British Fiction, 18001829

SCOTT, Sir Walter. Kenilworth (1821)

Anecdotal Records

Letter from Lady Louisa Stuart to Walter Scott.
4 Dec 1820.
Mr. Morritt whispers the name of Kenilworth Castle; and, with Mr. Sneer in the Critic, ‘hopes no scandal of Queen Elizabeth?’ I hope so too [...].
Source: Sir Walter’s Post-Bag, ed. by Wilfred Partington (London: Murray, 1932), p. 147. See Millgate #4463.

Letter from Henry Mackenzie to Archibald Constable.
10 Jan 1821.
[…] it would be a great favor of you if you could send me by the bearer, or tomorrow Morning, Kenilworth Castle [sic], which a lady of our acquaintance somehow or other got some days ago.
Source: Literature and Literati: The Literary Correspondence and Notebooks of Henry Mackenzie. Volume I: Letters 1766–1827, ed. by Horst W. Drescher (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1989), p. 300.

Letter from Harriet Leveson Gower, Lady Granville, to Lady Georgina Morpeth.
[22 Jan 1821].
Granville dines with Charles Ellis and I consequently perform alone upon a roast chicken and mean to devour Kenilworth with it. There are different opinions. Charles Greville told me last night that he did not stir out or go to bed till five in the morning the day he began it.
Source: A Second Self: The Letters of Harriet Granville, 1810–1845, ed. by Virginia Surtees (Salisbury, Wiltshire: Michael Russell, 1990), p. 154.
Notes: Date in square brackets appears as given in the printed source.

Letter from Sydney Smith to Archibald Constable.
26 Jan 1821.
Very good indeed; there cannot and will not be two opinions upon it. The dialogues are a little too long. Pray let us have no more Dominie Sampsons—good, but stale. These are trifling faults, but the author has completely recovered himself, and the novel is excellent. [postscript] Flibbertigibbet is very good and very new.
Source: Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. by Nowell C. Smith, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), I, 373.
Notes: Constable kept Smith supplied with copies of Scott’s novels as they appeared.

Letter from John Bacon Sawrey Morritt to Walter Scott.
28 Jan 1821.
[…] thanks for Kenilworth Castle [sic] which was duly delivered, read, re-read, and thumbed with great delight by our fireside. You know when I first heard that Queen Elizabeth was to be brought forward as a heroine of a novel how I trembled for her reputation. Well knowing your not over affectionate regard for that flower of maidenhood, I dreaded lest all her venerable admirers on [151/152] this side of the Tweed would have been driven to despair by a portrait of Her Majesty after the manner of Mr. Sharpe’s ingenious sketches. The author, however, has been so very fair and has allowed her so many of her real historical merits that I think he really has, like Squire Western, a fair right to demand that we should at least allow her to have been a bitch. I am not sure that I do not like and enjoy Kenilworth quite as much as any of its predecessors.
Source: Sir Walter’s Post-Bag, ed. by Wilfred Partington (London: Murray, 1932), pp. 151–52. See Millgate #12625.
Notes: Letter is undated in Partington; date is from Millgate.

Letter from Mary Russell Mitford to Barbara Hofland.
7 Feb 1821.
Yes, I have read ‘Melmoth’ all through; I never read much by Mr Maturin before […] I don’t think I shall want to look at ‘Melmoth’ again in a hurry, and yet it is a most extraordinary book, full of power—terrible power—but with some most splendid painting and touches, that go quite to the heart, particularly in—I forget the name—the starving story. It is very painful too, but not, I think, on the whole so painful as ‘Kenilworth,’ which is the most complete anatomy of the bad human heart that I have ever met with. I wonder that Sir Walter Scott could think if such names as Raleigh, Spenser, and Shakespeare, and yet write on through such wickedness. Why, surely when such men lived they must have purified the air; the very atmosphere that Shakespeare breathed could not have nourished a Varney—no, nor a Leicester. But let people say as they will of Walter Scott’s being another Shakespeare, there is this difference among a thousand others, that the poet had a strong faith in human virtue—the novelist a strong faith in human frailty. I don’t know which is most right, but I would rather be wrong with Shakespeare than right with Walter Scott. After all, the character of Elizabeth is admirably done; and as the novel is pretty clear of any ‘White Lady’ atrocities, and full of strong excitement, we [101/102] shall hear it cried up for another ‘Ivanhoe.’
Source: Letters of Mary Russell Mitford. Second Series, ed. by Henry Chorley, 2 vols (London: Bentley, 1872), I, 101–02.
Notes: Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer is EN2 1820: 51. Ivanhoe is EN2 1820: 63. The White Lady features in Scott’s Monastery (EN2 1820: 64).

Letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Grey.
9 Feb 1821.
I hope Lord Grey and you like the new novel [Kenilworth]: I think it very good, and entertaining, though far inferior to those novels where the Scene is laid in Scotland.
Source: Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. by Nowell C. Smith, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), I, 374.

Letter from Sir Alexander Boswell to Walter Scott.
19 Feb 1821.
On my return home I have finished the perusal of Kenilworth with a degree of satisfaction and astonishment at the powers of the Authour even exceeding what I enjoyed before.
Source: Sir Walter Scott’s Post-Bag, ed. by Wilfred Partington (London: Murray, 1932), p. 152. See Millgate #12634.
Notes: Sir Alexander Boswell (1775–1822) was an antiquarian and poet, and the eldest son of James Boswell, the biographer.

Letter from Mary Ann Hughes to Walter Scott.
19 Feb 1821.
Pray do not imagine that I am making an attempt to raise the veil of mystery which covers the ‘Great Unknown’. Be he who he may, the Author of Waverley and his delightful younger brethren must be known to you; and perhaps you may amuse him with the sensation which Kenilworth has occasioned in this neighbourhood. In the first place Lord Abingdon is, I hear, undone at having a few years ago pulled down Cumnor Place to build a lodge at Wytham. Nothing remains of the scene of poor Amy’s sufferings but a very small part of the house may be easily traced. Every child can show there the staircase stood down which the unhappy lady was thrown. But Cumnor is now the point of attraction to all Oxford and its neigh-[150/151]bourhood; and the Clerk of the Parish is making a fortune by shewing the site of the old mansion and Anthony Foster’s tomb in the Church to the hosts of pilgrims who are daily crowding to the shrine. // Nor is this all: the landlord of the Jolly Ringers has this week put up the sign of ‘The Black Bear, by Giles Gosling.’ Wayland Smith [i.e. his forge] is in perfect preservation at the distance of not two miles from this place.
Source: Sir Walter Scott’s Post-Bag, ed. by Wilfred Partington (London: Murray, 1932), pp. 150–51. See Millgate #12632.

Letter from Sarah Harriet Burney to Charlotte Francis Barrett.
27 Feb 1821.
Of course you have read Kenilworth Castle [sic], and I trust, liked it. I greatly prefer it to the Monastery, & am almost as much pleased with it as with the Abbot: but not quite; the catastrophe is painful, & Elizabeth features not so appropriately in a Romance, as her beautiful Rival; neither is the false varnish given to Leicester’s character capable of making one forget his historical turpitude. The introduction of Raleigh is a delightful relief; and I wanted Sir Philip Sidney to boot; and more about several others only incidentally mentioned. It would perhaps have been too hazardous to have brought in dear Shakespear: I cannot, however, but wish that he had ventured it. May be, I am a fool, and Scott’s enemy for desiring it: but with his versatility of power; his happy embodyings of fictitious character, he might surely have given form and pressure (if any man could) to the realities of Shakespear mind, and manners, & person.—At all events, Raleigh being so well delineated, I hope he will soon take some other historical personage in hand.
Source: The Letters of Sarah Harriet Burney, ed. by Lorna J. Clark (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1997), p. 230.
Notes: Charlotte was Burney’s niece; she married Henry Barrett in 1807. The letter is addressed to her at Richmond, Surrey. The Monastery is EN2 1820: 64; The Abbot is EN2 1820: 62.

Letter from Walter Scott to Mary Anne Hughes.
[6 Mar 1821].
You mistake when you give me any credit for being concerned with these far famed novels but I am not the less amused with the hasty dexterity of the good folks of Cumnor & its vicinity getting all their traditionary lore into such order as to meet the taste of the public. I could have wishd the author had chosen a more heroical death for his fair victim.
Source: Grierson, VI, 384; also see Millgate #1818.
Notes: Letter is dated Tuesday; date is from Corson, 187. A note in Grierson reports that Hughes had told Scott of the crowds visiting Cumnor in consequence of the publication of Kenilworth.

Diary Entry by Henry Crabb Robinson.
11 Mar 1821.
This was a day of luxurious enjoyment, spent almost without interruption in the reading of the last half of Kenilworth…From my rising in the morning I was occupied about Kenilworth. This is, ‘If not my first, in the very first line,’ of the author’s works. Its great excellence appears to me to be the vivacity and spirit of his sketches of the court and person of Elizabeth. One gains a much deeper impression of the manners, character, and life of that age from such painting than from Miss Aikin’s book, respectable as it is. The scenes in which Sir Walter Raleigh plays a part are the best of the whole. The book is, however, too painful, and deals too much in absolutely odious characters. There is no soul of goodness in the evil things of this novel, and Shakespeare’s rule is therefore violated. The character of Leicester is well conceived, that of the Countess, too, is well given. In the management of the incidents the author, by making Varney excite the jealousy of Leicester, who in the account con-[262/263]sents to the murder of his wife, has weakened the effect of the story every way. The incident is a vulgar one. Leicester should have been carried away by his ambition only, and not by a delusion common to a thousand tragedy and romance heroes. Besides, this is an improbable incident.
Source: Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers, ed. by Edith J. Morley, 3 vols (London: Dent, 1938), I, 262.
Notes: Ellipses are given as they appear in the printed source. Lucy Aikin’s Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth was published in 1818.

Letter from Lord Byron to John Murray II.
26 Apr 1821.
[postscript] Your latest packet of books is on its way here but not arrived. Kenilworth excellent.
Source: Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. by Leslie A. Marchand, 13 vols (London: Murray, 1973–94), VIII, 103.

Letter from Anne Grant to Miss Gorman.
29 Apr 1821.
I am reading the Life of Queen Elizabeth, by Miss Aikin: you will be much entertained with it, if it comes in your way; nay, you should go out of your way to get it, were it only to see with what exquisite skill the wizard of Abbotsford has, in Kenilworth, strung the pearls of truth on the silken cord of fancy, only collecting them from different times and places, and, by a little harmless anachronism, bringing them into a connected series, and thus throwing clearer light on those characters which contemporary writers had drawn so faithfully, and which he has coloured with all the fresh hues of actual life.
Source: Memoir and Correspondence of Mrs Grant of Laggan, ed. by J. P. Grant, 3 vols (London: Longman, 1844), II, 289.

Journal Entries by Claire Clairmont.
28 Aug 1821.
Read Kenilworth.

29 Aug 1821.
Read Kenilworth.

30 Aug 1821.
Finish Kenilworth. Begin Anastasius.
Source: The Journals of Claire Clairmont, ed. by Marion Kingston Stocking (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), p. 247.
Notes: The entry is addressed from Leghorn. Anastasius is Thomas Hope’s (EN2 1819: 42).

Journal Entry by Mary Shelley.
6 Sept 1821.
[…] finish Kenilworth.
Source: The Journals of Mary Shelley 1814–1844, ed. by Paula R. Feldman & Diana Scott-Kilvert, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), I, 379.

Letter from Eliza Fenwick to Mary Hays.
10 Dec 1821.
I have just read & Eliza is now reading The Heart of Mid-Lothian. It seized with painful intentness on my feelings, & unless misled by the present impression, I should pronounce it the best of W. Scott’s works. The Monastery pained me. I did not like that this genius should adopt supernatural agency & that of no very dignified kind. It has however fine portraits & beautiful passages. The Abbot pleased me excessively & Kenilworth also, but Jenny Deans & Rebecca are holy creatures, whose excellencies are indeed, as you justly call them, perfect specimens of the Moral Sublime.
Source: The Fate of the Fenwicks: Letters to Mary Hays (1798–1828), ed. by A. F. Wedd (London: Methuen & Co, 1927), p. 216.
Notes: Letter is addressed from Barbadoes. Eliza is also the name of Fenwick’s daughter. The second series of Tales of My Landlord (EN2 1818: 56) comprises ‘The Heart of Mid-lothian’. Rebecca is a character in Ivanhoe, which is EN2 1820: 63.

Marginal comments by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
[?Sept 1823–1825].
[Coleridge’s comments, written in his copy of Kenilworth, are recorded in Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Marginalia, ed. by H. J. Jackson and George Whalley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), XII.4, 601–02.]

Letter from Prince Pückler-Muskau to Lucie, Countess of Pappenheim.
29 Dec 1826.
A few posts from Leamington, in a country which gradually becomes more solitary and dreary, lies Kenilworth. // With Sir Walter Scott’s captivating book in my hand I wandered amid these ruins, which call up such varied feelings.
Source: A Regency Visitor: The English Tour of Prince Pückler-Muskau, Described in his Letters, 1826–1828, ed. by E. M. Butler (London: Collins, 1957), p. 131.
Notes: Letter is dated from Birmingham.

Letter from Prince Pückler-Muskau to Lucie, Countess of Pappenheim.
27 May 1827.
[The Prince describes dining with the Duke of Clarence. The Duke’s sister, who is married to Sir Philip Sidney, tells Pückler-Muskau of the various papers and portraits held by the Sidney family.] Among other curious documents they have also a list of the guests at the feast of Kenilworth and some very remarkable household accounts at that time. I believe Sir Walter Scott has used these papers.
Source: A Regency Visitor: The English Tour of Prince Pückler-Muskau, Described in his Letters, 1826–1828, ed. by E. M. Butler, from the original translation by Sarah Austin (London: Collins, 1957), p. 210.

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