Philobiblon: A sceptical view of Sir Walter Scott

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A sceptical view of Sir Walter Scott

My 19th-century retroblogger Frances Williams Wynn is again telling tales of Sir Walter Scott, for whom I suspect she has a soft spot, although she's again displaying her sceptical streak in questioning whether his apparent sang froid in the face of royalty was anything more than the calm of a practiced performer ...

My uncle mentioned this as an extraordinary feat of self-possession and ready wit. I am certainly not inclined to doubt the extraordinary talents of Scott, but in this instance many circumstances appear to me to diminish the wonder. The trade of Scott in his character of London and Edinburgh lion was as decidedly at that period that of a teller of stories as it has since been that of a writer of novels. The tales had probably been told a hundred times, and on this occasion his friend Mrs. Hayman, I doubt not, gave him a previous hint of what would, be asked from him.

Elsewhere in the diaries, she heard him telling traditional stories.


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