Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
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Ivanhoe by Walter Scott



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Ivanhoe


by Walter Scott


Now fitted the halter, now traversed the cart,

And often took leave,--but seemed loath to depart! [1]

--Prior.


INTRODUCTION TO IVANHOE.


The Author of the Waverley Novels had hitherto proceeded in an unabated

course of popularity, and might, in his peculiar district of literature,

have been termed "L'Enfant Gate" of success. It was plain, however, that

frequent publication must finally wear out the public favour, unless

some mode could be devised to give an appearance of novelty to

subsequent productions. Scottish manners, Scottish dialect, and

Scottish characters of note, being those with which the author was most

intimately, and familiarly acquainted, were the groundwork upon which he

had hitherto relied for giving effect to his narrative. It was, however,

obvious, that this kind of interest must in the end occasion a degree of

sameness and repetition, if exclusively resorted to, and that the reader

was likely at length to adopt the language of Edwin, in Parnell's Tale:


"'Reverse the spell,' he cries, 'And let it fairly now suffice. The

gambol has been shown.'"


Nothing can be more dangerous for the fame of a professor of the fine

arts, than to permit (if he can possibly prevent it) the character of a

mannerist to be attached to him, or that he should be supposed capable

of success only in a particular and limited style. The public are, in

general, very ready to adopt the opinion, that he who has pleased them

in one peculiar mode of composition, is, by means of that very talent,

rendered incapable of venturing upon other subjects. The effect of this

disinclination, on the part of the public, towards the artificers of

their pleasures, when they attempt to enlarge their means of amusing,

may be seen in the censures usually passed by vulgar criticism upon

actors 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 as

attain general currency. It may often happen on the stage, that an

actor, by possessing in a preeminent degree the external qualities

necessary to give effect to comedy, may be deprived of the right to

aspire to tragic excellence; and in painting or literary composition, an

artist or poet may be master exclusively of modes of thought, and powers

of expression, which confine him to a single course of subjects. But

much more frequently the same capacity which carries a man to popularity

in one department will obtain for him success in another, and that must

be more particularly the case in literary composition, than either in

acting or painting, because the adventurer in that department is not

impeded in his exertions by any peculiarity of features, or conformation

of person, proper for particular parts, or, by any peculiar mechanical

habits 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 only

likely to weary out the indulgence of his readers, but also greatly to

limit his own power of affording them pleasure. In a highly polished

country, where so much genius is monthly employed in catering for public

amusement, a fresh topic, such as he had himself had the happiness to

light 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 poached

the spring into mud, it becomes loathsome to those who at first drank of

it with rapture; and he who had the merit of discovering it, if he would

preserve his reputation with the tribe, must display his talent by a

fresh discovery of untasted fountains.


If the author, who finds himself limited to a particular class of

subjects, endeavours to sustain his reputation by striving to add a

novelty of attraction to themes of the same character which have been

formerly successful under his management, there are manifest reasons

why, after a certain point, he is likely to fail. If the mine be not

wrought out, the strength and capacity of the miner become necessarily

exhausted. If he closely imitates the narratives which he has before

rendered 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 of

novelty, he is forced upon caricature, and, to avoid being trite, must

become extravagant.


It is not, perhaps, necessary to enumerate so many reasons why the

author 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 as

complete as possible, by bringing the intended work before the public as

the effort of a new candidate for their favour, in order that no degree

of prejudice, whether favourable or the reverse, might attach to it,

as a new production of the Author of Waverley; but this intention was

afterwards departed from, for reasons to be hereafter mentioned.


The period of the narrative adopted was the reign of Richard I., not

only as abounding with characters whose very names were sure to attract

general attention, but as affording a striking contrast betwixt the

Saxons, by whom the soil was cultivated, and the Normans, who still

reigned in it as conquerors, reluctant to mix with the vanquished, or

acknowledge themselves of the same stock. The idea of this contrast was

taken from the ingenious and unfortunate Logan's tragedy of Runnamede,

in which, about the same period of history, the author had seen the

Saxon and Norman barons opposed to each other on different sides of the

stage. He does not recollect that there was any attempt to contrast the

two races in their habits and sentiments; and indeed it was obvious,

that history was violated by introducing the Saxons still existing as a

high-minded and martial race of nobles.


They did, however, survive as a people, and some of the ancient Saxon

families possessed wealth and power, although they were exceptions to

the humble condition of the race in general. It seemed to the author,

that the existence of the two races in the same country, the vanquished

distinguished by their plain, homely, blunt manners, and the free spirit

infused by their ancient institutions and laws; the victors, by the

high spirit of military fame, personal adventure, and whatever could

distinguish them as the Flower of Chivalry, might, intermixed with other

characters belonging to the same time and country, interest the reader

by the contrast, if the author should not fail on his part.


Scotland, however, had been of late used so exclusively as the scene

of what is called Historical Romance, that the preliminary letter of Mr

Laurence Templeton became in some measure necessary. To this, as to an

Introduction, the reader is referred, as expressing author's purpose and

opinions in undertaking this species of composition, under the necessary

reservation, that he is far from thinking he has attained the point at

which he aimed.


It is scarcely necessary to add, that there was no idea or wish to

pass off the supposed Mr Templeton as a real person. But a kind of

continuation of the Tales of my Landlord had been recently attempted by

a stranger, and it was supposed this Dedicatory Epistle might pass for

some imitation of the same kind, and thus putting enquirers upon a false

scent, induce them to believe they had before them the work of some new

candidate 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 absolutely

anonymous production, and contended that it should have the advantage

of being announced as by the Author of Waverley. The author did not make

any obstinate opposition, for he began to be of opinion with Dr Wheeler,

in Miss Edgeworth's excellent tale of "Maneuvering," that "Trick upon

Trick" might be too much for the patience of an indulgent public, and

might be reasonably considered as trifling with their favour.


The book, therefore, appeared as an avowed continuation of the Waverley

Novels; and it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge, that it met with

the same favourable reception as its predecessors.


Such annotations as may be useful to assist the reader in comprehending

the characters of the Jew, the Templar, the Captain of the mercenaries,

or Free Companions, as they were called, and others proper to the

period, are added, but with a sparing hand, since sufficient information

on these subjects is to be found in general history.


An incident in the tale, which had the good fortune to find favour in

the eyes of many readers, is more directly borrowed from the stores of

old romance. I mean the meeting of the King with Friar Tuck at the cell

of that buxom hermit. The general tone of the story belongs to all ranks

and all countries, which emulate each other in describing the rambles of

a disguised sovereign, who, going in search of information or amusement,

into the lower ranks of life, meets with adventures diverting to the

reader or hearer, from the contrast betwixt the monarch's outward

appearance, and his real character. The Eastern tale-teller has for his

theme the disguised expeditions of Haroun Alraschid with his faithful

attendants, 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 the

Goodman of Ballengeigh, as the Commander of the Faithful, when he

desired to be incognito, was known by that of Il Bondocani. The French

minstrels are not silent on so popular a theme. There must have been

a Norman original of the Scottish metrical romance of Rauf Colziar, in

which 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. The

poem of John the Reeve, or Steward, mentioned by Bishop Percy, in

the Reliques of English Poetry, [3] is said to have turned on such an

incident; and we have besides, the King and the Tanner of Tamworth, the

King and the Miller of Mansfield, and others on the same topic. But

the peculiar tale of this nature to which the author of Ivanhoe has to

acknowledge an obligation, is more ancient by two centuries than any of

these last mentioned.


It was first communicated to the public in that curious record of

ancient literature, which has been accumulated by the combined exertions

of Sir Egerton Brydges. and Mr Hazlewood, in the periodical work

entitled the British Bibliographer. From thence it has been transferred

by the Reverend Charles Henry Hartsborne, M.A., editor of a very curious

volume, entitled "Ancient Metrical Tales, printed chiefly from original

sources, 1829." Mr Hartshorne gives no other authority for the present

fragment, except the article in the Bibliographer, where it is entitled

the Kyng and the Hermite. A short abstract of its contents will show its

similarity 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 with

his court to a gallant hunting-match in Sherwood Forest, in which, as

is not unusual for princes in romance, he falls in with a deer of

extraordinary size and swiftness, and pursues it closely, till he has

outstripped his whole retinue, tired out hounds and horse, and finds

himself alone under the gloom of an extensive forest, upon which

night is descending. Under the apprehensions natural to a situation so

uncomfortable, the king recollects that he has heard how poor men, when

apprehensive of a bad nights lodging, pray to Saint Julian, who, in the

Romish calendar, stands Quarter-Master-General to all forlorn travellers

that render him due homage. Edward puts up his orisons accordingly, and

by 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 its

close vicinity. The King hears the reverend man, with a companion of his

solitude, telling his beads within, and meekly requests of him quarters

for the night. "I have no accommodation for such a lord as ye be," said

the Hermit. "I live here in the wilderness upon roots and rinds, and may

not receive into my dwelling even the poorest wretch that lives, unless

it were to save his life." The King enquires the way to the next

town, and, understanding it is by a road which he cannot find without

difficulty, even if he had daylight to befriend him, he declares, that

with or without the Hermit's consent, he is determined to be his guest

that night. He is admitted accordingly, not without a hint from the

Recluse, that were he himself out of his priestly weeds, he would care

little for his threats of using violence, and that he gives way to him

not out of intimidation, but simply to avoid scandal.


The King is admitted into the cell--two bundles of straw are shaken

down for his accommodation, and he comforts himself that he is now under

shelter, 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 the

annunciation of his being a follower of the Court, who had lost himself

at the great hunting-match, cannot induce the niggard Hermit to produce

better fare than bread and cheese, for which his guest showed little

appetite; and "thin drink," which was even less acceptable. At length

the King presses his host on a point to which he had more than once

alluded, 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 means

to drag him into some confession of offence against the forest laws,

which, being betrayed to the King, might cost him his life. Edward

answers by fresh assurances of secrecy, and again urges on him the

necessity of procuring some venison. The Hermit replies, by once more

insisting on the duties incumbent upon him as a churchman, and continues

to 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 find

the reasons which finally induce the curtal Friar to amend the King's

cheer. But acknowledging his guest to be such a "good fellow" as has

seldom graced his board, the holy man at length produces the best his

cell affords. Two candles are placed on a table, white bread and baked

pasties are displayed by the light, besides choice of venison, both salt

and fresh, from which they select collops. "I might have eaten my bread

dry," 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 an

assistant to fetch a pot of four gallons from a secret corner near his

bed, and the whole three set in to serious drinking. This amusement

is superintended by the Friar, according to the recurrence of certain

fustian words, to be repeated by every compotator in turn before he

drank--a species of High Jinks, as it were, by which they regulated

their potations, as toasts were given in latter times. The one toper

says "fusty bandias", to which the other is obliged to reply, "strike

pantnere", 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 this

jolly pastime. Before his departure in the morning, the King invites his

reverend host to Court, promises, at least, to requite his hospitality,

and expresses himself much pleased with his entertainment. The jolly

Hermit at length agrees to venture thither, and to enquire for Jack

Fletcher, which is the name assumed by the King. After the Hermit has

shown Edward some feats of archery, the joyous pair separate. The King

rides home, and rejoins his retinue. As the romance is imperfect, we are

not acquainted how the discovery takes place; but it is probably much

in the same manner as in other narratives turning on the same subject,

where the host, apprehensive of death for having trespassed on the

respect due to his Sovereign, while incognito, is agreeably surprised by

receiving honours and reward.


In Mr Hartshorne's collection, there is a romance on the same

foundation, called King Edward and the Shepherd, [4]


which, considered as illustrating manners, is still more curious than

the King and the Hermit; but it is foreign to the present purpose.

The reader has here the original legend from which the incident in the

romance is derived; and the identifying the irregular Eremite with the

Friar Tuck of Robin Hood's story, was an obvious expedient.


The name of Ivanhoe was suggested by an old rhyme. All novelists have

had occasion at some time or other to wish with Falstaff, that they knew

where a commodity of good names was to be had. On such an occasion the

author chanced to call to memory a rhyme recording three names of the

manors forfeited by the ancestor of the celebrated Hampden, for striking

the 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 no

indication whatever of the nature of the story. He presumes to hold

this last quality to be of no small importance. What is called a taking

title, serves the direct interest of the bookseller or publisher, who by

this 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 to

his work ere it has appeared, he places himself in the embarrassing

condition of having excited a degree of expectation which, if he
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