Chapter 3
The Condition of England

Ivanhoe and Kenilworth

We have now encountered in Scott's work two different ways of establishing a sense of community in a modernising world: while Waverley delineates the creation of a depoliticised heritage mediated through private commemorations and acts of aesthetic appreciation, The Lady of the Lake touches on the question of how royalty can maintain its attractions in a world destabilised by the demise of feudal obligation, and shows the importance of public spectacle in cultivating popularity. This second issue assumed a particular importance when Scott first turned to English history in his fiction.

Scott's evident fascination with pageantry, uniforms, archaic sporting events, and public displays is not simply antiquarian nostalgia, but represents a heightened sensitivity to the political and communal function of spectacle. In eighteenth-century Britain the authority of the ruling classes was represented and enacted at many levels, from great orchestrated displays (such as military processions and reviews, birthday celebrations, court receptions) to official rituals (such as assizes and public executions), local acts of patronage (such as the distribution of prizes at sporting events), and the reflections upon such events in newspapers, sermons, prints and paintings, and in the works of poets and novelists such as Scott himself. In the revolutionary period the style of this 'theatre of the great' had been subject to radical challenges.1 The dismantling of aristocratic government in America and then in France had helped to refocus attention on the political significance of iconography and outward display. In attempting to establish a new framework of power, the French revolutionaries had turned to the realm of public spectacle, organising pageants and festivals designed to distinguish the revolutionary age from the hierarchies of the ancien régime in their use of space and symbolism, and in their inclusiveness.2 These events realised Rousseau's ideal of the open-air festival, in which individuals would be momentarily released from their normal places in the

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Walter Scott and Modernity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Towards the Modern Nation 30
  • Chapter 3 - The Condition of England 67
  • Chapter 4 - Western Identities and the Orient 89
  • Chapter 5 - Commerce, Civilisation, War, and the Highlands 121
  • Chapter 6 - Liberal Dilemmas: Scott and Covenanting Tradition 151
  • Chapter 7 - Liberal Dilemmas: Liberty or Alienation? 188
  • Chapter 8 - Postscript 218
  • Bibliography 222
  • Index 244
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