Sunday, January 6, 2013

Illustrations of two characters from Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novels

Here are the neatly detailed frontispieces from two of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novels, as published more than 100 years ago by Harper & Brothers.1

Shown above is Guy Mannering, the title character from 1815's "Guy Mannering." He is a military man and an amateur astrologer, which would explain the telescope and what appears to be an astrological globe next to him.

And above is Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns — the amateur historian, archaeologist and collector at the center of 1816's "The Antiquary."

He is surrounded by piles of cool stuff, including numerous old books and a helmet from a suit of armor. But my favorite thing in this illustration — being the owner of four of them2 — is his black cat.

Here is the wonderful passage from the novel in which the cat makes its first appearance:
"It was indeed some time before Lovel could, through the thick atmosphere, perceive in what sort of den his friend had constructed his retreat. It was a lofty room of middling size, obscurely lighted by high narrow latticed windows. One end was entirely occupied by book-shelves, greatly too limited in space for the number of volumes placed upon them, which were, therefore, drawn up in ranks of two or three files deep, while numberless others littered the floor and the tables, amid a chaos of maps, engraving, scraps of parchment, bundles of papers, pieces of old armour, swords, dirks, helmets, and Highland targets. Behind Mr. Oldbuck's seat (which was an ancient leathern-covered easy-chair, worn smooth by constant use) was a huge oaken cabinet, decorated at each corner with Dutch cherubs, having their little duck-wings displayed, and great jolter-headed visages placed between them. The top of this cabinet was covered with busts, and Roman lamps and paterae, intermingled with one or two bronze figures. The walls of the apartment were partly clothed with grim old tapestry, representing the memorable story of Sir Gawaine's wedding, in which full justice was done to the ugliness of the Lothely Lady; although, to judge from his own looks, the gentle knight had less reason to be disgusted with the match on account of disparity of outward favour, than the romancer has given us to understand. The rest of the room was panelled, or wainscotted, with black oak, against which hung two or three portraits in armour, being characters in Scottish history, favourites of Mr. Oldbuck, and as many in tie-wigs and laced coats, staring representatives of his own ancestors. A large old-fashioned oaken table was covered with a profusion of papers, parchments, books, and nondescript trinkets and gewgaws, which seemed to have little to recommend them, besides rust and the antiquity which it indicates. In the midst of this wreck of ancient books and utensils, with a gravity equal to Marius among the ruins of Carthage, sat a large black cat, which, to a superstitious eye, might have presented the genius loci, the tutelar demon of the apartment. The floor, as well as the table and chairs, was overflowed by the same mare magnum of miscellaneous trumpery, where it would have been as impossible to find any individual article wanted, as to put it to any use when discovered."
Sounds like my kind of room!

1. Another one of these frontispieces was highlighted in the July 10, 2012, post.
2. Send some good thought-waves over to our Mr. Bill, who has been struggling with multiple bladder blockages since Thanksgiving and is still feeling quite under the weather.

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