Walter Scott - Rob Roy (1818)
- Rachael Street
- 1 January 2005
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
The legacy of Walter Scott has done much for tourism in Scotland. Not only does the monument erected in his memory dominate Edinburgh's Princes Street, but his depiction of the Jacobite outlaw Robert MacGregor brought extra recognition to the stunning Trossachs area. MacGregor (more commonly known as Rob Roy or Red Rob) operated in the early 1700s, stealing cattle, looting and selling protection. However, this infamy as a marauder was tempered by the kindness he showed to the poor and disadvantaged, leading Scott to call him 'the Robin Hood of Scotland'.
The novel itself follows Francis Osbaldistone, the son of a wealthy London merchant who is banished from the family home when he spurns a career in the family business in favour of the arts. As he travels to take up residence in his uncle's home in Northumberland, he is both compelled and appalled by the perceived wildness and lawlessness of the northern regions. However, it is not long before he is forced out of the country when a plot by his cousin Rashleigh sends him north of the Border to recover his father's money and his own reputation. Once in Scotland, Osbaldistone journeys over a series of borders, from Glasgow into the lowlands, then on to the Highlands themselves. The further north he moves, the more primitive he believes the people to be. However, Rob Roy himself is a rather more complex character, described as an educated Highland gentleman who is also capable of extreme violence.
As the second of Scott's historical 'Waverley' novels, Rob Roy plays out the build-up to the Jacobite rebellion and portrays the tension between England and Scotland over the Union. Through the eyes of a naive Englishman, he gives an outsider's view of the troubled nation, although his portrait of the Highlander outlaw is still strongly romanticised, suggesting sympathy for the Jacobite cause.
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