and pathos, to which no one that ever before described such a scene was capable of conceiving any thing comparable.

But the extent to which the present description is carried, must prevent us from quoting it entire—and it would be quite useless to quote a part of that which produces its happiest effect only by reason of the skill with which things innumerable are made to bear all upon one point. Prince John presides at the lists—wanton—luxurious—insolent—mean—but still a prince and a Plantagenet. The lady, the queen of the day, is the beautiful Rowena—she owes that eminence to the election of the victorious knight, whose casque, being taken off at the conclusion of the jousting, exposes to her gaze and that of all that are present, the pale and blood-stained features of young Ivanhoe. This champion has been successful in all the single combats; but at the conclusion of the day, there has been a mingled onset, wherein, being opposed to overwhelming numbers, he must have been overcome, but for the timely assistance of a knight in black armour, bearing a fetter-lock on his shield, who very singularly disappears immediately afterwards—thus leaving the prize and honours of the field to the disinherited son of Cedric, and the Lover of Rowena. This knight, as the reader soon begins to suspect, is no other than Richard himself; and henceforth the whole incidents of the tale are made to bear upon the approaching resumption of his rights, by the too long captive monarch.

But although Rowena be the queen of the tourney, and acknowledged by all to be, both by station and beauty, worthy of her high place, there is one present on whom many eyes look with warmer admiration, and on whom the sympathies of the reader are soon fixed with far intenser interest. This is Rebecca, the beautiful Jewess, the daughter of old Isaac, whom Ivanhoe protected on his journey to Ashby-de-la-Zouche.

Her form was exquisitely symmetrical, and was shewn to advantage by a sort of Eastern dress, which she wore according to the fashion of the females of her nation.—Her turban of yellow silk suited well with the darkness of her complexion. The brilliancy of her eyes, the superb arch of her eyebrows, her well-formed aquiline nose, her teeth as white as pearl, and the profusion of her sable tresses, which, each arranged in its own little spiral of twisted curls, fell down upon as much of a snow-white neck and bosom as a simarre of the richest Persian silk, exhibiting flowers in their natural colours embossed upon a purple ground, permitted to be visible—all these constituted a combination of loveliness, which yielded not to the loveliest of the maidens who surrounded her. It is true, that of the golden and pearl-studded clasps, which closed her vest from the throat to the waist, the three uppermost were left unfastened on account of the heat, which something enlarged the prospect to which we allude. A diamond necklace, with pendants of inestimable value, were by this means also made more conspicuous. The feather of an ostrich, fastened in her turban by an agraffe set with brilliants, was another distinction of the beautiful Jewess, scoffed and sneered at by the proud dames who sat above her, but secretly envied by those who affected to deride them.

The appearance and behaviour of Ivanhoe, the protector of her father, makes an impression on this radiant creature not the less profound, that, even for this its beginning, her love is one of hopelessness. After the tourney is over, she has the wounded Ivanhoe conveyed to the house where her father and she are lodged, in order that she may have an opportunity of exerting, in his behalf, that medical skill which was at this period well nigh confined to those of her nation, and of which she was already celebrated, for possessing a far more than ordinary portion. Here she nurses him, during the night, with a mysterious tenderness, that makes her far more than his physician; and next day, when it is necessary that her father and she should return to York, she insists on taking him with them in a litter that his cure may not be left unfinished. They travel in company with Cedric the Saxon, who little suspects that his son is the sick man in the litter. Their journey lies through another part of the same mighty forest—the scene at this period of innumerable acts of violence—and on their way, the party is surrounded by a set of bravos, clad like outlaws of the wood, who convey the whole of them to Torquilistone, an ancient Saxon castle, and in the possession of the Norman Baron Front-de-Bœuf. The appearance of the place to which they are carried provokes a suspicion that their captors are not mere outlaws, stimulated by the ordinary desire of booty; nor is it long ere their suspicions are confirmed and darkened.—The master of the band is no other than Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the fierce Templar. His object is not booty—but the Jewess, Rebecca, whose charms have filled the whole of his passionate soul ever since he saw her at the lists of Ashby. But he is furnished with the means of seizing her by Fronte-de-Bœuf, who is anxious to get hold of Isaac of York, that he may deal with him, as the Normans of these days thought it right to deal with Jews.—Cedric, the sharer of their perils, the father, and the daughter, are conveyed to separate prisons, there to await their separate dooms—while the wounded and helpless Ivanhoe, and the rest of those that attended them, are flung into dungeons, there to abide the issue of the troubles of their supposed superiors. With the different scenes that occur in this castle, during the day these captives spend there, the whole of the 2d volume is filled—and it is in this part of the book, perhaps, that the most striking delineation of the spirit of those tumultuous times is to be found.

While her father is in peril of rack and fire unless he consents to purchase his freedom by giving up almost the whole of his wealth, the beautiful Jewess is threatened with a fate neither less dark nor less severe. The high and majestic spirit of the damsel, expressed in the style of her beauty and demeanour, forms the very charm that has fascinated and subdued the proud-souled Templar Bois-Guilbert; but he little suspects what a barrier the very element of his captivation is about to oppose against the fulfilment of his guilty wishes. An old Saxon hag, the worn-out harlot of Fronte-de-Bœuf, is displaced from her apartment at the summit of one of the towers of the castle to make room for Rebecca—and it is here that she receives the first visit of her lover. "He woos her as the lion woos his bride." . . .

We can with difficulty imagine any thing finer than the mixture of northern and oriental sublimities in the high-wrought passions of the persons of this scene; and yet of both there are still more striking specimens behind. In the mean time, however, the author has collected a formidable, though at first a despised force, for the rescue of Rebecca, of Cedric, and his other captives. The Saxon peasantry of the neighbourhood have trooped together in aid of their Franklin—the outlaws of the forest have joined them, eager to have an opportunity of revenging their many quarrels against Front-de-Bœuf and those Norman oppressors, whose tyranny has been, in most instances, the cause of banishing them from the bounds of society—a bold, a skilful, and withal a generous band, having at their head a dauntless hero of the Greenwood, who in due time turns out to be no less a man than Robin Hood. This array of archers and ill-armed peasants, however, would have been of little avail against the proud Norman castle of Front-de-Bœuf, had they not been fortunate enough to secure the assistance and guidance of one well skilled in every variety of military enterprise. This is the knight of the Fetterlock, or, in other words, King Richard himself, who, in passing through the forest, has already formed an acquaintance with some of the Merrymen of Robin Hood, and who has come, a willing ally, to assist, by his personal conduct and prowess, in the deliverance of Ivanhoe, and his other captive subjects, from the hands of a set of lawless ruffians, whose hostility to his own just sway has been not less than their cruelty towards the Saxons of his kingdom. The description of the siege of the castle by these forces, forms another most vivid and splendid piece of painting, in every line of which it is easy to recognise the fiery touch of the Poet of Marmion. After many unsuccessful attacks, the outer court of the castle is at last gained by the strength of the single arm of the king, who beats the postern-gate into fragments with his farfamed battle-axe. The giant Front-de-Bœuf, receives from his hand a wound which entirely disables him from continuing in arms—The Templar, Bois-Guilbert, is laid prostrate by the same force; but being desired to ask his life or perish, he refuses to make any submission to an unknown enemy. Richard whispers a word in the Templar's ear, which immediately produces the most submissive and reverent demeanour on his part. The monarch knows Brian well—he desires him to fly from English ground, and be thankful for unmerited mercy. The Templar flies—but the thoughts of Rebecca are still uppermost in his mind, and he contrives, in the midst of the tumult, to place her on his saddle before him ere he takes his departure.

Front-de-Bœuf, meantime, is extended on his helpless couch in the main tower or keep of the castle—the only part of the fortress which has not fallen into the hands of the assailants. A terrible end is reserved for this ferocious and blood-stained noble. The castle he possesses, as may be gathered from its name (Torquillstone), is not one of Norman foundation, but the hereditary mansion of a Saxen noble, which had fallen after the battle of Hastings, into the hands of this baron's father. Torquill and all his sons were slain, it appears, in defence of the castle; and the only one of the family that survived, was a beautiful daughter of the Saxon lord, reserved by the victor for the purposes of his own violent and merciless gratifications. Dark hints are dropt of yet darker deeds that have stained the castle while this unhappy woman has remained with its two successive masters—of murder and of worse than murder—but they are only hints even in the Romance. The Saxon harlot, however, is now old and neglected, and she seizes the opportunity of this time of terror, to avenge, by one terrible blow, the whole of her life of injuries on the head of the fierce and heartless tyrant, who has been guilty towards her of every thing that can make woman hate man. In his agony, the Baron has been crying aloud, that he fain would pray but dare not. . . .

While such are the sufferings of Front-de-Bœuf in the interior of the keep, Ulrica has climbed to the battlement, there, on its summit, to await, in a wild triumphant bitterness of spirit, the issue of her deed. "Her long dishevelled grey hair flies back from her uncovered head, and the inebriating delight of gratified vengeance contends in her eyes with the fire of insanity;" and she sings a northern hymn of death and slaughter, than which nothing in the whole relics of Norse Minstrelsy is more terrific. It is perhaps in this point of the author's representation, that the enmity between the Saxon and Norman race is set forth with the highest effect of tragical dignity. This is the last stanza of the hymn.

All must perish! The sword cleaveth the helmet; The strong armour is pierced by the lance; Fire devoureth the dwelling of princes, Engines break down the fences of the battle. All must perish! The race of Hengist is gone— The name of Horsa is no more! Shrink not then from your doom, sons of the sword! Let your blades drink blood like wine; Feast ye in the banquet of slaughter. By the light of the blazing halls! Strong be your swords while your blood is warm, And spare neither for pity nor fear, For vengeance hath but an hour; Strong hate itself shall expire! I also must perish.

The towering flames had now surmounted every obstruction and rose to the evening skies one huge and burning beacon, seen far and wide through the adjacent country. Tower after tower crashed down, with blazing roof and rafter; and the combatants were driven from the court-yard. The vanquished, of whom very few remained, scattered and escaped into the neighbouring wood. The victors, assembling in large bands, gazed with wonder, not unmixed with fear, upon the flames, in which their own ranks and arms glanced dusky red. The maniac figure of the Saxon Ulrica was for a long time visible on the lofty stand she had chosen, tossing her arms abroad with wild exultation, as if she reigned empress of the conflagration which she had raised. At length, with a terrific crash, the whole turret gave way, and she perished in the flames which had consumed her tyrant. An awful pause of horror silenced each murmur of the armed spectators, who, for the space of several minutes, stirred not a finger, save to sign the cross.

But the interest of the tale, as we have said, is all with Rebecca. Her fierce lover has lodged her safely in the Preceptory of Templestowe, and looks forward to the near fulfilment of his designs—when an unexpected instrument of present protection from the guilty will of Bois-Guilbert is raised up for her in the presence of the grand-master of the Templars, Lucas-de-Beaumanoir, who arrives from France to raise contributions for the war of Palestine, and to reform abuses among the degenerate and luxurious brethren of his order. Beaumanoir is a character drawn with great truth and skill, and admirably contrasted with those among whom he is called upon to mingle—grave, severe, bigoted, proud—but sincere, earnest, devout, adhering in word and deed to the old ascetic observances of the Temple, with a firm and sorrowful constancy, which produces a very pathetic effect. We wish we durst quote some of the descriptions of his person, or some part of his conversations with his dissolute brethren; but this is impossible. The circumstances of a young and beautiful female being lodged in a house of the order, by a religious knight of such eminence as Brian de Bois-Guilbert, appears to this old man to be a scandal of the deepest dye—and the Templar is preserved from instant punishment, only by the suggestion, easily listened to by his superstitious superior, that witchcraft had been exerted against his virtue as well as womanly beauty. Rebecca, in brief, is believed to be a sorceress, and the report of her medical skill adds much confirmation to the absurd belief. She must be tried for her imaginary crime; and unless she can prove her innocence, she must die the death of the faggot, in presence of the relentless Beaumanoir. While, however, she is yet standing before this merciless judge, a slip of paper is put into her hands—it comes from Bois-Guilbert—and in obedience to its suggestion, the damsel demands leave to defend her innocence within three days by a champion. It had been the intention of Bois-Guilbert himself to appear in disguise, and act this part on the day of trial for Rebecca; but this plan is broken by the grand-master, who appoints Bois-Guilbert to be on that day the champion, not of Rebecca, but of the Temple—and the artful interference of some other brethren of the order prevents the fiery lover from being able to refuse this hateful part.

At night, nevertheless, when the preceptory is still, the Templar gains access, through darkness and silence, to the cell of Rebecca—and one of the most touching scenes in the romance is the interview which takes place between them. Before he enters, the voice of the damsel is heard singing, in her solitude, a hymn of oriental sublimity, and full also of female gentleness—in which the dignity of her old and chosen race is loftily and mournfully contrasted with the present forlorn condition of her kindred and herself. The Templar bursts in and throws himself at her feet—he is willing, even now after all that has passed, to sacrifice every thing for her sake, so she but requite his love, and be willing to share the fate which he would wilfully render degraded.

'I weigh not these evils,' said Rebecca, afraid to provoke the wild knight, yet equally determined neither to endure his passion, nor even feign to endure it. 'Be a man, be a Christian! If indeed thy faith recommends that mercy which rather your tongues than your actions pretend, save me from this dreadful death, without seeking a requital which would change thy magnanimity into base barter.'

'No, damsel!' said the proud Templar, springing up, 'thou shalt not thus impose on me—if I renounce present fame and future ambition, I renounce it for thy sake, and we will escape in company. Listen to me, Rebecca,' he said, again softening his tone; 'England, Europe,—is not the world. There are spheres in which we may act, ample enough even for my ambition. We will go to Palestine, where Conrade, Marquis of Montserrat, is my friend—a friend free as myself from the doting scruples which fetter our free-born reason—rather with Saladin will we league ourselves, than endure the scorn of the bigots whom we contemn—I will form new paths to greatness,' he continued, again traversing the room with hasty strides—'Europe shall hear the loud step of him she has driven from her sons!—Not the millions whom her crusaders send to slaughter, can do so much to defend Palestine—not the sabres of the thousands and ten thousands of Saracens can hew their way so deep into that land for which nations are striving, as the strength and policy of me and those brethren, who, in despite of yonder old bigot, will adhere to me in good and evil.—Thou shalt be a queen, Rebecca—on Mount Carmel shall we pitch the throne which my valour will gain for you, and I will exchange my long desired batton for a sceptre.'

'A dream,' said Rebecca; 'an empty vision of the night, which, were it a waking reality, affects me not—enough that the power which thou mightest acquire, I will never share; nor hold I so light of country or religious faith, as to esteem him who is willing to barter these ties, and cast away the bonds of the Order of which he is a sworn member, in order to gratify an unruly passion for the daughter of another people. Put not a price on my deliverance, Sir Knight—sell not a deed of generosity—protect the oppressed for the sake of charity, and not for a selfish advantage—Go to the throne of England, Richard will listen to my appeal from these cruel men.'

'Never, Rebecca,' said the Templar, fiercely. 'If I renounce my Order, for thee alone will I renounce it—Ambition shall remain mine, if thou refuse my love; I will not be fooled on all hands.—Stoop my crest to Richard?—ask a boon of that heart of pride?—Never, Rebecca, will I place the Order of the Temple at his fee in my person. I may forsake the Order, I never will degrade or betray it.'

'Now God be gracious to me,' said Rebecca, 'for the succour of man is well nigh hopeless!'

'It is indeed,' said the Templar; 'for proud as thou art, thou has in me found thy match. If I enter the lists with my spear in rest, think not any human consideration shall prevent-my putting forth my strength; and think then upon thine own fate—to die the dreadful death of the worst of criminals—to be consumed upon a blazing pile—dispersed to the elements of which our strange forms are so mystically composed—not a relique left of that graceful frame, from which we could say this lived and moved!—Rebecca, it is not in woman to sustain this prospect—thou wilt yield to my suit.'

'Bois-Guilbert,' answered the Jewess, 'thou know est not the heart of woman, or hast only conversed with those who are lost to her best feelings. I tell thee, proud Templar, that not in thy fiercest battles hast thou displayed more of thy vaunted courage, than has been shown by woman when called upon to suffer by affection or duty. I am myself a woman, tenderly nurtured, naturally fearful of danger, and impatient of pain—yet, when we enter those fatal lists, thou to fight and I to suffer, I feel the strong assurance within me, that my courage shall mount higher than thine. Farewell—I waste no more words on thee; the time that remains on earth to the daughter of Jacob must be otherwise spent—she must seek the Comforter, who may hide his face from his people, but who ever opens his ear to the cry of those who seek him in sincerity and in truth.'

'We part then thus,' said the Templar, after a short pause; 'would to Heaven that we had never met, or that thou hadst been noble in birth, and Christian in faith!—Nay, by Heaven! when I gaze on thee, and think when and how we are next to meet, I could even wish myself one of thine own degraded nation; my hand conversant with ingots and shekels, instead of spear and shield; my head bent down before each petty noble, and my look only terrible to the shivering and bankrupt debtor—this could I wish, Rebecca, to be near to thee in life, and to escape the fearful share I must have in thy death.'

'Thou has spoken the Jew,' said Rebecca, 'as the persecution of such as thou art has made him. Heaven in ire has driven him from his country; but industry has opened to him the only road to power and to influence, which oppression has left unbarred. Read the ancient history of the people of God, and tell me, if those, by whom Jehovah wrought such marvels among the nations, were then a people of misers and of usurers!—And know, proud knight, we number names amongst us, to which your boasted northern no-bility, is as the gourd compared with the cedar—names that ascend far back to those high times, when the Divine Presence shook the mercy-seat between the cherubim; and which derive their splendour from no earthly prince, but from the awful voice, which bade their fathers be nearest of the congregation to the vision—Such were the princes of the house of Jacob.'

Rebecca's colour rose as she boasted the ancient glories of her race, but faded as she added, with a sigh, 'Such were the princes of Judah, now such no more!—They are trampled down like the shorn grass, and mixed with the mire of the ways. Yet are there those among them who shame not such high descent, and of such shall be the daughter of Isaac the son of Adonikam!—Farewell!—I envy not thy blood-won-honours—I envy not thy barbarous descent from northern heathens—I envy thee not thy faith, which is ever in thy mouth, but never in thy heart nor in thy practice.'

'There is a spell on me, by Heaven!' said Bois-Guilbert. 'I well nigh think yon besotted skeleton spoke truth, and that the reluctance with which I part from thee, hath something in it more than is natural.—Fair creature!' he said, approaching near her, but with great respect,—'so young, so beautiful, so fearless of death! and yet doomed to die, and with infamy and agony. Who would not weep for thee? The tear, that has been a stranger to these eye-lids for twenty years, moistens them as I gaze on thee. But it must be—nothing may now save thy life. Thou and I are but the blind instruments of some irresistible fatality, that hurries us along, like goodly vessels driving before the storm, which are dashed against each other, and so perish. Forgive me, then, and let us part, at least, as friends part. I have assailed thy resolution in vain, and mine own is fixed as the adamantine decrees of fate.'

'Thus,' said Rebecca, 'do men throw on fate the issue of their own wild passions. But I do forgive thee, Bois-Guilbert, though the author of my early death. There are noble things which cross over thy powerful mind; but it is the garden of the sluggard, and the weeds have rushed up, and conspired to choak the fair and wholesome blossom.'

'Yet,' said the Templar, 'I am, Rebecca, as thou hast spoken me, untaught, untamed—and proud, that, amidst a shoal of empty fools and crafty bigots, I have retained the pre-eminent fortitude that places me above them. I have been a child of battle, from my youth upward; high in my views, steady and inflexible in pursuing them. Such must I remain—proud, inflexible, and unchanging; and of this the world shall have proof. But thou forgivest me, Rebecca?'

'As freely as ever victim forgave her executioner.' 'Farewell, then,' said the Templar, and left the apartment.

The appointed day arrives, and no succour has yet been heard of for the beautiful Jewess. The lists are prepared for the combat, on whose issue her fate depends—but hour follows hour in silence; and the immense multitude assembled are at length convinced that no Christian knight has deemed the quarrel of an unbelieving maiden fit occasion for the exhibition of his valour. But Isaac, the old father of Rebecca, has had intelligence of his daughter's situation; and his endeavours to secure her a champion have not been unavailing. The shadows are beginning to fall from west eastward, the signal that the time of tarrying was near its close. Rebecca, in this the hour of her extremity, "folds her arms, and looking up towards Heaven, seems to expect that aid from above which she can scarce promise herself from man." Bois-Guilbert approaches her, and whispers once more in her ear, that if she will spring on his courser behind him and fly, all may yet be well; but the maiden turns her from the Tempter, and prepares to die. At this moment the sound of a horn is heard—a knight rides full speed into the lists, and demands to combat on the side o the Jewess.

'The stranger must first show,' said Malvoisin, 'that he is good Knight, and of honourable lineage. The Temple sendeth not forth her champions against nameless men.'

'My name,' said the Knight, raising his helmet, 'is better known, my lineage more pure, Malvoisin, than thine own. I am Wilfrid of Ivanhoe.'

'I will not fight with thee,' said the Templar, in a changed and hollow voice. 'Get thy wounds healed, purvey thee a better horse, and it may be I will hold it worth my while to scourge out of thee this boyish spirit of bravade.'

'Ha! proud Templar,' said Ivanhoe, 'hast thou forgotten that twice didst thou fall before this lance? Remember the lists at Acre—remember the Passage of Arms at Ashby—remember thy proud vaunt in the halls of Rotherwood, and the gage of your gold chain against my reliquary, that thou wouldst do battle with Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, and recover the honour thou hadst lost! By that reliquary, and the holy relique it contains, I will proclaim thee, Templar, a coward in every court in Europe—in every Preceptory of thine Order—unless thou do battle without farther delay.'

Bois-Guilbert turned his countenance irresolutely towards Rebecca, and then exclaimed, looking fiercely at Ivanhoe, 'Dog of a Saxon! take thy lance, and prepare for the death thou hast drawn upon thee!'

'Does the Grand Master allow me the combat?' said Ivanhoe.

'I may not deny what you have challenged,' said the Grand Master, 'providing the maiden accepts thee as her champion. Yet I would thou were in better plight to do battle. An enemy of our Order hast thou ever been, yet would I have thee honourably met with.'

'Thus—thus as I am, and not otherwise,' said Ivanhoe; 'it is the judgment of God—to his keeping I commend himself.—Rebecca,' said he, riding up to the fatal chair, 'doest thou accept of me for thy champion?'

'I do,' she said—'I do,' fluttered by an emotion which the fear of death had been unable to produce, 'I do accept thee as the champion whom Heaven hath sent me. Yet, no—no—thy wounds are uncured.—Meet not that proud man—why shouldst thou perish also?'

But Ivanhoe was already at his post, and had closed his visor, and assumed his lance. Bois-Guilbert did the same; and his esquire remarked, as he clasped his visor, that his face, which had, notwithstanding the variety of emotions by which he had been agitated, continued during the whole morning of an ashy paleness, was now become suddenly very much flushed.

The herald, then, seeing each champion in his place, uplifted his voice, repeating thrice—Faites vos devoirs, preux chevaliers. After the third cry, he withdrew to one side of the lists, and again proclaimed, that none, on peril of instant death, should dare, by word, cry, or action, to interfere with or disturb this fair field of combat. The Grand Master, who held in his hand the gage of battle, Rebecca's glove, now threw it into the lists, and pronounced the fatal signal words, Laissez aller.

The trumpets sounded, and the knights charged each other in full career. The wearied horse of Ivanhoe, and its no less exhausted rider, went down, as all had expected, before the well aimed lance and vigorous steed of the Templar. This issue of the combat all had expected; but although the spear of Ivanhoe did but, in comparison, touch the shield of Bois-Guilbert, that champion, to the astonishment of all who beheld it, reeled in his saddle, lost his stirrups, and fell in the lists.

Ivanhoe, extricating himself from his fallen horse, was soon on foot, hastening to mend his fortune with his sword; but his antagonist arose not. Wilfrid, placing his foot on his breast, and the sword's point to his throat, commanded him to yield him, or die on the spot. Bois-Guilbert returned no answer.

'Slay him not, Sir Knight,' cried the Grand Master, 'unshriven and unabsolved—kill not body and soul. We allow him vanquished.'

He descended into the lists, and commanded them to unhelm the conquered champion. His eyes were closed—the dark red flush was still on his brow. As they looked on him in astonishment, the eyes opened—but they were fixed and glazed. The flush passed from his brow, and gave way to the pallid hue of death. Unscathed by the lance of his enemy, he had died a victim to the violence of his own contending passions.

'This is indeed the judgment of God,' said the Grand Master, looking upwards—'Fiat voluntas tua!'

Immediately after the death of Bois-Guilbert, King Richard arrives at the preceptory—for he too has heard of the danger of Rebecca, and believing Ivanhoe to be still disabled by his wounds, has come himself to reak a spear in her cause. Amidst the tumult of the royal arrival, and amidst the still greater tumult of her own emotions, the maiden prays her father to remove her—for she is afraid of many things—most of all, she is afraid that she might say too much were she to trust herself to speak with her deliverer.

On his way to Templestowe, King Richard has been beset by a party of assassins—the instruments of his brother's meanness—and has escaped from them chiefly by means of Robin Hood and his archers, who happened to be near them in the wood. It is attended by these outlaws as his bodyguard, that Cœur de Lion re-assumes the state and title of his birth-right; and one of his first acts is to reward his faithful friend and follower, Ivanhoe, by restoring him to the good graces of his father, and celebrating his marriage with the Lady Rowena. But we cannot enter upon the minor parts of the Romance—The eye of the reader still follows Rebacca. . . .

Such is the main thread of the story ofIvanhoe. It is intermingled with many beautiful accompaniments both of a serious and a ludicrous nature—woven with it and each other somewhat after the wild phantastic manner of Ariosto—all admirable in themselves, but for the present forbidden ground to us. The style in which the adventures of so many different individuals are all brought down together pari passu, may appear to many as a defect—for in these days all readers have formed a taste for having their feelings excited in the strongest possible manner. And for this purpose, it is necessary that their attention and interest should throughout be directed and attached to one predominating hero. But the style we think has, in this instance, been wisely chosen, for nothing could have given the reader so powerfully the idea of a period full of bustle and tumult—wherein the interest depended so much upon collisions of external strength, and the disarray of conflicting passions.

One word only before we close, concerning the humorous parts of this novel, in which it will at once be seen—our author has followed a new mode of composition. Not being able, as in former instances, to paint from existing nature, and to delight the reader with a faithful delineation of what was, in some measure, already known to him, he is obliged more frequently to resort to a play of fancy in his humorous dialogue, which generally flows in a truly jovial and free-hearted style, worthy of merry England. Nor is the flagon or the pasty on any occasion spared; for otherwise it would be difficult to conceive how his stalwart friars, archers, and other able-bodied characters, could go through the fatigues ascribed to them, or sustain such a genial vein of pleasantness on all occasions—in the midst of the knocks and blows which are throughout the tale distributed on all hands, with an English fulness both as to quality and quantity. This mixture of cuffs and good cheer, so characteristic of the age, seems to have kept up their animal spirits, and rendered them fit to move lightly and happily in that stormy sphere of action where force was law.

On the whole, we have no doubt this Romance will be in the highest degree popular here, but still more so in England. Surely the hearts of our neighbours will rejoice within them, when they find that their own ancient manners are about to be embalmed, as we have no doubt they will be in many succeeding novels by the same masterly hand, which has already conferred services in that sort so inestimable upon us.

As we hinted at the beginning of this paper, we should not be surprised to find the generality of readers disappointed a little at first; but their eyes will soon become accustomed to the new and beautiful light through which the face of NATURE is now submitted to them, and confess that the great Magician has not diminished the power of his spell by extending his circle.


1Ivanhoe; a Romance. By the Author of Waverley, &c. in 3 vols. Edinburgh. Constable & Co. 1820.

2 For the benefit of our fair readers, be it mentioned, that this word means, in Anglo-Saxon (and very nearly in Modern German), the hill of joy.


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Ivanhoe Sir Walter Scott

The following entry presents criticism of Scott's novel Ivanhoe (1820). See also Sir Walter Scott Poetry Criticism and Sir Walter Scott Short Story Criticism.

Ivanhoe stands as one of Sir Walter Scott's most popular novels, and has had a major influence on the genre of historical fiction. The work is notable not only for its vivid depiction of characters and its adventurous narrative but also for the fact that it is the first of Scott's novels to be set outside the borders of Scotland and in the distant past. The complex narrative intertwines British legend with the Anglo-Saxon-Norman conflict in medieval England. Although Ivanhoe has long been valued for its fascinating and entertaining plot, more recent readers have studied the complexity of its treatment of chivalric culture. Ivanhoe combines historical realism with vibrant artistry, and reflects Scott's narrative skill and historical focus.

Biographical Information

When Ivanhoe (1820) arrived on the literary scene, Scott (born in 1771) was at the height of his career. He had gained popular acclaim with a romantic ballad entitled The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), which followed the less successful The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). Scott's scholarly knowledge of British history and mythology pervaded several successful novels that followed: Waverley (1814), Guy Mannering (1815), Rob Roy (1818), The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818), and The Bride of Lammermoor (1819). The novel Ivanhoe itself had a major impact on the genre that came to be known as historical fiction. After Ivanhoe, Scott published the novels Kenilworth (1821) and Redgauntlet (1824). Although Scott did not acknowledge his authorship of Waverley and the other novels until 1827, the public was well aware of his authorship by 1815. In this period, the critical and popular success of Scott's novels made it possible for him to rely on his publications for income (rather than on his training in the legal profession), and led to Scott's acceptance of a baronetcy in 1820. Scott was increasingly interested in establishing a national identity for Scotland (he was largely responsible for recovering the Scottish regalia in 1818), and this theme underlies the question of English national identity in the medieval period in the plot of Ivanhoe. Scott carefully constructed a life of the Scottish gentry, centering on the estate of Abbotsford. Scott's good fortune suffered a catastrophic decline in 1826 with the failure of the Ballantyne printing firm in which Scott was a silent partner. From this point until his death at the age of sixty-one in 1832, Scott was forced to use his literary income to pay off his debt, and he produced works that failed to match the splendor and elegant style of the earlier novels.

Plot and Major Characters

Ivanhoe, Scott's first departure from the Scottish countryside of the recent past, is set in Yorkshire, England, in the time of the Crusades. The plot of Ivanhoe begins humbly enough, with a conversation in a forest between a swineherd and a fool in the employ of Cedric, a Saxon noble who is the father of Ivanhoe. The swineherd and the fool encounter a cavalcade on its way to a tournament held at Ashby by Prince John, the Norman who has taken over the rule of the country while King Richard struggles to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslims. Wilfred of Ivanhoe (i.e., the hero Ivanhoe), disguised as a palmer, has previously joined the cavalcade. He has returned from the Crusades but cannot return to his home because his father Cedric has disinherited him for his love of Rowena (who is a ward of Cedric and a Saxon noblewoman engaged for political reasons to Athelstane, a Saxon noble). The cavalcade also includes Isaac, a wealthy Jewish moneylender, and his beautiful daughter Rebecca. This entire party stays the night at Cedric's manor, where the templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert covets Rebecca and plots to steal Isaac's wealth. Ivanhoe's observations of Bois-Guilbert alert him to these dangers, and he warns Isaac and Rebecca; all three escape to Ashby. At the tournament, Rowena and Prince John preside over the proceedings. Ivanhoe, still disguised, triumphs over several opponents until he almost loses his life, at which point a mysterious knight (later revealed to be King Richard) intervenes. Rebecca falls in love with Ivanhoe, and she and her father nurse Ivanhoe back to health. As Isaac, Rebecca, and Ivanhoe return with Cedric through the forest to York, they are abducted by outlaws in the employ of Bois-Guilbert and are taken to a castle owned by the corrupt Norman baron Front-de-Boeuf. King Richard, the Saxon peasantry, and the legendary figure of Robin Hood unite to release this group from their imprisonment. They lay siege to the castle and engage in a fierce battle. Bois-Guilbert escapes from King Richard in this encounter, and then convinces the Church authorities that Rebecca is a sorceress. Her trial is decided by a duel between Bois-Guilbert and Ivanhoe, who steps forward to defend Rebecca's honor. Bois-Guilbert is killed through his excessive zealousness. King Richard arrives at the scene, having survived an ambush on the way with the help of Robin Hood. King Richard restores Ivanhoe to his rightful place and gives him permission to marry Rowena. The novel closes with a curious scene in which Rebecca bids farewell to Rowena (after the marriage ceremony between Rowena and Ivanhoe)—which illustrates one animating theme of the novel: the simultaneous diversity and amity of the foreign and the familiar.

Major Themes

Ivanhoe elaborates the contradictory elements of the chivalric code: its heroism and compassion on the one hand, and its glorification of selfishness and chaotic recklessness on the other. The novel is dominated by a "disarray of conflicting passions," according to an early review in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. Although the plot of Ivanhoe is framed by two homecomings (Ivanhoe's return to Britain and his reunion with Rowena and Cedric), multiple conflicts transform the familiar, and complicate the old order: the Saxons struggle to maintain power in a Norman world; and the presence of Jews in the novel emphasizes the cultural and ethnic diversity of medieval Britain. The ideal of national unity through the synthesis of contrasting traditions is reflected in the increased value put on shifting from chivalric adventure and parochial superstition to the more stable order of cosmopolitanism and rational faith. Still, the novel clearly expresses the value of a certain chivalric code: the idea of nobility pervades the characterizations of Ivanhoe. At crucial junctures, nobility is associated with selflessness in turn associated with a certain passivity. For example, at the siege of Front-de-Boeuf s castle, Ivanhoe lies off to one side, injured and unable to fight. Thus chivalry must not be merely supplanted by a more rationally and economically-minded culture without regard for such values as nobility. Revealing Scott's ambivalent valuation of a romantic tradition, Ivanhoe presents a complex picture of the transition between an age of heroism and an age of reason.

Critical Reception

Despite its popular success, Ivanhoe was for a long time considered to be an adventure story suited primarily for young children rather than for serious readers of literature. However, certain nineteenth- and twentieth-century critics, exploring the complexity and subtlety of the themes and characterizations of the novel, agree that Rebecca is the most fascinating of the characters (among the one hundred and fifty three separately drawn figures), and that the relationship between her and Ivanhoe is much more interesting than the conventional match between Ivanhoe and Rowena. In addition, some modern critics have criticized the stereotypical characterizations of Rebecca and Isaac. The plot has also been criticized for glorifying chivalry and romantic adventure instead of expressing historical realism. Some recent critics have suggested that the realism of Ivanhoe lies not in historical accuracy but in the moral realm, in depicting the sorts of choices that Ivanhoe, among others, must make between noble (self-denying) and selfish actions. Because readers hear nothing of the inner thoughts of characters, this complex dialectic of cultural and moral values must be carried out through the action of the plot. Although some commentators praise Ivanhoe for the romantic spirit that guides the action as well as for Scott's richness and liveliness of description, others point to this romantic spirit as an inappropriate popularizing of history for the purpose of entertainment rather than moral education. Most critics agree that several anticlimaxes mar the fluid development of the plot: for example, the Saxon Athelstane dies but is brought back to life later in the novel. Despite these problems, Ivanhoe remains a testament to Scott's ability to bring history to life and to his foundational influence on the genre of historical fiction.

The Eclectic Review (essay date 1820)

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SOURCE: A review of Ivanhoe; A Romance, in The Eclectic Review, Vol. XIII, June, 1820, pp. 526-40.

[In the excerpt that follows, the anonymous reviewer criticizes Scott's attempt to combine historical exposition with narrative fiction, and classifies Ivanhoe not as a romantic novel but as " that mongrel sort of production, a historical novel."]

There are several good reasons for our not saying much about the present production of the Author of Waverley. In the first place, it belongs to a class of works which has but doubtful claims upon our notice; in the next place, we have recently delivered our sentiments pretty much at large upon some preceding publications of the same Author; and we shall only add, though we have twenty reasons quite as strong in reserve, that most of our readers have before this time made up their own opinion about the merits of Ivanhoe, and will therefore care less about ours. It is almost impossible to keep pace with the pen of this prolific Writer. Before the novel in question could have completed the circulation of the reading societies, or half the subscribers to the libraries could have been satisfied, a new series of volumes is in the hands of the public, and more are understood to be behind. We might regret this rapidity of composition in a writer of so much talent, were there not reason to believe, that he is one who can execute with spirit only his first warm conceptions, and that the attempt to elaborate would, with him, be as unsuccessful as it would be irksome. He has probably taken greater pains, if not in writing, yet, in order to write the present work, than in the case of any of the preceding tales: accordingly, it contains more information of a certain kind, is in parts more highly wrought, and is richer in antiquarian details, than perhaps any other; but it has less of verisimilitude, and makes a much more evanescent, if not a less vivid impression upon the reader's fancy.

The Author was himself aware that he was making an experiment very different from any of his previous attempts, when he undertook to carry his readers six hundred years back, instead of sixty, and 'to obtain an interest for the traditions and manners of old England, similar to that which has been excited in behalf of those of our poorer and less celebrated neighbours.' In the Dedicatory Epistle to the Rev. Dr. Dryasdust, he anticipates and replies to the objections which à priori lie against such an attempt, founded on the remote distance of the state of society in which the scene is laid, the total dissimilarity of the circumstances and manners of that era, to any thing which comes within the range of an Englishman's experience, and the scantiness of the materials for memoirs of the domestic life of our Saxon and Norman ancestors. English is a term scarcely applicable, indeed, to the times of Richard I. At that period, the very language of the country was undergoing a transition correspondent to the change which was being wrought upon the people, by the blending down of the conquerors and the conquered into one nation; and while Norman French was the only language 'of honour, of chivalry, and of justice,' which continued to be the case to the time of Edward the Third, it is not without a contradiction in terms that we can speak of old English manners, as having under such circumstances come into existence. Whether we term them English, or French, or Anglo-Norman, they were still, however, the manners of our ancestors, and as such, a legitimate matter of curiosity. The only question is, whether they admit of being brought before us with a graphic force of description, that shall transport us in imagination back to the times to which the tale refers, and deceive us into the belief that in the pictures of the Novelist, we have represented to us the realities of history.

From one obvious means of aiding to produce such an illusion, the Writer is of necesity debarred by the circumstance, that the language he is compelled to employ, is not the language of the times in which his dramatis personœ are supposed to have lived: at the same time there is, in the present instance, just a sufficient mixture of foreign and antiquated phraseology, to fix the reader's attention upon the circumstance, and to give the medium employed, the awkwardness of translation. The extent of this disadvantage can be judged of only by calling to mind how much of the spirit and effect of the dialogue in the preceding tales of the Author of Waverley, arise from the recognised peculiarities of provincial idiom, and the comic force of quaint or familiar turns of expression. We could point out more than one of the ideal actors, who is indebted to this circumstance for nearly the whole of his dramatic individuality and importance. The character of the Jester in Ivanhoe, is one of the most interesting in the Tale; strange to say, however, it is an interest of an heroic kind, arising from the touching display of his fidelity to his master, and his other very singular good qualities. His appropriate excellence as a professed humourist, is very tolerably vindicated by the occasional sallies of his wit; yet, in spite of his best efforts, he is, take him altogether, an exceedingly less amusing and less comic personage than either Captain Dugald Dalgetty, or Dousterswivel, or Dominie Sampson. In a pure romance, the modern flavour of the language put into the mouths of the ladies and gentlemen of remote times, is not felt to be a discrepancy; but the present work has for its design, in common with all the inimitable productions of its Author, to present to us, with antiquarian fidelity, the manners and customs of the age. Every part, therefore, must be in more than dramatic consistency; every thing bordering upon palpable anachronism, must be carefully avoided; and although the language 'must not be exclusively obsolete and unintelligible,' yet 'no word or turn of phraseology betraying an origin directly modern,' is, if possible, to be admitted into the composition. All that the romance-writer is concerned to make us believe, is, that the events he details, took place in the order and under the circumstances described, and that the parties whose names are given, had an existence, and did and said in substance the things ascribed to their agency. But the Author of Ivanhoe, not content with this, aims to produce the conviction in his readers, that the personages of the tale performed their part in a specific manner, and used certain specific modes of speech; that the events recorded not merely took place, but took place under such and such minutely defined peculiarities of scene and circumstance. The consequence is, that the moment the antiquary is at fault, the pseudo-historian is detected in his forgeries; every incongruity in the narrative, operates as an impeachment of his testimony; the costume which the actors have borrowed from ancient times, is perceived to be the only thing which claims affinity with reality; and while we admire the ingenuity and inventive fertility of the Writer, no other impression is left on the mind, than that of a pageant or a masquerade.

It is a fatal disadvantage in all historical romances, that they attempt to combine two opposite kinds of interest; that arising from general views of society connected with moral and political considerations, and implying a certain degree of abstraction, which is the proper interest of history, and that resulting from an engrossing sympathy with the feelings and fortunes of individuals, which is the appropriate charm of fictitious narrative. It is true that sometimes the historian, by deviating into the province of the biographer, succeeds in bespeaking a very strong feeling of interest on behalf of some favourite hero; but neither the design nor the excellence of history consists in producing any such effect upon the feelings through the medium of the imagination. The effect, however, is still in sufficient harmony with that of the general narrative, the mind being in either case occupied with realities. In the state of feeling requisite to the full enjoyment of a work of fiction, the realities of history can, on the contrary, please only as they are disguised by circumstances which give them the power of acting upon the imagination. The sole purpose which they are adapted to serve, is, to lend an appearance of verity to the supposititious details which are built upon them; for which purpose it is requisite that they should occupy the mere back-ground, so as never to become the object of distinct attention. But in that anomalous sort of production which is perpetually hovering between history and romance without possessing the genuine character of either, the illusion is never complete: the grand facts of history are perpetually forcing themselves upon the recollection in all their unromantic truth and moral importance, while a competitor interest to which the imagination is quite disposed to yield, is ever soliciting the feelings, and awakening emotions of an opposite nature. We think that if the readers of such works were at sufficient leisure to attend to the operation of their own minds under the excitation of perusal, they would find that they never entered into the full spirit of the fiction, except when they fairly lost sight of the history.

The historical plays of Shakspeare may seem to require our notice as a grand exception to this remark. The fact is, that they please, not as romance, but as history: the illusion is complete, but it is produced by different means from those employed by the Novelist; and the high tragic interest which is for the most part excited by the graver scenes of the great Dramatist, bears a much nearer relation to what the same scenes in real life would produce, than is the case with any other species of fiction. Add to this, that the charm of the language, and the beauty and elevation of the sentiment, qualities substantially real, have no small share in the effect produced upon the imagination.

A comparison has been more than indirectly suggested between Shakspeare and the Author of Waverley. No better illustration could have been furnished than that with which the Novelist has himself supplied us in Ivanhoe, for the purpose of pointing out the extent of the difference. Shakspeare is all true; he is always true to nature, and where he differs from the truth of history, it is only by strong and repeated efforts that the mind can disengage itself from the thraldom of his authority. In the delineation of the Scottish and Gaelic national characters, the Author of the Novels is equally faithful, and, within a certain range, the power of observation supplies to him the place of that mighty creative genius which made Shakspeare free of the universe. Nothing since Hamlet and Falstaff took their place among the real existences of history, has ever approached so near to those splendid creations of fancy, in individuality and verisimilitude, as some of the familiar personages in these tales. But we must not confound the description of talent, any more than the degree of talent, which has originated the latter, with the comprehensive genius of the great Expositor of Nature.

Ivanhoe, is perhaps one of the cleverest of all our Author's productions; but in those respects in which it was an experiment, it is, in our opinion, a failure. It professes to be a romance; but the talents of the Author are not adapted to romance-writing. He is, if we mistake not, destitute of the requisite enthusiasm. The writer of a romance must at least seem to be in earnest, and by this means he may succeed in engaging the reader's attention to his narrative, how improbable soever it may be, and how foreign soever the events to his experience. A sort of reflected belief is awakened by the recital of wonders which are known to have exerted on the minds of others the effect of reality, provided there is nothing in the air and manner of the reciter to counteract it. Our Author refers to the goblin tale written by Horace Walpole, 'which has thrilled many a bosom,' and it furnishes an instance in point. The Castle of Otranto is so admirable an imitation of the old romances, that it passes with the reader, not simply as a record of the times to which it relates, but as a production of those times; and hence it is that the enchanted casque, which, viewed as a modern fiction, would be too palpably false to awaken any sensation of terror, is an incident perfectly proper and highly impressive. In like manner, the Lay of the Last Minstrel derives from the character of the imaginary bard, a charm which none of the subsequent poems of the same Author possess. The authenticity of tales of gramarye and witchcraft, is quite equal to that of the more plausible fictions about damsels and warriors; and as to the various degrees of credibility which respectively attach to them, that circumstance can make no difference, when there is, in either case, absolutely no ground of belief, but the reader is called upon to place himself in the situation of those persons by whom they were alike received with implicit credulity.

If there be any justice in these remarks, it will be sufficient to say, that Ivanhoe has no pretensions to the character of an ancient legend: it has none of the musty odour of antiquity about it. The diction of the narrative is unaffectedly modern; and it is only in the dialogue that any attempt is made to give an antique cast to the phraseology. Instead of the grave and somewhat dignified style in which it behooved the celebrator of ancient deeds of chivalry to describe such high achievements, a vein of facetiousness runs through the composition, which is not always in unison with good taste; and the Author throughout the narrative, takes especial care to keep himself distinct from the subjects of the fiction, ever and anon pretending to translate from the language of the original, or inserting parenthetical notes and reflections, such as might be looked for in a genuine and veritable history. The effect of this, is positively bad; and the alternate description and dialogue present a species of patchwork, which has neither beauty, nor apparent necessity, nor correctness to recommend it. There are many parts of the Tale which are strikingly picturesque and dramatic, and the characters of some of the personages are very finely discriminated; all this we readily admit; but what we complain of, and what we think most readers on a cool perusal will perceive to be matter of just complaint, is, that the Author has not given us either genuine romance or genuine history: he has furnished us with neither a memoir nor a legend of the times,—certainly with nothing that can convey any idea of the living manners of our ancestors, beyond what may easily be picked out of the History of England, except as to a few points of costume; nor yet with a work of pure entrancing fiction; but with that mongrel sort of production, an historical novel,—as inferior in point of interest (we do not say in point of merit) to the Castle of Otranto, or the Mysteries of Udolpho, as it is to the Chronicle of the Cid, or the inimitable Froissart.

Further Reading

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Atkinson, W. A. "The Scenes of Ivanhoe." The National Review 79, No. 470 (April 1922): 278-89.

Describes the physical settings of Ivanhoe.

Bitton, Livia E. "The Jewess as Fictional Sex Symbol." Bucknell Review 21, No. 1 (Spring 1973): 63-86.

Examines the character of Rebecca, as a stereotypical example of a Jewish woman.

The British Review and London Critical Journal. "Ivanhoe, and The Monastery." The British Review and London Critical Journal 15, No. 30 (June 1820): 393-454.

Gives an early review of Ivanhoe that focuses upon the unrealistic aspects of the novel.

Brown, Cedric C. "Sir Walter Scott, Robert Belt, and Ivanhoe." Scottish Literary Journal 8, No. 2 (December 1981): 38-43.

Presents the correspondence between Walter Scott and Robert Belt concerning the historical accuracy of the events described in Ivanhoe.

The Edinburgh Review. "Ivanhoe, A Romance." The Edinburgh Review 33, No. 65 (January 1820): 1-54.

Recounts the main elements of the novel's plot, and concludes that Scott's excursion into medieval England is excessively fanciful.

McDavid, Raven I. "Ivanhoe and Simms' Vasconselos." Modern Language Notes 56, No. 4 (April 1941): 294-97.

Studies the link between Ivanhoe and Vasconselos, both of which use and disrupt the convention of having the chivalric champion crowned by a Queen of Beauty.

Monthly Review. "Ivanhoe, A Romance." Monthly Review (January 1820): 71-89.

Praises the vibrant and adventurous spirit that animates the plot and characters of Ivanhoe.

Raleigh, John Henry. "Ulysses and Scott's Ivanhoe." Studies in Romanticism 22, No. 4 (Winter 1983): 569-86.

Argues that an approach to national identity and the realistic portrayal of the Jew connect Scott and James Joyce.

Rosenberg, Edgar. "The Jew as Clown and the Jew's Daughter: Scott." In his From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction, pp. 73-115. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960.

Examines Scott's three perspectives on Jewish characters presented in Ivanhoe: as the victim of historical oppression, as the comic miser, and as the noble and exotic woman.

Salari, Marinella. "Ivanhoe's Middle Ages." In Medieval and Pseudo-Medieval Literature, edited by Piero Boitani and Anna Torti, pp. 149-60. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1984.

Analyzes the significance of Scott's relation to the "medieval revival" of the nineteenth century.

Seccombe, Thomas. "Ivanhoe." Scott Centenary Articles, pp. 87-93. London: Oxford University Press, 1932.

Locates Ivanhoe in the larger context of Scott's literary career.

Simeone, William E. "The Robin Hood of Ivanhoe." Journal of American Folklore 74, No. 293 (July-September 1961): 230-34.

Contends that Scott's characterization of Robin Hood in Ivanhoe emphasizes the heroic features of the outlaw, a reconstruction that has significant influence on later versions of the legend.

Whitmore, Daniel. "Scott's Indebtedness to the German Romantics: Ivanhoe Reconsidered." The Wordsworth Circle 15, No. 2 (Spring 1984): 72-73.

Traces the influence of two earlier German novels on Ivanhoe, particularly in the passivity of the central character at critical moments of the plot.

Additional coverage of Scott's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale Research: Discovering Authors; Poetry Criticism, Vol. 13, and World Literature Criticism.

Walter Scott (essay date 1830)

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SOURCE: Introduction to Ivanhoe; A Romance, by Sir Walter Scott, A. & C. Black, Ltd., 1929, pp. ix-xviii.

[ In the following introduction to Ivanhoe, written ten years after the original publication of the novel, Scott both explains his decision to set the action of Ivanhoe outside of Scotland and in the medieval period, and responds to common criticisms of the novel]

The Author of the Waverley Novels had hitherto proceeded in an unabated course of popularity, and might, in his peculiar district of literature, have been termed l'enfant gâté of success. It was plain, however, that frequent publication must finally wear out the public favour, unless some mode could be devised to give an appearance of novelty to subsequent productions. Scottish manners, Scottish dialect, and Scottish characters of note, being those with which the Author was most intimately and familiarly acquainted, were the groundwork upon which he had hitherto relied for giving effect to his narrative. It was, however, obvious that this kind of interest must in the end occasion a degree of sameness and repetition, if exclusively resorted to, and that the reader was likely at length to adopt the language of Edwin, in Parnell's Tale:

'Reverse the spell,' he cries, 'And let it fairly now suffice, The gambol has been shown.'

Nothing can be more dangerous for the fame of a professor of the fine arts than to permit (if he can possibly prevent it) the character of a mannerist to be attached to him, or that he should be supposed capable of success only in a particular and limited style. The public are, in general, very ready to adopt the opinion that he who has pleased them in one peculiar mode of composition is, by means of that very talent, rendered incapable of venturing upon other subjects. The effect of this disinclination, on the part of the public, towards the artificers of their pleasures, when they attempt to enlarge their means of amusing, may be seen in the censures usually passed by vulgar criticism upon actors or artists who venture to change the character of their efforts, that, in so doing, they may enlarge the scale of their art.

There is some justice in this opinion, as there always is in such as attain general currency. It may often happen on the stage, that an actor, by possessing in a pre-eminent degree the external qualities necessary to give effect to comedy, may be deprived of the right to aspire to tragic excellence; and in painting or literary composition, an artist or poet may be master exclusively of modes of thought and powers of expression which confine him to a single course of subjects. But much more frequently the same capacity which carries a man to popularity in one department will obtain for him success in another, and that must be more particularly the case in literary composition than either in acting or painting, because the adventurer in that department is not impeded in his exertions by any peculiarity of features, or conformation of person, proper for particular parts, or, by any peculiar mechanical habits of using the pencil, limited to a particular class of subjects.

Whether this reasoning be correct or otherwise, the present Author felt that, in confining himself to subjects purely Scottish, he was not only likely to weary out the indulgence of his readers, but also greatly to limit his own power of affording them pleasure. In a highly polished country, where so much genius is monthly employed in catering for public amusement, a fresh topic, such as he had himself had the happiness to light upon, is the untasted spring of the desert:

Men bless their stars and call it luxury.

But when men and horses, cattle, camels, and dromedaries have poached the spring into mud, it becomes loathsome to those who at first drank of it with rapture; and he who had the merit of discovering it, if he would pressure his reputation with the tribe, must display his talent by a fresh discovery of untasted fountains.

If the author, who finds himself limited to a particular class of subjects, endeavours to sustain his reputation by striving to add a novelty of attraction to themes of the same character which have been formerly successful under his management, there are manifest reasons why, after a certain point, he is likely to fail. If the mine be not wrought out, the strength and capacity of the miner become necessarily exhausted. If he closely imitates the narratives which he has before rendered successful, he is doomed to 'wonder that they please no more.' If he struggles to take a different view of the same class of subjects, he speedily discovers that what is obvious, graceful, and natural has been exhausted; and, in order to obtain the indispensable charm of novelty, he is forced upon caricature, and, to avoid being trite, must become extravagant.

It is not, perhaps, necessary to enumerate so many reasons why the Author of the Scottish Novels, as they were then exclusively termed, should be desirous to make an experiment on a subject purely English. It was his purpose, at the same time, to have rendered the experiment as complete as possible, by bringing the intended work before the public as the effort of a new candidate for their favour, in order that no degree of prejudice, whether favourable or the reverse, might attach to it, as a new production of the Author of Waverley; but this intention was afterwards departed from, for reasons to be hereafter mentioned.

The period of the narrative adopted was the reign of Richard I., not only as abounding with characters whose very names were sure to attract general attention, but as affording a striking contrast betwixt the Saxons, by whom the soil was cultivated, and the Normans, who still reigned in it as conquerors, reluctant to mix with the vanquished, or acknowledge themselves of the same stock. The idea of this contrast was taken from the ingenious and unfortunate Logan's tragedy of Runnamede, in which, about the same period of history, the Author had seen the Saxon and Norman barons opposed to each other on different sides of the stage. He does not recollect that there was any attempt to contrast the two races in their habits and sentiments; and indeed it was obvious that history was violated by introducing the Saxons still existing as a high-minded and martial race of nobles.

They did, however, survive as a people, and some of the ancient Saxon families possessed wealth and power, although they were exceptions to the humble condition of the race in general. It seemed to the Author that the existence of the two races in the same country, the vanquished distinguished by their plain, homely, blunt manners, and the free spirit infused by their ancient institutions and laws; the victors, by the high spirit of military fame, personal adventure, and whatever could distinguish them as the flower of chivalry, might, intermixed with other characters belonging to the same time and country, interest the reader by the contrast, if the Author should not fail on his part.

Scotland, however, had been of late used so exclusively as the scene of what is called historical romance, that the preliminary letter of Mr. Laurence Templeton became in some measure necessary. To this, as to an Introduction, the reader is referred, as expressing the Author's purpose and opinions in undertaking this species of composition, under the necessary reservation, that he is far from thinking he has attained the point at which he aimed.

It is scarcely necessary to add, that there was no idea or wish to pass off the supposed Mr. Templeton as a real person. But a kind of continuation of the Tales of my Landlord had been recently attempted by a stranger, and it was supposed this Dedicatory Epistle might pass for some imitation of the same kind, and thus, putting inquirers upon a false scent, induce them to believe they had before them the work of some new candidate for their favour.

After a considerable part of the work had been finished and printed, the publishers, who pretended to discern in it a germ of popularity, remonstrated strenuously against its appearing as an absolutely anonymous production, and contended that it should have the advantage of being announced as by the Author of Waverley. The Author did not make any obstinate opposition, for he began to be of opinion with Dr. Wheeler, in Miss Edgeworth's excellent tale of Manœuvring, that 'trick upon trick' might be too much for the patience of an indulgent public, and might be reasonably considered as trifling with their favour.

The book, therefore, appeared as an avowed continuation of the Waverley Novels; and it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge that it met with the same favourable reception as its predecessors.

Such annotations as may be useful to assist the reader in comprehending the characters of the Jew, the Templar, the captain of the mercenaries, or Free Companions, as they were called, and others proper to the period, are added, but with a sparing hand, since sufficient information on these subjects is to be found in general history.

An incident in the tale, which had the good fortune to find favour in the eyes of many readers, is more directly borrowed from the stores of old romance. I mean the meeting of the King with Friar Tuck at the cell of that buxom hermit. The general tone of the story belongs to all ranks and all countries, which emulate each other in describing the rambles of a disguised sovereign, who, going in search of information or amusement into the lower ranks of life, meets with adventures diverting to the reader or hearer, from the contrast betwixt the monarch's outward appearance and his real character. The Eastern tale-teller has for his theme the disguised expeditions of Haroun Alraschid with his faithful attendants, Mesrour and Giafar, through the midnight streets of Bagdad; and Scottish tradition dwells upon the similar exploits of James V., distinguished during such excursions by the travelling name of the Goodman of Ballengeich, as the Commander of the Faithful, when he desired to be incognito, was known by that of II Bondocani. The French minstrels are not silent on so popular a theme. There must have been a Norman original of the Scottish metrical romance of Rauf Colziar, in which Charlemagne is introduced as the unknown guest of a charcoal-man.1 It seems to have been the original of other poems of the kind.

In merry England there is no end of popular ballads on this theme. The poem of John the Reeve, or Steward, mentioned by Bishop Percy, in the Reliques of EnglishPoetry,2 is said to have turned on such an incident; and we have, besides, the King and the Tanner of Tamworth, the King and the Miller of Mansfield, and others on the same topic. But the peculiar tale of this nature to which the Author of Ivanhoe has to acknowledge an obligation is more ancient by two centuries than any of these last mentioned.

It was first communicated to the public in that curious record of ancient literature which has been accumulated by the combined exertions of Sir Egerton Brydges and Mr. Hazlewood, in the periodical work entitled the British Bibliographer. From thence it has been transferred by the Reverend Charles Henry Hartshorne, M.A., editor of a very curious volume, entitled Ancient Metrical Tales, printed chiefly from Original Sources, 1829. Mr. Hartshorne gives no other authority for the present fragment, except the article in the Bibliographer, where it is entitled the Kyng and the Hermite. A short abstract of its contents will show its similarity to the meeting of King Richard and Friar Tuck.

King Edward (we are not told which among the monarchs of that name, but, from his temper and habits, we may suppose Edward IV.) sets forth with his court to a gallant hunting-match in Sherwood Forest, in which, as is not unusual for princes in romance, he falls in with a deer of extraordinary size and swiftness, and pursues it closely, till he has outstripped his whole retinue, tired out hounds and horse, and finds himself alone under the gloom of an extensive forest, upon which night is decending. Under the apprehensions natural to a situation so uncomfortable, the king recollects that he has heard how poor men, when apprehensive of a bad night's lodging, pray to St. Julian, who, in the Romish calendar, stands quarter-master-general to all forlorn travellers that render him due homage. Edward puts up his orisons accordingly, and by the guidance, doubtless, of the good saint, reaches a small path, conducting him to a chapel in the forest, having a hermit's cell in its close vicinity. The king hears the reverend man, with a companion of his solitude, telling his beads within, and meekly requests of him quarters for the night. 'I have no accommodation for such a lord as ye be,' said the hermit. 'I live here in the wilderness upon roots and rinds, and may not receive into my dwelling even the poorest wretch that lives, unless it were to save his life.' The king inquires the way to the next town, and, understanding it is by a road which he cannot find without difficulty, even if he had daylight to be-friend him, he declares that, with or without the hermit's consent, he is determined to be his guest that night. He is admitted accordingly, not without a hint from the recluse that, were he himself out of his priestly weeds, he would care little for his threats of using violence, and that he gives way to him not out of intimidation, but simply to avoid scandal.

The king is admitted into the cell; two bundles of straw are shaken down for his accommodation, and he comforts himself that he is now under shelter, and that

A night will soon be gone.

Other wants, however, arise. The guest becomes clamorous for supper, observing,

'For certainly, as I you say, I ne had never so sorry a day, That I ne had a merry night.'

But this indication of his taste for good cheer, joined to the annunciation of his being a follower of the court, who had lost himself at the great hunting-match, cannot induce the niggard hermit to produce better fare than bread and cheese, for which his guest showed little appetite, and 'thin drink,' which was even less acceptable. At length the king presses his host on a point to which he had more than once alluded, without obtaining a satisfactory reply:

Then said the king, 'By Godys grace, Thou wert in a merry place, To shoot should thou 1ere; When the foresters go to rest, Sometyme thou might have of the best, All of the wild deer; I wold hold it for no scathe, Though thou hadst bow and arrows baith, Althoff thou best a frere.'

The hermit, in return, expresses his apprehension that his guest means to drag him into some confession of offence against the forest laws, which, being betrayed to the King, might cost him his life. Edward answers by fresh assurances of secrecy, and again urges on him the necessity of procuring some venison. The hermit replies, by once more insisting on the duties incumbent upon him as a churchman, and continues to affirm himself free from all such breaches of order:

'Many day I have here been, And flesh-meat I eat never, But milk of the kye; Warm thee well, and go to sleep, And I will lap thee with my cope, Softly to lye.'

It would seem that the manuscript is here imperfect, for we do not find the reasons which finally induce the curtal friar to amend the king's cheer. But, acknowledging his guest to be such a 'good fellow' as has seldom graced his board, the holy man at length produces the best his cell affords. Two candles are placed on a table, white bread and baked pasties are displayed by the light, besides choice of venison, both salt and fresh, from which they select collops. 'I might have eaten my bread dry,' said the king, 'had I not pressed thee on the score of archery, but now have I dined like a prince—if we had but drink enow.'

This too is afforded by the hospitable anchorite, who despatches an assistant to fetch a pot of four gallons from a secret corner near his bed, and the whole three set in to serious drinking. This amusement is superintended by the friar, according to the recurrence of certain fustian words, to be repeated by every compotator in turn before he drank—a species of high jinks, as it were, by which they regulated their potations, as toasts were given in latter times. The one toper says 'Fusty bandias,' to which the other is obliged to reply, 'Strike pantnere,' and the friar passes many jests on the king's want of memory, who sometimes forgets the words of action. The night is spent in this jolly pastime. Before his departure in the morning, the king invites his reverend host to court, promises, at least, to requite his hospitality, and expresses himself much pleased with his entertainment. The jolly hermit at length agrees to venture thither, and to inquire for Jack Fletcher, which is the name assumed by the king. After the hermit has shown Edward some feats of archery, the joyous pair separate. The king rides home, and rejoins his retinue. As the romance is imperfect, we are not acquainted how the discovery takes place; but it is probably much in the same manner as in other narratives turning on the same subject, where the host, apprehensive of death for having trespassed on the respect due to his sovereign, while incognito, is agreeably surprised by receiving honours and reward.

In Mr. Hartshorne's collection, there is a romance on the same foundation, called King Edward and the Shepherd,3 which, considered as illustrating manners, is still more curious than The King and the Hermit; but it is foreign to the present purpose. The reader has here the original legend from which the incident in the romance is derived; and the identifying the irregular eremite with the Friar Tuck of Robin Hood's story was an obvious expedient.

The name of Ivanhoe was suggested by an old rhyme. All novelists have had occasion at some time or other to wish with Falstaff that they knew where a commodity of good names was to be had. On such an occasion the Author chanced to call to memory a rhyme recording three names of the manors forfeited by the ancestor of the celebrated Hampden, for striking the Black Prince a blow with his racket, when they quarrelled at tennis:

Tring, Wing, and Ivanhoe, For striking of a blow, Hampden did forego, And glad he could escape so.

The word suited the Author's purpose in two material respects—for, first, it had an ancient English sound; and secondly, it conveyed no indication whatever of the nature of the story. He presumes to hold this last quality to be of no small importance. What is called a taking title serves the direct interest of the bookseller or publisher, who by this means sometimes sells an edition while it is yet passing the press. But if the author permits an over degree of attention to be drawn to his work ere it has appeared, he places himself in the embarrassing condition of having excited a degree of expectation which, if he proves unable to satisfy, is an error fatal to his literary reputation. Besides, when we meet such a title as the Gunpowder Plot, or any other connected with general history, each reader, before he has seen the book, has formed to himself some particular idea of the sort of manner in which the story is to be conducted, and the nature of the amusement which he is to derive from it. In this he is probably disappointed, and in that case may be naturally disposed to visit upon the author or the work the unpleasant feelings thus excited. In such a case the literary adventurer is censured, not for having missed the mark at which he himself aimed, but for not having shot off his shaft in a direction he never thought of.

On the footing of unreserved communication which the Author has established with the reader, he may here add the trifling circumstance, that a roll of Norman warriors, occurring in the Auchinleck MS., gave him the formidable name of Front-de-Bœuf.

Ivanhoe was highly successful upon its appearance, and may be said to have procured for its Author the freedom of the rules, since he has ever since been permitted to exercise his powers of fictitious composition in England as well as Scotland.

The character of the fair Jewess4 found so much favour in the eyes of some fair readers, that the writer was censured because, when arranging the fates of the characters of the drama, he had not assigned the hand of Wilfred to Rebecca, rather than the less interesting Rowena. But, not to mention that the prejudices of the age rendered such an union almost impossible, the Author may, in passing, observe, that he thinks a character of a highly virtuous and lofty stamp is degraded rather than exalted by an attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosperity. Such is not the recompense which Providence has deemed worthy of suffering merit, and it is a dangerous and fatal doctrine to teach young persons, the most common readers of romance, that rectitude of conduct and of principle are either naturally allied with or adequately rewarded by the gratification of our passions, or attainment of our wishes. In a word, if a virtuous and self-denied character is dismissed with temporal wealth, greatness, rank, or the indulgence of such a rashly-formed or ill-assorted passion as that of Rebecca for Ivanhoe, the reader will be apt to say, 'Verily virtue has had its reward.' But a glance on the great picture of life will show that the duties of self-denial, and the sacrifice of passion to principle, are seldom thus remunerated; and that the internal consciousness of their high-minded discharge of duty produces on their own reflections a more adequate recompense, in the form of that peace which the world cannot give or take away.


1 This very curious poem, long a desideratum in Scottish literature, and given up as irrecoverably lost, was lately brought to light by the researches of Dr. Irvine of the Advocates' Library, and has been reprinted by Mr. David Laing, Edinburgh.

2 Vol. ii. p. 167.

3 Like the hermit, the shepherd makes havock amongst the king's game; but by means of a sling, not of a bow; like the hermit, too, he has his peculiar phrases of compotation, the sign and countersign being Passelodion and Berafriend. One can scarce conceive what humour our ancestors found in this species of gibberish; but

I warrant it proved an excuse for the glass.

4See Lockhart's Life of Scott, vol. vi. p. 177, ed. 1862.

G. H. Maynadier (essay date 1926)

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SOURCE: "Ivanhoe and Its Literary Consequences," in Essays in Memory of Barrett Wendell, by His Assistants, Harvard University Press, 1926, pp. 221-33.

[ In the essay that follows, Maynadier contends that the strength of the dramatic moments in Ivanhoe makes it more a work of romantic fiction than of historical narrative, although Ivanhoe deeply influenced the historical novel and the nineteenth-century attempt to popularize history.]

A little more than six years ago there was a literary anniversary which, it has seemed to me, passed without due notice—the centennial of Ivanhoe. Despite the date of 1820 on the title-page, it was in the year 1819, on the eighteenth of December, that this famous romance was put on sale, and in all Scott's literary career, no event had more significance. It not only brought Scott to the climax of his popularity, which had been growing steadily ever since The Lay of the Last Minstrel appeared in 1805; but likewise for European literature as a whole, it has been important. With the series of Scott's romances which begins with Ivanhoe, comes the full flowering of the historical novel. The seeds scattered by the breezes of its popularity fell not alone on the soil of fiction, to produce in continual succession and in many lands rich crops to the present day. In history likewise they germinated, and a crop of great romantic historians spring directly from Scott. Here, to be sure, he has not affected foreign literature so much as in the novel; but on historical writing in English his influence has been enormous. Nobody would place Scott high among historians because of actual history from his pen, such as his Life of Napoleon; yet singularly enough, with the exception of Gibbon, who has cast his mighty spell on all who since his day have written history in the English tongue, it is doubtful if any one man has so influenced English historical writing as Sir Walter Scott.

Among his novels in their effect on historians, Ivanhoe may not have been so much of an immediate influence as several others. It is something of an undeserved glory, after all, that clusters round Ivanhoe as historical fiction, for this most famous work of Scott's is more successful as a typical romance than as an historical novel proper. Of course the two are not synonymous. Every historical novel is likely to be a romance, but the majority of romances are not historical. And Ivanhoe is best on its non-historical side. Lockhart observes truly that "as a work of art, Ivanhoe is perhaps the first of all Scott's efforts .. . ; nor have the strength and splendor of his imagination been displayed to higher advantage than in some of the scenes of this romance. But I believe that no reader who is capable of thoroughly comprehending the author's Scotch character and Scotch dialogue will ever place Ivanhoe, as a work of genius, on the same level with Waverley, Guy Mannering, or The Heart of Mid-Lothian ." With equal justice Lockhart might have named some novels that rise above Ivanhoe for their presentation of history. Are the royal brothers, Richard and John, so very much alive? And how about Robin Hood and his merry men? Not historical, to be sure, they have nevertheless been so well known in popular story as to impose on a novelist who would make use of them the same sort of limitation in treatment as characters that are historical. Already in Waverley, "bonny Prince Charley"—"a prince to live and die under," as young Edward Waverley called him in fine enthusiasm after first being presented to him—had been more alive than any of the historical personages of Ivanhoe. So to most readers are Mary Stuart in The Abbot, Elizabeth in Kenilworth, Louis XI of France in Quentin Durward, and Saladin and likewise Richard in The Talisman. And the pictures of Highland life in A Legend of Montrose are more vivid and more skilfully introduced than those of English domestic life in the twelfth century as shown in the household of Cedric the Saxon.

No, not on the historical side is Ivanhoe deservedly so famous, and as Lockhart says, on its human side it has been surpassed; but on its romantic side, one can hardly praise it too highly. The tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche; the disguise of Ivanhoe, penetrated when the marshals unhelm him before Rowena, that he may receive the Chaplet of Honor from her hands; the disguise of Richard Cœur-de-Lion and his revelation of himself in the forest to Robin Hood; the truly great character of Rebecca, her subjection to test by combat, and the appearance of the young Saxon knight as her champion; the natural kindness and real nobility of Ivanhoe, and the grateful return for them from Isaac and Rebecca—a very living Isaac, too, even if reminiscent somewhat of Shylock in his anxiety about his ducats and his daughter; and above all, the storming of Front-de-Bœuf's castle of Torquilstone—could anything in fiction be more effectively romantic?

I remember talking with an old lady, gifted, alert, and charming—I have the honor to claim her a kinswoman of mine—who died well past ninety some years ago in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was telling me of her childhood in Exeter, where she grew up in a large household circle, for her grandfather, a distinguished physician of his day, lived in patriarchal style, with children of his children frequently under his roof. One of the vivid recollections of her girlhood was the reading aloud, by an aunt of hers, while the family sat round the fire in the evening, of the Waverley novels as they came out; and as she looked back, no fiction had ever seemed to this lady in her long life more engrossing. "Above all," she exclaimed, "how well I remember that first reading of Ivanhoe when I was hardly more than ten years old! The pictures that it made! I shall never forget Ulrica on the burning tower."

She was right in her enthusiasm. As that last tower of Torquilstone crashes down into the flames, with the old Saxon dame on it, waving her arms and chanting her wild old heathen war-songs, there you have one of the lasting pictures of fiction—melodramatic, to be sure, but so highly romantic and so vividly painted as, once seen, to be unforgettable. It is the unsurpassed melodramatic mediæval pictures which have created the peculiar power of Ivanhoe. The non-historical but great romantic in it, rather than the introduction of actual history, has given it its name as a great historical novel.

And verily it has been a great novel with great consequences. It was more popular outside of Scotland than any of the Scottish novels; for after all, those who, in Lockhart's phrase, were "capable of thoroughly comprehending the author's Scotch character and Scotch dialogue," were mostly themselves Scotch; Ivanhoe, on the contrary, could be comprehended just as well by an American or an Englishman as by a Scotchman. Here, moreover, it was evident for the first time that Scotland itself was not necessary to give "the author of Waverley" success as a novelist. Once he had taken his story across the Tweed, there was no reason why he should not confidently do so again. Also this was a more daring excursion into the past than any which had preceded it. In prose, Scott had never ventured into the Middle Ages before. Waverley, published in 1814, and the novels of the five following years, had gone nowhere farther back into history than Old Mortality, which went back to 1679. The success of Ivanhoe gave Scott confidence for further departures into remote periods, which in the matter of actual history, were generally better than Ivanhoe itself. So there came the splendid series which included The Abbot in 1820, Kenilworth in '21, the next year The Fortunes of Nigel, and in successive years Quentin Durward, Redgauntlet, The Talisman, Woodstock, and in 1829 Anne of Geierstein. It was by the bolder expeditions into the historical past which most of these were, even more than by those which preceded Ivanhoe, that Scott raised the historical novel to a position of the highest honor in literature, and so made possible some of the most famous characters of fiction—Leatherstocking, d'Artagnan, and Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, Henry Esmond, and many, many others.

Yet the historical novel is very far from beginning with Scott. It begins, in our literature, fifty-two years before Waverley and fifty-seven before Ivanhoe, with Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, An Historical Romance, by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Leland of Dublin. This, so far as is known, is the first novel of its kind in English. Defoe's Memoires of a Cavalier has neither the interest of a well-constructed plot nor the reality of character which we expect in a good historical novel. And nothing else before Longsword makes even the faintest approach to such a work.

Not that Longsword is a romance which would attract many readers to-day. It has, to be sure, a good enough plot concerning the adventures, during wars in France in the reign of Henry III, of the natural son of Henry II, William, Earl of Salisbury, surnamed Longsword, whose tomb you may still see in Salisbury Cathedral. There is a secondary love story, not unskilfully introduced, of a young French girl of noble birth, disguised like Elizabethan heroines in doublet and hose, and the young gentleman whom she marries. But the characters are wooden, mere puppets in expressing emotion. The story is utterly lifeless.

Yet despite its crude workmanship, here in the history of literature is an important novel, for Dr. Leland in his modest way aims to do what Scott and others after him have done in a great way. In his preface—"advertisement," he calls it—he says that he seeks to entertain by relating facts of history, which he may alter slightly for the better effect of his story. "If too great liberties have been taken," he continues, "in altering historical accounts, those who look for amusement will forgive, while the learned and critical . . . will deem it . . . of too little consequence . . . for . . . censure." The doctrine absolutely of all the great historical novelists.

From Leland to Scott, though, was a long road and one slowly travelled. The romantic novel of the eighteenth century was more inclined to imitate the material of Walpole's Castle of Otranto, two years later than Longsword, which made use of the merely melodramatic and picturesque in mediaeval life rather than events of history. But the romantic storytellers, however slowly, made steadily increasing use of history. Scott himself used it effectively in his metrical romances; and Jane Porter in her Scottish Chiefs, four years before Waverley, brought the prose historical romance closer than it ever had been before to what Scott was to make it. Then came the "Wizard" himself, incomparably trained for his work by all the accidents of fate—his birth in one of the most romantically picturesque cities of the world, family traditions, the places he visited both in his search for health as a child and in his early legal work, his own taste in reading, and the friends that he made. So after the preliminary training of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion, and The Lady of the Lake, he came to the novels which still more have made his fame, that marvellous series whose culmination, for the various reasons which we have seen, may be said to be Ivanhoe; for Ivanhoe is probably, even though not the best, nevertheless the best-known historical novel in English. The seed of Longsword had come to rich fruition, from which in turn have come the many who have tried their hands, with varying ability and success, at historical fiction all the way from Cooper through Harrison Ainsworth and G. P. R. James, Dickens, Thackeray, Kingsley, Reade, George Eliot, Blackmore, and Mark Twain, to Mr. Winston Churchill and others of our own day.

This influence of Scott on the novel has of course long been realized, but what is not so generally realized is his effect on historical writing. Yet the six historians of the English race in the nineteenth century who have won the greatest favor as men of letters were all deeply affected by Scott. The three older of them, it is true, felt first the spell of earlier romance than his, but still they were all young enough to be impressionable when Waverley appeared. Thomas Carlyle was then eighteen and a half years old; William Hickling Prescott was five months younger; and Macaulay lacked three months of being fourteen. Of the others, Motley was only three months old, and Froude and Parkman were still unborn; so these three came into the world late enough to be brought up on Scott's novels, and they were. All six, early impressed by him, made a conscious attempt to popularize history, to give it—so far as an historian might—the same sort of interest that Scott did in his novels. Thus they set the dominant fashion for historical writing in English from the thirties to the eighties of the nineteenth century.

Macaulay was the first to express the new theory of historical writing, which he did in his essay, "History," published in the Edinburgh Review in 1828. It was inspired—at least nominally—by Henry Neele's Romance of History, England—a work consisting of three volumes of short stories "illustrating"1 the reigns of English monarchs from William I to Charles I. The author, who killed himself that same year for reasons not certainly known, was a young lawyer, the son of an heraldic engraver, with a deep interest in literature and history both. He had had some poems published, and also some lectures on English literature which he had delivered. His stories in the Romance of History have at their best, which is not very often, a suggestion of Hawthorne's historical short stories, such as The Gray Champion and Endicott and the Red Cross. At their worst, their people are unreal and the situations forced. All in all, it is surprising that Macaulay should have considered the work seriously enough to take it even as a starting-point for an essay in the Edinburgh. True, it can be called hardly even that. Macaulay here surpasses his usual peculiar fashion of scarcely mentioning the work which is his nominal subject, except on the first page; his only reference to Henry Neele's book is a footnote, at the beginning of the essay, referring to the title, History. But the full and clear expression of Macaulay's doctrine shows that in him Neele's idea of emphasizing the "Romance of History" met with a sympathetic response.

When the perfect historian writes, says Macaulay, while he "relates no fact . . . which is not authenticated by sufficient testimony," at the same time, "by judicious selection, rejection, and arrangement, he gives to truth those attractions which have been usurped by fiction. . . . Men will not merely be described, but will be made intimately known to us. The changes of manners will be indicated, not merely by a few general phrases, or a few extracts from statistical documents, but by appropriate images present in every line."

And then comes that well-known paragraph: "If a man, such as we are supposing, should write the history of England, he would assuredly not omit the battles, the sieges, the negotiations, the seditions, the ministerial changes. But with these he would intersperse the details which are the charm of historical romances. At Lincoln Cathedral there is a beautiful painted window, which was made by an apprentice out of the pieces of glass which had been rejected by his master. It is so far superior to every other in the church, that, according to the tradition, the vanquished artist killed himself from mortification. Sir Walter Scott, in the same manner, has used those fragments of truth which historians have scornfully thrown behind them, in a manner which may well excite their envy. He has constructed out of their gleanings works which, even considered as histories, are scarcely less valuable than theirs. But a truly great historian would reclaim those materials which the novelist has appropriated. The history of the government and the history of the people would be exhibited in that mode in which alone they can be exhibited justly, in inseparable conjunction and intermixture. We should not then have to look for the wars and votes of the Puritans in Clarendon, and for their phraseology in Old Mortality; for one half of King James in Hume, and for the other half in the Fortunes of Nigel."

Previously,2 in reviewing Hallam's Constitutional History, Macaulay had come near preaching the same doctrine. "Good histories," he said, "in the proper sense of the word, we have not. But we have good historical romances, and good historical essays. The imagination and the reason . . . have made partition of a province of literature . . . and now they hold their respective portions in severalty, instead of holding the whole in common." He goes on to compare "the two kinds of composition into which history has been thus divided" to a "map" and a "painted landscape. The picture, though it places the object before us, does not enable us to ascertain with accuracy the form and dimensions of its component parts. . . . The map . . . presents no scene to the imagination; but it gives us exact information as to the bearings of the various points, and is a more useful companion to the traveller or the general than the painting could be. . . . " Again he says, "Sir Walter Scott gives us a novel; Mr. Hallam, a critical and argumentative history." The inference is plain that already Macaulay believed that in a truly great history the reader should find, combined with accurate information, the interest which Scott was able to impart to his romances. The significance of Macaulay's specific references to the great romancer is still more apparent.

Carlyle, as an historian, produces such a different effect from Macaulay that one would never think they held identically the same theory of the way history should be written. Yet that they did, Carlyle shows in his essay on Scott,3 published ten years after Macaulay's essay on History. Carlyle's judgment, often at fault, is here almost consistently so. In the whole remarkable essay is nothing but mistaken criticism, except when Carlyle touches on the marvellous range of Scott's characters—"from Davie Deans up to Richard Cœurde-Lion; from Meg Merrilies to Die Vernon and Queen Elizabeth"—and when he speaks of what Scott has done for history. For his historical novels "have taught all men this truth, which looks like a truism, and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others, till so taught: that the by-gone ages of the world were actually filled by living men, not by protocols, state-papers, controversies and abstractions of men. Not abstractions were they . . . but men in buff or other coats and breeches, with color in their cheeks, with passions in their stomachs, and the idioms, features, and vitalities of very men. It is a little word this; inclusive of a great meaning! History will henceforth have to take thought of it."

So history did. Already Carlyle had applied the new theory in his own work. The French Revolution appeared in 1837, and who can read the story of the royal flight to Varennes, in that shortest night of the year in 1791, without being held as by the most absorbing romance ever penned? And a few months after The French Revolution, there had been published in Boston, on Christmas Day,4Ferdinand and Isabella, the first of Prescott's histories. Prescott was not so big a man as Carlyle; none of his histories engrosses you like The French Revolution; but again you have the very thrill of romance as you read of the hopes and fears of the Spanish sovereigns, of the treasures beyond belief of the Peruvian king, and still more as you accompany Cortez from the coast on his daring march up by snow-capped Popocatepetl to the City of Mexico.

History again took thought of Scott in the History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada. Froude, as different in effect from Carlyle as Carlyle is from Macaulay, was nevertheless his devoted disciple, and he accepted entirely his master's theory of writing history. As he expounds it at length5 in the last volume of his Life of Carlyle, he finds the chief task of the historian to bring back to life "dead things and dead people"; to bring them back by producing all of a novelist's or a dramatist's reality of character and scene. Applying this doctrine, Froude makes his Mary Stuart—whatever you may think of the accuracy of his conception of her—as real as Scott's in The Abbot; and no less interesting is his account of the escape from Lochleven than that of the novel. Motley, another disciple of Carlyle, shows his indebtedness to the master in two ways—imitation of phrase and other detail, and general method. Indebted solely to Carlyle for the first, the latter he probably developed independently, for in childhood and youth he was an untiring reader of Scott and Cooper. With less power than Carlyle and Froude of making his people real, he, a born "colorisi in language," spent his romantic energy in historical composition rather in painting pictures, "sumptuous and glowing," which Dr. Holmes6 justly compares to those of Rubens, that Motley so much admired. Such is that gorgeous canvas at the beginning of The Rise of the Dutch Republic, of the abdication of Charles V at Brussels. And the spirit which created those pictures, however stimulated in maturity, was nourished in its infancy on the romances of which Ivanhoe is the most famous.

Macaulay, who by his theory of historical writing already quoted should best have incorporated Scott's methods in history proper, by the limitations of his brilliant genius fell short of his great contemporary, Carlyle, in doing so. But his attention to detail, which is of the novelist, goes far toward creating the marvellous power of his exposition, and sometimes in narrative he attains the high standard he sets for his ideal historian. Witness his account of the Battle of the Boyne, the story of the death of Charles II, and that of the growing defection from James II as the Revolution of 1688 hurries on. Little as Macaulay likes that king, he makes him after all a human being from whom you cannot withhold your sympathy, when, one after another, friends and family abandon him, till, on hearing that his daughter Anne has gone over to the Prince of Orange, he cries, "God help me! My own children have deserted me." Of this James you do not have to look for one half in a romance and the other in a history. Both halves are there in Macaulay.

Finally Parkman, from his youth, like these others, a lover of poetry and novels, unites in his France and England in North America, to which he gives significantly the sub-title, A Series of Historical Narratives, the accuracy of the historian and the charm of the romancer. He is second to none in waking the dead past to the magic of immediate life, in transporting his reader to scenes and events hundreds or thousands of miles and two or three centuries away. And so, thanks to Francis Parkman, even the lazy city idler can feel his muscles play in exuberant strength, as he paddles his canoe with La Salle or Father Marquette, and their swarthy Indian guides, along some river or lake hitherto unknown to Europeans. He breathes all the freshness of the woods and within his four walls has all the sense of illimitable freedom that came to the early explorers when they gazed for the first time on those fresh-water seas, the Great Lakes, or struck out into pathless forest or prairie in those "realms of solitude where the Mississippi rolled its sullen tide, and the Ohio wound its belt of silver through the verdant woodlands."7 And when the final act in the conflict of so many years is come, he partakes of Montcalm's determination to win or die, and of Wolfe's anxious expectancy as his boat drifts in the darkness with the St. Lawrence tide to the path which shall lead to the Heights of Abraham, he himself repeating in a low voice Gray's Elegy, and then saying to the officers with him, "Gentlemen, I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec."

Yes, Ivanhoe has helped, directly or indirectly, to build great histories as well as great novels.


1 Cf. Neele's Preface.

2 In 1827.

3 "Sir Walter Scott," London and Westminster Review, 1838.

4 1837.

5Carlyle in London, ii, pp. 200 ff.

6John Lothrop Motley, a Memoir (Boston, 1878), p. 73.

7Montcalm and Wolfe, Chapter 1.

John Buchan (essay date 1932)

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SOURCE: "The Broken Years, 1817-1819," in Sir Walter Scott, Cassell and Company Ltd., 1932, pp. 167-201.

[ In the following excerpt, Buchan criticizes Ivanhoe 's pageantry and artificiality, as well as its concern with ornament, rather than with a more serious representation of medieval England.]

In Ivanhoe Scott opened a new lode in the mine of his fancy, a vein of poorer but most marketable ore. He had read widely in the mediaeval chroniclers, and had in his head a mass of more or less accurate antiquarian knowledge, of arms, heraldry, monastic institutions, and the dress and habits of the Middle Ages. He chose the reign of Richard I as his period, and tumbled into it a collection of other things which had caught his fancy. To the forests of the English midlands he would fit the appropriate romance, and do for them what he had already done for the Highlands and the Border of his own land. He got the sounding name of Ivanhoe from an old Buckinghamshire rhyme, and Front-de-Bœuf from the Auchinleck MSS., and he had Chaucer and Froissart and the ballads and a wealth of legendary lore to draw upon. He was writing fiction, not history, so his conscience was elastic. Freeman1 and others have pointed out the historical errors of the book. The customs of three centuries have been confused; Robin Hood, if he ever lived, belonged to a century later; Cedric and Athelstane are impossible figures for that time, and Edward the Confessor left no descendants; Ulrica is some hundreds of years out of date and her gods were never known to any Saxon pantheon. But such things matter little in romance, which is a revolt against the despotism of facts.

The real blemish is that this romance is concerned only with externals. Scott was not depicting a life in whose soul he shared, as he could share in the ancient world of the Border ballads, or imaginatively construct for himself the confusion of the Scottish seventeenth century. Mediaeval England was to him primarily a costume play. He was not like William Morris who, through some kink or fold of Time, became himself of the Middle Ages, acquiring their languor, their uniformity, even their endless prolixity. Nor could Scott, like Stendhal, think himself consciously into the mediaeval mind. The scene he shapes is wholly literary, a mosaic of details put together by a learned craftsman, not the subtler creation of the spirit. We never find ourselves, as in the greater novels, "lone sitting by the shores of old romance," but in a bright, bustling world, very modern except for the odd clothes and the quaint turns of speech. There is nothing of the peculiar mediaeval charm and aroma. It is a tale of forests, but only of their green highways; we are not disquieted by any strange rustlings in the thicket.

What Scott has given us is a pageant so far-flung and glittering that, in spite of its artificiality, it captivates the fancy. There are no fewer than one hundred and fifty-three clearly individualized characters at some time or another on the stage. With generous profusion he piles excitement upon excitement, weaving, like his favourite Ariosto, many different narratives into one pattern, and managing it all with such skill that there are no gaps in the web. It is a success—though on a far greater scale—of the same type as Byron's metrical romances. Improbabilities, impossibilities, coincidences are accepted because the reader's mind is beguiled out of scepticism. The scene is so novel, the figures so vivid that we bow to the convention and forbear to doubt.

The artificiality being admitted, the plot is excellently managed. With two such figures as Ivanhoe and Richard at large, and with the woods full of Locksley's merry men, he can put his characters into the direst straits and leave us assured that at the blast of a bugle they will be rescued. One stirring episode follows another:—the feast in Cedric's hall; the fanfaronade of the Ashby tournament, with its sonorous heraldry; the revels of the Black Knight and Friar Tuck in the hermit's cell; the siege of Torquilstone with its many episodes: the death of Front-de-Bœuf; Rebecca's trial before the court of the Templars; Richard's disclosure of himself to Locksley: Ivanhoe's last contest with Bois-Guilbert; the arrest of Albert de Malvoisin; Rebecca's farewell to Rowena. The speed and spirit of the narrative stifle criticism, and on two occasions only is the reader inclined to question. One is when Athelstane is surprisingly raised from the dead, a portent introduced to satisfy James Ballantyne. The other is Bois-Guilbert's end, "a victim to the violence of his own contending passions." The fact that something of the kind had once happened in the Edinburgh law-courts does not make this climax artistically more convincing.

The characters, within their artificial sphere, are carefully drawn. Gurth and Wamba do not live like Andrew Fairservice and Caleb Balderstone, or Cedric like the Baron of Bradwardine, or Ulrica like Meg Merrilies. There is none of the familiar humour—save in the mention of a Norman called Jacques Fitzdotterel of whom we would gladly have heard more—for Wamba's jests are for the most part clowning out of the old playbooks. But all the figures are real when they are in action, for the action is most concretely imagined, and all are held true to their conventional types—Isaac of York, Richard, Prince John, Ivanhoe, Locksley, Cedric, even the ponderous Athelstane. Moreover, Scott hit upon the right kind of speech for his people, always colourful and dignified, not too archaic to be difficult or too modern to break the illusion. But only two of his characters seem to me to have an independent life outside their parts in the tale. One is Friar Tuck, who has the jolly freedom of the woods in him. The other is Rebecca, in whom, as in Di Vernon, Scott revived his old dream of romantic maidenhood. He pairs off his hero according to his custom with the more marriageable heroine, but he leaves Ivanhoe, as he had been left himself, with long memories of Green Mantle. Thackeray's skit, Rebecca and Rowena, is amply justified.

It is hard for us to-day to recapture the atmosphere in which Ivanhoe won its resounding success. To us the "halidoms" and "gramercys" are so much idle "tushery," but then they were fresh and captivating. The world of the book has become too familiar to us from many repetitions. If we would understand what Scott's age thought of it, we must cast back our memories to boyhood and recall how avidly we followed the fortunes of the Disinherited Knight and how anxiously we listened for Locksley's horn. That was the mood in which Dumas read it, and became in that hour an historical novelist—"Oh! then, little by little the clouds that had veiled my sight began to lift, and I saw open before me ampler horizons." It is secure in the immortality which follows upon the love of recurrent generations of youth. But it is work on a lower plane than the great novels that preceded it, for only once in it does Scott seem to me to rise to the rarer and truer romance, and set the bells of Elfland ringing. That is when, at Ashby, Locksley shoots at the butts, and craves permission "to plant such a mark as is used in the North Country."


1Norman Conquest, V. note W.

H. J. C. Grierson (essay date 1953)

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SOURCE: Introduction to Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, Collins and W. W. Norton and Company, 1953, pp. 27-31.

[ In the essay that follows, Grierson claims that Ivanhoe is a central example of the historical novel and that Scott created that genre.]

In Ivanhoe Scott made his first venture outside the history of his own country; and in the Introduction of 1839 he gives the reason for the step. It was a bold step, because the nine novels (including The Black Dwarf) issued between Waverley in 1814 and The Legend of Montrose in 1819 had established their reputation as 'the Scotch novels' in the absence of any certain knowledge of the real name of 'The Author of Waverley'. 'We have seen', writes Keats in a letter to his brother and his sister-in-law in 1818, 'three literary Kings in our time—Scott—Byron—and then the Scotch novels.' Still, to escape from Scots dialogue must have been a relief for many English readers, and Ivanhoe marked the culmination of Scott's popularity as judged by the sale of the novels. For like cause Kenilworth (1821) and Quentin Durward (1823) were to prove the favourites in Germany and France respectively. But only in Redgauntlet (1824) was Scott again the Scott of the early 'Scotch novels'.

Scott was the creator of the Historical Novel, and it is well to realise exactly what is meant by the historical novel. Many of the older writers' romances had laid the scene of their story in the past, the Middle Ages. But however remote the period chosen, the characters had the moral and social outlook of the writer's own age, and spoke the language with all its elegancies of the writer's own day. There was no attempt made to recover the spirit and atmosphere of the century chosen for the tale. Sir Walter Raleigh, in his book on the English Novel, points out that in Tom Jones, the persons of the novel come upon a number of soldiers on their way to oppose the invasion of the young Pretender, but this is accepted quite without any feeling for the historical and romantic interest of the event. In the historical novel, as Scott created it, both the scenic and the temporal setting of the story must be felt throughout by the reader. You are in Scotland amid its lakes and streams and hills, and you are in the century of the '45, that is Edward Waverley is, and his romantic reading has made him at least susceptible to the appeal of the adventure. For the scenery you must rely on occasional descriptions. Such descriptions Scott had of course already made a feature of his romantic and historical poems, the predecessors and preparation for the novels; and in Waverley they begin as soon as the hero enters the village of Tully-Veolan. To suggest the period there will be the manners and customs, but the tone of a past period will be sustained throughout by the diction; and it was at once a problem for the historical novelist to decide how far he might 'archaise' if such a word is permissible. In this Scott had a predecessor in Joseph Strutt, the antiquarian, in his Queen-Hoo-Hall (1808); but Scott came to the conclusion that the novelist who wishes to be at all popular must be cautious in his use of archaisms. Strutt had gone too far in his anxiety to be accurate. It would not do, for example, to write Ivanhoe in a combination of Middle English and Norman French. To give the suggestion of our grandparents, 'thou' and 'thee' and a few similar older usages. Even so one may fall into the style which Stevenson later called 'tushery', because the speakers are apt to say a little too often 'tush!' 'Quoth he'. But Scott also drew on his familiarity with the Elizabethan dramatists in Kenilworth and The Fortunes of Nigel. In Old Mortality (1816) Scott had already, as Lockhart points out, attempted an historical novel in the fuller sense of the word, for he does not, as in those that preceded it, draw on any experience of his own. But he was intimately familiar with the religious temper of the story, weakened but not yet mellowed by changing circumstances and an emancipated judgement, for it was the temper of his own parental home. In Ivanhoe he leaves Scotland; and not that alone, he makes the setting of his story a period of which he had, and could not have, any direct or transmitted experience. For if Scotland is the country of which Scott writes with intimate understanding, the Borders and the country as far north as, and including, Perthshire, the period of which he can write with understanding is from the Reformation to his own day. Of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Middle Ages, he had no real comprehension, for the Catholic Church was still, as he had been taught to think, 'a degrading superstition', an institution whose defeat of the Reformation 'would have rivetted on Scotland the claims of antiquated superstition and spiritual tyranny'. The Middle Ages were for Scott the ages of Chivalry.

In Ivanhoe, therefore, Scott starts from no understanding of the spirit of the age derived from his own experience, direct or transmitted. It is, as Lockhart says, more entirely a product of his wide reading. 'The Story', as Blackwood pointed out, 'requires to be read with a quite new and much greater effort of imagination; the manners being unlike anything either the author or the reader of the present times could have had any opportunity of knowing by personal observation'. On the Historical accuracy of the picture Freeman has spoken the final word: 'The customs of three centuries have been confused; Robin Hood, if he ever lived, belonged to a century later; Cedric and Athelstane are impossible figures for that time, and Edward the Confessor left no descendants; Ulrica is some hundreds of years out of date and her gods were never known to any Saxon pantheon. But such things matter little in a romance which is a revolt against the despotism of facts': so Freeman as reported by Lord Tweedsmuir ('Sir Walter Scott' 1932). To this one may add, and of little matter for the historical romance if the impression of a past era is adequately conveyed.

Ivanhoe thus stands or falls by its interest as a story, and a presentation of characters, interesting in themselves and by their suggestion of a past time, of manners and feelings intelligible by their recognisably human character but with a colour derivable from a past epoch in English history. As generally with Scott, the least individual and interesting are the hero and the heroine, Ivanhoe and Rowenna. Cedric the Saxon is fairly recognisable as a type; but the most arresting persons are the Templar and the Jews, especially the latter.

The Templar is an historically justifiable figure. The Knights Templars or 'Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon' founded in the twelfth century 'undertook the pious task of protecting the pilgrims who after the first crusade flocked to Jerusalem and the other sacred spots in the Holy Land'. They were bound by oath to guard the public roads, to forsake worldly chivalry (the pursuit of honour), to live in chastity, obedience and poverty according to the 'rule of Saint Beneit' i. e., Saint Benedict. They were early presented by Baldwin I., King of Jerusalem, with a palace lying near what had been a Mosque, known as the Temple of Solomon, from which they took their name. Like other religious foundations of the Middle Ages they soon acquired wealth, property and privileges, due largely, as with other religious institutions, to the doctrine of Purgatory. Fortified by the rites of the Church a Christian might die without fear of the worst, but the length and character of his sufferings in Purgatory must depend on the life he had led, but also on the prayers and masses said and sung for his soul. The reader of the Divina Commedia will remember the constant prayer of each soul that Dante meets that he will on his return to earth remind the relatives of the suffering soul of their duty. Gifts to the Church or its Orders to secure masses and prayers may shorten the time which one's sins have deserved; 'The abundant tears of my Nella have brought me here thus soon to drink the sweet wormwood of torment. By her devout sighs and prayers she has drawn me from the region where one has to wait, and freed me from all the other circles.' (Purgatorio xxiii.) But whatever profession or institution grows wealthy will attract into it many who have no religious vocation. For more than a hundred years the Templars were one of the wealthiest and most influential factors in European politics. They owned property in every country and were great financiers and bankers. Religiously they had but one great end in life, the recovery and safety of the Holy Land. So long as that was the dominant policy of Christendom and the Papacy their power was unshakable. Finally, whatever crimes they may have been guilty of in the years of their power, none was quite so great as the means adopted to suppress them by Philip of France and Pope Clement V. Among the charges brought against them were, probably fantastic, charges of blasphemous practices and unnatural crimes as well as of entire disbelief in the religion they professed such as is openly declared by the Templar in his wooing of Rebecca; 'Answer me not.. . by urging the difference of our creeds; within our secret conclave we hold these tales in derision'. But the Templar of Scott's story has the divided mind which must have been no unusual emergence in an age of such conflicts of principles, causes, peoples, ideals and human passions .. . He is a Crusader whatever may have been his convictions, and his enemy as such the Jew even more than the worshipper of Mahound. 'Economically and socially the crusades had disastrous effects upon the Jews'. (J. Jacobs: Jewish Encyclopedia. iv. 379). It intensified religious animosity, and the Christian attitude towards the Jews is vividly shown in the interview between Isaac and the Grand Master of the Templars (c. xxxv.) 'Back Dog. .. . I touch not misbelievers save with the sword'. In a novel on the same period by a recent Colombian author the greatest crime of which the hero in an hour of penitence can accuse himself however licentious his life has been, is that once he had spared the lives of some Jews. The comedy in the story is drawn, with the help of Chaucer, from the fool, peasant, knight and the clerical characters, especially the Friar. It is well to remember that, as Aldous Huxley has recently pointed out, since the Reformation (and many of the most ardent of the Reformers came from among the Friars) the Friar has ceased entirely to be a subject of satire, and has become the object of profound Catholic reverence.

The most serious defects in the romance are first, that the characters are seen only from without. We are not admitted into the inner mind of any one. Second, that the hero and heroine are no adequate counterparts to their rivals, Dubois Guilbert and Rebecca. The last is the greatest personality in the story. Scott knew his Shakespeare well, as many a turn of phrase as well as direct reference betrays. He doubtless had in mind The Merchant of Venice, the Jew and his daughter. That play was written when a wave of anti-Semitism was crossing the country due to some plot against the life of Elizabeth. Marlowe's Jew of Malta was revived, and Shakespeare's play was his contribution to the feeling of the day. Whatever we may think, the Elizabethan audience saw in Shylock a vivid picture of two hated types generally termed the Jew and the money-lender. But the range and detachment of Shakespeare's imagination suddenly revealed to him and his audience, at least of to-day, the other side of the question, the Jew as seen through his own eyes: 'I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections etc. ' Since Lamb wrote there has been a tendency to read, and even to act, the play in the spirit these words express. To an Elizabethan audience their effect was lost in the contemplation of the Jew's actual conduct, the intensity of his hatred of Christians and passionate desire for revenge. But if Isaac has some of the traits of Shylock, Rebecca is a very different person from Jessica, the light skirt and ready escapist. Rebecca is a noble character still further ennobled by injustice and suffering. She is probably the finest woman character in the Waverley novels, and Scott's own reply to readers who wished a better fate for her, that she should at least have wedded Ivanhoe, could not be more finely stated than it is in the Introduction of 1830: 'But a glance at the great picture of life will show, that the duties of self-denial, and the sacrifice of passion to principle, are seldom thus remunerated; and that the internal consciousness of their high-minded discharge of duty produces in their own reflections a more adequate recompense, in the form of that peace which the world cannot give or take away'. The ardour of Scott's temperament, and his tendency to spend on his dreams of landed property, led to disaster; but the spirit in which he set himself to repair the injury he had done is that which he has thus described.

Joseph E. Duncan (essay date 1955)

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SOURCE: "The Anti-Romantic in Ivanhoe" in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 9, No. 4, March, 1955, pp. 293-300.

[ In the following essay, Duncan argues, against earlier critics, that Ivanhoe is "neither juvenile nor romantic" but is a serious examination of the transition between a period of heroic adventure and one of stable development.]

Is Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe essentially a romantic book of adventure—preferably for boys? A number of usually perceptive critics have treated it as such. Walter Bagehot declared that the novel expressed a great "romantic illusion" and that it was addressed "to that kind of boyish fancy which idolizes medieval society as the 'fighting time.'" Eighty years later Sir Herbert Grierson asserted that Ivanhoe was "mainly a good story of adventure for boys." Una Pope-Hennessy agreed that the novel was "first and last a boy's book" and explained that for Scott medieval England was "all a wonderful pageant-land" and that the novel's romance was "a revolt against the tyranny of facts." G. H. Maynadier wrote that the novel was not deservedly so famous on its historical side or its human side, but that "on its romantic side, one can hardly praise it too highly." Dorothy Margaret Stuart suggested that Ivanhoe was "little—if at all—more convincing than The Castle of Otranto."1 While the novel's juvenile and romantic qualities probably have been responsible for much of its appeal to successive generations of readers and, more recently, to moviegoers, the basic point of view in Ivanhoe is neither juvenile nor romantic, but thoughtful, mature, and in a sense antiromantic. The novel presents a vivid, colorful picture of the "fighting time," but it does not glorify the fighters.

In his studies of the Scottish novels, David Daiches explained that Scott's real interest as a novelist was "in the ways in which the past impinged on the present and in the effects of that impact on human character." Explaining Scott's "deep concern with the relations between tradition and progress," Daiches declared that the Scottish novels "attempt to show that heroic action, as the typical romantic writer would like to think of it, is, in the last analysis, neither heroic nor useful."2 Very similar interests and attitudes are reflected in Ivanhoe (1820). It was Scott's first published medieval novel, and in it he treated the same kind of themes examined in Rob Roy (1817), The Heart of Midlothian (1818), and other Scottish novels. In those he wrote about the conflict between an old heroic ideal and modern industrial society. He showed the struggle between the Scottish nationalists and the more socially advanced English and then their ultimate coöperation in forging a new society. In Ivanhoe he treated the chaos arising from the struggle between Saxons and Normans and the beginning of a new, more ordered society. But he realized that there was much of the heroic and romantic in both cultures that would unfortunately have to be sacrified before the two peoples could fuse and form the English nation.

The action, though confusingly narrated, presents in clear outlines the conflict between the Saxons and Normans, the turmoil and distress brought to the country by the struggle, the losses suffered by both groups, and then the first steps toward a unified England. Ivanhoe, the son of the Saxon patroit Cedric but a devoted follower of the Norman Richard the Lion-Hearted, is severely wounded in a tournament in which he defeats the Norman followers of King John. He is taken away and cared for by the Jewish Rebecca and her father Isaac, who later travel with the party of Cedric to gain protection against outlaws. The Normans of King John's faction attack Cedric and his entourage, capture everyone except the swineherd Gurth and the fool Wamba, and take the prisoners to the castle of the Norman Front-de-Boeuf. Richard, the Saxon servants, and Robin Hood and his band storm the castle and rescue everyone except Rebecca, who is taken away by the Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert. When the Templars condemn Rebecca as a witch, she demands a champion. Brian had expected to be her champion, but he is appointed to defend the Templars' charge against Rebecca. If he is victorious, she will be burned; if he does not fight, he is disgraced. Ivanhoe, however, though scarcely recovered, appears as her champion and defeats Brian, who is really the victim of the conflict within him.

The end of civil strife and the beginning of a new national era are seen most clearly in the destruction of Front-de-Boeuf's castle. It is successfully stormed by Richard (who now insists he is Richard of England, no longer Richard of Anjou), Robin Hood, the Saxon slave Gurth and many common men of England. It was also set on fire by the mad Saxon captive Ulrica, apparently representative of the most ancient and barbarous element in the Saxon culture, who perishes with Front-de-Boeuf. In her song atop the burning castle she returns to "the wild strains which animated her forefathers during the time of Paganism and unrestrained ferocity" and lamented the passing of the race of Hengist and Horsa. The conclusion of her song seems significant for the future:

For vengeance hath but an hour; Strong hate itself shall expire! I also must perish!

This transition and the coming national unity are also dramatized in the victories of the Saxon-Norman Ivanhoe, the Saxon Athelstane's renunciation of his rights to the English throne, and the marriage of Ivanhoe, Richard's favorite, and Rowena, the last descendant of King Alfred.

In the introduction to Ivanhoe Scott explained that the Saxons were distinguished by "their plain, homely, blunt manners, and the free spirit infused by their ancient institutions and laws; the victors, by the high spirit of military fame, personal adventure, and whatever could distinguish them as the Flower of Chivalry." But the novel makes clear that these ideals are sometimes travestied and that an inflexible devotion to them has lost much of its usefulness. The two peoples cannot achieve unity so long as the Saxons dream of re-establishing their old kingdom and the Normans seek personal glory in irresponsible adventure. Both are short-sighted and hardened because of their enslavement to these outworn ideals and the consequent disunity and disorder in England. Cedric is a dreamer with a fanatic devotion to the lost Saxon cause that has led him to oppose the claims of nature in disowning his son Ivanhoe because the young knight has followed Richard. Athelstane, the hereditary leader of the Saxons, is known as the Unready. Although brave, he has no enthusiasm for anything except eating.

Many of the representatives of the Norman chivalric tradition are as interested in personal booty as they are in personal glory. Like Robertson in The Heart of Midlothian and some of the Highland chiefs, they are often little better than common outlaws. Scott interrupted his "idle tale" to lament that "those valiant barons, to whose stand against the crown the liberties of England were indebted for their existence, should themselves have been such dreadful oppressors, and capable of excesses contrary not only to the laws of England, but to those of nature and humanity." Front-de-Boeuf has killed his father, has kept the Saxon Ulrica as his captive mistress, and is prepared to torture Isaac to obtain money. De Bracy is somewhat more chivalrous, but has kidnaped Rowena. Brian gaily violates his oath as a Templar, but is destroyed by an inner conflict when he discovers that the values of his order are opposed not only to love but to humane action.

Ivanhoe and Richard are the pivotal characters who indicate the possibility of a better future. Ivanhoe, though a Saxon, has given up the claims of his race in fighting for England and Christendom in the Crusades. Richard is a Norman who, however, honors Saxons from Cedric to Robin Hood. Richard, like some of the diehard Highland leaders of the Scottish novels, is a paradoxical figure, and Scott's treatment of him is ambivalent. Scott realized both the beauty and the grave inadequacy of the heroic ideal. Richard, "gay, good-humoured, and fond of manhood in every rank of life," can unite Saxons and Normans, barons and yeomen. When Cedric addresses him as Richard of Anjou, the monarch exclaims: "No, noble Cedric—Richard of England! whose deepest interest, whose deepest wish, is to see her sons united with each other." He effects a reconciliation between Cedric and Ivanhoe to help quell the dissension among his "faithful people." Yet Richard is too committed to the old outworn heroic ideal to lead the people into the promised land of a new England. "In the lion-hearted king," Scott wrote, "the brilliant, but useless character, of a knight of romance, was in a great measure realised and revived; and the personal glory which he acquired by his own deeds of arms, was far more dear to his excited imagination, than that which a course of policy and wisdom would have spread around his government." Scott apparently felt that Richard's dreams for England were not realized because he was "rash and romantic."3

There is more promise of unity and progress in the characters representative of the common people. Robin Hood joins the siege of Front-de-Boeuf's stronghold as "a true-born native of England." "Downright English am I," Friar Tuck exclaims to Richard. Wamba and Gurth are ready and able to play important roles in the rescue. In fact, Wamba enters the castle disguised as a monk and changes places with Cedric, who escapes. Although he is prepared to risk his life for his friend and master, he is not willing to do so for the heir of the Saxon kings, Athelstane.

The Hebraic culture, as represented by Isaac and Rebecca, is a kind of touchstone by which both Normans and Saxons may be judged. The Jews are conventionally charged with avarice, partly for the sake of comedy, but they are also the best representatives in the novel of the Christian virtues of love and sacrifice. Isaac and Rebecca are good Samaritans who care for Ivanhoe when his father Cedric is too proud to do so. Isaac rises to true heroism in his determination to endure any physical torture or financial sacrifice to save his daughter. This courageous devotion is in contrast with Cedric's treatment of Ivanhoe. Rebecca, with no hope that her affection for Ivanhoe can be reciprocated, risks her life to nurse him and even to give him a rapid-fire account of the siege. In her self-sacrifice and unobtrusive heroism she is comparable to Jeanie Deans of The Heart of Midlothian. In the meeting of Ivanhoe with Rebecca there is an encounter of the highest ideals of the chivalric tradition with those of the Hebraic-Christian tradition. Ivanhoe champions a chivalry, which he ironically associates with Christianity, which rates life far beneath the pitch of honor. Rebecca carries Scott's criticism of the chivalric ideal. She maintains that "domestic love, kindly affection, peace and happiness" are higher virtues than the love of honor and glory that brings tears and bloodshed. It is also Rebecca who later recalls the English to their own ideals. She seeks a champion from "merry England, hospitable, generous, free."

The closing pages of Ivanhoe suggest that a step has been taken forward toward a less adventurous but more stable and fruitful society, but they also warn that a relapse is inevitable because of an adherence to outworn traditions. The marriage of Ivanhoe and Rowena is symbolically a marriage between the Normans and the Saxons and "a pledge of the future peace and harmony betwixt two races." It is attended by both Saxons and Normans, "joined with the universal jubilee of the lower orders." Ivanhoe himself, a native Saxon but representative of the best in Norman chivalry, is a kind of symbol of a new, unified England. Although a brave and loyal knight, he is grave and is impatient with "the wild spirit of chivalry" which impels Richard to seek dangers needlessly.

While attention perhaps centers on the dramatic conflict between the Saxons and Normans, the tension between the past and the present, tradition and progress, is even more significant. Critics have found many anachronisms in Ivanhoe, but they have tended to neglect the one which Scott intended to present—the adherence to ideals that have outlived their usefulness. Both Cedric and Richard are victims of their own romantic dreams of ways of life that belong to the past. Cedric desires to re-establish the Saxon kingdom; Richard envisions a progressive and unified English nation, but is too committed to knight-errantry to leave "those solid benefits to his country on which history loves to pause." "His reign," wrote Scott, "was like the course of a brilliant and rapid meteor, which shoots along the face of Heaven, shedding around an unnecessary and portentous light, which is instantly swallowed up by universal darkness." Ivanhoe and England prosper under Richard, but their prosperity is cut short by Richard's premature death, a result of his continued chivalric irresponsibility. It is ominous that Rebecca, who seems to represent the ideals of the past that are really worth preserving, leaves England because the nation is not prepared to nurture these ideals. Before departing, she explains to Rowena that "the people of England are a fierce race, quarrelling ever with their neighbours or among themselves."

It is only the surface and the padding of Ivanhoe that provide the romantic boy's adventure story. Scott's main concern in this novel, as in his best Scottish novels, was with the difficult but necessary transition from a romantic, heroic era to a comparatively drabber period of unity, peace, and progress. Despite the many inaccuracies in Scott's treatment of historical figures and the medieval setting, he had a firm grasp of a fundamental problem during a critical period of English history. He recognized that the reconciliation of Saxons and Normans was a permanent contribution; but he also recognized that the impingement of the past on the present, as in Richard's irresponsible heroism, could have serious consequences. Ivanhoe, far from being mainly juvenile and romantic, is essentially antichauvinistic, antichivalric, and anti-romantic.


1The Works of Walter Bagehot (Hartford, 1891) II, 221; Sir Herbert Grierson, Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (London, 1938), p. 182; Una Pope-Hennessy, Sir Walter Scott (Denver, 1949), p. 93: G. H. Maynadier, "Ivanhoe and Its Literary Consequences," Essays in Memory of Barrett Wendell (Cambridge, Mass., 1926), pp. 222-223, and Dorothy Margaret Stuart, "Sir Walter Scott, Some Centenary Reflections," English Association Pamphlets, No. 89 (1934), p. 4.

2 David Daiches, "Introduction," The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott, p. v, and "Scott's Achievement as a Novelist" (Part One), Nineteenth-Century Fiction, VI (1951), 81. In the introduction to The Fortunes of Nigel, Scott explained that the "strong contrast produced by the opposition of ancient manners to those which are gradually subduing them affords the lights and shadows necessary to give effect to a fictitious narrative." Max Korn declared that Scott's intellectual and intuitive historical consciousness provided the foundation and point of view in his work and that in Ivanhoe he had presented successfully the dramatic tension of human and political oppositions. "Sir Walter Scott und die Geschichte," Anglia, LXI (1937), 417, 435.

3 In the introduction to The Monastery Scott referred to the personal gallantry and "extravagant chivalry" that led knights to endanger the lives of others as well as their own.

Francis R. Hart (essay date 1966)

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SOURCE: "The Historical Picturesque and the Survivals of Chivalry," in Scott's Novels: The Plotting of Historic Survival, University Press of Virginia, 1966, pp. 150-245.

[In the following excerpt, Hart claims that Scott combines chivalric and anti-chivalric attitudes in Ivanhoe, as seen in his attempt to mitigate the self-centered pursuit of glory with moral prudence, and that Ivanhoe does not represent Scott's departure from historical fiction.]

The distance from The Heart of Midlothian (1818) to Ivanhoe (1819) seems huge. It is smaller, however, than critical orthodoxy recognizes. Ivanhoe's inferiority is not to be explained in the simple categories customarily imposed: Scots versus non-Scots, recent versus remote, "reality" versus "tushery" and "pasteboard." That most of the early novels came from "living memory" and most of the later ones from "bookwork" has been claimed, and the exaggeration implies a naive misrepresentation of the creative process. Even were it not exaggerated, the claim would be irrelevant. The "life" of fiction is not to be judged genetically, but pragmatically and rhetorically. The "life" of The Abbot, Durward, and The Fair Maid, while it may differ from that of The Anti-quary, Rob Roy, and Montrose, is less doubtful.

It would be pointless to attempt to show that some later Waverley Novels are superior to some earlier ones, though that proposition is often implied in what follows. My purpose, rather, is to recognize, in the novels of more remote epochal reconstruction, not merely a freshly marketable commodity, but a distinctively new subject matter. Ian Jack properly stresses the importance for Scott of the concept of the picturesque; he insists on the ideally picturesque character of the eighteenth century, yet his most significant illustrative quotation is from the introduction to the Renaissance Fortunes of Nigel, and his most convincing citation of picturesque structure is Quentin Durward.1 The quest for the historical picturesque, for the animating principle of social and moral contrast, found a new imaginative freedom in the very remoteness of the new subject matter, in its susceptibility to a more freely symbolic rendering. Thus the symbolic contrasts of Richard and John, of Burgundy and Louis, of Elizabeth and Mary, provide controlling picturesque structures for most of the books discussed in this section. And each structure is focused on the moment of crisis which determines the survival of one member of the pair. All of the critical moments, with their animating polarities of historic-symbolic character, have in common a concern with the same process: the decadence of chivalry, and with the same question: is there a spirit, are there essential values, in chivalry whose historic survival would be desirable?

For Scott, chivalry is romantic Cavalierism and Jacobitism in a more remote, more abstract, and perhaps, paradoxically, a more permanent form. Scott examined it first as the motivating impulse of the Crusades, and we had best begin with the Crusader novels as a group, though they extend from Ivanhoe (1819) over several years to The Betrothed and The Talisman (both 1825) and to Count Robert of Paris (1831). We can then turn back to the new departure that followed directly on Ivanhoe, The Monastery (1820), and view the line of Renaissance novels—Scott's most remarkable achievements in historiography—through The Abbot (1820), Kenilworth (1821), and The Fortunes of Nigel (1822). Finally, we can examine together the renderings of medieval France and Scotland—Quentin Durward (1823) and The Fair Maid of Perth (1828)—and their claims to be considered the most effective of the entire group.

All of these are the novels taken least seriously now. They will never be taken seriously until close critical attention determines whether they are worthy of notice. Yet, they are so numerous and dense that our scrutiny must be more selective than hitherto. The compromise must seem somewhat arbitrary.

For generations of juvenile enthusiasts it was easy to see in Ivanhoe only the quintessence of chivalric adventure. The critical reader now finds it difficult to account for such blinders. Recently we have been reminded of the book's stringently antichivalric attitude, one more expression of the Author of Waverley's "anti-Romanticism."2 But a book subject to such contradictory interpretations must be more complex than either extreme has recognized. If the book conveys a complexity of attitude which it fails to control, we may at least hope for a further articulation of that complexity in the later Crusader novels.

All four books provide ample passages which unequivocally damn the reckless inhumanity of romantic chivalry. The most bitter in Ivanhoe appear at strategic points. At the end of the tournament, the climax of the novel's first third, appears the narrator's sharply ironic recapitulation:

Thus ended the memorable field of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, one of the most gallantly contested tournaments of that age; for although only four knights, including one who was smothered by the heat of his armour, had died upon the field, yet upwards of thirty were desperately wounded, four or five of whom never recovered. Several more were disabled for life; and those who escaped best carried the marks of the conflict to the grave with them. Hence it is always mentioned in the old records as the "gentle and joyous passage of arms of Ashby" [119-20].

The theme is dramatically stated during the bloody siege of the castle, when Rebecca asks of Ivanhoe's chivalry if possession by "a demon of vainglory" brings "sufficient rewards for the sacrifice of every kindly affection, for a life spent miserably that ye may make others miserable?" (275)

The Betrothed portrays an England left by its quixotic Crusading rulers to disorder and decay, and thus gives full expression to the same critique of chivalry. Its spokesman for Rebecca's general position is the Jarvie-like burger, Wilkin Flammock, who, when asked by the departing constable to care for his betrothed during his absence, replies: "Let those who lost the Holy Sepulchre regain it, my lord. .. . If those Latins and Greeks, as they call them, are no better men than I have heard, it signifies very little whether they or the heathen have the country that has cost Europe so much blood and treasure" (198). Later, to his daughter, he defines his attitude: "This is one of your freaks, now, of honour or generosity; but commend me to prudence and honesty. Ah! Rose, Rose, those who would do what is better than good sometimes bring about what is worse than bad!" (239)

In The Talisman we are shown the diseased state of chivalry itself, in the decline of its pretentious idealism, in the poisonous rivalries that surround the arrogant imprudence of a Richard much less Romantic than his ancestor of Ivanhoe. The hero, Sir Kenneth, is by contrast guilty only of reckless naïveté:

Sir Kenneth had full leisure to enjoy these and similar high-souled thoughts, fostered by that wild spirit of chivalry which, amid its most extravagant and fantastic flights, was still pure from all selfish alloy—generous, devoted, and perhaps only thus far censurable, that it proposed objects and courses of action inconsistent with the frailties and imperfections of man [133].

His teacher, Rebecca's counterpart, and like her an oriental humanitarian healer, is the noble Saladin, whose function in the tale may be defined as at once a critique and a transcendence of the "wild spirit of chivalry." The counterpointing throughout of Richard and Saladin reaches its climax when the Soldan rejects the King's earnest plea for single combat—"half smiling at Coeur de Lion's affectionate earnestness for the combat" (313)—in the name of political and social responsibility; and in his voice humane prudence more effectively repudiates chivalric folly than at any point in Ivanhoe.

Finally, in Count Robert and his quixotic amazonian wife, the "wild spirit of chivalry" appears to have dwindled into an inconvenient joke. Count Robert's critic is Hereward, the Saxon guard, for whom Robert is "a wild knight-errant, incapable of being influenced by anything save his own wayward fancy" (127). Hereward's efforts to aid Robert are constantly being opposed by Robert's own knight-errantry: "not even the extreme danger of my lady," he vows, "shall make me break through the rule of a fair fight." The indignant but amused Hereward promises to "arrange matters according to thy pleasure, so that thou findest out no more fantastical difficulties; for, by my word, an affair so complicated in itself requires not to be confused by the finespun whims of thy national gallantry" (255-56).

All four Crusader novels, then, seem to regard chivalry as a mixture of heroic folly and dangerous imprudence, confirming the pejorative suggestions of Scott's "Essay on Chivalry" (1818), that the institutions of chivalry, however pure its theory, often and soon deteriorated—"love into licentiousness," "spirit of loyalty or of freedom into tyranny and turmoil," "generosity and gallantry into hare-brained madness and absurdity"; that the ends were too often the carrying of "every virtuous and noble sentiment to the most fantastic extremity" and "that indifference for human life, which is the usual companion of intolerant zeal."3 But this is to oversimplify all four books. A safer method is to replace the spokesmen for chivalry and antichivalry in their narrative contexts.

An abstract view of Ivanhoe would find in Richard and Rebecca spokesmen for opposed extremes, with loyal, hapless Wilfred of Ivanhoe somewhere between. It is typical of the kind of complexity to which the Author of Waverley often commits himself that the antichivalric Rebecca is the most Romantic conception in the book, while her chivalric opposite Richard is one of the least. Rebecca's memorable orations are easily interpreted, but her meaning in the story is only to be worked out in terms of the various shifting relationships to which she belongs.

The first is defined in the early linking of Saxon and Jew under the heading of the disinherited. Isaac and Cedric, like Robin of Locksley, are representative of defeated, disinherited lineages. Both are mocked and persecuted by Norman chivalry. Both are fanatically dedicated to their cultural pasts. Both admit defeat at the end, Cedric by accepting his son and his son's Norman king, and Isaac by leaving England. Both by virtue of their tragic commitments to lost heritages are tempted to sacrifice their natures as fathers. Ivanhoe and Rebecca share the plight familiar to Scott protagonists: the pathos of disinheritance and divided loyalties, the imperative to be loyal to fathers whose bequest is fanaticism and alienation and yet to transcend their fathers' commitments in the interests of an enlightened humanity. Ivanhoe's dependence on Rebecca is an encounter with his own plight in a more exotic form, and at the climax of his helplessness he must prove himself by repaying his debt to her.

Scott's readers were distressed that the complex bond between Ivanhoe and Rebecca did not end in marriage.4 The obvious reasons may be insufficient but they should be recognized. Rebecca's unspoken love for Ivanhoe is ultimately part of the tragedy of her alienation. A sudden romantic reciprocity between Ivanhoe and Rebecca at the end would require a thorough revision. She remains a victim, sees herself an "unnatural child," "who forgets the desolation of Judah, and looks upon the comeliness of a Gentile and a stranger" (277). The conflict between Ivanhoe and his father focuses throughout on the love of Ivanhoe and Rowena. Welsh is considerably ingenious to account for Rebecca's rejection5 in terms of Scott's later comments, which do indeed seem contradictory: (1) Rebecca's nobility would be cheapened by the attainment of her wishes; (2) Rebecca's "passion" for Ivanhoe was "rashly formed or ill-assorted" anyway (xviii). However interesting Scott's later observations may be, they have little bearing on our reading of the novel. The novel's facts are plain. Rowena may be less interesting, but she is stunningly beautiful, and Ivanhoe is from the outset deeply in love with her.

Rebecca's place in Ivanhoe's experience is complicated by her pursuit by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, and in turn by the sustained hostility of Brian toward Ivanhoe. For Ivanhoe, Rebecca is not an object of romantic devotion, but a paragon of humane gentleness and skill. This role is climaxed when, during the siege, she becomes an eloquent castigator of chivalry. Thereafter she is the prisoner of Brian, and our main question is whether she will accept Brian. To interpose Ivanhoe at the point of her rejection of Brian would be to confuse the question; moreover, an abrupt courtship with Ivanhoe after Brian's intense passion would seem anticlimactic at best in a novel given to anticlimax. Her passionate involvement with Brian during two-thirds of the novel makes any but the present pathetic resolution inconceivable.

Marriage in a Waverley historico-political romance symbolizes fruitful cultural reconciliation and continuity. The impossibility of the union of Brian and Rebecca is as meaningful as the inevitability of the union of Ivanhoe and Rowena. Each suggests a new beginning, but in the Waverley context a new beginning is made possible only by the discovery of a viable continuity. The Brian-Rebecca union implies no continuity; it is too "new." Ivanhoe's feelings for Rebecca, we hear, are conditioned by the prejudices of his time; Brian claims to be free from such prejudices, but his dissolute nihilism implies that this is freedom gone to excess, freedom utterly negative or destructive. Only on such a nihilist basis could the union of Brian and Rebecca be built. The process of reconciliation and fruitful continuity which culminates in the union of Ivanhoe and Rowena thus requires, however tragically, the sacrifice of Brian—however valid his freedom—and Rebecca—however valid her humanity. A marriage between Wilfred's Saxonism and Rebecca's Judaism would be hugely appropriate in a Disraeli novel but meaningless in Ivanhoe.

There is, finally, Scott's rhetorical problem of how to give Brian the effect his significance demands without utterly starving Ivanhoe's proper role. They must be seen in counterpoint, not as passion versus propriety, but as related but distinct attitudes toward tradition and freedom: Brian's egoistic and nihilistic, Ivanhoe's selfless and faithful. To make Ivanhoe Brian's rival in love would be to lose Ivanhoe's separate significance altogether, to remove even the slight insulation that at present saves poor Ivanhoe from oblivion. Such insulation, I take it, is the point of their several indecisive battles. At the beginning Wilfred has been victor in past skirmishes. At the first tournament he defeats Brian, yet in victory he is seriously wounded and remains incapacitated for the remaining two-thirds of the novel. When he meets Brian in the final battle, Brian is fighting against his will, and Ivanhoe is almost too weak to sit on his horse; the effect is a travesty of chivalric jousting. No one can win; the outcome is wholly symbolic. Ivanhoe makes his sacrificial gesture on behalf of Rebecca's humanity; Brian, through a chivalric form of old Krook's combustion-syndrome (see Bleak House), dies of his own internal disorder. Providence in history saves one as worthy, rejects the other as self-destructive.

It is notable, however, that during this final encounter the chief agent of this providence in Ivanhoe's earlier perilous survivals is kept out of the picture. Such may be the only way to save the titular hero from oblivion. Or it may be the way of indicating that whereas Wilfred survives, Richard ultimately does not. Whatever the motive, the effect climaxes the structural evolution of our second of the book's "most absorbing" characters, Richard Coeur de Lion.

Richard's role is, for most of the way through, positive and constructive. P. F. Fisher has noted that his is a distinctly providential role as against the fatalism of John.6 That role is confused by the late introduction of the theme of Richard's reckless knight-errantry, which is later to become the central problem of The Talisman. Studying the structure, one suspects it occurred to Scott only late in the writing of Ivanhoe that central to his vision of Crusader chivalry was the problem of Richard and his heroic, feckless romanticism, a problem he later dramatized in the Burgundy of Durward and Anne of Geierstein. Consider Richard's emergence in the book's total structure.

The book is symmetrically designed in three equal parts, each reaching its climax in a great military spectacle: the first the Ashby tournament; the second the liberation from the castle of Front-de-Boeuf; the third the trial by combat of Rebecca. The introductory chapters are skillfully manipulated to draw together all character groups for the tournament: Cedric and the Saxons; Brian and John's Norman gang; Isaac and Rebecca. The problem of seating at the tournament provides a preliminary sketch of the cultural animosities that fragmentize the world of the novel. Ivanhoe is present only as the mysterious palmer; because we don't know his identity, he remains wholly external—ironically during the only part of the novel in which he is physically active and impressive.

The same paradox is almost true of Richard. He does not appear until he fights as the mysterious Black Knight during the second day of the tournament. Here he is effective but reticent, serving only as a providential agent to save Ivanhoe. He then disappears until the scene of his jovial midnight feast with Friar Tuck. Our impression here is of a flexible, fun-loving, heroic fighter; the friar sees in him "a man of prudence and of counsel" (153). He combines the best of chivalric virtu with natural humanity and a love of life; he is alert, always ready to act as providential protector of other characters, as he proceeds to do in leading the forces of liberation against Front-de-Boeuf's castle. We are still admitted to none of his private reflections; his identity remains implicit. But his meaning in this second or central third is clear, and this is the part during which the novel's thematic interests most clearly and effectively emerge.

Indeed, the combination of structural craft and thematic richness makes the middle third of Ivanhoe equal as narrative to anything in the novels. And throughout, Richard as character is paramount, just as Richard's significance is the triumphant resolution. It opens in transition from the tournament through a severely critical portrayal of John and his followers, who have just received word that Richard is on his way home. Richard's domestic enemies are thus facing the crucial question of what to do. If the novel were to become antichivalric delineation of Richard as imprudent knight-errant, the theme would surely appear here in a contrast of John and Richard. But no mention is made of it. The problem is simply that John's followers despise him; that John himself is again and again made ineffectual by petulance and levity. It thus seems inevitable that the novel's historic climax will be the confrontation of Richard and John, and that John's forces will quickly disintegrate. Indeed, they begin to disintegrate at once. At the time John summons them to York, his chief supporters, De Bracy, Bois Guilbert, and Front-de-Boeuf, go off in pursuit of their own selfish, romantic ends to kidnap Rowena, Rebecca, Isaac, and Cedric. Thus the image of John's faction is consistently one of imprudent and divisive selfishness, in immediate contrast with the image of the Black Knight in the company of Friar Tuck and Locksley's crew.

There is another side to this contrast. The same middle section supplies the first significant delineation of Richard's other opposition, the diehard Saxonists. While this force is more affable or moral than that of John's Normans, it, too, suffers from divisive rigidity. Cedric, recognizing his disinherited son in the wounded victor Desdichado, becomes torn between conflicting impulses: "Nature had asserted her rights, in spite of the patriotic stoicism which laboured to disown her" (164). Rowena defines the alternatives open to him when she warns "lest what you mean for courage and constancy, shall be accounted hardness of heart," to which, complicating the thematic problem, he replies, "thine is the hard heart, which can sacrifice the weal of an oppressed people to an idle and unauthorized attachment" (164). We think of unnatural—i.e., "Jacobin," ideologue—parents in Jacobite and Cavalier novels alike when we are told of Cedric, "The restoration of the independence of his race was the idol of his heart, to which he had willingly sacrificed domestic happiness and the interests of his own son" (167). For his son he has substituted the absurd Saxon Pretender Athelstane the Unready, and the ludicrousness of the artificial bond is symbolic. Cedric is too unnatural, Athelstane too concerned for animal nature. His only interest is food and drink (191). When they are attacked in the woods, Cedric is too ready to fight, Athelstane not ready enough. Together they embody the hapless imprudence and disorder of Saxonist fanaticism. Such is Richard's other opposition. Against both, he, with natural vigor and good sense, with firm allies in the natural good (the woodsmen of Robin of Locksley), is sure to prevail.

His victory is assured by the internal chaos of Front-de-Boeuf' s castle, a chaos articulated with striking formal precision. Leading up to the siege is a carefully paralleled sequence of four simultaneous scenes, each terminated by the same winding of the attackers' horn. First is the comic scene in which Cedric's faith in Athelstane receives ludicrous comment when Athelstane delivers his defiance with his mouth full. Then come Front-de-Boeuf' s cruel threats to roast Isaac alive unless he pays a huge ransom, a fate to which, when he learns Rebecca has been given to Brian, Isaac heroically submits himself. Third is Rowena's haughty rejection of De Bracy's "jargon of a troubadour" (204), an hauteur shattered when she hears she can save Ivanhoe and Cedric only by submitting to De Bracy. His offer softens her, her resistance softens him, and both are more natural for the encounter. Climactically comes Brian's first attempt to win Rebecca, and already Brian is so captivated that he vows to share all with her. In each scene, then, a reciprocal humanizing, a comic or pathetic restoration of nature, takes place. The battle continues the process.

The battle itself is densely and meaningfully rendered through two parallel scenes. In each, a woman, nursing a wounded man, recounts to him what is going on outside in the siege. In the first, the true healer Rebecca preaches peace and reconciliation to Ivanhoe throughout her narration. In the second, her hideous counterpart, the Saxon sybil-hag Ulrica, vengefully torments Front-de-Boeuf, telling him she has set fire to the fuel magazine under the room. She literally roasts the dying man alive, as he had sworn to do to Isaac, and destroys herself in the same fire. In scorning her for having lived par amours with the Norman conqueror, Cedric, she charges, had burst the last tie which united her to her kind (239). Thus, all in the castle have participated in the inhumanity or unnaturalness which the disorder signifies. All suffer a humanizing, however slight or however destructive, before the providential force of Richard and Locksley sets them free. Nor is it an accident that even Cedric is forced to escape from the castle disguised in a friar's habit smuggled to him by his jester; for in this ludicrous disguise he is forced to learn a humane duplicity, a wise prudence.

Ivanhoe's role in the educative process has been suggested. He is forced into passivity; he is forced to hear hatred and contempt expressed for his romantic chivalry. Moreover, he is forced to interpret his helplessness, to make the kind of comment the hapless Waverley protagonist often has wrung from him: "It seems as if I were destined to bring ruin on whomsoever hath shown kindness to me" (263). But such fatalism is a dangerous spiritual error.7 Rebecca warns him he has misjudged the purposes of Heaven and defies his temporary fatalism with her own providential faith, as later she does with the irrevocable fatalist Brian. "Thou and I," says Brian, "are but the blind instruments of some irresistible fatality, that hurries us along, like goodly vessels driving before the storm, which are dashed against each other, and so perish." "Thus," she replies, "do men throw on fate the issue of their own wild passions" (386). Like Richard she plays a providential role; like him she seems herself to be beyond the protection of Providence.

In all of this education in Providence and humanity Richard appears to have nothing to learn. His education is of a different kind, and it continues through the middle third and on into the final section. In answer to Cedric's offer of reward, the Black Knight replies, "Cedric has already made me rich . . . he has taught me the value of Saxon virtue" (306). Later he justifies his desire to attend Athelstane's funeral as a way to "see your Saxon kindred together, Sir Wilfred, and become better acquainted with them than heretofore. Thou also wilt meet me; and it shall be my task to reconcile thee to thy father" (390). Richard is thus fully engaged, not just in fighting as Locksley's ally, but also in educating himself to the realities of his divided nation, to his own role as reconciler and leader of a united England. He is thus the moral and political center of the book and the fitting object of Ivanhoe's fidelity.

Abruptly, however, at the end of the book's second third, our image of Richard is distorted by warnings that Richard is irresponsible. The first hint is seen in his extreme fearlessness before the gates of the besieged castle. Later, the note is sounded by John's follower Fitzurse: "Such is indeed the fashion of Richard—a true knight-errant he, and will wander in wild adventure, trusting the prowess of his single arm, like any Sir Guy or Sir Bevis, while the weighty affairs of his kingdom slumber, and his own safety is endangered" (330). Of course, Fitzurse is no reliable judge; and so far, the Black Knight's anonymity allows us no chance for assessment through an interior look at Richard. But in the final sixth of the novel, the narrator builds his case emphatically. Richard refuses to let Ivanhoe accompany him and sets out alone with Wamba the jester to "play priest or fool as I shall be most in the humour" (390). Sensing danger, Ivanhoe, who progressively assumes the role of prudent counselor, sets out after him. The point of the image of Richard here is unmistakable: "the whole gesture and look of the champion expressed careless gaiety and fearless confidence" (394). Shortly, Wamba tricks him out of Locksley's horn and saves his life in spite of Richard's determination to seek no help. The now judicious Ivanhoe sounds the theme fully: "Why—oh why, noble Prince, will you thus vex the hearts of your faithful servants, and expose your life by lonely journeys and rash adventures, as if it were of no more value than that of a mere knight-errant, who has no interest on earth but what lance and sword may procure him?" (408) Shortly, "Wilfred bowed in submission, well knowing how vain it was to contend with the wild spirit of chivalry." The narrator is thus justified in interposing his own full statement: "In the lion-hearted king, the brilliant, but useless, character of a knight of romance was in a great measure realized and revived; and the personal glory which he acquired by his own deeds of arms was far more dear to his excited imagination than that which a course of policy and wisdom would have spread around his government" (409). Richard was forced to recognize and resign himself to his dependence on two good counselors—Ivanhoe and his grave advice, Locksley and his prudent trickery. Thus, his positive function in the novel has, by the time his identity is revealed, become lost in the "anti-Romantic" interpretation of his historical character, whose late introduction is both anticlimactic and confusing.

There are other anticlimaxes which confuse the world of conflict in which Richard's reconciling humanity is the central force. There is the outcome of Athelstane's death, presumably the dying out of the Saxon cause and the occasion for Richard's bid for unity with the Saxons. Here Scott committed what he later thought the unpardonable sin of bringing the doltish Athelstane back to life.8 This is actually a happy sin; it makes the same comment made by the end of Redgauntlet. The Saxon cause does not die a rigidly heroic death; it hangs on with a pathetic and foolish life, and Cedric can sustain no more pretenses.9 Throughout, Athelstane has been a dull fool, a devastating comment on Cedric's dreams. For him to be mourned as the death of heroic Saxonism would be completely illogical. His coming back to life is a proper touch, but it undercuts Richard's serious funereal plea for new unity.

The other anticlimax is the late introduction of the Grand Master of the Temple, Lucas Beaumanoir, who arrives to clean up his Order in England and almost to burn Rebecca as a witch. His late arrival seems a serious formal flaw. Yet his role is logical enough. He provides an ecclesiastical counterpart to Cedric in his rigid inhumanity, and in his defeat the hopelessness of the other lost cause of chivalric monasticism is dramatized. Bois Guilbert's life and ambition are threatened by Lucas's presence. He strains to transcend his fatalistic cynicism and prove his devotion to Rebecca, but ambition and pride win out, and his mysterious death (which is "unreal") is a counterpart to Athelstane's "death" (also unreal). He is destroyed as he becomes morally alive, and his death demonstrates the hopeless instability of monastic chivalry just as Athelstane's return to life dramatizes the absurdity of fanatic Saxonism.

For all this, Lucas is essential. But it is Lucas who provides Richard's ultimate opponent. John is kept out of the final picture, after all; Richard's triumph is temporary.

With the resurrection and transformation of Athelstane and the defeat of cruel fanaticism in Lucas, the novel really ends. The final expected confrontation between Richard and John would be irrelevant to such late developments or would require a more extended consideration of the problems thus raised. Such a confrontation instead supplied the germ of a later better novel, Quentin Durward. Meanwhile, Ivanhoe concludes on its own positive note of reconciliation, with the clear suggestion that the courageous idealism which is an undying value of the chivalric spirit when combined with prudence and practical loyalty can transcend many of the barriers of fanaticism and selfishness dividing men.

. . . . .

We have neglected the aspect of Ivanhoe which most concerned Scott: its historicity. Such neglect is not crucial. It is ironic that the era of Scott's world fame as historical romancer opened with one of the least "historic" of his romances.15 In the tales of the Crusaders, remoteness and strangeness make truth and wholeness of milieu as irrelevant as they are unattainable. The Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe attests to Scott's awareness that the very feasibility of this new application of the Waverley method was in doubt.

The results have been variously interpreted to prove that his conception of history was, from a Romantic point of view, antihistorical in the Enlightenment tradition of Hume, Diderot, Gibbon. In "Vico and Aesthetic Historism," Auerbach defines such a tradition in terms of its persistent belief that Nature and History remain distinct, even hostile, as contrasted with the Vico-Herder "organic conservative" premise that Nature is in historic process.16 Such a premise, Welsh insists, Scott could not share (neither, really, could Burke),17 and he quotes in support the Waverley lociclassici: the heraldry metaphor from the first chapter of Waverley and the uniformity-of-passions text from the Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe (xxv). Even if it were safe to rely on such passages, the passages as quoted would be misleading. The Waverley "heraldry" metaphor clearly belongs, as Donald Davie has argued, to the seven early chapters. The book as completed, years later, was conceived of as a companion piece to Castle Rackrent, as an attempt to save local, ephemeral sentiments and manners from oblivion, an impulse remote from the motivations of the Philosophic Historian.18 The quotation from the Ivanhoe dedication stops short of important qualifications. Scott is distinguishing between passions, which are "natural" and uniform, and sentiments and manners, which derive from the passions and therefore, "however influenced by the peculiar state of society, must still, upon the whole, bear a strong resemblance to each other." These are substantial qualifications, and Scott's illustration is significant, for it concedes only basic resemblance and allows for considerable cultural difference, if not psychological particularity: "Our ancestors were not more distinct from us, surely, than Jews are from Christians. . . . The tenor, therefore, of their affections and feelings must have borne the same general proportion to our own" (xxv). In Ivanhoe, Scott took considerable pains to portray and account for the differences in the case of Isaac and to create in Rebecca a strong awareness of them.

But to the charge that Scott was "of the Enlightenment" and therefore no true historicist in the modern sense, there are two answers, one philosophical, the other pragmatic and aesthetic. First, it is naive to make a categorical either-or classification on the expectation that an unphilosophical, somewhat erratic artist, vaguely in touch with Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon, but also with Montesquieu, Ferguson, the German Romantics, and Burke, would plump himself categorically in Enlightenment or counter-Enlightenment. Indeed, Dilthey, and after him Cassirer, long ago challenged as Romantic myth what Cassirer calls "the popular error concerning the unhistorical and antihistorical spirit of the eighteenth century,"19 the idea that there was a monolithic Enlightenment antihistorism available to Scott or anyone else. The more pragmatic objection to the charge is that if Ivanhoe is primarily ahistoric, then so is all fiction. Without some assumption of basic uniformity, neither history nor art is possible. Goethe and Hegel, supplying Lukacs with an essential term for his admiration of Scott, both observed that all art or poetry is grounded in "necessary anachronism."20 Such is the element in Scott's portrayal, the "living, continuous relation between Scott's themes and the present .. . the many living links which make it possible for us to experience even the distant Middle Ages,"21 to which Sainte-Beuve alludes in his critique of Flaubert's Salammbô, the romance wrongly cited by Grierson as the classic of the Ivanhoe genre.22Salammbô is a striving to depart radically from the historicity of Ivanhoe, as is, in the opposite direction, Bulwer Lytton's Last Days of Pompeii. A brief comparative note on these two departures may suggest the idea of fictive historicity implicit in Ivanhoe.

Flaubert's intention, a consciously escapist one, was to evoke in massive particularity the material fact of ancient Carthage. Immediate material density is the predominant, even exclusive, effect. The milieu is utterly remote and yet utterly concrete. Lytton was motivated by the same compulsion, though without the conscious escapism, to "archaeological authenticity."23 Lytton accomplishes this end, to be sure, by radically different methods, by a guidebook matter-of-factness, a fullness of allusion, that is not sensuous at all, but rather, "notional."24 Lytton's monumental externality is directed explicitly at a later reader by an archaeological historian quâ narrator; hence, the reality, as solidly independent of human inhabitants as Flaubert's, is neither immediate nor concrete. By contrast with both, Scott's evocation of material setting is thin and generalized even when he most nearly approximates the ponderous and scrupulous inanimate particularity of Lytton in, say, The Talisman and Count Robert. But as the Epistle to Dryasdust makes clear, Ivanhoe is determinedly anti-antiquarian and makes no comparable attempt at the materializing of milieu (xxiii-xxv). It evokes no quotidian circumstantiality after the scene of the initial night in Cedric's hall, and even there the description functions strictly as "manners" typification. The Betrothed goes further, but even here the depiction of the castle provides a social emblem of human solidarity, of ethnic conciliation; while the Saxon hall of Eveline's cruelly fanatic great-aunt appears strictly as an evocative element in Eveline's ordeal. Lukacs is fair, then, in his contrast: whereas in Flaubert (and I would add Lytton) there is little organic relation between objectified milieu and psychological or moral impulse, in Scott material facts are realized almost purely as integral parts of dramatized sentiments and manners.25

The historicities of Flaubert and Lytton differ most significantly from the historicity of Ivanhoe and Waverley in the projecting of psychological pastness. Salammbô belongs at one extreme. Desiring an imaginative retreat from the sordid ugliness of modern life and realizing that he could in no way reconstruct the psychology of ancient Carthage, Flaubert simply excluded all but a basic inhumanity, scarcely distinguishable from brutality. The exceptions are in the emergent father-daughter and father-son bonds of Hamilcar Barca and his children; and here, as Sainte-Beuve noted, the result was merely a mythologizing of the psychology of Madame Bovary.26 Otherwise the human participants are best described as appetitive hordes led by divine brutes. At the opposite extreme, Lytton is the shameless anachronizer, the nineteenth-century utilitarian conceiving his Pompeiians in terms of their philosophic attitudes, making them parade with intellectual pretentiousness before a Belascoesque backdrop, and citing satiric analogies between their behavior and Regency manners.

Between these extremes, the conception of historicity in Ivanhoe would seem to be more useful. For Lytton, the link for the reader between past and present is to be found in surface accidentals and a timeless pettiness:

It is not without interest to observe in those remote times, and under a social system so widely different from the modern, the same small causes that ruffle and interrupt the "course of love," which operate so commonly at this day;—the same inventive jealousy, the same cunning slander, the same crafty and fabricated retailings of petty gossip—We should paint life ill if, even in times the most prodigal of romance, and of the romance of which we most largely avail ourselves, we did not also describe the mechanism of those trivial and household springs of mischief which we see every day at work in our chambers and at our hearths. It is in these, the lesser intrigues of life, that we mostly find ourselves at home with the past.27

For Scott, the link must be psychological and this means "throwing the force of my narrative upon the characters and passions of the actors"—those passions belonging to all men—and upon "that extensive neutral ground," the ground between historically unique past and historically unique present, the "large proportion, that is, of manners and sentiments which are common to us and to our ancestors, having been handed down unaltered from them to us, or which, arising out of the principles of our common nature, must have existed alike in either state of society."28 There is a principle of selection here. The choice of similar or unaltered manners is a deliberate artistic one and is not necessarily reflective of a philosophical assumption of invariable uniformity, such as Scott is alleged to have shared with Hume. Indeed, Count Robert contains ample satiric criticism of the Enlightenment philosophical historian in the treatment of the pompous moralist Anna Comnenia; Agelastes' dream of placing her and himself, historian and philosopher, on the imperial throne may be read as a mockery of the Gibbon ideal.

Ivanhoe, then, is historical as Waverley and its heirs are historical: it defines an epoch in terms of a critical tension of cultural patterns, "sentiments and manners"; it chooses patterns formative of the present; it dramatizes a problem of cultural survival analogous to such problems in modern revolutionary Europe; it embodies crisis and transformation in timeless personal relationships so that, while dramatized in their own political-cultural terms, they are imaginatively grounded in familiar, natural problems of individual human experience.


1 [Jack, Ian,] English Literature: 1815-1832 [(New York, 1963)], pp. 207-10.

2 But for this oversimplification, J. E. Duncan is refreshingly original and sound in "The Anti-Romantic in Ivanhoe," NCF, IX (1955), 293-300.

3Miscellaneous Prose Works (Edinburgh, 1834), VI, 11, 99, 19. Is the following a "Romantic" view of the Crusades: "The real history of the Crusades, founded on the spirit of Chivalry, and on the restless and intolerant zeal which was blended by the churchmen with this military establishment, are an authentic and fatal proof of the same facts [consequences of "the outrageous nature of the zeal which was supposed to actuate a Christian knight"]. The hare-brained and adventurous character of these enterprises," and so on? (Ibid, p. 16).

4 He records this himself in the later Introduction. Cf. [I. G. Lockhart. The Life of Sir Walter Scott, 10 vols. (Edinburgh, 1902)], VI, 160-61.

5 [Welsh, Alexander,] The Hero of the Waverley Novels [(New Haven, 1963)], pp. 78-80. The novel itself offers, so far as I can see, no indication that Rebecca's love for Ivanhoe must be thwarted because it is "passionate" or "ill-assorted," or because she is a "dark heroine."

6 "Providence, Fate, and the Historical Imagination," [ NCF, X (1955-56),] p. 106 n.

7Ibid., p. 112: "The worship of Fate turns out to be the vice of the romantic, whose historical Weltgeist takes over from Providence by means of that blur of movement called progress." The villain is a fatalist, afflicted with the peculiarly Romantic Weltschmerz, as redefined in [Peter L.] Thorslev, The Byronic Hero [(Minneapolis, 1962)], pp. 87-89. That is, his fatalism results from a paralysis of moral will caused by a neurotic excess of idealism turned to nihilism. Scott's providentialism implies a theodicy which takes the Byronic Hero as evil principle.

8 In a fragment of letter to Ballantyne concerning the death of Proudfute in The Fair Maid of Perth, "I cannot afford to be merciful to Master Proudfute, although I am heartily glad there is any one of the personages sufficiently interesting to make you care whether he lives or dies. But it would cost my cancelling half a volume, and rather than do so, I would, like the valiant Baron of Clackmannan, kill the whole characters, the author, and the printer. Besides, entre nous, the resurrection of Athelstane was a botch. It struck me when I was reading Ivanhoe over the other day" (Lockhart, IX, 186). The fragment is of extreme interest, illustrating how persistently discouraging Scott found his printer's abundant criticisms; illustrating that at this point, at least (early Spring, 1828), Scott was rereading earlier novels as he wrote a new one; illustrating, too, that his initially rapid composition was often followed by extensive cancellation and revision of the sheets sent back by Ballantyne. Yet I can find no sign of the letter in Grierson's edition. I infer it must be among those "details about proofs dispatched" which Grierson and his assistants saw fit to exclude from their extract of the letter of Feb. 7, 1828.

9 The effect is closely akin to the effect of the pathetic cabal scene at the end of Redgauntlet. The fact that heroic Saxonism is as much an "unreal anachronism" as late Jacobitism is satirically confirmed by ludicrous survival, where heroic death has been expected. . . .

15 [James P.] Hillhouse, The Waverley Novels and TheirCritics [(Minneapolis, 1936)], pp. 51-53: Nassau Senior refused to see any new departure; Hillhouse says Senior "rates The Talisman high, on the somewhat strained theory that as Scott recedes into the more and more remote past his imagination supplies with increased power the lack of actual historical material"—not a strained theory at all. Cf. p. 121: Gait preferred Ivanhoe to more careful pictures of manners. Lockhart thought Ivanhoe Scott's masterpiece of art. All stress the departure from historicity.

16 Cited by Welsh, p. 86 n., from the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, VIII (1949-50), 111-12.

17 There is, of course, no denying Burke's "organic conservatism." In Father Canavan's words, Burke in his later years "elaborated a theory in which human nature was seen as realizing itself through the artificial and conventional order of civil society. In other words, instead of opposing nature to history, Burke saw history as the expression and actualization of nature" (The Political Reason of Edmund Burke [Durham, 1960], p. 86). But this does not make him an historicist. On pp. 181-88 Father Canavan deals with the ways in which Burke's statements may mistakenly provoke "the charge that his conception of providence was a prelude to nineteenth-century historicism." Perhaps the most effective proof that Burke's "historicism" was no Hegelian brand is in his devotion to the historic finality of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Constitution it ordained. And of course, if we accept the Christian Stoic Burke of Peter Stanlis, historicism recedes even further. Burke proves, then, that Scott, too, could be an "organic conservative" in his view of history and yet no "historicist" in the nineteenth-century sense. In Mimesis, the actual stress in not on the difference between Scott's atmospheric historism and atmospheric realism, but on their close connectedness. Mimesis (Anchor Book, Garden City, N.Y., 1957), p. 417: "Michelet and Balzac are borne on the same stream." On p. 420, Auerbach notes that in attempting the history of manners, Balzac "feels encouraged by the example of Walter Scott's novels; so here we are completely within the world of romantic Historism." Consider Auerbach's own illustration of Balzacian historism, from La Vieille Fille: "Les époques déteignent sur les hommes qui les traversent. Ces deux personnages prouvaient la vérité de cet axiome par l'Opposition des teintes historiques empreintés dans leurs physionomies, dans leurs discours, dans leurs idées et leurs coutumes" (Mimesis, p. 421). Scott went further, even in the Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe. And we have Auerbach's word that Balzac "far outdoes" Stendhal "in organically connecting man and history" (p. 424). Welsh suggests that the development Auerbach describes came much later to England. The actual contrast Auerbach makes is on p. 434: the development of modern realism began much earlier in England, he says, and moved more gradually. Cf. [Georg] Lukacs on Stendhal, The Historical Novel [Ivans, H. and S. Mitchell (London, 1962)], p. 81. The passage by Victor Brombert—"This eminently 'modern' quality of Stendhal's writings owes much to this awareness of an historical fatum. . . . Yet there is here no mystique of History—quite the contrary. As Erich Auerbach reminds us, Stendhal is immune to romantic Historism," etc.—on pp. 2-3 of Stendhal: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1962) may be applied without change to Scott.

18 [Heyday of Sir Walter Scott (London, 1961)], pp. 24-26.

19The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (Boston, 1955), p. 198; cf. Dilthey, Pattern and Meaning in History, ed. H. P. Rickman (New York, 1962), pp. 143-44.

20The Historical Novel, p. 61.

21Ibid., 187.

22 [The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. 12 vols. (London, 1932-37)], p. 181.

23The Historical Novel, p. 187. Sainte-Beuve denied the "artistic significance" of such wholly nonhuman authenticity, and cited Scott in contrast.

24 Cf. the description of Pompeiian houses in Chap. 3. Bulwer boasted he had rejected Scott the "propertyman's" historical picturesque in the interests of accuracy and philosophical seriousness. But Curtis Dahl points out that "Bulwer's frequent perversion of history in order to make it analogous to Victorian conditions is more important than his intended accuracy" ("History on the Hustings," in From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad, p. 61).

25The Historical Novel, p. 189.

26Ibid, p. 188.

27Last Days of Pompeii (London, 1906), p. 65.

28Waverley, p. 3; Ivanhoe, p. xxiv.

Edgar Johnson (essay date 1970)

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SOURCE: "Chivalry, Church, and Crown," in Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown, Vol. I, The Macmillan Company, 1970, pp. 736-58.

[In the following excerpt, Johnson claims that the romanticism of Ivanhoe is supplemented by a critical attention to the "worldly manifestations of feudalism. "]

Ivanhoe plunges back in time to an age over four hundred years earlier than Scott has previously dealt with, and shifts his scene from Scotland into the heart of England almost two hundred miles south of the Border. Consciously his aim was novelty of time and setting; perhaps, Scott thought, readers were getting tired of Scottish scenes and characters. But his mind—whether or not of set purpose—was still dwelling upon the themes of A Legend of Montrose. The Highland clan system exemplified a feudal organization of society lingering on in a moribund state among Scotland's remote mountain glens. What of the feudal world at its height? What were the realities of feudalism during its flood in the England of the gallant and lion-hearted Richard I? Was Chivalry nobly splendid in its triumphant flower? Had its virtues been lost in the days of its dying struggles?

Scott's response is the central conception of Ivanhoe. It is not simple but complex, for although he was capable of errors and misinterpretations and even, as he cheerfully confessed, of fusing the manners of two or three centuries, he had far too balanced a knowledge both of the medieval world and of life in general either to reject totally or to idealize. Scott's historical knowledge saved him from the naïveté with which Mark Twain runs together the imaginary realms of Arthurian romance with medieval Austria and Tudor England as all one mixture of superstition, cruelty, and horror; and he had none of the gloomy disillusion with the present that led even so erudite a historian as Henry Adams to glorify the thirteenth century.

The world of Ivanhoe is not the ideal unity Adams's vision saw in the following century, but it is not more cruel and chaotic than the twelfth-century reality or than the world usually is. Scott portrays it neither with the bright-hued enthusiasm of Froissart nor with the rose-tinted gaze of nineteenth-century romanticism; his medieval world has no Bayards, sans peur et sans reproche, and no Galahad, no Gawains or Tristrems or Lancelots. If it glows with vivid color, that color reflects the keenness of the eye that saw and the skill of the hand that painted it.

Not least is the relish with which Scott renders the picturesque details of the temporal scene, and which more than any other writer of his time he taught us to see too—glittering armor, gloomy dungeons, moats, drawbridges, massive castle walls, ample-boughed oak forests, dining halls with great fires roaring up huge chimneys. Still more is an enjoyment of physical violence, which—without approving it any more than we do—he shares with most of mankind. Ivanhoe is full of the atmosphere and sound of violence—the clanging steel, shattered lances, and blood-soaked knights of Ashby-de-la-Zouche; the hissing arrows and ringing blades, the crashing walls, and the flaming towers of the siege of Torquilstone; the last thunderous shock of Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert at Templestowe.

These are among the things that have led later generations of critics to dismiss Ivanhoe as a boys' book, but it is doubtful if the story is violent enough to gratify that zest in either the present generation of boyhood or their elders. The gunsmoke of television, mass murders in the films, sadism in the novel; our political assassinations, shootings in the streets, clashes of police and university students from Berkeley to the Sorbonne and Madrid, and bombings of civilian cities—all these involve volumes of bloodshed that leave the violence in all of Scott's work tame by comparison. Though there are plenty of anonymous deaths in Ivanhoe, only two of the major and individualized characters are slain, Front-de-Boeuf and Brian de Bois-Guilbert.

Fundamentally, of course, in a work of literature, the central issue is not the existence of even large amounts of violence, but whether it takes place mainly for purposes of sensationalism or for esthetically profounder reasons. Nobody dismisses Macbeth and Hamlet as boys' plays because of their overflowing blood-baths, or reads In Cold Blood only for its brutal and ferocious murders, though no doubt the fierce deeds they deal with also give them a dreadful fascination. But both Shakespeare and Capote, different as their kinds and degrees of insight may be, are using violence not as mere melodrama but as one of the deep-rooted elements in human nature and the human condition.

So Scott invokes not the theory of feudalism—though he does not ignore its theory—but its practice to portray the violence of a violent age. In the course of each of the three main actions into which the novel is symmetrically divided he emphasizes that analysis. After all the brilliant color, pageantry, and excitement of the tournament, he concludes: "Thus ended the memorable field of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, one of the most gallantly contested tournaments of that age; for although only four knights, including one who was smothered by the heat of his armor, had died upon the field, yet upwards of thirty were desperately wounded, four or five of whom never recovered. Several more were disabled for life; and those who escaped carried the marks of the conflict to the grave with them. Hence it is always mentioned in the old records as the 'gentle and joyous passage at arms of Ashby.'"1

The tone of this comment is unmistakable, and so is that permeating the concluding third of the novel, the trial by combat which is to determine whether Rebecca is to be freed as innocent or burned to death as a witch. The cold-hearted fanaticism, superstition, and cruelty of Lucas de Beaumanoir, the Grand Master of the Temple; the fear to testify in her defense of even those Rebecca has aided with her healing art; the exaggeration, distortion, and invention of trifles and irrelevancies to condemn her; even the contemptuous scorn of the proceedings voiced by Malvoisin and Bois-Guilbert, who in this case, despite their libertine skepticism, speak for the book itself—all conjoin in condemnation of the appeal to physical violence as a means of settling a problem of justice.

In the face of this critical judgment Scott is nevertheless rigorously fair in seeing both the trial and Beaumanoir in terms of the shaping influences of the age and of social and personal environment. Of the Grand Master, he writes: "He was not originally a cruel or even a severe man; but with passions by nature cold, and with a high, though mistaken, sense of duty, his heart had been gradually hardened by the ascetic life which he had pursued, the supreme power which he enjoyed, and the supposed necessity of subduing infidelity and eradicating heresy, which he conceived peculiarly incumbent upon him."2 The sentence epitomizes Scott's understanding of how history makes men and men make history.

The great central action of the novel, the siege of Torquilstone, makes all these points even more emphatically and is the very core of Scott's criticism. The situation is crucial. Cedric, Athelstane, Rowena, Ivanhoe, Isaac of York, and Rebecca have all been captured by Front-de-Boeuf and his companions. Outside the Castle, under the command of the Black Knight, Robin Hood and his followers are pressing an attack on its walls. The wounded Ivanhoe lies helpless on a couch in a tower; at the window Rebecca gives him agitated reports of the progress of the siege. But antiphonal with these war bulletins is a debate between the Jewish maiden and her knightly patient on the virtues of feudal chivalry.

"Where Ivanhoe 'champions a chivalry, which he ironically associates with Christianity' and 'which rates life far beneath the pitch of honor,' Rebecca insists on the idleness of a code that makes a virtue of bloodshed and glorifies violence."3 "The love of battle," Ivanhoe exclaims, "is the food upon which we live—the dust of the mêlée is the breath of our nostrils! We live not—we wish not to live—longer than while we are victorious and renowned—Such, maiden, are the laws of chivalry to which we are sworn, and to which we offer all that we hold dear." "Alas!" replies Rebecca, "and what is it, valiant knight, save an offering of sacrifice to a demon of vain glory . . . ? What remains .. . of all the travail and pain you have endured, of all the tears which your deeds have caused . . . ?"4

"What remains?" Ivanhoe cries. "Glory, maiden, glory! which gilds our sepulchre and embalms our name." But Rebecca asks sorrowfully if the rusted mail and the defaced sculpture on a moldering tomb are really "sufficient rewards for the sacrifice of every kindly affection," for domestic love, for peace and happiness? "By the soul of Hereward!" Ivanhoe responds impatiently, "thou speakest, maiden, of thou knowest not what. . . . Chivalry!—why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection—the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant—Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword!"5

Ivanhoe has the last word, but Rebecca would have only to remind him of their present circumstances to refute his argument. The chaotic strife that the chivalrous code not merely endures but inspires, the tyrannies it cannot repress, the evils it makes no effort to destroy, the sufferings of Rebecca's own people in Christian Europe, are painful answers to its pretensions. The scene is indeed, as Edgar Rosenberg observes, the moral center of the novel, "and it is certain that in the critical agon of the book the Jewess carries the day."6

Nor does the behavior of the characters speak differently than the words of Rebecca and the author. The Norman conquerors display neither magnanimity nor chivalry to the defeated Saxons. At Prince John's banquet he gives his sycophants the lead in treating his two invited Saxon guests, Cedric and Athelstane, with sneering discourtesy. The Prince himself is endeavoring to seize the throne of his brother, Richard Coeur de Lion, whose love has loaded him with favors. John's followers, defiant of their vows of feudal loyalty to Richard, and animated by no grievance against their royal master but only by their desire for greater wealth and power, feel no qualms about murdering their King if he ever escapes from his Austrian prison and returns to the rule they have all sworn to support.

The very names of some of them insinuate their natures: Malvoisin, "bad neighbor"; Front-de-Boeuf, "bull-brow"; Prior Aymer, "aimer," the worldly, luxurious, and pleasure-loving priest, whose amorous adventures often fill the night, until he creeps at dawn into the postern gate of his priory of Jourvaux. Maurice de Bracy, the leader of a band of mercenaries, sells his lances to whoever has the most flowing purse. Though he has some flashes of chivalrous idealism and even of generous feeling, he is hardly superior to a hired soldier like Dalgetty; he peddles the services of his band wholesale, whereas the Scottish soldier of fortune offers only his own body and military skill.

The two Knights Templar, Albert Malvoisin and Bois-Guilbert, almost openly despise their own knightly and ecclesiastic vows; both are infidels who no longer believe in the religion they have sworn to defend, and Bois-Guilbert in the Holy Land has lived par amours with both Christian and Saracen women. When King Richard reappears in England, Prince John's chief adviser, Waldemar Fitzurse, conspires to have the King ambushed and slain.

In this crisis of Prince John's fortunes, his three other chief supporters, whose fortunes are indissolubly bound with his, are off on a lawless and self-interested expedition of their own, seizing Athelstane and Cedric and the others in their train and conveying them to Torquilstone. All three expect to gain large ransoms from the two Saxon thanes. Front-de-Boeuf intends in addition to extort from the Jew Isaac of York his entire fortune by roasting him, if necessary, over the coals of a red-hot brazier. Bracy desires the person and the fortune of the Saxon heiress Rowena and is ready to marry her by force. Bois-Guilbert lusts for Isaac's daughter Rebecca and cares not whether he gains her by seduction or rape. In pursuit of their reckless, divisive, and unscrupulous personal aims these leaders of Norman chivalry, disloyal even to their chosen prince, ruin his chances of ruling a kingdom. Like Froissart's knight two centuries later, they might all say, "It is a good life to rob and pill." They are only grandiose gangsters in chainmail.

Their fates are symbolic. Front-de-Boeuf dies amid the flames of his own castle, roasted as he had intended to roast Isaac, while the mad Saxon crone Ulrica, who had been first his father's and then his own captive and despised mistress, screams her hatred and perishes with him in the blaze. Bracy is disarmed by King Richard and scornfully pardoned by the monarch, who disdains to take revenge on so mean a foe. Bois-Guilbert dies in the lists at Templestowe, his features convulsed, his brow flushed red as blood, slain not by the still unrecovered Ivanhoe but by the violence of his own passions. Thus the red thread of violence ravels to its fitting end.

In contrast to these representatives of Norman chivalry the Saxons come off better, though even they hardly shine. Athelstane, called the Unready, a descendant of the Saxon kings and thus after a fashion a contender for the throne, does not lack bravery and even has a strain of sense and good feeling in his heavy bulk, but he is an oaf, a sluggard, and a glutton. Cedric the Saxon, almost the last enthusiast for a Saxon restoration, blinds himself to the bovine qualities of this human ox, strives to bring about a marriage between him and the Saxon princess Rowena, and disinherits his son Wilfred of Ivanhoe for daring to fall in love with her. In his unrealistic dedication to a lost cause, Cedric resembles more than anyone else that tragic and fanatical devotee of the Jacobite cause, Redgauntlet, in a novel Scott was to write five years later.

The best and most manly figures among the Saxons are not these members of its old nobility but the serf and swineherd Gurth, with his courage, loyalty, and good sense, and the half-crackbrained jester Wamba, whose touching devotion to his master throws a gentler light upon Cedric himself. And Cedric in turn gains in stature by his treatment of these two, by his affectionate gratitude to his poor clown and by freeing Gurth for his services. He is more fully redeemed by his ability at last to accept the rule of the Plantagenet Richard and to allow love for his son to prevail over his dynastic fantasies.

This development in the story is given a comic parallel in the resuscitation of Athelstane, still ravenous for food and drink, and his renunciation of his claims both on the hand of Rowena and on the throne. That resuscitation is not "a botch," as Scott later thought, but a ludicrous demonstration of the unreality of Cedric's dreams. It is more fitting that Athelstane should linger on, a foolish food-champer, than that he be given a grandiose burial at Coningsburgh as a symbol of the heroic death of the Saxon cause.

In all this gallery, who speaks for the nobler qualities of chivalry? Primarily, of course, Ivanhoe, the titular hero. He is one of Scott's mediatorial figures, bridging the gulf between Saxon and Norman, adopting the chivalric code in its highest form, aiding the oppressed, becoming the devoted follower of Richard, fighting for the Cross in Palestine, humbling the pride of the cynical and overbearing Bois-Guilbert, and in the end, by wedding Rowena, symbolically uniting Norman knighthood and the Saxon heritage.

During the first third of the book Ivanhoe has a decisive role, first in disguise as the palmer, when he saves Isaac of York from Bois-Guilbert's plan of seizure, then in the thinner disguise of the Disinherited Knight, when he defeats all the Norman champions in the tournament at Ashby. But throughout almost all the rest of the narrative his wounds condemn him to a passivity from which he does not emerge until near the end, with the vain endeavor to curb Coeur de Lion's rashness and the heroic gesture of presenting himself at Templestowe as Rebecca's defender.

The role of King Richard is more complex and even contradictory. In the mêlée at Ashby, he has fought under the banner of Ivanhoe but so inactively as to get himself nicknamed the Black Sluggard, le Noir Fainéant; he has bestirred himself only when Ivanhoe was in danger. He puts himself at the head of Robin Hood's band of Saxon outlaws in pressing the assault on Torquilstone in which the oppressively lawless Norman leaders are crushingly defeated. At the mere terror of his return to England his brother John's abortive conspiracy begins to crumple; with the announcement of his presence armed supporters spring up out of the soil everywhere. He banishes the corrupt and subversive Order of the Temple from the land. The King is a providential force before whom oppressive violence collapses.

But, further, even more than Ivanhoe he is a symbol of national unity. He has no Norman disdain for his Saxon subjects. If he addresses De Bracy and Fitzurse in a tone of high command, he drinks and exchanges buffets with the Clerk of Copmanhurst and mingles readily with Robin Hood's band, and he treats Cedric with a distinguished courtesy splendidly differentiated from Prince John's ill breeding. When Cedric invites him to Rotherwood, "not as a guest, but as a son or brother," the King responds, "Cedric has already made me rich,—he has taught me the value of Saxon virtue."7 When he at last reveals his identity at Coningsburgh, "Richard of Anjou!" exclaims Cedric. "No, noble Cedric," is the reply, "—Richard of England! . . . whose deepest wish is to see her sons united."8

If Richard is presented as redeemer, however, it should be noted that many of the evils he promises to eradicate are the dark results of his own irresponsible knight-errantry. Through his melodramatic preference for dashing off to Palestine and winning glittering but fruitless victories there, instead of attending to the duty of governing his own country, he has subjected England to the misrule of Prince John, a fickle, cowardly, and depraved would-be tyrant. Even after escaping from his Austrian prison Richard pursues the same reckless and headstrong courses, and might well have been slain by Fitzurse and his assassins but for Wamba's seizing Robin Hood's horn and summoning the outlaw bowmen.

Though Ivanhoe is himself no model of prudential conduct, even he is shocked by Richard's recklessness. "Your kingdom," he upbraids, "is threatened with dissolution and civil war—your subjects menaced with every species of evil"—"why, oh why, noble Prince, will you thus vex the hearts of your faithful servants, and expose your life by lonely journeys and rash adventures, as if it were of no more value than that of a mere knight-errant, who has no interest on earth but what lance and sword may procure him?"9

Richard replies that he has been obliged to remain concealed to give his friends and faithful nobles time to assemble their forces, when the announcement of his return may make his enemies tremble and subdue treason without unsheathing a sword. But he well knows that he could have remained in hiding less hazardously than wandering through the forest attended only by a Saxon jester. The King's behavior in the course of the narrative thus qualifies his role both as mediator and as redeemer, and provides ample justification for the book's more disillusioned conclusion about him:

"In the lion-hearted King, the brilliant, but useless character of a knight of romance, was in a great measure realized and revived; and the personal glory which he acquired by his own deeds of arms, was far more dear to his excited imagination, than that which a course of policy and wisdom would have spread around his government. Accordingly, his reign was like the course of a brilliant and rapid meteor, which shoots along the face of Heaven, shedding around it an unnecessary and portentous light, which is instantly swallowed up by universal darkness; his feats of chivalry furnishing themes for bards and minstrels, but affording none of those solid benefits to his country on which history loves to pause, and hold up as an example to posterity."10

Richard thereby illustrates the failure of the most heroic secular ideal the age of chivalry could imagine—that ideal that Ivanhoe had so enthusiastically defended and Rebecca sadly reproached with its errors and omissions. Though Scott's own heart beats to its clarion peal, his honesty as a historian will not allow him to pretend that it is any less gravely flawed at its height in feudal Europe than in its lingering manifestations among the Highland clans of the seventeenth century. The code of chivalry is not the stay of the oppressed; it is often no more than the mask of violence, rapacity, and bloodshed, and leaves unredressed more wrongs than it rights. In the person of Coeur de Lion it carries war abroad and allows anarchy to rage at home. Its achievements are irregular and irresponsible.

Its deepest failures are defined by the existence of those who lie outside the pale of such organization as it lays claim to. Cedric and Athelstane, heirs of the old Saxon aristocracy, are jeered and baited by the Norman chivalry. Robin Hood's band, descendants of the Saxon yeomanry, are outlaws both to the Norman barons and the Saxon thanes. Isaac of York, his daughter Rebecca, all the Jews, once the Chosen People, are now despised and persecuted by Norman and Saxon alike. But the Jews and the Saxons who despise them are linked through an ironical equation: as Jews are to Saxons, so Saxons are to Normans. In an emblematic subtlety with which Scott is not usually credited, both are the disinherited of their world. Ivanhoe, literally disinherited by his father, bears upon his shield at Ashby the motto "Desdichado," and it is significant that his last important action is to champion a daughter of the most deeply disinherited of all, the Jews.

Isaac and Rebecca are in fact at the moral heart of Ivanhoe. Both are what they are in response to the pressures of their world. If Isaac is in part both comic and contemptible, Scott shows clearly that his most unlovely and ludicrous traits are to an overwhelming degree the consequences of the cruelty with which he and his people have been treated. Exiled, harried, and despoiled, denied an entry into almost all trades except the manipulation of money and then reviled as blood-sucking usurers, the Jews are revealed in historical perspective not as villains but as victims. If Isaac is still the legendary moneylender, it is because Christians will not let him be otherwise. The existence of the Jew as outcast and scapegoat indicts the society that rejects him.

Scott thus retains the stereotype but inverts its meaning. Isaac is avaricious because his ducats are his only weapon; he is in terror because Front-de-Boeuf's brazier always glares behind him. Even the relatively amiable characters in the book join as a matter of course in verbal Jew-baiting—Robin Hood distastefully calls Isaac "good earthworm"—while to the Norman group he is "dog Jew," "infidel dog," and "Hound of a Jew." Isaac is made the butt of crude japes, recoiling from a gammon of bacon suddenly flourished beneath his nose by Wamba, and rolling down a flight of steps while Prince John snatches his purse from him and flings two of its gold pieces to the jester. But we are not allowed to forget the true nature of the joke; the Prince receives "as much applause from the spectators," we are told, "as if he had done some honest and honourable action."11

So derided and so periled, Isaac has reason enough to fear for his moneybags and even for his life, but it is not true, as Edgar Rosenberg contends, that "he reacts as badly as possible under pressure."12 For his rescue by the supposed Palmer he responds with immediate gratitude. "Something would I do," he says, " . . . something for thyself," and offers the free use of the horse and armor he has keenly guessed that Ivanhoe desires.13 Nor does he recoil with the warning that both may be lost in the tourney. "I care not," he says. "If there is damage it will cost you nothing—" Instead, he worries about the danger to his benefactor: "Good youth," he begs, "thrust thyself not too forward in this vain hurlyburly—I speak not for endangering the steed, and coat of armour, but for the sake of thine own life and limbs."14

Here Isaac is being no Shylock but a grateful human being, and so he is again in Front-de-Boeuf' s dungeon when he strives to include within his own ransom the freedom of Cedric and his followers. "Grant me," he begs, "at least with my own liberty, that of the companions with whom I travel. They scorned me as a Jew, yet they pitied my desolation, and because they tarried to aid me by the way, a share of my evil hath come upon them . . ." Even when that endeavor is repulsed, he still tries to ensure that Ivanhoe is with him: "I am then," he asks, "only to be set at liberty with mine wounded friend?"15 But when he discovers that Rebecca has been given to Bois-Guilbert, his humility is exchanged for outraged fury: "Robber and villain! I will pay thee nothing—not one silver penny will I pay thee, unless my daughter is delivered to me in safety and honour! . . . My daughter is my flesh and blood, dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs which thy cruelty threatens. No silver will I give thee, unless I were to pour it molten down thy avaricious throat . . ."16

It is striking here to find the impeachment of avarice turned upon the Christian, and still more to see that in the agony of parental love Isaac ceases to think of his own danger and rises to the dignity of defiance. But in the total structure of the book his major function is to reveal how a people may be broken by cruelty and injustice. It is his daughter Rebecca who symbolizes their unbending inward resistance. More courageous than her father, a stranger to his "constant state of timid apprehension," she displays "a proud humility" that submits only externally to her unhappy position "as the daughter of a despised race."17 Her loyalty to her father, like his devotion to her, enhances the moral stature of both—in sharp contrast, again, to the Christians, of whom Cedric has disinherited his son, Prince John is conniving at the murder of his brother, and Front-de-Boeuf has killed his father. Throughout the book, in fact, the Jews reveal more of the Christian virtues than the Christians. And when at the end Rebecca and her father prepare to exile themselves abroad, the meaning of their departure is that England still cannot behave with Christianity to its Jews.

Among the more sentimental of Scott's readers there have always been some who felt that Rebecca should have married Ivanhoe. But this is totally to misunderstand the book. Scott has made clear from the beginning not only that Ivanhoe is deeply and unalterably devoted to the enchantingly beautiful Rowena but that the religious sentiments of the age render it impossible for him to feel for a Jewess anything greater than a detached gratitude. In a later introduction to the novel Scott also noted his own feeling that "a character of a highly virtuous and lofty stamp is degraded rather than exalted by an attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosperity." But the historical argument is all-sufficient: as Hart cogently remarks, a marriage between Ivanhoe and Rebecca could be significant in a Disraeli novel set in the nineteenth century; in the actuality of the twelfth century it is an impossibility.18

There have been, to be sure, complaints that Scott's rendering of the twelfth century is distorted by anachronisms. Historians have pointed out that Edward the Confessor had no lineal descendants, that Cedric, Rowena, and Ulrica are not genuine Saxon names, that Ulrica's crazy death-chant reverts to paganism a full four centuries after England had been completely Christianized and that one of the deities she invokes, Zernebock, was not even a Scandinavian god but a Slavonic idol. Scott well knew, of course, that Athelstane's ancestry was fictitious, but it may be questioned whether any of these slips seriously misrepresents the nature of the age. And though all the ballads of Robin Hood date from over two centuries later, can there be any doubt that there were such bands of forest outlaws long before the fifteenth century?

In his History of the Norman Conquest of England Professor E. A. Freeman has denied that the hatred between Normans and Saxons endured into the twelfth century,19 but he overlooks Scott's specifically describing Cedric the Saxon as a belated holdout maintaining a hopeless cause. Cedric's fanaticism is no more false to human nature, and therefore to the twelfth century, than the Irish nationalism that after 400 years of submersion made Ireland at last a free nation, or than the Scottish nationalism that more than 250 years after the Union with England has today again emerged as a political movement. It would be far stranger if there were no one like Cedric in the twelfth century—whether or not recorded in any surviving document—than if there were. In all other ways, furthermore, Cedric is entirely representative of his race and time; Scott's historical imagination could be impugned only if he also portrayed Cedric's ardent Saxon patriotism as characteristic of the age.

Ivanhoe stands far higher than all save a few of its critics have rated it. Though it lacks the psychological depth of Scott's greatest work, for narrative excitement it is unsurpassed. If its people do not always speak with the living voice that Scott gives his eighteenth-century Scottish characters, their words and their actions nevertheless tellingly reflect the hearts and the minds of human beings. The critical insight into the virtues and the shortcomings of the feudal system and the code of chivalry is acute and in the main just. Both as a work of literary imagination and as a feat of historical reconstruction, the novel is an impressive achievement.

As a portrayal of the Middle Ages Ivanhoe has been blamed, and with some justice, for showing little of the importance and power of the Church. It is true that Prior Aymer of Jourvaux and the Clerk of Copmanhurst are rather inadequate representatives of the mighty institution which in that very period was rearing the Winchester retrochoir, the great structure of Lincoln Cathedral, and the marvel of Fountains Abbey, and which had produced such exalted ecclesiastical figures as Anselm, Thomas à Beckett, and Saint Bernard. But Ivanhoe is concerned with the worldly manifestations of feudalism, not its religious faith. The wild lawlessness and the political conspiracy that dominate its turbulent events, and the violent lay ambitions of men like Front-de-Boeuf, Fitzurse, and Prince John, could hardly serve to delineate the working of spiritual forces. Such an aim would demand a different book with different characters. . . .


1Ivan., I, 171-2, Ch. XIII.

2Ibid., II, 233, Ch. XV.

3 Rosenberg, From Shylock, 90, partly quoting James Duncan, NCF, IX, 298.

4Ivan., I, 95-6, Ch. VI.

5Ibid., 96-7, Ch. VI.

6 Rosenberg, From Shylock, 90.

7Ivan., II, 140, Ch. IX.

8Ibid, 281, Ch. XVII.

9Ibid, 287, Ch. XVIII.

10Ibid, 289, Ch. XVIII.

11Ibid, 103, Ch. VIII.

12 Rosenberg, From Shylock, 74.

13Ivan., I, 83, Ch. VII.

14Ibid, 85, Ch. VII.

15Ibid, 286, Ch. XXIII.

16Ibid, 289, Ch. XXIII.

17Ibid, II, 5, Ch. I.

18 Hart, Scott's Novels, 157.

19 Freeman, Norman Conquest, V, (1876), 839; App. n. III.

Alice Chandler (essay date 1975)

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SOURCE: "Chivalry and Romance: Scott's Medieval Novels," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 14, Spring, 1975, pp. 185-200.

[In the essay that follows, Chandler argues that the romantic aspects of Ivanhoe, like Scott's other medieval novels, should be judged not by the standards of realism but of allegory.]

One of the recurrent elements in the Waverley Novels is the distinction Scott makes between the Highlands and the Lowlands. To enter the Highlands, as one critic has put it, is to cross a border "between what is and what might be, between reality and romance, between selfish causes and lost causes, the calculating present and the impulsive past."1 This analysis of the Scottish novels can also be applied to the medieval novels, except that in them there is no return at the end to ordinary life. While the medieval tales are far from the merely decorative pageantry that they have been popularly taken to be, most of the action does transpire on the far side of the border between the real and the unreal, in a world that sometimes verges on the mythic and allegorical. In the Scottish novels the protagonist eventually turns his back on the heroic archaism of the Highlands and returns to actuality with a deepened sense of himself. But in the world of Scott's medieval fiction, there is no such obvious recrossing, no such reintegration with life as it really is. For these books Wylie Sypher's assertion that "dreaming of the middle ages" can be "one of the shortest ways out of Manchester" may not be a complete summation, but it is at least an apposite epigram.2

It is this very quality of apparent wish-fulfillment, however tempered by an underlying realism, that made Scott's medieval panorama so popular for so long and that probably accounts for the low critical esteem in which the chivalric novels are currently held. Given a desire to restore Scott's laurels in an unheroic period, the tendency among recent critics has been to normalize his work and to emphasize the prudential, the rational, and the sociologically realistic elements in Scott's works at the expense of the romantic or affective. David Daiches expresses the prevailing view when he states that Scott's masterpieces all deal with Scottish manners and history. Reflecting a persistent discomfiture with the medieval fiction, he claims that Scott's best novels are anti-romantic since they show that "heroic action .. . is, in the last analysis, neither heroic nor useful."3 Neither the admirable studies of Francis Hart nor of Edgar Johnson really dissent from this view. Hart, for example, declines to believe that the anti-utilitarian preface to Quentin Durward does justice to the complexity of Scott's views, while Johnson claims that the rational and pragmatic Saladin is the real hero of The Talisman.4 Such views find pointed expression in J. E. Duncan's article on "The Anti-Romantic in Ivanhoe," which salvages the novel for twentieth-century consumption by giving it an ironist interpretation and declaring that it is essentially anti-chivalric.5

As long as the novels are judged by purely realistic canons, they will certainly be found wanting. The medieval novels are not entirely lacking in the presentation of complex characters nor in a certain graininess of texture. The imprint of Scott's "realism" can be traced in the medieval novels, just as there are purely "romantic" portions to the Scottish ones. But the proportioning is different. Despite an occasional psychological portrait like that of Louis XI in Quentin Durward, the medieval novels do not contain the inner struggle and maturation of personality or the stenographic transcript of society that make Scott's presentation of a Jeanie Deans or Darsie Latimer and their worlds so compelling. Nor is there an overriding sense of historical or tragic fatality such as often informs the Scottish books. But what if instead of being judged against the grain of instinctive response, their wish-fulfilling qualities are used for them, not against them? What if they are considered not as novels, but romances—a term that in Scott's time implied narratives that were idealizing, symbolic, and affective, vaguely descended from the chivalric fables of the past and still retaining something of their passion and mystery? To do so may require an overemphasis on certain elements in the novels, but there is at least the justification that Scott himself shared in this sense of genre, believing that the "old wild fictions" awakened the fancy, elevated the disposition, and created a higher form of character than a mundane existence could afford.6 He thought that the novel was "the legitimate child of romance" and praised it for bringing its "knowledge of the human heart . . . to the service of honour and virtue."7 Judged by such aesthetic criteria, Scott's own medieval romances (for that is what they mostly are) reveal surprising strengths: a consistent ideal of human conduct and a startling inventiveness of technique.

To understand the medieval novels it is necessary to recall what the middle ages stood for in Scott's time. Despite some lingering hostility to the Dark Ages, the medieval revival was well under way by the time Scott was born and had diffused itself into a variety of artistic and antiquarian enthusiasms. As manifested in some of the popular histories of the late eighteenth century, the rehabilitation of the middle ages had resulted in a rather stylized view of the past, one that had little to do with the middle ages as they really were and a great deal to do with the emerging values of primitivism, freedom, and heroic individualism.

For most of the pro-medieval historians the story of the middle ages began in the forests of Germany, or Scandinavia, or perhaps Britain, Wales, or Ireland—any place where Germanic or Celtic tribes could be discerned. They were a "great and divine People," according to their advocates, who lived simply and frugally, were hospitable to strangers, and were uncorrupted by the desire for riches. Intelligent, imaginative, proud, they were "strangers to duplicity and malignity of spirit" and passionately devoted to liberty.8

It was to these "forests of Germany" that the historians traced the origins of chivalry. Although earlier writers had ridiculed the "enthusiasm" of knight-errantry, such historians as Robert Henry, Gilbert Stuart, or even Sharon Turner, tended to idealize the chivalric code. Its leading characteristics were said to be "valour, humanity, courtesy, justice, honour . . . religion . . . [and] a scrupulous adherence to truth."9 While admitting the brutality of the middle ages, most of these historians thought that the period was redeemed by the chivalric insistence on the sanctity of women and the inviolable rights of the innocent and the weak.

These historians, however, clearly differentiated between the early middle ages and the late. In the early period, the binding principle of feudal society was seen as affection rather than compulsion. The connection between superior and vassal was believed to be "warm and generous," and the feudal chiefs were powerful not so much by their military forces as by the attachment and loyalty of their retainers. But the later middle ages changed all this. "Property," as one historian wrote, was "unfolded in all its relations."10 Money was substituted for loyalty, and the profit-motive separated forever the interests of the lord and his subject. By the end of the middle ages, mercenary armies had taken the place of vassals, and the "liberty and happiness" of the earlier period was replaced by the "rapacity and savageness" of a corrupted era.11

In their tripartite division of medieval society into its Germanic, chivalric, and decadent phases, these pre-Romantic historians managed to maintain their belief in progress by seeing the decline of feudalism as paving the way for a new and better form of government. Many of them also believed that historical change revealed the hand of Providence. Scott's friend, Sharon Turner, though dubious about some aspects of the middle ages, was very certain about Providence. He often postulated divine interference as part of history, and he was praised on his death for showing in all his historical works that "minute providential agency and actual superintendence of all affairs by the Almighty."12

In his "Essay on Chivalry" Scott echoes many of these ideas. Although no man of his age had read more or knew more of the actual records of the past than Sir Walter Scott, he could not wholly avoid reading that past as others did. If one accepts Duncan Forbes' view in his now classical article on Scott's rationalism that he was strongly influenced by eighteenth-century thought,13 one must also include as part of his background such non-rationalist historians as Sharon Turner, to whom he acknowledges indebtedness in the preface to Ivanhoe, and Robert Henry, from whom Scott plagiarizes in "The Essay on Chivalry."14 Thus, for Scott, as for these pre-Romantic historians, the seeds of chivalry existed in the German forests. It was chivalry, he believed, Christianity excepted, that was the chief cause of difference between the ancients and the moderns. Its strength lay in its combination of military valor, not with a purely intellectual code, but with the strongest passions of the human mind, its feelings of reverence and love. Sharply critical of chivalry in practice, he could nonetheless praise the ideal. He claimed that it operated on the "beautiful" theory that the soldier who drew his "sword in defence of his country and its liberties, or of the oppressed innocence of damsels, widows, and orphans, or in support of religious rights . . . [was inspired in his deeds by] a deep sense of devotion, exalting him above the advantage and even fame which he himself might derive from victory and giving dignity to defeat itself, as a lesson of divine chastisement and humiliation."15

Like the historians, Scott also believed in the theory of rise and fall. He believed that all human institutions are bound to decay and that chivalry so deteriorated in its later stages that it finally seemed to foster the very vices it was pledged to avoid. "The devotion of the knights," he wrote, "degenerated into superstition,—their love into licentiousness,—their spirit of loyalty or of freedom into tyranny and turmoil,—their generosity into hare-brained madness" (p. 13). Nevertheless, despite its final failure, chivalry is given a basically favorable judgment. "Its institutions," Scott claimed, "virtuous as they were in principle, and honourable and generous in their ends, must have done much good, and prevented much evil." With poetic nostalgia, he concludes his essay by calling chivalry "a beautiful and fantastic piece of frost-work which has dissolved in the beams of the sun" (p. 98).

What Scott states explicitly about the rise and fall of chivalry and the distinction between practice and theory in his essay is implicit in the novels. We can see this sense of historical development most clearly in Anne of Geierstein, in which the hero successively (rather than simultaneously, as in a novel like Ivanhoe) experiences the three different phases of medieval life; the primitivism of the heroic Swiss mountaineers, the chivalry of the vanquished Lancastrians, and the postchivalric decay of the Burgundians and Provencals. Taken schematically Scott's young observer—as distinguished from his more complex-minded creator—sees freedom and simplicity in the first society, courage and fidelity in the second, and selfishness and luxury in the third—a perfect eighteenth-century minihistory.

Set at the intersection of historical periods and value systems, as are all his novels, medieval stories such as Anne of Geierstein give Scott the opportunity to explore the worth of various moral systems. Although his judgment is balanced, his sympathies are clear. The central value in all Scott's medieval romances—and the one that must win out in the end—is what we would call altruism and what Scott really meant by the term chivalry. Related to the Shaftesburian conception of the "moral sense"—or virtue for virtue's sake—altruism is a hard term to define, perhaps because it exists more purely in fiction than in life. But it is this ideal of human conduct, this practice of virtue without the necessity of reward, this risk of self for the benefit of others, this dedication to a cause in the face of danger, that Scott's medieval novels, stripped of their tempering complexities, ultimately assert. Other of his books penetrate the deceptions of altruism—the fanaticisms, the narcissisms, the power-drives that can masquerade in its clothes. Dealing with a more recognizably modern society, the Scottish and English novels seem to endorse a more prudential and realistic code of behavior. But in writing of the far-off world of the middle ages, Scott can afford to be more didactic.

Basically at issue in these books, though projected into the medieval past, is the growing nineteenth-century conflict between utilitarian and anti-utilitarian modes of behavior—between what Dickens so pithily calls "looking out for number one" and a philosophy of life that assumes there is more to conduct than mere ciphering. How clearly Scott sees this conflict of values and where he stands in regard to it appear most vividly in Quentin Durward, which is organized, as are most of the medieval romances, on the contrast between calculation and chivalry.

In his introduction to this novel, Scott sets up a dichotomy between the spirit of chivalry that is dying out as the story begins and the new utilitarian morality that is superseding it. Chivalry, he asserts, is founded upon "generosity and self-denial, of which if the world were deprived, it would be difficult to conceive the existence of virtue among the human race." Its successor, the emerging modern code of self-interest, is based on just the opposite moral principle of personal self-indulgence. Its admittedly selfish aim, to use Scott's purposely Benthamite phrase, is to augment one's individual "sum of happiness."16

King Louis, whom Scott compares to Goethe's Mephistopheles, embodies in himself these post-chivalric values and demonstrates their essential strengths and weaknesses. He is the practical peace-keeper in an age of brawling wars. But he is also the destructive, manipulative overreacher, who is so "purely selfish, so guiltless of entertaining any purpose unconnected with his ambition, covetousness, and desire of selfish enjoyment, that he almost seems an incarnation of the devil himself, permitted to do his utmost to corrupt our ideas of honour in its very source" by ridiculing all actions that do not lead certainly and directly to self-gratification (31, iv-vi). Although Scott with his inevitable fairness and dramatic vision makes Louis one of the most fully living characters in his medieval novels—a projection on to an unreal world of a familiar and brilliant pragmatism—Louis is an unpleasant historical necessity, whose motives are dubious and calculations unpleasant.

But, as Ruskin, who was a great admirer of Scott, wrote later, "All endeavour to deduce rules of action from balance of expediency is in vain. .. . No man . . . can know what will be the result to himself, or to others, from any given line of conduct."17 Operating by expediency and calculations, King Louis schemes, lies, and consults astrology in order to control the future. The element that distrubs his computations is the young soldier, Quentin Durward, whose combination of naivete, chivalric idealism, and native shrewdness, proves too complex for the King at every turn. A free man moved by spontaneous generosity (or at least by youthful ambition and ardor) rather than a machine pushed forward by pleasure and pain, Durward is both unpredictable and unbeatable. Hardly the perfect hero of romance—somewhat too unpolished and immature for that—he nonetheless holds fast throughout the novel to his exalted faith in his lady and his word. A wise fool poised against a foolish wise man, it is he who saves Louis, and thereby France, in the end.

Ivanhoe, perhaps the most purely "romantic" of the medieval novels, is likewise built round the contrast between the generosity of primitive and chivalric man and the selfishness of his successors. The opening scenes in the Saxon stronghold at Rotherwood show open-handed generosity and a rude compassion for mankind in the ascendant. Food is plenteous at Cedric's Saxon board and all are welcome to share his table (although some have less desirable seats). By contrast, the hospitality that King John offers his Saxon guests is cold and meaningless. Sitting in their stolen castle, eating food refined out of all recognition, these Norman representatives of the later middle ages devote their energies to belittling their guests, the dispossessed owners of the entire land, and to devising new ways to outwit them.

An almost mythic contrast between selfishness and generosity distinguishes the scenes at Torquilstone from the episodes in Sherwood Forest. Torquilstone, the massive, forbidding castle of Front-de-Boeuf, is a veritable allegory of the selfish passions. Down in the dungeons, Front-de-Boeuf himself torments the frightened Isaac. In the chambers, Maurice de Bracy and Brian de Bois-Guilbert threaten the innocence of Rowena and Rebecca. And, on the towers, the demented Ulrica sings her death-song of revenge. By comparison, despite their superficial lawlessness, the oak glades of Sherwood are positively idyllic. Isaac's gold is restored to him, Rebecca and Rowena are treated courteously, and the spoils of Torquilstone are shared with a liberal hand.

The basic differences between the two codes of behavior come to a focus in the contrasted treatment of Rebecca by Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert. Doubly weak and unprotected as a woman and as a Jewess, Rebecca is a touchstone for chivalry. Her dialogues with Bois-Guilbert unveil the cynical egotism beneath his Templar's cloak as he tries to barter her virtue for her life. To his late medieval opportunism, the Jewess counters with the chivalric code. Were he a true Christian, she says, he would not put a price on her deliverance, but would "protect the oppressed for the sake of charity, and not for a selfish advantage" (17, 285).

Despite its failings, the only force within the novel capable of counteracting the dual threat of Bois-Guilbert's passionate sensuality and "free-born reason" would seem to be the spirit of chivalry. Ivanhoe's defense of the chivalric code as that which "alone distinguishes the noble from the base . . . [and which] raises us victorious over pain, toil, and suffering" has been attacked as naive and unrealistic.18 Scott expresses these strictures himself in Rebecca's criticism of its more blood-thirsty aspects. But what Ivanhoe goes on to say about chivalry as "the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, [and] the curb of the power of the tyrant" (17, 109) is not wholly ironic. It is the incipient voice of the law itself, magisterially protecting the weak from the strong, and not very different, after all, from Allan Fairford's defense of the legal profession in Redgauntlet as defending "a righteous cause with hand and purse, and [taking] the part of the poor man against his oppressor, without fear of the consequences to himself' (35, 68). What Ivanhoe describes is military courage, the only redress available to a barbarous age. It is more arbitrary and unreliable than Fairford's civil courage and unquestionably subject to abuses. But for Scott its premise is the same: the subordination of private judgment to the welfare of society itself.

Altruism, then, or devotion in the face of risk, is the saving grace of chivalry, in theory if not in actual fact. Like the bulwark of the law in the modern world, Scott sees it as redeeming man from the consequences of his selfishness and his passions. Although he is never very far away from puncturing his own illusions—never far, for example, from criticism of King Richard's feckless knight errantry in a tottering kingdom—it is a muted counterpointing, a small, dry voice almost unheard among his grander melodies.

As Ivanhoe shows, however, the practice of chivalry, whatever its limitations, is only the property of the chosen few. For the mass of men, according to Scott, the redeeming virtue is loyalty, or affection given without hope of reward. It is related to the well-nigh savage faithfulness of the Highland clans that he described in his Scottish novels and, in moderated form, is the force of social coherence that he wished to revive in his own competitive age through such quasimedieval refurbishments as The Loyal Foresters. In regard to the middle ages, Scott largely shares the belief in medieval unity that marked the work of earlier historians, but goes far beyond them in perception. Although he is never unaware of its deficiencies and contradictions and knows perfectly well how Cedric really treated Gurth, he still sees the feudal world, as Coleridge later would, as a chain of loyalties, in which all ranks of men from king to commoner acknowledge mutual ties. At the top of the scale, a knight like Ivanhoe offers his devoir to the king; but at the bottom, and just as significantly, a serf like Wamba will offer up his life to save his master. The symbol of such communality for Scott is the feudal feast. Its enemy (and he can sometimes be an attractive one) is the isolato—the gypsy, the atheist, the mercenary—those who deny the social bond. Scott's paternalistic concept of loyalty thus taps the wellsprings of political order by tracing them back to parental authority and familial ties.

If a society is to be bound by loyalty, however, it must be one in which pledges are honored. Keeping one's word is part of the implicit covenant of trust that men make in giving up their individual right of self-defense to the social group. As a lawyer and man of affairs Scott was doubtlessly aware of the pragmatic value of honorable conduct. As the author of romances he mocked it a little and exalted it much. Fidelity to the truth is an important theme in all Scott's works, but it is an especially important virtue in the medieval novels where Scott echoes the pre-Romantic historians' emphasis on "scrupulous adherence to the truth" as part of the knightly code. "My word is the emblem of my faith" (46, 19), says one of Scott's heroes, and though the hero is none too bright, the author does not mean us to deride him. Touched on to some degree in all his works, the meaning of honor is treated most fully in The Betrothed, where Scott explores the rival claims of a pragmatic attitude toward keeping faith based on a prudent self-interest and a chivalric idealism that hews to the absolute.

In this novel the de Berengers epitomize idealism. Raymond de Berenger, lord of a castle on the Marches, goes consciously to his death to fulfill a foolish promise made to his Welsh enemy that he will fight outside the natural defenses of his castle. His daughter Eveline feels bound after his death to maintain an equally foolish pledge to marry a man she does not love. In contrast to the rashness of Eveline and her father, Scott sets up the good sense and solid, burgher integrity of Wilkin Flammock, a Flemish weaver. Flammock is everything de Berenger is not. Cautious and practical, he always advises against rash promises and unnecessary fulfillments. He tells Raymond de Berenger not to fight upon the open field and refuses to let Eveline take her beloved into her castle, lest people think she has taken him into her bed as well. "This is one of your freaks," he says, "of honour and generosity, but commend me to prudence and honesty" (37, 372-73).

But are prudence and honesty enough? Although Scott finds much to praise in Flammock's sound judgment and integrity, he cannot accept such bourgeois values unreservedly. Wilkin's pragmatic code is a good one and, as Scott well knew, the inevitable code of the emerging mercantile society that would function by contract and by bond. But it lacks the high unselfishness of chivalry. Scott makes very clear the differences in sensibility between the de Berengers and the Flammocks—between those who merely fulfill their obligations and those who go beyond them. But without idealizing either, he shows that despite temporary setbacks, as in Ivanhoe and Quentin Durward, it is the chivalrous who win out in the end. Raymond de Berenger is willing to sacrifice his life for his honor, and he is killed. But, ironically, his willingness to keep faith even with those who would observe none with him, ultimately leads his forces to victory, since the Welsh are trapped and annihilated on the very ground they had chosen. "Heaven is just," says Eveline, when she hears that the enemy has been destroyed. And heaven seems just, too, when at the end of the story it awards her the lover of her choice.

The notion that the gods are just points out another characteristic of the novels of chivalry. Walter Bagehot wrote more than a century ago that "the world of [Scott's] fiction .. . is one subject to laws of retribution which, though not apparent on a superficial glance, are yet in steady and consistent operation, and will be sure to work their due effect if time is only given to them."19 In the Scottish novels, with their emphasis on realism and historicity, such retributive justice can only work out, if it does at all, in a very general way. But Scott's medieval world is sufficiently free from historical fact to allow him the luxury of providential solutions. If poetic justice is still not universally achieved, it is more frequent and more dramatic than in the Scottish books.

One way to investigate Scott's providentialism is to examine the differences between the younger and older practitioners of chivalric virtue. Several of the novels present two contrasted heroes—an enthusiastic young man, who has yet to win his spurs, and a more prudent older man, who serves as a father figure. In Quentin Durward, for instance, Crevecoeur, though he admires the young Scotsman, cannot accept what seem to him young Durward's insane aspirations in love and calls him a "madman" for his hopes. In Anne of Geierstein, young Arthur argues with his father to accept the warnings of an unknown maiden. A similar contrast between prudence and confidence obtains in Castle Dangerous, where Aymer de Valence urges his chief to trust an unknown guest.

Despite their lack of caution, in the world of the medieval novels, the young idealists seem to have an edge, as contrasted with the Scottish novels where youth must more frequently learn from age. Quentin Durward does win a fair lady, and wealth and rank besides. Sir John de Walton imprisons the stranger, as practicality demands, and thereby precipitates an awful chain of disasters. As for Arthur Philipson, he, too, proves right in his youthful trust in the maiden. In chiding his son for what he considers his chivalric romanticism, the father, like all these supposedly wise old men, has the worst of the argument. What he called Arthur's "vain imagination" has actually given a truer picture of the world than his own too-cautious reasoning (44, 367).

Indeed, the quality of faith can be added to such other characteristics of Scott's heroes as altruism, loyalty, and honor—faith in himself and what can loosely be called Providence. A pagan character like Saladin in The Talisman can believe that the universe is governed by powers that turn good into evil and can address a hymn to the forces of darkness. But the chivalric hero knows otherwise. He may never express it directly, but his actions and his fate embody Scott's belief expressed in the Journal that "there is a God, and a just God—a judgment and a future life—and all who own so much let them act according to the faith that is in them."20 Moderated though they are by Scott's full cognizance of human ambiguity, the medieval novels leave little doubt that Providence, though it moves slowly, moves justly, and that by mysterious ways it punishes the wicked and rewards the good.

Although Scott occasionally resorts to a clumsy deux ex machina, as in the sudden death of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, most manifestations of retributive justice are skillfully dovetailed into the plot. In Anne of Geierstein, for example, the Duke of Burgundy thinks his own interests will best be served by rejecting the course of honor. But by pursuing his own advantage he actually brings about his own death. In Quentin Durward, too, there is constant irony in the way King Louis and his royal astronomer plot Durward's future and the way in which the young Scotsman fulfills the letter of the prophecies while totally reversing their intentions.

These and a myriad of other unexpected events suggest one major aspect of Scott's view of life, though one that may need to be corrected by looking at the Scottish novels. The universe, he seems to be saying, is more complicated than the mere reasoning mind can realize, and attempts to calculate the future end in disaster. Indeed, in his last novel, Scott declares that the real purpose of art is to elucidate the ways of Providence. An aged minstrel, who seems very much Scott's spokesman, says in Castle Dangerous: "God knows . . . that if I, or such as I, are forgetful of the finger of Providence in accomplishing its purposes in this lower world, we have heavier blame than that of other people, since we are perpetually called upon, in the exercise of our fanciful profession, to admire the turns of fate which bring good out of evil and which render those who think only of their own passions and purposes the executors of the will of Heaven" (5, 347).

What of the attitude of the hero in such a world? As an important episode in Anne of Geierstein suggests, the hero must literally make the leap of faith. Trapped on a rock by a sudden Alpine avalanche, Arthur Philipson finds himself "suspended between heaven and earth." As long as he estimates his danger "by the measure of sound sense and reality," Arthur cannot cross the gap (45, 33 ff.). But when Anne of Geierstein, a half-realistic, half-supernatural figure, stretches out her hand and gives him "heart of grace" he springs the gulf to safety. Much of Arthur's education involves just such an act of faith. Like all of Scott's heroes, he must overcome his naiveté and learn to live wisely and prudently. But he must also learn to accept the universe on a deeper level than that of mere rationality. The events of the novel, Scott says, served to develop both the young man's "understanding and passions" (45, 257)—and the second quality is as important as the first. Like all Scott's chivalric heroes, Arthur Philipson would seem to illustrate Cardinal Newman's dictum—and Newman, rightly or wrongly, thought Scott responsible for the Oxford Movement—that "action flows not from inferences, but from impressions—not from reasonings, but from Faith."21 The medieval novels, like all Scott's work, give ample evidence that he never condoned ungoverned passion or irresponsible action. But whatever his subliminal ironies and authorial distancings, they also show his recognition that unselfish generosity and heroic idealism can only be energized by feeling.

The medieval novels enhance the world they depict. Despite certain tensional ironies and contradictions, they appeal not only to the reader's desire for heroic action but to his idealized conceptions of nobility and justice. Subordinating freedom to order as they do, they are conceptually not very different from the rest of his works, but they are far more schematic in their approach. Dealing with a period of time that had already been glamorized by the historians, they allow Scott more freedom to express that nostalgia for chivalric values than the more realistic underpinning of the Scottish novels will not allow him to indulge. Set in a period historically vague, they give freer range to his hopefulness. Once their genre is recognized as what might be termed a subset of the Waverley Novels, retaining some characteristics but strongly emphasizing others, certain of the difficulties surrounding the books begin to disappear. They have been accused, for example, of superficial characterization. As long as they are regarded purely as novels, instead of as romances, this is certainly true. Despite a few complex psychological portraits, Scott's medieval stories show little to compare with the subtle and dramatic development of character that he achieves in the best of the Waverley Novels and few of the confrontations and renunciations that give these novels strength. But romance does not ask for psychological realism; it stylizes, instead—heightening, coloring, and dramatizing the characters until they almost allegorically polarize such values as egotism and altruism, prudence and idealism, caution and commitment. This essay has already explored the meaning of such symbolic pairs as Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert, Raymond de Berenger and Wilkin Flammock, and the young chivalric heroes and the old. Further investigation of the medieval romances would show many other thematic pairings and even triplings: Harry Smith and Conachar in The Fair Maid of Perth; Coeur-de-Lion, Sir Kenneth, and Saladin in The Talisman; and, in Count Robert of Paris, a veritable Great Chain of Being, from bestial tiger through cynical modern man.

The plot structure of these novels is also romantically stylized. As has been seen, Scott arranges his stories to make full use of dramatic irony, and arranges the incidents of his plot, though they may initially seem fortuitous, to support his conception of providence. Many of the medieval novels show a considerable tautness of structure. One such structural device is the use of a symbolic episode to sum up and forecast the action. An excellent example is the scene at the beginning of Quentin Durward, in which the young archer, who is described as entering the world with little conception of its perils, is tricked by King Louis into fording a treacherous river and survives the danger of crossing to threaten Louis' henchman with a drubbing. The two-page episode sums up the remainder of the book quite as clearly as the extended siege of Torquilstone epitomizes Ivanhoe or Arthur Philipson's entrapment by the avalanche foreshadows all that follows.

Although some of the last medieval romances fall apart in structure, most of the earlier ones are remarkably symmetrical in plot, with the symmetry underscoring the theme. Ivanhoe, for instance, begins with a feast scene at Cedric's estate, in which both friends and foes are divided amongst themselves, proceeds to the open hostility of the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche, and then enters into the moral ambiguity of the forest. The scenes that follow at Torquilstone are both physically and morally central, with their confrontation between good and evil, thrice repeated blasts of the trumpets, and references to the Book of Job and apocalyptic destruction by fire. After that crisis the plot retraces itself backwards towards harmony. The new scenes in the forest show that the outlaws really live in unity, the second tournament at Templestowe reasserts the power of the good, and the concluding feast at Rotherwood shows the wicked routed and the good men reconciled. In broad outline, the progress of the novel from Rotherwood to the tournament, to the forest glade, to Torquilstone, and back to the forest glade, a tournament, and Rotherwood is not only symmetrical but triumphant. Similar symmetrical developments, with the action pivoting on a single crucial scene, can also be observed in Quentin Durward and The Talisman.

If the earlier medieval novels use symbolism and structure to reinforce Scott's historical conceptions, the last ones—Anne of Geierstein, Count Robert of Paris, and Castle Dangerous—also use it to support his providentialism. They do so by means of two repeated image clusters or motifs—the descent into the grave and restoration after loss.

In Anne of Geierstein, which Scott started in 1828, three years after financial ruin had shattered him, there are several episodes of symbolic descent into the grave. In one, young Arthur Philipson is immured in a dark and narrow dungeon from which he is only rescued by a quasi-seraphic Anne. In another, his father must undergo a symbolic burial. Nightmarishly clad in only his underclothes, the Earl is plunged into a subterranean chamber, where he encounters an inquisitorial tribunal, which claims an "acquaintance with all guilt, however secret" (45, 37), and accuses him of dreadful crimes. Like his son, he is eventually restored to life but only after a hideous foretaste of death and judgment.

In Count Robert of Paris, however, the judgment is no longer Kafkaesque but providential. Released from bondage and apparent blindness after three years of imprisonment, the victim here asserts the justice of his punishment, stating that the Emperor who imprisoned him was "but the agent through whom Heaven exercised a dearly-purchased right of punishing me for my manifold offenses and transgressions" (47, 138) and adding that his imprisonment and blindness have shown him a "liberty far more unconstrained than this poor earth can afford, and a vision far more clear than any Mount Pisgah on this wretched side of the grave can get us" (47, 149).

These themes of entombment, restoration, and providence appear again in Scott's last novel, Castle Dangerous, a sad, flawed, strange work, whose major theme appears to be that of loss with honor. Although it is bad scholarship to make such biographical conjectures, it is tempting to read this novel in the light of what we know about Scott's final years. It is not difficult to see the autobiographical elements. Sir John de Walton has pledged to keep an ancient Scottish Castle (Abbotsford, perhaps, or Scott's own honor) for a year and a day. He has done this in deference to a promise given to the Lady Augusta, who, like himself (and like Scott), is dedicated to the fast-dying virtues of chivalry. The castle contains a wondrous book of ancient poetry, into which Bertram the Minstrel, another of Scott's self-projections, is pledged to keep looking. The minstrel had thought once during the sack of the castle (Scott's bankruptcy) that it was time for him to take his book and go, but he has learned that the time is not yet, that he still has a role to play in reminding others about providence and heroism. More than any other of Scott's heroes, Sir John de Walton falters. He quarrels with his foster son, is churlish to Bertram the Minstrel, and almost betrays Augusta. But in spite of his shortsightedness and error, he does hold fast to his honor. At the end of the novel, which brings with it symbolic restorations of love, eyesight, and justice, Sir John can gracefully yield up the castle to its rightful owner, The Knight of the Tomb. Confused though this final narrative is, it shows a new growth of symbolic and psychological power and an attempt to wrest triumph out of defeat. It is an appropriate final work for an acute and subtle realist who had all his life asserted the virtues of chivalry and the attractions of romance.


1 Coleman 0. Parsons, Witchcraft and Demonologyin Scott's Fiction (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1964), p. 264.

2 Wylie Sypher, Rococo to Cubism in Art and Literature (New York: Random House, 1960), p. 103.

3 David Daiches, Literary Essays (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1956), p. 88.

4 Francis R. Hart, Scott's Novels: The Plotting ofHistoric Survival (Charlottesville, Va.: The University Press of Virginia, 1966), pp. 225-226. Edgar Johnson, Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown (New York: Macmillan, 1970) II, 937.

5 J. E. Duncan, "The Anti-Romantic in Ivanhoe,"Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 9 (1955), 293-300.

6Sir Walter Scott, The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. Sir Herbert J. C. Grierson (London: Constable and Co., 1932-37), VII, 302.

7Quarterly Review, 14 (1815), 189.

8 Robert Henry, The History of Great Britain, 4th ed. (London, 1805), II, 299.

9 William Russell, The History of Modern Europe, new ed. (London, 1822), I, 193-94.

10 Gilbert Stuart, A View of Society in Europe, 2nd ed. (London, 1782), p. 75.

11Ibid., p. 80.

12 Thomas Preston Peardon, The Transition in EnglishHistorical Writing: 1760-1830 (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1933), p. 229.

13 Duncan Forbes, "The Rationalism of Sir Walter Scott," Cambridge Journal, 7 (October, 1953), passim.

14 A sentence from the "Essay" quoted below, for example, is almost identical with a statement of Henry's: "But still an institution so virtuous in its principles and so honourable in its ends must have done much good and prevented many evils" (The History of Great Britain, VI, 327).

15 Sir Walter Scott, Miscellaneous Prose Works of SirWalter Scott (Edinburgh, 1854), I, 20; all further references to the "Essay" are to this edition.

16 Sir Walter Scott, The Waverley Novels, 48 vols. (Edinburgh, 1929-33), 31, XXV. All further references to the novels are to this edition.

17 John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, Library edition (London and New York: George Allen and Longman, 1903-1912), XVII, 28.

18 Johnson, I, 738-39.

19 Walter Bagehot, National Review (April, 1858), p. 458.

20 Sir Walter Scott, The Journalof Sir Walter Scott, ed. John Guthrie Tait (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1950), p. 39.

21 John Henry Cardinal Newman, Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects, 2nd ed. (London, 1873), p. 304.

Kenneth M. Sroka (essay date 1979)

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SOURCE: "The Function of Form: Ivanhoe as Romance," in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. XIX, No. 4, Autumn, 1979, pp. 645-60.

[In the essay that follows, Sroka argues that Ivanhoe combines elements of realism with more conventional romantic tropes, particularly in the characters who display both heroism and human limitations.]

Walter Scott's critical prose does not reveal any concern on Scott's part for organic form in fiction. However, Scott's own practice as a novelist belies what appears to be his cavalier attitude toward the relationship of a work's form to its content. Ivanhoe, for example, appears on first reading to be a straightforward chivalric romance exemplifying the conventions of that form. It utilizes the conventional progression of the romance plot: the conflict between ideal good and evil embodied in the heroes and villains, the perilous journey of the main character, his individual struggle and passage through ritual death, his rescue of the endangered maiden and marriage to her, and the promise of general future happiness in a newly established social order.1 However, closer readings reveal that Scott's fidelity to the conventional romance form is tempered by altered conventions and deflations of idealistic imaginative elements—variations which create a more realistic romance. Although the English nation is delivered finally from the power of the usurping Norman rulers by the accession of King Richard in union with the formerly oppressed Saxon people, the conventional romance pattern is much qualified in Ivanhoe: the heroes are not ideal; the maiden's rescue is due more to chance than to valor; the titular hero marries a second, less attractive heroine; and the new social order falls far short of a wish-fulfillment ideal. An investigation ofIvanhoe's romance form reveals how Scott tempers it with the realistic elements of the novel: the synthesis of novel-like, realistic elements within Ivanhoe's conventional romance form mirrors the general thematic synthesis which characterizes Scott's achievement in the content of the Waverley Novels as a whole.

Ivanhoe's romance plot progresses through the three stages of the successful quest outlined by Northrop Frye in the Anatomy of Criticism, the conflict, the death struggle, and the recognition. Each stage presents itself on both a general social level and a specific individual level. Thus the conflict occurs generally between Saxons and Normans, specifically between Wilfred of Ivanhoe and Brian de Bois-Guilbert. The death struggle involves the general passage of the old Saxon social order as well as Ivanhoe's suffering near fatal wounds. The recognition stage includes both King Richard's unmasking as ruler of a new synthesized social order (neither Saxon nor Norman but English) and Ivanhoe's revival and reinstatement into his own family by his father, Cedric. Such social-individual "double-tracking" emphasizes in Ivanhoe, as Scott does elsewhere in the Waverley Novels, the mutual impact of the effect a culture has on its members and the import of individual action in the formation of a culture.

The conflict in Ivanhoe between Saxon protagonists and Norman antagonists generates from Sherwood Forest, the site of Saxon assaults upon the Normans, from the robberies carried out by Robin Hood's yeomen to the plan for the siege of Torquilstone. Sherwood Forest represents Scott's version of Shakespeare's "green world," a world of romance where according to Frye life and the imagination triumph over death and the bonds of an overcivilized society. Cedric and Athelstane, the principal leaders of the Saxon resistance, live in the forest in dwellings which share characteristics of the natural green world. Both Rotherwood and Coningsburgh are described in terms of rude simplicity:2 Rotherwood is located so deep in the forest and is so well hidden that Ivanhoe, disguised as a palmer, must guide Bois-Guilbert and Prior Aymer to it (ch. 2). Ruled by the extra-legal monarch, Robin Hood, whom King Richard hails as "King of Outlaws, and Prince of good fellows" (ch. 40), Sherwood Forest functions as an image and source of the potential version of a desirable and just social order.

Opposed to the green world dwellers of Sherwood Forest are the inhabitants of the Norman castles, places of secret crime and torture though their inhabitants claim to be the civilized guardians of law and religion. Torquilstone, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's castle, serves as a prison for Maurice DeBracy's kidnapped victims and a torture chamber for Isaac of York. The turret which holds Rebecca, Isaac's daughter, stifles the cries of its victims. Torquilstone also hides the secret of Front-de-Boeuf's patricide as well as the only witness to the crime, Ulrica, the guarding prophetic Sybil of this lower world, who prophesies the fate of the castle:

'Such are the secrets these vaults conceal! Rend assunder, ye accursed arches . . . and bury in your fall all who are conscious of the hideous mystery!'

(ch. 27)

Invasions into the green world by the "men of the castles"—such as those by DeBracy and Waldemar Fitzurse (ch. 19)—are doomed to failure, for the castle-dwellers are imposters who are out of place in the forest: "the paths of the wood seemed but imperfectly known to the marauders" (ch. 21).

The conflict stage of Ivanhoe's conventional romance plot which pits the green world against the castle is reinforced by the book's nature imagery, in particular by the traditional image of the oak tree, its strength, its timelessness, and its link with the romantic imagination. The green world heroes live in harmony with the innumerable oak trees of Sherwood Forest. The trees serve as natural markers for Robin Hood's meeting places, and in one instance an immense oak serves most practically as a flank of defense for King Richard when he is ambushed by Fitzurse and his men (ch. 40). The narrator comments upon how the timeless oak once must have witnessed "the stately march of Roman soldiery," how the open spaces among them "seemed formerly to have been dedicated to the rites of Druidical superstition," and how, in contemplating the majestic oaks, "the eye delights to lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet wilder scenes of silvan solitude" (ch. 1).

Conversely, the Norman castle-dwellers are often associated with the desecration of the venerable oak tree of the green world. A "large decayed oak . . . marks the boundaries over which Front-de-Boeuf claims authority" (ch. 6). Cedric compares himself in his fight against Norman oppression to a "'solitary oak that throws out its shattered and unprotected branches against the full sweep of the tempest'" (ch. 3). Cedric also unsuccessfully pleads with Wamba, his jester, to allow Athelstane to escape from Torquilstone in his place: "'Let the old tree wither .. . so the stately hope of the forest be preserved'" (ch. 26). Finally, part of a verse from Wamba's song relates the destruction wrought by the world of castles to the destruction of the oak:

Norman saw on English oakOn English neck a Norman yoke.

(ch. 27)

The oak tree remains a consistent image in Ivanhoe even to its application to Cedric's ambivalent position as simultaneously a victim of the Normans and an obstacle to his own Saxon son. As a sign of Cedric's unjust disinheritance of Ivanhoe, an image of an uprooted oak tree appears as a device on the Disinherited Knight's shield: "a young oak-tree pulled up by the roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited" (ch. 8). In this single instance, Cedric's unkindness associates him with the Norman abusers of the oak.

Scott's skillful and rich treatment of the general conflict between Saxons and Normans follows the romance convention: heroes appear heroic, villains villainous. However, disabled by wounds suffered at the Ashby tournament, Ivanhoe is at best a passive hero for the greater part of the book who must hear reports of the siege of Torquilstone without himself taking part in the conflict. Moreover, the specific conflict between Ivanhoe and Brian de Bois-Guilbert further qualifies Ivanhoe's heroic stature and thereby alters the convention. Ivanhoe battles Bois-Guilbert on three major occasions: at the tournament held by King Richard in Palestine (which only is reported to us after Ivanhoe's return to England), at Ashby, and at Templestowe as Rebecca's champion. Conventionally, the romantic hero is beaten back by his foe in the first two encounters, but regains strength for his eventual victory in the third. However, Ivanhoe defeats Bois-Guilbert in all three encounters, but only his tournament victories portray Ivanhoe as heroic. His third, crucial struggle with Bois-Guilbert qualifies Ivanhoe's victory, for it is undermined as an heroic action:

A hundred voices exclaimed, 'A champion!—a champion!' . . . they shouted unanimously as the knight rode into the tiltyard. The second glance, however, served to destroy the hope that his timely arrival had excited. His horse, urged for many miles to its utmost speed, appeared to reel from fatigue; and the rider, however undauntedly he presented himself in the lists, either from weakness, or weariness, or both, seemed scarce able to support himself in the saddle.

(ch. 43)

It is not by Ivanhoe's valor that Bois-Guilbert is defeated, but by an almost symbolic kind of self-destruction:

The trumpets sounded, and the knights charged each other in full career. The wearied horse of Ivanhoe, and its no less exhausted rider, went down, as all had expected, before the well-aimed lance and vigorous steed of the Templar. This issue of the combat all had forseen; but although the spear of Ivanhoe did but, in comparison, touch the shield of Bois-Guilbert, that champion, to the astonishment of all who beheld it, reeled in his saddle, lost his stirrups, and fell in the lists. . . . Unscathed by the lance of his enemy, he had died a victim to the violence of his own contending passions.

(ch. 43)

Although evil is punished here either by accident or simple, unexplained poetic justice, it is not punished through the agency of the hero, and the hero himself is rendered in his failure less ideal and more human, more real.

On occasion, other "heroes" in Ivanhoe are similarly deflated by being made less the effective agents of action than comic figures with realistic human limitations. In these cases, what is usually considered "valour" is turned into "folly." When Cedric and Athelstane attempt to defend themselves from DeBracy and his kidnappers, accident deflates the seriousness of the situation:

Cedric spurred his horse against a second [assailant], drawing his sword at the same time, and striking with such inconsiderate fury, that his weapon encountered a thick branch which hung over him, and he was disarmed by the violence of his own blow. He was instantly made prisoner. . . . Athelstane shared his captivity, his bridle having been seized, and he himself forcibly dismounted, long before he could draw his weapon, or assume any posture of effectual defense.

(ch. 19)

Likewise, King Richard's image of himself as an adventurous knight instead of a responsible ruler diminishes his heroic stature. The narrator censures Richard's lack of common sense and his excessive romanticism:

In the lion-hearted King, the brilliant but useless character of a knight of romance was in a great measure realized and revived; and the personal glory which he acquired by his own deeds of arms was far more dear to his excited imagination than that which a course of policy and wisdom would have spread around his government.

(ch. 41)

In mock heroic fashion, Scott depicts King Richard as more practical than romantic only when the King is faced with the common human needs occasioned by weariness and hunger:

The place where the traveller found himself seemed unpropitious for obtaining either shelter or refreshment, and he was likely to be reduced to the usual expedient of knights errant, who on such occasions, turned their horses to graze, and laid themselves down to meditate on their lady-mistress, with an oak tree for a canopy. But the Black Knight either had no mistress to mediate upon, or, being as indifferent in love as he seemed to be in war, was not sufficiently occupied by passionate reflections upon her beauty and cruelty, to be able to parry the effects of fatigue and hunger, and suffer love to act as a substitute for the solid comforts of a bed and supper.

(ch. 16)

Ivanhoe's deflation of the conventionally heroic is dramatized further in its elevation of Wamba the jester and Gurth the swineherd from the conventional roles of buffoon and rustic to the position of eiron figures, "tricky slaves" who contribute to the heroes' eventual victory.3 Wamba refers to himself as "Folly" and to King Richard (in the guise of the Black Knight) as "Valour" and comments: "when do you ever find Folly separated from Valour?" (ch. 40). However, Wamba's remark functions doubly: it both indicts Richard's folly and presages Wamba's and Gurth's own valour. When Wamba and Gurth send a message to the knights within the Castle of Torquilstone demanding the release of Cedric and the rest of his kidnapped party, the knights treat the ultimatum as a joke:

The knights heard this uncommon document read from end to end, and then gazed upon each other in silent amazement . . . DeBracy was the first to break silence by an uncontrollable fit of laughter, wherein he was joined .. . by the Templar.

(ch. 25)

DeBracy and the Templar mock Reginald Front-de-Boeuf's complaint of their "ill-timed jocularity": "He is cowed at the very idea of a cartel, though it come but from a fool and a swineherd." But the fool and the swineherd, in union with the Black Knight and the yeomen of Robin Hood, make their threat good by eventually defeating the defenders of Torquilstone and rescuing the captives. The last laugh is at the expense of those who fancy themselves more valorous than they actually are. Even more important, Wamba and Gurth prove themselves more worthy of the title of "knight" because of their real devotion to and love for Cedric and Ivanhoe. Gurth remains faithful to Ivanhoe at the risk of bringing on himself Cedric's anger; Wamba (disguised as a monk) gains entrance to Torquilstone and wins Cedric his freedom by changing places with him at the risk of his own life. Later, Wamba's good sense in signalling for Robin Hood saves King Richard from his own carelessness. The deflation of conventional chivalric ideals here is severe: common men, who make no public claim to special courage or intelligence, possess chivalric ideals to a greater degree than those whose profession would have the world believe them to be more than they are. In his Essays on Chivalry, Scott discusses what were usually termed "parodies of romance" in which menials were portrayed as "knights" wearing wooden helmets and wielding wooden swords. Scott observes that in such cases the menials, and not the institution of chivalry, were the targets of the parody:

It is more natural to suppose that his [the author of such a parody] ambition was to raise a laugh, by ascribing to the vulgar the manners and exercises of the noble and valiant. . . The ridicule is not directed against the manners described, but against the menials who affect those that are only befitting their superiors.4

In Ivanhoe, however, the very opposite is true. Scott again alters the convention by including this "proletarian" element in his romance.5 The alteration challenges the romance ideal that limited virtuous action to noblemen. Scott thereby allows for the more realistic possibility of common men performing heroic deeds.

In a less comic manner, Robin Hood's society, so often praised and so attractive to readers, does not escape realistic qualification. Wamba, the wise fool, reminds us:

'those honest fellows balance a good deed with one not quite so laudable. . . . The merry men of the forest set off the building of a cottage with the burning of a castle ... the setting free a poor prisoner against the murder of a proud sheriff—or, to come nearer to our point, the deliverance of a Saxon franklin against the burning alive of a Norman baron. Gentle thieves they are, in short, and courteous robbers; but it is ever the luckiest to meet with them when they are at the worst. . . [for] then they have some compunction, and are for making up matters with heaven. But when they have struck an even balance, Heaven help them with whom they next open the account!'

(ch. 40)

The sensible remark of Rebecca the Jewess generally captures Ivanhoe's deflation of romantic heroism:

'Alas! is the rusted mail which hangs as a hatchment over the champion's dim and mouldering tomb—is the defaced sculpture of the inscription which the ignorant monk can hardly read to the inquiring pilgrim—are these sufficient rewards for the sacrifice of every kindly affection, for a life spent miserably that ye may make others miserable?'

(ch. 29)

Rebecca's response is made to Ivanhoe, who has been praising what he calls the "pure light of chivalry." Scott has said that chivalry's purity is that of romance, its profligacy that of reality."6 In Ivanhoe Scott's deflation of the chivalric ideal puts some of the impurity of reality into romance.

Finally, in the portrayal of its villains, Ivanhoe reinforces its deflation of chivalric romantic ideals by mirroring the historical truth about the institution of chivalry. The Normans who profess to be knights are in fact licentious, cruel, and hypocritical.7 Their portrayal realizes dramatically in fiction what Scott elsewhere expresses as the historical reality of chivalry's decline. Scott explains the deterioration of chivalry from an institution which once blended "military valour with the strongest passions which actuate the human mind, the feelings of devotion and those of love" to one in which "the devotion of the knights often degenerated into superstition,—their love into licentiousness,—their spirit of loyalty or of freedom into tyranny and turmoil,—their generosity and gallantry into harebrained madness and absurdity."8 By portraying the worst abuses of chivalry in its villains and by humanizing those who too easily might be termed its perfect heroes, Ivanhoe infuses reality into its dialectical romance conflict.9 Since our discussion already has touched somewhat upon the second stage of the conventional romance plot—the death struggle—let us consider the final stage of Ivanhoe's progress, the reconciliation.

The moment of recognition and reconciliation occurs when Ivanhoe (to this point disguised either as the Palmer or the Disinherited Knight) and Cedric are reunited and the marriage of hero and heroine ushers in a new social order. However, the moment of real triumph is not Ivanhoe's unmasking and his eventual marriage to Rowena, but Athelstane's "funeral." The reconciliation actually begins during the earlier recognition scene in Sherwood Forest when Richard (to this point known as the Black Knight) reveals his true identity to Robin Hood. At Athelstane's "wake" at Coningsburgh, Richard identifies himself to Cedric and effects the reconciliation between father and son. Cedric, believing Athelstane to have been killed by the Templar, yields Rowena to Ivanhoe pending her two years' mourning for the death of her betrothed. Cedric's submission represents the surrender of his dream of the old Saxon nation restored to power. To this point, the scene is conventional; but Athelstane's "resurrection from the dead" makes it unconventional. Athelstane's return to life converts the funeral into a re-birthday celebration. Moreover, we meet a surprisingly new Athelstane. Rather than reassert himself as an obstacle to Ivanhoe, Athelstane willingly surrenders Rowena to him and rejects any aspirations to kingly power. This is a meaningful and fresh way to portray the simultaneous blending of the death of a past age and its rebirth by incorporation into the new social order the reconciliation promises: Saxons have willingly allied themselves, in the persons of the hero and heroine, to a Norman king who will evict the usurpers and, it is hoped, unite the nation. But another surprise complicates what is already a new and effective manipulation of a formulaic ending: as Athelstane is about to place Rowena's hand in Ivanhoe's—a stock gesture in such a scene—Ivanhoe rushes out to rescue Rebecca. Thus the scene which ordinarily ends a romance here is placed second last among the major incidents of the story. The final crisis—the rescue of Rebecca and the defeat of Bois-Guilbert—is given the position of more importance.

The position of Rebecca's rescue emphasizes the importance of Rebecca's function as a character. Ordinarily, Rebecca would be simply one of the unattached maidens available for marriage at the end of the romance, but her role is not ordinary. She has special healing powers which contribute to Ivanhoe's recovery and his eventual coming to power; but more important, Rebecca is special because she stands alone, outside all three societies (Normans, Saxons, and Yeomen) of the book. She is rejected by all because she is a Jewess (and therefore not eligible for marriage, even though Ivanhoe, dull as he is, senses and is attracted to her charms). Her recognition of prejudice and religious bigotry, coupled with her compassion and tolerance, makes her the most attractive character in the book. Furthermore, and herein lies Rebecca's greatest significance, her eventual decision to leave England undermines the reconciliation scene. In one of her final comments to Rowena, Rebecca rejects the new order as unsatisfactory:

'the people of England are a fierce race, quarreling ever with their neighbours or among themselves, and ready to plunge the sword into the bowels of each other. . . . Not in a land of war and blood, surrounded by hostile neighbours, and distracted by internal factions, can Israel hope to rest during her wanderings.'

(ch. 44)

In a very realistic way, the ending of Ivanhoe exposes the naivete of the belief that social evils lie only in particular villainous individuals like Prince John or Bois-Guilbert. We see instead that the seeds of internal confusion (which destroyed Bois-Guilbert and Front-de-Boeuf), intolerance, hypocrisy, and irresponsibility, reside in the society of the book as a whole. Ivanhoe and Richard, our romantic heroes and the cornerstones of the new order, contribute to that unsatisfactory social order as do the villains. The final passages of Ivanhoe fittingly summarize the book's general deflation of romantic idealism by alluding to Samuel Johnson's "The Vanity of Human Wishes":

With the life of a generous but rash and romantic monarch, perished all the projects which his ambition and his generosity had formed . . .

'He left the name at which the world grew pale, To point a moral, or adorn a TALE.'

Scott is a master of the romance form, but reminds us of man's limitations and thereby tempers the dream image of man which romance ordinarily paints.

Ivanhoe's depiction of real men with human virtues and human limitations instead of purely heroic or impurely villainous supermen may suggest that, for Scott's literary purposes, the ideals of romantic fiction too weakly anchored in a real world of imperfection and limitation were inadequate. However, since Scott's deflation of romance in Ivanhoe does not eliminate the romance form but only tempers it, Scott uses the "Dedicatory Epistle" to Ivanhoe to guard against that literary bias which too easily judges the realism of the novel as superior to the more imaginative traits of the romance. In the "Dedicatory Epistle" Scott uses the fictional voice of Laurence Templeton addressing the antiquarian Dr. Jonas Dryasdust to caution the reader against exaggerating the deflation of romance inherent in Ivanhoe and to remind him of the primacy of imagination in fiction despite fiction's use of raw materials from reality. The "Dedicatory Epistle" counter-balances Ivanhoe's tempered romance by reminding the reader of the limitations of a world view which overvalues the real at the expense of the imaginative.

Laurence Templeton, the supposed author of the "history" of Ivanhoe, begins his epistle fearful of the censure of Dr. Dryasdust, a severe critic of fiction and a dedicated lover of historical fact, since he is dedicating to him "a publication, which the more grave antiquary will perhaps class with the idle novels and romances of the day." Early in the dedication, Templeton argues his conviction that the merit of popular Scottish fiction must lie in the abundance of historical facts it makes use of:

the charm lay entirely in the art with which the unknown Author had availed himself, like a second M'Pherson, of the antiquarian stores which lay scattered around him, supplying his own indolence or poverty of invention, by the incidents which had actually taken place in his country at no distant period, by introducing real characters, and scarcely suppressing real names.

Factual reality provided flesh for the fictional bones of the author's "poverty of invention" so that the author received "more credit and profit than the facility of his labours merit[ed]."

In the remainder of the letter, Templeton completely reverses his position. As editor of Ivanhoe, Templeton intended to do for English history what Scottish authors had done for their own; namely, to compile the available historical facts into a readable narrative. But he found the "scantiness of material . . . indeed a formidable difficulty" since

our ideas of our ancestors are only to be gleaned from musty records and chronicles, the authors of which seem perversely to have conspired to suppress in their narrative all interesting details, in order to find room for flowers of monkish eloquence or trite reflections upon morals.

Templeton further criticizes "the repulsive dryness of mere antiquity" and "the dust of antiquity, where nothing was to be found but dry, sapless, mouldering and disjointed bones." He characterizes the writings of antiquaries like the Monk of Croydon and Geoffrey de Vinsauff as "a conglomeration of uninteresting and unintelligible matter," but says of the more literary Jean Froissart that he is someone to whose pages "we gladly fly for relief." To fill in the empty spaces left by history, Templeton turns away from particular historical reality and draws instead upon "the passions of men" and those "manners and sentiments which are common to us and to our ancestors . . . arising out of the principles of our common nature":

The passions, the sources from which these must spring in all their modifications, are generally the same in all ranks and conditions, all countries and ages; and it follows, as a matter of course, that the opinions, habits of thinking, and actions, however influenced by the peculiar state of society, must still, upon the whole, bear a strong resemblance to each other.

The portrayal of men that fiction concerns itself with here becomes more specifically the "passions of men," something "more fully drawn than in the hard, dry delineations of an ancient illuminated manuscript."

Templeton thus ends his letter saying that invention has put flesh on the dry bones of reality. Templeton's defense of Ivanhoe, a work which by this pseudo-author's own admission owes little to historical fact, demonstrates that a work of fiction can be defended on its own merits. Recalling the letter's repeated use of the words "dry" and "dust," so evocative of the name of that esteemed antiquary to whom Ivanhoe was dedicated, the reader can look through the mask of Templeton and see that his defense is Scott's argument as well, good-humored and yet serious. The "Dedicatory Epistle," in which fiction is shown to temper reality, and Ivanhoe itself, in which reality tempers romance, reveal Scott's understanding of the organic intricacy of literary form as it expresses itself in the symbiotic relationship between history and fiction, between the realistic and the romantic.10

Scott's formal theoretical statements about the romance and the novel support the literary symbiosis evident in Ivanhoe. In his "Essay on Romance" for the 1822 Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Scott formally defined the romance and the novel as simple, distinct literary forms. The romance was "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents," and the novel was "a fictitious narrative, differing from the Romance, because the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events, and the modern state of society."11 The forms differ in the nature of the "incidents" portrayed by each. The incidents of romance arise more from "invention," from the attempt to better the real world rather than simply to report it. As Alexander Welsh has shown, Scott and his contemporaries tended toward this ideal view of romance in that they "invented images of ideal behavior" and sought morality "in an ideal world, not through watchful observation of the real."12 Incidents in the novel, on the other hand, are more realistic; they are imitations of the events of palpable reality. Writers in the mainstream of the English novel tradition, such as Fielding and Smollett, drew their fictional portraits from models in the real world. Just as an initial reading of Ivanhoe as a conventional romance may yield to a more complex realization of its form, Scott's theory of the romance at first appears deceptively simple. The significance of fiction seemed to lie in "the disparity of romancing and reality rather than in the correspondence,"13 but in actual practice the romances of Scott's period were more complex. They had about them a realism which drew them closer to the novel.

Scott's references to the novel as the "minor romance" and "the legitimate child of romance" indicate his awareness of the mutual influence of the two forms upon one another and his recognition of the need to blend them, to mediate "between the extremes of novel and romance."14 Regardless of its theoretical equation with only the fictional, the romance came to be recognized as a form touching upon the real. Moreover, Scott's discussion of the term, "chivalric romance," further associates the romance with the historically real. He reminds his readers in his "Essay on Chivalry" that the chivalric romance was once the source of factual information. Although the events of older chivalric romances might seem highly implausible to modern readers, they were based on actual events:

We shall greatly err if we suppose that the adventures told in romance are as fictitious as its magic, its dragons, and its fairies. The machinery was indeed imaginary, or rather, like that of Homer, it was grounded on the popular belief of the times. But the turn of incidents resembled, in substance, those which passed almost daily under the eye of the narrator. Even the stupendous feats of prowess displayed by the heroes of those tales against the most overwhelming odds, were not without parallel in the history of the times. . . . [A]lthough the Knight of La Mancha was, perhaps, centuries too late in exercising his office of redresser of wrongs, and although his heated imagination confounded ordinary objects with such as were immediately connected with the exercise of chivalry, yet at no great distance from the date of the inimitable romance of Cervantes, real circumstances occurred, of a nature nearly as romantic as the achievements which Don Quixote aspired to execute.15

Conversely, the wholly fictional in the chivalric romance often found its way into historical accounts. What was actually fictitious was "quoted gravely, as the authentic and authoritative records of chivalry":

The fabulous knights of romance were so completely identified with those of real history, that grave historians quote the actions of the former in illustration of, and as a corollary to, the real events which they narrate.16

In either case, as Scott explains it, the chivalric romance originally concerned itself with and was considered the source of real events. Only in the gradual course of its development did it come to be associated with purely fictitious adventure.

Therefore, despite Scott's well-known simple definitions of the romance and the novel, he acknowledged and was himself a practitioner of a mixed form of fiction. Iyanhoe illustrates such a mixed form, the result in part of earlier forms which had undergone a blending process in their development: the romance from a form which treated the "marvelous and uncommon" to one which became more realistic in presenting "the ordinary train of human events"; chivalric romance from a source of historical fact to a vehicle of fiction. Ivanhoe mixes the fact of "the pure font of History" with "so many tributes from the imagination"17 and underscores their relation to each other by successfully synchronizing them within the literary form of the romance: Scott's theory reflects his practice.

In their content, the Waverley Novels focus upon the process of compromise. They treat the "organic evolution of competing styles of life"18 by dramatizing the struggle between contending political forces and their eventual synthesis. Such a process of social evolution is evident in Ivanhoe. On a more universal level than that in which the opponents in the struggle are specifically Saxons and Normans or Jacobites and Stuarts, the Waverley Novels deal with the effects of the past on the present, the anguish every "present" must suffer in assimilating the past. Every reader of the series lives in a present responding to the past which Scott recreates for him. The synthesis for the reader, like that for Scott's typical "observer heroes" (Ivanhoe, Edward Waverley, Edward Morton), must involve the modification of the reader's present by his understanding and assimilation of the past, the historical parent whose child he is and whose heritage he cannot refuse. In Ivanhoe, the narrator repeatedly reminds the reader that the characters being shown him are his ancestors regardless of their temporal distance from him. If we consider the Waverley Novels in terms of their form, it is evident that "the Author of Waverley could most certainly construct, and .. . in the better novels thematic richness and coherence are inseparable from formal success."19Ivanhoe's form echoes the synthesis of its content by its blend of old and new, by its tempering of the romance form with the realistic elements of the novel. This final synthesis in Ivanhoe between its form and its content testifies to Scott's literary genius and tempers that judgment which would see him as a more cavalier craftsman.


1 The theory and terminology of the romance are drawn largely from Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1957), especially "The Mythos of Summer: Romance," pp. 186-206.

2 The interior of Rotherwood resembles its natural surroundings: its furniture is "formed of planks rough-hewn from the forest"; the floor is "composed of earth mixed with lime"; and nothing divides "the apartment from the sky excepting the planking and thatch." (Ivanhoe (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1912), ch. 3. Further citations are from this edition by chapter.) It is ironically appropriate that Athelstane, an ally of the green world heroes, lives in the castle at Coningsburgh. As the royal residence of the kings of England previous to the Norman conquest, its romantic appearance is "as interesting to the lovers of the picturesque as the interior of the castle is to the eager antiquary, whose imagination it carries back to the days of the heptarchy" (ch. 41). However, Coningsburgh also resembles the oppressive Norman castles: the entrance to its tower is "difficult and complicated," has little air or light, and is marked by the presence of two dungeons (ch. 42). In a sense, Athelstane is one of the villains of the book: he is his own enemy, the helpless ruler figure whose impotence (he is "the Unready") is itself the obstacle to the emergence of the new English nation. Later, as we shall see, Athelstane "dies" in his castle and then is "resurrected" as a new person who willingly relinquishes any claim to rule.

3 See Frye, pp. 172-75.

4Essays on Chivalry, Romance and the Drama (London, 1870), p. 233.

5 Frye observes that although usually the ruling social or intellectual class of an age projects its ideals in the romance form, there is a "genuinely 'proletarian' element in romance too" (p. 186).

6Essays on Chivalry, p. 182.

7 Exceptions to Scott's otherwise unmitigated portrait of the Normans as villains include Fitzurse's perception of Richard's irresponsible character and Bois-Guilbert's awareness of the absurdity of anti-Semitism. Bois-Guilbert's rhetorical "Will future ages believe that such stupid bigotry ever existed?" (ch. 36) when Rebecca is about to be burned at the stake for witchcraft is significant since even Ivanhoe is guilty of religious prejudice that lowers our estimation of him. Ivanhoe's attraction to Rebecca is quenched by his knowledge that she is a Jewess.

8Essays on Chivalry, pp. 165-66.

9 David Daiches observes that "Scott's best and characteristic novels. . . . might with justice be called 'antiromantic' fiction," but confines his discussion to the Scottish novels and dismisses Ivanhoe: "A novel like Ivanhoe, though it has qualities of its own, is much more superficial than any of the Scottish novels, and is written throughout on a much lower plane" ("Scott's Achievement as a Novelist," NCF, 6 (1951-52), 81 and 166). More sympathetically, Edgar Johnson captures Scott's mature depiction of chivalry in Ivanhoe as "not simple but complex, for . . . he had far too balanced a knowledge both of the medieval world and of life in general either to reject totally or to idealize" (Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 1:736). A more extensive discussion of Ivanhoe's "anti-romanticism" can be found in Joseph Duncan's "The Anti-Romantic in 'Ivanhoe,'": "the basic point of view in Ivanhoe is neither juvenile nor romantic, but thoughtful, mature, and in a sense anti-romantic. The novel presents a vivid colorful picture of the 'fighting time,' but it does not glorify the fighters" (NCF, 9 [1954], 293-94).

10 The "Dedicatory Epistle" to Ivanhoe and other prefatory materials are discussed in my essay, "Fact, Fiction, and the Introductions to the Waverley Novels," WC, 2 (1971), 142-52.

11 Quoted from Alexander Welsh's The Hero of theWaverley Novels (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1963), p. 13. I am indebted to Professor Welsh's discussion of the complex relationship between the romance and the novel in Scott's time (ch. 1: "Romance"). Suggesting the ambiguity raised by the terms, Professor Welsh comments: "Neither word was used with any consistency in Scott's time. He generally referred to his own works as romances, but their collective title, of course, was 'the Waverley Novels' . . . [T]he Waveley Novels themselves entered the tradition of modified romance, romance tempered by realism" (pp. 13-14). Ian Jack also mentions Scott's inconsistency in using the terms and himself opts for "The Waverley Romances" in titling his chapter on Scott in The Oxford History of English Literature: 1815-1832 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963): "Although [Scott] is not consistent in the matter it is noticeable that he more often refers to his own books as 'romances' than 'novels'; it is because the distinction is an important one that the word 'romance' has been used throughout the present chapter" (p. 202).

12 Welsh, pp. 1-3.

13 Welsh, p. 7.

14 Welsh, pp. 14-15.

15Essays on Chivalry, p. 206.

16Essays on Chivalry, pp. 214 and 246.

17Essays on Chivalry, p. 237.

18 Karl Kroeber, Romantic Narrative Art (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin, 1966), p. 169.

19 Francis R. Hart, Scott's Novels: The Plotting ofHistoric Survival (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1966), pp. 334-35.

Judith Wilt (essay date 1985)

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SOURCE: "Coming Home: Waverly and Ivanhoe," in Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott, University of Chicago Press, 1985, pp. 18-48.

[In the following essay, Wilt examines the symbolism of homecoming as it relates to the identity of Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, the crusader who returns to an England torn by multiple conflicts.]

"Here is someone either asleep or lying dead at the foot of the cross," the irritated Normans remark as they ride, lost, through the Great Forest that dominates Ivanhoe: but it is not the last time they will be mistaken about him. The figure is neither dead nor asleep but thinking, and irritated in his turn: "it is discourteous in you to disturb my thoughts" (p. 20). Brian de Bois Guilbert and Prior Aymer de Mauleverer are foreigners and usurpers in the land; their dress and weapons and servants are Norman, Flemish, Turkish, Saracen, and the "sly voluptuary" is easily visible under the mein and garb of the first, as is the "storm of passion" under the eight-pointed cross of the second. They ride the forest arrogantly as owners, but they are easily misled and might die of the forest's traps except that the disturbed thinker, whose Pilgrim's hat hides his identity like his posture at the crossroads masked his character, knows how to guide them. He is even more emphatically a stranger than they, "but the stranger seemed to know, as if by instinct, the soundest ground and the safest points of passage" (p. 20). For, muffled and muted, "exclaiming in good French" and keeping his Saxon thoughts to himself, the stranger is coming home.

Where is "home"? The castle of Ivanhoe was, it appears, young Wilfrid's inheritance, perhaps his birthplace, but the Norman conquerer took it. Then Wilfrid accepted his own inheritance back as a gift from the Norman King Richard, the first of a series of deeds taking him closer to the usurper and farther from his "fathers." Then Wilfrid and Richard went on Crusade to Palestine, leaving their country but trying to recover their Christian "home," and now both are homeless and countryless, suspended dead or asleep at the crossroads between "home" and home. Richard's younger brother John has retaken the manor Ivanhoe and awarded it to Reginald Front de Boeuf, and is gathering forces at York to formalize his informal usurpation of Richard's throne. Wilfrid is at the crossroads leading toward his father's home, Rotherwood, seat of Cedric the Saxon. At no time does Wilfrid head for, or speak of, Ivanhoe as his home. Lost, hidden, tainted as this home is, the absence of Ivanhoe from the settings of the novel is peculiar. But it is appropriate, and, on still another level, as I mean to argue shortly, it is only an apparent absence. Torquilstone, the neighboring Saxon castle awarded to and taken by the family Front de Boeuf, stands in for Ivanhoe.

Torquilstone is a powerful fortress in the heart of the great forest in which the novel opens. "This extensive wood," where once the Dragon of Wantley "haunted" and once outlaws roamed, and once the main battles of the Wars of the Roses were fought, this forest, says Scott's narrator, is "our chief scene" (p. 1). The settings which seem so cleanly to divide the novel in three—Ashby-de-la-Zouche with its gay tiltyard, Torquilstone with its hotly defended barbicans and its cellar packed full of gunpowder, monkish Templestowe with its hidden cells and its witch-pyre—are surrounded by, or bordered by, can only be reached by going through, the great forest. This forest, glade receding into glade, avenue opening toward avenue, this landscape which in almost Hardyesque fashion is "completed" by "human figures" but in no sense owned or dominated by them, this scene of "intermingling" woods and "discoloured light" in which "the eye delights to lose itself while the imagination considers . . . paths to yet wilder scenes of sylvan solitude" (p. 4), is the real home of the English, says John Fowles. It is, his artist character Daniel Martin says, "the secret place that is also a redoubt"; here the Robin Hood myth "changes from merely symbolizing folk-aspirations in social terms to enshrining a dominant mental characteristic, an essential behavior, an archetypal movement (akin to certain major vowel-shifts in the language itself) of the English imagination" (Daniel Martin, pp. 288-89).

Coming home to this place, Ivanhoe, asleep at the crossroads, and Richard, the Sluggish Knight, find one already there before them, an active, orderly being secure in the fastness of his intermingling identities and discolored reputation, Locksley, Diccon Bend-the-Bow, Cleave-the-Wand, Robin Hood. In the clever orchestration of the image of "the hero" which Scott has fashioned for his "English" novel, Wilfrid and Locksley, both hooded men, both familiar with the mystery of the forest, occupy in tandem, in palimpsest, the center. Whatever images of untamed energy or Puckish anarchy might have accrued to the pre-Ivanhoe Robin Hood, Donald Bean Lean, the linking of Locksley with Wilfrid, rather than with the dark hero Richard, signals the new Robin Hood of our civilization. He is an outlaw, yes, but fundamentally he is the manager-king of a hidden but emphatically civil society.

Flashing around Wilfrid and Locksley, splendid, barely recoverable, finally lost, is the "brilliant and rapid meteor" (p. 409) of Richard Coeur de Lion. At the comicepic periphery of this image, unmoving, unkillable, is the swine-constellation of the Saxon-hero, Athelstane, and at the tragic Gothic periphery, coldly fiery, stable and self-consuming, "separated from life," is the dark star of Norman Brian de Bois Guilbert. These latter two, archetypes of their races, cancel each other out in the end. For Athelstane, the last Saxon Prince, receives an annihilating blow at Torquilstone from the Norman and goes to his grave: though, having earlier eaten enough for two men he rises from the grave "a wiser man than I descended into it" and will now "be king in my own domains and nowhere else" (p. 427). And Bois Guilbert, the Norman self-reduced to pure amoral will, receives only a mild blow at Templestowe from the weakened Saxon Ivanhoe, but dies of it, because he sought death as his fate. And the heroism of Richard is already a national monument to his friends, and as such a subject for respect, and humor, a national resource splendid, and useful, if rightly managed.

For management is the real topos of heroism in Ivanhoe, as it was, interestingly, in Shakespeare's history plays—not rule, but management. And in Ivanhoe, again, interestingly, as in the Henry plays, the emblem for the kidnapping of rule (romance) by management (realism), that idea central to our new civilization, is the horse. Henry Bolingbroke manhandled the second Richard Plantagenet off the throne, but it was when he kidnapped Richard's horse, and the horse willingly carried him through the public streets, that London accepted his management too. Henry's son Hal stays afoot while he is deliberating (or dead, or asleep at the crossroads), and mocks the romance heroics of the changeling Harry, who has earned his chivalric sobriquet Hotspur—"He kills himself some six or a dozen Scots before breakfast and then . . . 'give my roan horse a drench!'" But when the time comes, Hal knows what image he must appropriate from his antagonist: the soldier Vernon saw him vault onto his charger "like feathered Mercury" prepared to "witch the world with noble horsemanship" (Henry IV, Part One, p. 124).

Ivanhoe too is coming home afoot, in the manner of a Pilgrim, or of a Saxon warrior, but he does not (cannot?) move past the crossroads until he has borrowed a horse, and horsemanship, from his Norman antagonists. Leaving Rotherwood frustrated and by stealth, his identity revealed to the fellow bondsman Gurth, Ivanhoe borrows two mules for the journey, as appropriate to the Jew he is rescuing from Bois Guilbert's avarice, and to the semi-clerical identity he is temporarily vowed to. But even Isaac knows his disguise, for he saw "spurs of gold" hidden in the Palmer's dress, and he guesses the Palmer wants the horse to go with them. Mounted again, not by deceived Normans but by a reluctant Jew, Wilfrid makes his appearance as the Disinherited Knight at Ashby, becoming the central figure at a tournament marked by bizarre feats of horsemanship.

This late feudal craft, one of the "fantastic arts" Cedric despises his son for learning at the Norman court, is a major medium for the rivalry of Ivanhoe and Bois Guilbert too, but not quite in the way that we might imagine. The horse is the symbol of power, of course, and yet in all the encounters of the rivals in tournament and battle, the man who wins is the man who can stabilize, neutralize, even, in one astonishing moment, reverse, this ¡con of power. Bois Guilbert fares headlong forward, to frustration, defeat, and finally death, while Ivanhoe displays his "dexterity" in one scene by "reining back his steed in the same moment" that he struck (p. 118), in another by reducing "his fiery steed from a state of violent emotion and high excitation to the stillness of an equestrian statue" (p. 86). In the key image, during the tournament at Ashby, Ivanhoe "reined his horse backward down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him in the same manner to move backward through the lists, till he reached the northern extremity, where he remained stationary" (pp. 79-80).

This occasionally absurd, almost magical power of Ivanhoe to reverse his field of power from vulnerable motion to invulnerable motionlessness, to move out from the iconography of the equestrian statue or the legendary pose and then back to that cover, links him again with the Robin Hood-Locksley figure at the center of this novel. For as Bois Guilbert enacts a reversal of Ivanhoe's deeds, moving forward and groundward to his doom as Ivanhoe moves backward and horseward to his success, Locksley enacts Ivanhoe's deeds, for the nonequestrian classes, on the ground, in an archery contest which repeats many of the images of the tournament.

Here, Locksley steps forward to take his bow, telling King John that he is continuing an action begun the day before: "I know not how your grace might relish the winning of a third prize by one who has unwittingly fallen under your displeasure" (p. 126). The first encounter between Norman and Saxon archers, as between Norman and Saxon horsemen, is equal, and interestingly similar. Each horseman hits the other identically and their lances "burst into shivers up to the very grasp" (p. 80), and Locksley duplicates Hubert's shot into the very center of the round target so successfully that his later arrow "split to shivers" the arrow of his antagonist (p. 128).

When Ashby's tournament ends, and the antagonists move north through the forest toward home, or York, which is Isaac's home and the seat both of John's rebellion and, we learn later, of Richard's counter-rebellion, Locksley's yeoman outlaws begin to dominate the novel. Cedric's party and Isaac's, which secretly contains the victorious but wounded Ivanhoe, are captured by outlaws in Lincoln green, actually Normans in outlaw disguise, and taken to Torquilstone Castle, once Saxon, bloodily usurped by Reginald Front de Boeuf's father. The returned King Richard, who has aided Ivanhoe in the tournament while disguised as "The Black Sluggard," travels through the forest to head off the conspiracy at York, meets and befriends Locksley's outlaw friends, and joins them in their attempt to rescue their friends from Torquilstone.

While Ivanhoe lies wounded inside, Locksley outside takes over his function of managing, reining, and protecting the romantic leadership of Richard, the Black Sluggard, the Knight of the Fetterlock. Absolved momentarily of that function, and flat on his back where he can only imagine, not see, the carnage of human war released from the rules of tournament, Ivanhoe undergoes a curious though temporary romantic apotheosis. Kidnapped and a prisoner, he listens to the derring-do outside described by Rebecca and praises it in heated terms both romantic and ghoulish: "The love of battle is the food upon which we live .. . we live not longer than while we are victorious and renowned . . . Glory, maiden,—glory! . . . gilds our sepulchre and embalms our name" (p. 275).13

I want to return to this un-Wilfrid-like outburst, this Norman fanaticism, in a moment. For now let it be noticed that it occurs while the Saxon knight is in a Saxon castle which has been reshaped with Norman fortifications. Contaminated beyond redemption by the Norman deeds it has witnessed—murder, usurpation, rape, lust, and greed of all kinds, and, finally, the crime de la crime for Scott, the one Waverley fears he has committed when the news of his father's death and his uncle's imprisonment reaches him, parricide. The Saxon daughter of the house, Ulrica, had been mistress of Reginald and his father and had caused the parricide; the quintessence of her revenge, causing the son to kill his father, repeats itself in her, who destroys her father's house. Torquilstone's daughter, reverted back to the gods of her Scandinavian ancestors, embalms herself in its flames and gathers in its broken stones as her sepulchre. The escape of Ivanhoe and Cedric is only a side effect to the orgy of destruction which she hymns from the burning battlements in imagery disquietingly like the ¡mages that the sick Ivanhoe had used:

Whet the steel .. . thy banquet is prepared. . . . The destroyer of forests shall shake his red crest. His joy is in the clashing swords and broken bucklers; He loves to lick the hissing blood as it bursts warm from the wound!

(Pp. 298-99)

With this direct evocation of the destroyer of forests, the novel retreats back to the forest and the keeper of the forest, the arbiter of its justice, creator of its alternate world, sender of arrows out of secret leaves—Robin Hood.14 Since Ivanhoe is still inactive, rescued by Richard and sent to a monastery to recover, Locksley retains the hero-manager's role, settling affairs among all the races and classes of the assembly until Richard, who can certainly use this lesson, is moved to "expressing his surprise at . . . so much of civil policy amongst persons cast out" from law. "Good fruit, Sir Knight," replies the outlaw, stating the necessary creed for all historians who dare to deal with origins, "will sometimes grow on a sorry tree" (p. 325).

Nothing shows the centrality, and the mutuality, of Ivanhoe and Locksley in Scott's narrative so much as their activity in their first meeting, which does not occur, properly, since they act undercover in each other's place, in each other's absence, throughout the narrative, until forty pages from the end. Ivanhoe, still weak from his wounds at Ashby, pursues the reckless Richard into the forest so he can be with him to blunt the impact of his Norman entry into Saxon Coningsburgh for Athelstane's "funeral." Locksley, having pressed on Richard the horn he won at Ashby and urged him to call for him at need, rescues the monarch from an assassination attempt minutes before Ivanhoe rides onto the scene. Richard wanted no help and has to overcome "a blaze of hasty resentment" (p. 403) at the rescue. All identities are finally revealed—except, of course, the true name of Robin Hood/Locksley—and the king disappears into the forest for a postadventure revel with the outlaws from which he must be yet again rescued. And here the responsible Wilfrid and the managing Locksley are at one: "I would not that he [Richard] dallied with time which the circumstances of his kingdom may render precious," muses the outlaw, and "It must be by your management, then, gallant yeoman," agrees the knight, "for each hint I have essayed to give him serves only to induce him to prolong [his stay]" (p. 410). Both Richard and the outlaw band, romantics all, are tricked into dispersing after a false "Norman blast" of the horn secretly ordered by Robin Hood, and Richard, forgiving him perforce, links the two managers again: "If I had Ivanhoe, on the one hand, to give grave advice, and recommend it by the sad gravity of his brow, and thee, on the other, to trick me into what thou thinkest my own good, I should have as little the freedom of mine own will as any King in Christendom or Heathenesse" (p. 412).

Commiserating with his brother monarch ("Such a one is my lieutenant Little John, who is even now on an expedition as far as the borders of Scotland" [p. 412]), Locksley guides the knights out of the forest, which Richard promises to liberate from Norman tyranny and make into free national territory, and fades back for good into his "redoubt," the very figure, as John Fowles has said, of free national territory. For as Scott's narrator feels obliged to add, Richard was unable to deliver on his promise, the forest remained interdicted, its fellowship remained exile-outlaws, and its hero, instead of coming forth from the secrets of "Locksley," "Bend the Bow," "Cleave the Wand," and "Robin Hood" and reclaiming/revealing his own secret "good name besides" (p. 321), pulled back his hood over his face and submitted to immortality. And the rest of his career, says the narrator, is "to be found in these blackletter garlands, once sold at the low and easy rate of one half-penny" (p. 412), that career which Carlyle was to describe later, in Past and Present, as living under the greenwood tree in some universal suffrage manner.

For all his "civil policy" and good management during his narrative stint as Ivanhoe's alter-ego, his internal Saxon countermyth to his external Norman glory-hound, Robin Hood here remains, as that "second Robin Hood" Donald Bean Lean did, a secret figure, a magic figure offering monarch, characters, and readers alike "the hand of a true Englishman, though an outlaw for the present" (p. 326). And the present lasts forever. Disappearing into the great forest, Locksley parries Richard's final inquiry after his name: "as I do not pray to be admitted into your mystery, be not offended that I preserve my own" (p. 326). But he is admitted to everyone's mystery, Richard's, Wilfrid's, Gurth's, Prior Aymer's—even the most secret hoard of the fanatically secret Isaac is known to Diccon Bend-the-Bow. By the end of the novel no mystery remains but his.

Behind the mystery of kingship, behind even the mystery of outlawry which supports it, lies a third mystery, the sacred, whose visible setting in the novel, corrupt and usurped like Norman Ashby and Saxon Torquilstone, is the Christian Templestowe, and whose invisible, unrecapturable setting is Jerusalem. Seeking origins, seeking the sorry tree on which grow the mixed fruits of western civilization, Scott goes back, in mind, to the first Act of Chivalry, and supplies as dragon-guards to this coombe of the sacred, two of the novel's most memorable characters—the unbelieving Jew, Isaac, and the foresworn priest, Bois Guilbert. "I know you Christians," Isaac tells the disguised warrior pilgrim in as ironic a tone as he dares use, "the noblest of you will take the staff and sandal in superstitious penance, and walk afoot to visit the graves of dead men" (p. 58). Trying to make common cause with the Jewess Rebecca, the Templar says: "Answer me not by urging the difference of our creeds; within our secret conclaves we hold these nursery tales in derision"; to him the Holy Sepulchre is only "a barren desert" (p. 220).

It is important to note that Bois Guilbert's sterile skepticism is based, like Isaac's, upon deracination: like the Jews the Templars are uprooted from native soil, wanderers on the earth, visibly separated from all ordinary society by the eight-pointed white cross worn like the Jew's yellow star on the shoulder or breast. Like the Jew the Christian Priest-Knight has been, according to Scott's narrative, warped by the separation: like the Jew the Templar displays poverty outside and hides his wealth inside. Barred from the normal fruitfulness of land, crop, family, inheritance, and, most of all, from the fertile responsibilities of national identity, the Jew and the Priest have developed into separate centers of power, international, anti-national. But Isaac has at least a disinherited community to give him stability under all the shifty, half-conscious roles he plays. Bois Guilbert, despite his talk about an elite brotherhood within the Templars, has chosen the fate of deracination, not met it on the way toward a faith or in loyalty to an international ideal. He chose it when he came home, like Ivanhoe, like Willibert of Waverley, from chivalric deeds abroad, and found his Rowena, Adelaide de Montemare, married to another: "Since that day I have separated myself from life and its ties" (p. 219). "My manhood must know no domestic home," he continues: his nature is exactly opposite that of Waverley and Ivanhoe. He is building himself an abstract kingdom of power in the single will and needs, he says, "a kindred spirit to share it" (p. 220) and place to display it. Rebecca, whose will matches his and whose dark beauty is of the type he accepted in Palestine when the fair beauty of home rejected him, is in character, though not in values, his kindred spirit. And the proper place of his kingdom, as he sees it (and of hers, as she holily repeats in prayer each night) is Jerusalem. Once Bois Guilbert's ambition reached only so far as the Grand Mastership of the Templars; now, besieging Rebecca at the English Templestowe, he offers her not only his own greater imperial adventure but also the accomplishment of her race's own coming-home myth, the restoration of the original Temple:

Listen to me, Rebecca. England—Europe—is not the world. There are spheres in which we may act, ample enough even for my ambition. We will go to Palestine. . . . Thou shalt be a queen, Rebecca: in Mount Carmel shall we pitch the throne which my valour will gain for you. (p. 384).

"A dream—an empty vision of the night" is Rebecca's response to the invocation of this myth, as it is her response throughout the novel to every invocation of myth, from Ivanhoe's frantic hymn to chivalric selfimmolation at Torquilstone to the vision of interracial love which was her own deepest temptation, the home she could not, waking, see her way home to. The value of healing which she represents is a value for the waking, wounded, world. Mythicized, as everything too easily is at Templestowe, this value becomes witchcraft, black magic, the dark sacred, to those who practice the "fantastic chivalry of the Nazarenes" (p. 276). When the scene shifts from Robin Hood's forest to the monastery of crusading Knights, cells breeding mortal corruptions of the immortal ideals at its origin, there enters, right on cue in a Scott narrative, the figure of the reformer, the cleanser of the Temple, fittingly named Lucas de Beaumanoir. Seeking the origin of the sacred, one finds nothing earlier than a heritage already spoiling, taken over, kidnapped, in need of redemption. And the act of redemption, taking back the temple, requires at Templestowe, as it did in Jerusalem, a death. The death of the innocent Rebecca is planned by Beaumanoir as an appeal to God to restore holiness to the Templars. It is delayed by Ivanhoe, who rides exhausted to this new Jerusalem in accordance with his Nazarene inheritance to substitute himself. The cleansing death is accomplished finally by Bois Guilbert: his complex enactment of his fatal "separation from life and all its ties" and his "vengeance on myself has, up to now, occurred secondhand in the deaths of others, and now reaches its real target as he lies unmarked on the ground at Templestowe.15

The brief recreation of the first Act of Christian Chivalry at home, at Templestowe, recovers the heavenly Jerusalem, momentarily, in a narrative whose lurid background has been the failure of that recovery—even more, the declining of the task of recovery. When those who are under oath to recover the holy city are found purposefully making through the English forest for the house of Cedric the Saxon, says the disguised Ivanhoe at his first meeting with Bois Guilbert, "can you wonder that a peaceful peasant like me should decline the task which they have abandoned?" (p. 21). Something worse than the frustrating compromises which entrapped Richard at Acre, worse than the futility and corruption which left the returning Ivanhoe ill and "asleep or dead" at the foot of the Sunken Cross, has occurred with the Crusaders, however. For Reginald Front de Boeuf had also been in Palestine, licensed by sacred responsibility. And here, "perhaps," Scott's narrator remarks, "he had learnt his lesson of cruelty" (p. 197). Both Front de Boeuf and Bois Guilbert have come back from Palestine with Saracen slaves, mysterious demon presences who undertake the lower acts of cruelty from which chivalry flinches. And while "the Saracen" will acquire other qualities and identities when Scott's narratives encounter them on their own ground in later novels, in Ivanhoe they are connected with that dreadful side of Palestine which is not Jerusalem but Askalon, home of the Philistines and their cannibal God Dagon. On their way away from "home" but "home" to Jerusalem, the European Crusaders were stopped in just the wrong place for learning lessons. Prince John argues that he may legitimately seize the English possessions of those who, like his brother and Ivanhoe, "have wandered to foreign countries and can neither render homage nor service when called upon." But his priest advisor, Prior Aymer, adds a clerkly qualification:

The Blessed Jerusalem could not indeed be termed a foreign country. She was communis mater—the mother of all Christians. . . . But .. . the crusaders under Richard never proceeded much farther than Askalon, which, as all the world knew, was a town of the Philistines, and entitled to none of the privileges of the Holy City. (P. 123)

The privilege of the Holy City is to make a home for the sacred, and to defend that home. The Jerusalem that Scott respects is the Jerusalem that repels; the Jerusalem that fights to defend itself is the only setting where fighting is, perhaps, legitimate. But that legitimacy is long lost: "I am . . . sprung from a race whose courage was distinguished in the defense of their own land," says its last representative, a woman, a healer, a mourner, "but the sound of the trumpet wakes Judah no longer" (p. 276). Ivanhoe, impatient, but shifty, as a chivalric hero must be, mocks the Jewess's uncertainity about the "fantastic chivalry of the Nazarenes": "Thou art no Christian, Rebecca; and to thee are unknown those high feelings" (p. 276). Yet the psychoracial turmoil in Western Christendom that raised to such heights the fantasy of the defense of the land of sacred origin is clear to the meditative historian of Scott's narrative. If Jerusalem is communis mater to Christians and is in the hands of usurpers, then to defend her requires to attack her, to preserve her is to destroy her, to recover her is to lose her. Such is, on the national level, the case dramatized at Saxon Torquilstone in the stones of the building and in the mother figure of Ulrica, de-Saxonized, even de-Christianized in the task of recovering her home. Such too is the case on the level of the sacred: the intolerable psychosis of attacking and destroying the Holy Place in order to defend and recover it properly yields stalemate, abandonment of the task. This is preferable, but only just, to self-destruction.

This we see in the two final scenes of the novel, king facing king, queen facing queen, right facing right—poignant stalemate, and then abandonment. As the quarrel between Ivanhoe and Bois Guilbert at Templestowe, right facing clear wrong, is cathartically settled, Richard and his civil forces ride in to challenge Beaumanoir and his defenders of the sacred. For some moments the two lines of spears, each defending a right, confront each other: Scott's narrator giving dignity and some nobility to the "formidable and experienced" body of knight-priests who resist, as they must, the "doom" of encroaching secular monarchy (p. 44). The crisis passes in stalemate, the Templars departing in state to refer "our quarrel" to the Pope and Princes of "Christendom"—that high kingdom of fantasy of which "chivalry" is the cement—and Richard paying them tribute: "By the splendours of Our Lady's brow! It is pity of their lives that these Templars are not so trusty as they are disciplined and valiant" (pp. 441-42).

An interestingly similar scene closes the novel. Rebecca of York visits Rowena on the second morning after she has become the wife of Ivanhoe. There has of course never been a real quarrel between Rebecca and Rowena: their rivalry for the crown of the Queen of Love and Beauty at Ashby was strictly the creation of the men around them. But they do represent not only two kinds of beauty but two kinds of fortitude, and of love. Rebecca's special qualities, both lovely and dangerous, arise from suffering; her mind is realistic and her soul mystic. Rowena's special qualities, both lovely and dangerous, arise from security; her mind is romantic but her soul domestic. Both characters are "right"; Rebecca's right like the Templars'—dark, mystic, and connected with the origins of things—is unmistakably receding back to its coombe, its secret leaves, its unrecoverable Jerusalem, where Rowena's "right"—sunny, domestic, and connected with achieved things—is covering the other right. Yet there is a curious moment of confrontation between the two women. Rebecca has come not only to say farewell and to pass on to Rowena the diamond necklace and eardrops which once at Ashby drew men's eyes to her uncovered bosom, but to ask the Christian woman to unveil. Rowena, "expecting the same from my visitant," complies (p. 448). Both women color deeply, uncovered, and then recognize in each other the competing principle which animates each: Rebecca eyeing "the world's pride" in the wife, and Rowena recognizing the sacred in the face which is headed for the Jewish equivalent of convent life. Each knows herself and her opposite, and accepts her proper "home"; yet "an involuntary tremor" from Rebecca and "anxious inquiries" from Rowena suggest that in each heart the opposition has not been reconciled so much as stalemated, and the fight declined (pp. 449-50). And as for the crusader Wilfrid, who has hung stalemated between a divided home and a divided Jerusalem for most of his life, and who retains both the "bonds of early affection" for Rowena and the "deep impression" left by Rebecca, "it would be inquiring too curiously to ask" (p. 450), says the narrator, how much of his national, social, religious, personal, and sexual conflict is reconciled and how much is simply abandoned.


13 Moments of sheer energy like this, actually few and far between in Ivanhoe, occasion Walter Bagehot's wonderfully catty remark that, whatever Scott's intentions, the "boy" inside every Victorian reader who "idolises mediaeval society as the 'fighting time'" will solidify through loving re-readings of Ivanhoe the dangerous "impression that the middle ages had the same elements of happiness which we have at present, and that they had fighting besides," the one element of happiness missing from modern life! (general review of Scott's novels written in 1858, reprinted in Critical Heritage, pp. 409, 410).

14 Working with Frye's definition of romance forms, Kenneth Sroka follows Scott's treatment of the oak tree symbol through the novel in "The Function of Form: Ivanhoe as Romance," in Studies in English Literature 19 (1979): 645-60. Evil by this analysis rests with those unsympathetic to (and vice versa) Sherwood forest, with the Normans who are "abusers of the oak" (p. 648). That Ivanhoe's Saxon father, as the one who symbolically uprooted the oak which his disinherited son bears on his shield at Ashby, belongs in the same "class" momentarily with the Normans here, is one of the reasons why David Brown finds a "failure of historical imagination" in Scott when he turns from the Scottish novels. Brown is looking for the kind of "class analysis" that marked Scott's treatment of gentry-peasantry Scotland and finds that Norman as gentry and Saxon as peasantry doesn't "work" consistently in Ivanhoe (Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination, p. 184).

15 Welsh's famous analysis of Bois Guilbert's death, somewhat more abstract and less attuned to the movement of the novel, I feel, is that this strange phenomenon hints at "some profound law of the Waverley Novels. . . . On behalf of the individual who has sacrificed so much for the preservation of society this romance challenges the potency of death. The hero is threatened, but never dies; and by refusing to kill, he hopes never to experience death" (The Hero of the Waverley Novels, p. 226). Hart calls the villain's death "a chivalric form of old Krook's combustion syndrome" (Krook self-destructs in Bleak House) (Scott's Novels, p. 158).

Chris R. Vanden Bossche (essay date 1987)

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SOURCE: "Culture and Economy in Ivanhoe," in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 42, No. 1, June, 1987, pp. 46-72.

[In the following essay, Bossche claims that Ivanhoe, as a work of historical fiction, attempts to bridge the distance between past and present by mingling elements of an earlier culture with more familiar political and social issues.]

Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe dramatizes culture as a semiotic system that constitutes social relations. The novel's protagonists are not just Cedric, Wilfred, Bois-Guilbert, and Isaac of York, but the languages they speak: Saxon, the lingua franca, Norman, and Hebrew. The theme of language that permeates Ivanhoe is a metaphor for culture, and the novel represents many other semiotic systems, including the cultural codes of etiquette, costume, architecture, cuisine, and economy. The desire to return to cultural and economic stability, when conflicts between cultures undermine the stability of each system, motivates the conclusion of the novel, the resolution of these conflicts providing new insight into Scott's use of the past.

Like the structural anthropologist, Scott posits structures that underlie cultural institutions. Drawing upon the insights of linguistics, Lévi-Strauss argues that a culture is a semiotic system that operates like a language. Underlying the particular manifestations of cultural institutions—the equivalent of the particular utterances, or parole, of language—are structures that govern the production of these institutions—their grammar, or langue.1 While this provides a useful way of understanding Scott's own suggestion that he seeks a "grammar" through which to represent the past, we must place his practice in the context of the nineteenth-century tendency to find homologies between a nation's cultural institutions and its political economy. Many writers of the era treated the artistic and economic productions of a society as expressions of what it believed. Good art was a sign of a just society; an unjust society would produce inferior art.2 It is most useful to regard Ivanhoe, not as an unwise foray into an area of history that Scott was unqualified to handle, but as an attempt to elaborate how a historical shift from one cultural code to another might take place. This lays the groundwork for an examination of Scott's particular use of the homology between culture and economy.

Although language is only one among a number of semiotic systems, it has a privileged place in the novel as their very type. The dedicatory epistle of Ivanhoe mocks the dry-as-dust antiquarian's demands for literal authenticity to the past in favor of the artist's ability to provide access to the past for the modern reader. It playfully dramatizes the problems of historical representation through the comic antagonism between the fictional author, or translator, of the Wardour manuscript, Laurence Templeton, and the scholarly reader, The Rev. Dr Jonas Dryasdust.3 Templeton supports the demands of modernity and favors mediation; Dryasdust defends the integrity of, and literal authenticity to, the past. Although only these two figures take part in the "dialogue," it implies a third position. Templeton stands between Dryasdust who lives in the past and the readers of his novel who live in the present, mediating between Dryasdust's demands for authenticity and the demands of the market place. He "translates" the medieval manuscript that contains the story of Ivanhoe into modern English so that it will be accessible to modern readers who, unlike the scholarly Dryasdust, would not understand either the manners, costume, or language of the time (p. 526). Undoubtedly aware that the narrative is riddled with anachronisms, he acknowledges that "the severer antiquary may think that .. . I am polluting the well of history with modern inventions," and concedes that he cannot "pretend to the observation of complete accuracy." But, he argues, by adhering to Dryasdust's principles in writing Queen-Hoo-Hall, Joseph Strutt had maintained such scrupulous regard for the past that his work was not intelligible to the modern reader. Therefore Templeton finds it "necessary . . . that the subject assumed should be, as it were, translated into the manners, as well as the language, of the age we live in" (p. 526; emphasis added).

This constitutes, of course, the classic problem of representation; if one represents the past with absolute fidelity, it will remain other—alien—to all readers. Templeton solves this problem by seeking a "neutral ground" of "manners and sentiments which are common to us and to our ancestors" (p. 527).4 He intends to use not the inaccessible vocabulary of the past, as Strutt had done, but a universal grammar or code of cultural relationships. Templeton's focus on the grammar of culture suggests that the semiotic system of social relations is a langue to which specific social practices are a mere parole. "Translation" becomes, via this neutral ground, a process of mediation between past and present. In this regard, he does not merely advocate the virtues of the present, but assumes a mediate historiographical viewpoint parallel to Scott's characteristic ethical attitude towards past and present.5

Templeton's narrative, like the dedicatory epistle, treats the relationship between past and present as a problem of language. In addition to Norman (both Langue d'oc and Langue d'oïl), Saxon, the linguafranca, and Hebrew, it represents Spanish, Saracen, and Latin as well as Friar Tuck's sign language, the language of courtly love, the jargon of hunting, and the formal language of treaty and war. From the opening scene, language serves not only as theme (as when Wamba and Gurth discuss the swine/pork distinction) but as plot device (as when Wilfred overhears Bois-Guilbert commanding his slaves, in Saracen, to kill Isaac of York).

It should not be surprising, therefore, that the novel transforms the debate between Templeton and Dryasdust on the question of historical representation into the conflict between Cedric and Wilfred of Ivanhoe on politics and culture. Like Dryasdust, Cedric defends the integrity of the past, insisting upon literal fidelity to Saxon language and culture; like Templeton, Wilfred seeks to accommodate the past to the present, translating Cedric's older values into the modern chivalric code. But, once again, their "dialogue" implies a third position. Wilfred clashes with Prince John and the Norman barons as well as with his father. Norman culture represents the present just as Saxon culture represents the past. Wilfred does not simply assume a mediate position between Norman and Saxon cultures; he attempts to translate Saxon culture into Norman.

The conflict between Norman and Saxon culture emerges vividly in the scenes of feasting—in Cedric's great hall and at Prince John's banquet—that link cuisine, language, costume, manners, and ultimately economy to the cultural code of each nation. Cedric's dinner reflects his values, emphasizing the simplicity of the cookery as well as of its presentation. It features pork, game, fish, breads, fruit, and honey. Norman cuisine is more complex, including the exotic "karum-pie" stuffed with nightingales and beccaficoes, as well as "rich pastry, . . . simnel bread and wastel cakes," the latter made from the most refined flours (pp. 158, 157). When Athelstane complains that their cooking uses too much garlic, he provides another indication that Norman cuisine is more highly seasoned than the simpler Saxon fare (p. 224). It is also artificial, the cooks having rendered even ordinary foodstuffs "perfectly unlike their natural appearance" (p. 157).

The scene of John's banquet also contrasts Norman and Saxon dress and table manners. Norman etiquette consists of "arbitrary rules": the Normans mock Cedric because he makes practical use of a towel to dry his hands "instead of suffering the moisture to exhale by waving them gracefully in the air" (p. 158; emphasis added). Similarly, while Saxon costume is "convenient," protecting the wearer from the elements, Norman dress is ornamental, exhibiting the "ingenuity of the tailor" just as Norman cooking displays the artistry of the chef. In each case, Norman customs are portrayed as ends in themselves, the arbitrary "fashion of the day," while Saxon culture stresses the utilitarian function of social practices (pp. 157, 156).

Even before any of these cultural distinctions emerge, the conflict of language arises. While offering his hospitality to Aymer and Bois-Guilbert, Cedric warns them that he has vowed not to speak Norman. Aymer takes up the theme later that evening when he vaunts the Norman vocabulary of the hunt. But Cedric regards Norman hunting jargon an "over-sea refinement," both foreign and unnecessarily artificial. While Saxon bards create simple and authentic historical narratives, the Norman troubadour, he claims, merely "garnishes" his tale (p. 52). Cedric attempts to maintain the autonomy and integrity of Saxon culture by speaking only Saxon. Because political expediency forces him to comprehend Norman, he attempts to make Rowena, who knows only the Saxon language, the pure exemplar of Saxon culture. As the heir to the Saxon royal family, she represents for Cedric the possibility of a return to the past, and he deems it vital to his aims that she be kept pure of Norman pollution. He seems to have succeeded to some degree; Rowena—along with "twenty matrons and maidens of distinguished Saxon lineage"—sings a dirge which is so deeply embedded in the Saxon past that Templeton can only "decipher two or three stanzas" (p. 482; emphasis added). His inability to "translate" the remainder of Rowena's song suggests that only this passage of the Wardour manuscript is so authentically Saxon that it has no common ground with the present.

Several basic oppositions pervade these contrasts between Norman and Saxon cultures: nature/artifice; function/ornament; intrinsicality/arbitrariness. Underlying these oppositions is the opposition between the linguistic sign as either naturally or arbitrarily linked signifier and signified. In the semiotics of Saxon culture, a cultural practice must always be grounded in some way, as natural, functional, or intrinsic. Cuisine represents foodstuffs for what they are, natural plants and animals; clothing expresses its protective function; language conveys the immanent facts of life and history. The Normans, by contrast, make the signifier, or cultural practice, arbitrary. They make food unlike its natural appearance; they wear clothing that exists for the sake of fashion rather than function; their table manners are arbitrary. Their cultural practices exist for their own sake without reference to their "natural" signified (there may, of course, be secondary purposes such as signifying that one belongs to the ruling class).

These distinctions must be understood in the context of the contemporary criticism of art as merely ornamental, not intrinsically related to the communication of meaning. Cedric's preference for the utilitarian, both in language and customs—Norman poetry merely "garnishes," Norman etiquette is arbitrary—aligns him with Dryasdust against the artistry of Templeton who argues for the necessity of translation to make the past live for the present.6 Similarly, Dryasdust argues that whereas the earlier Waverley novels gained their authority from the author's access to people who lived in the historical times represented—to the spoken word—a representation of the English Middle Ages must depend upon the written word, the mediation of "musty records and chronicles" (p. 523). We are reminded that the novel's writers include Rebecca, Isaac, John, Aymer, and the inditer of the yeomen's challenge to Torquilstone, but not Cedric.

This desire for a direct link between signifier and signified, which has traditionally privileged the spoken as opposed to written word, leads to another opposition, between the single and the many. In his history of the fall of the Saxons, Cedric condemns the artistry of the Norman stained-glass maker for breaking the natural "golden light of God's blessed day into so many fantastic hues" (p. 222). He desires a return from the multiplicity of languages and cultural codes to a single language and code because it represents a return to meaningfulness and cultural identity. If the same signified has multiple signifiers—if there are innumerable ways to dry one's hands and no one correct way—then the connection of signifier to signified will always be arbitrary.

A corollary of the opposition of the one to the many is the opposition of the domestic to the exotic. Cedric's cuisine appears to draw upon the resources of England alone whereas Norman cuisine relies upon imports from many nations. Economy, therefore, can be treated in the same manner as other cultural institutions. Trade introduces the multiplicity of European cultural productions into the unity of the domestic economy.

Cedric's account of the fall of the Saxons links the military defeat at Hastings to an earlier cultural and economic invasion and demonstrates why economy must be treated like any other cultural institution or semiotic system. Recounting how Wolfganger Torquilstone's father had hired a Norman artisan to produce stained glass for his castle, the art of glassmaking being unknown in the Saxon kingdom, he contrasts the artifice of glassmaking—it breaks God's light into fantastic hues—with "the honest simplicity and hardihood with which our brave ancestors supported themselves." He attributes the fall of the Saxons not to military defeat, but to Saxon acquiescence in Norman cultural values, turning, significantly, to a culinary metaphor to describe the process: "Far better was our homely diet, eaten in peace and liberty, than the luxurious dainties, the love of which hath delivered us as bondsmen to the foreign conqueror!" (p. 222). The Saxons are defeated because their acquiescence in Norman culture has led to their acquiescence in Norman commerce. The Norman invasion is differentiated from the earlier invasions of Britain—in which the Saxons themselves took part—only because it brings England into the European economy. In the context of Cedric's other cultural values, the contrast between domestic and foreign cuisine becomes a contrast between domestic economy and foreign commerce.

The opposition that underlies the conflict of cultural codes also underlies the conflict of economies: an economy grounded in the proprietor's land is opposed to an economy dependent upon the circulation of capital. Cedric's cuisine is domestic, reflecting the economy of a self-enclosed estate. This estate is relatively autonomous; most of the food and many utensils—spits double as serving utensils and drinking cups are made of horn—are the natural products of his land. Cedric's economy, like his costume, must be directly grounded in that which gives them meaning and reality. Since land is the only true source of wealth, what he serves at his table must be the natural produce of his lands; swine flesh, the principal ingredient of the meal, is, we are told elsewhere, the principal source of his "domestic wealth" (p. 34).

By contrast, the consumption of imported wines and "delicacies brought from foreign parts" by the Normans represents an economy of trade (p. 157). The complexity of the cuisine reflects the international influences of a variety of culinary traditions on a culture engaged in commerce and adventurism. Prince John's feast, like Cedric's, displays wealth, but it is wealth of a different kind. He does not display the produce of his own lands, but the ability of wealth to procure an international array of foodstuffs and to hire specialists to prepare them. Significantly, his banquet does not take place in his own great hall but on the road, at the site of the tournament at Ashby; his wealth is mobile. Although the Normans also value land—they are always attempting to appropriate it—they do not consider it the basis of a domestic economy but a source of plunder for immediate wealth. Instead, they take advantage of the disjunction between wealth and land to exacerbate the tendency of commerce towards adventurism, stealing what cannot be had through the more subtle operations of cultural and economic appropriation.

Wilfred and his allies attempt to engage in the modern economy without entailing the dangers of disjoining wealth and land. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued that the division of labor and the use of some form of money accompanies the development of urban, commercial society.7 In Ivanhoe, the emergence of an economy of trade coincides with the division of labor and the development of capital, each producing new social roles. The division of labor produces the special class of artisans—glass makers, tailors, and chefs—who work with the raw materials obtained through exchange. The use of money introduces a second social group, the money-lenders. The Norman barons, while they serve as a sort of police force that accompanies the introduction of commerce, do not themselves fill either role because, by its very international nature, this economy is not exclusively Norman; it is European.

The cultural identity of the Jewish money-lenders is not linked to any particular nation, let alone to land, and Isaac of York's name designates him as part of the urban, not the rural, economy. Most importantly, he possesses his wealth in the form of gold currency, a form directly opposed to Cedric's land-based wealth. Whereas Cedric produces wealth from his land, Isaac produces it from money itself. Usury has traditionally been considered "unnatural"; while Cedric's wealth increases through the natural reproduction of swine and other agricultural produce, usury was condemned as artificial since inanimate gold cannot naturally reproduce.8 Similarly, bills of exchange, mere written documents, are not valuable in themselves but are arbitrary signifiers of wealth. These bills anticipate the introduction of paper money that was also greeted with anxiety about the potential exploitation of arbitrary signs of wealth.9

Coins and bills have the advantage of being interchangeable; indeed, that is, according to Smith, their very purpose. The most commonly employed currency in the novel is neither Norman nor Saxon, but the Venetian zecchin. The use of the zecchin creates no problems because all agree on its value. Furthermore, because there need be no intrinsic relationship between the coin and the nation where it circulates, international trade is possible. Money might be regarded as serving a function similar to that of translation. Indeed, as Marc Shell points out, most Germanic and Indo-European languages use related words to signify transference of property and of linguistic meaning (p. 85). Translation and commerce both involve an exchange: translation of cultural practices creates an exchange of values; exchange of money enables an exchange of valuables. While land remains valuable, it will no longer be the primary form of wealth. Adam Smith attributes the deterioration of the allodial proprietor's domestic economy—the old order to which Cedric belongs—to "the silent and insensible operation of foreign commerce and manufactures" (p. 388; see also McMaster, p. 68). Whereas a wealthy man like Cedric who lives in a country that conducts no foreign commerce must spend all of his money on employing retainers—Athelstane remarks how his ancestors used to hold daily feasts for hundreds—those who take part in modern commerce can spend the majority of their wealth on consumer goods for themselves (Smith, pp. 389-90). One's wealth does not need to be immediately visible in one's land, but can be displayed through what one purchases with money.

The pervasiveness of the analogy between cultural and economic exchange may be illustrated by the two following examples. First, the narrator claims that the English language has been "richly improved by importations" of the various languages of southern Europe (p. 9; emphasis added). Words, like goods, circulate among nations, and commercial exchange results in enrichment. Correlatively, international traffic requires Isaac to be a translator of European languages (p. 118). Second, Gurth is described, when in disguise as Wilfred's squire, as a "translated swineherd" (p. 190). Disguises function much like other signifiers as artificial signifiers of identity. Accordingly, Cedric—"no ready practiser of the art of dissimulation"—has difficulties when he assumes the disguise of the monk from Wamba (p. 282); he believes that one's appearance ought to be a natural sign of one's identity and thus is ill at ease wearing an arbitrary disguise.10 Each cultural institution appears to be moving toward a state in which exchange, or translation, permits a certain freedom of movement. Words and customs move from nation to nation; goods can be exchanged among them; identity moves toward the mobility of self-determination.

Translation and money not only make the exchange of values and valuables possible by providing the medium through which exchange takes place, they also protect that exchange. The multiplication of cultural codes and languages often proves dangerous in Ivanhoe. Bois-Guilbert orders his slaves to kill Isaac of York within the hearing of the unsuspecting victim who does not understand Saracen. During the siege of Torquilstone, the Normans attempt to sneak a message past the Saxon yeomen by writing it in Norman. Cedric's solution—to return to a single language—would protect him from such practices, but would mean the impoverishment of his culture. Athelstane, the heir to the royal line, seems little tainted by Norman culture, yet he hardly exhibits the ideals of Saxon hardihood touted by Cedric. He is not only a vacillating and timorous leader, but a gross sensualist who can barely distinguish between the callings of his stomach and the call to honor. By contrast, the ability to translate is the best defense against the proliferation of languages; Wilfred overhears Bois-Guilbert's order to kill Isaac, and Richard intercepts the Norman message. Furthermore, in addition to protecting Isaac through his knowledge of Saracen, Wilfred's knowledge of Norman enables him to befriend Richard; of Saxon, to patronize Gurth; and of Spanish, to declare his identity as the "Disinherited" (Desdichado).

Similarly, the spread of currencies, like the proliferation of languages, has potentially dangerous effects that partly justify Cedric's fears. Because it can be readily exchanged, currency is more vulnerable to theft than other forms of wealth. Furthermore, because the money-lender has no land to support retainers who would protect him, he is even more vulnerable to such theft.

The Norman barons take advantage of this vulnerability. Unlike Cedric, they do not resist the new economy, and they are willing to make use of the services of the money-lenders. Nonetheless, they cannot resist preying on them. The Normans had brought the Jews with them at the time of the invasion, but would, after taxing them heavily and fomenting anti-Semitism, expel them in 1290. Their attitude represents the tendency of commerce to turn against itself because of the temptation to exploit the arbitrariness of the sign. The Norman barons do not borrow money in order to invest it in mercantile schemes but to finance wars. In other words, they borrow so they can steal, but their legitimation of theft simultaneously undermines the rights of property on which the economy is based.

Once again, Cedric's solution would not be adequate. Taking back what has been stolen cannot reverse the effects of the new economy. The Normans would soon be back to reclaim England. In spite of the fact that land appears to be less vulnerable because it is not mobile, it has been stolen by Normans who continue to attempt to appropriate it. Isaac, who has a greater opportunity to increase his wealth so long as the laws of property are upheld, is better off than the other victims of the Normans. Just as translation protects Isaac from languages he does not know, the bill of exchange at least partially protects Jewish wealth from illegal expropriation (see pp. 69-70). When it is stolen, the gold it represents can be retained precisely because the bill is arbitrary and worthless in itself.

The basic problem of the "condition of the English nation" at the outset of the novel is not oppression of the conquered by the conquerors, but the prevailing atmosphere of "license" and "lawless[ness] (pp. 7, 74). The arbitrary circulation of signs under the auspices of Prince John reinforces Cedric's anxieties about the arbitrariness of justice. Not just the rules of etiquette but the laws of the land are arbitrarily applied, and England is on the verge of civil war. The opposition of the many versus the one applies again; multiple codes threaten the single law of the land. There are so many laws and codes—legal (property, poaching, serfdom, usury, taxation of Jews), religious (the vows of Aymer, Tuck, and the Templars as well as Jewish dietary and marriage laws), ethical (chivalry, honor, hospitality), and cultural (cuisine, etiquette, costume, architecture)—that they come into conflict with one another, leading to a breakdown of the law and justice. The arbitrariness of the law produces the same result as exchange and translation: the Normans violate the law in order to seek their own advantage; the heroes, when they break the law at all, do so to protect themselves. Friar Tuck violates his religious vows and the yeomen rob and poach in order to survive in a land that has taken away their ability to earn an honest living. The Templar code—with its severe "Capitals"—is imposing, but, because the Templars make it mean whatever they wish, it becomes completely arbitrary. Beaumanoir intends to execute the death sentence called for by his religious code even though it would violate the laws of England, and the celibate Bois-Guilbert intends to obtain a dispensation permitting him to make Rebecca his paramour.

Just as Wilfred and Richard mediate exchange and translation, their authority is required to mediate and guarantee law and order. They enable England to reap the benefit of entering the European economy without the threatened loss of meaning and cultural identity feared by Cedric. Wilfred's use of money, language and chivalry mediates between Saxon and Norman. He is the novel's pre-eminent polylinguist, having learned not only Norman but Saracen and perhaps Spanish and Latin as well, indeed all of the languages spoken in the novel with the exception of Hebrew. He uses this knowledge, as he uses his skill in horsemanship, to protect the oppressed, never seeking land or money, although he has both pressed upon him, and always repaying his debts.

Wilfred's use of Norman customs may compromise the integrity and autonomy of Saxon culture, but he does not become an artificial and inauthentic Norman dandy. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that Wilfred adopts the code of chivalry than that he adopts Norman manners. He does not appear to have any interest in the recherché code of the hunt, nor does he partake in any of the purely arbitrary affectations of the Normans unless it be the display of horsemanship for its own sake in the lists of Ashby. He regards the code of chivalry as a modern "translation" of the values espoused by his father. His description of the chivalric knight as "the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, [and] the curb of the power of the tyrant" coincides with Cedric's reputation as "friend of the rights of Englishmen" (pp. 318, 206). Both fight for individual rights, but they have different conceptions of those rights. For Cedric, the rights of Englishmen will not be sustained so long as the Plantagenets rule England, but Wilfred seems to recognize that the Norman conquest represents more than dynasties and races. One could argue that Wilfred is more European than Norman, chivalry being a European rather than a specifically Norman phenomenon. Indeed, the Norman barons merely manipulate the signifiers of chivalry—the pomp of Ashby, De Bracy's courtly speeches, etc.—while Wilfred and Richard come to the aid of the oppressed. Wilfred's adoption of this code represents not so much his acquiescence in the culture of the conqueror as his acceptance of a transnational culture that he has encountered on his journey to join the Crusades. Richard also assumes the role of cultural mediator. While Wilfred learns the values of chivalry, Richard comes to appreciate "the value of Saxon virtue" and banishes the lawless Norman Templars (p. 353). Templeton delineates his role as a mediator in a footnote justifying the depiction of Richard singing in the Saxon language. Although he acknowledges that this is historically inaccurate, he is more concerned to "assimilate" the Norman king, who can sing in both Saxon and Norman, to the band of yeomen (p. 561, n. 1). Although, as we shall see, Richard's reestablishment of the authority of the law is problematic, he represents a position that guarantees the validity of translation and exchange as well as the administration of justice. He is the source of social order.

While the novel pits one semiotic code against another, these pairs of opposed values are themselves the stuff of the novel's, or Scott's, own semiotic code. Because the oppositions are in conflict, they are not, however, static. The historical novel projects the semiotic code through time, imagining the mediation between the two emerging in yet another cultural code. This mediation of the Norman/Saxon conflict dictates the shape of Templeton's narrative; he plots it as a comedy that seeks a return to unity and order, both cultural and economic. In the first chapter he proleptically outlines this plot in terms of linguistic compromise:

the necessary intercourse betwen the lords of the soil, and those oppressed inferior beings by whom that soil was cultivated, occasioned the gradual formation of a dialect, compounded betwixt the French and the Anglo-Saxon, in which they could render themselves mutually intelligible to each other; and from this necessity arose by degrees the structure of our present English language, in which the speech of the victors and the vanquished have been so happily blended together. (p. 9)

What is foreshadowed here is fulfilled in the final chapter. The marriage of Rowena and Wilfred signifies the union of cultures and serves as a "pledge of the future peace and harmony betwixt two races." This symbolic union, in turn, will encourage the establishment of the "mixed language, now termed English" (p. 515). Templeton thus plots the novel as a conflict between languages and codes in which, through a process of linguistic miscegenation, Norman and Saxon merge to form the modern English language in which the novel is written.

Templeton's plot is a translation of Cedric's "plot" to overthrow Norman authority. Cedric also seeks a comic conclusion. A return to the Saxon economy (through the return of Saxon lands to the "rightful" owners) and to Saxon culture (through cultural purification achieved by ousting the Normans) would reestablish the cultural autonomy and integrity of the Saxon idyll of pre-Norman England.

Since it is a return to the same culture and economy that preceded the anarchy caused by the Norman economic and military invasion, Cedric's plot is circular. Yet Cedric is doomed to failure. Although he envisions a return to social harmony and lawfulness, Templeton numbers him among the forces of anarchy because he would overthrow the law of King Richard. Templeton represents the proposed rebellion not as a resistance movement but as "revolution" and "civil war" (pp. 195, 514). In 1819, the year in which Scott wrote Ivanhoe, "revolution" would have brought to mind both the French revolution itself and English fears of revolution following the Peterloo incident (which occurred while Scott was writing the novel); "civil war" further suggests a single nation divided rather than Saxons throwing off the Norman yoke. More importantly, Cedric fails to recognize that, since the Norman invasion was socioeconomic rather than military, a military rebellion has little chance of reversing the process of cultural miscegenation or displacing the new economy that has forever changed the meaning of property. He might be able to rid England of Norman aristocrats, but he cannot rid it of Norman culture; he is forced to acknowledge that his Saxon "bards are no more" and his language is "hastening to decay" (p. 53).

In order to overcome these difficulties, Templeton's "translation" of Cedric's plot creates an ending that satisfies the franklin's desires, but not in the precise form that Cedric envisions. As we have seen, Templeton does envision a return to a single language as figure for a unified culture, but, instead of a return to the Saxon language, his ending combines Saxon and Norman into yet a newer form, English. While he also imagines the reunification of land, it comes about not through a rebellion but through the establishment of alliances that produce social harmony. Instead of the circular return to origins envisioned by Cedric, his plot is the Romantic spiral that returns to a transformed place of origin.11

Prince John is also a plotter, and his plot can be regarded as the converse of Cedric's. Cedric is not the primary force of anarchy, and he ends up reluctantly, and indeed unwittingly, fighting on the side of the principal forces of order—Richard and the yeomen—against the principal forces of disorder—the refractory Norman barons. John plots to wrest England from his brother, his very means of doing so—obtaining the loyalty of his followers by awarding them Saxon estates—representing his more general aim of despoiling the kingdom. His disregard for Saxon property rights extends to a disdain for Saxon culture, and justifies Cedric's fears that his culture would be completely effaced under John's rule. His plot, like Cedric's, would also produce a unified England; he would rule as its lone monarch and Norman culture would predominate. Yet, like Cedric's, his plot has fatal weaknesses. It too would set off a civil war, leading to further discord rather than social harmony. He also encourages disregard for the law by his constant disregard for property rights and the license he permits his followers.

While accepting the values of the modern economy and culture, Templeton's translated plot includes the virtues of the older Saxon culture that would contain the excesses of unrestrained laissez-faire represented by Norman excesses. To accomplish this, he substitutes the siege of Torquilstone for the civil wars plotted by John and Cedric. Torquilstone is the appropriate place for the reincarnation of English culture since it had been, as we have seen, the site of that culture's downfall. The siege creates an alliance of Norman king with Saxon nobility and yeomanry that foreshadows the new social order. Instead of Saxons throwing off the Norman yoke, Saxons ally with the Norman king to put down a rebellion of Norman barons. Instead of returning land to its pre-conquest owners, the siege brings an end to the threat to property and restores Ivanhoe to Wilfred.

This explains how a marriage between two Saxons, albeit the purest and the most Normanized representatives of the race, can be a "pledge" of future intermarriages between Normans and Saxons. Cedric's plan to marry Rowena to Athelstane attempted to establish an "absolute union" that represents an absolute return of Saxon lands and purity of Saxon culture (p. 512). This marriage of Saxon to Saxon would be culturally retrograde, Athelstane being only a biological representative of the Saxon heritage, not a cultural one. Similarly, John's plot to marry Rowena to De Bracy aims, as we have seen, to replace Saxon with Norman culture. Achieved through kidnapping and coercion, it would sustain the forced submission of Saxon women to Norman lords represented by the relationship between Ulrica and the Front-de-Bœufs, just as John's current practices reduplicate the theft of land during the initial conquest. The marriage of Wilfred and Rowena emphasizes the importance of cultural over racial integration. Biological miscegenation would simply efface the Saxon race, absorbing it to the Norman. By marrying Rowena to Wilfred, Templeton suggests that a merging of cultures is the pre-condition of social harmony.

While marriage thus accomplishes cultural unity, it also represents the return to economic stability as a return to landed property. Since Cedric views land as the basis of his economy, and therefore of his culture, the return of English land to the Saxons is central to his scheme of rebellion. Furthermore, the focus of cultural conflict in the novel is the theft of property. Cedric is particularly concerned about "neighbouring baron[s] whose consciousness of strength made [them] . . . negligent of the laws of property" (p. 34). Virtually every violation of law and code in the novel can be traced to some question of property.12 Front-de-Bœuf attempts to extort money from Isaac and to usurp Ivanhoe from Wilfred, and De Bracy would obtain Rowena's estate by compelling her to marry him. The title of the novel itself indicates the centrality of property; Ivanhoe is a disputed estate. Ivanhoe had once belonged to a Saxon but was taken by the Normans during the conquest. Richard confers it on Wilfred (I use this name instead of the more familiar Ivanhoe to distinguish him from this estate) to compensate him because he has been disinherited by his father. But then Prince John gives it to Front-de-Bœuf to-engage his loyalty. Finally, it returns to Wilfred after the siege of Torquilstone. The fate of Ivanhoe represents the general question of the orderly and legal transfer of property, and the fact that no one enters the estate during the novel and that the location, value, and size of Ivanhoe remain unknown—even the battle for it is not fought there but at another usurped estate, Torquilstone—attest to its primarily symbolic significance.

The novel's primary figure for the loss of land, disinheritance, is, like the figure of language, introduced in chapter 1. Believing that his son has already discarded his cultural inheritance, Cedric deprives him of his literal inheritance and seeks to restore English lands to the disinherited Saxons. But, once again, the conclusion fulfills his desires in a form different from that which he imagines.

While Wilfred "translates" rather than abandons Saxon culture, he does identify with his fellow "disinherited" Saxons in his confrontation with Bois-Guilbert, who is least sympathetic with Saxon culture since he has never lived in England, and with Front-de-Bœuf, who would usurp Ivanhoe. Disinherited by his father and, more importantly, champion of the disinherited Saxons, Wilfred appears in the lists of Ashby bearing on his shield the motto "Desdichado" and earning the title of "Disinherited Knight." While Cedric disinherits his son because he believes that his actions will block the restoration of the Saxon inheritance, Wilfred, in fact, manages to bring about what Cedric desires, the consolidation of Saxon lands in the hands of a Saxon lord. The liason of Ulrica with the Front-de-Bœufs had coincided with the usurpation of the Wolfganger estate, and the intended marriage of Rowena to De Bracy would have absorbed her property to the Norman domains. But Wilfred will ultimately unite three estates: Rotherwood, which will eventually be his since his father finally forgives him; Hargottstandstede, which his heirs will inherit through his marriage to Rowena; and Ivanhoe, awarded to him by King Richard.

The fate of Torquilstone, closely related to that of Ivanhoe, remains undecided. With the destruction of the castle, the families of both its former Saxon and more recent Norman lords have died out, suggesting that the factions they represent will not inherit the new England. Ivanhoe replaces Torquilstone as the representative estate ruled by a family that allies Norman and Saxon cultures. Richard's restoration of order does not exactly return England to the Saxons or the domestic economy, but it does assure Cedric of the safety of his property from unscrupulous "neighbouring" barons. While those who attack the person of the king are spared, he metes out the death penalty to the conspirators named Malvoisin, or "Bad-neighbor" (pp. 34, 508).

As elegant as the symmetries of this closure are, the importance given to land becomes problematic because the return of lands seems to represent an attempted return to the land, a literal return to the old Saxon culture that Cedric desires but that Templeton's narrative has been denying. The special privilege given to the return of land is suggested by the fact that the inter-marriage of Norman and Saxon and the emergence of the English language are projected into the future; only the consolidation of land occurs in the present. Even the device on Wilfred's shield, the uprooted oak, shifts disinheritance from culture to the land. Yet, while he receives his inheritance triple-fold, the other groups that the novel designates as "disinherited"—the yeomen and the Jews—do not receive the benefit of a similar restoration of property (pp. 127, 117). In spite of the shift to the money-based economy, the novel seems to privilege the old domestic economy that might be recuperated by consolidating land in the hands of the Saxon nobility and by excluding forces alien to the old order.

The legends of Robin Hood represent him as an inveterate foe of Norman injustice, and in Ivanhoe he steals only from the Normans while avoiding even wealthy Saxons. Robin Hood detests the Normans as much as Cedric, but he identifies more readily with Wilfred because they are both, in spite of class differences, "disinherited" (p. 127). His feats of archery at Ashby match Wilfred's feats of horsemanship in the lists, and he takes over the defense of Saxon rights just at the moment when Wilfred becomes incapacitated, disappearing when Wilfred reappears after the attempted ambush of Richard. Like Wilfred, he does not seek a restoration of the Saxon kingdom, opposing Cedric as well as Prince John by declaring his allegiance to Richard at Ashby well before they become allies at Torquilstone. Both he and Wilfred are identified with the king; Wilfred is once mistaken for Richard, and Robin Hood is the "monarch" or "King of outlaws" (pp. 348, 465).

Whereas Cedric and his retainers belong to the past, the dialectic of the novel makes the yeomen, along with Wilfred and Richard, the representatives of England's future. This historical progression is represented by the "translation" of Gurth from serf and swineherd to yeoman and squire. He joins the ranks of the yeomen at the siege of Torquilstone and becomes one of them at the conclusion of the novel when he receives his manumission. Cedric's older notions of English liberty prompt him to give Gurth a piece of land along with his freedom because he feels that freedom would be useless without it. But, although Gurth receives his manumission gratis from the grateful franklin, he has already earned the money to buy it. This money—received from Rebecca and Wilfred—must be balanced against the land he receives from Cedric. Gurth does not intend to settle down as a farmer, but to follow his new master Wilfred. The vigorous squire prefers the freedom of a mercenary relationship to the paternalism of serfdom belauded by the childlike Wamba: "the serf sits by the hall fire when the freeman must forth to the field of battle" (p. 350).13 Zecchins will be of more use to Gurth than a hide of land because their mobility will enable him to follow Wilfred in his wanderings. Furthermore, with his industry and enthusiasm, one imagines that he will be able to make his way in the world as chivalry itself goes on the wane.

Similarly, the yeomen seem the very models of industry and virtue. In spite of their reputation as outlaws, the narrative represents them as the most orderly segment of society: loyal, honest, and just. They are also the most able. Whereas Cedric is incompetent in modern warfare and Athelstane "unready," Robin Hood joins Richard to lead a successful attack on the Norman barons. Robin Hood is even more practical than Richard whom he must rescue because the idealistic king insists on travelling alone according to the code of chivalric knighthood.14

Yet the narrative provides only marginal restoration of lands to the yeomen. Their primary complaint is that the forest laws unjustly deprive them of the right to seek their living from the land. These hunting laws typify the arbitrariness of Norman rule since they do not aim to maintain social order but to provide a privilege for the Norman nobility. Richard promises to restore to the yeomen their right to hunt on the land by restraining "the tyrannical exercise of the forest rights and other oppressive laws, by which so many English yeomen were driven into a state of rebellion" (p. 475). Yet he will die before he can carry out this promise, and the forest laws would not be abated until John was forced to accept the Charter of the Forest in 1217 (the forest laws were not entirely abolished until 1817, just before the writing of Ivanhoe).

The novel concludes without resolving the problem of how the yeomen, newly pledged to keep the peace, will be able to avoid returning to outlawry. Abatement of the forest laws would in any case only enable them to hunt, yet they steal as well as poach. The new order, which will merge Norman and Saxon cultures, will deprive them of their occupation since it will leave them without victims that they can justly attack. Although Robin Hood is a pastoral hero, historical forces seem to be driving him and his men off the land and outside of the rural economy. In so far as they attempt to remain on the land, they will be socially ambiguous and potentially disruptive. Yet, because they are basically orderly, they seem likely to apply their "middle-class" virtues of industry and practicality in making themselves honest urban tradesmen.

If the yeomen become tradesmen, the Jews will provide their capital. Isaac and Rebecca are also identified with the hero of the novel as belonging to a disinherited race. They are, indeed, the principal figures of disinheritance because of their traditional status as homeless wanderers. Redoubling their disinheritance, the Crusades, which occupy the background of the novel, witness Moslems and Christians, both of whom abhor Jews, laying claim to the former Jewish homeland. Most significantly, the Jews are disinherited because their property is not in land but in gold. The prominent place given to pork in the novel represents another opposition between Cedric and Isaac: it is the basis of Cedric's wealth and abhorrent to the Jews. Appropriately, the Jewish pork taboo represents their displacement from the land (which is the basis of Cedric's economy) into the urban capitalist economy with which they are identified.

Their role makes them even more essential than the yeomen to England's future, yet they do not receive even a token return of their inheritance. As we have seen, inheritance has been closely identified with land while the wealth of the Jews lies entirely in capital. Disinheritance becomes the basis for their culture, a culture of social displacement in which they are the most free to operate in the world of commerce. Indeed, the ending of the novel disinherits them one step further when they choose yet another exile, this time from their adopted homeland. In one respect, this exile completes the return to the old order represented by Wilfred's accumulation of estates since it removes the Jews who, as both moneylenders and the most alien cultural group in England, represent the new cultural and economic order. This exceeds, and perhaps undermines, Templeton's strategy of giving the form of the old Saxon culture to the new European one because it attempts to exile commerce instead of simply giving it the stable form of the Saxon domestic economy.

Yet the new order depends on those who are denied their inheritance. The yeomen serve the role of protector more effectively than the knights, rescuing Wilfred at Torquilstone and Richard from Waldemar Fitzurse's ambush. They and their allies, in turn, are aided by Rebecca and Isaac. Rebecca's gift of twenty zecchins represents a major contribution to the cause of buying Gurth's freedom. And Wilfred's victory at the tournament of Ashby depends as much on Isaac's capital outlay for his horse and armor as on his own knowledge of chivalry and horsemanship.

While the Jews are regarded as parastic outsiders, their centrality—rather than peripherality—to the English economy is exhibited throughout the novel. The second major social role of the Jew, complementary to moneylending, is that of healer. If her father is a parasite, Rebecca is a "leech." Unlike her father, she seeks no profit, but, like him, she enables the heroes of the novel to succeed. As investments, her cures are just as effective as her father's loans. The peasant joiner Higg testifies on her behalf at her trial for sorcery; Wilfred flies forth to champion her honor; and Robin Hood, who is never dependent on anyone else, reduces Isaac's ransom because Rebecca had redeemed him from the gyves at York and cured him of an illness. If her exile implies that society will be able to dispense with the services of the Jews once order is restored, the final scene of the novel hints that the new order remains insecure. Rebecca's gift of jewels of "immense value" (p. 517) suggests that Wilfred's three estates will not suffice to sustain him in the modern world, and that he will continue to depend on her and her father just as he did when he was forced to accept their loan in order to defend England at Ashby.

These problems must be understood in the context of Scott's use of history. His commitment to the past and history is also a commitment to the process of historical change that continuously shapes the present. History is the history of cultural values in conflict, whether the conflict be between Highlander and Lowlander, Saxon and Norman, or Tory and Whig. The opposed values of the conflicting cultures themselves, however, form a semiotic code. They cannot exist independently because they are binary oppositions in which one term has meaning only in relation to the other. Thus the code of the past is a fiction only imaginable within Scott's own semiotic code. His fictions of the Norman and Saxon cultural codes are, to return to the terms of the dedicatory epistle, a modern vocabulary. Like Templeton, he allows that this vocabulary may be historically inaccurate, but insists that his own era and the Middle Ages have recourse to a common grammar, the "common ground" of a dialectic of cultural values in an era of transition.

This dialectic accounts for the problems of the conclusion. His novel apprehends socio-historical change as the introduction of arbitrariness—freedom of relationship between signifier and signified—into culture. The values of the past represent the possibility of delimiting this arbitrariness so that progress can occur without the danger of total anarchy, of revolution. The conclusion of the novel imagines that the return to the land will contain the dangers of economic exchange. Similarly, the old single language will be replaced by a new single language, English, which does not just merge past and present, Norman and Saxon, but contains all of the languages of Europe.

This returns us to the intersection of language and economy in the dedicatory epistle. Templeton argues for the introduction of arbitrariness in the "vocabulary" of historical representation in order to satisfy the needs of the market, but he also insists that his "grammar" will prevent abuse of that (poetic) license. The freedom to create a fictive vocabulary of the past opens up the possibility that his narrative will be pure fantasy, and the potential arbitrariness of such a fantasy would contribute to the breakdown of coherent culture in the free market of literature. At this time, of course, a growing readership and ever cheaper publication were producing literature for an increasing number of political parties and cultural factions. Literature was becoming part of the process by which society was thrown into conflict and verging on "civil war."

Scott himself exploited the free market of literature by wearing the various disguises of the pseudonymous "authors" of his works. Yet he also encountered its dangers when pirates attempted to steal his identity by publishing novels as the work of "the author of Waverley." Indeed, one such case forced him to desist from his plan of publishing Ivanhoe as the work of Laurence Templeton without the customary inscription on the title page identifying it as the work of "the author of Waverley." While in 1819 the government responded to the dangers of the press with the Six Acts abridging freedom of speech, Scott aspired to a more moderate solution that would authorize the valuable freedom of the sign but contain it within his narrative as English contained the languages of Europe. While Templeton seems promodern in his dedicatory epistle, he is anti-modern in the narrative proper, mocking not Cedric's manners but the artificiality of Norman culture. He is committed to Wilfred and Richard's "translation" of the old economy and culture into the new, but he manifests, like Dryasdust and Cedric, a profound nostalgia for the old. The implied author of Ivanhoe contains Templeton's translation within the limits defined by Dryasdust.

Scott's dialectic inaugurates a semiotics of nineteenth-century history. In spite of philosophical, political, and aesthetic differences, writers like Scott, Carlyle, Arnold, Mill, Tennyson, and Ruskin apprehend historical time as the alternation between periods of cultural stability—an era of faith, an "epoch of concentration," an "organic period"—and periods of unstable change—an era of unbelief, an "epoch of expansion," a "critical period," or "an era of transition."15 During a period of stability, the sign is natural and stable; during a period of change, it is arbitrary and unstable. This model of history generates a dialectic of stability and change in which the writer attempts to find an encompassing semiotic through which the stability of a fixed and natural semiotic code can contain the dangers of the arbitrary sign that motivate historical change. With deep anxiety, these writers define their own time as one of change and instability. But they are not so naive as to imagine that the past was stable and changeless. One must recall that Ivanhoe begins by depicting "the condition of the English nation" as anarchic (pp. 74-75). The stable era which is already part of a vanished past enables Scott to envision a stable form for that, and his own, era of transition.


1 See Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963), Part 1, "Language and Kinship," pp. 31-97. Like Scott, Lèvi-Strauss regards a language as "a reflection of the total culture" (p. 68), but he understands the relationship between the deep structure of culture and its manifestations differently. The primary difference between Lévi-Strauss and Scott (or his contemporaries) is that Lévi-Strauss assumes the premise of structural linguistics that the relationship between signifier and signified is arbitrary while Scott assumes the possibility of a "natural" relationship between signifier and signified. See Lévi-Strauss, pp. 47-51, and Thomas G. Winner, "Some Fundamental Concepts Leading to a Semiotics of Culture: An Historical Overview," in Semiotics of Culture, ed. Irene Portis Winner and Jean Umiker-Sebeok (The Hague: Mouton, 1979), pp. 75-82.

2 Many Romantics and Victorians held this idea, including some, like Arnold, who admired an era other than the Middle Ages, but the most obvious representative of this view is John Ruskin who even subtitled one of his works The Political Economy of Art. While the emphasis changes as he moves from art critic to social critic, his fundamental premise, the close conjunction between culture and economy, dominates all of his writings.

3 Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ed. A. N. Wilson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), pp. 521-33. All further references to Ivanhoe are to this edition and are cited in the text. The dedicatory epistle has drawn nearly as much serious attention as the novel itself. Graham Tulloch discusses it in relation to Scott's ideas about creating "period language," and David Brown discusses it at length as a statement of Scott's historiographical principles, but neither considers its thematic relationship to the novel itself. See Tulloch, The Language of Walter Scott: A Study of his Scottish and Period Language (London: Andre Deutsch, 1980), pp. 13-17; and Brown, Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), pp. 173-94.

4 While I discuss this question in terms of modern semiotics, it should be noted that Templeton has no problem "translating" because, in conformity with Enlightenment historiography and Scott's use of it in his novels, his "neutral ground" guarantees meaning. See Graham McMaster, Scott and Society (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 49-77; Francis R. Hart, Scott's Novels: The Plotting of Historic Survival (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1966), p. 182; and Brown, Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination, pp. 190, 198.

5 The narrator really does attempt to carry out these principles in the novel. In the footnotes, he frequently explains and translates archaic terms and manners. Scott is also adept at simulating translation, as in the translations of the condemnation of Rebecca from Norman-French and of Rebecca's message to her father from Hebrew (pp. 428-29, 432-33). Of course, while Scott pretends to translate from the old into the new, he is actually archaicizing modern English. See Tulloch, The Language of Walter Scott, chaps. 3 and 4.

6 This places the conflict in the context of Romantic aesthetics which defended poetry against the charges of falsehood made by philosophers from Bacon to Bentham. Templeton justifies translation on the same basis that the Romantic poet justifies imagination. For a summary of the arguments, see M. H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (New York: Norton, 1958), pp. 285-97. Note that Cedric's claim that Norman poets merely "garnish" a tale combines the traditional metaphor of fiction and figurative language as inessential ornament with the analogy between language and cuisine.

7An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealthof Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (New York: Modern Library, 1937), pp. 22, 384-85.

8 See Marc Shell, Money, Language, and Thought:Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1982), pp. 48-55.

9 See Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, pp. 99-100.

10 Just as languages and codes multiply in Ivanhoe, so do identities in the form of disguises: Wilfred, King Richard, Gurth, Wamba, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Bois-Guilbert, De Bracy, and Front-de-Bœuf all adopt them. The use and abuse of disguise follows the same pattern as the use and abuse of language and the law discussed below. While King Richard and Wilfred use disguises to surprise the Normans and restore order, and Wamba, Gurth and Robin Hood employ them in an equally innocent fashion to protect themselves, the Normans use their disguises to place false blame for their deeds on the Saxon yeomen.

11 On this motif, see M. H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: Norton, 1971), chaps. 3, 4, and 5.

12 Enlightenment philosophers, with whom Scott was familiar, envisioned a close relationship between individual rights, the law, and property, the very stability of the law and individual rights being based upon property. Alexander Welsh discusses this relationship extensively in The Hero of the Waverley Novels (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1963), section IV; see esp. p. 106. Welsh's work has been especially helpful, and while he does not comment on Ivanhoe at length, his comments on the novel are among the most insightful. See also Brown, Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination, pp. 190-94; and McMaster, Scott and Society, pp. 46 and 60.

13 These ambiguities are borne out by Carlyle's reading of the novel. In Past and Present, he treats Gurth as if he never expresses any desire for his freedom and never attains it. Choosing to focus on the parallel between social relations and economic relations, he emphasizes the novel's endorsement of direct, i.e. natural, as opposed to indirect, i.e. arbitrary, relationships. The landed proprietor employs his retainers directly, as symbolized by the collars worn by Cedric's serfs; they work in his household and share his dinner with him. In modern commerce, one spends money on goods, not on supporting retainers, thus only indirectly employing tradesmen and contributing "but a very small share to the maintenance of any individual" (Smith, The Wealth of Nations, p. 390). Isaac has no choice but to hire mercenaries who fly at the signs of the danger from which they are supposed to protect him, and De Bracy's Free Companions never seem to be available when he needs them, yet Cedric's retainers are fiercely loyal.

14 Joseph E. Duncan argues that the novel finally dismisses chivalry as ineffective. This accords with my argument here, but it should be noted that its ideals are never dismissed, just as Cedric's ineffectual plans are shown to be wrong-minded while his ideals are upheld. See "The Anti-Romantic in 'Ivanhoe,'" Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 9 (1995), 293-300. For another discussion of the treatment of Richard as impractical knight, see Edgar Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1960), pp. 82-83.

15 See Matthew Arnold, "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time," in Poetry and Criticism of Matthew Arnold, ed. A. Dwight Culler (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961), pp. 243-44; and John Stuart Mill, Autobiography and Other Writings, ed. Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969), p. 100. On the general tendency to see the century as an "era of transition," see Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind: 1830-1870 (New Haven and London: Published for Wellesley College by the Yale Univ. Press, 1957), pp. 1-4.

Jerome Mitchell (essay date 1987)

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SOURCE: "Novels of the Broken Years, 1817-1819," in Scott, Chaucer, and Medieval Romance: A Study in Sir Walter Scott's Indebtedness to the Literature of the Middle Ages, University Press of Kentucky, 1987, pp. 108-37.

[In the excerpt that follows, Mitchell discusses such narrative parallels between medieval literature and Ivanhoe as Ivanhoe's palmer disguise, the Jewish quest, and the witchcraft trial, among others.]

The background to Ivanhoe, Scott's most famous novel, has already been admirably discussed by Roland Abramczyk in one of the finest German dissertations from its period that I have ever examined.14 Abramczyk goes into the historical as well as the literary background, and in his hunt for literary sources he casts a wide net; in addition to parallels in Chaucer and medieval romance he is interested in the influence of ballads, especially the Robin Hood ballads, and of later writers such as Goethe, "Monk" Lewis, and Samuel Richardson. As elsewhere in my own study I am primarily concerned with Scott's indebtedness to Chaucer and medieval romance, and in concentrating on one aspect of the broad subject I have been able to find some interesting parallels not noticed by Abramczyk as well as to bring into sharper focus here and there what he already has said.

After a long absence, Ivanhoe, disguised as a palmer, appears at Rotherwood, the home of his father Cedric the Saxon. Cedric is unfriendly to his son because of Ivanhoe's loyalty to Richard the Lion-Hearted (a Norman) and his love for Cedric's blue-blooded ward Rowena, whom Cedric has intended for Athelstane the Unready, last scion of Saxon royalty. That night at supper Cedric extends his hospitality to a group of Normans, including Prior Aymer and Brian de Bois-Guilbert, and to Isaac of York, whom our hero in disguise treats kindly after the elderly Jew has been given the cold shoulder by everyone else in the hall. During the conversation at supper the palmer speaks up in behalf of the Saxon knights fighting in Palestine. In naming those who distinguished themselves in a tournament at Acre, he seems to have forgotten one (himself) whom Brian names for him: "It was the Knight of Ivanhoe." Before retiring to bed the palmer meets in private, at her request, with the Lady Rowena, who is anxious to find out more about the Knight of Ivanhoe.

These familiar events of chapters 5 and 6 have numerous parallels in medieval romance. For the hero to be disguised as a palmer is a commonplace: one need only think of Richard the Lion-Hearted, in his own romance, just before his imprisonment by the King of Almain; of Bevis of Hampton (and of Terri, son of the faithful steward Saber, when he travels far and wide searching for Bevis); of Guy of Warwick, of Wolfdietrich (in the Heldenbuch), and of St. George (in The Seven Champions). After an absence (imprisonment) of seven years Bevis appears in Mombrant, disguised as a palmer and in the company of other palmers. His beloved Josian, who is still faithful to him (although now married to King Yvor), does not immediately recognize him:

And whan þe maide seʒ him þar, Of Beues ʒhe nas noþing war; "þe semest," queþ ʒhe, "man of anour, þow schelt þis dai be priour And be-ginne oure deis: þe semest hende and corteis."


She then asks the palmers whether they know anything about Bevis, and the plot begins to unravel:

"Herde euer eni of þow telle In eni lede or eni spelle, Or in feld oþer in toun, Of a kniʒt, Beues of Hamtoun?" "Nai!" queþ al, þat þar ware. "What þow?" ʒhe seide, "niwe palmare?" þanne seide Beues and Iouʒ: "þat kniʒt ich knowe wel inouʒ!"


Shortly afterwards she recognizes him, as does his horse Arondel.

There is similar material in Guy of Warwick, but with no recognition. Not long after marrying Phyllis, Guy decides to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land out of remorse for all the men he has killed "for the love of a woman." The story continues as follows in an old prose version:

So with abundance of Tears betwixt them, he takes his journey, only with a Staff in his Hand, to the Holy Land, and she as a pensive Widow, remains at home, giving Alms at her Door to all Pilgrims for his sake, enquiring of them evermore, if they could tell her any news of him; but he not making himself known to any of them in all his travels, they could relate noth ing of him to her.

Many times when he returned from the Holy Land, he hath received Alms from her own Hands; and she not knowing of him, he hath departed with Tears in his Eyes to his Cave, where he liv'd and died, as you shall understand hereafter.16

An equally old version in couplets is more detailed and more interesting in relation to the novel. The following lines occur just after Guy, having returned from the Holy Land, has killed the terrible giant Colbron and has revealed himself to King Athelstone:

This said, Guy goes with humble leave most meek Some solitary Den or Cave to seek, And so live poorly in the hollow Ground, Making his Meat of Herbs, and Roots he found. Sometimes for Alms unto his Spouse he'd go, Who unto Pilgrims did most Bounty show; And she wou'd ask all Palmers that came there, If at the Holy Land they never were; Or if an English Lord they had not seen, Who many Years away from thence had been, A Knight ne'r Conquer'd; only she did fear The Tyrant Death, that Conquers every where; But Gracious Heav'n grant, if he be dead, Upon the Earth I may no longer tread. This oft he heard his Wife with Tears enquire, Yet Comfort he gave not to her desire; But look'd upon her as his Heart wou'd break, Then turn'd away for fear his Tongue shou'd speak; And so departs with weeping to his Den.

Of course the motif of a lover or husband returning home after long absence and talking in disguise with his ladylove or wife was nothing new in medieval romance; it is in the Odyssey.

The disguised Ivanhoe's reluctance to name himself when he tells about the tournament has parallels in Tirant lo Blanch, a romance that owes much to the story of Guy of Warwick. When young Tirant arrives in England from Brittany, he encounters a hermit (actually William of Warwick). "When asked [by Tirant] who were the best knights of England at that very time, he mentioned the names of the good knight Muntanyanegre, the Duke of Exeter, and Sir John Stuart. Tirant, disappointed at this answer, asked why he did not make mention of the Earl William of Warwick. . . . The hermit replied that he had heard of William of Warwick, but having never seen him he did not mention his name." A little later, in a repetition of this episode, the characters have reversed roles:

The hermit had already twice asked who had been declared the best and greatest knight among the victors. But Tirant seemed to pay no attention to his questions. And finally the hermit said: "But, Tirant, why do you not answer my question?" Then arose one of the company and his name was Diaphebus. He drew forth a parchment saying that the document in his hands would answer the question. This he read to the hermit, who was delighted when he heard that it was a proclamation to the world that the noble and valiant Tirant lo Blanch was declared the best knight of all those that had taken part in the exercises of arms at the festivities connected with the General Court.17

Before leaving the hall at Rotherwood we should note that the very unfriendly reception of Isaac the Jew also has a parallel in medieval romance. When at the court of the Emperor of Rome, Robert the Devil, although repentant for his past sins and now undergoing a strict penance imposed on him by the Pope, is not above playing a crude practical joke on a Jew who is a guest at the emperor's table:

Muche myrth and sporte he made euer amonge And as the Emperoure was at dyner on a daye A Jue sate at the borde, that great rowme longe In that house beare, and was receyued all waye Than Roberte hys dogge toke in hys armes in faye And touched the Jue and he ouer hys sholder loked backe Robert set the dogges ars to hys mowth without naye Full soore the Emperoure loughe whan he sawe that.


This episode is not in the kindred romance about Sir Gowther.

The next big scene is the tournament at Ashby, which gets under way in chapter 7. The lines from Palamon and Arcite that stand as the chapter's motto are clear indication that the Knight's Tale, in Dryden's "translation," was very much on Scott's mind. Another quotation from Palamon and Arcite serves as the motto to chapter 8, in which the first day of the tournament is described, while a quotation from Chaucer's original, the striking alliterative passage of Part IV—"Ther shyveren shaftes upon sheeldes thikke. . . . Out brest the blood with stierne stremes rede"—sets the tone for chapter 12 and Scott's vivid account of the tournament's second day. The third day involves sports and games of a more popular nature, including the archery contest in which Locksley distinguishes himself. Three-day tournaments are frequent in medieval romance; one can find them in Ipomadon, Roswall and Lillian, Sir Degrevant, Sir Triamour, and Le Petit Jehan de Saintré, to name a few romances that spring immediately to mind. The tournament in the Knight's Tale is not of the three-day variety, but this hard-fought battle between Palamon and Arcite and their forces was Scott's primary source of inspiration for his second day, when there is a general tournament, all knights fighting at once. As in Chaucer it is conducted with a respect for human life: the dagger is forbidden; and once a knight is overcome, he is considered vanquished and is not to engage further in combat. Like Palamon, the Disinherited Knight (Ivanhoe) finds himself beset by several formidable adversaries—by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Front-de-Bœuf, and Athelstane—but, more fortunate than Palamon, he receives effective help from a mysterious Black Knight (Richard), who easily topples Front-de-Bœuf and Athelstane, leaving Bois-Guilbert for the Disinherited Knight, and afterwards rides off into the forest. Abramczyk and others have pointed out that Scott is indebted here to an episode in Richard Coer de Lyon, in which Richard, formidable in appearance and disguised in black, easily defeats several adversaries and then rides away into a forest. When Prince John sees that the Disinherited Knight has gotten the better of Bois-Guilbert, he stops the tournament. Chaucer's Theseus stops the tournament in Athens when Palamon has been decisively overcome.

Indeed, the stopping of a tournament by a monarch is quite frequent in romance. Tirant lo Blanch's fight with the Scottish knight Villa Fermosa is stopped by the Queen of Scotland "before either of the knights had come to grief."19 There are further parallels in Malory,20 in Palmerin of England,21 and in Le Petit Jehan de Saintré. On two occasions during the course of the tournament at Barcelona, the King of Aragon calls a halt to the fighting between Saintré and Sir Enguerrant. On the third and final day, "when Sir Enguerrant found himself without an axe, he advanced all suddenly like one possessed, and came and laid hold on Saintré by the body, and Saintré on him by one arm, for with the other he held his axe. Now when the King saw Sir Enguerrant's axe upon the ground and their two bodies at grips, he straightway threw down his wand, like a just prince and judge, crying out: 'Hold, hold!' Then were the combatants parted by the men-at-arms."22 Author Antoine de la Sale's elaborate description of the dress and pageantry and general atmosphere at Barcelona may also have had some influence on the author of Ivanhoe, although to pin Scott down to particulars would be difficult. We have the sounding of trumpets, and there is jousting on horseback and the bursting of lances, and the spectators become much involved in what is going on. Unlike Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert, however, Saintré and Sir Enguerrant try to outdo each other in courteous behavior towards one another.

Probably enough has been said in other places about Richard's visit with Friar Tuck (chaps. 16-17). As indicated in the discussion of The Lady of the Lake (Chapter 2), a lot of stories have come down to us involving a king in disguise who is given hospitality by a lowly subject.23 In the introduction of 1830 Scott mentions John the Reeve, The King and the Tanner of Tamworth, The King and the Miller of Mansfield, and Rauf Coilyear; he also discusses in some detail The Kyng and the Hermite, which was his immediate inspiration. Scott adds to the story the motif of the exchanging of blows. Some time after Richard's visit with the friar, indeed after the fall of Torquilstone, he and the friar test their bodily strength. Richard holds up under the friar's hardest cuff, but the friar falls "head over heels" when Richard strikes him (see chap. 32). Scott himself tells us in a note that this incident was inspired by a passage in Richard Coer de Lyon. When Richard is in the prison of the King of Almain, the king's son Ardour suggests to Richard that they exchange buffets. Richard staggers under the young man's blow but recovers himself. When Ardour's time comes to receive a buffet in return, Richard strikes him so hard that he is killed.24 In the novel, when Richard reveals who he is (chap. 40), the friar is mortified not only because of his crusty behavior when he was the king's host (such is typical of the king-in-disguise stories) but also because he has actually struck at anointed royalty. This bringing together of two radically different worlds, so well illustrated in Rauf Coilyear and the other stories, is a recurrent theme in Scott; and this novel it is even more forcefully presented in the conflict between Norman and Saxon (with Ivanhoe having divided loyalties and thus caught in the middle) and between Christians and Jews (with Rebecca caught in the middle).

Other motifs include the unwanted marriage: Rowena has no interest in Athelstane the Unready, and she abhors the thought of a forced marriage to Maurice de Bracy; Rebecca has her problems too, in that she is adamantly opposed to any sort of relationship with Brian de Bois-Guilbert. Since both girls love Ivanhoe, and both are eminently worthy, we have another variation of the Knight's Tale story-pattern. And the list of motifs goes on and on. Wamba's blowing of a horn for help, in chapter 40, when the Black Knight is attacked by several adversaries at once, has its inspiration in medieval literature, as all readers of The Song of Roland will realize. Helyas, the Knight of the Swan, also has a horn, given to him by his father King Oriant, which will keep him from harm; and it is this horn which he blows loudly when, in a swan-drawn ship, he approaches the city Nymaie to offer his help to the Duchess of Boulyon, who has been accused falsely of murder. The important roles played by Wamba, Cedric's jester, and by his friend Gurth, the swineherd, are in the best tradition of the "matter of England" romances, in which characters of lowly birth exhibit strikingly worthy qualities. Wamba and Gurth are indeed often "nobler" than their betters, as is Higg, the son of Snell, a "poor peasant, a Saxon by birth," who testifies at Rebecca's trial and carries a message from her to her father. A probable source for Athelstane's resuscitation, as Abramczyk has pointed out, is an episode in Lewis's The Monk, but it may owe something too to the revival of Guy of Warwick's friend Heraud, who in the Auchinleck version is so grievously wounded by Lombard assailants that he is taken for dead by Guy himself, who entrusts the supposed corpse to monks at a nearby abbey for decent burial and who is later overjoyed to find out that Heraud still lives (see Abramczyk, pp. 104-6). Resuscitation of the dead is also a motif in Celtic literature, as for example the story of "Branwen Daughter of Llyr," in The Mabinogion, in which dead warriors are put into a magic cauldron; the next day they are alive and can fight (but cannot speak).25 Scott has an impressive array of precedents, then, for this not-so-celebrated incident of the novel. He does not answer his critics as well as he might when he says (in a note), "It was a tour-de-force to which the author was compelled to have recourse, by the vehement entreaties of his friend and printer, who was inconsolable on the Saxon being conveyed to the tomb."

There are of course many analogues in medieval romance to the trial of Rebecca, who is accused falsely of witchcraft. If she cannot find a champion to fight for her against Bois-Guilbert, she will be considered guilty and will be burned at the stake. In the Man of Law's Tale, Constance is falsely accused of having murdered Dame Hermengyld. At her trial the judgment of God is appealed to, and a voice from Heaven declares her innocence. There are judicial combats in The Earl of Toulous, when the Earl's ladylove is accused falsely of adultery—the Earl fighting against the two evil stewards, her accusers, once he is convinced of her innocence; in Amadis of Gaul (Book III in Rose's version), when "an insolent but puissant knight" named Dardan quarrels unjustly with the lady Lycena over her "fiefs and wide domain"—Amadis arriving just in time to take up Lycena's cause against Dardan and to defeat him; in the Morte Darthur (Book XVIII in Caxton editions), when Guenever is accused falsely by Sir Mador de la Porte of having poisoned his cousin Sir Patrise—the Queen's cause being taken by Sir Launcelot, who defeats Sir Mador and saves Guenever from the flames;26 in the Chevalere Assigne (and its prose counterpart, The Knight of the Swan), when the hero's mother is accused falsely by her mother-in-law of having copulated with a dog, and is saved when a young unlikely-looking champion (her long-lost son) appears and defeats the evil mother-in-law's knight—winning miraculously in the poetical version and thereby saving his mother from being burned at the stake. There are long notes in Rose's version of Amadis of Gaul and in Way's Fables on judicial combat, a subject that interested Scott immensely. Bois-Guilbert's death recalls vaguely the fate of Arcite: "That champion, to the astonishment of all who beheld it, reeled in his saddle, lost his stirrups, and fell in the lists" (chap. 43)—but all other circumstances are quite different.

In the unspoken affection that gradually develops between Ivanhoe and Rebecca, Scott gives us his finest example of the love between a Christian and a non-Christian, another motif borrowed from medieval romance. I think first of Floris and Blancheflur, a story that almost rivals Scott's in emotional intensity; in this case the man is Mohammedan and the girl is Christian. Closer to Scott at least superficially are the stories of Aucassin and the beautiful paynim girl Nicolette; Otuit and the daughter of the King of Syria, in the Heldenbuch; Bevis and his paynim ladylove Josian, who readily renounces her religion for his sake; Florens (brother of Octavian) and the Saracen princess Marsibelle, who gives up her faith and is baptized; St. George of England and Sabra, the King of Egypt's daughter, in The Seven Champions of Christendom; and St. James of Spain (another of the seven champions) and the fair Jewess, Celestine, daughter of the King of Jerusalem, who goes against the wishes of her father and her people in saving her lover. There is no happy ending in Scott; Rebecca's love for Ivanhoe must go unrequited. Unlike Josian and Marsibelle, she could never have given up her own religion, and besides Ivanhoe is already spoken for. Moreover, their different ways of thinking would have proved ultimately an insurmountable problem, as is obvious from the discussion (wonderfully ironic on Scott's part) which they get into about chivalry during the storming of Torquilstone (chap. 29). Scott has taken over an old motif from medieval romance, but he has varied, refined, and deepened it into something genuinely touching and beautiful.

Rebecca is Scott's most memorable dark-lady type. She is also his most memorable female physician, Scott apparently having taken to heart one of the notes to Aucassin and Nicolette in Way's Fables:

Some degree of chirurgical and medical knowledge was considered, during the middle ages, as a very necessary female accomplishment; and, while the occupations and amusements of men naturally led to bruises and broken bones, it was likely that ladies would acquire sufficient experience by the casualties that occurred in their own families. It accordingly appears from the Romances that many women of high birth were consulted in preference to the most learned professors, and it is probable that their attentive and compassionate solicitude may have frequently proved more efficacious than the nostrums of the faculty.

The note goes on to describe the place of Jews in medieval medicine. The famous scene in which Rebecca observes from a window the storming of Torquilstone and relates to her bedridden patient what is happening (chap. 29) owes much, as Abramczyk has shown, to a scene in Götz von Berlichingen, which Scott had translated as a young man. It may also owe a little to an episode in Le Bone Florence of Rome, in which Florence observes from a tower the preparations for storming the castle:

The maydyn mylde up sche rase, With knyghtes and ladyes feyre of face, And wente unto a towre. There sche sawe ryght in the feldys Baners brode and bryght scheldys Of chevalry the flowre, They nowmberde them forty thousand men, And a hundurd moo then hur fadur had then, That were ryght styffe in stowre.

Allas! seyde that maydyn clere, Whedur all the yonde folke and there Schoulde dye for my sake, And y but a sympull woman! The terys on hur chekys ranne, Hur ble beganne to blake.

[Ritson's text, lines 565-79]

The situation in Ivanhoe is of course more dramatic: the girl sees the actual fighting and reports it to someone else as it is taking place. The probable source for the equally famous scene, in which Rebecca goes to the window and threatens to jump to escape from Bois-Guilbert (chap. 24), is, as Abramczyk reminds us, a passage in Richardson's Clarissa, "in which Clarissa," to quote Scott himself, "awes Lovelace by a similar menace of suicide." It may also owe something in a topsy-turvy way to a strange episode in the Morte Darthur in which Sir Bors, in his quest for the Holy Grail, encounters a lady who threatens to jump from a high tower, together with her twelve gentlewomen, if he will not make love to her.27

Although Rebecca is a Jewess in a novel about the Middle Ages, she is respected by everyone—she is put on a pedestal as if she were a heroine of courtly romance; but Rowena, our light-lady type with her blue eyes and fair complexion, is the more conventional heroine, and not only in physical appearance. She is Ivanhoe's inspiration—the source of all his better actions. She is somewhat above him in social hierarchy, inasmuch as she is a descendant of King Alfred. She is not easily won by him because of Cedric's determination to marry her off to Athelstane. If absences have a salutary effect on love affairs, as Andreas Capellanus suggests, theirs must indeed be in order, for she and Ivanhoe do not see very much of each other either before or during the time of the novel. Like many a lady in courtly love stories, she has a lady-in-waiting, the rather colorless Elgitha.

If Ivanhoe, like Malory's Balin, feels sometimes that he is "destined to bring ruin on whomsoever hath shown kindness" to him (chap. 25), Richard has better luck, at least on the surface. Maurice de Bracy avers "that neither Tristram nor Lancelot would have been match, hand to hand, for Richard Plantagenet," while Waldemar Fitzurse, in less complimentary but perhaps more realistic terms, considers him "a true knight-errant"—one who "will wander in wild adventure, trusting the prowess of his single arm, like any Sir Guy or Sir Bevis, while the weighty affairs of his kingdom slumber, and his own safety is endangered" (chap. 34). Richard's carelessness almost leads to disaster when he is attacked by Fitzurse and others (in chap. 40), but Wamba blows his horn, as we have seen, and the fight between the Black Knight and the Blue Knight (the colors recalling Malory's Tale of Sir Gareth) ends in victory for the Black Knight. He is a "verray paragon" of medieval knighthood.

There are at least two specific references to King Arthur. In the archery contest of chapter 13, Locksley complains that the targets are too large: "For his own part . . . and in the land where he was bred, men would as soon take for their mark King Arthur's round-table, which held sixty knights around it." And in chapter 15, Fitzurse, musing upon the possible return of Richard, notes that "these are not the days of King Arthur, when a champion could encounter an army. If Richard indeed comes back, it must be alone,—unfollowed—unfriended." Both allusions contribute in a small way to the novel's medieval atmosphere, as does the spirited conversation about hunting between Cedric and Prior Aymer at Rotherwood (chap. 5). The first editor of Sir Tristrem must have enjoyed writing this dialogue:

"I marvel, worthy Cedric," said the Abbot, as their discourse proceeded, "that, great as your predilection is for your own manly language, you do not receive the Norman-French into your favour, so far at least as the mystery of wood-craft and hunting is concerned. Surely no tongue is so rich in the various phrases which the field-sports demand, or furnishes means to the experienced woodman so well to express his jovial art."

"Good Father Aymer," said the Saxon, "be it known to you, I care not for those over-sea refinements, without which I can well enough take my pleasure in the woods. I can wind my horn, though I call not the blast either a recheate or a morte—I can cheer my dogs on the prey, and I can flay and quarter the animal when it is brought down, without using the newfangled jargon of curée, arbor, nombles, and all the babble of the fabulous Sir Tristrem.

This passage not only is humorous, but it contributes to Scott's fine characterization of the doughty old Saxon.

Allusions to Chaucer are frequent, as already indicated. Moreover, Prior Aymer is compared explicitly with the Monk, as is clear from the motto to chapter 2, a quotation from Chaucer's description of the "outrydere" in the General Prologue. Like his counterpart, the prior loves hunting; moreover, his sleeves are lined with fur, and his horse's bridle is ornamented with little bells. Before proceeding to Rotherwood to seek hospitality, Bois-Guilbert hypocritically promises Prior Aymer that he will deport himself "as meekly as a maiden" (Chaucer's phrase describing his Knight); in fact, the Knight Templar is very unlike Chaucer's Knight as Scott conceived of him. At the Preceptory of Templestowe we find a young squire who no doubt owes his name, Damian, to the squire of the Merchant's Tale. And at Athelstane's funeral we find more than one damsel who is "more interested in endeavouring to find out how her mourning-robe became her, than in the dismal ceremony" at hand, while "the appearance of two strange knights" occasions "some looking up, peeping, and whispering" (chap. 42)—all this recalling the thoughts of the Wife of Bath at her fourth husband's funeral.

A few other names deserve comments. Scott himself tells us that he got the name Front-de-Bœuf from a "roll of Norman warriors" in the Auchinleck MS. Swineherd Gurth is the "son of Beowulph," Scott certainly knowing of the Old English masterpiece, which had been printed for the first time ever in 1815 in the edition by the Danish scholar Thorkelin—"the learned Thorkelin," as Scott calls him in his abstract of the Eyrbiggia-Saga (included in Weber's Illustrations of Northern Antiquities). Athelstane the Unready does not owe his Christian name to the romance Athelston, which Scott did not know, but probably to the King Athelstone of Guy of Warwick or the King Athelstan of history; he probably owes his epithet to Ethelred the Unready of history. The name Rowena was probably suggested by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Renwein, the beautiful daughter of Hengist who marries Vortigern, King of the Britons. In his final temptation of Rebecca, Bois-Gulbert urges her to mount behind him on his steed, "on Zamor, the gallant horse," which he "won .. . from the Soldan of Trebizond"—the exotic name Trebizond occurring, as we have already seen, in the Amadis cycle of romances.28

Unlike the novels we have examined up to this point, Ivanhoe does not belong to the fairly recent or not too remote past, and its setting is not Scotland; hence, perhaps, its very noticeable dependence on a realm of literature that Scott knew so well. In The Heart of Mid-Lothian Scott used deep-lying motifs from medieval romance; in Rob Roy he prefers to use allusions. In Ivanhoe he uses both. Of all the novels examined so far, Ivanhoe is easily the most heavily indebted to Chaucer and medieval romance.


14 Roland Abramczyk, Über die Quellen zu Walter Scotts Roman "Ivanhoe" (Ph.D. diss., Leipzig, 1903).

15Bevis of Hampton, ed. Eugen Kölbing from the Auchinleck text, E.E.T.S., E.S., nos. 46 (1885), 48 (1886), and 65 (1894); Kraus rpt. in one volume, 1975.

16 Samuel Rowland[s], The Famous History of Guy ofWarwick (London: G. Conyers, n.d.), p. 25; the British Library Catalogue suggests the date 1680; the National Union Catalogue suggests 1690. For the quotation that follows, from the version in couplets, see Samuel Rowland[s], The Famous History of Guy Earl of Warwick (London: G. Conyers, n.d.), pp. 74-75; both the British Library Catalogue and the National Union Catalogue suggest the date 1680. Rowlands's stanzaic version, reprinted from the Edward Brewster edition of 1682 by the Hunterian Club, in The Complete Works of Samuel Rowlands (Glasgow, 1880), vol. 3, is more expansive, but the thirty-one lines corresponding to the nineteen that I have quoted give no additional information worthy of note.

17 From the summary in Vaeth, "Tirant lo Blanch": A Study, pp. 16-18.

18Robertethe Deuyll: A Metrical Romance (London, 1798), p. 37, printed from a manuscript that "appears to have been transcribed, word for word, from an edition in quarto printed either by Wynken de Worde or Pynson" (according to the Advertisement).

19Vaeth, "Tirant lo Blanch": A Study, p. 24.

20 See Malory, Morte Darthur, Book X, chap. 44, in Caxton editions. Sir Galahaut the Haut Prince stops a fight between Sir Palomides and a strange knight, who gets the upper hand and turns out to be Sir Lamorak.

21 See I, xii, in Southey's edition. The Emperor of Greece requests that the fighting stop between Palmerin and the Knight of the Savage Man (who turns out to be his brother), "perceiving it drew towards night, and fearing the endamagement that might come to either of them."

22 Irvine Gray's translation (London: Routledge, 1931), p. 158 (chap. 42). Other instances of a king's stopping a tournament occur in chaps. 50-51, when Saintré is jousting with the Lord of Loysseleuch.

23 See Elizabeth Walsh, "The King in Disguise," Folklore 86 (1975): 3-24.

24 See lines 739-96, which can be conveniently read in "Richard the Lion-Hearted" and Other Medieval English Romances, trans. Bradford B. Broughton (New York: Dutton, 1966), pp. 168-69.

25 This was brought to my attention by Paul Schleifer when he was a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Georgia. I have since learned that Scott knew the story (see Chapter 1).

26 Mentioned by Parsons, Witchraft and Demonology, p. 149. Parsons also calls attention (p. 175) to the anachronistic remark of Wamba in chap. 1 when he and Gurth first hear (but do not yet see) horsemen approaching: "Perhaps they are come from Fairy-land with a message from King Oberon." It is anachronistic in that "twelfth-century Wamba refers to the king of the fairies in thirteenth-century Huon de Bordeaux."

27 Malory, Morte Darthur, Book XVI, chap. 12, in Caxton editions; page 571 in Works.

28 It is also in Paradise Lost, I, 584; see Merritt Y. Hughes's note, in his standard edition, for other possibilities.

Lionel Lackey (essay date 1992)

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SOURCE: "Vainly Expected Messiahs: Christianity, Chivalry and Charity in Ivanhoe," in Studies in Scottish Literature, edited by G. Ross Roy, University of South Carolina, 1992, pp. 150-66.

[In the essay that follows, Lackey examines the role of medieval religion in Ivanhoe through the contrast between the corruption of official representatives of the Church and the faith and compassion of Ivanhoe and Rebecca.]

Ivanhoe, Scott's account of ethnic, political, and military conflict in England after the unsuccessful Third Crusade, is closer to being a religious novel than commentators have acknowledged. Its central struggle is between the forces of superstition, bigotry, and brutality and those of enlightened justice and mercy, with the varieties of religious experience in the novel serving as a medium to convey all these attitudes.

No one claims that Scott was a theologian, his Religious Discourses by a Layman notwithstanding.1 Yet the truth may be not so much that his treatment of religion in Ivanhoe is superficial2 as that he sought to portray medieval religion (indeed he did the religion of more recent times) as itself superficial—at least in terms of the ends he thought religion should serve. Some of the characters of the novel mechanically repeat set phrases of their faith while others vaguely advert to its doctrines, seldom allowing either faith or doctrine to affect for the better their predetermined needs or chosen courses of action. Even so, if Scott shows religion in the Age of Faith to be superficial, he also shows it to be pervasive.

This combination of superficiality and pervasiveness explains in part why the enlightened hero and heroine—Ivanhoe and Rebecca3—have to resort so continually to concealment in the form of hoods, helmets, veils, and curtains. Graham McMaster, Avrom Fleishman, and John P. Farrell are among the commentators who have noted the frequency with which Scott dramatizes the need of a supportive society, an environment conducive to the safety of the nonconforming individual, which will assimilate him rather than force him into ideological fanaticism on the one hand or alienation on the other. This need, they find, is often denied by the societies in the novels.4

Thus it is significant that not until the end of Chapter 12, at the climax of the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche, does Scott uncover for the first time the hitherto-concealed head of his title hero: "the well-formed yet sun-burnt features of a young man of twenty-five . . . amidst a profusion of short fair hair."5 At twenty-five Ivanhoe is older than the usual Waverley protagonist: mature enough to offer convincing opposition to his arch-rival, the Templar Bois-Guilbert.6 At forty, Bois-Guilbert shares Ivanhoe's sunburn and short hair, betokening experience and restraint, but not his concurrent and symbolic fairness. By this time in the narrative, Ivanhoe is, like Bois-Guilbert, already known as a veteran of an indecisive religious war. In that war he has won praise co-operating with the Normans, while at home he has successfully championed Saxon ethnic pride in a tourney against these self-same Normans, here seen as overlords. Perhaps because of these contrary allegiances, he has appeared thus far only with a palmer's "broad and shadowy hat" or a knight's helmet hiding both his prepossessing features and his identity—a concealment which parallels the veils of the novel's equally prepossessing and even more tolerant heroine, the Jewish Rebecca. "A neutral has a perilous part to sustain," Scott has Louis XI say in Quentin Durward;7 and so, he might have added, does a mediator who seeks to bridge (or to transcend the security of) nationalistic, ethnic, or religious fanaticism.

Scott's forest landscape which opens the book is Wordsworthian in its implied "lament" for "what man has made of man." Man's inhumanity is at once attested to in the complaints of the Saxon jester Wamba and Saxon swineherd Gurth against their Norman oppressors.8 The unhappy and unheralded return of Ivanhoe to his father's home parallels—as pointed out by Jerome Mitchell9 and Scott himself—Homer's Odyssey. But whereas Odysseus' return came late enough to seem the climax of a restitution favored by beneficent gods, Ivanhoe's at the opening of the novel seems only the beginning of a struggle to be won—if at all—mainly through fallible human agency.

Ivanhoe, destined with Richard and Locksley to ease the burden of Norman tyranny against his Saxon compatriots, early appears at Cedric's home in religious habit but is not received by his own. Thus he sounds for the first time in the novel a recurrent theme later touched on by Bois-Guilbert is wooing the Jewess Rebecca: the long-desired, long-delayed coming of "your vainly-expected Messiah" (p. 241; Ch. 24). Many characters in this tale expect Messiahs in vain. Rowena holds out like Penelope against a marriage with Athelstane, hoping for deliverance by Ivanhoe. Her Messiah comes, but not the same as she knew him, for he is now modified in his love and his principles by Rebecca. Isaac the Jew fretfully tells his daughter Rebecca that he "trust[s] in the rebuilding of Zion" but expressed doubt that "the very best of Christians" will "repay a debt to a Jew" (p. 123; Ch. 10). He soon receives reimbursement from Ivanhoe, but he is destined to find no Zion in Christian England. Rebecca herself confides to Ivanhoe her hope that "the God of Jacob shall raise up for His chosen people a second Gideon, or a new Maccabeus" (p. 296; Ch. 29). Ivanhoe proves a partial Gideon, but he rescues only Rebecca, not her oppressed people. Lucas Beaumanoir, austere Grand Master of the Templars, acts as a self-appointed Messiah to his order when he vows that "I WILL purify the fabric of the Temple" (p. 360; Ch. 35). This purification dwindles to an effort to burn one innocent Jewish girl. Cedric waits for a Saxon nationalist millennium led by Athelstane the Unready. He receives at last only a climactic put-down from this comically resurrected Messiah: "Talk not to me of delivering anyone" (p. 443; Ch. 42). And Ivanhoe builds his hope on the second coming of a lionhearted king who will establish national unity and justice. But the king's gestures of reform resemble only "the course of a rapid and brilliant meteor . . . instantly swallowed up by universal darkness" (p. 426; Ch. 41). With so many failed Messiahs and so many impotent or worse-than-impotent faiths, Ivanhoe must remain helmeted and Rebecca veiled.

Except for the calmly idealistic Rebecca, the characters of Ivanhoe tend to pray for mercies temporal rather than divine. They adhere to that form of religion which will best provide or promise each the specific wordly commodity he craves. The tolerant Scott seems to understand and usually to forgive such motivation, but he constantly reminds his reader that human behavior and human religion are seldom totally altruistic. Despite the mildly antinomian tone of Religious Discourses, for the Author of Waverley the ideal religion stresses good works above forms, doctrines, perhaps even faith.10 Against this scale of values he tends to divide his characters and their religions into the harmless, the hopeless, and the serious aspirants to perfection always with the caveat that for a cultural relativist like Scott such classifications must also be relative.11

The "harmless" believers include most of the churchmen, most of the Saxons, and the Jews other than Rebecca. Scott employs parallelism and juxtaposition in a way that shows little to choose among these professors and their professions. Thus Prior Aymer of Jorvaulx is "generous" (p. 42; Ch. 2) and "a professional peacemaker" (p. 71; Ch. 5) but also a womanizer whose eroticism confuses Old and New Testaments with Greek mythology and courtly romance in references to "St. Niobe" (p. 243; Ch. 25) and Hebrew youths who receive papal dispensations (p. 167; Ch. 15). The Clerk of Copmanhurst sings of supplying the "comfort" of "the Barefooted Friar" to willing widows (p. 184; Ch. 17) and does not know whether to endorse or lament the burning of Rebecca, wishing "she were but the least bit of a Christian" (p. 454; Ch. 43). In a war of Latin scriptural texts in Chapter 33, neither the Norman Prior nor the Saxon Clerk sounds like a model of saintliness, any more than the Jew Isaac who ironically condemns the Prior's avarice in the same chapter.

Sometimes these Christians' religious flaws go beyond the harmless, as in the not-totally-comic episode in Chapter 42 when the Monks of St. Edmund's strive to keep Athelstane dead in hopes of obtaining his stipend. Athelstane at the end is "engaged, like the country squires of our own day, in a furious war with the clergy" in retaliation (p. 462; Ch. 44), keeping the perpetrators for three days on bread and water in defiance of threatened excommunication. Scott tacitly approves this incipient act of secular humanism and subordination of church to state by a Christian who progresses from sloth and gluttony to the kind of comic "prudence" reserved for certain approved characters in the novels.12 The "stormy people" who frequent tournaments, witch trials, and burnings13 exhibit not so much Christian charity as Christian zeal—a zeal which varies according to which side they think is winning or losing "like a timid cur which waits to bark till the object of his challenge has turned his back" (p. 459; Ch. 44).

The Jews, presented sympathetically as underdogs, yet do not quite live up to Scott's implied criteria of religious justice and charity.14 True, Isaac early exhibits a perceptiveness greater than that of several Christian characters, seeming to understand who and what the disguised palmer is before Cedric and Rowena do15 and supplying him with arms while he is yet Disinherited. And we are touched when, weary and anxious about Rebecca, Isaac is succored by his friend Rabbi Nathan "with that kindness which the law prescribed, and which the Jews practiced to each other" (p. 354; Ch. 35). But then there are uncharitable moments, as when in chapter 10 Isaac neglects to tip Gurth or when in Chapter 38 Nathan and he are guilty of a like omission to Higg, the Saxon workman who has risked the Templars' displeasure by conveying Rebecca's life-and-death message to her father.

It would be tempting to say that Scott has all the "hopeless" Christians or religionists self-destruct, and Francis R. Hart has called Bois-Guilbert's death by stroke as he unwillingly fights against Rebecca as "a chivalric form of old Krook's combustion syndrome."16 Indeed Front-de-Boeuf and Ulrica perish by fire while Isaac, whom the former had planned to torture on hot coals, escapes. But the intolerant and antisocial Grand Master is allowed to retire with military dignity and a grudging compliment from King Richard. Putting historical reality before wishful thinking, Scott allows Prince John (Hardly a Christian despite his swearing "By the light of Our Lady's brow") to escape unscathed, just as Richard puts family honor before justice when he discovers John's assassination plot but punishes only the "fall guy" Fitzurse.

Front-de-Boeuf, an extreme case even for the usually compassionate Scott, is condemned to the flames as a "blasphemer and parricide" (p. 305; Ch. 30). He is parricide for killing his father, blasphemer for presuming to bespeak damnation for his fellow-inmates in the burning castle and earlier for invoking the spirit of Christianity to justify his persecution of the Jew Isaac: "I swear to thee by that which thou dost NOT believe, by the Gospel which our church teaches, and by the keys which are given to her to bind and to loose" (p. 219; Ch. 22). In the face of torture Isaac appeals to the nominal Christian in phrases foreshadowing the eighteenth-century latitudinarianism which Scott consciously or unconsciously favored: "I swear .. . by all which I believe, and by all which we believe in common," calling on "The good God of nature" to disavow such cruelty (pp. 219-220; Ch. 22). Front-de-Boeuf is depicted as being out of nature and out of society, but not quite out of religion. For though Bois-Guilbert ridicules "Front-de-Boeuf's want of faith" for which he cannot "render a reason" (p. 298; Ch. 30), the latter at death proves himself one of the demons who believe and tremble: "I have heard old men talk of prayer. . . . But I—I dare not!" (p. 301; Ch. 30).

Neither can Ulrica, his one-time paramour and accomplice, turn to Christian salvation. Despite the Gothicism of her presentation, Scott realizes this Medea-like figure with some sympathy and insight as one not so much unwilling as psychologically unable to seek Christian redemption: "We become like the fiends of hell, who may feel remorse, but never repentance" (p. 262; Ch. 27). Beset by perverse impulses of murder and self-destruction, Ulrica despairingly seeks to make the best deal she can for the hereafter, turning "to Woden, Hertha, and Zernebock, to Mista, and to Skogula, the gods of our yet unbaptized ancestors" (p. 261; Ch. 27). Yet we sense in the stoic resignation of her death-hymn an awareness that her pagan religion of revenge will be replaced by a more merciful order: "For vengeance hath but an hour; / Strong hate itself shall expire! / I also must perish!" (p. 318; Ch. 31).

Scott does not bestow on the one true atheist of the novel, Bois-Guilbert, either more or less disapproval than on many of his other, believing, characters. Bois-Guilbert clearly belongs to a class which Judith Wilt calls "the cynical roman, or freethinking, or atheist alternative" (Wilt, p. 178) in Scott's medieval works. Yet Rebecca, herself noble, acknowledges of her lover and persecutor that "There are noble things which cross over they powerful mind" (p. 404; Ch. 39); and at his death he receives tributes from such opponents as Ivanhoe—"he hath fought for Christendom"—and Richard—"he was a gallant knight" (p. 457; Ch. 44). A. O. J. Cockshut finds Bois-Guilbert's intelligence and articulateness unconvincing in a medieval setting: "ventriloquism or historical substitution," "words of a much later form of civilization."17 But Scott's whole point is to present the Templar—as he does the more altruistic Rebecca and Ivanhoe—as specimens intellectually ahead of their time and thus doomed to silence or annihilation.18 Though not an atheist himself, Scott treats Bois-Guilbert's skepticism as a sign of intelligence, however misdirected, as when he disparages his unreasoning cohorts De Bracy and Front-de-Boeuf: "Go to, thou art a fool .. . thy superstition is upon a level with Front-de-Boeuf's want of faith" (p. 298; Ch. 30). It is perhaps a shared capacity for reason that draws both Bois-Guilbert and Ivanhoe (otherwise implacable enemies) to a woman outside their own faith.

Scott's most harmful religionist, the ascetic Grand Master Lucas Beaumanoir, is yet endowed with "somewhat striking and noble" in physiognomy and psychology. His "long grey beard and shaggy grey eyebrows," "thin and severe features . . . marked by . . . the spiritual pride of the self-satisfied devotee" (p. 357; Ch. 35) seem to transcend centuries and religious lines. Capable of being "affected by the mien and appearance of Rebecca" even as he tries her for witchcraft, "He was not originally a cruel or even a severe man" (p. 387; Ch. 38). This idealist is employed to illustrate the (to Scott) twin dangers of Scriptural literalism and antinomianism. In an almost-amusing episode in Chapter 35, reminiscent in tone of Old Mortality and The Heart of Midlothian, Beaumanoir and his aide Conrade Mont-Fitchet read and variously interpret a letter from Prior Aymer urging Bois-Guilbert to release his prisoner Rebecca:

"Here is goodly stuff for one Christian man to write to another. . . . 'We pray thee to be on thy guard in the matter of this second Witch of Endor; for we are privately assured that your Grand Master, who careth not a bean for cherry cheeks and black eyes, comes from Normandy to diminish your mirth and amend your misdoings. . . .' " (p. 363)

Conrade was better acquainted, perhaps by practice, with the jargon of gallantry than was his superior; and he expounded the passage which embarrassed the Grand Master to be a sort of language used by worldly men towards those whom they loved par amours.

"There is more in it than thou dost guess, Conrade; thy simplicity is no match for this deep abyss of wickedness." (p. 364)

Scott economically juxtaposes three varieties of religious imperfection here, realistically showing that, by virtue of its greater intensity, fundamentalism triumphs over epicurism and temporizing. At Rebecca's forthcoming trial Beaumanoir characteristically places faith over secular science and dismisses Rebecca's medical skills, however humanely employed: "it is better to be bedridden than to accept the benefit of unbelievers' medicine that thou mayest rise and walk" (p. 381; Ch. 37). And although, in the resulting ordeal by combat, Providence seems to effect Rebecca's vindication with Bois-Guilbert's collapse, Scott feels the need for temporal intervention as well with the arrival of King and Constable to halt the proceedings and establish civil over ecclesiastical law.

Among so many sounding brasses and tinkling cymbals in the novel, one searches vainly for the kind of just and humane Christian Scott would have admired; but Cedric, Rowena, King Richard, and Ivanhoe all at various times approach his ideal. The Saxons, disinherited themselves,19 show more tolerance on the whole, saying "Dog of a Jew" less often, than do the Normans. A case in point is Cedric's conciliatory "my hospitality must not be bounded by your dislikes" when receiving Isaac over the objections of his Norman guests (p. 65; Ch. 5). As with most of the other characters, Cedric's virtues—frankness, hospitality, justice—seem to thrive independent of his Christianity. He "never swore by any [saint] that was not of Saxon lineage," a "limited devotion" that suggests the tribal cult rather than the Church Universal (p. 189; Ch. 18). His ward, Rowena, shows a similar Christian ambivalence toward Jews. Just as Cedric has said of Isaac, "I constrain no man to converse or to feed with him" (p. 65; Ch. 5), so Rowena later reacts with mingled gentleness and condescension to the stranded Isaac and Rebecca: "The man is old and feeble, .. . the maiden young and beautiful .. . ; Jews though they be, we cannot as Christians leave them in this extremity." Significantly, Rebecca has in this emergency gravitated toward Rowena, "throwing back her veil" and "implor[ing] her in the great name of the God whom they both worshiped" (p. 195; Ch. 19). Whether as a credit to her goodheartedness or a reflection on her naiveté, Rowena has never been jealous of the beautiful Jewess who has modified her lover's values. Her final invitation to "remain with us" and hear "the counsel of holy men [who] will wean you from your erring law" (p. 466; Ch. 44) is kindly, if insensitively, delivered—more gently than an earlier, similar offer from the Grand Master as a means of averting execution.

Chivalry rather than religious fervor seems to motivate Richard's commitment to Palestinian liberation. Although he speaks his share of oaths like "Ha! St. Edward!," "Ha! St. George!," and "By the splendour of Our Lady's brow!," his religious phrases seem less florid, less frequent than those of the other Christians. Despite the critical consensus that Richard is a Quixotic upholder of antiquated chivalry,20 based on Scott's own assessment of him as "brilliant, but useless" (p. 426; Ch. 41), Richard does not come across as totally incompetent or ineffectual. A shrewd judge of character, able to make friends and inspire confidence, capable of quick and generally right decisions, he apparently aims to unite all factions under a unified system of civil justice independent of church authority. This anti-clericalism is seen in the Hemingwayan brusqueness with which he puts down the Grand Master and his arrested aides: "he arrests Malvoisin . . . by the order of Richard Plantagenet, here present" (p. 457; Ch. 44). "Be wise, Beaumanoir, and make no bootless opposition. Thy hand is in the lion's mouth" (p. 458; Ch. 44). The occasion for this crackdown is Rebecca's trial, an issue in which Richard has interested himself as soon as he has learned of it in Chapter 42. Complementing this implied respect for religious toleration is a reliance on "chivalry" or—to use a term which I prefer as meaning about the same thing but sounding more relevant for today—militarism, an emphasis which colors the form of rationalistic Christianity to which Scott evidently subscribes.

Ivanhoe, his trusted leader Richard, and Scott are all Christians committed to order and justice who believe that this cannot be achieved in an anarchic world without armed force. Joseph E. Duncan, Francis R. Hart, and Edgar Johnson are agreed that Ivanhoe is an exposé of the limits of chivalry / militarism; as Duncan puts it, "The novel presents a vital, colorful picture of the 'fighting time,' but it does not glorify the fighters" (Duncan, p. 294).21 Yet in avoiding the danger of misreading it as simplistic pacifism. Scott's attitude toward the relative merits of peaceful and forceful reactions to violence and brutality can be sensed from the words of the prudent burgher Simon Glover in The Fair Maid of Perth: "Catharine must wed a man to whom she may say, 'Husband, spare your enemy'; not one in whose behalf she must cry, 'Generous enemy, spare my husband.'"22 Thus to Scott militarism, though not the cause for rapture some have made it, remains a hard necessity—a view toward which his thoughtful characters tend to gravitate.

This brings up the key confrontation between the wounded, impatiently helpless Ivanhoe and his nurse Rebecca during the siege of Torquilstone, when he argues for and she apparently against militarism. Joseph Cottom points out an ambivalence in Scott's handling of this scene, the result of perhaps subconscious respect for authority represented by "enchanted imprisonment, infantilization, and the feminization of men" (Cottom, p. 158), especially Ivanhoe's "indignity" in being forced to hear Rebecca's "preachments against violence and the vanity of honor" (p. 159). Countering this implied enjoyment of humiliation and subjugation, Cottom elsewhere notes that in Scott's novels "violence nostalgically appears as a surer justice" than the law and legalism Scott overtly supports (p. 179).23 I see Scott as advocating a controlled violence in this case and elsewhere as a means of establishing law and, with it, civil and religious freedom.

Earlier in the narrative Ivanhoe seems older and wiser than most Scott heroes: Judith Wilt notes that he "is neither dead nor asleep but thinking" (Wilt, p. 37) at his first appearance in the guise of a Christian pilgrim. His thoughtful pilgrimage will take him from an initially sound (in Scott's view) position of commitment to social unity, through an added transcending of religious prejudice, toward a final synthesis of Saxon and Norman nationalism, Christian and Jewish sectarianism, militarism and pacifism. This synthesis will, however, have to remain private.

Central to reaching this synthesis will be a modification of Ivanhoe's attitude toward Jews. Alone among Cedric's guests in Chapter 5, Ivanhoe offers his seat and a dish of "seethed kid" to the Jewish scapegoat Isaac but qualifies this charity by moving away "without waiting for the Jew's thanks," ambiguously since his motive may be either to avoid contact or to join in the Templar's and Rowena's conversation (Ivanhoe, pp. 66-7; Ch. 5). When he helps Isaac escape the Templar's snare the next morning, his kindness is again made equivocal by an abrupt "Blaspheme not, Jew!" and his not-entirely-admiring "smiles" as he teases the old man about his parsimony (p. 85; Ch. 6). Nursed by Rebecca, he is "too good a Catholic" to let himself notice her beauty once he knows her religion (p. 280; Ch. 28). But notice her nobility he must, when she says that her reward will be to "pray of thee to believe henceforward that a Jew may do good service to a Christian, without desiring other guerdon than the blessing of the Great Father who made both Jew and Gentile" (p. 281; Ch. 28).

There follows the confrontation referred to, the observed battle at Torquilstone serving as occasion for Ivanhoe to equate courage and militarism with Christianity:

"Thou art no Christian, Rebecca; and to thee are unknown those high feelings which swell the bosom of a noble maiden when her lover hath done some deed of emprize which sanctions his flame. Chivalry! Why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection, the stay of the oppressed, the redeemer of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant. Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the bet protection in her lance and her sword." (pp. 295-6; Ch. 29)

Winnowing from this passage some of the "purple" expressions which may to the twentieth-century mind recall the Religious Right, we see a concern for values important to modern man whether liberal or conservative—human rights, protection for the underprivileged, curbs on dictatorship and vested interests—all necessitating a conscientiously employed military force, in Ivanhoe's opinion. Rebecca refutes not so much Ivanhoe's argument as the idea that Jews cannot share such sentiments:

"I am, indeed . . . sprung from a race whose courage was distinguished in the defense of their own land. . . . The sound of the trumpet wakes Judah no longer, and her despised children are now but the unresisting victims of hostile and military oppression. Well hast thou spoken, Sir Knight; until the God of Jacob shall raise up for His chosen people a second Gideon, or a new Maccabeus, it ill beseemeth the Jewish damsel to speak of battle or of war." (p. 296; Ch. 29)

To this dignified rejoinder Ivanhoe makes no verbal response but soon bespeaks Richard's interest in Rebecca's welfare by asking the king to rescue her from Bois-Guilbert before saving him from the conflagration. At the moment of fulfillment for his hopes regarding Rowena, he silently departs to honor the Jewish girl's call for a champion. The words in which he delivers his challenge reveal the synthesis he had by this time found:

"I am a good knight and noble, come hither to sustain with lance and sword the just and lawful quarrel of the damsel, Rebecca, daughter of Isaac of York .. . by the aid of God, of Our Lady, and of Monseigneur St. George, the good knight." (p. 454; Ch. 43)

For in most emphatically Christian terms he defends a Jew, employing medieval chivalric phrase to champion law in the modern sense, swearing by an English patron saint with a French title.

Like Ivanhoe and Bois-Guilbert, Rebecca is intellectually a convincing anachronism. Her most telling indictment of Christianity ancient and modern is made to Bois-Guilbert: "thy faith recommends that mercy which rather your tongues than your actions pretend" (p. 401; Ch. 39); her most telling indictment of militarism medieval and contemporary is made to Ivanhoe: "what is it, valiant knight, save an offering of sacrifice to a demon of vain glory, and a passing through the fire to Moloch?" (p. 295; Ch. 29). The charity Rebecca exalts above chivalry is manifested in her disinterested use of medical knowledge learned, says Isaac, from "Miriam, a sage matron of our tribe." This Miriam, often mentioned throughout the narrative, provides a significant though invisible parallel to Rebecca, a tragic martyr of non-sectarian enlightenment in an era of antinomian Christian bigotry:

"Ah, false Jew!" said the Grand Master; "was it not from that same witch Miriam, the abomination of whose enchantments have been heard of throughout every Christian land?" exclaimed the Grand Master, crossing himself. "Her body was burnt at a stake, and her ashes were scattered to the four winds; and so be it with me and mine order, if I do not as much to her pupil, and more also!" (p. 365; Ch. 35)

Thus Rebecca embodies at once the religion of deeds over creeds which Scott tacitly favors and the dangers to such a position in a climate that insists on dogma and proclamation.

It must be added that Scott's exemplar of ideal religious virtue is not exactly the pacifist that some commentators would make of her. In her "lecture" to Ivanhoe on the limits of militarism she makes one of those "fine distinctions" in which, according to Arnold, "truth and the highest culture greatly find their account." Her Hebrew ancestors, she says, "warred not, even while yet a nation, save at the command of the Deity, or in defending their country from oppression." Nor does she totally abjure pride in national or ethnic identity, as she soliloquizes on seeing that Ivanhoe is asleep: "Would to Heaven that the shedding of mine own blood, drop by drop, could redeem the captivity of Judah!" (p. 296; Ch. 29). Though Rebecca is known for kindness to all, it seems unlikely that she would give Ivanhoe favored status if she had been unresponsive to military courage—especially when manifested as here in generosity to one of her own people. And she trusts "that in merry England, the hospitable, the generous, the free, where so many are ready to peril their lives for honour, there will . . . be found one to fight for justice" (p. 386; Ch. 37).

Veils, curtains and windows function as emblems for this enlightened outcast. She draws back a curtain in revealing herself as kind nurse and forbidden Jewess to her awakening and admiring patient Ivanhoe; she conceals him in a curtained litter in seeking to coney him to the safety of York; she unveils (as mentioned earlier) to Rowena in appealing for protection in the dangerous forest; she unwillingly but meekly unveils to the Templars in defending herself at her trial; and there is a last significant veil scene to be mentioned later. Windows, on the other hand, are places to which this seeker of truth and freedom is perilously drawn. It is through a window that she hopes for a quick, total escape from Bois-Guilbert's advances, and it is this appearance that will be turned against her at her trial when embellishing prosecution witnesses claim that she turned herself into a "milk-white swan" which "flitted three times round the castle" (p. 384; Ch. 37). Likewise it is through a window that she watches the battle for her, her father's, and Ivanhoe's liberation:

"You must not—you shall not!" exclaimed Ivanhoe. "Each lattice, each aperture, will be soon the mark for the archers; some random shaft—"

"It shall be welcome!" murmured Rebecca. . . .

"Rebecca—dear Rebecca!" exclaimed Ivanhoe, "this is no maiden's pastime; .. . at least, cover thyself with yonder ancient buckler, and show as little of your person at the lattice as need be."

Following with wonderful promptitude the directions of Ivanhoe, and availing herself of the protection . . . , Rebecca, with tolerable security to herself, could witness part of what was passing. .. . (p. 289; Ch. 29)

This serves as a reminder that even for a fearlessly enlightened idealist, military advisors, like Emily Dickinson's microscopes, "are prudent / In an emergency."

As a novel that pits ruthless fanaticism against humane moderation, ignorant selfishness against enlightened social responsibility, Ivanhoe resembles Old Mortality in the Scott canon. As protagonists whose survival is in doubt because their ideals are ahead of their time, those of Ivanhoe resemble those of both Old Mortality and The Bride of Lammermoor. Robert C. Gordon and David Brown have faulted the ending of Old Mortality for being inconsistent with the conditions of its historical period,24 while Brown has elsewhere complained of the "indubitably 'escapist' air" of Ivanhoe (Brown, p. 209). These negatives do not apply to Ivanhoe, I believe, since the ending is not totally happy and since the medieval setting achieves not so much escapism as a milieu sufficiently forbidding for the unhappy ending to be all too convincing. as Cockshut (not an admirer of the medieval novels) has acknowledged, "There is no sense of escape in Scott's medievalism. . . . Scott had no desire to escape from anything" (Cockshut, p. 91). And if Jane Mi lígate and John P. Farrell are right in praising Scott's portrayal of Edgar of Ravenswood as a doomed moderate frustrated by the deterministic forces of an intolerant environment,25 they should find something to praise in the handling of Ivanhoe's and Rebecca's unresolved dilemma in this novel often dismissed as "tushery." Such commentators as Farrell, Georg Lukács, and George Levine, observing Scott's failure to discuss contemporary issues, have seen his use of the past as a metaphor of his (and our) present.26 Graham McMaster spells out revolutionary aspects of the time that prompted Scott to "move away from realism toward fantasy" but adds that this move need not be seen as a disadvantage, for "the more completely he faced [the] collapse of his hopes, the better novels he wrote" (McMaster, p. 149). To McMaster, Scott's fantasy is rich in mythic and surrealistic overtones conveying pessimism about a chaotic modern society, although he does not consider Ivanhoe one of the better examples of this style.27 While largely concurring with McMaster about the pessimism [and] its relevance, I cannot agree with his downplaying of Ivanhoe.

The pessimism which informs this tragi-comedy of medieval inhumanity is exemplified by, if not totally based upon, the characters' religious attitudes. In an environment alternating between irresponsible individualism (self-indulgent clergymen, opportunistic soldiers, arrogant robber barons) and rigorously repressive ideology (Beaumanoir's moral authoritarianism, Cedric's uncompromising nationalism), all characters go to their places of worship and swear by their preferred saints and deities—but their oaths and attendance seem to alter their courses or characters very little. Prior Aymer pursues amorous adventure; Friar Tuck hunts deer, widows, and wenches; crusaders seek worldly power; the populace obtain thrills from the pain of unbelievers; Jews aggrandize security through finance; nobles strive to despoil them on Christian principles; witch-hunting clerics hinder medical advances on theological grounds; patriotic fathers disinherit international-minded sons. The picture is not totally pessimistic: in almost every instance, what Farrell calls the "social affections"—a summum bonum for Scott—28 surface, leading to thoughts of compassion, gestures of mercy, actions of unity and cooperation, but Scott shows these thoughts, gestures, and actions as arising across (not along) religious lines, in spite of (not inspired by) faith. In terms of Scott's implied priorities, Christians as a class are no better than Jews, Jews as a class no better than Christians; and atheism—as exemplified by Bois-Guilbert—if a defense against bigotry, is not guarantee of virtue.

Scott favors if not a humanistic religion, a humanizing one: reasonable, exalting charity and justice, not excluding self-defense. If not exactly a universalist, he strongly implies faith in an inclusive hereafter:

Rebecca, however erroneously taught to interpret the promises of Scripture to the chosen people of Heaven, did not err in supposing the present to be their hour of trial, or in trusting that the children of Zion would be one day called in with the fulness of the Gentiles. In the meanwhile, all around her showed that their present state was that of punishment and probation, and that it was their especial duty to suffer without sinning. (p. 235; Ch. 24)

Jews, Scott implies, will be admitted to that equal sky, entered not by everyone who sayeth "Lord, Lord" but by him who doeth the Father's will.

Feeling this way, Rebecca and (presumably) Ivanhoe in varying degrees seek to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. But their course is not always a safe one in twelfth-century England; and Scott, like his contemporary Blake who chronicles the martyrdom of a freethinking Little Boy Lost, implicitly asks if such things are done on Albion's shore. As a Christian (though one moving, we may assume, toward a more latitudinarian creed), Ivanhoe faces less social intimidation than Rebecca, and he will be reinstated as to fief, the good graces of a mellowing father, and the hand of a Lady whose intrinsic kindness will do much to make amends for a certain limit of vision. Rebecca and her father, though, will have to hope for a safer existence under Islamic moderation in Spain than under Christian fundamentalism in England. Before she leaves, Rebecca calls on Rowena with friendly words, rich gifts, and a curiosity which under the circumstances Rowena cannot resent:

"The bridal veil hangs over thy face; deign to raise it, and let me see the features of which fame speaks so highly."

"They are scarce worthy of being looked upon," said Rowena; "but, expecting the same from my visitant, I remove the veil."

She took it off accordingly. . . .

"Lady," [Rebecca] said, "the countenance you have deigned to show me will long dwell in my remembrance. There reigns in it gentleness and goodness; and if a tinge of the world's pride or vanities may mix with an expression so lovely, how should we chide that which is of earth for bearing some colour of its original?" (pp. 465-6; Ch. 44)

Wilt, subtly analyzing this important scene, finds both heroines "uncovered" and both, in antithetic ways, "lovely and dangerous" (Wilt, pp. 47-8). But Scott, in saying that Rowena removed her veil and that both women blushed, never says that Rebecca removed hers also; thus he anticipates a scene in The brothers Karamazov where a "dark heroine," Grushenka, will induce a "light heroine," Katerina, to kiss her and then whimsically decline to return the kiss. Careful as well as religiously tolerant, Rebecca has long understood the importance of veils in a society that makes tolerance a vice. And Ivanhoe, who "might have risen still higher but for the premature death of the heroic Coeur-de-Lion" (Ivanhoe, p. 467; Ch. 44), will probably find the regime of John a bad time for universal liberty and justice. None could know better than Scott that even at the date of the Magna Carta or later, too open an enlightenment can lead to Disinheritance in many forms and can necessitate the secrecy of a helmet, the protective cover of the pilgrim's habit. If a "vainly-expected Messiah" is to bring redress, the religiously disparate hero and heroine of this realistic romance will have to live and die asking "How long?"


1 Scott's little-known Religious Discourses by a Layman (Philadelphia, 1828) comprises two sermons which he wrote for a clergyman friend, George Huntly Gordon. John Buchan speaks of their "irreproachable orthodoxy" (Buchan, p. 315), a characterization with which I concur: In his preface Scott acknowledges that "they contain no novelty of opinion" (Discourses VII). Linking Judaism and Christianity, Scott stresses Christ's words from the Sermon on the Mount, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets" (p. 20), but adds the specifically Christian proviso that "The Law and the Prophets were .. . to be fulfilled, not only by the doctrines which Christ preached. . . . but by the events of his life, and by the scheme of redemption which he promulgated" (pp. 28-9). Echoing tolerant sentiments found in Ivanhoe, Scott says, "Alas! the gathering of the nations has already taken place, and those who were first [i.e., Jews] have become last, yet we hope will not ultimately remain last in the road of salvation" (p. 45). But, whether speaking in his own voice or creating a pious persona appropriate for Gordon, Scott is antinomian enough to admonish that "Good deeds, whether done to be seen of men, or flowing from the natural disposition of the human heart . . . , will sink to their proper level and estimation in the eyes of the Divinity, which will not view them as an atonement for a life spent in the habitual breach of his law, and contempt for his Commandments" (p. 78). I sense a disparity between the conforming tone of these sermons and the more rationalistic tenor of the Waverley narrator.

2 For allegations of Scott's lack of concern for religious issues in his medieval fiction, see Graham McMaster, Scott and Society (Cambridge, 1981), p. 179; John Buchan, Sir Walter Scott (Port Washington, NY, 1967), pp. 227-8; and Edgar Johnson, Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown (New York, 1970), I, 746.

3 Commentators who credit the title hero with some measure of intelligence and rationality include McMaster (p. 64) and Judith Wilt, in Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott (Chicago, 1985), p. 41. On the other hand, Joseph Cottom, in The Civilized Imagination: A Study of Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, and Sir Walter Scott (Cambridge, 1985), sees Ivanhoe as "stalwart but unimaginative," "passionate and naive" (p. 153).

4 See McMaster, especially pp. 49 and 227; Avrom Fleishman, The English Historical Novel: Walter Scott to Virginia Woolf (Baltimore, 1971), pp. 44 and 57; and John P. Farrell, Revolution as Tragedy: The Dilemma of the Moderate from Scott to Arnold (Ithaca, NY, 1980), pp. 72 and 83.

5 Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe: A Romance (New York: New American Library, 1962), p. 146 (Ch. 12). All further references to Ivanhoe are to this edition and are cited in the text. Chapter numbers have been added for the convenience of readers using other editions of Scott.

6 Alexander Welsh, in The Hero of the Waverley Novels (New York, 1968), distinguishes between light and dark heroes and heroines in Scott; see especially p. 65. I find that Ivanhoe's blending of light hair and dark features symbolically places him between Welsh's categories.

7 Sir Walter Scott, Quentin Durward (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1944), p. 164.

8 David Brown, in Walter Scott and the HistoricalImagination (London, 1979), objects that Wamba and Gurth in this scene are complaining about Norman oppressors when the Saxon, Cedric, is the immediate source of the exploitations they mention (p. 185).

9 Jerome Mitchell, Scott, Chaucer, and Medieval Romance: A Study in Sir Walter Scott's Indebtedness to the Literature of the Middle Ages (Lexington, KY, 1987), p. 129.

10 Duncan Forbes, in "The Rationalism of Sir Walter Scott," Cambridge Journal, 7 (1953) places Scott's religion among "survivals from the Age of Reason," as indicated by his emphasis on "beneficial effects on the state of society," "his concern with morality," and "his anti-clericalism" (p. 21). A. N. Wilson, in The Laird of Abbotsford: A View of Sir Walter Scott (Oxford, 1980), partly concurs that Scott is not "an 'enthusiastic' man, who has experienced the ecstasy of an evangelical conversion; [he] looks outwards, instead, to Christianity as a social force, capable of inspiring, at its best, unselfish and benevolent members of society." but, Wilson adds, "That does not make [his religion] any less deep," and "it guided and informed the profound interest he took in his fiction, in the conflicting forces of religious fanaticism and cool, reasoning common sense" (p. 93).

11 Brown regards "relativism" as "a notable component of the Waverley Novels," although he applies the term to "the dubious moral value of 'progress'" (p. 202) rather than to religious attitudes as I have done. Fleishman says that to Adam Ferguson and other "scientific Whigs" who influenced Scott, "history was . . . neither the design of a deity nor the direct unfolding of an absolute, rational system, but a steady stream of tendency, good on the whole" (p. 46).

12 For a less flattering view of Athelstane, see Edgar Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (Stanford, CA, 1969), pp. 80-81.

13 Jerome Mitchell links the crowds in Scott's novels and poems to Chaucer's passage from "The Clerk's Tale" which I partially quoted (p. 61).

14 Joseph E. Duncan, in "The Anti-Romantic in 'Ivanhoe,'" Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 9 (1953), finds Scott's attitude toward the Jews to be one of total praise (p. 298); but Rosenberg notes some objections to the Jewish character on Scott's part (p. 74).

15 Scott is rather careless in accounting for Isaac's perspicacity. Ivanhoe, when first offering to help Isaac, says, "In this dress I am vowed to poverty, nor do I change it for aught save a horse and a coat of mail" (p. 79; Ch. 6). Yet when Isaac, with apparent cunning, speaks of the supposed palmer's wish for these objects, "The Palmer started," asking "What fiend prompted that guess?" (p. 84; Ch. 6) Then again, Isaac shortly thereafter confides, "in the bosom of that Palmer's gown is hidden a knight's chain and spurs of gold. They glanced as you stooped over my bed in the morning" (p. 85; Ch. 6). Since Scott is indicating Isaac's superior understanding, whether by virtue of careful attendance to Ivanhoe's words or close observation of attire, the effect is muddled by Ivanhoe's having named his wish. Otherwise, Isaac's penetration resembles that of Bois-Guilbert, whose remarks in delivering a challenge at supper imply that he knows that the palmer is Ivanhoe.

16 Francis R. Hart, Scott's Novels: The Plotting ofHistorical Survival (Charlottesville, 1966), p. 158.

17 A. O. J. Cockshut, The Achievement of Walter Scott (New York, 1969), p. 98.

18 Georg Lukács, in The Historical Novel (Atlantic Highlands, NJ, 1978), defends anachronisms of this sort on the grounds that they express universal truths (p. 63).

19 The recurring "Disinheritance" motif in Ivanhoe is discussed by Rosenberg (pp. 101-02).

20 For negative assessments of Richard, see Hart (pp. 158-160), Johnson (p. 743), and Wilt (p. 39).

21 The attitudes of Hart and Johnson toward militarism are implicit in their views on Richard, cited earlier. Further, says Johnson, "The code of chivalry is . . . often no more than the mask of violence, rapacity, and bloodshed, and leaves unredressed more wrongs than it rights" (p. 743).

22 Sir Walter Scott, The Fair Maid of Perth or St.Valentine's Day (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1929), p. 345.

23 Other commentators to note Scott's sometimes preference for violence over legalism include Robert C. Gordon, in Under Which King? A Study of the Scottish Waverley Novels (New York, 1969), p. 30; and David Brown, p. 35.

24 However, Gordon feels that the ending of Old Mortality is anachronistically troubled (pp. 65-6), whereas Brown faults Scott for making the historical circumstances in this novel more favorable for a happy ending than was justified (pp. 182-3).

25 Jane Millgate, in Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist (Toronto, 1984), views Edgar as tragically ahead of his time in his enlightenment (p. 182), a view shared by Farrell (p. 115). By contrast, Gordon regards Edgar as being doomed by his conservatism, not by his liberalism (p. 101). I would, of course, link Ivanhoe and Rebecca with Millgate's and Farrell's interpretation of Edgar rather than Gordon's.

26 See Farrell, p. 70; Lukács, p. 63; Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago, 1981), p. 95.

27 McMaster does not analyze Ivanhoe in detail but tends to downplay it constantly in comparison with Scott's allegedly better works, including several of the medieval novels. His view is that Scott usually employed the past effectively and metaphorically to express his fears about the present, especially revolution and absolutist ideologies: "Scott never rejected rationalist doctrines in toto. . . . What he came more and more to doubt was the Enlightenment belief in progress, progress in the sense that life is constantly improving in terms of individual satisfaction, not merely changing" (p. 51). These fears and doubts are what I see reflected in the conclusion of Ivanhoe, making it unclear to me why McMaster considers the novel inferior.

28 See especially pp. 74-5 of Farrell.

Michael Ragussis (essay date 1993)

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SOURCE: "Writing Nationalist History: England, the Conversion of the Jews, and Ivanhoe," in ELH, Vol. 60, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 181-215.

[In the following essay, Ragussis argues that Scott's depiction of the conflict between Jewish and Anglo-Saxon traditions suggests that history proceeds through the synthesis of cultures rather than the preservation of homogeneous racial identity.]

I: "The Crisis of All Nations"

While Scott was writing his first medieval novel in the summer and fall of 1819, the revival of medievalism in the German states was taking a particularly noxious form. The rise of German nationalism, crystallized by the expulsion of the French after the defeat of Napoleon, climaxed in the famous anti-Semitic persecutions known as the "Hep! Hep!" riots. The idea of Christian medievalism became realized in these persecutions when the rioters reiterated the cry of the Crusaders who massacred the Jews in 1096.1 The direct impact of these anti-Semitic persecutions on English politics and letters is not the subject of this essay—neither John Cam Hobhouse's speech in 1820 to the House of Commons on the naturalization of persecuted German Jews seeking asylum in England, nor George Eliot's decision to conclude Theophrastus Such with her celebrated essay "The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!". Instead, I view these persecutions as the most palpable sign of a specific contemporary problem of international consequence to which Scott's medieval romance was a response—namely, the problem of two forms of identity in conflict: European national identity and Jewish identity.

In the first place, the persecutions make clear the political consequences of what is too often seen as the primarily aesthetic nature of Romantic medievalism—as if, in the case of Ivanhoe, Scott had given us no more than an idle and decorative dream of the past. The persecutions can serve to explode the "innocence" of medievalism, its purely "antiquarian" nature. In this light, the apparent coincidence with which I have begun—the medieval persecutions of the Jews were being restaged in 1819 not only by Scott, for public consumption, in the form of the historical novel, but also by the brutal riots which swept through the towns of Germany and Prussia—has a deeper logic: Ivanhoe explores the relationship between Jewish persecution and the incipient birth of English national unity in the twelfth-century, and in this way replicates the contemporary crisis of national identity in Germany in 1819. In the guise of a medieval romance, then, Scott was addressing the ways in which contemporary European nations were working out the conflict between the rise of nationalism and the claims made on behalf of Jewish emancipation, including the idea of granting the Jews their own national identity by restoring them to Palestine. For such reasons I wish to locate Ivanhoe at the international crossroads of one of the most pressing political questions of the day, the relation between national identity and alien populations, between the native and the foreign.

In the course of this essay I will attempt to answer why Scott was drawn to the conflict between European national identity and Jewish identity. But first I wish to explain how Scott's exploration of this conflict was shaped by the particular way in which "the Jewish question" emerged as a pressing European concern from the time of the French Revolution to the summer in which Scott began writing Ivanhoe in 1819. The status of the Jews, historically subject to the radical fluctuations of political power that occurred in the different countries in which they lived as aliens, nonetheless had never gone through such dramatic swings as in the three-decade period from 1789 to 1819—that is, from the emancipation of the Jews in France as a result of the French Revolution, to the plans of Napoleon and others to restore them to their homeland in Palestine (for which the world had to wait more than a century), to the revival of medieval atrocities in Germany, including pamphlets that called for the immediate expulsion or outright slaughter of the Jews.

England was not merely a spectator of such fluctuations in the status of the Jews. The turbulence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars had the effect of reviving in England an unusually deep-rooted tradition of millenarian thought.2 The vast political upheavals in Europe at this time spurred the rereading of Hebrew prophecy with an eye to predicting how and when the restoration of the Jews would signal the Second Coming. Countless sermons, tracts, pamphlets, and books proclaimed the Jews as the central figures of world history, and even as the center of a crisis demanding the attention of all nations, as the title of James Bicheno's The Restoration of the Jews, The Crisis of all Nations (1800) made clear. The on-going war between France and England became reconfigured as a contest over which of the two powers, "atheistical" France or Christian England, would lead the Jews back to their homeland, with Napoleon variously represented as the anti-Christ and the Messiah (even of specifically Jewish birth).3 So, when Reginald Heber read his prize-winning poem "Palestine" to Scott in 1803, Heber was not alone in reacting to Napoleon's invasion of Palestine by criticizing the restoration of the Jews as a specifically French project: "Yet shall she rise; but not by war restored, / Nor built in murder, planted by the sword" but by "thy Father's aid."4 Likewise, Rebecca's "medieval" beliefs in Ivanhoe refer the reader to the prophecies in Hebrew Scripture that were being reread and revitalized in England in the three-decade period leading up to Scott's writing of the novel: "Rebecca, however erroneously taught to interpret the promises of Scripture to the chosen people of Heaven, did not err in supposing the present to be their hour of trial, or in trusting that the children of Zion would be one day called in with the fulness of the Gentiles" (214).5 The restoration of the Jews, vaguely positioned as "one day" in the distant future for the medieval Jew, had become at the beginning of the nineteenth century an urgent question that mixed mystical and political interests and thereby became "the crisis of all nations." Perhaps even in the two opposing forms of delivery offered to Rebecca at her trial in Ivanhoe, the English champion ivanhoe versus the reckless and atheistic Norman noble Bois-Guilbert, Scott is responding to the different English and French approaches to "the Jewish question" within the contemporary European community.

When Heber takes the restoration of the Jews out of the hands of Napoleon and places it in the hands of God, he recalls the deeply rooted tradition in England that speaks in the same breath of the Jews' restoration and their conversion. By this I mean that freedom from the "atheistical" French may in fact deliver the Jews into the bondage of the powerful English tradition of conversionism. In this light, Heber's lines in 1803 do not differ materially from Milton's lines more than a century before, when Christ successfully resists the temptations of Satan (Heber's Napoleon) to "restore [the Jews] / To their inheritance" through "battles and leagues": "Yet he at length, time to himself best known, / Rememb'ring Abraham, by some wond'rous call / May bring them back repentant and sincere."6 The "call" that Scott's Rebecca expectantly awaits, and that Milton's Christ hesitantly acknowledges, is a critical touchstone of a tradition of English millenarian thought about the relation between the Jews' history and world history. Milton's lines can in fact stand for the predominant English position, at least through the beginning of the nineteenth century, when conversion was a prerequisite for restoration: "repentant and sincere," the Jews would become candidates for restoration.

In England after the French Revolution, the idea of restoring the Jews to their homeland was typically linked to, and often superseded by, the project to convert the Jews. The English religious revival, and the interest it generated in Hebrew Scripture and Jewish history, witnessed the establishment of a group of societies that were recognized throughout Europe as specifically English institutions: the London Missionary Society (1795), the Church Missionary Society (1799), the Religious Tract Society (1799), the British and Foreign Bible Society (1804), among others, though of chief concern to my argument is the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews (1809). The activities of the LSPCJ were especially well-publicized in pamphlets and periodicals and books, and became the source of fiery debate and scandal. The career of Lewis Way (1772-1840), who saved the LSPCJ from financial ruin and became one of its prime supporters, demonstrates the way in which the English religious revival entered the European arena to promote "the Jewish question" as the crisis of all nations. In the fall before Scott began writing Ivanhoe, Way visited synagogues and ghettoes in Germany and Central Europe, and climaxed his journey with a series of meetings with Czar Alexander of Russia, during which the two men hatched plans for the international emancipation of the Jews. Alexander finally convinced Way to speak before the most important leaders of Europe—Metternich, Castlereagh, Richelieu, Wellington—at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in the fall of 1818, trying to convince the European powers to make good on the promises they had made at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) to emancipate the Jews. Despite his international prominence, Way could not protect the LSPCJ from attack at home, so that Way and his society became the subjects of vigorous public attacks, for using illegitimate means to convert the Jews, for squandering funds that could better be used in more urgent social programs, and for producing too few converts, and insincere ones at that.7

Scandalous accounts of insincere conversions became legion in the years preceding the publication of Ivanhoe, and in this light Scott's depiction of Friar Tuck's inauthentic conversion of Isaac can be read as a mixture of medieval history and the politics of contemporary religious controversy. The genuinely tragic history of medieval Christian proselytism (Jews often faced death as the only alternative to conversion) merges with a satire on contemporary Evangelicalism, when Scott depicts an incompetent cleric dragging behind him an insincere convert, with a halter fastened to his neck. When Isaac finally admits that he has not understood a word the "mad" Friar spoke, and thereby "relapses," though not without the Friar reminding him of his "promise to give all thy substance to our holy order" (310-11), the Friar finally falls back on the stereotype of the recalcitrant and hard-hearted Jew: "the leopard will not change his spots, and a Jew he will continue to be" (313). The scene functions at once as a critique of the history of Christian proselytism and as a satire on what began to be characterized, in early nineteenth-century Europe, as a special brand of English "religious infatuation" known as "the English madness"—English missionary zeal.8

By depicting the proselytization of the Jews in this scene and elsewhere in Ivanhoe, and by reinscribing the persecution of the Jews as a prominent chapter in the history of medieval England, Scott enters the nineteenth-century debate on English national identity. My argument here will depend finally on demonstrating the way in which "the Jewish question" emerged in England after the French Revolution as a way of redefining different national histories, and ultimately, different national identities. But first I will examine the way in which the rhetoric of conversion enters not only the text of Ivanhoe, but English historical writing in general. I will attempt to show that this rhetoric, borrowed from the religious revival, lies at the heart of the construction of English national identity from the time of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), through the tradition of medieval English historiography that runs from Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons (1799-1805) to Edward Augustus Freeman's History of the Norman Conquest (1867-1876). In fact, I will suggest that the trope of conversion becomes the central figure by which writers of English history attempt to construct, regulate, maintain, and erase different racial and national identities. Scott's special position in this tradition depends on his critique of the traditional construction of English national identity—a critique made possible, at least in part, by the special position Scott occupies in Ivanhoe as a Scottish writer of English history. In particular, I will argue that Scott demystifies the trope of conversion by historicizing it—that is, by redefining it in the context of the history of the Jews. By rewriting English history as Anglo-Jewish history in Ivanhoe, Scott exposes the ways in which racial and cultural differences are regularly erased in the project of writing English nationalist history.

II: Scott's Apostasy

Why should he then despise the first state, and the improving progress of his Saxon ancestors? This nation exhibits the conversion of ferocious pirates, into a highly civilized, informed, and generous people—in a word, into ourselves.9

This passage from Sharon Turner's The History of the Anglo-Saxons, long acknowledged as one of the chief influences on Ivanhoe, allows me to introduce the way in which the figure of conversion becomes institutionalized in the writing of English history during the Evangelical Revival. In Turner's hands, conversion becomes the central trope of historical change: the course of history "converts" the ancient Saxon into the modern Englishman, so that conversion is defined as no more than the process of history itself—the process of "improving progress." The "conversion" that Turner describes produces no more than "ourselves," and hence the term is neutralized, domesticated, in fact Anglicized: conversion is the natural process by which our Saxon ancestors became modern English gentlemen, and the historian becomes nothing more than a kind of genealogist. In such a definition "conversion" is an entirely natural process divorced from both the theory and practice of conversion. In other words, such a definition neglects the radical transformation of Jew into Christian that was the goal of Christian proselytism, and the brutal coercion that the Jews experienced, both from the mob and from the State, when they were told to convert or die, to convert or go into exile, in England and in Europe generally.

One might speak of Turner as articulating this view of conversion "innocently" because his History is not a history of the Jews. It would be more correct to say that Turner the historian does not fully historicize the concept of conversion; he mythologizes the term, mystifying it by making himself and the modern Englishman its heirs (quite literally), and in so doing empties the term of the powerful meaning it has in Anglo-Jewish history—for such a history we will have to turn to Scott. That Turner had personal knowledge of the meaning conversion held for a contemporary Jew, we know from the fact that he was the godfather of Benjamin Disraeli; the latter explains how Turner "after much trouble" obtained Isaac D'Israeli's "half consent to have his children baptized one day in 1817, "upon which Mr. Turner called on the day following and took us off to St. Andrew's, Holborn."10 Perhaps the conversion of the D'Israeli children was for Turner no more than the kind of "improving progress" that history required equally of Saxon pirates and contemporary Jews in order to make the modern Englishman, "highly civilized, informed, and generous." Such a view, however, would fail to recognize the critical difference between the cultural institutionalization of conversion as a procedure by which the identity of the Other is suddenly transformed, and the apparently natural process of social evolution by which the Saxon becomes, over centuries, the modern Englishman—the process Turner designates as "conversion."

When Scott conceives of history, and even of the evolution of English national identity, he does so (unlike Turner) by contextualizing the idea of conversion through its meaning in Jewish history, and in this way Ivanhoe becomes a critique of conversion. I mean that Scott undermines the definition of conversion as a form of evolutionary continuity by conceiving of conversion as a form of radical discontinuity; in the former definition we find no more than the natural history of ourselves, while in the latter we find the cultural institutionalization of a division within the self of the Other. First, as I will show, Scott reviewed (and critiqued) the conventional mode of English historiography, which established the perfect continuity between Saxon ancestor and modern Englishman; and second, in a series of scenes in which Isaac and Rebecca are proselytized, Scott explored conversion as a means of radically dividing the Jewish self from its ancestral origins.

The difference between Turner's and Scott's uses of the idea of conversion is grounded in the different relationship the two writers bear to English history. Turner occupies a critical position in the development of historiography in the early nineteenth century—that is, in the movement away from the "universalist" or "philosophic" history-writing of the Scottish Enlightenment, toward the histories of particular peoples, the history of the nation-state.11 The new note in historywriting is sounded when Turner makes plain that his interest in the earliest periods of English history is motivated by a kind of pride in national origins, something essentially alien to Enlightenment thinking: "Why should he then despise the first state and the improving progress of his Saxon ancestors?" In fact, the new interest in Anglo-Saxon and medieval history—the periods most undervalued, sometimes even scorned, in, for example, Hume's History of England (1754-62)—develops out of a desire to focus on the historical epoch in which the national identity of England took shape and on the ancestors who still live in "our" present experience: "Our language, our government, and our laws, display our Gothic ancestors in every part: they live, not merely in our annals and traditions, but in our civil institutions and perpetual discourse."12 Turner's History, we must recall, is at least in part a product of the new English nationalism that began in reaction against the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic era. In this light Turner's invocation to "ourselves" signals not, as it would for the philosophic historian of the Enlightenment, the triumph of a kind of universal civilization over earlier, ruder stages of mankind's development, but the crystallization of a highly specific form of identity, English identity; and unlike the authors of the Scottish Enlightenment, who aimed at a European audience, and who felt that any national partisanship marred the writing of history, Turner's address to "ourselves" limits his audience to his English compatriots. Turner unashamedly writes his History out of a "patriotic curiosity" in the national forefathers, when much of Europe stood amazed at the extraordinary rupture in national history in France.13

Scott's relationship to the English national character—which is, after all, the focus of Ivanhoe, as Scott himself confessed when he spoke of moving from the "Scottish novels" to "a subject purely English" (xi)—is much more problematic than Turner's. I wish to use an almost entirely forgotten event in Scott's life, absent even from the standard biographies, to characterize how he came to write a "purely English" subject that incorporated the question of Jewish identity—how, in effect, the Jewish characters in Ivanhoe mark Scott's own personal anxiety over conversion and the idea of a "purely English" history.

When Isaac Nathan (1790-1864) was looking for a poet to write English lyrics for a collection of Hebrew melodies he wanted to publish, he asked Scott before asking Byron (who eventually brought out the Hebrew Melodies in 1815); and while Scott declined the offer, he nonetheless visited Nathan's studio in 1815 to hear the composer perform the Melodies.14 Nathan's choice of Scott uncannily anticipated, and perhaps even influenced, the novelist's decision to take up the Jewish past in Ivanhoe only a few years later. Nathan may have chosen Scott simply because his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-1803) bore such a clear relationship to that relatively new literary phenomenon of the opening decades of the nineteenth century, the publication of national melodies (including, for example, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh melodies). But I believe that Nathan recognized in Scott a voice that spoke, within Britain, for a minority population that was in danger of being entirely subsumed in the majority culture. For Scott had made plain in the introduction to the Minstrelsy that his collection of ballads was an attempt to contribute to "the history of my native country; the peculiar features of whose manners and character are daily melting and dissolving into those of her sister and ally. And, trivial as may appear such an offering to the manes of a kingdom, once proud and independent, I hang it upon her altar with a mixture of feelings which I shall not attempt to describe."15 Nathan may have recognized in Scott, then, a writer who experienced first-hand the dangers of assimilation. In light of the Union of 1707, in which Scotland ceased to have an independent political existence, and of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 (the subject of Waverley), Scotland could well have been characterized as a kind of "nation within a nation," the conventional phrase used to question the political status of the Jews in England, Germany, and elsewhere.16 The typical argument against Jewish emancipation claimed that the Jews' first allegiance would never be to England because the Jews would always represent a separate and alien nation within a modern European nation-state—unless they converted: "For the Jews I see no plea of justice whatever; they are voluntary strangers here, and have no claim to become citizens, but by conforming to our moral law, which is the Gospel."17 In any case, shortly after refusing Nathan's invitation, Scott turned to the question of Jewish national identity in Ivanhoe, in which his earlier words about the former glory of Scotland, "once proud and independent," are echoed in Rebecca's paeans to ancient Israel. It was a subject that Byron elegized in the Hebrew Melodies: "The wild-dove hath her nest, the fox his cave, / Mankind their country—Israel but the grave!"18 But it was Scott who drew the attention of the entire European community to the history of the politically disenfranchised Jews, by exploring the way in which their lack of national status was mirrored at once in the Saxons after the Norman Conquest and in the Scots after their incorporation in Great Britain.

In short, when Scott came to write Ivanhoe he did not approach English history with simple and unambiguous "patriotic curiosity," because his own national and cultural allegiances were more complicated than Turner's. In fact, Scott deliberately ironized the typical mode of English history-writing so well epitomized by Turner, whom Scott mentions with apparent reverence (xxii) in the dedicatory epistle to Ivanhoe. Scott's ambivalent relationship to his subject is signalled by the way in which he names himself and thereby positions himself in relation to his audience. In Turner's case, the rhetorical use of "ourselves" is part of a larger ideology, which consolidates his own position and that of the English people within a unified national history: history becomes the evidence of a shared national genealogy, the record of kinship. For Scott, on the other hand, the use of such consolidating pronouns of national identity is an ironic fiction. In the midst of a series of insistent contrasts between English and Scottish authors (xxi), and between English and Scottish readers (xxii), Scott in the dedicatory epistle disguises himself as the Englishman "Laurence Templeton," the apparent author of Ivanhoe, and thereby erases his own Scottish identity: "I cannot but think it strange that no attempt has been made to excite an interest for the traditions and manners of Old England, similar to that which has been obtained in behalf of those of our poorer and less celebrated neighbours" (xx). Scott authenticates his claim to write on a "purely English" subject, then, by posing as an Englishman, with a characteristically English sneer at his "poorer and less celebrated neighbours" to the north. The fiction of "Laurence Templeton" is in fact double—he is not the author of Waverley (he is not Scott), and he is an Englishman (he is not a Scot):

Admitting that the Author [of Waverley] cannot himself be supposed to have witnessed those times, he must have lived . . . among persons who had acted and suffered in them; and even within these thirty years, such an infinite change has taken place in the manners of Scotland that men look back upon the habits of society prior to their immediate ancestors as we do on those of the reign of Queen Anne, or even the period of the Revolution. (xx)

Scott's use of the pronouns "our" and "we" in such passages directs us to the way in which the fiction of his English persona broaches the question of the political fiction of the modern European nation-state, in which a variety of peoples and cultures are not simply mixed but blurred and sometimes erased. Does Scott, in speaking for English history, speak for the future Scot, whose only traditions one day will be English? Do "we" and "our" serve as harbingers of the assimilated Scot of the future, who will have only one story to tell, the story of English history? The insistent recurrence of phrases such as "our forefathers," "our ancestors," and "my countrymen" (xxi-xxii), and the characterization of the entire project of Ivanhoe as an attempt "to illustrate the domestic antiquities of England, and particularly of our Saxon forefathers" (xix), mark the irony of Scott's position as a writer of English history and distinguish his position from Turner's simple embracing of his "Saxon ancestors."

Scott characterizes the anachronisms that mar the historical accuracy of his text as "polluting the well of history with modern inventions" (xxiii). But the purely aesthetic danger of the historical novelist is superseded by the danger of Scott the Scot reinventing himself as an Englishman—which is precisely the danger of the assimilationist politics of the Union of 1707. I am suggesting that the modern "Englishman" with an erased Scottish background is the "modern invention" that pollutes the well of history—not unlike, I might add, the Christian convert with an erased Jewish past. The English persona of the dedicatory epistle, then, is not simply an aesthetic fiction, but a political fiction produced by recent history, and in this way Scott explores the profound anxiety of maintaining an assimilated or converted identity. Ivanhoe is initiated, then, under the sign of a kind of apostasy. Scott's English credentials mark both his shame in denying his own Scottish origins, and his pride in managing to "pass," to succeed at writing English history (and English prose); for in 1830 he was able to acknowledge that "he has ever since [the success of Ivanhoe] been permitted to exercise his powers of fictitious composition in England as well as Scotland" (xvii).

When Scott reinvents himself as a kind of convert, an Englishman who erases his identity as a Scot, he at the same time represents the modern Englishman as a kind of convert who fails to see the ways in which he denies his mixed national heritage. In this way, Scott attacks the conventional formulations of English history (as continuous) and English identity (as pure). For Scott, history is a lengthy process of racial mixture, and English history is no exception, as the plot of Ivanhoe will prove by delineating the mixed Saxon and Norman genealogy of the modern Englishman. In taking up English history, Ivanhoe attempts to dislodge the modern Englishman from a special form of complacence about the easy continuity between himself and his ancestors; for while the Scottish reader accepts a vision in which "a set of wild manners, and a state of primitive society" represent his own ancestors, the Englishman cannot believe "his own ancestors led a very different life from himself (xxii). Ivanhoe, in this light, is an attack on a purely English subject, on the comfortable modern-day Englishman, "placed in his own snug parlour, and surrounded by all the comforts of an Englishman's fireside" (xxii). In short, Scott envisions history as the record of difference; and history-writing in Ivanhoe functions to demystify English subjectivity by reconstituting the basis of English national identity in racial and religious difference.

III. Conversion and Genocide

When Gurth and Wamba enter the forest glade in the initial scene of Ivanhoe, they enter as belated figures in a historic drama of conversion that has already been played out, in different ways, time and again. For Scott's natural landscape bears not simply the marks of civilization, but the marks of conversion—those signs of religious and national change that constitute the history of civilization. In other words, the setting of King Richard's return from the Crusades reveals the signs of a previous religious worship, "the rites of Druidical superstition": in the midst of the glade that Scott's characters enter, "there still remained part of a circle of rough, unhewn stones, of large dimensions." While seven of these stones stand upright, "the rest had been dislodged from their places, probably by the zeal of some convert to Christianity" (4). The ground of speculation for Scott the historian is clear from the beginning: as a writer of social history, Scott's focus is drawn to the unknown and unnamed convert who nonetheless marks the landscape with the signs of religious and national change. The convert, if not the moving force of history, is the sign of such movement, the figure within whom we read the two identities of past and present. But the convert himself often denies this double identity, so that the historian must frequently expose the work of suppression that the convert has performed—in this case, Scott must publish the almost erased drama of conversion in which the convert to Christianity attempts to "dislodge" every trace of Druidism. History-writing, then, uncovers the signs of those conversions by which one culture absorbs, erases, and succeeds another.

When "the human figures which completed this landscape" (4) actually do arrive on the scene, they enter to announce the latest chapter in the history of conversion. The elaborate descriptions of Saxon dress and manners, by which Scott introduces Gurth and Wamba to us, are freighted with irony, given that the characters themselves speak of the danger that is about to engulf them, namely their erasure in Norman culture. Wamba recommends to Gurth the swineherd, "leave the herd to their destiny, which, whether they meet with bands of travelling soldiers, or of outlaws, or of wandering pilgrims, can be little else than to be converted into Normans before morning" (7). Wamba explains his use of the figure of conversion in the following way: while "swine" designates the live herd in "good Saxon," "the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up by the heels . . . becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the castle hall to feast among the nobles" (7-8). The change from one language to another in translation signals, for Wamba, the complete absorption and erasure of one culture by another in conversion: both changes signify the difference between life and death. In the initial dialogue of the novel, then, Wamba introduces the radical definition of conversion that will frame the entire plot of Ivanhoe: conversion is nothing less than genocide. "Swine" is, after all, the generic name by which the Normans consistently characterize the Saxons—when, for instance, Bois-Guilbert speaks of "preparing these Saxon hogs [Cedric and Athelstane] for the slaughter-house" (231). In short, Wamba's vision of Saxon swine converted into Norman pork characterizes the Norman Conquest, the historical subject of Ivanhoe, as a form of racial murder. What remains to be understood are the effects, for Scott's historical novel and for English historiography in general, of Wamba's definition of conversion.

Ulrica's story of the Norman slaughter of her Saxon family is the novel's most potent and most condensed narrative illustration of Wamba's definition of conversion as genocide. While Scott records the slaughter of the male line of Saxons—in the case of Ulrica's family, for instance, the Normans "shed the blood of infancy rather than a male of the noble house of Torquil Wolfganger should survive" (239)—he seems more interested in exploring woman's role in the annihilation or preservation of racial and national identity, in the parallel stories of Ulrica, Rowena, and Rebecca. Such an exploration helps to crystallize the idea of conversion as rape that lies just below the surface of Wamba's text: the general description of the swine "running on all fours" suddenly focuses on the gender-specific "sow" turned upside down, "the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up." Precisely insofar as Ulrica's story demonstrates the way in which conversion functions as a sexual transgression that is at the same time a racial erasure, her story represents a narrative model that threatens to overtake the stories of the two other major female characters in the novel, Rowena and Rebecca.

By exposing the double identity of the convert, Ulrica's story demonstrates the way in which the convert's case history is the model of all historical writing for Scott—that is, the uncovering of an earlier identity that has been lost, repressed psychologically and suppressed by a more powerful culture. By telling her story in the form of a confession to the man she designates as "Cedric called the Saxon" (238), who is at the time disguised as a priest, Ulrica's story becomes a confession of her apostasy, with Cedric cast in the role of restoring her to her Saxon identity. Cedric is startled to meet "the murdered Ulrica" (239), for he has believed until now that she met the same fate as her father and brothers. But his description is nonetheless figuratively accurate: the murdered Ulrica is the converted Ulrica, as Wamba's definition of conversion predicts, because, after the slaughter of her family, her Saxon identity disappears—she lives under the assumed name of Urfried, as "the slave" and "the paramour" (239) of her family's murderer, and contemplates "all that she has lost by the name of Front-de-Boeuf ' (284).

Living among Normans under a false name, speaking the language and assuming the customs and manners of the Normans that she secretly despises, Ulrica is like a false convert: she survives the Conquest by pretending to be a Norman. With her name lost, and her face no longer clearly bearing the features of her family (240), Ulrica becomes the tragic mime of the male characters in the novel who deliberately hide both name and face: Richard, Ivanhoe, Gurth, Cedric, Robin Hood.19Ivanhoe is structured as a comedy of disguise in which the Shakespearean convention of cross-dressing crosses the border not of gender but of race and class. Typically, the Saxon men hide both name and face in order to cross over into the Norman world safely; in other words, they periodically are subject to a kind of forced conversion, when their lives depend on their assuming a Norman identity. One of the most pointed ironies of Ulrica's confession scene is that Cedric is disguised as a Norman friar, about to make his escape to freedom beyond the walls of the Norman castle, when he chastises Ulrica for her apostasy, her "disguise." Gurth sounds the note of liberation and restoration for all the Saxon characters in the novel by declaring his desire to live "without hiding either my face or my name" (102); he makes this declaration when, disguised as a Norman squire-at-arms, "the translated swineherd" (163) experiences first-hand the lesson Wamba taught him about Norman translation and conversion in chapter 1.

The disguised male characters seek and find the moment of comic denouement when they throw off their disguises and make their names public, but such a moment comes tragically for Ulrica, as she herself predicts: she anticipates the day when Cedric will say of her, "whatever was the life of Ulrica, her death well became the daughter of the noble Torquil" (242). Ulrica's story ends in her enactment of the text's most disturbing version of racial preservation: she dies to become once again a Saxon and to support the Saxons who are currently storming the Norman castle. Only death restores her to her name—she succeeds where Front-de-Boeuf fails, to "perish as becomes my name" (284)—and in her last appearance, at the moment of committing suicide, she is described as "the Saxon Ulrica" (299). Moreover, the fire by which Ulrica kills herself allows the two heroines to escape from their Norman imprisonment at Torquilstone—an imprisonment which, in both cases, is being used to threaten them with conversion, to make Rowena a Norman (and a bride) and Rebecca a Christian (and a paramour).

IV. The Politics of Naming in English Historiography

Rowena, "the Saxon heiress" (203), functions in the racial politics of medieval England as the object of two competing marriage plots, both of which subdue her personal identity to her racial identity. Prince John's plan to marry Rowena to the Norman Maurice de Bracy is an attempt at annihilating the Saxon dynasty, while Cedric's plan to marry her to Athelstane, "that last scion of Saxon royalty" (295), is an attempt at preserving it. John's plan for Rowena's marriage is a plan to "amend her blood, by wedding her to a Norman" (123), to "produce her not again to her kindred until she be the bride and dame of Maurice de Bracy" (144), where producing her to her kindred is a form of reproducing her—subsuming her in the name of a Norman husband, changing her lineage, and eradicating her racial ancestry. Amending her blood, then, is a highly specialized version of textual correction, where the text to be amended is Rowena's Saxon genealogy. In short, forcing Rowena to marry a Norman becomes a form of forced conversion.

Rowena's marriage to Ivanhoe at the end of the novel does not represent merely the triumph of her own personal will. It more importantly represents a political and historical middle ground between Cedric's plan to marry Rowena to Athelstane (thereby securing the Saxon dynasty) and John's plan to marry her to De Bracy (thereby erasing a prominent Saxon family). Once we realize that Rowena's marriage to the Normanized Ivanhoe anticipates the happy intermarriage of the races, we realize that it functions as a third alternative to the historical problem upon which Scott predicates his entire novel in chapter 1: "Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interests, two hostile races" (2). The solution to the hostility of the races of the first chapter is clearly represented in the comic festival of marriage in the last chapter, when the nuptial "union" of the couple is made to signal the future political "union" of the races:

These distinguished nuptials were celebrated by the attendance of the high-born Normans, as well as Saxons, joined with the universal jubilee of the lower orders, that marked the marriage of two individuals as a pledge of the future peace and harmony betwixt two races, which, since that period, have been so completely mingled that the distinction has become wholly invisible. Cedric lived to see this union approximate toward its completion; for, as the two nations mixed in society and formed intermarriages with each other, the Normans abated their scorn, and the Saxons were refined from their rusticity. But it was not until the reign of Edward the Third that the mixed language, now termed English, was spoken at the court of London, and that the hostile distinction of Norman and Saxon seems entirely to have disappeared. (447)

As a historical novel based upon "a subject purely English," Ivanhoe's final public event is a marriage whose pretext is clear: to bestow upon the incipient English population their proper name. The conventional announcement of progeny that frequently completes the comic marriage plot becomes freighted with historical and political significance in Ivanhoe: the nuptials of Rowena and Ivanhoe proleptically become a baptism of their symbolic progeny, the English people.

The marriage of Rowena and Ivanhoe represents the first step toward the final solution of the hostilities between the Normans and the Saxons insofar as it represents a kind of intermarriage. Ivanhoe, the eponymous hero, is the critical figure in Scott's plot because he represents a hero caught between two historical moments—that is, between the ancient Saxon past of his father and the new Norman ways of his king. Ivanhoe ends with the Normanized Ivanhoe marrying the Saxon heiress, and with an important naming ritual in which King Richard rejects the name "Richard of Anjou" to call himself "Richard of England! whose deepest interest—whose deepest wish, is to see her sons united with each other" (421), a father figure whose sons include both Saxons and Normans. In this way, Scott is able to define "England" as the product of racial and cultural mixture—neither as the simple preservation of the Saxon past in the face of the Norman invasion, nor as the simple conversion of the Saxons into Normans.

The boldness of Scott's use of the Norman Conquest to authenticate the mixed racial origins of the English becomes clear when we understand the critical position the Conquest occupies in English historiography. The Norman Conquest is the key event through which ideology regularly enters and shapes the writing of English history, from the seventeenth century through the end of the Victorian period and beyond. In fact, it would not be too much to say that the Norman Conquest became the most important event in English historiography because it was the event by which the appeal to history was consistently used to establish national identity. What became the hegemonic interpretation of the Norman Conquest in the course of the seventeenth century, and continued to be put in the service of a propagandistic brand of national self-definition, was an argument that, in maintaining both the antiquity and the continuity of English (that is, Saxon) institutions, denied the Conquest was a conquest, and managed to minimize and even erase the influence of Norman culture on English history and the English national character.20 This took the form of deriving everything "English" from a Saxon heritage, and eventually made possible the full-blown Teutonism that eventually dominated English historical and political discourse in the nineteenth century.

Scott exposes the major ideological strategy of the historiography of the Norman Conquest—namely, the attempt to read "English" tradition as purely Saxon, and thereby to deny the Norman contribution to the founding of the English nation—when he exposes the Anglicization of Richard throughout the novel. The Anglicized Richard—fluent in the Saxon tongue and naming himself (when disguised as the Black Knight) as "a true English knight, for so I may surely call myself (288)—is exposed as the historian's concession to the modern Englishman's sense of historic continuity and racial purity. The lie is given to such fictionalizations in a critical footnote that explodes the ideology typically at work in the attempt to rewrite Norman identity (in this case, the Norman Richard) as "English," when "English" is no more than a codename for "Saxon." When Richard meets Friar Tuck's challenge to sing a ballad in "downright English" (159), Scott (in the person of the English antiquary Templeton) adds a footnote admitting the unlikelihood "that he [Richard] should have been able to compose or sing an English ballad; yet so much do we wish to assimilate him of the Lion Heart to the land of the warriors whom he led, that the anachronism, if there be one, may readily be forgiven" (453). This jarring note is not only a confession that a major historical figure is being fictionalized at this moment in the text, but also a suggestion that political ideology regularly enters the writing of English history, not simply in romances or historical novels, but in the hegemonic tradition of English historiography. This kind of ideological rewriting of history recalls the way in which figures such as the patriarchs of Hebrew Scripture were "assimilated" into Christian hagiology, as proto-Christians instead of Jews, so that the Anglicization of Richard has its counterpart in the Christianization of, say, Abraham and Moses.21

At the beginning of the twentieth century G. K. Chesterton recorded the ideological basis of English historiography in the following way: "Only those will permit their patriotism to falsify history whose patriotism depends on history. A man who loves England for being English will not mind how she arose. But a man who loves England for being Anglo-Saxon may go against all facts for his fancy. He may end (like Carlyle and Freeman) maintaining that the Norman Conquest was a Saxon Conquest."22 The Anglicization of Richard is an example of the kind of patriotic revision of the Norman Conquest that forms the cornerstone of the predominant interpretation of English history. In fact, I am arguing that Scott exposes the transformation of Richard's identity as a kind of figurative, or textual, conversion of Norman identity, and thereby establishes the double, and peculiarly ironic, subject of Ivanhoe—namely, that while in English history the Normans conquered the Saxons, in English historiography the Saxons conquered the Normans.

Edward Augustus Freeman, to whom Chesterton refers above, produced perhaps the most famous revision of the Norman Conquest as the Saxon Conquest in his celebrated History of the Norman Conquest: "But in a few generations we led captive our conquerors; England was England once again, and the descendants of the Norman invaders were found to be among the truest of Englishmen" (NC, 1:1); in short, "the Norman Conquest was a Saxon Conquest" (NC, 5:106).23 While the seventeenth-century parliamentarian interpretation of the Norman Conquest focused on the continuity of constitutional rights (between ancient Saxons and modern Englishmen), for Freeman in the latter half of the nineteenth century the continuity of English racial identity is more important: "The momentary effect was to make Englishmen on their own soil the subjects of foreign conquerors. The lasting effect was to change those foreign conquerors into Englishmen" (EC, 70). For Freeman, then, while the consequences of the Norman Conquest were political (and short-lived), the consequences of the "Saxon Conquest" were racial (and permanent)—no less, in fact, than the racial conversion by which the Normans became Englishmen, and by which the category "foreign" was erased.

One could say that insofar as Freeman wanted to insure the continuity of "English" history, and Scott wanted to problematize it, the two were destined to meet on the question of the Norman Conquest. As a critique and revision of the "anti-English" historical practices of a work like Ivanhoe, Freeman's History can help us see the way in which English identity became a function of a battle of the books in which the name "English" became the central controversy and the history of the Norman Conquest the central weapon. A practice like Scott's naming of Cedric and Ulrica as "Saxons," for instance, is under attack in Freeman's insistence that the word "English" be used instead: objecting to the name "Saxon," Freeman writes that "people fancy that the word English cannot be rightly applied to the nation, its language, or its institutions, till after the Norman element has been absorbed into it. . . . The refusal to call ourselves and our forefathers a thousand years back by the same name originates in a failure to realize the fact that our nation which exists now is the same nation as that which migrated from Germany to Britain in the fifth century" (NC, 1:363). Using a procedure of naming borrowed from Turner, Freeman erases the time that separates nineteenth-century Englishmen and their medieval forebears, in the defense of a nation-state that modern historians hardly allow the Saxon confederacy at the time of the Norman Conquest, never mind as early as the fifth century. In such passages, we see the project of nationalist historiography at work to make ancient, continuous, and pure the racial basis of the modern nation-state. For Freeman, the basis of English national identity is racial, so that even when examining the question of the historical origins of the English constitution, he casts the question in racial terms: "The Constitution .. . is indeed the common possession of the Teutonic race, but it is something more. We should perhaps not be wrong if we were to call it a common possession of the whole Aryan family of mankind" (EC, 13-14).

Freeman's history finally devolves upon a theory in which the English race masters its "foreign" counterparts, through a kind of mystical absorption of the Other in the blood, or a kind of conversion of the Other through a superior proselytism. Freeman begins by trying to minimize Scott's idea that the English are a mixed race: "People talk of the 'English' as a new nation which arose, in the thirteenth century perhaps, as a mixed race of which the 'Saxons' or 'Anglo-Saxons' were only one element among several. But these elements are not coequal with the original substance of the nation. In all these cases, the foreign element was simply incorporated and assimilated . . . in the predominant English mass" (NC, 1:363-64). Freeman celebrates such incorporation and assimilation even when they take the most brutal form. He is, for example, "thankful for the barbarism and ferocity of our forefathers," since it was their complete eradication of the natives of Britain that assured their own purity of race, the founding of the English race:

The English wiped out everything Celtic and everything Roman. . . . We won a country for ourselves, and we grew up, a new people in a new land.... Severed from the old stock, and kept aloof from intermixture with any other, we ceased to be Germans and we did not become Britons or Romans. . . . The Old-Saxon has lost his national being through the subtler proselytism of the High-German; but the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, transplanted to the shores of Britain, have won for themselves a new name and a new national being, and have handed on to us the distinct and glorious inheritance of Englishmen. (NC, 1:14-15)

As if in approval of the kind of conversion (as genocide) that Scott critiques, Freeman imagines the foundation of English national identity as happily compounded of the cooperative successes of genocide and proselytism. In the first case, the "English" exterminate their colonialist predecessors, the Romans, as well as the native population of Britain. In the second case, the "English" avoid succumbing to the "proselytism" of another race, while they themselves successfully convert Danes, Normans, and all the other races that, absorbed into the overmastering English blood, mystically turn English. But there is another kind of proselytism at work here: insofar as the Normans lose their racial and national being through the proselytism of the English, they lose it through "the subtler proselytism" of English historiography, as practiced by Freeman and the hegemonic tradition of English historiography. In this light, Ivanhoe confronts the double problem of "English" history and historiography: while Scott critiques, in English history, the conversion of Saxons into Normans, he also critiques, in English historiography, the conversion of Normans into Saxons (as the central goal of "English" nationalist ideology).

V. "National Guilt" and Anglo-Jewish History—Rebecca and the Silver Casket

I have read Rowena's marriage as a political allegory about English history; I now wish to read Rebecca's destiny as a political allegory about Jewish history. While the Saxon-Norman plot in Ivanhoe averts De Bracy's conversion of Rowena (chapter 23) through her marriage to Ivanhoe, the Jewish plot averts Bois-Guilbert's conversion of Rebecca (chapter 24) only to lead to two further attempts at converting her, and ends not with Rebecca's marriage but with her exile. And just as I have argued that Rowena's three suitors represent three different solutions to a racial problem in English history, I wish to argue that the three attempts at converting Rebecca represent three different responses to the question of Jewish identity in European history. By dramatizing the historic reality of the conversion of the Jews, these three scenes allow Scott to move beyond the use of conversion solely, or even primarily, as a rhetorical figure to represent the genocide of the Saxons. In this way these scenes open the widest gulf between Scott's history and the purely figurative use of conversion in English historical writing in the nineteenth century, and ultimately suggest another way of defining English national identity.

I have already hinted that Bois-Guilbert's seduction of Rebecca is a reference to the contemporary English debate over whether or not the "atheistical French" would be the nation to restore the Jews to their homeland. The atheistic Templar, who tries to woo Rebecca with visions of material advantage and military might, ends by tempting her with a vision of her queenly restoration to Palestine. The Templar's strategies of temptation are based in the question asked in so many European nations during the Enlightenment and at the beginning of the nineteenth century: would the Jews give up their religion as the price for emancipation, for civil power? But the Templar's strategy requires not only that Rebecca "embrace our religion" (217), but that she yield to his desire, so that his demand for her conversion is inseparable from his threat of rape. Rebecca retaliates with the threat of suicide—a choice that many medieval Jews made, as an alternative to forced conversion.24

The second attempted conversion of Rebecca functions as Scott's critique of the Catholic treatment of the Jews. The Templars' trial of Rebecca for witchcraft, reminiscent of an Inquisitorial trial, actually puts the fanaticism of priestcraft on trial, in Scott's focus on the superstition and xenophobia that guide the investigation of the Jew. The particular charge of witchcraft is no more than a pretext to inspect and attack Rebecca as a Jew, for the Grand Master is willing to acquit her if she will convert: "Repent, my daughter, confess thy witchcrafts, turn thee from thine evil faith, embrace this holy emblem, and all shall yet be well with thee here and hereafter" (369). The process of forced conversion is once again exposed: at the threat of death by fire, Rebecca is asked to convert, but this Jewish "witch" (430) has already proven that, like the "Saxon witch" (266) Ulrica who willingly surrenders herself to the fires of death, she will die to preserve her racial identity. In King Richard's final dismissal of the Templars, despite the Grand Master's threat of an "appeal to Rome" (441), we find an anticipation of the Reformation, and another strand of the contemporary debate over "the Jewish question": English writers of the early nineteenth century contrasted Protestant England and the Catholic nations of Europe (such as Spain) in their treatment of the Jews.

Scott problematizes this contrast between different national identities by making Rowena, in her role as the harbinger of the new England, the instrument of the third and final attempt at converting Rebecca. Scott carefully positions the meeting between Rowena and Rebecca directly after the marriage celebration of Ivanhoe and Rowena, and thereby displaces their marriage as the climax of the novel. In other words, the marriage that anticipates the happy union of the Norman and Saxon races is not allowed to suppress the still unresolved question of another race's future in England—that of the Jews. In this light, Rebecca's sudden and unexpected arrival in Rowena's chamber in Ivanhoe's last chapter precludes the completion of the writing of English history without the inclusion of Jewish history. In short, in the climactic scene of the novel, Scott rewrites English history as Anglo-Jewish history.

The final scene of the novel offsets the conventional comedic climax of marriage in a number of ways. The public festivity, in which the founding of the new English nation is anticipated, is succeeded by the private meeting between Rowena and Rebecca. Moreover, the novel's characteristic scenes of heroic battle between men give way in the end to a scene between two women. Rebecca's arrival "upon the second morning after this happy bridal" (447) functions as a kind of intrusion, as she enters Rowena's private chamber and requires all of Rowena's attendants, even her personal maid, to withdraw. Rowena is in some sense left defenseless, even to the point of Rebecca's asking her hostess to remove her veil. I read Rebecca's entrance into Rowena's private chamber as a kind of psychic intrusion, first, upon the consciousness of her romantic rival, the woman now called "Lady Ivanhoe," but more importantly, upon the consciousness of England. In short, Rebecca's sudden reentrance into the novel, at the denouement, represents the power of the return of the repressed. After all, she arrives from her trial by the Templars, having survived the attempt to convert her and to burn her at the stake. She is of course first the erotic power that neither Ivanhoe nor Rowena can exorcise. But more than this, she is the blot on the conscience of England insofar as she represents the religious and racial question that England cannot solve. She returns at the end, then, as the power of irrepressible guilt, come to expose once again the two myths that surfaced during the two earlier attempts to convert her—the myth of Christianity, which she exploded during her ironic questioning of Bois-Guilbert's Christian principles, and the myth of England, which she satirized in the masked irony of her invocation of "merry England, the hospitable, the generous, the free" (368), during her trial for witchcraft.

Having successfully acquitted herself at the trial at Templestowe, she arrives at the bride's chamber to pursue her own subtle and barely masked trial of Rowena and Christian England. The two ostensible purposes for Rebecca's visit—to have her farewell communicated to Ivanhoe, and to "pay the debt of gratitude" (447) she owes him—become vehicles for her critique of the English nation. In the first place, Rowena's solicitous questions about Rebecca's safety in England meet the following response: "The people of England are a fierce race, quarrelling ever with their neighbours or among themselves, and ready to plunge the sword into the bowels of each other. Such is no safe abode for the children of my people" (448). Rebecca's visit, then, becomes an announcement to quit Christian England for Moslem Spain; her voluntary exile anticipates the forced expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, the earliest general expulsion of the Jews in medieval history—an expulsion that historians see as a direct consequence of the new nationalism of late medieval England, and the failure of English policy to convert the Jews.25

The other purpose for Rebecca's visit, to requite the debt she owes to Ivanhoe for championing her at Templestowe, Rowena gracefully dismisses, acknowledging that she herself and Ivanhoe are still in Rebecca's debt: "Wilfred of Ivanhoe on that day rendered back but in slight measure your unceasing charity towards him in his wounds and misfortunes. Speak, is there aught remains in which he or I can serve thee" (448)? But of course Rebecca has not come to receive, to be indebted; in fact, she has come for the opposite purpose, so that, after rejecting Rowena's promises of safety in England, and after saying farewell, she reveals, almost as an afterthought, a further purpose for her visit: "One, the most trifling, part of my duty remains undischarged" (449). Suddenly she reveals that she means to make Lady Ivanhoe a gift of a silver-chased casket containing a diamond necklace and earrings.

It is at this moment that the most potent trial of Rowena begins, as Rebecca fires at her a series of rhetorical questions that overturn the stereotypes by which Jewish identity is traditionally distorted—especially the Shakespearean stereotypes of the Jewish father (who compares the value of his daughter and his ducats) and the Jewish daughter (who steals her father's wealth as part of her flight from him and his religion). "Think ye that I prize these sparkling fragments of stone above my liberty? or that my father values them in comparison to the honour of his only child? Accept them, lady—to me they are valueless. I will never wear jewels more" (449). Like the famous casket scene in The Merchant of Venice, this scene is a test of value; in Shakespeare's text, the heiress's father tests the values of his daughter's prospective suitors; in Scott's text, the heiress's rival tests the values of the heiress herself and, in another revision, represents the Jew, not the Christian, as the teacher of value. After all, hasn't Rebecca detected in Rowena's face, after her veil has been lifted, "a tinge of the world's pride or vanities" (449)? So the diamond necklace and earrings, housed in a casket, mark that pride and vanity, just as Rebecca's sacrifice of them marks the Jewish woman as the woman beyond the influence of worldly value. At Rebecca's surrender of the casket, Rowena patronizingly offers the solution of conversion: "You are then unhappy! . . . O, remain with us; the counsel of holy men will wean you from your erring law, and I will be a sister to you" (449). Is Christian law the law of pride and vanity, the law that would enable Rebecca to keep her jewels and enjoy them? Rebecca's answer to the invitation of conversion makes clear that her Judaism is worth more than the silver casket, and more than the Christian protection Rowena offers: "I may not change the faith of my fathers like a garment unsuited to the climate in which I seek to dwell" (449). In the end, then, Rebecca transfers to Lady Ivanhoe the sign of material value which stereotypically marked the Jew, and which both state and church periodically confiscated from the medieval Jew; at the same time Rebecca refuses to wear the Christian disguise that would allow her safe settlement in England—reminding us of all the disguises in the novel, including Scott's disguise as an Englishman.

The silver casket has a meaning for the hero too. We must remember that the silver casket in The Merchant of Venice comes as the ironic reward that challenges the value of the hero: "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves." In this light the silver casket suggests that Ivanhoe gets what he deserves in choosing Rowena over Rebecca. Moreover, every time Ivanhoe sees Rowena in these diamonds, he will recall Rebecca. Earlier in the novel, Rebecca plays her role as the teacher of value when she refuses Ivanhoe's payment of his "casque full of crowns": "Grant me one boon in the stead of the silver thou dost promise me. . . . Believe henceforward that a Jew may do good service to a Christian, without desiring other guerdon than the blessing of the Great Father who made both Jew and Gentile" (261). Now, at the end of the novel, she leaves Ivanhoe's wife the silver casket. Ivanhoe, in having "hazarded his life" (448) for Rebecca, has in fact earned the lead casket, or the right to her hand, according to Shakespeare's plot: "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." But it is perhaps the deepest irony of Ivanhoe that, in the face of its climactic ideology of intermarriage, it bars—primarily on the grounds of historical accuracy, according to Scott (xvii)—the marriage of Ivanhoe and Rebecca, and thereby ironically rewrites the fairy tale of the caskets in the way I have described. When Thackeray, in Rebecca and Rowena: A Romance Upon Romance (1850), gives the reading public a marriage that erases intermarriage by having Rebecca convert in order to marry Ivanhoe, we can recognize Scott's purpose in refusing the traditional literary topos of the converted Jewish woman, exemplified in Shakespeare's Jessica.

When she takes her leave of Rowena, "as if a vision had passed before her" (450), Rebecca leaves behind the traces of her visit not only in the silver casket, but in the haunting, if immaterial, impression she has made: "The fair Saxon related the singular conference to her husband, on whose mind it made a deep impression. . . . Yet it would be inquiring too curiously to ask whether the recollection of Rebecca's beauty and magnanimity did not recur to his mind more frequently than the fair descendant of Alfred might altogether have approved" (450). This "deep impression" on the mind of the eponymous hero, the prototype of the new England, is at once the scar of unfulfilled erotic desire and the scar of unresolved historic guilt, for in Ivanhoe (as we have seen) marital union signifies the union of the races. And I am claiming that Scott's inscription of the story of medieval England's persecution of the Jews is his retracing of that deep impression—his testimony, in 1819, of that lasting impression on the mind of England.

I have been arguing that Scott's project of rewriting English history as Anglo-Jewish history, including his exploration of the persecution and attempted conversion of the Jews, is a critical moment in the redefinition of English national identity at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I now wish to explain the ways in which Scott's project overlaps with the millenarian literature that flourished from the 1790s through the opening decades of the nineteenth century—a literature that often attempted to develop the idea of English national guilt in relation to England's past treatment of the Jews. One goal of this literature was to understand European history in relation to the history of the Jews—not simply the sacred history recorded in Hebrew Scripture, but the secular history of the modern Jews as well. In reviewing and revising different European national histories, this literature attempted the comparative (re)definition of several national identities, often in opposition to each other—French versus English identity, for example, or Spanish versus English. What Bicheno means by The Crisis of All Nations, then, is the European political upheaval that was a sign of divine Providence's response to "the accumulated crimes of those ancient houses of Europe," for "most of the princes of the royal houses of Europe have . . . been cruel persecutors of the Jews"—an idea that Bicheno substantiates in brief historical sketches of the persecution of the Jews in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and England.26 Millenarian discourse in England after the French Revolution, then, became a crucial means of bringing Jewish history into the arena of modern European history, and of evaluating the enterprise of the new nationalist historiography in light of the history of the Jews. In fact, much of the millenarian literature, like Scott's text, subjects the project of nationalist history-writing—the patriotic genealogy of the deeds of "our" English ancestors—to critical reevaluation by rewriting it as Anglo-Jewish history.

Thomas Witherby's An Attempt to Remove Prejudices concerning the Jewish Nation. By Way of Dialogue uses a mixture of millenarian prophecy and secular history to revise the popular account of English history upon which the construction of English national identity depends. Witherby's text is in fact a double revision insofar as it revises the oldest form of conversionist literature, originating with the early Church fathers and surviving in a work like John Clare's The Converted Jew (1630). In Witherby's hands, the traditional dialogue in which the Jew converts in the end because he is unable to answer satisfactorily his Christian interlocutor, becomes a dialogue between two Christians in which the English prejudices against the Jewish nation are removed.27 In short, the traditional anti-Semitic dialogue becomes the means by which the anti-Semitic Christian is "converted." The first dialogue opens with "Cautious" chastising "Sudden" for an anti-Semitic expression he has used. Sudden justifies his expression on the authority of Shakespeare's portrait of Shylock: "Did you read Shakespeare? You will there find the flinty-hearted Jew pourtrayed to the life."28 Cautious refutes the portrait of Shylock by arguing that "I by no means believe it to be a character copied from life." Sudden responds that history will bear out what art may have exaggerated, and thereby turns the argument to an examination of English history.

Like Ivanhoe's critique of the ideology of English patriotic historiography, Witherby's text makes clear that the appeal to history is a two-edged sword, when Sudden justifies his anti-Semitism on historical grounds: "Let us proceed to the consideration of history, and you will find that the Jews have ever been distinguished as a knavish people" (ARM, 2). In this light, Cautious makes clear that it is not history, but revisionist history, that must remove the prejudices against the Jews: "You will grant that the historians to which we refer being Christians, and Christians who in many instances shew a degree of hatred against the Jews, some allowance is to be made in our estimates for the bias under which they wrote" (ARM, 4). After reviewing the slanderous legends that characterize the medieval chronicles of England (such as the numerous accounts of Jews murdering Christian children), Witherby begins the revision of Anglo-Jewish history with an end toward reevaluating the national conscience. He does so by ironically turning the tables on the traditional Christian insistence that the Jews reflect on their own history of guilt—that is, on the charge that they murdered Christ: "Well, then, if it is admitted that Christians have for these seventeen hundred years past been urging the Jews to enter into the revision of an act of their ancestors, with what face could Christians refuse to enter into the investigation of the acts of their ancestors towards the Jews?" (ARM, 14). This question initiates the project in which English national pride is chiseled away in a competition that the English cannot help but lose: "I will say, that if the Jews and the English were to investigate the conduct of their ancestors, and their behaviour towards each other, that the Englishman should blush at the comparison" (ARM, 5).

Witherby's text is not without its own nationalistic strains, for it has an anti-French element whose source lies in that kind of English reaction against the French Revolution articulated most influentially by Edmund Burke. Moreover, we cannot forget that Witherby's text is written in preparation for the restoration of the Jews, and thereby has the deliberate intention of justifying English, rather than French, leadership in the restoration. This means disqualifying the French for such a divine mission: "It seems beyond doubt that no atheistical democracy! no apostate faction! no revolutionary government! will ever have the honour of becoming the instruments of providence" (ARM, 335). The anti-French propaganda notwithstanding, Witherby's text makes clear that the mission of Protestant England must begin in a recognition of "that ponderous load of national guilt" (ARM, 419) which, as the Spanish incurred through their persecution of native Americans, the English incurred through their persecution of the Jews. Such recognition can come only when England honors the traditions of Judaism, which constitute (as Witherby argues) the foundations of Christianity, so that here in his Dialogue, and even more forcefully in his Vindication of the Jews. . . . Humbly submitted to the consideration of the Missionary Society, and the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews (1809), the appeal to history is an appeal to protect the modern Jew from the efforts of contemporary conversionist societies, as the subtitle of the latter work suggests.

I wish to end by claiming that perhaps the most celebrated definition of English national identity, at least in the historic period under discussion, is formulated through the question of Jewish identity and the rhetoric of conversion. While it is well known that Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) had a profound influence in defining English identity by attacking the French revolutionary government, I wish to explore the strategy by which Burke characterizes the French not only as atheistical apostates (to use Witherby's words), but also as Jewish proselytes.29 In fact, I will argue that while Burke's text, like Witherby's, works through an appeal to English history, and a comparative formulation of different European national identities, Burke takes a dramatically different position in relation to conversion and Jewish identity: the Reflections become an appeal to protect the modern Englishman from contemporary revolutionary or French or Jewish (the three terms become interchangeable) conversionist efforts.

Burke's text functions as a kind of counter-discourse to a sermon by Richard Price, which praised the French Revolution by sympathetically comparing it to the English Revolution of 1688-1689. Noting that Price's sermon was delivered on the site of the old Jewish ghetto, Burke turns the simple designation of place—"the dissenting meeting house of the Old Jewry" (R, 10)—into the infectious sign of an as yet undefined (though nonetheless threatening) principle of Jewishness, so that the place name eventually marks the speaker, the speech, the audience, the contents of the speech, and an entire species of discourse: "the preacher of the Old Jewry" (R, 58), the "famous sermon of the Old Jewry" (R, 56), the "society of the Old Jewry" (R, 74), "the Old Jewry doctrine" (R, 17), "the sermons of the Old Jewry" (R, 27).

The unarticulated "logic" of this rhetoric is, I think, based in both historical and contemporary events— events that help clarify why the word "Jewry" becomes a code-name for revolution in Burke's essay. First, while Burke does not openly link England's "revolutionary" events of the seventeenth century with the Jews, he nonetheless names as Price's historic "predecessor" (R, 10) Hugh Peter (1598-1660), a Puritan enthusiast whose Jewish sympathies had become, before Burke's time, a well-known butt of political satire, as reflected in the Restoration engraving of Peter declaring "Let it [St. Paul's] out to ye Jews"—a reference to the allegation that the Jews had tried to purchase the cathedral with the intention of turning it into a synagogue.30 Hugh Peter is remembered not only for having supported the readmission of the Jews into England, but for having been beheaded because of his complicity with the regicides, thereby securing Burke's association between Jewish sympathizers and revolutionaries, even regicides. Burke goes on to link Price more generally to the English revolution's "fifth monarchy" (R, 64) men, who based their radical politics in the interpretation of Hebrew prophecy, and who called for sweeping legal reform and the destruction of the national church, as well as the restoration of the Jews (as the central sign of the Second Coming, or Fifth Monarchy).31 Second, while Burke never directly discusses the French Revolution's emancipation of the Jews, he nonetheless sneers at the French by speaking of their "new Hebrew brethren" (R, 74). Behind both the English "Puritan Revolution" and the revolution in France, then, Burke discovers Judaizers, or at least Jewish sympathizers. In this light Price's sermon poses a genuine political threat to contemporary England: by capitalizing on the accidental site of Price's sermon, Burke can designate Price as "the preacher of the Old Jewry" who rearticulates, in 1789, the "Old Jewry doctrine" of religious toleration, philo-Semitism, and revolution that rocked the English nation in the preceding century.

Furthermore, Burke attempts to show the dangerous consequences of religious toleration, especially when realized in the separation of church and state, by claiming that the revolutionary government in France is based on "a stock-jobbing constitution" (R, 46), which is code for a Jewish constitution. While in England "the Jews in Change Alley have not yet dared to hint their hopes of a mortgage on the revenues belonging to the see of Canterbury" (R, 92), church lands in France are in danger of being sold to "Jews and jobbers" (R, 47)—a reminder of the seventeenth-century allegation that the Jews tried to buy St. Paul's Cathedral. And the creators of the new government in France have behaved "like Jew brokers, contending with each other . . . with fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper" (R, 42); such men, "'enlightened' usurers" (R, 168), are like Shylock, "purchasers at the auction of their innocent fellow citizens" (R, 207). So, while the English aristocracy remains preserved through a government founded on the rule of inheritance rather than election, France will produce an aristocracy "bastardized and corrupted in blood" (R, 50): "The next generation of the nobility will resemble the artificers and clowns, and money-jobbers usurers, and Jews, who will be always their fellows, and sometimes their masters" (R, 43).

The demagogic basis of Burke's rhetoric functions as a warning not simply against apostasy, but against conversion, a warning against betraying one's English identity by becoming a Jew. In short, Burke reformulates the distinction between the French and the English—the apparent subject of the Reflections—as the distinction between Jews (French) and Christians (English). For Burke, to follow in the footsteps of the French Revolution is to become a Jew. And there is both historic and contemporary precedence for the Judaization of the English, during the "Puritan Revolution," and in the contemporary case of Lord George Gordon (1751-1793), the "public proselyte to Judaism" (R, 73).32 Burke tries to make Gordon a palpable symbol of the way in which revolutionary and Jewish sympathies meet. I mean that Gordon is called "the noble libeller" (R, 74) of the French queen in the same breath that his unrelated conversion of Judaism is recorded. In this way Burke boldly enlarges the equation between "revolution" and "apostasy" that writers like Witherby make: Burke defines proselytism as the cause of the revolution, and the Englishman who converts to Judaism stands behind revolution, and threatens all Englishmen with the undoing of their national identity. In short, revolution is conversion writ large. After all, the entire French nation is guilty of having fallen under the powerful "proselytism" (R, 97) of figures like Voltaire, and England is in a similar danger, for Price is one of "the new evangelists" or "apostolic missionaries" (J?, 12), grotesque inversions of the native English Evangelical movement: in Burke's view, these new evangelists attempt not to Christianize "the heathen" and "the infidel," but to Judaize the English. In such language we see how, in a politically charged moment of paranoia and xenophobia, the process of proselytization, usually focused safely on the identity of the Other, is imagined as threatening English national identity itself. The traditional Christian project of converting the Jews finds its corollary, in a revolutionary epoch, in the fierce protection of English national identity against all conversionist efforts, especially Jewish (or French) proselytism.

English national identity, the identity Burke shares with his countrymen ("we"), depends on acknowledging a unity of faith grounded in a refusal to convert: "We are not the converts of Rousseau; we are not the disciples of Voltaire" (R, 75). Anticipating Turner and Freeman, Burke speaks on behalf of the present English nation as well as its forefathers, using what I have called a consolidating pronoun of national identity that links the writer with all other "Englishmen" across space and time: "I assure you I do not aim at singularity. I give you opinions which have been accepted amongst us, from very early times to this moment" (R, 87); and again, coterminous with his national ancestors, Burke can say: "We wished at the period of the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we possess as an inheritance from our forefathers" (R, 27-28). In this light, like Freeman after him and a long tradition of English writers before him (Burke mentions Coke and Seiden and Blackstone as prominent examples), Burke bases national identity on the (pre-Norman) antiquity of English law (R, 27), so that to attack the tradition of English government is to do no less than to dissolve the basis of English national identity—that is, to apostasize, to become like "those children of their country who are prompt rashly to hack that aged parent into pieces" (R, 84), to betray the most sacred bond for "thirty pieces of silver" (R, 74). In the emotional rhetoric of Burke, it is dimly hinted that the revolution is the site where parricide, regicide, and deicide—the traditional Christian charge against the Jews—become one.

I began this essay by recalling how French influence and "the Jewish question" were linked at the center of a well-known crisis in German national identity; I have ended by showing how French influence and "the Jewish question"—and its critical sign, the figure of conversion—had a similarly powerful role in the crisis of English national identity during the period of the French Revolution. More particularly, I have shown how the German phenomenon of anti-Semitic writing during the opening decades of the nineteenth century had a powerful precursor in England in Burke's Reflections: national identity, in England as well as in Germany, was formulated through a rejection of French influence, which merged with—and often became rewritten as—a rejection of Jewish influence. And this Jewish influence was formulated by Burke as the threat of Jewish proselytism: for Burke, conversion became a figure for revolution, and the Jewish proselyte Lord George Gordon became a symbol, and a warning, of the loss of English national identity.

But I have shown that Burke was not alone in using "the Jewish question" to construct and contrast different European national identities at this historical moment. For, while Burke was arguing that the preservation of English national identity depended on guarding against Jewish proselytism, writers like Bicheno and Witherby were suggesting that England could maintain its traditional reputation for tolerance only by accepting "that ponderous load of national guilt" for its past persecution of the Jews, and by acknowledging Jewish history and Hebrew Scripture as essential components of the destiny of England and Protestantism. But even while millenarians were reminding Europe of its past crimes against the Jews, and attempting to predict and influence which European nation (England or France) would help restore the Jews to their homeland, a writer like Witherby, while attacking the procedures of the most prominent conversionist societies, nonetheless awaited the general conversion of the Jews, if not as the work of man, then as the work of God—for the millenarian goal of restoring the Jews to their homeland included the belief in their eventual conversion.

Finally, in Scott, we see the way in which England's guilt toward the Jews is fully secularized and historicized, no longer dependent on Biblical prophecy or millenarian expectation, but based in the startling principle of history uncovered in Ivanhoe—namely, that historic change typically involves the absorption of one culture by another, or what Scott defines as conversion and genocide. With such a definition in mind, Scott attempts to overturn the conventional model of national identity, based in racial homogeneity, with a counter-model in which the racial intermixture between Saxons and Normans becomes the basis of cultural diversity and national identity in England. Scott attempts to enlist the sympathies of his English readers for the broadest basis of cultural diversity by suggesting that the project to convert the Jews (and to erase the Scots) has its parallel in the attempted genocide of the Saxons during the Norman Conquest. In this way Scott boldly inserts the Jews into the history of the event upon which English national identity traditionally depends. In critiquing the traditional concept of English identity as racially pure, then, Scott reminds his readers that the English nation was founded in racial exclusion as well as inclusion, and thereby he rewrites English history as Anglo-Jewish history—a history of persecution and subsequent guilt. This guilt is formulated, at least in part, in a comparison of nations that Rebecca makes at the end of Ivanhoe when, rejecting Rowena's invitation to convert, Rebecca chooses Spain over England, "for less cruel are the cruelties of the Moors unto the race of Jacob than the cruelties of the Nazarenes of England" (375). Rebecca's famous remark initiated an entire tradition of historical romances—a tradition that focused on the comparative history of the persecution of the Jews in Spain and England. Following the publication of Ivanhoe, then, the construction of different national identities, through the representation of their treatment of the Jews, passed from millenarian discourse into the more mainstream discourse of popular fiction. So, in the period between the French Revolution and the opening decades of the nineteenth century, and especially after the publication of Ivanhoe, not only did the figure of conversion become the means by which writers explored the preservation, transformation, or eradication of different racial and national identities—the representation of Jewish persecution, including the history of Christian efforts at proselytizing the Jews, became a critical tool used in the construction of English identity in relation to other European national identities.


1 On the role of Christian medievalism and the "Christian-German (or Teutsch)" ideology during the rise of German nationalism, see Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, 6 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1895), 5:515-21. On anti-French feeling in Germany, and the subsequent reaction against the Jews as another foreign influence the Germans wanted to expel, see Leon Poliakov, The History of Anti-Semitism, trans. Miriam Kochan, 3 vols. (New York: Vanguard, 1975), 3:242-44. Also see Poliakov on the meaning of "Hep! Hep!," namely "'Hierosolyma Est Perdita,' thought to be the cry of the Crusaders in 1096" (3:302).

2 For a discussion of the voluminous millenarian literature that flourished in the 1790s and the opening decades of the nineteenth century, see Mayir Vrete, "The Restoration of the Jews in English Protestant Thought 1790-1840," Middle Eastern Studies 8 (1972): 3-50.

3 For example, James Bicheno, in The Restoration ofthe Jews, The Crisis of all Nations, 2nd. ed. (London, 1807), reviews the elaborate literature on this question, and performs his own evaluation of the qualifications of the French and English for restoring the Jews (156-66). See Poliakov (note 1) on the representation of Napoleon as the Jewish Messiah (3:278-79).

4 See Edgar Johnson, Sir Walter Scott: The GreatUnknown, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 1:202; see Reginald Heber, The Poetical Works (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1853), 16.

5 Page numbers for Ivanhoe refer to vol. 9 of the Dryburgh edition of The Waverley Novels, 25 vols. (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1893), and hereafter will be cited parenthetically in the text.

6 See John Milton, Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York: Odyssey, 1957), Paradise Regained, 3:381-82, 3:392, 3:434-35.

7 The steady stream of attacks on the LSPCJ included such influential examples as B. R. Goakman, The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, examined (London, 1816); M. Sailman, The Mystery unfolded: or, an exposition of the extraordinary means employed to obtain converts by the agents of the London Society (London, 1817); and H. H. Norris, Origin, progress, and existing circumstances, of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews (London, 1825). A review article entitled "On the London Society for Converting the Jews," British Critic (January 1819): 22-35, so scathingly attacked a recent pamphlet by Way that he responded with Reviewers reviewed (London, 1819). On Lewis Way, see James Parkes, "Lewis Way and His Times," Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 20 (1959-1961): 189-201.

8 See H. H. Norris (note 7), 502 and 507.

9 Sharon Turner, The History of the Anglo-Saxons, 4 vols. (London, 1802), 2:xii, emphasis added.

10 See William Flavelle Monypenny, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, 6 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1913), 1:23.

11 Thomas Preston Peardon's The Transition in EnglishHistorical Writing 1760-1830 (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1933) remains the best survey of such changes in English historiography.

12 Sharon Turner, The History of the Anglo-Saxons, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London, 1807), 1:27-28.

13 Sharon Turner, The History of the Anglo-Saxons, 7th ed., 3 vols. (London, 1852), l:viii.

14 See Thomas L. Ashton, Byron's Hebrew Melodies (Austin: Univ. of Texas, 1972), 10 and 52.

15The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott,B art., 12 vols. (Edinburgh: Robert Cadell, 1848), 1:238.

16 See, for example, Bicheno's (note 3) use of the phrase (2). For the use of the phrase in nineteenth-century German discourse, see Jacob Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700-1933 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1980), 81.

17 See Thomas Arnold's letter to the Archbishop of Dublin, 4 May 1836, in Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 2:41.

18 "Oh! Weep for Those" in The Poetical Works ofLord Byron (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1966), 79.

19 On the association between name and face as indicators of familial identity, see Michael Ragussis, Acts of Naming: The Family Plot in Fiction (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986).

20 See Christopher Hill, "The Norman Yoke," in Puritanism and Revolution: Studies in Interpretation of the English Revolution of the 17th Century (London: Secker and Warburg, 1958), on the "propagandist" (91) uses to which the theory of the Norman yoke was put, whether by "seventeenth-century antiquarians, eighteenth-century radicals, or even nineteenth-century Whig historians" (115). See J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century (1957; Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), who argues that the Norman Conquest became the ideological pivot in the struggle between king and parliament in the seventeenth century, and that "English historiography has oriented itself about that conquest ever since" (64). On the ideological use of the names "Saxon" and "Norman" as a way of designating "English" national identity in Victorian culture, see Asa Briggs, "Saxons, Normans and Victorians" in The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs, 2 vols. (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1985), especially 2:216 on the "popular pro-Saxon prejudice."

21 For an account of what I have elsewhere called the figurative or textual conversion of Jewish identity, see Michael Ragussis, "Representation, Conversion, and Literary Form: Harrington and the Novel of Jewish Identity," Critical Inquiry 16 (1989): 132-43.

22 See Gilbert K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane, 1908), 127-28.

23 Edward Augustus Freeman, The History of the NormanConquest of England, 5 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1873-1876), hereafter cited parenthetically in text and abbreviated NC and The Growth of the English Constitution from the Earliest Times (London: Macmillan, 1872), hereafter cited parenthetically in text and abbreviated EC

24 It is perhaps no accident that the most famous example of mass Jewish suicide in English history occurred soon after the coronation of Richard I in 1189—that is, during the period Scott describes in Ivanhoe. It is a scene that is described time and again by English writers, but I am especially interested in the uses that such millenarian writers as James Bicheno and Thomas Witherby make of the scene, in their attempt to establish the basis of English national guilt. Bicheno (note 3), for instance, describes the famous scene at York, when "baptism or death was the only alternative": "Each man took a sharp knife, and first cutting the throats of their wives and children, they then cut their own" (24-25). Thomas Witherby marks the scene at York as "the first remarkable persecution of the Jews which I am aware of in this land" (An Attempt to Remove the Prejudices concerning the Jewish Nation [London, 1804], 6-8).

25 "The closer the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons intermingled to develop the characteristics of a single nation, the more pronounced did the Jews' 'foreignness' become" (Salo Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, second ed., 18 vols. [New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1967], 11:203). In fact, the king under whom the new English nation is founded is also the king who expels the Jews. Also see Baron on how the failure of the policy of absorbing the Jews by conversion led to the decision to expel them (11:204-5).

26 James Bicheno (note 3), 65.

27 On the history of this conversionist literature, see James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism (London: Soncino Press, 1934), especially 280-93, and Marcel Simon, Verus Israel: A Study of the Relations between Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire (135-425), trans. H. McKeating (1964; New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), 135-221.

28 Thomas Witherby, An Attempt to Remove Prejudicesconcerning the Jewish Nation. By Way of Dialogue (London, 1804), 2. References to Witherby's text will hereafter be included parenthetically in the text and abbreviated ARM.

29 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. J. G. A. Pocock (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987); hereafter cited parenthetically in the text and abbreviated R.

30 On Hugh Peter, see David Katz, Philo-Semitism andthe Readmission of the Jews to England 1603-1655 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 103-4, 179-80, 209-11. For information on the engraving, see Alfred Rubens, A Jewish Iconography (London: The Jewish Museum, 1954), 36. On the allegation that the Jews wanted to buy St. Paul's, see Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 162.

31 The Fifth Monarchists took their name from their belief that, following the rise and destruction of the four world-empires described in Daniel, there would emerge a kingdom that would endure forever (Daniel 7)—one of the key ideas of millenarians like Bicheno (note 3) and Witherby (note 28), who, in the period following the French Revolution, returned to the interpretation of Hebrew prophecy that characterized seventeenth-century millenarianism. On the Fifth Monarchists, and Hugh Peter's association with them, see B. S. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men: A Study in Seventeenth-century English Millenarianism (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972).

32 On the history of Judaizing in seventeenth-century England, particularly among the Traskites (who, for instance, kept the Saturday Sabbath), see David Katz (note 30), especially chapter 1 ("Jews and Judaizers"). On Gordon, see Israel Solomons, Lord George Gordon's Conversion to Judaism (London: Luzac, A. M. 5674 [1914]). While Gordon is best known today for his role in the Gordon riots (1780), his conversion to Judaism was a popular subject in pamphlets, chapbooks, engravings, and street ballads in the late 1780s.

John Sutherland (essay date 1995)

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SOURCE: "The Bride of Lammermoor to The Abbot (1818-1820)," in The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography, Blackwell, 1995, pp. 220-39.

[In the following excerpt, Sutherland studies the conceptions of race and nationality in Ivanhoe, as seen both in the conflict between Normans and Saxons and in the ambivalent depiction of anti-Semitism.]

In 1819 Scotland's greatest novelist re-emerged as England's chronicler. Ivanhoe can be seen as tribute to Albion's growing cultural domination over its dependencies. Scott himself, rather unconvincingly, attributed the change in national subject matter to a fear that constant harping on Scottish themes would 'wear out the public favour'. One can explain the Englishing of Scott in other ways. He spent much of his out-of-court time in London over the period 1808-20 and knew the literary market well (as did Constable, who spent a season every year visiting Paternoster Row). More importantly, perhaps, Scott always liked to place his authorial tribute at the feet of some patron, or chief. The death of Buccleuch had left him without a Scottish chief, and he evidently transferred his allegiance (at least nominally) to the Prince Regent, the monarch who would dub him knight.

Without too much ingenuity the plot of Ivanhoe can be construed as an elegant compliment to the Regent. In the novel, the English state is paralysed by a monarchic power vacuum. Prey to an uncontrolled oligarchy of barons ('Prince John's cabal'), the country must wait until its true king—Richard—returns to occupy his throne. This interregnant state of things is analogous to the current condition of England in 1819. It was titularly under the rule of a wholly disabled monarch, the mad George III, with a competent, masterful heirpresumptive in the wings waiting to sweep in like the black knight and rescue his country from scheming políticos. Ivanhoe could hardly but be flattering and Scott's royal friend was, it seems, captivated by the novel when he read it.

Scott had the first volume of Ivanhoe largely done by mid-July 1819 ([Edgar Johnson, Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown, 2 vols (New York, 1970)] 680). The work was in the hands of a 'very slow transcriber' by early November and was published on 18 December. Appropriately, Scott invented an English alter ego as editor of the work—Laurence Templeton. Wholly unlike the provincial dominie Jedediah, Templeton is an urbane metropolitan lawyer. His dedicatory epistle to Dr Jonas Dryasdust (a friendly caricature of Morritt) constitutes the meatiest critical document Scott had incorporated into his fiction since Waverley's Postscript (which should have been a preface). In his letter to the old pedant, Templeton justifies the artificial modernity of the idiom of Ivanhoe: its giving an artistic impression of being antique, without being authentically antique. Occasionally Scott makes anachronistic blunders of the De Mille 'wrist watch on the arm of a centurion' kind—as when, for instance, we are told that on learning the true identity of the Palmer (i.e. Wilfred) 'Gurth started up as if electrified' (1. 77); or when we are told that Isaac in the dungeon 'would have afforded a study for Rembrandt, had that celebrated painter existed at the period' (1. 279-80). But in general Templeton's theory is expertly put into practice by Scott.

Scott's first intention, he claimed in 1830, was to set up a third line of anonymous novels (following the 'author of Waverley' and 'Tales of My Landlord' lines). But he was talked out of this project by his publisher, who wanted the sales advantage of identifying ivanhoe as by the author of Waverley (1. xxxi). As a kind of hallmark, Scott duly drew some lines of consanguinity with characters in Guy Mannering. Ivanhoe is supposed to be derived from an Anglo-Norman manuscript belonging to Sir Arthur Wardour, and Laurence Templeton is, we are told, an English antiquary friend of Oldbuck.

Strung as it is on three loosely connected episodes (the tournament at Ashby, the storming of Torquilstone, the trial of Rebecca by the Templars), Ivanhoe is one of the best 'combined' of Scott's works—to use his own term. It makes notably good use of suspense. Scott liked the title particularly because 'it conveyed no indication whatever of the nature of the story'. Ivanhoe has powerful scenes which climax in cliff-hanging situations (Isaac about to go on the toasting rack; Rebecca about to be deflowered, for example). Of all his novels it has kept its popularity best.

One can enjoy Ivanhoe even today as a good tale and nothing more. But fundamentally it asks to be read as a treatise on nationality. There had been 'national tales' in plenty before Scott: but Ivanhoe was something more—a novel about the making of England. Intermingled with the novel's nationalist themes was an investigation of race. The author of Ivanhoe was largely responsible for injecting consciousness of race (and a sizeable dose of racism) into the popular British mind. This injection took three general forms: (1) the propagation of polygenic rather than monogenic theories of race; (2) the popularization of the national myth of the 'Norman Yoke'; (3) the legitimation of anti-semitic stereotypes.

Both monogenic and polygenic theories of race were current in the early nineteenth century. Monogeny assumed that the human species, in all its national and social diversity, had the same racial origin: one race—the human race, as the later slogan was to put it. As a 'science' it devoted itself to the search for primal Adamic origins. Monogeny lent itself as a political ideology to philanthropic movements, such as abolitionism. Polygeny, by contrast, concentrated on physical differences and assumed separate racial origins for the major ethnic groups. It was the polygenic theory—particularly as popularized by Robert Knox in the 1830s—that helped found anthropology as a field of scholarly study and which, in the socio-political arena, sanctioned aggressive racism and imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And it was Knox, a rabid polygenist and a contemporary of Scott's in Edinburgh, who propagated the view that races stood in a hierarchical relationship to each other. The 'lighter' races were superior to the 'darker' races. And within the lighter division, blonds, like the Saxon, were superior to swarthier groups, like the Celts.

Scott adheres closely in the early chapters of Ivanhoe to Knox's light-dark hierarchy. The villainous Knight Templar, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, has an 'unusually swart complexion' with 'thick black features', and features 'burnt almost to Negro blackness' (1. 16). To emphasize the point he also has a couple of Negro attendants (an anachronism for which Scott apologizes in a later note). These subhumans relish the infliction of torture. They are not Scott's man and brother. Cedric, by contrast, has 'long yellow hair' (1. 34). Rowena has 'mild blue eyes' and hair 'betwixt brown and flaxen' and a pale complexion 'exquisitely fair' (1. 49). Wilfred has 'a profusion of short fair hair' (1. 174). These tints and pigments predict an inevitable marriage between Wilfred and Rowena.

Scott had introduced racial themes marginally into The Antiquary, where Jonathan Oldbuck is a proponent of Gothic supremacy, against the Pictophile supremacist Sir Arthur. Race is, by contrast, the primary issue in Ivanhoe. And Scott is firmly in the polygenist camp. Race dominates the prelude in the Yorkshire forest, where Wamba the jester and Gurth the swineherd discuss—like a couple of arcadian Jespersons—the archaeology of English, sometime around the end of the twelfth century. How is it that the language has two words for such things as swine and pork, bull and beef, calf and veal? This point of diction is explained by politics and race: the Normans see the meat on the dining table, the Saxons tend it in the pasture and the sty.

This leads on to the second of Ivanhoe's major racial propositions—the so-called 'Norman Yoke Thesis'. As Christopher Hill has noted, Scott did not invent the myth that a 500-year-old Saxon democracy had been extinguished by the Norman Invasion, and that the next 700 years were absorbed in the recovery of those lost rights—a process gloriously consummated with the repulse of a second Norman (or Napoleonic) invasion.3 But there is no doubt that Ivanhoe was the main popularizer of the myth among the English at large. One of the attractions of the Norman Yoke Thesis in the nineteenth century was its adaptability. All parties and interests could use it. Disraelian Conservatism was built on it. So too were Carlylism and muscular Christianity. Thomas Jefferson was a fanatic believer. Thomas Paine was a radical proponent of the thesis. Scott himself is what Hill labels a 'middle-class radical' proponent of the Norman Yoke Thesis.

One of the problems in the novel's exploitation of the Norman Yoke Thesis is the historical fact that—as Scott himself notes—the barons who established 'English' rights on 15 June 1215 were all of Norman extraction. Of course, Prince John can be portrayed as possessed of all the worst Norman features. But his brother Richard the Lionheart has the same Norman parentage. Scott gets around this by recalling that the Normans were 'a mixed race'—part French, part Viking. Even Normans might have some saving Saxon genes. There is also some allusion—by Cedric—to Richard's distant Saxon relations. But what really transforms the Black Knight into 'Richard of England' is his fighting shoulder by shoulder with the Saxons against his brother Normans at Torquilstone. By this act of fratricide, he becomes an adoptive Saxon. (Scott himself, we remember, had a French wife—dark as a blackberry—and was himself a straw-haired Border Saxon. His own children were, however, Saxon for all their Latin heritage.)

The most objectionable form of racism given currency by Ivanhoe is anti-semitism. Scott was not the first novelist to make fiction the vehicle for this form of bigotry. Richard Cumberland's John de Lancaster, which Scott reviewed for the Quarterly in 1809, is more virulent. (Like Ivanhoe, Cumberland's novel fed on dislike of the Rothschilds whipped up by the French Wars.) There is no evidence that Scott personally intended to wound Jews as a group, but his depictions in Ivanhoe put into currency stereotypes which might easily be exploited by racists. Like The Merchant of Venice, Oliver Twist, or Jew Süss, Ivanhoe can be twisted into racist slander. And even if he is not himself racist, there is a consistent undercurrent of derogation in Scott's narrative which verges on the antisemitic. In the opening description of Isaac by the fire in Cedric's hall (where he receives appalling treatment) we are told that it is 'perhaps' owing to universal persecution that the Jews adopted 'a national character, in which there was much, to say the least, mean and unamiable' (1. 55). Wilfred helps Isaac escape the Knight Templar's clutches, which seems to imply that there will be no state persecution under the Lionheart, once he regains his throne. But shortly after this episode, at the beginning of chapter 7, the point is made that the sad condition of England is directly attributable not to John's misgovernment, but to Jewish financiers. Their loans to the nobles 'at the most usurious interest . . . gnawed into their estates like consuming cankers' (1. 87). Jewish bankers, even at this early date, are the cancer eating away England. This race guilt on the part of the Jews extenuates the obscenity of Isaac's torture scene in chapter 22. It is, after all, only a kind of radiation therapy for the body politic, to cure its cancer. He is to be cooked alive, Front de Boeuf's slaves basting him all the while with oil, lest 'the roast burns'. Meanwhile, his daughter has been given to Bois-Guilbert as a plaything.

Historically, few have spoken up for Jewish financiers (although it would have been difficult to run the Napoleonic Wars without them). Jewish doctors are something else. It is Rebecca who saves Wilfred after he has been wounded winning the great tournament at Ashby. Scott notes the proficiency of Jewish physicians—male and female—and notes, rather sourly, that it is possible 'that the Jews possessed some secrets of the healing art peculiar to themselves, and which, with the exclusive spirit arising out of their condition, they took great care to conceal from the Christians among whom they dwelt' (2. 267). Again one hears the note of racial derogation.

The Jewish plot of Ivanhoe was, apparently, suggested by James Skene, who had observed Jewish communities 'when he spent some time in Germany in his youth' ([J.G. Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, 5 vols (Boston and New York, 1902)] 3. 423). Prejudice against Jews in England was hardened by the popular belief that the Rothschilds had enriched themselves immensely by early knowledge of the result of Waterloo. They were the real victors, profiteers from the long war. It makes sense to see the depiction of Isaac in the light of the popular Rothschild slander. Like the later financiers, Isaac has amassed huge wealth as the direct result of Europe's wars—the Crusades. When Front de Boeuf tortures him in the dungeon, it seems that Isaac can, if necessary, come up with the fabulous amount of one thousand pounds of silver. It is clear that this hoard has been amassed by banking—more specifically loans at 'usurious' rates of interest. At the end of the novel, the judgement on Isaac is no less interesting than that imposed on Shylock. Unlike Shakespeare's Jew, Isaac is not obliged to convert. His beautiful daughter—unlike Jessica—is not given to the Gentiles to enjoy sexually. He keeps his ducats, but only if he pays a heavy (not crippling) tax or ransom, of 1,000 crowns (2. 168). Scott's thinking seems to be racially tolerant, and he looks for a solution to the 'Rothschild problem' (i.e. profiteering) through what was currently the favourite panacea promulgated in his political writings, a rational income tax applied particularly on high earners. But then—in the most ambiguous aspect of this racial subplot—Isaac and Rebecca are made to leave the country: they are banished, presumably as racial contaminants. Subsequent adapters of Ivanhoe have never been happy with this conclusion. In the 1952 MGM film version Isaac and Rebecca finance the ransom of Richard through the Jewish community, and in return are pledged by the (proto-Zionist) King a homeland in Palestine, once the Crusades have succeeded.

The (threatened) rape of Rebecca in Torquilstone leads on to another extraordinary subplot in the novel. Repulsed but now an admirer of his victim's strength, the Templar confesses to Rebecca his plans to take over the world by means of his secret society, the Knights Templar. This guild of ascetic Christian Crusaders was one of a number of forerunners of the Masons. The Knights Templar now exist as a branch of the Free Masons (like the Societas Rosicruciana they apparently admit only Christians to membership). Once he has the 'batoon of the Grand Master' the Templar will be more powerful than kings. 'Our mailed step', he tells Rebecca, 'shall ascend their throne, our gauntlet shall wrench the sceptre from their gripe. Not the reign of your vainly-expected Messiah offers such power to your dispersed tribes as my ambition may aim at. I have sought but a kindred spirit to share it, and I have found such in thee' (2. 15).

The Mason and the Jew will thus achieve world conquest. In Ivanhoe, Scott sowed the paranoid seeds for any number of twentieth-century conspiracy fantasies. Without a potent monarch and a regenerated aristocracy, conspiracies like Bois-Guilbert's will thrive, together with the 'canker' of Jewish finance. One of the first things that happens when Richard resumes charge of his state is that Isaac is taxed into obedience and secret societies like the Templars are brought to heel. In historical fact, Scott wrote Ivanhoe at a time when the Masonry had immensely increased its power, with the union in 1813 of the 'Antients' and 'Moderns'. This laid the ground for the secret society's huge subsequent expansion. George IV was initiated (as Prince of Wales) into the Masons in 1787, and on his accession in 1820 became the first king of England to be a member.


3 See Christopher Hill's essay on the Norman Yoke Thesis in Puritanism and Revolution (London, 1968).


Critical Evaluation