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Ivanhoe: A Romance

Walter Scott

  Produced by John P. Roberts, Jr.



  By Sir Walter Scott

  Now fitted the halter, now traversed the cart, And often took leave,--but seemed loath to depart! [1] --Prior.


  The Author of the Waverley Novels had hitherto proceeded in an unabatedcourse of popularity, and might, in his peculiar district of literature,have been termed "L'Enfant Gate" of success. It was plain, however, thatfrequent publication must finally wear out the public favour, unlesssome mode could be devised to give an appearance of novelty tosubsequent productions. Scottish manners, Scottish dialect, andScottish characters of note, being those with which the author was mostintimately, and familiarly acquainted, were the groundwork upon which hehad hitherto relied for giving effect to his narrative. It was, however,obvious, that this kind of interest must in the end occasion a degree ofsameness and repetition, if exclusively resorted to, and that the readerwas likely at length to adopt the language of Edwin, in Parnell's Tale:

  "'Reverse the spell,' he cries, 'And let it fairly now suffice. Thegambol has been shown.'"

  Nothing can be more dangerous for the fame of a professor of the finearts, than to permit (if he can possibly prevent it) the character of amannerist to be attached to him, or that he should be supposed capableof success only in a particular and limited style. The public are, ingeneral, very ready to adopt the opinion, that he who has pleased themin one peculiar mode of composition, is, by means of that very talent,rendered incapable of venturing upon other subjects. The effect of thisdisinclination, on the part of the public, towards the artificers oftheir pleasures, when they attempt to enlarge their means of amusing,may be seen in the censures usually passed by vulgar criticism uponactors or artists who venture to change the character of their efforts,that, in so doing, they may enlarge the scale of their art.

  There is some justice in this opinion, as there always is in such asattain general currency. It may often happen on the stage, that anactor, by possessing in a preeminent degree the external qualitiesnecessary to give effect to comedy, may be deprived of the right toaspire to tragic excellence; and in painting or literary composition, anartist or poet may be master exclusively of modes of thought, and powersof expression, which confine him to a single course of subjects. Butmuch more frequently the same capacity which carries a man to popularityin one department will obtain for him success in another, and that mustbe more particularly the case in literary composition, than either inacting or painting, because the adventurer in that department is notimpeded in his exertions by any peculiarity of features, or conformationof person, proper for particular parts, or, by any peculiar mechanicalhabits of using the pencil, limited to a particular class of subjects.

  Whether this reasoning be correct or otherwise, the present author felt,that, in confining himself to subjects purely Scottish, he was not onlylikely to weary out the indulgence of his readers, but also greatly tolimit his own power of affording them pleasure. In a highly polishedcountry, where so much genius is monthly employed in catering for publicamusement, a fresh topic, such as he had himself had the happiness tolight upon, is the untasted spring of the desert;--

  "Men bless their stars and call it luxury."

  But when men and horses, cattle, camels, and dromedaries, have poachedthe spring into mud, it becomes loathsome to those who at first drank ofit with rapture; and he who had the merit of discovering it, if he wouldpreserve his reputation with the tribe, must display his talent by afresh discovery of untasted fountains.

  If the author, who finds himself limited to a particular class ofsubjects, endeavours to sustain his reputation by striving to add anovelty of attraction to themes of the same character which have beenformerly successful under his management, there are manifest reasonswhy, after a certain point, he is likely to fail. If the mine be notwrought out, the strength and capacity of the miner become necessarilyexhausted. If he closely imitates the narratives which he has beforerendered successful, he is doomed to "wonder that they please no more."If he struggles to take a different view of the same class of subjects,he speedily discovers that what is obvious, graceful, and natural,has been exhausted; and, in order to obtain the indispensable charm ofnovelty, he is forced upon caricature, and, to avoid being trite, mustbecome extravagant.

  It is not, perhaps, necessary to enumerate so many reasons why theauthor of the Scottish Novels, as they were then exclusively termed,should be desirous to make an experiment on a subject purely English.It was his purpose, at the same time, to have rendered the experiment ascomplete as possible, by bringing the intended work before the public asthe effort of a new candidate for their favour, in order that no degreeof prejudice, whether favourable or the reverse, might attach to it,as a new production of the Author of Waverley; but this intention wasafterwards departed from, for reasons to be hereafter mentioned.

  The period of the narrative adopted was the reign of Richard I., notonly as abounding with characters whose very names were sure to attractgeneral attention, but as affording a striking contrast betwixt theSaxons, by whom the soil was cultivated, and the Normans, who stillreigned in it as conquerors, reluctant to mix with the vanquished, oracknowledge themselves of the same stock. The idea of this contrast wastaken from the ingenious and unfortunate Logan's tragedy of Runnamede,in which, about the same period of history, the author had seen theSaxon and Norman barons opposed to each other on different sides of thestage. He does not recollect that there was any attempt to contrast thetwo races in their habits and sentiments; and indeed it was obvious,that history was violated by introducing the Saxons still existing as ahigh-minded and martial race of nobles.

  They did, however, survive as a people, and some of the ancient Saxonfamilies possessed wealth and power, although they were exceptions tothe humble condition of the race in general. It seemed to the author,that the existence of the two races in the same country, the vanquisheddistinguished by their plain, homely, blunt manners, and the free spiritinfused by their ancient institutions and laws; the victors, by thehigh spirit of military fame, personal adventure, and whatever coulddistinguish them as the Flower of Chivalry, might, intermixed with othercharacters belonging to the same time and country, interest the readerby the contrast, if the author should not fail on his part.

  Scotland, however, had been of late used so exclusively as the sceneof what is called Historical Romance, that the preliminary letter of MrLaurence Templeton became in some measure necessary. To this, as to anIntroduction, the reader is referred, as expressing author's purpose andopinions in undertaking this species of composition, under the necessaryreservation, that he is far from thinking he has attained the point atwhich he aimed.

  It is scarcely necessary to add, that there was no idea or wish topass off the supposed Mr Templeton as a real person. But a kind ofcontinuation of the Tales of my Landlord had been recently attempted bya stranger, and it was supposed this Dedicatory Epistle might pass forsome imitation of the same kind, and thus putting enquirers upon a falsescent, induce them to believe they had before them the work of some newcandidate for their favour.

  After a considerable part of the work had been finished and printed,the Publishers, who pretended to discern in it a germ of popularity,remonstrated strenuously against its appearing as an absolutelyanonymous production, and contended that it should have the advantageof being announced as by the Author of Waverley. The author did not makeany obstinate opposition, for he began to be of opinion with Dr Wheeler,in Miss Edgeworth's excellent tale of "Maneuvering," that "Trick uponTrick" might be too much for the patience of an indulgent public, andmight be reasonably considered as trifling with their favour.

  The book, therefore, appe
ared as an avowed continuation of the WaverleyNovels; and it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge, that it met withthe same favourable reception as its predecessors.

  Such annotations as may be useful to assist the reader in comprehendingthe characters of the Jew, the Templar, the Captain of the mercenaries,or Free Companions, as they were called, and others proper to theperiod, are added, but with a sparing hand, since sufficient informationon these subjects is to be found in general history.

  An incident in the tale, which had the good fortune to find favour inthe eyes of many readers, is more directly borrowed from the stores ofold romance. I mean the meeting of the King with Friar Tuck at the cellof that buxom hermit. The general tone of the story belongs to all ranksand all countries, which emulate each other in describing the rambles ofa disguised sovereign, who, going in search of information or amusement,into the lower ranks of life, meets with adventures diverting to thereader or hearer, from the contrast betwixt the monarch's outwardappearance, and his real character. The Eastern tale-teller has for histheme the disguised expeditions of Haroun Alraschid with his faithfulattendants, Mesrour and Giafar, through the midnight streets of Bagdad;and Scottish tradition dwells upon the similar exploits of James V.,distinguished during such excursions by the travelling name of theGoodman of Ballengeigh, as the Commander of the Faithful, when hedesired to be incognito, was known by that of Il Bondocani. The Frenchminstrels are not silent on so popular a theme. There must have beena Norman original of the Scottish metrical romance of Rauf Colziar, inwhich Charlemagne is introduced as the unknown guest of a charcoal-man.[2]

  It seems to have been the original of other poems of the kind.

  In merry England there is no end of popular ballads on this theme. Thepoem of John the Reeve, or Steward, mentioned by Bishop Percy, inthe Reliques of English Poetry, [3] is said to have turned on such anincident; and we have besides, the King and the Tanner of Tamworth, theKing and the Miller of Mansfield, and others on the same topic. Butthe peculiar tale of this nature to which the author of Ivanhoe has toacknowledge an obligation, is more ancient by two centuries than any ofthese last mentioned.

  It was first communicated to the public in that curious record ofancient literature, which has been accumulated by the combined exertionsof Sir Egerton Brydges. and Mr Hazlewood, in the periodical workentitled the British Bibliographer. From thence it has been transferredby the Reverend Charles Henry Hartsborne, M.A., editor of a very curiousvolume, entitled "Ancient Metrical Tales, printed chiefly from originalsources, 1829." Mr Hartshorne gives no other authority for the presentfragment, except the article in the Bibliographer, where it is entitledthe Kyng and the Hermite. A short abstract of its contents will show itssimilarity to the meeting of King Richard and Friar Tuck.

  King Edward (we are not told which among the monarchs of that name, but,from his temper and habits, we may suppose Edward IV.) sets forth withhis court to a gallant hunting-match in Sherwood Forest, in which, asis not unusual for princes in romance, he falls in with a deer ofextraordinary size and swiftness, and pursues it closely, till he hasoutstripped his whole retinue, tired out hounds and horse, and findshimself alone under the gloom of an extensive forest, upon whichnight is descending. Under the apprehensions natural to a situation souncomfortable, the king recollects that he has heard how poor men, whenapprehensive of a bad nights lodging, pray to Saint Julian, who, in theRomish calendar, stands Quarter-Master-General to all forlorn travellersthat render him due homage. Edward puts up his orisons accordingly, andby the guidance, doubtless, of the good Saint, reaches a small path,conducting him to a chapel in the forest, having a hermit's cell in itsclose vicinity. The King hears the reverend man, with a companion of hissolitude, telling his beads within, and meekly requests of him quartersfor the night. "I have no accommodation for such a lord as ye be," saidthe Hermit. "I live here in the wilderness upon roots and rinds, and maynot receive into my dwelling even the poorest wretch that lives, unlessit were to save his life." The King enquires the way to the nexttown, and, understanding it is by a road which he cannot find withoutdifficulty, even if he had daylight to befriend him, he declares, thatwith or without the Hermit's consent, he is determined to be his guestthat night. He is admitted accordingly, not without a hint from theRecluse, that were he himself out of his priestly weeds, he would carelittle for his threats of using violence, and that he gives way to himnot out of intimidation, but simply to avoid scandal.

  The King is admitted into the cell--two bundles of straw are shakendown for his accommodation, and he comforts himself that he is now undershelter, and that

  "A night will soon be gone."

  Other wants, however, arise. The guest becomes clamorous for supper,observing,

  "For certainly, as I you say, I ne had never so sorry a day, That I ne had a merry night."

  But this indication of his taste for good cheer, joined to theannunciation of his being a follower of the Court, who had lost himselfat the great hunting-match, cannot induce the niggard Hermit to producebetter fare than bread and cheese, for which his guest showed littleappetite; and "thin drink," which was even less acceptable. At lengththe King presses his host on a point to which he had more than oncealluded, without obtaining a satisfactory reply:

  "Then said the King, 'by God's grace, Thou wert in a merry place, To shoot should thou here When the foresters go to rest, Sometyme thou might have of the best, All of the wild deer; I wold hold it for no scathe, Though thou hadst bow and arrows baith, Althoff thou best a Frere.'"

  The Hermit, in return, expresses his apprehension that his guest meansto drag him into some confession of offence against the forest laws,which, being betrayed to the King, might cost him his life. Edwardanswers by fresh assurances of secrecy, and again urges on him thenecessity of procuring some venison. The Hermit replies, by once moreinsisting on the duties incumbent upon him as a churchman, and continuesto affirm himself free from all such breaches of order:

  "Many day I have here been, And flesh-meat I eat never, But milk of the kye; Warm thee well, and go to sleep, And I will lap thee with my cope, Softly to lye."

  It would seem that the manuscript is here imperfect, for we do not findthe reasons which finally induce the curtal Friar to amend the King'scheer. But acknowledging his guest to be such a "good fellow" as hasseldom graced his board, the holy man at length produces the best hiscell affords. Two candles are placed on a table, white bread and bakedpasties are displayed by the light, besides choice of venison, both saltand fresh, from which they select collops. "I might have eaten my breaddry," said the King, "had I not pressed thee on the score of archery,but now have I dined like a prince--if we had but drink enow."

  This too is afforded by the hospitable anchorite, who dispatches anassistant to fetch a pot of four gallons from a secret corner near hisbed, and the whole three set in to serious drinking. This amusementis superintended by the Friar, according to the recurrence of certainfustian words, to be repeated by every compotator in turn before hedrank--a species of High Jinks, as it were, by which they regulatedtheir potations, as toasts were given in latter times. The one topersays "fusty bandias", to which the other is obliged to reply, "strikepantnere", and the Friar passes many jests on the King's want of memory,who sometimes forgets the words of action. The night is spent in thisjolly pastime. Before his departure in the morning, the King invites hisreverend host to Court, promises, at least, to requite his hospitality,and expresses himself much pleased with his entertainment. The jollyHermit at length agrees to venture thither, and to enquire for JackFletcher, which is the name assumed by the King. After the Hermit hasshown Edward some feats of archery, the joyous pair separate. The Kingrides home, and rejoins his retinue. As the romance is imperfect, we arenot acquainted how the discovery takes place; but it is probably muchin the same manner as in other narratives turning on the same subject,where the host, apprehensive of death for having trespassed on therespect due to his Sovere
ign, while incognito, is agreeably surprised byreceiving honours and reward.

  In Mr Hartshorne's collection, there is a romance on the samefoundation, called King Edward and the Shepherd, [4]

  which, considered as illustrating manners, is still more curious thanthe King and the Hermit; but it is foreign to the present purpose.The reader has here the original legend from which the incident in theromance is derived; and the identifying the irregular Eremite with theFriar Tuck of Robin Hood's story, was an obvious expedient.

  The name of Ivanhoe was suggested by an old rhyme. All novelists havehad occasion at some time or other to wish with Falstaff, that they knewwhere a commodity of good names was to be had. On such an occasion theauthor chanced to call to memory a rhyme recording three names of themanors forfeited by the ancestor of the celebrated Hampden, for strikingthe Black Prince a blow with his racket, when they quarrelled at tennis:

  "Tring, Wing, and Ivanhoe, For striking of a blow, Hampden did forego, And glad he could escape so."

  The word suited the author's purpose in two material respects,--for,first, it had an ancient English sound; and secondly, it conveyed noindication whatever of the nature of the story. He presumes to holdthis last quality to be of no small importance. What is called a takingtitle, serves the direct interest of the bookseller or publisher, who bythis means sometimes sells an edition while it is yet passing the press.But if the author permits an over degree of attention to be drawn tohis work ere it has appeared, he places himself in the embarrassingcondition of having excited a degree of expectation which, if heproves unable to satisfy, is an error fatal to his literary reputation.Besides, when we meet such a title as the Gunpowder Plot, or any otherconnected with general history, each reader, before he has seen thebook, has formed to himself some particular idea of the sort of mannerin which the story is to be conducted, and the nature of the amusementwhich he is to derive from it. In this he is probably disappointed, andin that case may be naturally disposed to visit upon the author or thework, the unpleasant feelings thus excited. In such a case the literaryadventurer is censured, not for having missed the mark at which hehimself aimed, but for not having shot off his shaft in a direction henever thought of.

  On the footing of unreserved communication which the Author hasestablished with the reader, he may here add the trifling circumstance,that a roll of Norman warriors, occurring in the Auchinleck Manuscript,gave him the formidable name of Front-de-Boeuf.

  Ivanhoe was highly successful upon its appearance, and may be said tohave procured for its author the freedom of the Rules, since he has eversince been permitted to exercise his powers of fictitious composition inEngland, as well as Scotland.

  The character of the fair Jewess found so much favour in the eyes ofsome fair readers, that the writer was censured, because, when arrangingthe fates of the characters of the drama, he had not assigned the handof Wilfred to Rebecca, rather than the less interesting Rowena. But, notto mention that the prejudices of the age rendered such an union almostimpossible, the author may, in passing, observe, that he thinks acharacter of a highly virtuous and lofty stamp, is degraded rather thanexalted by an attempt to reward virtue with temporal prosperity. Suchis not the recompense which Providence has deemed worthy of sufferingmerit, and it is a dangerous and fatal doctrine to teach young persons,the most common readers of romance, that rectitude of conduct and ofprinciple are either naturally allied with, or adequately rewarded by,the gratification of our passions, or attainment of our wishes. In aword, if a virtuous and self-denied character is dismissed with temporalwealth, greatness, rank, or the indulgence of such a rashly formed orill assorted passion as that of Rebecca for Ivanhoe, the reader will beapt to say, verily Virtue has had its reward. But a glance on the greatpicture of life will show, that the duties of self-denial, and thesacrifice of passion to principle, are seldom thus remunerated; andthat the internal consciousness of their high-minded discharge of duty,produces on their own reflections a more adequate recompense, in theform of that peace which the world cannot give or take away.

  Abbotsford, 1st September, 1830.