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Ivanhoe (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140436588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140436587
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1 x 5.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771. Educated for the law, he obtained the office of sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire in 1799 and in 1806 the office of clerk of session, a post whose duties he fulfilled for some twenty-five years. His lifelong interest in Scottish antiquity and the ballads which recorded Scottish history led him to try his hand at narrative poems of adventure and action. The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808), and The Lady of the Lake (1810) made his reputation as one of the leading poets of his time. A novel, Waverley, which he had begun in 1805, was published anonymously in 1814. Subsequent novels appeared with the note “by the author of Waverley”; hence his novels often are called collectively “the Waverley novels.” Some of the most famous of these are Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe (1819), Kenilworth (1821), and Quentin Durward (1823). In recognition of his literary work Scott was made a baronet in 1819. During his last years he held various official positions and published biographies, editions of Swift and Dryden, tales, lyric poetry, and various studies of history and antiquity. He died in 1832.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Thus communed these; while to their lowly dome The full-fed swine return'd with evening home, Compell'd, reluctant, to the several sites, With din obstreperous and ungrateful cries.
POPE'S Odyssey
In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Wharncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song.
Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a period towards the end of the reign of Richard I, when his return from his long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his despairing subjects, who were in the meantime subjected to every species of subordinate oppression. The nobles, whose power had becomeexorbitant during the reign of Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second had scarce reduced into some degree of subjection to the crown, had now resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent; despising the feeble interference of the English Council of the State, fortifying their castles, increasing the number of their dependants, reducing all around them to a state of vassalage, and striving by every means in their power to place themselves each at the head of such forces as might enable him to make a figure in the national convulsions which appeared to be impending.
The situation of the inferior gentry, or franklins, as they were called, who, by the law and spirit of the English constitution, were entitled to hold themselves independent of the feudal tyranny, became now unusually precarious. If, as was most generally the case, they placed themselves under the protection of any of the petty kings in their vicinity, accepted of feudal offices in his household, or bound themselves, by mutual treaties of alliance and protection, to support him in his enterprises, they might indeed purchase temporary repose; but it must be with the sacrifice of that independence which was so dear to every English bosom, and at the certain hazard of being involved as a party in whatever rash expedition the ambition of their protector might lead him to undertake. On the other hand, such and so multiplied were the means of vexation and oppression possessed by the great barons, that they never wanted the pretext, and seldom the will, to harass and pursue, even to the very edge of destruction, any of their less powerful neighbours who attempted to separate themselves from their authority, and to trust for their protection, during the dangers of the times, to their own inoffensive conduct and to the laws of the land.
A circumstance which greatly tended to enhance the tyranny of the nobility and the sufferings of the inferior classes arose from the consequences of the Conquest by Duke Williamof Normandy. Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interest, two hostile races, one of which still felt the elation of triumph, while the other groaned under all the consequences of defeat. The power had been completely placed in the hands of the Norman nobility by the event of the battle of Hastings, and it had been used, as our histories assure us, with no moderate hand. The whole race of Saxon princes and nobles had been extirpated or disinherited, with few or no exceptions, nor were the numbers great who possessed land in the country of their fathers, even as proprietors of the second or of yet inferior classes. The royal policy had long been to weaken, by every means, legal or illegal, the strength of a part of the population which has justly considered as nourishing the most inveterate antipathy to their victor. All the monarchs of the Norman race had shown the most marked predilection for their Norman subjects; the laws of the chase, and many others, equally unknown to the milder and more free spirit of the Saxon constitution, had been fixed upon the necks of the subjugated inhabitants, to add weight, as it were, to the feudal chains with which they were loaded. At court, and in the castles of the great nobles, where the pomp and state of a court was emulated, Norman-French was the only language employed; in courts of law, the pleadings and judgments were delivered in the same tongue. In short, French was the language of honour, of chivalry, and even of justice, while the far more manly and expressive Anglo-Saxon was abandoned to the use of rustics and hinds, who knew no other. Still, however, the necessary intercourse between the lords of the soil, and those oppressed inferior beings by whom that soil was cultivated, occasioned the gradual formation of a dialect, compounded betwixt the French and the Anglo-Saxon, in which they could render themselves mutually intelligible to each other; and from this necessity arose by degrees the structureof our present English language, in which the speech of the victors and the vanquished have been so happily blended together; and which has since been so richly improved by importations from the classical languages, and from those spoken by the southern nations of Europe.
This state of things I have thought it necessary to premise for the information of the general reader, who might be apt to forget that, although no great historical events, such as war or insurrection, mark the existence of the Anglo-Saxons as a separate people subsequent to the reign of William the Second, yet the great national distinctions betwixt them and their conquerors, the recollection of what they had formerly been, and to what they were now reduced, continued, down to the reign of Edward the Third, to keep open the wounds which the Conquest had inflicted, and to maintain a line of separation betwixt the descendants of the victor Normans and the vanquished Saxons.
The sun was setting upon one of the rich grassy glades of that forest which we have mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. Hundreds of broad-headed, short-stemmed, wide-branched oaks, which had witnessed perhaps the stately march of the Roman soldiery, flung their gnarled arms over a thick carpet of the most delicious green sward; in some places they were intermingled with beeches, hollies, and copsewood of various descriptions, so closely as totally to intercept the level beams of the sinking sun; in others they receded from each other, forming those long sweeping vistas in the intricacy of which the eye delights to lose itself, while imagination considers them as the paths to yet wilder scenes of silvan solitude. Here the red rays of the sun shot a broken and discoloured light, that partially hung upon the shattered boughs and mossy trunks of the trees, and there they illuminated in brilliant patches the portions of turf to which they made their way. A considerable open space, in the midst of this glade, seemed formerly to have been dedicatedto the rites of Druidical superstition; for, on the summit of a hillock, so regular as to seem artificial, there still remained part of a circle of rough, unhewn stones, of large dimensions. Seven stood upright; the rest had been dislodged from their places, probably by the zeal of some convert to Christianity, and lay, some prostrate near their former site, and others on the side of the hill. One large stone only had found its way to the bottom, and, in stopping the course of a small brook which glided smoothly round the foot of the eminence, gave, by its opposition, a feeble voice of murmur to the placid and elsewhere silent streamlet.
The human figures which completed this landscape were in number two, partaking, in their dress and appearance, of that wild and rustic character which belonged to the woodlands of the West Riding of Yorkshire at that early period. The eldest of these men had a stern, savage, and wild aspect. His garment was of the simplest form imaginable, being a closed jacket with sleeves, composed of the tanned skin of some animal, on which the hair had been originally left, but which had been worn off in so many places that it would have been difficult to distinguish, from the patches that remained, to what creature the fur had belonged. This primeval vestment reached from the throat to the knees, and served at once all the usual purposes of body-clothing; there was no wider opening at the collar than was necessary to admit the passage of the head, from which it may be inferred that it was put on by slipping it over the head and shoulders, in the manner of a modern shirt, or ancient hauberk. Sandals, bound with throngs made of boar's hide, protected the feet, and a roll of thin leather was twined artificially round the legs, and, ascending above the calf, left the knees bare, like those of a Scottish Highlander. To make the jacket sit yet more close to the body, it was gathered at the middle by a broad leather belt, secured by a brass buckle; to one side of which was attached a sort ofscrip, and to the other a ram's horn, accounted with a mouthpiece, for the purpose of blowing. In the same belt was stuck one of those long, broad, sharp-pointed, and two-edged knives, with a buck's-horn handle, which were fabricated in the neighbourhood, and bore even at this early period the name of a Sheffield whittle. The man had no covering upon his head, which was only defended by his own thick hair, matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark-red colour, forming a contrast with the overgrown beard upon his cheeks, which was rather of a yellow or amber hue. One part of his dress only remains, but it is too remarkable to be supp...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is a classic and I have wanted to read this book since high school (when I chose easier reading).
Ivanhoe was the first novel set in England written by the great romancer Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) the Scottish lawyer who wrote fiction.
C. M Mills
Although the language can be a bit difficult(and sometimes humorous), the story and characters make Ivanhoe well worth the trouble.
Ann M Kauffman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

143 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan B. Sims on May 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It was fashionable during my school days (the 60s and 70s) to dismiss "Ivanhoe" as just another medieval romance replete with damsels in distress and their knights in shining armor. In retrospect, I think that was just a lazy excuse (certainly my own) to avoid wading through this rather lengthy, densely written historical novel. Take my advice, fellow reader: wade through. It is well worth your time and energy.
The story, of course, is set in Merry Ole England, with Richard the Lion-Hearted on the throne and his malevolent kid brother (the future King John of Magna Carta fame) plotting to take it away from him. From the history we do know of this period, King Richard rarely spent any time in England, much preferring to immerse himself in the Crusades or any other errant knight adventure which struck his fancy. In this setting we find the Saxon-bred Ivanhoe, who against his father's wishes joined Richard in the Middle East to fight the "Infidel." Ultimately, Ivanhoe finds his way back into his father's good graces, and I suppose at one level Sir Walter Scott's Classic is about their estrangement and final rapprochement. But "Ivanhoe" is so much more.
Perhaps the over-arching theme to "Ivanhoe" is the nascent reconciliation between the proud, yet vanquished, Saxons and their equally proud, conquering French Norman overlords. The story takes place about a century after the Norman Conquest, and it took a great many more years than that before the antagonists successfully blended together to form the greatest nation on earth. Equally great was the emergence of the language we now call English, which is in large measure a synthesis of the Saxon and Norman tongues.
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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful By T. S. VINE VOICE on September 9, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This the first,the classic, novelized medieval Romance. Written the same year as Queen Victoria's birth, it gave us much of our modern conception of medieval tournaments, King John, Robin Hood, Richard Coeur de Lion, etc. (I realize I stretch things a bit by calling Sir Walter Scott "modern," but I speak only by comparison with medieval ballads, King Arthur, Robin Hood legends, etc.)

If you've ever thought "ok, that was cool" as Robin Hood split an arrow with another arrow at the Great Archery Tournament, or wondered where the idea of Robin Hood as the defender of Saxon yeomanry against the Villainous John of Anjou, Regent for the absent Richard, got its start -- it started here.

The book isn't all about Robin Hood, though; mostly, it's about Knights and Tournaments and foul Norman oppressors. There's a tournament, a trial by combat, a castle seige, a little bit of anti-racist message (in the person of a beautiful and noble-in-spirit Jewish beauty unjustly maligned and accused of witchcraft), multiple anonymous knights (including a Black Knight!), and in short all the important highlights of medieval ballads, conveniently arranged in the format of a historical novel.

Scott's historiography is a little off (for example, at one point a character pretends to be a Franciscan monk, when the order wasn't founded until about twenty years after the novel's action takes place), but Scott does make a real effort to avoid most anachronisms (moreso than many writers of "historical novels"). This kindle edition also includes Scott's introduction and notes, which show that he put real effort into basing many of the events in his book on excerpts from period ballads and tales (rearranging them, of course, as per his authorial prerogative).
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on June 21, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Ivanhoe" is Romanticism writ large. The author's style is elegant and lucid - often very funny - and the interpolated poetry is fine, too. Dialogue, action and description are all well handled. Scott established the historical novel as a popular literary form, paving the way for Dumas, Fennimore Cooper and countless others since. Fennimore Cooper in particular, was directly inspired to take up writing by Scott's enormous success.

Although he has been criticized for historical errors, Scott includes a wealth of authentic detail and he certainly stays far closer to the truth than Hollywood ever does. (Here's a thought; why have we become ever more demanding of historical accuracy in our authors, yet able to accept the most glaring errors on the cinema screen?) The sensibilities reflected in this book are mostly those of a conservative gentleman and scholar of the nineteenth, rather than twelfth, century. In particular, the depiction of the Jewish characters and the master-servant relationships tells us as much about nineteenth century Britain as about medieval England. Nonetheless, it is in many ways a convincing portrait of life in the Middle Ages. Having lived in what is now the industrial wastescape of South Yorkshire (you saw it in "The Full Monty"), where much of the action of "Ivanhoe" takes place, I enjoyed Scott's vision of a still green and pleasant Merry England where deer roamed vast forests and knights went in search of adventure.

The varied cast of characters is one of the novel's great strengths. The reader cares what happens to them because they are so real. Oddly, the eponymous hero plays a minor, albeit crucial, role in the tale and the putative heroine Rowena is overshadowed by the more interesting Rebecca.
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