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The Fortunes of Nigel by Sir Walter Scott, Fiction, Historical

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Having, in the tale of the Heart of Mid-Lothian, succeeded in some degree in awakening an interest in behalf of one devoid of those accomplishments which belong to a heroine almost by right, I was next tempted to choose a hero upon the same unpromising plan; and as worth of character, goodness of heart, and rectitude of principle, were necessary to one who laid no claim to Having, in the tale of the Heart of Mid-Lothian, succeeded in some degree in awakening an interest in behalf of one devoid of those accomplishments which belong to a heroine almost by right, I was next tempted to choose a hero upon the same unpromising plan; and as worth of character, goodness of heart, and rectitude of principle, were necessary to one who laid no claim to high birth, romantic sensibility, or any of the usual accomplishments of those who strut through the pages of this sort of composition, I made free with the name of a person who has left the most magnificent proofs of his benevolence and charity that the capital of Scotland has to display. --From Sir Walter Scott's introduction


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Having, in the tale of the Heart of Mid-Lothian, succeeded in some degree in awakening an interest in behalf of one devoid of those accomplishments which belong to a heroine almost by right, I was next tempted to choose a hero upon the same unpromising plan; and as worth of character, goodness of heart, and rectitude of principle, were necessary to one who laid no claim to Having, in the tale of the Heart of Mid-Lothian, succeeded in some degree in awakening an interest in behalf of one devoid of those accomplishments which belong to a heroine almost by right, I was next tempted to choose a hero upon the same unpromising plan; and as worth of character, goodness of heart, and rectitude of principle, were necessary to one who laid no claim to high birth, romantic sensibility, or any of the usual accomplishments of those who strut through the pages of this sort of composition, I made free with the name of a person who has left the most magnificent proofs of his benevolence and charity that the capital of Scotland has to display. --From Sir Walter Scott's introduction

30 review for The Fortunes of Nigel by Sir Walter Scott, Fiction, Historical

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carl Waluconis

    The title is a little corny for modern tastes, but it was supposed to be a little corny even in Scott's time, as a naive Scottish visitor visits sprawling, wild and violent London. This would make a great Monty Python film. If you like old hard cover copies of Scott's novels, this one is more difficult to find. Only recently I found a copy in a bookstore in Vancouver piled literally to the ceiling with old volumes. I'm happy I did. Many of the variety of great characters are based on true people The title is a little corny for modern tastes, but it was supposed to be a little corny even in Scott's time, as a naive Scottish visitor visits sprawling, wild and violent London. This would make a great Monty Python film. If you like old hard cover copies of Scott's novels, this one is more difficult to find. Only recently I found a copy in a bookstore in Vancouver piled literally to the ceiling with old volumes. I'm happy I did. Many of the variety of great characters are based on true people. Maybe the best is the eccentric King James, who grew up a Scotsman and became King of England. Scott has notes on many of the real characters with further true anecdotes. I was enchanted by Lady Hermione's brief stay in the novel, but maybe one of the most interesting, if annoying, people is Sir Mungo Malagrowther. He grew up as the Prince's whipping boy, a boy actually whipped to make the Prince feel bad when he had been disobedient. Sir Mungo was later knighted and developed passive aggressiveness into a teeth-grinding expertise. When Nigel is threatened with having his hand cut off by the Velvet Chamber for threatening violence on the Royal Walk, Mungo commiserated with Nigel by considering the skills lost in applying the punishment: Sir Mungo: “the executioner, with his cleaver and mallet, and his man, with his pan of hot charcoal, and the irons for cautery [was efficient]. This man Gregory is not fit to jipper a joint with him....” Nigel's reply: “...if the laws will demand my hand, the executioner may get it off as he best can. If the King leaves it where it is, it may chance to do him better service.” Dry humor, but Scott includes a note - "Punishment of Stubbs by Mutilation"- describing when Stubbs and his Page both lost a hand by cleaver and mallet. Stubbs swept off his hat with his remaining hand, cried out "God save the Queen", and walked away a free man. London was a violent, often dangerous place at the time. We visit gambling dens and the heart of the criminal sections of London, as well as the palaces, and even a gigantic elaborate clock shop based on a real place with its many "wrecks of useless ingenuity." King James (yes, he's the one who sponsored the famous translation of the Bible) is complex and larger than life. His calling out an antagonist displays James' typical humor. “You are a hardened villain, Delgarno,” said the King; “and were I the lass, by my father’s saul (sic.), I would rather brook the stain of having been your concubine, than run the risk of becoming your wife.” He was learned, so throws in lots of Latin. Have your Google translator handy if your copy does not bother with translating. Scott is also up to trying to match Shakespeare with choice insults, such as "thou sniveling dribblet of damnation." I greatly enjoyed my visit to the streets and structures, language and loves of King James' London, and was sorry to see it end.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K.V. Johansen

    I've been slowly reading all the Waverley novels. Nigel isn't one of my favourites among Scott's naive young male heroes, and I found the first volume, as the young Scottish lord gets himself in trouble in the London of James I & VI by following the malicious advice of a supposed friend, rather dull. Once Nigel flees into 'Alsatia', though, it picks up. I wonder if Scott's portrayal of this lawless district of London, ruled over by self-appointed criminal lordlings as a city within the city, is I've been slowly reading all the Waverley novels. Nigel isn't one of my favourites among Scott's naive young male heroes, and I found the first volume, as the young Scottish lord gets himself in trouble in the London of James I & VI by following the malicious advice of a supposed friend, rather dull. Once Nigel flees into 'Alsatia', though, it picks up. I wonder if Scott's portrayal of this lawless district of London, ruled over by self-appointed criminal lordlings as a city within the city, is the first such fictional portrayal of that setting so beloved of current fantasy authors? It quite likely is, given that Scott was the first to write historical fiction aiming to show the mores and manners of other times.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    #1 A 19th century classic The basic story of the fortunes of Nigel, Lord Glenvarloch, might be considered simple and might possibly be compared with a Western where the deed to the ranch is in danger. However, many elements make this story so much more than just a Polly Pureheart story with a male lead. There are definite villians, but our hero has his character flaws also, despite a certain innocence and nobility. King James, of whom I knew little more than his authorization of the translation o #1 A 19th century classic The basic story of the fortunes of Nigel, Lord Glenvarloch, might be considered simple and might possibly be compared with a Western where the deed to the ranch is in danger. However, many elements make this story so much more than just a Polly Pureheart story with a male lead. There are definite villians, but our hero has his character flaws also, despite a certain innocence and nobility. King James, of whom I knew little more than his authorization of the translation of the Bible, was much less austere and, well, "kingly" than I would have imagined him. There are immoral acts commited, but there is a moral tone to the book and there are lessons that can be learned. There are well-drawn characters from many walks of life. But more than the story-line and the characters is the way Scott tells his tale. He is writing historical fiction and his fascination for history shows. In this, as in all of his works which I have read, he has numerous notes which further explain some historical practice or refer to an actual event or person on which he based an incident in the book. I am also fascinated by his ability to place a piece of poetry or snippet from a play at the beginning of each chapter that has to do with the content to come. He must have had, or had access to, a vast library, or had an excellent memory, to be able to consistently come up with an applicable quote for each chapter of each book. His characters each speak as befits his station, and although I find the Scots dialect difficult to decipher when analized word for word, when read all together the gist can be easily found. Scott also has a chummy yet not overly familiar way of including the reader in the fact that he is reading a story which Scott, although under an assumed identity, is writing. This goes beyond the "gentle reader" some authors have used in the past to an almost post-modern degree of self-reference in spots. One of my favorite parts occurs when Nigel has to confront some of the bad choices he has made, and finds it almost impossible to convince others that they were not much worse than they were. Because he allowed some untrue accusations on his character to be thrown about without remonstrance on his part, under the guise of idle banter, his accuser believes him to be untrustworthy in his protests against other allegations. This our hero finds extremely frustrating, but I found much there to reflect upon. Yet there is also humor to be found in the book, and clever phrasing. For example, when one of the characters is being advised to marry someone below his social standing for money, the man encouraging him to take this step says, "If she should become rather intolerable, which is not unlikely, your hounourable house, which I presume to be a castle, hath, doubtless, both turrets and dungeons, and ye may bestow your bonny bride in either the one or the other, and then you know you will be out of hearing of her tongue, and she will be either above or below the contempt of your friends." Although I would not name this as my favorite work by Sir Walter Scott, The Fortunes of Nigel is an enjoyable story that is well worth the effort to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve R

    Set in the early Stuart years of James I (James VI of Scotland), this novel tells the story of Nigel Oliphaunt, Lord Glenvarloch, a young nobleman just returned from studies on the continent. He who must seek favor of the new king to repay money owed his father so that he can reclaim his ancestral properties in Scotland. Nigel becomes involved in this task with a vast panoply of characters, which shows Scott's real imaginative genius at its finest. David Ramsay is horologist (watchmaker) to the Set in the early Stuart years of James I (James VI of Scotland), this novel tells the story of Nigel Oliphaunt, Lord Glenvarloch, a young nobleman just returned from studies on the continent. He who must seek favor of the new king to repay money owed his father so that he can reclaim his ancestral properties in Scotland. Nigel becomes involved in this task with a vast panoply of characters, which shows Scott's real imaginative genius at its finest. David Ramsay is horologist (watchmaker) to the Crown. He has a lovely daughter, Margaret, who becomes enamored of the young Scottish lord. One of his apprentices, Jenkin Vincent (Jin Vin), is smitten with Margaret, who gets him to act quite outside his comfort zone in her attempts to help Nigel. There is a goldsmith, George ('Jingles') Heriot, who helps Nigel gain an audience with King James. A ghost-like woman lives at Heriot's house: the lady Hermoine, whose sad story is only related well into the novel, but whose changing fortunes help bring about the final resolution of Nigel's issues. Lord Huntingdon helps get James to grant Nigel's request, but it is his son, Lord Delgarno, whose actions make Nigel's fortunes change rapidly. Minor characters abound: Sir Mungo Malagrowther, whose acerbic character has caused him to lose three fingers in a duel (which makes his insults of others impossible to seek a similar process of satisfaction); a servant with pretensions to a higher status, Richie Moniplies, who aids Nigel in recovering the mortgage on his lands while taking full advantage of his encounter with a very rich young woman of Nigel's acquaintance; Reginald Lowestoffe, a Templar who helps Nigel when he is pursued by the authorities to seek refuge in Whitefriars; a usurer, Trapbois, who houses Nigel at this time and on whose behalf Nigel attempts to intercede when he is attacked by robber/murderers; Martha, his daughter, who eventually meets Moniplies; Lady Saddlechop, the wife of a barber who gives advice to Margaret Ramsay; Lady Nelly, the wife of a ship chandler/innkeeper who runs away with her lover and causes her husband to falsely accuse Nigel of this deed; and Captain Colepepper, a ruthless cutthroat. Quick-paced, inventive, often quite humorous, the novel comes to a generally satisfying if somewhat sudden conclusion with those ill-intentioned getting just what they deserve while those of more noble sentiment are duly rewarded. First rate.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would, based on the prosaic, but descriptive, title. The book is richly poetic in style, with a vast array of well-drawn characters that seem about to step off the page. If studios are looking for something to follow Game of Thrones and Outlander, the Waverley novels would make great series adaptations! Scott wrote historical novels around Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth, and this book continues in that vein, with a very interesting and well I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would, based on the prosaic, but descriptive, title. The book is richly poetic in style, with a vast array of well-drawn characters that seem about to step off the page. If studios are looking for something to follow Game of Thrones and Outlander, the Waverley novels would make great series adaptations! Scott wrote historical novels around Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth, and this book continues in that vein, with a very interesting and well-drawn portrait of James I. Based on his usual meticulous historical research, Scott paints James as an anxious man, at once full of bravado and afraid of loud noises. With a father who was assassinated, a mother who was imprisoned by QE1 and later beheaded, and who was descended from a long line of Stewart kings who were deposed and/or murdered, one can understand why James I always seemed to be afraid of his own shadow. It would have been unfathomable to any Englishman prior to his reign that a Scotsman would become king of England (as well as Scotland). James was fond of breaking into Latin, to show off his erudition, while at the same time speaking in a Scottish brogue. The English nobility looked askance at James, and he felt their condescension. As with his other historical novels, the author weaves the lives of the famous together with the lives of the common people in a way that compares and contrasts all social classes. Part of the story is set in White Friars, a district that was populated by thieves and cut-throats, and was a sort of no-go zone that policed itself, more or less. There are so many characters, each with their own personality, their own goals in life, their own voice, that it's a wonder that the author could invent them all, let alone weave them all together in this tapestry. Characters make choices, and those choices have repercussions. Any story writer would do well to study Scott's brilliant use of plot and characters to teach and entertain the reader.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Biblioworm

    Приятное ламповое чтение. В наше время это конечно уже "вложенная история". Роман сам по себе исторический, и время, в которое он создан, тоже стало историей, поэтому комментарии автора, обращенные к его современникам, конечно, воспринимаются нами уже как история сама по себе. Сюжет романа не слишком запутан, но вполне поддерживает интерес. Живо и достоверно описаны действующие лица. Интересен исторический антураж. Ну и то, с чего я начал свой отзыв. Атмосфера из детства, когда я читал романы Вальтера Приятное ламповое чтение. В наше время это конечно уже "вложенная история". Роман сам по себе исторический, и время, в которое он создан, тоже стало историей, поэтому комментарии автора, обращенные к его современникам, конечно, воспринимаются нами уже как история сама по себе. Сюжет романа не слишком запутан, но вполне поддерживает интерес. Живо и достоверно описаны действующие лица. Интересен исторический антураж. Ну и то, с чего я начал свой отзыв. Атмосфера из детства, когда я читал романы Вальтера Скота.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Orange

    Problems with mortgage in the 17th century...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Monty Milne

    At the start of 2021 I decided to re-read all of Scott’s novels in chronological order of publication, and I have ended the year with this one, the fifteenth, so I am more than half way through. It has been very enjoyable, although this is by no means the strongest of the collection. Some of the characterisation is a bit weak, and there are many implausible aspects of the plot, and it is a bit too long with some tedious passages. It is worth it, however, for the fascinating portrayal of James I. At the start of 2021 I decided to re-read all of Scott’s novels in chronological order of publication, and I have ended the year with this one, the fifteenth, so I am more than half way through. It has been very enjoyable, although this is by no means the strongest of the collection. Some of the characterisation is a bit weak, and there are many implausible aspects of the plot, and it is a bit too long with some tedious passages. It is worth it, however, for the fascinating portrayal of James I. Scott was clearly fascinated with that most intriguing of monarchs, and I think does a good job of presenting his odd mixture of qualities and defects. This is deftly and humorously done. Nevertheless, it is odd to have a portrayal which entirely omits two of the features of James I which would be have been most obvious to everyone who encountered him in the flesh: his physical disabilities, and his homosexuality. A club foot and a penchant for youthful male beauty are not incompatible with a degree of talent or even heroism (vide Byron), but Scott’s James is a bit too sanitised for my tastes. I am convinced that James was a great deal more unpleasant and flawed than Scott makes him out to be, and this detracted a bit from my enjoyment because I found the portrait of him here a bit unbelievable. Of course I am prejudiced (but my admiration for Byron exonerates me from automatic dislike of all club footed Uranians). Nevertheless, there is a great deal about this historical pageant which I liked, and tucking up by a cosy fireside with this – while outside I can hear the crashing of waves and the cry of gulls amidst the howling gale and sheeting rain – is a great way to end the year.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    Greenhorn Scotch nobleman Lord Glenvarloch comes south to try and reclaim the money his father had loaned to the skinflint King James I when he was merely James VI of Scotland. He falls in with a motley crew of fellow emigres, all of whom make various plans for Nigel. The main attraction of this particular volume of the Waverley novels is Scott's partly fond, partly mocking portrayal of the ageing monarch, his patois a ripe mixture of scholarly Latin and Highland's slang, his person a mixture of Greenhorn Scotch nobleman Lord Glenvarloch comes south to try and reclaim the money his father had loaned to the skinflint King James I when he was merely James VI of Scotland. He falls in with a motley crew of fellow emigres, all of whom make various plans for Nigel. The main attraction of this particular volume of the Waverley novels is Scott's partly fond, partly mocking portrayal of the ageing monarch, his patois a ripe mixture of scholarly Latin and Highland's slang, his person a mixture of generosity and parsimony. Despite having read getting on for half of the stories in this series now strange to say I had never really thought about Scott as an influence on Dickens, yet two characters here are decidedly Dickensian in both name and character. Sir Mungo Malagrowther is a despoiled nobleman who used to be the king's Whipping Boy - a curious role whereby he took a proxy flogging every time young James made a mistake at school. Sir Mungo is surly, irascible and physically repugnant, with a twisted visage which 'looked like one of the whimsical faces which present themselves in a Gothic cornice.' Ursula Suddlechop is a dubious fixer and meddler in matters that need to be kept quiet. She had been an acquaintance of Anne Turner, the real-life brothel-keeper and poisoner who was hung in 1615 after a trial conducted by Francis Bacon. Nigel himself is, in keeping with most protagonists in Scott, something of a nonentity (the author almost dispensed with him entirely at the end) but those two, King James, and a good number of lively support characters help distinguish this novel over some of the others.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Golly, this was tedious. No wonder it's one of his lesser-read works. The only redeeming features are the portrayal of King James, which I understand Scott developed from contemporary writing, and which rings true, and his usual pawky scottish servant, Richie Moniplies. Otherwise, this dreary and confused tale is one for completists only. Golly, this was tedious. No wonder it's one of his lesser-read works. The only redeeming features are the portrayal of King James, which I understand Scott developed from contemporary writing, and which rings true, and his usual pawky scottish servant, Richie Moniplies. Otherwise, this dreary and confused tale is one for completists only.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  12. 5 out of 5

    George

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan Fratzke Brucker

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lori Goshert

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hannah B.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nina

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mr. J.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul Gosselin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha Ormiston-Smith

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tomas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

  23. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Fraser

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lucia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Helen Kiruiru

  26. 4 out of 5

    George McKay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Garber

  29. 5 out of 5

    Roman Psota

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katka R.

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