Rob Roy (novel)
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|Author||Sir Walter Scott|
|Country||Scotland and England simultaneously|
|Language||English, Lowland Scots, anglicised Scottish Gaelic|
Archibald Constable, Edinburgh|
Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, London
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|Pages||501 (1995 edition)|
|Preceded by||The Antiquary|
Rob Roy (1817) is a historical novel by Walter Scott. It is considered one of the Waverley novels, as the author identified himself on the title page as "by the author of Waverley".
Frank Osbaldistone narrates the story. He is the son of an English merchant who parted from his family home in the north of England near the border with Scotland when he was a young man, being of different religion and temperament than his own father or his younger brother. Frank is sent by his father to live at the long unseen family home with his uncle and his male cousins, when he refuses to join his father's successful business. In exchange, his father accepts Frank's cousin Rashleigh to work in his business. Rashleigh is an intelligent young man, but he is unscrupulous, and he causes problems for the business of Osbaldistone and Tresham. To resolve the problems, Frank travels into Scotland and meets the larger-than-life title character, Rob Roy MacGregor.
Francis "Frank" Osbaldistone tells his tale, beginning with his return to his father William's merchant house of Osbaldistone and Tresham in Crane Alley, London, from an apprenticeship in a French associate's business. There, he meets with his business-minded father's anger and disappointment, since he has been more preoccupied with writing poetry than learning the business, much to his father's disgust.
William was originally disinherited in favour of his younger brother Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone, who has inherited both the family fortune and the family seat of Osbaldistone Hall instead. William, turned out at the age of his own son, has built a successful business with his trading company in the City and is a dissenter in religion, unlike his brother.
Owen, the Head Clerk of Osbaldistone and Tresham and a long time friend of the family, attempts to persuade Frank to follow his father's wishes. Frank is not swayed. Instead, William sends him to stay with his uncle Hildebrand in Northumberland, near the border with Scotland. Frank sets out on horseback, meeting some travellers on the way. He observes that one of the travellers is nervous and protective of a box that he carries. Frank begins to tease the traveller, Morris, pretending to assume an interest in the mysterious box.
At an inn, they are joined by a confident and sociable Scottish "cattle dealer” Campbell. They eat and drink and discuss politics together at an inn and then part ways, when Morris entreats Campbell to travel with him to provide protection, since Campbell has recounted how he thwarted two highwaymen singlehandedly.
After Frank parts from the company near his destination, he encounters a fox hunt in progress. A lovely young huntress, dressed in riding habit, greets him and guesses his identity. Frank is smitten by the young woman, noting her intelligence and beauty along with her independent manner. She is Diana "Die" Vernon, a relative by marriage of Sir Hildebrand. They proceed to Osbaldistone Hall, a large, rambling and run-down old manor-house, filled with massive old furniture, rusted suits of armour, hunting trophies, marking the interests of his uncle and cousins.
Frank meets old Sir Hildebrand, a former Cavalier, and his five older sons, each described by Die as given entirely to drinking and sport. At dinner, he meets the youngest brother, Rashleigh, who, unlike his father and brothers, is sober, charming and erudite. Frank notes a connection between Die and Rashleigh. Die explains that Rashleigh, a scholar intended for the priesthood, is her tutor.
The next day, after encountering Andrew Fairservice the gardener, a loquacious Scotsman, Diana tells Frank that he has been charged with robbery and that the local Justice of the Peace Squire Inglewood, has a warrant for his arrest. Rather than flee to Scotland, he determines to protest his innocence. Die guides him and they encounter Rashleigh, who claims to have been pleading Frank's case. After declaring his innocence to the Justice, Frank confronts his accuser, who is none other than Morris. Morris, a government paymaster, has been robbed of his mysterious box, which contained gold specie with which to pay the English troops in the area. Frank's prior light-hearted interest in Morris' box on the journey north is the basis for the charge.
Upon Frank's vehement declaration of innocence, and the Justice’s sympathetic acquittal, Morris abandons his suit against Frank. Jobson, the Squire's pedantic and officious clerk, wants to pursue the matter on legal principle. After diverting Jobson by sending him on wild-goose chase, Rashleigh departs and quickly returns with the cattle-dealer, Campbell. Campbell witnesses truthfully that he was at the scene of the robbery and did not see Frank.
Freed by the Squire from the charge, Frank returns to Osbaldistone Hall. He is consumed with jealousy after discovering that Rashleigh was in serious consideration for Die's hand in marriage; the usually sober Frank gets drunk with the family after Die exits, and strikes Rashleigh during an argument. In the morning, Frank apologises sincerely but Rashleigh's too-quick forgiveness rings false.
Rashleigh travels to take Frank's place at Osbaldistone and Tresham. Diana warns Frank that Rashleigh is a subtle and dangerous conniver, and has her under his power.
Frank begins to tutor Die and falls even more deeply in love with her. In between hours in the library with Die or in hunting with his cousins, he converses with Andrew Fairservice and learns much about goings on at the Hall: there are suspicious visitations by shadowy persons unknown; the servants fear a ghost that haunts the library; and a mysterious Catholic priest, Father Vaughan, visits the hall.
Frank receives a letter from Tresham asking him to meet Owen in Glasgow and, only then, realises that none of his letters have reached London, including one warning his father of Rashleigh's dubious character. Die informs him that while William has been on the continent, Rashleigh has absconded with financial instruments vital to Osbaldistone and Tresham's solvency.
Frank determines to help his father’s business. He parts with Diana. She is destined to live in a convent due to a family compact (in which she has no say), as she refuses to marry any of Sir Hildebrand's sons. He enlists Andrew Fairservice as his servant and guide and hurries to Glasgow to find Owen and catch Rashleigh, who is now understood to be a Jacobite agent and agitator.
They lodge in Glasgow, and at services in a famous kirk in the religious town, an unseen stranger presses a note into Frank's hand telling him he is in danger and to meet him on a well-known bridge at midnight for information. Frank meets the stranger, who conveys him to the tolbooth (jail), which they enter unchallenged. Inside they find Owen, who is overjoyed to see Frank. Osbaldistone and Tresham's favoured Scottish trading partner, MacVitie, maliciously made Owen a debtor on behalf of his now insolvent employer and imprisoned him.
Bailie Nicol Jarvie, a Glasgow magistrate who is also a Scottish partner of Osbaldistone and Tresham, arrives at the jail after midnight, when Sabbath is over. The mysterious stranger is Campbell, whom Jarvie recognises as his kinsman, Rob Roy McGregor. On Rob's promise to repay Jarvie 1000 Scots pounds that he owes him, Jarvie never says his name. Jarvie frees Owen, and allows Frank and Campbell to leave. The absent turnkey (jailer), who has let them pass in and out freely, is Rob Roy's man, Dougal. Before disappearing with Dougal, Rob tells Frank to meet him in his Highland home and suggests that Bailie Jarvie should accompany him to collect his gold.
While Jarvie and Owen discuss finances, Frank takes a walk to the University grounds, where he spies Rashleigh walking with Morris and MacVitie. Frank confronts Rashleigh and they duel. Rob Roy breaks it up. After Rob sends Rashleigh away, he tells Frank to meet him at the Clachan of Aberfoyle in the Highlands. Frank now realises that Rob's affairs are entwined with his own and that Rob has had a long association with Rashleigh and Die.
Frank, Jarvie and Andrew ride to the Clachan, where they find a rude country inn. Tired, cold and hungry, they enter over the objections of the landlady and the three men in plaids, drinking brandy at a table. A brief brawl ensues between the two parties, which is broken up by a fourth Highlander who has been sleeping on the floor. This man disappears, as Frank recognises him as Dougal, Rob's man. Frank and Jarvie converse with the men in plaid, and find they are the leaders of bands of armed men. Two are Highlanders; the second is a Lowland chief, Duncan Galbraith, who heads the Lennox militia. All have been enlisted by the English army to find and arrest Rob Roy. Thus Rob Roy does not meet them at the inn, but sends a note to Frank to meet at his home.
Suddenly, an English patrol enters the inn, dragging Dougal with them. Frank and Jarvie are arrested as they fit the descriptions of the two people whom the patrol seeks. The soldiers force Dougal to lead them to Rob's lair, bringing Frank, Jarvie and Andrew along. They are ambushed by Highlanders, and the patrol is disarmed. Dougal, playing the fool, has led the patrol into a trap.
The leader of the Highlanders is Helen, Rob’s wife, a fierce, proud noblewoman, fully armed. Her band is composed mostly of old men, women and children. After declaiming the wrongs done to her and her clan, she produces the unfortunate Morris, now a hostage, and he is callously thrown into the nearby loch. The fighting men of the band, armed for battle, and led by Rob's two sons arrive. They report that Rob has been captured by the Duke's army.
After Jarvie successfully appeals for clemency for them from Helen, pleading kinship, Frank is sent as emissary to the Duke's camp. He finds Rob is tied up for execution. The Duke's army sets off, but Rob escapes in crossing the river. Frank lays low in the confusion that ensues. Then he walks in the dark night along a path through the forest back to the Clachan. He meets Diana and a stranger, an older nobleman, riding on the path. Die gives him the missing bills that Rashleigh had taken and bids him adieu.
Frank sadly assumes that the man is Diana's husband. Frank is overtaken by Rob, who takes him to his home, after expressing anger at Morris' murder. There, Jarvie and Andrew are already ensconced. Jarvie reviews the recovered bills and declares Osbaldistone and Tresham to be cleared of debt. Rob repays Jarvie with 1000 pounds of gold louis d'or.
During the night, Rob tells Frank of how he and Rashleigh robbed Morris – a lark for Rob as an accomplished cattle-thief and blackmailer, but serious business for Rashleigh as a Jacobite agent. By now, Rashleigh has become a turncoat to save his skin and flees to Stirling as a traitor to the Jacobite cause.
Frank and Jarvie are sent on their way homeward to Glasgow, after an emotional farewell from Rob, Helen, and their clansmen. In Glasgow Frank is greeted with warmth and forgiveness by his father, who has prospered while on the continent. In gratitude for his assistance and even-handedness, William rewards Bailie Jarvie with the commercial accounts that he has stripped from McVitie.
After returning to London, Frank levies a company of soldiers and rides north to support King George's cause as the Jacobite rebellion breaks out early into war. The Rebellion is quickly suppressed but not without casualties. In London again, Frank learns of the downfall and deaths of Sir Hildebrand and his five older sons through misfortune or battle. Frank is heir to Osbaldistone Hall by his uncle’s last will. Rashleigh, the surviving son, has been disinherited in favour of Frank as punishment by his father.
Frank travels to claim the property. He meets with Justice Inglewood to review his uncle’s will and learns from him that Diana and her father are thought to be out of England now; she is single and her father was deeply involved with the Rebellion. This was the secret that Rashleigh held over her. With Andrew Fairservice, Frank takes possession of Osbaldistone Hall. Nostalgically selecting the library to sleep in, he finds Diana and her father hiding there. They request sanctuary as they are being hunted due to the failure of the Jacobite uprising. They tell Frank how Sir Richard had been hidden at the Hall during his earlier stay.
They plan to leave, but Rashleigh arrives with Jobson and the local constables, bringing a warrant to take possession of the Hall and arrest the Vernons and Frank. They are easily captured and taken away in a carriage. Still on the property, Rob Roy springs an ambush, freeing them all and killing Rashleigh who has no regrets. He leaves Jobson under the carriage wheel, who lies there until Frank rescues him. Rob Roy and his men bring Diana and her father to safety in France. Not many months later, after Frank begins working with his father, they learn that Diana’s father is dying in France, and allows his daughter to make her own choice of the convent or marriage. Frank tells his father of his love for Diana. He gains his father’s approval to marry a Catholic, as startling to him as his son owning Osbaldistone Hall.
Notable characters (in order of appearance)
Francis "Frank" Osbaldistone: The narrator and protagonist. He is an educated young man in his early twenties, wilful and impetuous. Although he is quick to argument, both verbally and physically, he is sensitive and kind-hearted by nature. He falls deeply in love with Die Vernon and comes to respect and admire Rob Roy.
William Osbaldistone: Frank's father, who has been disinherited in favour of his younger brother, Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone. He has built a successful merchant house, Osbaldistone and Tresham (with his silent partner, Tresham) in Crane Alley in the City of London.
Owen: Head Clerk of Osbaldistone and Tresham, and an old family friend. As one of Frank's mentors, he despairs of Frank's attitude at the start of the novel, but later joins Frank in Glasgow, hoping to save Osbaldistone & Tresham.
Morris: Government agent and paymaster, first encountered by Frank on the road to Osbaldistone Hall from London. He is weak and easily influenced. His cowardly and dishonest actions precipate him to his doom, and influence the course of the plot.
Robert "Rob Roy" McGregor Campbell: The titular hero of the novel, initially appearing only briefly and mysteriously and almost always to assist Frank in some way. Leader of a band of Highlanders, he is an honest and upright highland gentleman, who has been forced into a life of blackmailing and reiving, at which he excels, being strong, bold, crafty, and fearless. Notorious throughout the Western Highlands, he is either loved or hated by other clans. He is married to Helen, and has two sons, young men of about 20 years old.
Diana "Die" Vernon: The beautiful, intelligent and unconventional teen-aged niece and ward of Sir Hildebrand with whom she resides with at Osbaldistone Hall, along with his six sons, her cousins. She has most in common with Rashleigh in terms of education and nobility, although she frequently joins Sir Hildebrand and the other sons in their sporting activities. She is the daughter of Sir Frederick Vernon. She is canny, often warning Frank of developments that affect him. She loves Frank in return, but warns him off due to reasons disclosed to him late in the narrative.
Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone: Holds both the title and ancestral manor of the Osbaldistones, long-established Catholic nobility in Northumberland. He is a retired Cavalier, mildly sympathetic to the Pretender's cause and a Catholic. Along with his five older sons he is devoted to a life of sport and drinking. Although he is jovial, kind and hospitable by nature, the family estate is falling into decay and ruin due to his lack of attention.
Rashleigh Osbaldistone (later Sir Rashleigh): Sir Hildebrand Osbaldistone's youngest son, completely unlike his brothers. He is well-educated, sensitive and intelligent and is ostensibly preparing for the Catholic priesthood. He is sober, learned and courtly in manner but his humble appearance and discourse belie a cunning and rapacious nature. Rashleigh becomes Frank's nemesis, acting secretly as a Jacobite agent and conniving to plunder Osbaldistone and Tresham to support his political ambitions.
Andrew Fairservice: First the gardener at Osbaldistone Hall, then Frank's guide and man-servant in the Highlands, Andrew is a pretentious, superstitious and ostentatiously Protestant Scottish Lowlander, who, along with Baillie Jarvie, provides much of the novel's comic relief. Cowardly and foolish, he becomes an object of irritation and contempt to Frank and Jarvie as the plot progresses.
Justice Inglewood: Like Sir Hildebrand, Squire Inglewood is a retired Catholic Cavalier, and lover of revelling. He is a neighbour of Sir Hildebrand and friend to the Osbaldistones. He is the local Justice of the Peace, being the only suitable candidate. He prefers to uphold the spirit of the law and detests its legalities as much as he detests his Clerk, Jobson.
Joseph Jobson: Law Clerk to Squire Inglewood. He speaks only in obscure legalities. Like Morris, he eventually becomes a tool of Rashleigh's cabal.
Dougal: A wild, uncouth Highlander, devoted to Rob and a very effective agent for him.
Baillie Nicol Jarvie: Magistrate and businessman in Glasgow and a relative of Rob Roy. Although garrulous and self-important, he is an upright and respectable burgher of that city. He becomes involved with Frank's arrangements with Rob Roy and accompanies Frank to visit Rob in the Highlands. A client of Osbaldistone and Tresham, he is very prudent financially – a caricature of smug Lowland gentry, in contrast to the casting of Andrew Fairservice as a caricature of a Lowland Scots working man.
MacVitie: William's foremost Scottish business agent. In spite of this favoured position, MacVitie quickly turns against Osbaldistone and Tresham when they become insolvent, as an accomplice to Rashleigh. Thus, when Owen arrives asking for forbearance, MacVitie has him thrown in jail instead, as a debtor.
Major Duncan Galbraith: A Lowland gentleman, leader of the Lennox Militia.
Garschattachin: A Highland gentleman, who along with Galbraith, provides a band of militia in support of the Duke.
Captain Thornton: The honourable leader of a squad of English infantry who mistakenly arrests Frank, Jarvie and Andrew, and with them, unsuspectingly falls into Helen and Dougal's trap.
Helen: Rob's wife, who commands the band, consisting of old men, women and children, in Rob's absence and who easily overpowers Captain Thornton's platoon after laying a cunning trap.
The Duke: Never named, he is leader of the English Army in the Highlands, in pursuit of Rob Roy to arrest him for his illegal activities.
Sir Frederick Vernon: Diana's father, fugitive ally of the Pretender. In hiding at Osbaldistone Hall when Frank first arrives, he is reliant on Rashleigh's complicity. In hiding there at the end of the narrative, he is the target of the turncoat Rashleigh, along with Die and Frank.
The story takes place just before the Jacobite rising of 1715, with much of Scotland in turmoil. A British army detachment is ambushed and there is bloodshed. The eponymous Rob Roy is badly wounded at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, in which a British army of Scots and English defeat a Jacobite and Spanish expedition that aimed to restore the Stuart monarchy.
The novel is a brutally realistic depiction of the social conditions in Highland and Lowland Scotland in the early 18th century. Some of the dialogue is in Scots, and the novel includes a glossary of Scottish words.
Rob Roy was written from the spring of 1817 and published on Hogmanay of that year. Like Scott's novel Waverley, it was published anonymously and came in three volumes. The demand for the novel was huge and a whole ship from Leith to London contained nothing but an entire edition of it.
Literary and cultural setting at time of publication
Rob Roy was written at a time when many Europeans started regretting colonialism and imperialism, as reports circulated back of horrendous atrocities towards indigenous cultures.[original research?] It was also a time when debates raged about the slave trade, the British occupation of India, and, more relevant to the novel, the disastrous effect of the Highland Clearances. During this era, William Wordsworth wrote The Conventions of Cintra, praising Spanish and Portuguese resistance to Napoleonic force; Lord Byron would go on to praise Amazonian women in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, inverting the "polite" norms of femininity that the modern "civilized" world placed on them; and, finally, Scott would write about similar events in The Vision of Don Roderick. The term "guerrilla" came about during this period, due to the influence of the Peninsular War.
Although there have been several heavily fictionalised feature films featuring a heroic Robert Roy MacGregor over the years, none of them to date has been directly adapted from Walter Scott's novel, in which MacGregor plays a lessor role than Osbaldistone. For example, this 1995 film is based on the same eponymous hero, Rob Roy, starring Liam Neeson, Tim Roth, and Jessica Lange has no other connection with the novel. The same is true of this 1953 film, Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.
- A brand of blended whisky, Bailie Nicol Jarvie, is named after a character from the book.
- The Rob Roy cocktail is similar to a Manhattan cocktail. It first appeared in New York City around 1890.
- Stevenson, Robert Louis (1871–1879). "Random Memories: rosa quo locorum". Essays of Travel. The University of Adelaide. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- Scott, Walter (2010) . Andrew Lang, ed. Rob Roy. Norwalk, Connecticut: Easton Press. p. 69.
It is an event unprecedented in the annals either of literature or of the custom-house that the entire cargo of a packet, or smack, bound from Leith to London, should be the impression of a novel[...]
- "Guerilla". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 7 June 2018.