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Tales of a Scottish Grandfather Paperback – October 20, 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
My initial review was unduly harsh on the Covenanters. After researching a bit, Scott essentially slandered the Covenanters. As a whole, the Covenanters were not culpable in the death of Arcbishop Sharpe, which death in any case was a mercy to humanity. The role of the Cameronians in Scott's narrative is overstated.
Original Review below:
At the risk of sounding like a hippie modern, I "found" myself through reading this book. In high school I feasted upon the romances of Sir Walter Scott. I read through Rob Roy three or four times, longing to be a Scottish outlaw heroically resisting the banking apparatus which has destroyed lives and nations. Indeed, I longed to see myself hiding in the glens (or bayous) about to carry out some raid.
While this history does not have the same romantic flavor as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, one still gets the "Scottish" charm. Scott occasionally (but blessedly) violates the line between prose and poetry when describing the beauty of the Scottish highlands.
As history goes, this is actually one of the better ones. Scott is not neutral, but more importantly, he is not neutral in the places which you do not expect. He avoids facile conclusions like, "Scotland good; England bad." More so than others, he is aware of the painful nuances of post-Cromwellian British history. The battle is not between England and Scotland, but between Cromwell and Presbyterian, Cromwell and Jacobite, Presbyterian and Jacobite, and obviously, Presbyterian vs Presbyterian (!!!!). And then there are the Anglicans. Scott narrates through the nuances far better and more effortlessly than any theologian.
I am not the "covenanter-wannabe" I was when I first acquired these books. Indeed, I am quite critical of the Covenanters. That said, I, with Scott, duly note areas where the Covenanters showed true Christian heroism. On the other hand, I, with Scott, acknowledge areas where the Covenanters are guilty of downright murder--and to point this out, contra Joe Morecraft, does not destine one for the lowest pits of hell.
Sir Walter Scott's sympathies lie with the Jacobite Highlanders, but not so much with James II's attempts to reintroduce Catholicism in Britain in a crass, top-down manner. And that's my position as well.
One area of criticism with the modern editing of the book: the subtitle suggests part of the narrative deals with Rob Roy's heroic exploits. It does not. Rob Roy does not appear once in the book. True, the last chapter does set the stage for Roy's career, but Roy does not appear in this book.
This book is probably a bit more advanced to be advertised to ten year olds (as Scott thinks). On the other hand, it is the best introduction to the Covenanters and the post-Cromwellian period. As the Calvinist reader may be familiar with, these books are much better than the "Banner of Truth" books on the Covenanters. These books, to the contrary, provide a consistent narrative and avoid a lot of extraneous detail.
What sense is the obscure volume title, "FROM GLENCOE TO STIRLING" meant to evoke? No problem with GLENCOE: at that starkly beautiful MacDonalds' site in the western highlands, 38 men, women and children were massacred by Scottish troops in the dead of winter 1792. 150 more men, along with women and children succeeded in fleeing through the snow to shelter 12 miles away. The treacherous order to slaughter every man, woman and child below 70 years old was approved by King William III. Scotland to this day has not forgiven that otherwise enlightened monarch. Why Stirling appears in the title I am not sure.
Volume three of TALES OF A SCOTTISH GRANDFATHER is close to indispensable companion reading for six Walter Scott novels set in the years 1658 - 1714: WOODSTOCK, THE TALE OF OLD MORTALITY, PEVERIL OF THE PEAK, THE PIRATE, THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR and THE BLACK DWARF. Some of these romances are more political than others, but the dynastic struggles form the backdrop for all.
The most biting part of Scott's narrative describes the formation of the United Kingdom in 1707. At a time when two actions of King William III (the massacre at Glencoe and his opposition to Scottish colonization of the Isthmus of Panama) had inflamed Scotland against England, English commercial interests were forced to decide between resumption of unending centuries of war with Scotland or assuring permanent peace by absorbing their smaller northern neighbor, more or less willingly. Which alternative would cost England less money? At a time when probably 95% of Scots were passionately against the Union, it was nonetheless negotiated in late 1706 and finally agreed to by the Scottish parliament. The United Kingdom opened shop in May 1707 -- on very unequal terms for Scotland. Bribes and payoffs to the Scottish negotiators and members of Parliament produced the needed votes.
According to Walter Scott, the very unfair terms of the treaty of union, combined with popular detestation of all those bribed to sell Scotland's ancient national independence, gave Scotland sixty more years of avoidable turmoil and humiliation. Then at last, with the coming of King George III, the Union began to give Scotland those commercial benefits that had been promised.
Meanwhile there was the Old Pretender's rising of 1707-08 and the political uncertainty who would succeed Queen Anne as she approached death in 1714. -OOO-