Redgauntlet

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An 1824 novel by Sir Walter Scott

A Review and Synopsis

List of Main Characters:
Hugh Redgauntlet - known variously as the Laird of the Loch, Herries of Birrenswork, Ingoldsby.
Cristal Nixon - his henchman and fixer.
Darsie Latimer - an orphan with a mysterious background.
Alan Fairford - his friend, a newly qualified advocate.
Alexander Fairford - advocate and Alan's father.
Wandering Willie - a blind fiddler.
Joshua Geddes - a Quaker of Mount Sharon.
Rachel Geddes - his sister.
Lilias - alias the mysterious lady of the green mantle.
Nanty Ewart - a sea captain.
Peter Peebles - an unfortunate and long suffering litigant.

Introduction:
picAn interesting and dramatic novel by this master storyteller, set in Edinburgh and the border area around the Solway between Dumfries and Carlisle in 1765 during the reign of George III. With Hanoverian rule now firmly established two decades having elapsed since the most recent Jacobite uprising and subsequent defeat by the Duke of Cumberland at the battle of Culloden, many people on both sides of the border have now come to terms with the status quo with just a small minority of zealots still clinging to the cause of restoring Charles Edward Stewart to the throne. Is it possible that a further desperate attempt to restore the Stewart monarchy will be any more likely to succeed, so long after previous failures amidst widespread disillusion and waning enthusiasm amongst the nobility to continue to support the cause?
       The novel is written in a curious format with much of the background to the story set out in a series of thirteen letters between the two principal characters Darsie Latimer and Alan Fairford the newly qualified advocate friend he has grown up with, followed by various chapters in which each is the narrator in turn. It is noticeable too that in these personal narratives the speaker often slips into use of the third person when speaking about their own experiences, and the reader can't help wondering if this was intentional on the part of the author or not.
       The other surprising aspect of this book is the appearance of the title character who goes by the name of Herries from time to time as the story progresses. It seems that Hugh Walpole the author of a series of books about the Herries family in Cumberland, was a great admirer of Walter Scott and it is possible he has used the name and many of the characteristics of Redguantlet's alter ego as the inspiration for his book Rogue Herries. I do hope this is true!

Synopsis:
       Darsie Latimer is a young man with a mysterious background, alone in the world apart from his friend Alan Fairford and his father Alexander a lawyer, who have taken him under their wing after the two have become friends at school and college in Edinburgh. Darsie receives an allowance via a third person, presumably from a family source and he has learned that on reaching his twenty fifth birthday he will inherit great wealth, but doesn't know anything about his family, for whatever reason having been placed in the care of an educational institution at an early age. Like his friend Alan he has been studying law and contemplating a career as an advocate, but has become bored, and with the news of his future inheritance he has become restless and goes travelling in search of adventure. Whilst travelling Darsie and his friend exchange letters which gradually reveal elements of their lives and how their friendship developed over the years, whilst at the same time relating information about Darsie's adventures and the latest news from Edinburgh.
       Whilst in the border lands around Dumfries and the Solway firth watching some local fishermen enjoying a days sport in the tideway catching fish with spears Darsie gets into difficulties negotiating quicksands in the face of a fast incoming tide. He is rescued and taken to safety on horseback by one of the fishermen who he later identifies as the Laird of the Loch, a rather surly gentleman who comes across as thoroughly unfriendly, ruthless and unpleasant. As they reach the safety of the shore they encounter the Quaker Joshua Geddes with whom it seems the Laird is currently at odds and a rather heated exchange occurs concerning a netting enterprise at the mouth of the Solway, of which the Quaker is the proprietor, having a negative impact on the fishermen's sport further inland. Darsie is intrigued and he and the Quaker become friends. Further encounters follow including Darsie meeting the blind fiddler and duetting with him providing music for a gig at Birrenswork and the plot thickens when the Quaker is injured and Darsie disappears whilst attending the Quaker's netting installations when a mob descends to destroy them.
       Meanwhile Alan Fairford has been dragooned by his father to take on the long outstanding case of Peter Peebles in a claim against his former business partner, as his first legal brief after qualifying. He is making a fine showing and attracting much approbation for his performance on his debut in court, when he learns of his friend's disappearance. With extreme concern for his welfare the advocate leaves Peter Peebles in the lurch and sets off for the borders in search of Darsie. The tension rises and a series of adventures and dangerous situations arise, including a sea journey with Nanty Ewart and a period of sickness as Alan bravely follows the trail to the borders, finding himself sometimes amongst helpful friendly people, being treated with respect and at other times with the utmost suspicion in an atmosphere both sinister and conspiratorial. Gradually and piecemeal, the mystery surrounding the strange goings on in the area, Darsie's disappearance and the justification for it, is unravelled as matters come to an exciting head with a confrontation and reunion at Father Crackenthorp's inn on the Solway.
       picThis book has everything for readers who enjoy historical fiction, interesting characters brought to life in outstanding storytelling style with marvellously quaint and old fashioned vocabulary and dialogue, albeit sometimes in obscure dialect. Without giving too much of the plot away, in the final chapters we eventually discover Darsie's true identity, and the circumstances and motivation surrounding his kidnapping and incarceration. Needless to say, in a conclusion both pleasant and satisfying. Yes, justice prevails with surprisingly little bloodshed.

Extract:
Alan Fairford arrives at Mount Sharon the home of Joshua Geddes seeking news of his friend.
       What could be the cause of such an attempt on the liberty of an inoffensive and amiable man? It was impossible it could be merely owing to Redgauntlet's mistaking Darsie for a spy; for though that was the solution which Fairford had offered to the Provost, he well knew that, in point of fact, he himself had been warned by his singular visitor of some danger to which his friend was exposed, before such suspicion could have been entertained; and the injunctions received by Latimer from his guardian, or him who acted as such, Mr Griffiths of London, pointed to the same thing. He was rather glad, however, that he had not let Provost Crosbie into his secret, farther than was absolutely necessary; since it was plain that the connexion of his wife with the suspected party was likely to affect his impartiality as a magistrate.
       When Alan Fairford arrived at Mount Sharon, Rachel Geddes hastened to meet him, almost before the servant could open the door. She drew back in disappointment when she beheld a stranger, and said, to excuse her precipitation, that 'she had thought it was her brother Joshua returned from Cumberland.'
       'Mr Geddes is then absent from home?' said Fairford, much disappointed in his turn.
       'He hath been gone since yesterday, friend,' answered Rachel, once more composed to the quietude which characterises her sect, but her pale cheek and red eye giving contradiction to her assumed equanimity.
       'I am,' said Fairford, hastily, 'the particular friend of a young man not unknown to you, Miss Geddes - the friend of Darsie Latimer - and am come hither in the utmost anxiety, having understood from Provost Crosbie, that he had disappeared in the night when a destructive attack was made upon the fishing station of Mr Geddes.'
       'Thou dost afflict me, friend, by thy enquiries, 'said Rachel, more affected than before; 'for although the youth was like those of the worldly generation, wise in his own conceit, and lightly to be moved by the breath of vanity, yet Joshua loved him, and his heart clave to him as if he had been his own son. And when he himself escaped from the sons of Belial, which was not until they had tired themselves with reviling, and with idle reproach, and the jests of the scoffer, Joshua, my brother, returned to them once and again, to give ransom for the youth called Darsie Latimer, with offers of money and promise of remission but they would not hearken to him..........

Palfreyman March 2022

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