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‘The Persistence of the “Vocalic”’: Scott and the Early Strategies of Accommodation

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Abstract

Given the experience of reading the novels of Sir Walter Scott, ‘Acknowledgements’ and ‘Dedications’ would appear to present difficulties to all of us who think we hear repressed voices in nineteenth-century fiction, including Edward Waverley. In the Scott novel which bears his name, the uncle to whom Edward’s early education has been entrusted, like so many of our institutional forebears in academia, privileges the historical recuperation of ancestral honour and ‘influence’ by a proto-Roundtable. Celebrations among his neighbours initiated by the Baron of Bradwardine typically encompass oaths of allegiance to a ‘school’ of shared interests, drunken bouts and boasts, martial challenges to imaginary enemies, and debates over the proper origin of the phoneme ‘Brad’ in the family name, resolved in one instance by a recourse to the seventeenth-century compendium of family names, the Hieroglyphia Animalium. Rote exercises are deployed so as to assist his ward in the development of a specific kind of historical recall — of those events which shaped the family at whose head Edward Waverley will someday stand.1 The noble life is one of continuous dedication.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Giant Killer Social Reproduction Oral Narrative Oral Culture 
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Notes

  1. 3.
    Thomas Weiskel, The Romantic Sublime (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), especially pp. 38–46. Weiskel’s continuous vistas, from one perspective, would mark the end of an inscripted (readable) landscape. The exposure of the country’s ‘future’ to this landscape and its values, if read allegorically, might be seen as a recognition of the limits of an inscriptive history which, until the eighteenth century, had made him what he was. In my analysis, Scott must make the challenge of a fugitive orality economically viable, rather than, as for Weiskel, merely psychologically acceptable; otherwise, voice, like writing, dies out.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Ovid, Metamorphoses, translated by Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1955), 3: 359–61.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, translated by George Thornley (London: William Heinemann, 1916), 3: 23.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), translated by Martin Nicolaus (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1973), p. 141. Although Marx never to my knowledge uses ‘echo’ as a trope, his early work is filled with images of money’s constant ability to refigure itself while remaining groundless. Its role as a ‘general equivalent’ is like the mythic Echo’s as an object of mimetic desire: it reflects whatever ‘last value’ was projected on to it.Google Scholar
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    Immanuel Kant, ‘Analytic of the Sublime’, in Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, translated by J. C. Meredith (Oxford, 1911), p. 47.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Immanuel Kant, Gessamelte Schriften (Prussian Academy Edition), 22 vols (Berlin 1900–42) V, 268. My own translation. In translating Unerreichbarkeit as ‘unattainability’, we might suggest some imbalance in which the perceptual relationship becomes indeterminate either through the mind’s insufficiency or through some syntagmatic excess in the natural object. The sublime ‘interruption’ thereby enters consciousness, but not as recognizable: a representation (Vorstellung) is thus converted to a presentation (Darstellung).Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    E. J. Hobsbawm, Bandits (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), especially pp. 17–40. In Hobsbawm’s analysis, because the gossip-figure derives his or her existence from an independence of ‘informational management’, it invariably appears as representative of some deprivatisation. In the political history of South and Southeast Asia — and particularly during the 1965 putsch in Sukarno’s Indonesia — the village storyteller-cum-medicine-man (known as ‘bomoh’ in Bahasa) to which Madge Wildfire and Meg Merrilies might be compared, were subject to harsh governmental repression under emergency measures designed to bring all communication under official control.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Kathryn Sutherland, ‘Fictional Economies: Adam Smith, Walter Scott, and the Nineteenth Century Novel’, ELH 54 (1989), 97–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Susan Stewart, Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 66–101. For a compatible reading of Scott as an author who ‘clears’ an eighteenth-century fictional ‘field’ for the eventual domination of the ‘male historical epic’, see Ina Ferris, The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History, and the Waverley Novels (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
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    Walter Scott, ‘Essay on Imitations of the Ancient Ballads’, in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, rev. and ed. by T. F. Henderson (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1932), IV, 10–11.Google Scholar
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    Thomas Carlyle, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, 5 vols (London, 1899) 4: 82.Google Scholar
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    E. S. Hartland, English Fairy and Other Folk Tales (London: 1890), pp. xv–xvii.Google Scholar
  13. More recently, Katharine M. Briggs, The Vanishing People: A Study of Traditional Fairy Belief (London: 1978), has suggested that the decline of leisure which accompanied the industrial revolution was of an importance equal to that of the church in suppressing fairies and witches from acceptable literature.Google Scholar
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    Jurgen Habermas, The Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 89–116.Google Scholar
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    Isaac Watts, ‘A Discourse on the Education of Children and Youth’, in Works (1753), V, 383.Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    See Geoffrey Summerfield, Fantasy and Reason: Children’s Literature in the Eighteenth Century (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984). One of the heretofore unexamined ‘linkages’ in the literary history of England is the approximately contemporaneous appearance of the gothic mode with a distinctive literature for children. If Aries’ by now famous argument — that a recognizable, independent ‘culture’ of childhood (a special space within adult domicility, clothing, cuisine, entertainment, literature) — has validity, then ‘children’s literature’, a literature in which gossiping servants and housekeepers would have a share, might be read as a compensation for the suppression of other forms of childhood.Google Scholar
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    J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth Century English Fiction (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1990), pp. 160–1.Google Scholar
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    Richard D. Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957).Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Francis Jeffrey, ‘Maria Edgeworth’s Tales of Fashionable Life’, Edinburgh Review 14 (1809): 376–7, sees his inexperienced audience as undiscriminating because of their eagerness to buy. Hence, they exhibit a vulnerability to facile deception. J. Paul Hunter in ‘The Young, the Ignorant, and the Idle: Some Notes on Readers and the Beginnings of the English Novel’, in Anticipations of the Enlightenment in England, France, and Germany ed. Paul J. Korshin and Alan C. Kors (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987) suggests that the audience for the earliest novels (a century earlier!) were similarly stereotyped as ‘immature’ and ‘easily led astray’. One is left to wonder why, after over a hundred years of ‘development’, a certain kind of reader could still be threatened by a certain kind of novel.Google Scholar
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    Francis Jeffrey, ‘Robert Southey’s Thalaba’, Edinburgh Review 1 (1802), 63.Google Scholar
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    H. J. Stephen and W. Gifford, ‘Review of Tales of Fashionable Life’, Quarterly Review 2 (1809): 146.Google Scholar
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    Review of Felicia Hemans, The Skeptic: A Poem (unsigned), Edinburgh Monthly Review 3 (1820): 374–5.Google Scholar
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    John Ward, ‘Review of Patronage’, Quarterly Review 10 (1814): 304.Google Scholar
  24. 36.
    Edmund Burke, The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (Boston: Little Brown, 1871), vol. III, 332.Google Scholar
  25. 37.
    Eve K. Sedgwick, ‘The Character in the Veil: Imagery of the Surface in the Gothic Novel’, PMLA 96, no. 2 (1981), 256. This tendency to transform the ‘gothic body’ into an inscripted surface in some ways parallels the interest — discussed earlier in this chapter — in locating a ‘lost’ oral tradition in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Percy, Lady Wardlaw’s ‘Hardyknute’, and Chatterton’s ‘oeuvre’ all continued the late-eighteenth-century interest in the work of the so-called untutored genius. Rude speech became aligned with nature as opposed to culture. Impossibly, this oral culture is then imagined as somehow miming ‘sophisticated’ literary tastes. This would represent, from one perspective, some need of the lower classes to be ‘collected’ by an aristocracy of taste, that would protect the untutored from themselves. Literary tradition would thus create an idealization of itself through a ‘guided’ appropriation which ‘marks’ orality as readable, and hence significant in the same way torture does with the gothic victim.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 38.
    J. G. A. Pocock, Virtue, Comerce, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 108–10. Pocock is especially enlightening in charting both metaphoric and real changes from ‘fixed’ to vehicular forms of property. Gossip is similarly highly speculative, its carriers often displaying a tendency to heightened locomotion, even as they are often socio-economically ‘fixed’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 40.
    Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (London: Basil Blackwell, 1990), p. 13. Eagleton’s construction of ‘aestheticism’ is less attentive to the ways it subsidizes its social reproduction, even as it would effect a resistance to commodification.Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. H. Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), pp. 217–51.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jan B. Gordon 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tokyo University of Foreign StudiesJapan

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