The Heart of Midlothian

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The Heart of Midlothian
AuthorSir Walter Scott
CountryScotland
LanguageEnglish, Lowland Scots
SeriesTales of My Landlord (2nd series); Waverley Novels
GenreHistorical novel
Publication date
1818
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)

The Heart of Midlothian is the seventh of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novels. It was originally published in four volumes on 25 July 1818, under the title of Tales of My Landlord, 2nd series, and the author was given as "Jedediah Cleishbotham, Schoolmaster and Parish-clerk of Gandercleugh". Although the identity of the author of the Waverley Novels was well known by this time, Scott still chose to write under a pseudonym. The book was released only seven months after the highly successful Rob Roy. Scott was at the time recovering from illness, and wrote at an even more furious pace than usual. When the book was released, it more than matched the popularity of his last novel.

The Heart of Midlothian is often regarded as Scott's finest novel. Much of the dialogue is in Lowland Scots, and some editions carry a glossary.

Composition[edit]

Scott signed the contract for a second series of Tales of my Landlord with Archibald Constable on 25 November 1817. He had the conception of The Heart of Mid-Lothian in his head by that date, and indeed it is possible that he had already produced the introductory chapter as early as April that year, but the main writing was done between January and July 1818. The original intention had been that The Heart of Mid-Lothian would occupy three of the four volumes and another tale the fourth, but at some stage during composition Scott decided that Mid-Lothian should be a four-volume work.

Editions[edit]

The first edition, in four volumes, was published by Archibald Constable in Edinburgh on 25 July 1818 and became available in London on the 28th. As with all the Waverley novels before 1827 publication was anonymous. In 1829 Scott revised the text, concentrating on the first half of the work, for the 'Magnum' edition and provided notes and an introduction: it appeared as part of Volume 11, all of Volume 12, and part of Volume 13 in April, May, and June 1830. The standard modern edition, by David Hewitt and Alison Lumsden, was published as Volume 6 of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels in 2004: this is based on the first edition with emendations principally from Scott's manuscript; the new Magnum material is included in Volume 25a.

Plot summary[edit]

The Old Tolbooth, Edinburgh

The title of the book refers to the Old Tolbooth prison in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the time in the heart of the Scottish county of Midlothian. The historical backdrop was the event known as the Porteous riots. In 1736, a riot broke out in Edinburgh over the execution of two smugglers. The Captain of the City Guards, Captain John Porteous, ordered the soldiers to fire into the crowd, killing several people. Porteous was later killed by a lynch mob who stormed the Old Tolbooth.

The second, and main element of the novel was based on a story Scott claimed to have received in an unsigned letter. It was about a certain Helen Walker who had travelled all the way to London by foot, to receive a royal pardon for her sister, who was unjustly charged with infanticide. Scott put Jeanie Deans in the place of Walker, a young woman from a family of highly devout Presbyterians. Jeanie goes to London, partly by foot, hoping to achieve an audience with the Queen through the influence of the Duke of Argyll.

Analysis and adaptations[edit]

Jeanie Deans is the first woman among Scott's protagonists, and also the first to come from the lower classes. While the heroine is idealised for her religious devotion and her moral rectitude, Scott nevertheless ridicules the moral certitude represented by the branch of Presbyterianism known as Cameronians, represented in the novel by Jeanie's father David. Also central to the novel is the early-18th-century Jacobitism, a theme found in so many of Scott's novels. Scott's sympathies can be seen in the ideal figure of the Duke of Argyle, a moderate on these issues.

La Vendéenne, described by Francis Gribble as "a drama based on the plot of The Heart of Midlothian" was written for the stage debut of the celebrated French actress Rachel and was first performed 24 July 1837.[1] Though, doubtless there were many unlicensed adaptations of Scott's work produced for the stage on earlier dates, The Heart of Midlothian was adapted for the stage by Dion Boucicault in the 1860s. It has been adapted for the screen twice in 1914, once under the same name, and once under the title A Woman's Triumph. A television version was released in 1966. Two operas have also been based upon the novel – La Prigione di Edimburgo (Imprisoned in Edinburgh) by the Italian composer Federico Ricci (1809–1877) and Jeanie Deans by the Scottish classical composer, Hamish MacCunn (1868–1916).

Characters[edit]

"Arrangement in Yellow and Gray": Effie Deans by James McNeill Whistler
Effie Deans by John Everett Millais

principal characters in bold

Captain Porteous, officer of the Edinburgh city guard

David Deans, a dairy-farmer

Jeanie Deans, later Butler, his older daughter

Effie Deans, later Lady Staunton, his younger daughter

The Whistler, Effie's son

David Deans, Jeanie's eldest child

The Laird of Dumbiedikes, Jeanie's admirer

Reuben Butler, a schoolmaster

Bartoline Saddletree, a harness-maker

Mrs Saddletree, his wife

Rev. Robert Staunton, Rector of Willingham

George Staunton, alias Robertson, his son

Andrew Wilson, a smuggler, his companion

Meg Murdockson, George's nurse

Madge Wildfire, her crazy daughter

Gideon Sharpitlaw, procurator fiscal

Jim Ratcliffe, a criminal turned jailor

Baillie Middleburgh, a magistrate

Mr Fairbrother, counsel for Effie

Mrs Bickerton, landlady of the 'Seven Stars' at York

Mrs Glass, a tobacconist

MacCallum More, Duke of Argyle

Mr Archibald, his groom of the chamber

Queen Caroline

Mrs Dutton, a dairywoman

Duncan Knock, Captain of Knockdunder

Donacha Dhu na Dunaigh, a Highland robber

Chapter summary[edit]

The chapter numbering follows the Edinburgh Edition where Chapter 18 is divided in two. The numbering in other editions is given in square brackets.

Volume One

Address by Jedidiah Cleishbotham thanking his readers for their patronage and asserting his theological impartiality, being of Quaker descent.

Ch. 1 Being Introductory: Peter Pattieson derives material for the present narrative from the conversation of two Edinburgh lawyers and one of their clients after their coach is upset at Gandercleugh.

Ch. 2: Andrew Wilson and George Robertson, condemned to death for robbing a customs officer, attend worship at the Tolbooth Church where Wilson facilitates his companion's escape.

Ch. 3: Captain Porteous fires on the crowd after Wilson's execution and is condemned to death.

Ch. 4: The Edinburgh citizens react unfavourably to Porteous's temporary reprieve at the pleasure of Queen Caroline, acting as regent during George II's absence on the Continent.

Ch. 5: Reuben Butler is upset to learn from Bartoline Saddletree and his wife that Effie Deans is accused of the presumptive murder of her baby.

Ch. 6: Butler is compelled to join the mob storming the Tolbooth where Porteous is held.

Ch. 7: One of the assailants [Robertson] urges Effie to flee the Tolbooth, but she declines to do so. Porteous is executed by the mob.

Ch. 8: While Butler is composing his spirits by walking beneath Salusbury Crags the narrator devotes three chapters to filling in the family history. The Deans and Butler families were both threatened with eviction by the old Laird of Dumbiedikes but reprieved by his son following his father's deathbed change of heart.

Ch. 9: David Deans, father of Jeanie from his previous marriage, married Widow Butler, Reuben's grandmother and guardian, resulting in the birth of Effie. Butler and Jeanie grew up together, Jeanie being sluggishly courted by the young Dumbiedikes.

Ch. 10: After her mother's death and the family's move to Saint Leonard's Crags, Effie became Mrs Saddletree's servant and was arrested for presumptive child murder.

Ch. 11: Encountering Robertson in the King's Park, Butler is told to summon Jeanie to meet him at Nichol Muschat's Cairn.

Ch. 12: Butler comforts Deans, as does Saddletree with less effect. He passes on Robertson's message and is annoyed at Jeanie's secrecy on the matter. Deans, Saddletree, Dumbiedikes, and Butler set about investigating the evidence and making arrangements for Effie's representation.

Ch. 13: Butler is arrested and examined in connection with the Porteous affair.

Volume Two

Ch. 1 (14): After family devotions Jeanie sets out for the meeting at the cairn.

Ch. 2 (15): Robertson presses Jeanie to save Effie by lying in court.

Ch. 3 (16): Jim Ratcliffe, onetime criminal, interrogates Madge Wildfire who says that Robertson wore her clothes during the Porteous riot.

Ch. 4 (17): Gideon Sharpitlaw, the procurator fiscal, ascertains from Effie that Robertson was the father of her child. Robertson escapes a party seeking to arrest him at the cairn after a warning song by Madge.

Ch. 5 (18): Jeanie also escapes the search party. Baillie Middleburgh receives an anonymous letter from Robertson indicating that Jeanie has it in her power to save her sister. Meg Murdockson comes to fetch her daughter Madge.

Ch. 6 (19 [18 ctd]): After some weeks Middleburgh visits Deans who decides to leave the decision whether or not to appear at Effie's trial to Jeanie.

Ch. 7 (20 [19]): Jeanie misunderstands her father's words, believing that he is leaving it to her to decide whether or not to lie to save her sister.

Ch. 8 (21 [20]): Jeanie visits Effie in prison.

Ch. 9 (22 [21]): Deans and his daughter make their way to the court.

Ch. 10 (23 [22]): The preliminary hearing.

Ch. 11 (24 [23]): The trial.

Ch. 12 (25 [24]): Effie is found guilty and sentenced to death. The citizens comment on the proceedings.

Ch. 13 (26 [25]): Prompted by Mrs Saddletree's reference to the royal prerogative to grant pardons, Jeanie prepares to make the journey to London.

Volume Three

Ch. 1 (27 [26]): Dumbiedikes supplies Jeanie with money.

Ch. 2 (28 [27]): Jeanie says goodbye to Butler after the intrusive Saddletree has made his exit.

Ch. 3 (29 [28]): Jeanie arrives at York and writes letters to her father and Butler.

Ch. 4 (30 [29]): Jeanie is taken captive by two ruffians, accompanied by Madge Wildfire and her mother Meg.

Ch. 5 (31 [30]): Jeanie overhears Meg telling of Robertson's seduction of Madge, who relates some of her story to Jeanie.

Ch. 6 (32 [31]): Madge takes Jeanie to a church service at Willingham.

Ch. 7 (33 [32]): The rector, Mr Staunton (father of George, alias Robertson) is sympathetic to Jeanie.

Ch. 8 (34 [33]): George Staunton tells Jeanie his story.

Ch. 9 (35 [34]): After an initially difficult conversation with George and his father, Jeanie leaves the rectory and receives a letter from him authorising her, if necessary, to use him as a bargaining counter in London. Her peasant guide fills in the family background before she completes her journey by coach.

Ch. 10 (36 [35]): Jeanie has an interview with the Duke of Argyle.

Ch. 11 (37 [36]): Jeanie fends off the enquiries of Mrs Glass, with whom she is staying. Argyle conducts her to Windsor.

Ch. 12 (38 [37]): Jeanie has an interview with the Queen who agrees to intercede with the King for Effie.

Volume Four

Ch. 1 (39 [38]): Jeanie promises to send Argyle a cheese of her own manufacture. She fends off more of Mrs Glass's enquiries.

Ch. 2 (40 [39]): Jeanie writes letters with news of the pardon to Staunton, Butler, and Deans and receives a reply from her father.

Ch. 3 (41 [40]): Journeying north with the Argyle family Jeanie witnesses at Carlisle Meg being hanged and Madge's death after being ducked by a mob.

Ch. 4 (42 [41]): Jeanie and the Argyle party arrive at Roseneath.

Ch. 5 (43 [42]): Jeanie is reunited with her father.

Ch. 6 (44 [43]): Deans convinces himself that it is in order for Butler to accept the position of minister at Knocktarlitie and takes it on himself to inform him of his preferment.

Ch. 7 (45 [44]): Jeanie and Butler are reunited. In a letter Effie says she is intending to make a new life abroad. The Captain of Knockdunder, a local laird, is introduced.

Ch. 8 (46 [45]): Butler is inducted to Knocktarlitie.

Ch. 9 (47 [46]): After the post-induction feast Effie and Staunton, now married, visit Jeanie in secret and confirm their intention to spend some years abroad.

Ch. 10 (48 [47]): Jeanie and Butler marry and have three children. Her happiness is marred only by theological disagreements between her father and her husband, and by the lack of news of Effie.

Ch. 11 (49 [48]): Jeanie receives a letter from Effie, now with a place in polite English society as Lady Staunton, and enclosing the first of a series of twice-yearly remittances. On a visit to the manse Argyle sings the praises of Lady Staunton, ignorant of her identity.

Ch. 12 (50 [49]): In 1751 Deans dies. Jeanie gives Butler money to buy a small estate.

Ch. 13 (51 [50]): Jeanie forwards to her sister a copy of Meg's dying confession, received by chance, indicating that the baby son resulting from her relationship with Staunton was not killed. Lady Staunton arrives at the manse: on a mountain excursion with her elder nephew David she is rescued by a wild lad who is later identified as the Whistler, Effie's son.

Ch. 14 (52 [51]): At the General Assembly in Edinburgh, Butler encounters Staunton who is searching for his lost son. They travel together to Roseneath, landing in a cove as a storm threatens.

Ch. 15 (53 [52]): Staunton is killed in an attack by Donacha Dhu na Dunaigh and his men. The Whistler is captured and sentenced to death by Knockdunder, but Jeanie facilitates his escape. He ended up with the wild Indians in America. After a further ten years in fashionable society his mother retired to the convent on the Continent where she had been educated.

Reception[edit]

The Heart of Mid-Lothian was the first of the full-length Waverley novels to disappoint the majority of its reviewers.[2] Although the author's genius was not in doubt with most critics, almost all of them found the new novel prolix and the fourth volume surplus to requirements. There were objections to the plot's coincidences and to signs of hastiness. Several reviewers found it remarkable that a simple country girl like Jeanie Deans could be rendered so interesting, and her interview with Queen Caroline was generally admired. Her sister Effie was also found fascinating, though there were differing views on the moral effect of her later career.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Painting[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Rachel her stage life and her real life" by Frances Gribble (1911)
  2. ^ For a full list of contemporaneous British reviews see William S. Ward, Literary Reviews in British Periodicals, 1798‒1820: A Bibliography, 2 vols (New York and London, 1972), 2.487‒88. For an earlier annotated list see James Clarkson Corson, A Bibliography of Sir Walter Scott (Edinburgh and London, 1943), 219‒20.