Dan Sandman

48: Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott

In Adventure, Books, Fiction, Romance on 27/11/2015 at 12:00 pm

Rob Roy by Sir Walter ScottBy 1817, an unprecedented number of books by Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) were being sold.  Not only was Scott the first best seller in the English language, but he has since been credited for his invention of the historical novel. When placed within the context of the history of the book, Scott’s significance as a canonical writer of worldwide influence becomes most clear. But how should we approach Scott’s writing today? Can it still be taught to school children in the age of the internet.

The first thing that will strike a modern reader is the two hundred year old English being used by the narrator Mr. Francis Osbaldistone. Although his first person narrative is written in a sprightly style, which energetically jumps off the page, it could easily be judged as overcomplicated by today’s concise standard. When the lush narration is then combined with characters’ frequent use of the Scottish dialect circa early eighteenth century, our need yo translate becomes more paramount.

That being said, despite the difficulty that this reader had with the English and Scots, I very much enjoyed reading this two century aged text. All the components of great traditional storytelling are present within the work: a plot that encompasses a particular moment in history; a vivid series of different characters who live within this historical moment; and a confident control of the chosen language. These three things – plot, characters, style – remain the key skills to master before producing a best selling historical novel. The rest is hard graft and extensive research into your chosen period.

I wonder if there is a novel about the life of Sir Walter Scott out there?


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