The Age of Rousseau, 1760–1800
Before finding the vision which was missing from Fielding’s Amelia
we have to wait for the appearance of the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Scott’s work is interfused with a particular spirit, recognised by contemporaries and successors as equally original and important. He saw human life as a whole, as the point of union between forces dramatically opposed and yet essentially unified, and developed a standpoint fundamentally different and yet strikingly similar to that of the great Renaissance writers. There is a scene in Rob Roy
(1817) which demonstrates this perhaps more clearly than any other. In the Highland fastness of Rob Roy, having recently destroyed a troop of infantry sent in search of him and learned that he has been captured by the treachery of the gauger Morris, Roy’s wife condemns the latter to immediate death:
She gave a brief command in Gaelic to her attendants, two of whom seized upon the prostrate suppliant, and hurried him to the brink of a cliff which overhung the flood. He set up the most piercing and dreadful cries that fear ever uttered—I may well term them dreadful, for they haunted my sleep for years afterwards….
KeywordsHuman Nature Eighteenth Century Family Firm Secret Society Ancien Regime
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