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Frolics in the Face of Europe

Sir Walter Scott, Continental Travel and the Tradition of the Grand Tour

Iain Gordon Brown



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10 December 2020
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) wrote frequently of his desire to travel widely in Europe. However, he actually made only three Continental ventures. Two were to Belgium, Northern France and Paris. Then, shortly before his death, he at last journeyed to the Mediterranean, the British Admiralty giving him free passage in a warship - a notable gesture of concern for the welfare of what today would be called a 'national treasure'. Scott visited Malta, and many cities of Italy. His months in Naples and his weeks in Rome provoked both interest and sadness: most of all they caused him to reflect from afar on Scotland, the land of his birth, his mind and his heart. He returned through the Tyrol and German lands, regions of the Continent he had long wished to see, but which he could by then barely appreciate.

All these European trips are full of interest for the modern reader. But equally, and almost more so, are the many other schemes Scott entertained for wider travelling, notably in the Iberian Peninsula and in Switzerland and Germany. In this book, all these actual and projected journeys are examined in the context of the Grand Tour tradition, and also in that of the new kind of 'romantic' travel that, after 1815, came to succeed older, prescribed forms.

Frolics in the Face of Europe (the phrase is derived from a letter of Scott's of 1824) draws on his vast correspondence and his moving journal; on his verse, and his prose fiction; and on the literature of travel which gave him such a wide knowledge of the world without even leaving his study in Edinburgh or his library at Abbotsford. A series of vignettes or pen-portraits emerges of journeys completed, and voyages merely dreamed of. Many social, literary and artistic connections are made; events, places and personalities are linked, often in surprising ways. Walter Scott emerges as a man with ambiguous ideas about travel: one who knew that he ought to travel, and to have travelled more than he did. But he was a writer of profound imaginative power, whose vicarious travelling allowed him to spend most of his time where he really wanted to be: in his native Scotland. This book offers a fresh view of Scott as the 250th anniversary of his birth approaches.
By:   Iain Gordon Brown
Imprint:   FONTHILL
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 24mm
Weight:   543g
ISBN:   9781781558096
ISBN 10:   1781558094
Pages:   256
Publication Date:   10 December 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Dr Iain Gordon Brown, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was formerly Principal Curator of Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland, where he is now an Honorary Fellow. In the course of a long career, he was responsible for many acquisitions of Walter Scott material. He has also held the elected office of Curator of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy (of which Scott was the third President). A widely-published scholarly author, he has edited Scott's Interleaved Waverley Novels: An Introduction and Commentary and Abbotsford and Sir Walter Scott: The Image and the Influence, and has written numerous articles and essays on aspects of the man and his world: he has also mounted several related exhibitions. A past President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, he is a member of the Curatorial Expert Advisory Panel of the Abbotsford Trust, and of the Faculty of Advocates Joint Abbotsford Advisory Committee. He is an Associate of the Centre for the History of the Book in the University of Edinburgh. Formerly President of the Old Edinburgh Club, and a Trustee of Edinburgh World Heritage, his current activities include service as Vice-President of the Edinburgh Decorative and Fine Arts Society, and as Consultant to the Adam Drawings Project at Sir John Soane's Museum, London. The intellectual history and culture (in its broadest sense) of Scotland in its Golden Age of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has long been a major area of interest, and the focus of many of his books and articles: these have covered a wide range of inter-related topics. For over four decades he has worked on the history of the Grand Tour, publishing extensively on British travellers, scholars, artists and architects in Europe between the 1690s and the 1850s.

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