Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott


Quentin Durward was published in June, 1823, and was Scott’s first venture on foreign ground. While well received at home, the sensation it created in Paris was comparable to that caused by the appearance of Waverley in Edinburgh and Ivanhoe in London. In Germany also, where the author was already popular, the new novel had a specially enthusiastic welcome. The scene of the romance was partly suggested by a journal kept by Sir Walter’s dear friend, Mr. James Skene of Rubislaw, during a French tour, the diary being illustrated by a vast number of clever drawings. The author, in telling this tale laid in unfamiliar scenes, encountered difficulties of a kind quite new to him, as it necessitated much study of maps, gazetteers, and books of travel. For the history, he naturally found above all else the Memoirs of Philip de Comines “the very key of the period,” though it need not be said that the lesser chroniclers received due attention. It is interesting to note that in writing to his friend, Daniel Terry, the actor and manager, Scott says, “I have no idea my present labours will be dramatic in situation; as to character, that of Louis XI, the sagacious, perfidious, superstitious, jocular, politic tyrant, would be, for a historical chronicle containing his life and death, one of the most powerful ever brought on the stage.” So thought the poet, Casimir Delavigne — writing when Scott’s influence was marked upon French literature — whose powerful drama, Louis XI, was a great Parisian success. Later Charles Kean and Henry Irving made an English version of it well known in England and America.


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