An Essay On Romance And Love - Term Papers
Walter Scott, "Essay on Romance", Prose Works volume vi, p
In the world of Ivanhoe, seeing is not believing, but hearing might be. Even after Athelstane reappears in the flesh, those present still prefer to encounter him as a story to be heard and then retold. This contest of modes of evidence and entertainment, unresolved in Ivanhoe, continued into Scott's "Essay on Romance," which, together with the "Essay on Chivalry," champions oral over written tradition and poetry over prose. The essays, however, simplify what in Ivanhoe was complicated by Scott's linking of this contest of ear and eye to a cultural struggle between Saxons and Normans. The Saxons thrive on oral histories that are often riveting but grim. In particular, the Saxon matriarch Ulrica incessantly intones a tale of horror about the decline of the Saxons under the Norman yoke. Her tale's connection to history as the mode closer to truth than Norman romance is underscored when Scott has Cedric respond to her family history by saying, "these traces form such a resemblance as arises from the grave of the dead" (p. 218). Scott deftly foreshadows Athelstane's later adventure, a new chapter in that Saxon history. History as unvarnished truth in Ivanhoe is hard to hear and often carries the taint of death, because it is soberly assessed as a Swiftian record of crimes, sins, and suffering. Contrary to any Keatsian romantic aesthetic, here truth is ugly. Consider the narrator's bitterly ironic assessment of the novel's opening tournament of Ashby de la Zouche as a scene where "upwards of thirty were desperately wounded ... 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 at Ashby'" (p. 115). Not surprisingly, the "Essay on Chivalry" repeats this dim view of history as a record of creeping corruption wherein chivalric devotion becomes superstition, love becomes licentiousness, and gallantry becomes hare-brained madness (EC, p. 11).(20)
A POETICAL ESSAY ON ROMANCE AND ROMANCERS
7. Clara Reeve has said that to unite the merits of the ancient Romance and the modern (late eighteenth-century) novel "there is required a sufficient degree of the marvelous to excite attention; enough of the manners of real life to give an air of probability to the work; sand enough of the pathetic to engage the heart in its behalf." Can one say that Scott's novels achieved Reeve's ambition? Read Scott's "Essay on Romance" in his Miscellaneous Prose Works.