n an entryin his journal late in 1825, Sir Walter Scott recorde dhis attendance at a meeting of a committee of which he was president, finding himself in company with "a body of active business-loving money-making citizens of Edinburgh, chiefly Whigs by the way, whose sentiments and proceedings amuse me."1 Amused and be-mused as a spectator of the financial world where his eyes were "dazzled with the golden gleam effusedby so many capitalists,"2 Scott was frequentlyan unwilling decision-maker in that world.3 His own entangled affairs, his realization that he had entangled others, and his anguished but determined efforts to pay off creditors are a matter of well-documented record. So, on the other hand, is his frankly and unabashedly commercial view of his art, and the fascination which speculations of any sort exerted over him. In responding to Adam Smith's characterization of the work of writers as unproductive labor,4 Scott's Captain Clutterbuck, in the Introductory Epistle to The Fortunes of Nigel, reports the Author as saying that
a successful author is a productive labourer, and . . . his works constitutes effectual part of the public wealth, as that which is created by any other manufactured a new commodity having an actually intrinsic and commercial value, be the result of the operation, why are the author's sale of books to be esteemed a less profitable part of the public stock than the goods of any other manufacturer? speak with reference to the diffusion of the wealth arising to the public, and the degree of industry which even such a trifling work as the present must stimulate and reward, before the volumes leave the publisher's shop. Without it could not exist, and to this extent I am a benefactor to the country. As for my own emolument, it is won by my toil, and I account myself answerable to Heaven only for the mode in which I expend it.5
Scott, that is, justifies his labor by expanding the term "productive" beyond its purely utilitarian implications, and focusing on how one spends, rather than how one gains; "the candid may hope, "he adds, that his work "is not all dedicated to selfish purposes; and, without much pretensions to merit in him who disburses it, a part may 'wander, heaven-directed, to the poor.'" Scott's attitudes toward commerce were shaped not only by his interest in profit as a writer, but by a world in which, especially after 1815 and in the economically-troubled aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, fortunes were made and lost, inherited and squandered with great rapidity. When he turned from his own profitsto the contemplation of commercial speculations, Scott was more ambivalent in attitude. Many of his sympathies lay with the money-making class to which he belonged; another side of him, reflecting his innate Tory paternalism, was appalled at the human waste thatan unrestrained competitiveness could produce. Commerce, for him, was a potentially creative force, providing employment (which Scott repeatedly regarded as that most important of necessities for assuaging working-class discontent in an industrial era); and at its best commerce could recreate something like the old bond of loyalty between master and servant.6 To some extent, this was doubly necessary in an era in which the inheritors of wealth themselves seemed less sensitive to their traditional obligations. Thus, for example, in the introductory section to Chronicles of the Canongate, Chrystal Croft angry, decrying his earlier habits of gambling and folly, recalls, "I had thought little about my estate, while I possessed and was wasting it, unless as affording the rude materials out of which a certain inferior race of creatures, called tenants, were bound to produce (in a greater quantity than they actually did) a certain returncalled rent, which was destined to supply my expenses" (Ch. 2). In this situation, indeed, Chrystalis more culpable than the family of the tradesman Treddles, who has purchased the Croftangryestate and torndown the old house, and whose son has subsequently failed in business. At first triumphing over the downfall of the buyer's son who has lost the estate through "paltry commercial engagements, " Chrystal is rebuked by his better self:
"Bethinkthee, how this poor man's vanity gave at least bread to the labourer, peasant, and citizen; and his profuse expenditure, like water spilt on the ground, refreshed the lowly herbs and plants where it fell. But thou! whom hast thou enriched, during thy career of extravagance, save those brokers of the devil, vintners, panders, gamblers, and horse-jockies?" (Ch. 3)
But just as the gentry's neglect of its tenants could be cruel and heartless, uncontrolled commercial and speculative instincts could bring a disastrous crash to the hapless working-man;hence commercial instincts had to be regulated for the protection of the working class. After a trip through Lancashire in 1826, Scott declared that "God's justice is requiting, and will yet further requite those who have blown up the country into a state of unsubstantial opulence, at the expense of the health and morals of the lower classes."7 And in a letter to his friend Morritt in 1820, he complained, in regard to employment in manufacturing towns, that "a superintendence of the workers considerd [sic] as moral and rational being is . . . a matter totally unconnected with the Employer's usual thoughts & cares." 7 Scott's fascination with fluid wealth did not mean a justification of easy profit, and in many respects his writings anticipate Carlyle's invectives against the cash nexus which can all too easily replace affection and charity as a bond among men.
It is hardly surprising that these mixed attitudes inform the world of the Waverley novels. In Scott's works, as in those of his admired Defoe (and laterin his admirer Balzac), a preoccupation with getting and spending verges at times on an obsession. The theme of trade colors the relationships among his characters, and in at least two novels — Rob Roy and The Fortunes of Nigel — is a decisive mover of the plot. Comnmercial transactions figure with increased prominence in those novels set in the post-Elizabethan era; indeed, they provide one important touchstone of moral value. Various critics have approached the role of commerce in Scott's fiction from one side or another, but the extent to which it invests the novels with a stratum of hard-cash reality and helps to define the interplay of personal and historical forces remains to be systematically examined.9 I shall begin by suggesting some ways in which Scott's novels reflectthe kind of ambivalences about commercial progress which I have been noting in his own career, look at The Fortunes of Nigel in a separate section as Scott's fullest development of the contrast between the old order of honor and the new order of credit, and finally discuss several novels in which Scott resolves the implicit tension between the old order and the new in at least partly financial terms.
cott's historical fiction, and particularly the novels set in Scotland after the Act of Union of 1707, is from one perspective a vehicle for exploring the processes whereby the near-independence of the Highlands became almost entirely subordinate to lowland industry, and whereby, in the words of a modern historian, traditional social structures were displaced by "the growth of a new pattern of relationships based on commercial values."10 Scott's own contemporary, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, whose Observations on the Present State of the Highlands of Scotland (1805) Scott had cited in Waverly, had pinpointed with some insight the manner in which the peasantry changed to meet the demands ofan increasingly commercial society, feudal manners disappearing as a consequence. Scott viewed such changes, both in the agrarian and their urban manifestations, as necessary to Scottish prosperity and pride, and yet saw with regretthe resulting jeopardy in which an older culture had been placed.
The changes which Scott observed in his native country were part of a larger European pattern which had begun to emerge further back in history, and this Scott acknowledges in his late medieval and early Renaissance novels. In Anne of Geierstein, set at a time when trade was first beginning to transform Europe and the Duke of Burgundy was interfering with Bernese commerce, Arnold Biederman tells the elder Philipson, a merchant, that increased wealth has brought dangers of softness and self-indulgence to the hardy Swiss. He concedes, however, that commerce also sends them sensible and sagacious men like Philipson himself, "for though I love not the increasing taste for trinkets and gewgaws which you merchants introduce, yet I acknowledge that we simple mountaineers learn from men like you more of the world around us, than we could acquire by our own exertions" (Ch. 3). The position of merchants and burghers is still insecure; in The Fair Maid of Perth, it remains an open question whether the nobility can have its way with the tradespeople, and Scott takes pains to tell us that at this era the royal burghs still frequently chose their principal magistrates fromthe nobility rather than the bourgeoisie so that they could have a voice at court and their forces could be supplemented by feudal retainers (Ch. 7). But in Quentin Durward, commercial values are already at work as a solvent of feudal relationships, and the bulk of Scott's novels are set in an era when trade and thriving enterprise are established features of society.
Something of Scott's ambivalence, and yet at the same time a decisive weighting of the scales in the direction of the new order, occurs more than once in the Waverley novels, beginning with Waverley itself.Early in the novel, the sad economic plight of much of Scotland and its once prominent landholders is symbolized in both the village and manor of Tully-Veolan, to which Edward comes during his leave. While Waverley's consciousness registers the squalor of the village, he sees the manor as romantic and picturesque, and is "so much pleased with the placid ideas of rest and seclusion excited by this confined and quiet scene" that he forgets the "misery and dirt of the hamlet he had left behind him" (Ch. 8). Waverley's superficial response to the setting is an early clue to the dreamy and indecisive temperament which complicates his life as the action proceeds, and he has yet to put himself in touch with that present and future in which, as Scott's postscript emphasizes, "The gradual influx of wealth and extension of commerce have. . . united to render the present people of Scotland a class of beings as different from their grandfathers as the existing English are from those of Queen Elizabeth's time" (Ch. 72). Somewhat more sardonically, the opening chapter of St. Ronan's Well shows a decaying village made more picturesque by economic decline, and thus more attractive for "the pencil of every passing tourist." But the subtlest and most complex dramatization of the tension between the desire to preserve the romantic and picturesque and the need for economic improvement occurs in Chapter 36 of Rob Roy. There Frank Osbaldistone and Bailie jarvie leave Rob Roy at the edge of Loch Lomond, where four Highland rowers wait to take them the first stage of their trip back to Glasgow. Frank recalls that he "thought, in the enthusiasm of the moment that had my faith been that of Rome, I could have consented to live and die a lonely hermit in one of the romantic and beautiful islands amongst which our boat glided." Jarvie's speculations run a different course, for he is pondering the utility of draining the lake to acquire good farm soil, leaving enough for passing coal barges. The contrast is almost an aside, but it is revealing, because thematically the movement of Rob Roy is toward a wedding of the old and new worlds, the world of romance and the world of commerce. Both Frank's view and Jarvie's are, at this stage, incomplete; one is overly romantic, the other almost comically utilitarian.11 The conflicts of the novel are not yet resolved, but the future lies more with the Jarvies than with the earlier Frank, who has — rightly in the short run — rejected his father's offer of participation in the family business, to which ultimately he will return.
A similar division of sympathies seems to be present in The Pirate. The cynical Mertoun asks if Norna gets rich by "selling favourable winds to those who are port-bound, " and declares in answer to his own question:
"Every thing in the universe is bought and sold, and why not wind, if the mnerchantcan find purchasers? The earth is related, from its surface down to its most central mines; — the fire, and the means of feeding it, are currently bought and sold; — the wretches that sweep the boisterous ocean with their nets, pay ransom for the privilege of being drowned in it. What title has the air to be exempted from the universal course of traffic? [Ch. 7]
Taken even at its most cynical level, the speech invites our sympathies and suggests by implication a finermoral order in which relationships among people and between people are defined in terms other than those of the cash nexus. And yet in its context the speech is slightly absurd, and so intended. For Mertoun has already been singled out as a quarrelsome recluse whose irregular attention to his own affairs makes him the deserving prey of swindlers. Most of the commercial transactions in The Pirate are either nefarious or ludicrous, but they are so in part because commerce does not yet function in that world as a civilizing agent. Triptolemus Yellowley is ludicrous precisely because he is not a practical man of affairs but rather a gentleman farmer and dabbler in pseudo-scientific innovations which bring him to the edge of financial ruin. His sister suffers from the opposite vice, miserliness, and her views on economy seem "to include a system of privations, which, though observed with the sole purpose of saving money, might, if undertaken upon other principles, have ranked high in the history of a religious ascetic" (Ch. 11). Greed in the novel also takes more sinister forms. Bryce Snailsfoot, the peddler, looks for spoils from the shipwreck, and old Swertha argues in defense of such looting that mariners "lose their right frae the time keel touches sand; and, moreover, they are dead and gane, poor souls-dead and gane, and care little about warld's wealth now" (Ch. 8). Though Magnus Troil himself attacks such plundering, he is more "latitudinarian" when it comes to the evasion of customs and dues which result from Scottish domination in the Orkneys. Mertoun's speech on commerce, on a level he does not intend, thus offers us less a profound truth about human nature than a reflection of a society in which commercial values have not yet moved into phase with moral values.
Mercantilism brings with it other shifts in the temper of an age; trade prospers best on a sound basis when there is peace, and hence in one sense would seem to reflect conditions which restrict the possibilities of heroic action.12 In The Fair Maid of Perth Simon Glover recalls how he loved to hear Clement, the Carthusian nmonk, speak of "the corruptions of the Church, the misgovernmentof the nobles, and the wild ignorance of the poor, proving, as it seemed to me, that the sole virtue of our commonweal, its strength, and its estimation, lay among the burghercraft of the better class, which I received as comfortable doctrine, and creditable to the town" (Chl. 25). In The Monastery, the courteous English soldier says to Dame Glenldinning of her son's occupations, "A monk and a soldier! — Evil trades both, my good dame. Better have made one a good master fashioner, like [the tailor] old Overstitch of Holderness" (Ch. 37). The debate is broached again in the sequel, The Abbot; here Halbert Glendinning, who in The Monastery gave up his interest in the estate to seek his fortunes in the world, laments the barren hills of his home and defends the mercantile spirit of the Dutch and the Flemings against Lady Mary's charges of slothfulness: ". . . Their hands serve their country, though not in battle, like ours. . . It grieves me, Mary, when I look on that land, and think what benefit it might receive from such men as I have lately seen — men who seek not the idle fame derived from dead ancestors, or the bloody renown won in modern broils, but tread along the land as preservers and improvers, not as tyrants and destroyers"(Ch. 3).
In the novels with post-sixteenth century settings, the debate is joined more sharply with the rise of the commercial class, and the question becomes one of replacing a code of violence (the obverse of the gallant chivalry which produced it) with a code of peaceful honor. A revealing figure whose profession and code of ethics locate him somewhere between the old order of chivalry and the new order of commerce is Dalgetty, the mercenary of A Legend of Montrose. Dalgetty presents himself as a "person of sense and prudence," who, while initially deferring a commitment to either King or Parliament, inclines toward the latter side because it seems wealthier, but is then swayed to the Royalists by the news that his hereditary estate has been purchased bya Convenanter. Though principles play no part in his choice of sides, they operate unyieldingly once he has chosen, for Dalgetty is absolutely committed to the literal fulfilment of the terms of any "military enlistment" as a point of honor, and he expects the same honor among his paymasters. Of his former Dutch employers, he says that "their behaviour on pay-day might be a pattern to all Europe — no borrowings, no lendings, no offsets, no arrears — all balanced and paid like a banker's book" (Ch. 2). From the point of view of his officers, he is a useful servant. Menteith claims that Dalgetty's good attributes derive from his self-interest, to which Montrose responds that "there is something convenient in commanding a soldier, upon whose motives and springs of action you can calculate to a mathematical certainty" (Ch. 20). Both views are equally just. Scott neatly strikesa balance in our own sympathies, but goes a shade further in the ending to imply that Dalgetty, in his "pacific intermarriage with Hannah Strachan . . . the widow of the Aberdeenshire Covenanter" (ch. 23), not only regains his paternal estate but transfers his military virtues to the bourgeois arts of peace. The note here is somewhat analogous to the one struck at the end of Old Mortality, when, after order and tranquillity are restored under the House of Orange, the prosperous Neil Blane says of the Scots dragoons, "Nae doubt they're Willie's men e'en now, as they were James's a while syn; and reason good, - they fight for their pay; what else hae they to fight for?"(Ch. 41). In a day in which the great issues of the time have been settled, it is pay, and not devotion to the cause, which binds the soldier. A similar view is expressed in ironically changed circumstances by Nanty Ewart, the skipper in Redgauntlet, who has no sympathy forthe Stuarts but who refuses a reward and will not turn in Prince Charles and his followers; "they are part of cargo — regularlyinvoiced — put under my charge by the owners" (Ch. 23). Jarvie and his cousin Rob, who scorns the Bailie as a "cousin wi' accounts, and yarn winnles, and looms, and shuttles, like a mere mechanical person" and who honors Frank for "his contempt of weavers and spinners, and sic-like mechanical persons and their pursuits" (Ch. 23). Rob Roy reacts disparagingly to Jarvie's suggestion that his sons become weavers and embracea new and honest order of life (Ch. 34). But in so doing, he is setting himself up in defiance of the processes of history, as he also does in embracing the Jacobite cause. The Bailie, though physically at his mercywhen on Rob Roy's home territorye, merges as the practical realist of the two. " . . . I mauinhear naething about honour," he tells Frank, "we ken naething here but about credit. Honour is a homicide and a blood-spiller, that gangs about making frays in the street; but Credit is a decent, honest man that sits at hame and makes the pat play" (Ch. 26). Characteristically, Jarviehimself is not of his father's generation; although not without physical courage, he acknowledges that his sword has not seen the light since the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in which his father fought, if indeed it was used even in that brief battle: "At ony rate, it's glewed to the scabbard now beyond my power to part them" (Ch. 28). Although there is violence in Rob Roy, most bold ventures come to us at a remove, either in time or in space. As Frank journeys to Scotland through the flat northern counties at the beginning of the novel, he recalls that "our speech . . . was of tithes and creeds, of beeves and grain, of commodities wet and dry, and the solvency of the retail dealers, occasionally varied by the description of a siege in Flanders, which perhaps the narrator only gave me at second hand" (Ch. 3).
As trade prospers in peace, so is law at its best the defender of peace and the leveller of the more iniquitous hereditary distinctions. In Redgauntlet, Alan Fairford defends his fatherto Darsie as another instance of the new heroism:
“...He has courage enoughtodowhatisright, and to spurn what is wrong — courage enough to defend a righteous cause with hand and purse, and to take the part of the poor man against his oppressor, without fear of the consequences to himiself. This is civil courage, Darsie; and it is of little consequence to most men in this age and country, whether they ever possess military courage or no.” [Letter the Fifth]
In the same novel, Joshua Geddes likewise illustrates the prospects for heroism in an era of peaceful commerce. Diligent and successful, he has withdrawn from most of his father's undertakings in satisfaction with what he has.13 And yet Joshua's salmon-trapping, which is construed by the spokesmen for tradition as interference with the long-established freedom of the waters, is a somewhat ambiguous act; and Scott makes us understand, if not agree with, the motives behind Redgauntlet's sarcastic observation that "honest Joshua is one of those who, by dint of long prayers, can possess themselvesof widows' houses — he will quickly repair his losses" (Ch. 8). It takes not only Joshua's passive endurance of his wrongs but his active search for Darsie, "even if it were at the expense of half my substance, " to clinch our support fully on his side.
As society becomes more complex, its relationships and interactions less readily determined by simple acts of either violence or gallantry, defenses of a departed chivalry become sadder or even verge on the ludicrous. There is a disillusioned clarity in Fergus's acknowledgement in Waverley that "three things. . . are useless to a modern Highlander, — a sword which he must not draw, a bard to sing of deeds which he dare not imitate, and a large goat-skinpurse without a louis-d'or to put into it" (Ch. 22). Fergus survives in an increasingly conmmercial world only to the extent that he is able to manipulate events through economic means; where he fails, as did Rob Roy a generation earlier, is in his adherence to a cause which has not only seen its day but is very nearly penniless.14 Half-a-century later, Sir Arthur Wardour in The Antiquary comically associates the growth of commerce with the decline of chivalry.The limitations of Sir Arthur's vision are set forth early in the novel, when he complains that Oldbuck's antiquarianism and his economics are of a piece: ". . . That habit of minute and troublesome accuracy leads to a mercantile manner of doing business which ought to be beneath a landed proprietor whose family has stood two or three generations" (Ch. 5). But the absence of that habit undoes Sir Arthur, whose gullibility leads him to the brink of ruin from which Oldbuck, swayed by the schemes of Dousterswivel only up to a point, brings him back.15 The amusing lament of Sir Arthur as he is being escorted from his house, apparently a ruined man, is an unconscious parody of a well-worn theme: the decline of the heroic ideal. "When I was sent to the Tower with my late father, in the year 1745, it was upon a charge becoming our birth, — upon an accusation of high treason, Mr. Oldbuck; we were escorted from Highgate by a troop of Life-Guards, and committed upon a Secretary of State's warrant. And now, here I am, in my old age, dragged from my household by a miserable creature like that [pointing to the messenger], and for a paltry concern of pounds, shillings, and pence" (Ch. 42).
The economic theme in both The Antiquary and Redgauntlet is further underlined by interpolated stories which comment on the main line of the action. In Redgauntlet, Wandering Willie's story of his gudesire's trip to hell to get his rent receipt ironically juxtaposes the casual morals and sometimes brutal ways of the old Laird, a violent Jacobite, with those of the young Laird who has moved with the times, voted for the Union, and wants all business transactions recorded regularly. In The Antiquary, Miss Wardour's reading of the story of Martin Waldeck (Ch. 18) is ironic in context, for its pat moral, "the miseries attendant upon wealth, hastily attained and ill-employed," is largely unobserved by Sir Arthur and Dousterswivel, whose commerce with alleged spirits resembles Martin's trafficking with demons and is aimed at much the same object. Martin is an upstart and Sir Arthur a benighted aristocrat, but in both instances they sever themselves from common humanity, and Sir Arthur's greed renders his near-fate at the hands of his creditors more appro- priate than he would ever admit.
If the obverse side of gallant chivalry is ruffian-like brutality, civil courage also has its obverse side, that of trimming and time-serving. The old Laird and the new in Willie's tale exemplify the inverse of chivalry and civil courage respectively. In Waverley, Sir Richard becomes a Hanoverian out of prudence rather than principle because he is a younger son, and he prospers handsomely. In The Bride of Lammermoor, Sir William Ashton, who has become the proprietor of Ravenswood by purchase, and whose attention to the minutiae of both finances and etiquette is in sharp contrast with Ravenswood's fiery impatience, has "held high offices in the state, maintaining ... the character of a skilful fisher in the troubled waters of a state divided by factions, and governed by delegated authority; and of one who contrived to amass considerable sums of money in a country where there was but little to be gathered" (Ch. 2). His enterprise is forwarded by a state of affairs in which bribery moves the wheels of the government. But perhaps of all the novels, Old Mortality most thoroughly explores the varieties of temporizing carried out for reasons of both personal safety and economic gain. Old Milnwood, the miser, hopes to preserve his wealth through an evasion of political commitments, but the result is that both parties in the struggle treat him with contempt. He attempts to secure immunity and the protection of his hoard by remaining silent during the changes that rock Church and State, while Basil Olifaunt plays the more dangerous game of political expediency and, after alternating between Covenanters and papists and acquiring Lady Margaret's estate, finally overreaches himself. Significantly, the shrewd Burley comments of Olifaunt that "the heathen virtues" of the gallant Evandale "are more dangerous to us than the sordid cupidity of those who, governed by their interest, must follow where it leads, and who, therefore, themselves the slaves of avarice, may be compelled to work in the vineyard were it but to earn the wages of sin" (Ch. 43). Burley's words are confirmed by the unholy alliance of former Covenanters and Stuart Catholics in later years, and his shrewd appeal to the motive of economic gain in others is neatly separated from his personal lack of interest in profit. In the world of Old Mortality, real security lies in the uncertain terrain between pure economic expediency and political idealism, and of all the characters it is suggestive that the one who survives the most comfortably is the innkeeper Niel Blane, "good humored, shrewd, selfish" (Ch. 4), catering only to the good-will of his customers whatever their political or theological persuasions, and dying, in Patterson's words, "worth as much money as married Jenny to a cocklaird" (Ch. 41). With him can be ranged the folk-realists Jenny and Cuddie, the first willing to play both sides since friendship is "worth siller" (Ch. 24), and the latter willing to pillage the fallen Bothwell out of a complicated mixture of selfishness and friendship, restoring to Henry the money Bothwell took from Old Milnwood. The fact, indeed, that from one point of view the wars are merely an interruption of a more pervasive network of commercial relationships and motives, is reflected with sly comedy in the housekeeper Alison's explanation of how she and old Milnwood have survived:
". . . though the troopers of Tillietudlem took the red cow and auld Hackie . . . yet they sauld us a gude bargain o'tour they were driving to the castle . . . They cam out to gather marts for the garrison . . . but they just fell to their auld trade, and rade through the country couping and selling a' that they gat, like sae mony west-country drovers." (Ch. 27)
Early in Old Mortality, when the potential for a second civil war appears to be growing, Scott comments, "While the prudent and peaceful endeavoured, like Niel Blane, to make fair weather with both parties, those who had more public (or party) spirit began to take arms on all sides" (Ch. 20). The statement is charged with deliberate ambiguity. Prudence and peace are prerequisites for a secure economic and social order, yet we judge Niel for his selfishness even as we admire his adroitness. Public spirit requires a willingness to know when to take sides on behalf of what we conceive to be principle, yet there is a fine line between dedication to principle and blind service to party. Almost an aside in context, Scott's remark nonetheless suggests a kind of touchstone by which we evaluate the characters, not only of Old Mortality, but of the Waverley novels in general. The commercial spirit must not be censured blindly by a small class bent on maintaining its aristocratic privileges, but assimilated and directed wisely if spirited enterprise is not to shade into selfishness, cowardice, or illegal trade.16 We must, finally, have a world in which, to borrow Jarvie's terms, there is no conflict between Honour and Credit. The Fortunes of Nigel and Rob Roy represent the fullest workings-out of the interactions of old and new wealth.
f these two, I take The Fortunes of Nigel first because, although written later, it portrays an earlier period in history than Rob Roy and displays the era of James I as a kind of testing-ground for the rising commercial class. The relationship between this theme and the central character is adumbrated in the title itself. The concept of "fortune" carries with it the medieval idea of fate which controls the destinies of the protagonist, should he submit to fortune's wheel. In the context of the historical setting of the novel, "fortunes" are defined preeminently in monetary terms. And finally, as the action develops, the term takes on an obliquely moral cast; the plot is designed to bring financial fortunes into alignment with moral values.
Scott's introduction underlines the crucial nature of the historical period. It was, he states, one in which barbarism was being leavened by learning and reformed religion, in which "punctilios of [chivalric] honour" were giving way to another kind of world nn which "Bacon was about to teach [men] that they were no longer to reason from authority to fact, but to establish truth by advancing from fact to fact, till they fixed an indisputable authority, not from hypothesis, but from experiment." The primary exponent of this new order is Heriot, the merchant, disdainful of "Arcadian compliments" and "speeches from romaunts and play-books" (Ch.29); and Scott's introduction suggests that Heriot is to be regarded as the hero, though on the grounds of "worth of character, goodness of heart, and rectitude of principle" instead of "high birth" and "romantic sensibility." "Frugality and good conduct, " Adam Smith had explained, "is usually sufficient to compensate, not only the private prodigality and misconduct of individuals, but the public extravagance of government. The uniform, constant, and uninterrupted effort of every man to better his condition, the principle from which public and national, as well as private opulence is originally derived, is frequently powerful enough to maintain the natural progress of things toward improvement, in spite both of the extravagance of government, and of the greatest errors of administration" (III, 21-22). In part, Scott's somewhat defiant focus on common sense may derive from his own reaction against the romantic excesses of The Monastery; as the Author says of The Fortunes of Nigel in Captain Clutterbuck's epistle, "All is clear and above board: a Scots metaphysician might believe every word of it."But the centrality of Heriot suggests that a Scottish political economist might go further and endorse every word. The setting of the novel offers a variation on Scott's frequent practice, for it focuses on the Scottish community in London rather than on a young Englishman in Scotland. The forces of change, embodied in the newer commercial practices, are not moving north from London but have come south from Edinburgh. The result, however, is a draining of money from where it is needed. As Richie Moniplies, Nigel's faithful servant, observes, "The King's leaving Scotland has taken all custom from Edinburgh," and Heriot replies, "It is even too true, and while we make fortunes here, our old neighbours and their families are starving at home" (Ch. 2). Nigel's attempt to gain the repayment of the debt to his family to this extent reflects the larger need to redefine the relationship between Scotland and England, to restore to the former what the latter has wrongly gained from her.
The London setting also, however, juxtaposes sharply Adam Smith's productive and unproductiv eclasses, the sober enterprise of merchants against the court with its gambling and the financial imprudences of its monarch. The increasing dependence of the monarchy on middle class wealth is here seen as anticipating the disaster which is to overtake Charles I. Adam Smith had observed that kings and ministers, being themselves "the greatest spendthrifts in the society," had little right to restrain private expense through "sumptuary laws" or "restrictions on imports" (III, 28), and in The Fortunes of Nigel James I's court reads like a dramatization of Smith's declamations against prodigality. Smith had also claimed with piquant overstatement that "wherever capital predominates, industry prevails: wherever revenue, idleness" (III, 12), and Scott, showing London in transition, manages to combine in a single setting the contrasts which Smith suggests between two differentkinds of cities:
In mercantile and manufacturing towns, where the inferior ranks of people are chiefly main tained by the employment of capital, they are in general industrious, Sol)er, and thriving. . Inthose towns which are principally snpported by?)the constant or occa- sional residence of a court, and in which the inferior ranks of people are chiefly mainitainied by the spending of revenue, they are in general idle, dissolute, and poor . . . [III, 10]
Smith's allusion to the inferior ranks may serve here, finally, to draw our attention to a third significant feature of Scott's London, Alsatia, in which Duke Hildebrod's mock court operates as a kind of petty principality with treaties, tribute money, rentals, and marriages of state (thus the duke's proffer of Martha Trapbois's hand and fortune to Nigel). Alsatia parodies the excesses of James' court, and serves as yet another touchstone by which we gauge the society and Nigel's own development.
The different characters in The Fortunes of Nigel are placed at various points along a spectrum of commercial transactions. At one extreme is Andrew Skurliewhitter, the scrivener, who rises financially through a combination of commercial shrewdness and sinister manipulation; he is indirectly involved in Trapbois's death and gives Colepepper the information to kill Dalgarno. At the other extreme is Heriot, not only an effective tradesman but an honest and kindly maan who preaches peaceful behavior, industry, and frugality, telling the apprentice Vincent "never [to] mock the stranger or the poor" (ch. 2). Yet Heriot has sufficient art, as well as industry, to make his way successfully at court without compromising his independence; as the King exclaims, "Jingling Geordie is so damnably ready with his gold-ends of wisdom, and sae accursedly backward withhis gold-ends of siller, that, by our royal saul, we are glad togeta hair in his neck" (Ch. 31). By his success Heriot has escaped fortune's wheel; in his words, "yet have I seen such changes when death has removed the head, so many rich men's sons penniless, the heirs of so many knights and nobles acreless, that I think mine own estate and memory, as I shall orderit, has a fairchance ofoutliving those of greater men" (Ch. 29). JohnChristie, the poor but honest tradesman, is like a kind ofcounterpartto Heriot, who describes him as "just and punctual, trueto time and engagements" (Ch. 4); and in the probable departure of him and his compromised wife to America, Scott hints at an opening for mobility and enterprise denied to Christie even in the increasing fluidity of English society. More equivocal figures involved in commerce of one sort or another include Dame Ursula Suddlechop, a conniver and keeper of secrets engaged in her own labyrinthine "trade" (Ch. 8), who gives Vincent his gentlemanly pretensions, and David Ramsay, whose interest in obscure and useless researches makes him an indifferent tradesman, accessible only to duns. The objects of his trade are singularly inappropriate, in fact, for, although a dealer in watches, he is hardly aware of time, and his trade in eyeglasses and mirrors appeals to the wellsprings of vanity rather than to the need to see reality clearly. In Vincent himself, the apprentice and con man, we have the embodiment of a new ambitious class in danger of overreaching itself, while his companion in apprenticeship, Frank Tunstaff, of a proud but decayed family, represents an old order which must accommodate itselfto new trends if it is to survive. In one way or another all these characters, seeking their fortunes through diverse forms of capitalist enterprise, are exemplars of fluid as opposed to fixed wealth.
In court the situation is quite different. There is first of all James himself, whose dependence on merchants and whose favorite phrase "beati pacifici" (which Christie unconsciously echoes in his remark, "I am a man of peace" [Ch. 28]) are suggestive of his shrewdness and understanding of the need to cultivate support in the new order, but also reflect his tendency to temporize and to evade decisive action.17 Sir Mungo Malagrowther is the holder of an obsolete office, a court hanger-on, ignored by fortune, in debt to Heriot and thus all too readily the victim of a clerk's "civil city sneer." The gallant but anachronistic Earl of Huntinglen, as inept as Sir Mungo in advancing his own preferment, holds an essentially static view of the relationship between wealth and duty, urging Nigel to "reside on your patrimonial estate, cherish your ancient tenants, relieve and assist your poor kinsmen, protect the poor against subaltern oppression, and do what our fathers used to do, with few lights and with less means than we have" (Ch. 10). The key phrase, though the Earl himself does not give it weight, is "less means"; the chivalric simplicity of which he is an exponent is already doomed, and though Scott casts a regretful backward glance in its direction, the Earl's naivete underlines the need to express moral obligations in terms appropriate to a society in which traditional roles are undergoing rapid change. Dalgarno, the Earl's son, thinks he speaks fora new order; but in facthe comaesto symbolize the thwartedadventurousness of the old orderin a world in which direct action is at a discount, and in thatsense is his father'sson withouthis father'sstrictmoral code. He is, to be sure, an exponent of fluid wealth, but throughgambling ratherthan honest trade, gambling both literallyat the gamiingtables and figurativelyby casting his fortuneswiththe ascendant partyat court, where, in his own words to Nigel, "all are either losing or winning" (Ch. 10).
Finally, there is Alsatia, where Trapbois the miser is the ultimate exemplar of static wealth, hoarding and not spending; to him everything is granted "for a consideration," and his own monetary possessiveness is ultimately as sterile as the monetary carelessness that characterizes the court gallants. Honest trade, then, is a kind of moral fulcrum in the novel, for it puts money in circulation, neither hoarding nor squandering, but calculating perimeters of risk and avoiding the subjection of either merchant or investors and creditors wholly to the hazards of fortune.
In an important scene in the novel (Ch. 10), Scott charts Nigel's own alternation between two patterns of behavior, the old Earl's and the young Dalgarno's. Momentarily moved by the Earl's feudal appeal, Nigel informs Dalgarno that
I trust to do something for my vassals, as my ancestors before me, and to teach my children, as I have myself been taught, to make some personal sacrifices, if they be necessary, in order to maintain with dignity the situationin which they are placed by Providence.
It is difficult for the reader to avoid sharing Dalgarno's hilarity at the stilted pompousness of the speech, but for reasons other than purely cynical ones. For Nigel's readiness to embrace the Earl's view is a mark, at this early stage of the novel, of his own deficiency in realism. The code of Heriot, Nigel's guiding star throughout the novel even when the young im-af nails to acknowledge it, must replace Nigel's curious mixture of naive goodness and pride. What Nigel lacks at the outset is enterprise; he waits passively for the King to reimburse him, and submits with some reluctance to the guidance of Heriot because, ignorant of commerce, he resents being indebted to one whom he regards as a glorified shopkeeper. Nigel thus unwittingly places himself at the side of the court's snobbery which initially excludes him from the King's presence. Relying on the intervention of Heriot, he is informed by the deputy chamberlain that Heriot's name "will pass current for much gold and silver. . . but not for birth and rank" (Ch. 9). In fact, Nigel is initially unable to fit either court or middle-class world. He lacks the caution of a man of business, for, although turning his affairs over to the honest Heriot and the Earl, he incurs Heriot's criticism for failing to adhere to the precept that "it behoves every man to become acquainted with his own affairs, so soon as he hath any that are worth attending to" (Ch.10). On the other hand, Nigel lacks the venturesome spirit which, however perverted, is necessary if one is to risk one's fortunes at court. At the gambling tables he uses talents, better devoted to business, to ruin others of smaller means, and thus shows a kind of moral obtuseness which is also displayed in his failure to respond to Dalgarno's imputations of a clandestine relationship with Christie's wife. Richie and Sir Mungo, in an odd alliance of views, make it clear that Nigel's gambling is doubly opprobrious either by the upright standards of private conduct or by the code of honor of a man of the world. Richie declares that "if you played with your equals, there might be like sin, but there wad be mair warldly honour in it" (Ch. 14), while Sir Mungo says, "He, my lord, who has the patience and prudence never to venture beyond small game, such as, at most, might crack the Christmas-box of a grocer's prentice, who vies with those that have little to hazard, and who therefore, having the larger stock, can always rook them by waiting for his good fortune, and by rising fromthe game when luck leaves him-such a one as he, my lord, I do not call a great gamester, to whatever other name he may be entitled" (Ch. 15). Nigel thus alternates between unbusiness-like passivity and unaristocratic trifling, and Duke Hildebrod's misspelling of his name("Niggel") is an unintended confirmation of his character. Yet Nigel's niggling is attended by grave results to others, for one ofhis victims at play is the apprentice Vincent, who takes to highway robbery as a result. In a climactic scene in which Heriot visits Nigel in prison, Nigel responds to the merchant's offer of assistance with the self-pitying, "Fortune has taken the field against me at every point. Even let her win the battle." Heriot impatiently responds that unless Nigel or someone else discovers the King's signed warrant, "farewell to the fair lordship of Glenvarloch-firth and forest, lea and furrow, lake and stream" (Ch. 29). Two notions of fortune contend here: Nigel's passive accep- tance of the goddess Fortuna, and Heriot's view of fortune as a tangible object the acquisition of which requires an act of the will. Nigel's education is the process of learning to realize that not only must he act, but his failure to do so, or at least to do so differently, as had consequences he could not have intended, and that romantic impulse can be a form of shallow self-aggrandizement only in his growing maturity, for example, can he acknowledge that his attachment to MargaretRamsey is facilitatedby his "povelty and difficulties, "aid that he is issuing them, at least in his thoughts, to take unfair advantage of her (Ch. 30).
The involvement of Vincent in Nigel's gambling and the loss of the royal warrant are but two details in the novel's plot, which has been roundly attacked for its obscurity and irrelevance but which in fact is directly related to the financial theme. Virtually every critical relationship between characters and every major step in the events is related to some kind of financial transaction or obligation, beginning with the King's debt to Nigel. Heriot loans money to Nigel to advance his suit at court, observing that "the Duke of Buckingham sneers at our city money-bags; yet they can sometimes open to prop a falling and a noble house" (Ch. 10) a fact the Duke tacitly acknowledges when his groom flingsthe silver plate, which Heriot gave the King, back into Heriot's shop.18 The King himself, by turns penurious and profuse, is already so compromised by his subsidies from the Commons and the City that he tries to evade his obligations to Nigel. He pawns his carcanet of rubies as security for £200 which Heriot will advance to Nigel; the carcanet ends up in Trapbois's hands when the latter advances the money to Heriot, and subsequently Richie recovers the jewels from Martha Trapbois. Jammes' royal warrant, which Huntinglen secures for Nigel, does not in itself guarantee repayment, but can only be a basis for raising money and permnitting the lender to remove the estate from the present mortgage-holder for safekeeping until Nigel can redeem it. Lady Hermione, in her kindness, advances the money for the original creditor, but with her marriage to Dalgarno the authority passes to him, and it is again Martha who provides the warrant at the crucial moment, thus saving Nigel's estate.19 This complicated series of commercial transactions performs several functions. Historically it illustrates the growing limitations on royal privilege in a world run increasingly on credit and fluid wealth; even a King cannot command money at beck and call. Symbolically it links the court not only with the middle class but with the violence and criminality of Alsatia, where brutal force is merely a more candidly-avowed tactic than it is in the politely-veiled world of the court. Money, however, is also essentially amoral; the hoarding of a miser in this instance insures the victory of principle, just as Lord Dalgarno's death at the hand of a criminal insures Lady Hermione of her money, or (in Waverley) Sir Richard's time-serving insures Edward of a comfortable inheritance; in short, it is by the uses of money, and not any intrinsic good or evil attached to it, that we measure its worth. The wedding of Nigel and Margaret is the wedding of old and new wealth; the wedding of Richie and Martha is the wedding of service with middle-class thrift and prudence. The fact that even the King can, at a critical moment, assert his horror at the thought that he might be prevailed upon to sell justice and mercy as if they were commodities (Ch. 31) is a sign that his reign affirms more than the principle of profitable traffic, and accordingly, the King becomes a fitting bestower ofa blessing on the two couples at the end. Francis Hart has suggested that in The Fortunes of Nigel "the world is economically as unstable as its King, and instability aids in the rises of the usurer, the gamester, and the projectorto positions ofpower." This is true, to be sure, but the world Scott portraysofferspos- sililities as well as a threat, forit is a world in which choices are themselves increasingly open.20
ob Roy has had the benefit of much intelligent criticism, and I reintroduce it here principally to round off what is an incomplete and fragmentary study in its absence. It should also be examined in the light of its ending, along with that of several other Waverley novels, where the question that is posed is, Who shall inherit the estate, and through what process? Most often, oppressors in the Waverley novels seek legal guises for interfering with the transmission of property. In The Monastery Julian Avenel, the younger brother of the deceased Walter, seizes his house and lands and denies to his niece her inheritance on the grounds that it is a male fief. Basil Olifaunt's designs on the Bellenden estate in Old Mortality are similarly grounded. In Waverley, we are told that the Englishman Bullseg has married the widow of the last Killancureit and taken the estate which should have gone to the relatives of the deceased husband (Ch. 20). This English violation of the Scottish rights of entail is symbolic of an old order of relationships between the two countries which, in the marriage of Waverley and Rose, takes a newer, legally and financially mnore equitable, form. Such a resolution, implied or actually effected, is at the heart of the Waverley novels. Thus, in Peveril of the Peak, the bourgeois Bridgenorths and the aristocratic Peverils are united, and for a dowry the Colonel restores Peveril's domains to him. Forces opposed during the Civil War are now united and the future made secure. The same kind of union takes place between the dissenting Mortons and the Anglican Bellendens in Old Mortality, and again the result is to prop a falling estate. The theme is developed with somewhat more urgency in the novels set in the eighteenth century, for as Scott draws nearer his own time the need for such a solution seems more manifest — a solution in which old wealth and new enterprise reinforce each other, the first bringing with it the potential for a more chivalrous view of human relationships and obligations, the second accompanied by a spirit of energetic enterprise which will sustain the best of the old world.
Rob Roy like The Fortunes of Nigel, has been attacked on the grounds that the financial complications are too obscure in their details to be linked adequately to the major themes. But as Fleishman has pointed out, such details reflect economic and social changes at work in the beginning of the century with the shift of governmental policy to the forwarding of commerce.21 Scott expects us to share Jarvie's view when Frank expresses his surprise that "the mercantile transactions of London citizens should become involved with revolutions and rebellions": "Not at a', man-not at a' . . . that's a' your silly prejudications.. .I hae read in 'Baker's Chronicle' that the merchants o' London could gar the Bank of Genoa break their promise to advance a mighty sum to the King of Spain, whereby the sailing of the Grand Spanish Armada was put aff for a haill year," and Frank concurs that the merchant's did their country golden service" (Ch. 26). Rashleigh's role in the pro-Stuart plot has been to accelerate a rising in the Highlands by bringing pressure on the creditors throughthe Osbaldistone firm, and what is now needed is mercy to those creditors. Thus, when Jarvie comes to the assistance of the firm, he is motivatedby a sense of justice which extends equally to English business and "honest Hieland gentlemen" (Ch. 26). jarvie's activitythus heralds a closer union of Northand South, Highlands and Lowlands, England and Scotland, which the Act of Union of itself has left incomplete.22
Such union also takes place on the level of private life. Before the time of the novel Frank's father, as eldest son, had been dispossessed of his estate and subsequently made his own way in the world. Infuriated by his son's decision not to enter commerce, the father now proposes to repeat the injustice by inviting one of the fox-hunting Osbaldistones to a share of the firm, thus dispossessing Frank. At the end, however, restored to his father's good graces by his diligence on behalf of the troubled firm,23 Frank is also restored not only to the business but to the estate, a consummation which the timely death of all other heirs and his father's financial prudence bring about. As if this dual role as landed gentleman and man of business were not enough, Frank also marries a Catholic, an act which signifies the growing irrelevance of religious differences in an age of commerce. He completes his education partly by returning to the world of his father, which he had initially and at that point rightly rejected, but equally by looking forward toward a more tolerant future. Whereas earlier he had claimed that "trade has all the fascination of gambling without its moral guilt" (Ch. 1), Frank must learn through his experience with Rashleigh that trade may be diverted to unscrupulous ends, and that risks must be minimized by responsible moral oversight.
Jarvie's wise sagacity and the Osbaldistone mixture of prudence and daring are set off against Rashleigh's cunning, to which the arts of business can give equal play. What makes Rashleigh dangerous is that he joins physical boldness with mathematical acumen, and his hypocritical regret at being forced to exchange "the charms of literary society for the drudgery of commerce" (Ch. 11) is belied by the readiness with which he acquiesces in the formulas of the counting-house.24 The business rhetoric which Rashleigh can parrot for his own ends is to the honest Owen the very stuff of existence: "What news this will be on 'Change! There has not the like come there since the battle of Almanza, where the total of the British loss was summed up to five thousand men killed and wounded, besides a floating balance of missing; but what will that be to the news that Osbaldistone and Tresham have stopped" (Ch. 22). In the fidelity of Owen, as well as in Jarvie's decision to take "to the field in person, to aid in the recovery of my father's property"(Ch. 26), we find confirmation of Touchwood's observation to Mowbray in St.Ronan's Well: "There is as good inheritance in house as in field — a man's partners are his fathers and brothers, and a head clerk may be likened to a kind of first cousin" (Ch. 36).
Rob Roy, then, moves toward an "act of union" on all levels: England with Scotland, father with son, past with present and present with future, commercial with landed wealth, Protestant with Catholic, and indeed outlaw with Bailie, for though Jarvis and Rob Roy live apart, their later careers are in a sense parallel: Jarvie continuing to rise in the world economically while never forgetting the wisdom ofhis deacon father, Rob Roy continuinguntilthe day of his (natural) death to levy blackmail "with as much regularityas the proprietors did their ordinary rents" (Ch. 39). In Waverley, the highborn but impoverished Fergus directs his ambitions toward a marriage between his sister and Waverley, the representative of an ancient cavalier family, but Waverley's marriage with Rose not only performs the same function of confirming the value of the past but also conserves what is useful and non-destructive in that past for the future.The gesture by which Waverley, using his father's wealth, repossesses Tully-Veolan and restores it after the wanton damnage done by the King's troops, is both an atonement for English injustice and a harbinger of a more peaceful future. And in Redgauntlet, Darsie and Alan clearly represent not only the distinction between landed wealth and earned wealth, but the potential for an ideal blend of the two.It is the expectation of an inheritance which makes the mercurial Darsie careless of his obligations to devote himself to the sober study of the law, and Alan states that his own father's industriousness has brought him far from humble beginnings: "I have no hereditary claim to distinction of any kind" (Ch. 16). Here again, then, a marriage — that of Lilias Redgauntlet and Alan Fairford- — joins old and new wealth together, while Darsie is freed from a noble but now unproductive family past. In that most typical of Scott novels, The Bride of Lammermoor, it is precisely such freedom that Ravenswood does not obtain, and the remnants of a proud inheritance end with himn.
One further example, closer to Scott's own day, will perhaps suffice. In Guy Mannering as in The Antiquary, we see an old family in the grip of the new, ambitious, scheming class, personified in Guy Mannering by Gilbert Glossin, the man of business who has cooperated with criminals to facilitate his own rise and who takes over the estate; according to the resentful Mrs.McCandlish, he has gotten the land at a bargain because the American war has drained money from Scotland (Ch. 12). The ups and downs of the Bertrans are symbolized in the contrast of Ellangowan Old Place and New Place. We are told that the present Godfrey Bertram is the son of Lewis, who went out in 1715 but despite this indiscretion became a prosperous man and built the New Place. His prosperity, however, was gained at a price, that of estrangement from the countryside, "for such agricultural and commercial negotiations were very ill looked upon by his brother lairds, who minded nothing but cock-fighting, hunting, coursing, and horse racing, with now and then the alternation of a desperate duel" (Ch. 2). Scott here, as so often, divides our sympathies; like him, we have only contempt for these Scottish Squire Westerns, and yet Lewis Bertram unwittingly paves the way for his son's difficulties, while Godfrey's banishing of the gypsies, a violation of a settled if informal order of life, signifies the point at which innovation becomes a destructive rather than a regenerative force. Gilbert Glossin, with his plans to tear down the Old Place and use it as a quarry for the new, symbolizes the same spirit of innovation carried yet a step further — a reckless despoiling of the past — and complicated additionally by a species of hypocrisy, for, in telling the land-surveyor that the Old Place has been "a den for smugglers," he conceals his own past collaboration with them. Lest from all this we conclude that the new spirit of thriving enterprise is all scheming hypocrisy, Scott is careful to balance Glossin by Dandie Dinmont, the good, charitable, and successful farmer who represents an honest, energetic future. At the opening of the novel, Mannering has a first view of the Old and New Place by moonlight. The contrastof the turreted, ruined mansion and the "modern house of moderate size" evokes a day-dream in which are mingled two elements: one, "the striking remnants of ancient grandeur, with the secret consciousness of family pride which they inspire," and the other, "enough of modern elegance and comfort to satisfy every moderate wish" (Ch. 4). Moonlight is, of course, a bad time to see clearly — these images are mixed with that of the young man's beloved Sophia — and Mannering must return twenty years later, matured by experience, and inheritor of the estate of his merchant uncle, before he is capable of helping to thwart Glossin's schemes and seeing the estate restored to its rightful heir. The movement of the novel, like that of others in the series, is thus toward the affirmation of that ideal wedding of new enterprise and established wealth which, when his novels drew nearer to his own day, Scott held forthwith increasing insistence as the precondition for a productive and orderly commonwealth.
Last modified 17 November 2014