Edinburgh: printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London; and for Archibald Constable and Co., and John Ballantyne, Bookseller to the King, Edinburgh. 1820. First Edition. Boards. 3 vols. 1st edition. Original boards and labels, rebacked with new endpapers (a fitting match). Soiled and worn else very good, but troublesome to weigh against other sets, because variables won’t and constants aren’t. Very good. Item #102
Just after publishing Ivanhoe, Scott returned to his Scottish roots for this novel. The monastery of the title is Saint Mary’s Cistercian Abbey and the action is mostly within or surrounding it. The time is the Scottish Reformation (16th century) when the religious question had not been settled, but Scott wrote as the detached narrator, and presents its resolution as inevitable. The characters are (as is the custom in historical romance) a gathering (or a compaction) of real and fictional figures, playing out their personal, petty roles, rendered (and contrasted) against the great events surrounding them, as worldly life goes on, oblivious to all private vicissitudes and recoveries. The only grown–up hero, with a marginally objective sense of the times, is the Catholic Benedictine/Cistercian monk, Sub-Prior Eustace (once William Allan) who fights for his lost cause as stubbornly and gallantly, as would Robert E. Lee, 300 years later.