Rob Roy

August 29, 2005 § Leave a comment

[Two days ago I finished Rob Roy, one of the famous Waverley novels by Sir Walter Scott. Out of enthusiasm I thought that I would write a review of the book – spur of the moment, you understand; there will be plenty of grammatical mistakes as there always have been on this blog. But I do try.]

Told through the eyes of innocent and romantic young Francis Osbaldistone, Rob Roy is yet another masterpiece from the pen of Sir Walter Scott. Famous for his vibrant and colorful style, Scott brings to life the essence of Scotland, from the dark streets of Glasgow to the wild and untamable moors and hills. Masterfully written, one beautiful passage makes one live within the heartbeat and warm blood of the Highlander:

“…discretion, prudence, and foresight, are their leading qualities; these are only
modified by a narrow-spirited, but yet ardent patriotism, which forms as it were the
outmost of the concentric bulwarks with which a Scotchman fortifies himself against
all attacks of a generous pilanthroplical principle. Surmount this mound, you find an
inner and still dearer barrier – the love of his province, his village, or, most probably,
his clan; storm this second obstacle, you have a third – his attachment to his own
family – his father, mother, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, and cousins, to the ninth
generation. It is within these limits that a Scotchman’s social affection expands itself,
never reaching those which are outermost, till all means of discharging itself in the
interior circles have been exhausted. It is within these circles that his heart throbs,
each pulsation being fainter and fainter, till, beyond the widest boundary, it is almost
unfelt. And what is worst of all, could you surmount these concentric outworks, you
have an inner citadel, deeper, higher, and more efficient than them all – a
Scotchman’s love for himself.”

That, of course, is only an example of the fresh beauty of this book. Do not expect, however, that the title character figures much in its pages (in the first person, at least). In a way that can only be dared by Sir Walter Scott, the story of Highland Robin Hood Rob Roy, leader of the exiled Macgregor clan, is told through legends, whispered hopes and fears, and third-person accounts given by character of little importance. One never sees Rob Roy in action on the battlefield, but one would swear to have been with him the whole time as eyewitness.

The book, in fact, largely centers on Francis Osbaldistone, who travels to Scotland to try to regain the credit of his father’s British firm. On the way he meets a host of exciting characters, from the dark and dastardly “Papist” and priest-hopeful Rashleigh and the mysterious yet beautiful Catholic Diana Vernon to the legendary Rob Roy Macgregor and his fiercely passionate wife. (Catholics, of course, are not shown in a very good light in the story, as Scott was a faithful Protestant.)

Though the length of the book can be daunting (much like another of the Waverley novels, Ivanhoe), it is well worth the time and effort.

[Before you read the book, it is wise to get hold of a copy with an appendix in the back, translating the Scottish into English. So much of the book is written in the Highland dialect that the appendix is absolutely necessary to understanding the story.

I hope anyone who reads it enjoys it as much as I did. It has sent me off on a Scottish history tangent, and my enthusiasm has caused us to “unofficially” plan a trip to Scotland for next year. Huzzah!]

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