Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott


I had already sent these sheets to the press, concluding, as I thought, with a moral of excellent tendency for the encouragement of all fair haired, blue eyed, long legged, stout hearted emigrants from my native country, who might be willing in stirring times to take up the gallant profession of Cavalieros of Fortune. But a friendly monitor, one of those who, like the lump of sugar which is found at the bottom of a tea cup, as well as the flavour of the souchong itself, has entered a bitter remonstrance, and insists that I should give a precise and particular account of the espousals of the young heir of Glen Houlakin and the lovely Flemish Countess, and tell what tournaments were held, and how many lances were broken, upon so interesting an occasion; nor withhold from the curious reader the number of sturdy boys who inherited the valour of Quentin Durward, and of bright damsels, in whom were renewed the charms of Isabelle de Croye. I replied, in course of post, that times were changed, and public weddings were entirely out of fashion. In days traces of which I myself can remember, not only were the “fifteen friends” of the happy pair invited to witness their Union, but the bridal minstrelsy still continued, as in the “Ancient Mariner,” to “nod their heads” till morning shone on them. The sack posset was eaten in the nuptial chamber — the stocking was thrown — and the bride’s garter was struggled for in presence of the happy couple whom Hymen had made one flesh. The authors of the period were laudably accurate in following its fashions. They spared you not a blush of the bride, not a rapturous glance of the bridegroom, not a diamond in her hair, not a button on his embroidered waistcoat; until at length, with Astraea, “they fairly put their characters to bed.” 236 But how little does this agree with the modest privacy which induces our modern brides — sweet bashful darlings! — to steal from pomp and plate, and admiration and flattery, and, like honest Shenstone 237,

“Seek for freedom at an inn!”

To these, unquestionably, an exposure of the circumstances of publicity with which a bridal in the fifteenth century was always celebrated, must appear in the highest degree disgusting. Isabelle de Croye would be ranked in their estimation far below the maid who milks, and does the meanest chores; for even she, were it in the church porch, would reject the hand of her journeyman shoemaker, should he propose faire des noces 238, as it is called on Parisian signs, instead of going down on the top of the long coach to spend the honeymoon incognito at Deptford or Greenwich. I will not, therefore, tell more of this matter, but will steal away from the wedding, as Ariosto239 from that of Angelica, leaving it to whom it may please to add farther particulars, after the fashion of their own imagination.

“Some better bard shall sing, in feudal state

How Bracquemont’s Castle op’d its Gothic gate,

When on the wand’ring Scot, its lovely heir

Bestow’d her beauty and an earldom fair.”

236 the reference is to the plays of Mrs. Aphra Behn. “The stage how loosely doth Astraea tread, who fairly puts each character to bed.”

237 (1714-1763): an English poet best known by The Schoolmistress

238 to celebrate a wedding festivity

239 Ariosto (1474-1533): an Italian poet, the author of the poem Orlando Furioso, whose popularity was due largely to the subject — combats and paladins, lovers’ devotion and mad adventures. Angelica is the heroine. Scott is sometimes called the Ariosto of the North.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00