"To be at once another and the same": Walter Scott and the end(s) of sympathetic Britishness.
A thought strikes me allied to this period of the year. People say that the whole human frame in all its parts and divisions is gradually in the act of decaying and renewing. What a curious time-piece it would be that could indicate to us the moment this gradual and insensible change had so completely taken place that no atom was left of the original person who had existed at a certain period but there existed in his stead another person having the same limbs thewes and sinews, the same face and lineaments, the same consciousness.... Singular--to be at once another and the same. (1)
Ruminating on the concurrent deterioration and renewal that paradoxically characterizes the body, Scott ponders the prospect, both eerie and exhilarating, that an individual might be "another and the same" simultaneously. His interest in the duality of bodies, moreover, seems intimately linked to his life-long investment in the fate of Britain, a compound state created by the 1707 Act of Union joining England and Scotland. Given Scott's evident familiarity with metaphors of the body politic, and bearing in mind his public role as the leading literary representative of Scotland to the world, we can fruitfully read the above passage as reflecting national as well as personal concerns. Do nations, like bodies, change so gradually that it is impossible to demarcate precisely when the transformation has created a new entity? If it seems paradoxical, even uncanny, "to be at once another and the same," what do Scott's writings reveal about the possibilities and pitfalls of attempting to retain one's original national identity while simultaneously learning to accept a new one?
Only a month after the financial crash that ruined him, Scott was hard at work on one of his most explicit interventions in national affairs: the Letters of Malachi Malagrowther (1826). Written in response to the British government's proposal to limit Scottish banks' powers of issuing small bills, the Letters defends such credit arrangements as the backbone of northern economic development. Scott was well aware of the irony of his situation, remarking in his journal that "It is ridiculous enough for me in a state of insolvency for the present to be battling about gold and paper currency" (120). Nevertheless, by vindicating Scotland's right to self-government on domestic issues, the Letters effectively proclaims the importance of retaining Scotland's institutions and, by extension, Scotland's national identity within the United Kingdom. On this point, Scott knew he had to tread carefully:
Spent the morning and till dinner on Malachi's Second Epistle to the Athenians. It is difficult to steer betwixt the natural impulse of one's National feelings setting in one direction and the prudent regard to the interests of the empire and its internal peace and quiet recommending less vehement expression. I will endeavour to keep sight of both. But were my own interest alone concerned, d--n me but I wa'd give it them hot. (115)
As in his novels, Scott aligns prudence with respect for the conjoined interests of civil society and the British state. (2) Following one's "natural impulse" would mean allowing one's "National feelings" to overrule such prudential, imperial concerns. Scott's compromise is to attempt to "keep sight of both" the national and the international by attempting to reconcile Scotland's interests with those of Britain as a whole.
Could such a merger be accomplished, and at what cost? Scott's first novel, Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, was published in 1814, more than a century after the Union, and just prior to the Allies' triumphant march into Paris. (3) Its closing chapters, which describe the reconstruction of Tully Veolan and the marriage of the English Waverley to the Scottish Lowlander Rose Bradwardine, reflect both Scott's and Britain's contemporary optimism that the national turmoil caused by the 1745 Rebellion, like that of the Napoleonic Wars, could be safely memorialized as history. Only a few years later, however, such confidence had evaporated. Bereft of the French Other against which to define itself, and suffering from an economic downturn that was fueling the fire of reform in both England and Scotland, post-Waterloo Britain faced yet another period of national insecurity. (4) Scott's vital intervention at this moment of national uncertainty was to provide the public with what it needed most: a sense of collective identity. In this essay, I argue that one of Scott's most ambitious novels, The Heart of Midlothian (1818), self-consciously deploys a vocabulary of sympathy, adapted from the Scottish Enlightenment, in order to encourage readers to think of themselves as British first, English or Scottish second. With a Waverley-esque national reconciliation achieved after three volumes, however, Scott adds an apparently superfluous fourth volume that uncomfortably complicates everything preceding it. While it is tempting to read Midlothian as merely a less successful version of Scott's first fiction, I want to consider the ways in which the later novel, especially its controversial final volume, ultimately demonstrates the limitations of the ideology of "sympathetic Britishness." (5) Finally, I will return to the Letters of Malachi Malagrowther to consider its surprisingly prescient resolution of the contradictions of Scott's British nation-building project.
I. Sympathy and Supplementarity in The Heart of Midlothian
In the time of national tension and transformation following Waterloo, it became newly essential to provide ways for the citizens of England and Scotland to imagine what they had in common. As Marlon Ross explains, "Looking out on a moment of revolutionary crisis and a horizon of territorial expansion, the British needed somehow to organize this experience of rapid change and rapid expansion, to justify their development into a modern nation-state while retaining the sense of inherently ordained order that characterized the then eroding socio-economic structure." (6) The unprecedented mass popularity of Scott's literary output was largely predicated on Britain's dire need for national unity. As some of the most widely read fiction in nineteenth-century Britain, the Waverley Novels helped interpolate a unified readership by virtue of being read simultaneously across the United Kingdom. (7) The very corporateness of their shared title presented readers with a powerful model of how a capacious designation (like "Britain") could function semantically to unite and represent various entities (like "England" and "Scotland") as a single unit. Small wonder that, by Scott's death in 1832, the Waverley Novels had become "the semi-official expression of the British nation." (8)
Scott made no secret of the fact that he purposefully set about writing fiction to encourage the formation of a shared British identity. In his "General Preface" (1829) to the magnum opus edition of the Waverley Novels, Scott describes how he was inspired by Maria Edgeworth, "whose Irish characters have gone so far to make the English familiar with the character of their gay and kind-hearted neighbours of Ireland, that she may be truly said to have done more towards completing the Union, than perhaps all the legislative enactments by which it has been followed up." While modern readers may find Scott's interpretation of Edgeworth's fiction naive, he seems sincere when insisting that
I felt that something might be attempted for my own country, of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland--something which might introduce her natives to those of her sister kingdom, in a more favourable light than they had been placed hitherto, and tend to procure sympathy for their virtues and indulgence for their foibles [my emphasis]. (9)
Retrospectively, Scott claims for his fictions the same status that he attributes to Edgeworth's: they are meant to be literary bridges between the various nations comprising Great Britain.
It is no accident, moreover, that in discussing the political motivation of his novels Scott invokes a favorite term of the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers whose ideas about history and culture helped shape his fiction throughout his career: sympathy. (10) In the previous century, David Hume and especially Adam Smith had popularized sympathy as a natural psychosocial mechanism that allows people to feel spontaneously each other's emotions; in Hume's famous formulation, "No quality of human nature is more remarkable ... than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and to receive by communication, their inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or even contrary to our own." (11) Smith, reformulating Hume's contagion model of how emotions move spontaneously between people into a more voluntaristic model of "achieved sympathy," concurs that "Whatever is the passion which arises from any object in the person principally concerned, an analogous emotion springs up, at the thought of his situation, in the breast of every attentive spectator." (12) Following Hume's and Smith's leads, sympathy was soon recognized as having socio-political as well as psychological and aesthetic ramifications, and by the end of the eighteenth century the idea of "transferable sympathies" had become "an important basis for national affiliation, which demands a sense of affinity to anonymous fellow citizens." (13) The use of sympathetic discourse to encourage Britons to identify with each other is clearly visible, for example, in Edmund Burke's advice in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790): "To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society ... is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind." (14) Much of sympathy's political attractiveness derived from its claims to both autonomy and universality, while remaining free from the taint of Jacobinism by virtue of its homegrown British pedigree and apparently natural psychological basis. Indeed, sympathy seemed to be self-sufficient and self-present, promising to make subjects fully human and, in its nationalist ramifications, fully British, by inaugurating them into a wider community of like-minded individuals.
Contemporary reviewers were quick to perceive that the Waverley Novels are saturated with sympathetic discourse: "Over and over again, as the Waverley series unfolds, the reviews draw attention to their powers of sympathy, highlighting the 'sociality,' 'cordial spirit,' and 'social sympathy' that the novels signify and encourage." (15) Nowhere is this presence more marked than in The Heart of Midlothian, Scott's "fable of national regeneration" that seeks to resolve the crises of 1818 (the year of its publication) as well as the crises of 1736 (the year of its setting). (16) The creation of an authentic sense of national community, through the sympathetic circulation of feelings, would appear to be at the heart of this book about what it means to have heart, individually and nationally. Accordingly, the language of feeling is present from the opening pages of the frame narrative, in which a pair of Edinburgh lawyers spend the evening regaling Peter Pattieson, Scott's author-figure, with tales of their legal adventures. Debating the age-old question of whether fact or fiction provides greater entertainment and instruction, the younger lawyer admits to reading novels but claims that legal cases are both more edifying and more stimulating. The Edinburgh Tolbooth, he asserts, contains more potential for "new pages of the human heart, and turns of fortune far beyond what the boldest novelist ever attempted to produce":
Since that time [of the Tolbooth's conversion to a jail] how many hearts have throbbed within these walls.... Do you suppose that any of these deep, powerful, and agitating feelings can be recorded and perused without exciting a corresponding depth of deep power, and agitating interest?--O! do but wait till I publish the Causes Celebres of Caledonia, and you will find no want of a novel or tragedy for some time to come. (21-22)
The vocabulary of sympathy is clearly on display as Hardie argues for fact-based narratives' superior appeal to audiences: readers respond with real passion to records of real passion. Although itself a novel, The Heart of Midlothian's basis in fact--made explicit in Scott's introduction to the magnum opus edition--suggests that it too can be read as authentic "pages of the human heart."
With the language of feeling so clearly on display in the introductory chapter, we are prepared for the pervasiveness of sympathetic discourse in the novel's opening volumes. From the "murmur of compassion" that passes through the spectators watching the doomed smugglers respond to their final sermon (31), through the "affectionate sympathy" that exists between the members of the Deans family (103), to the "universal murmur of compassion and sympathy" called forth by the sight of Effie Deans approaching the courthouse for her trial (216), Scott repeatedly invokes a vocabulary of shared emotions to demonstrate sympathy's power to create, maintain, and reinforce a sense of collective subjectivity among disparate peoples. (17) In a passage defending the loyalty of Scots to one another, moreover, sympathy is shown to be at the heart of national identity:
The eagerness with which Scottish people meet, communicate, and, to the extent of their power, assist each other, although it is often objected to as a prejudice and narrowness of sentiment, seems, on the contrary, to arise from a most justifiable and honourable feeling of patriotism, combined with a conviction ... that the habits and principles of the nation are a sort of guarantee for the character of the individual. (275)
In this significant reversal of expectations, national sympathy precedes individual relations; we love our countrypeople because of what, not who, they are. In the Burkean passage that follows, Scott confirms that "national partiality" should "be considered as an additional tie, binding man to man, and calling for the good offices of such as can render them to the countryman who happens to need them" (275).
With the exception of the slow and grudging friendship described between the Scottish David Deans and his English neighbor Mrs. Butler, however, such sympathy remains largely "between Scots" until The Heart of Midlothian's famous scene of sympathetic Anglo-Scottish relations: Jeanie Deans' pivotal interview with Queen Caroline. Jeanie's sister Effie, impregnated by her English lover (disguised as a Scottish smuggler), has fallen victim to an unforgiving Scots law that punishes supposed child-murderers on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Unable to produce her infant as proof of her innocence, Effie can still be spared if Jeanie testifies that her sister confided to her before the birth, but Jeanie famously refuses to give false evidence. Set against the backdrop of the Porteous affair, in which an angry Edinburgh mob disobeyed royal orders and lynched the Captain of the Guard, Effie's case takes on national resonance. Queen Caroline, already irate over Porteous' death, is predisposed against hearing a Scottish plea for clemency, but Jeanie realizes that transferable sympathy will work to her advantage if she can only speak to the Queen in person:
My sister shall come out [of prison] in the face of the sun.... I will go to London, and beg her pardon from the king and queen. If they pardoned Porteous, they may pardon her; if a sister asks a sister's life on her bended knees, they will pardon her--they shall pardon her--and they will win a thousand hearts by it. (245)
Recognizing that by sympathizing with her plight, the English royalty will win the support of their Scottish subjects, Jeanie demonstrates a keen understanding of the political ramifications of sympathy. Even as she invokes the traditional topoi of monarchical sacredness, Jeanie simultaneously uses sympathetic discourse to think beyond traditional boundaries of class and national differences, conceiving of the King and Queen merely as human beings: "it's but speaking to a mortal man and woman when a' is done. And their hearts maun be made o' flesh and blood like other folk's." To the suggestion that she will be overawed in the presence of royalty, moreover, Jeanie retorts that "I have that within me that will keep my heart from failing" (266). By envisioning her eventual interview with the Queen as a "heart-to-heart" discussion, Jeanie establishes a naturalized foundation of shared emotional capacity on which to imagine her ability to communicate with the English royalty.
Informed that she will need the intercession of nobility to secure an appointment with the Queen, however, Jeanie first plans to visit the Duke of Argyle in his role as protector of Scottish rights and interests. Reuben Butler, Jeanie's intended husband, suggests writing him a letter, but Jeanie understands that sympathy must be as unmediated as possible: "We must try all means ... but writing winna do it--a letter canna look, and pray, and beg and beseech, as the human voice can do to the human heart ... It's word of mouth maun do it, or nothing, Reuben" (267). Favoring oral over written communication, Jeanie convinces Butler that language must issue directly from the speaker if an effective sympathetic connection is to be achieved. Jeanie's faith in the emotional efficacy of the spoken word is not unlike that which Derrida famously locates in Rousseau: "As opposed to writing, which is without pity, the voice is always, in its essence, the passage of virtue and good passion." Like Derrida's Rousseau, moreover, Jeanie instinctively believes that orality has the authority to bypass traditional barriers of class and nation: "The order of pity 'takes the place of law,' it supplements law, that is to say instituted law." (18)
Indeed, the success of Jeanie's interview proves that sympathetic relations can literally overturn the law. After some initial misfirings due to Jeanie's ignorance of court politics, she manages to touch the Queen's heart by appealing directly to their shared emotional capacity. Recalling Smith's idea that "The compassion of the spectator must arise altogether from the consideration of what he himself would feel if he were reduced to the same unhappy situation" (12), Jeanie suggests that the Queen imagine herself in the Deans family's position: "O, madam, if ever ye kend when it was to sorrow for and with a sinning and a suffering creature ... have some compassion on our misery!" (369). In similar fashion, Argyle's comment that the Queen "may find an advocate in your own heart, more able than I am to combat the doubts suggested by your understanding," echoes Smith's notion of "the man within the breast," the internalized "impartial spectator" whose approbation we seek by our actions (147). (19) Significantly, as sympathy goes to work, national differences recede: Jeanie's "provincial vulgarity [is] lost in pathos" (366) when she speaks to the Queen, who in turn implicitly revises her earlier assessment of the Scots as "rebellious," "disaffected" and "intractable" (369), responds to Jeanie's plea by recognizing that "This is eloquence" (370), and finally promises to convince the King to grant Effie's pardon.
While Jeanie's royal interview seems to confirm the viability of sympathy as a mechanism of national (as well as interpersonal) unity, a careful reading of the adventures leading up to her triumph suggests a less happy picture. Although Jeanie privileges oral over written communication as the more dependable, controllable means of facilitating sympathy, the recurring presence of Madge Wildfire casts doubt on the legitimacy of both oral communication and sympathy itself. Lacking official social status, Madge and her mother, Meg Murdockson, starkly contrast with the majority of the novel's other supporting characters, mostly Scottish peasants and shopkeepers. While the latter represent the honest, bourgeois, puritanical, masculine values Scott imagines for post-Union Lowland Scotland, Madge and her mother embody the opposite qualities: duplicity, poverty, and transgressive female sexuality. It is hardly coincidental that when Effie's lover Staunton leads the Porteous mob in the novel's opening chapters, he first "takes on Madge Wildfire's name, along with her sex," to authorize and excuse his illegal behavior. (20) Madge is especially linked with the oral ballad traditions of pre-Union Scotland; she is first heard singing, and her last words as she lies dying (after mistreatment by an angry mob) are snatches of song. In these ways, she clearly partakes of the associative relationships Scott often constructs between orality, femininity, and the atavistic destruction of socially regulated boundaries and behaviors. (21) As we will see, her interactions with Jeanie begin to suggest the dangers of depending on sympathy to guarantee the transfer of authentic feeling and the creation of common identity.
Captured by Meg's henchmen on the way to London, Jeanie sees a chance for freedom after Madge suggests a walk through the nearby woods. When the latter bursts into tears at her infant's burial site, Jeanie briefly considers fleeing, but finds that she cannot: "her desire to escape yielded for a moment to apprehension for the poor insane being.... Notwithstanding her own extreme danger, Jeanie was affected by the situation of her companion" (297). (22) All too quickly, however, such sympathetic identification is revealed to be dangerously complicit with madness itself. The two women arrive at the steps of a country church where, unbeknownst to them, Sunday services are being held by Staunton's father. As Jeanie begins to rearrange her dress and wash her face before entering, Madge follows suit in exaggerated fashion. Emulation soon degenerates into grotesque mimicry and, after spoiling Jeanie's toilette, Madge happily leads her into the church:
No sooner had Madge put her foot upon the pavement, and become sensible that she was the object of attention to the spectators, than she resumed all the fantastic extravagance of deportment.... Her absurdity was enhanced in the eyes of the spectators by the strange contrast which she formed to her companion, who, with disheveled hair, downcast eyes, and a face glowing with shame, was dragged, as it were, in triumph after her. (308)
Here, sympathy becomes a perverse feedback loop wherein Madge, misinterpreting the congregation's astonishment for approbation, intensifies her inappropriate behaviors. Worse, Jeanie's physical proximity to her deranged companion leads to guilt by association: when the former, whose strict Cameronian upbringing means that she has never been in an Anglican church, "looked round with a bewildered stare," her silent appeals for help are misunderstood because "her neighbors, .judging from the company in which they saw her, very naturally ascribed [her behavior] to insanity" (308). As suggested by Madge's assumed surname, "Wildfire," the danger of immediate sympathetic contact is that it may spread uncontrollably. Sympathy now works counter to Jeanie's interests, transforming her into a reflection of the very person from whom she most wishes to separate herself.
If unmediated, unadulterated sympathy is linked to the dangerous orality of Madge Wildfire, when Jeanie has recourse to the necessary supplement of writing, the results can be equally unpredictable. Once in London, Jeanie attempts to convince the Duke of Argyle to help her, only to be informed that pure sympathy will not sway him: "What argument have you, my poor girl, except the warmth of your sisterly affection to offer against all this?" (348). Recognizing that her sympathetic presence alone will not prevail, Jeanie falls back on the written word, presenting the Duke with a letter of debt written by his grandfather to Butler's ancestor. When the package is unwrapped, however, Argyle reads with astonishment:
"Muster-roll of the men serving in the troop of that godly gentleman, Captain Salathiel Bangtext.--Obadiah Muggleton, Sin-Despise Double-knock, Stand-fast-in-faith Gipps, Turn-to-the-right Thwackaway--What the deuce is this? A list of Praise-God Barebone's Parliament, I think, or of old Noll's evangelical army.... But what does all this mean, my girl?" "It was the other paper, sir," said Jeanie, somewhat abashed at the mistake. (349-50)
Inside and outside are temporarily confounded when Argyle confuses the wrapping in which his grandfather's letter has been placed, for the letter itself. Like a similar misunderstanding later in the novel, when Meg's broadside death confession is initially mistaken for a cheese wrapping, the materiality of the written word thwarts the spontaneous circulation of sympathy. Although the situation with Argyle is quickly remedied, the ideal of sympathetic communication has again been undercut. Writing, which proves an indispensable supplement to Jeanie's sympathetic presence, threatens to undermine her mission by reminding us of the precarious necessity of mediated forms of communication.
Given the ways in which Scott's career was both predicated upon and formative of the increasingly capitalist book-market, I do not think the above episode advocates a return to an imagined golden era of pre-literate oral communication. (23) Nevertheless, Jeanie's misunderstanding with Argyle seems designed to draw attention to writing's notorious instability as a sympathetic medium. Considered in this light, the irony of Scott's apparent attempts to establish the viability of sympathetic Britishness in novelistic form becomes unavoidable. In fact, given the cumulative effect of the sympathetic misunderstandings that precede Jeanie's interview with the Queen (itself not as unmediated as it appears, given the importance of Argyle's intercession), we must ask: to what extent is Scott invested in critiquing the very ideal of sympathetic Britishness The Heart of Midlothian initially seems to privilege? The novel's final volume suggests some answers to this question.
2. Scott's "Highland Arcadia" and the End of Sympathy
From its publication, The Heart of Midlothian has been faulted for having too much ending. Instead of concluding with his heroine's triumphant return to Scotland, Scott chooses to chronicle his characters' experiences after they resume their quotidian lives. As a result, the fourth volume has often been found redundant and disappointing; the anonymous first reviewer in the British Review plainly called it "trash," and Lady Louisa Stuart wrote to Scott that "it is a lame huddled conclusion.... You grow tired yourself, want to get rid of the story, and hardly care how." (24) When modern critics return to the novel's ending, they generally leave many of the same judgments intact. James Kerr, for example, finds the ending to be an "aesthetic failure" because it "reminds us of the social and political contradictions it was intended to resolve." According to Ian Duncan, the novel's conclusion represents Scott's conservative vision of the ideal society, "a domestic idyll enclosed within a private feudal estate." While Duncan helpfully elucidates the generic and political discourses Scott manipulates throughout the novel, he finally identifies the ending as "less a historical representation.... than an imaginary private anticipation." This echoes Jane Millgate's contention that Scott "seems to stop taking history seriously--or rather, he sacrifices historical faithfulness ... in favour of a generalized attempt to project a larger design." (25) Seen as a retreat from history, the final volume seems to confirm that The Heart of Midlothian inadvertently reveals Scott's failure to repeat Waverley's successful Anglo-Scottish rapprochement. Seen in terms of Scott's ambivalence about the viability of sympathy as a discourse of British identity, however, the uncomfortably extended fourth volume takes on new meaning. In fact, the disquietfulness of the final "Highland Arcadia" section stems, not from its refusal to factor history into its narrative, but rather from the ways in which it reveals its seemingly unspoiled sympathetic community to be surprisingly vulnerable to the forces of history.
Under Argyle's benevolent patronage, Jeanie's life appears to embody an ideal of communal existence, maintained primarily by the sympathetic circulation of feeling between herself, her husband, and her father. Once the living link between the worlds of Edinburgh and London, Jeanie now spends her days raising children and keeping the peace between her father's Cameronian orthodoxy and her husband's moderate Presbyterianism. When they clash, we are told that "In all such cases Mrs. Butler was a mediating spirit, who endeavored, by the alkaline smoothness of her own disposition, to neutralize the acidity of theological controversy" (450). The chemical metaphor not only helps naturalize the familial fusion of old and new Scottish religiosity, but also, since Butler is of English extraction, suggests the possibility of a sympathetic synthesis of Scottish and English worldviews in the next generation.
While the rest of the family enjoy their hard-won peace on the Duke of Argyle's lands, however, Jeanie's sister Effie now leads a perilous double life masquerading as a foreign-bred Scotswoman in London's high society. Physically absent from Koseneath, her secret letters home nevertheless upset the stability of the "Highland Arcadia" by insinuating into its sympathetic circuit not just writing, but something more conventionally seductive: cash. With each letter Effie sends Jeanie, she encloses a 50 pound note "out of my own allowance.... With you it may do good--with me it never can" (455). At first, Jeanie is uncertain whether to accept her sister's money, but after amassing a significant sum, she eventually gives it to her husband for the purchase of additional property (a motivation near and dear to Scott's own heart, as his pseudo-baronial mansion Abbotsford attests). Originally a heroine who attempts to act purely within an economy of sympathy, Jeanie has become involved in speculative real estate ventures. Although she spins a whimsical fairy-tale to mystify her sudden wealth (466), the "miracles" she practices are now economic, not sympathetic; as Carolyn F. Austin indicates, "[Jeanie's] home's interiors are points of clandestine exchange with what should be inadmissible to its boundaries." (26)
Furthermore, Jeanie's suspicion that Effie's money may be a bribe links her covert relations with her sister to the wider economic relations quietly structuring life in Knocktarlitie: underneath its placid surface, the parish is actually governed by the threat of violence and the circulation of illicit goods. Situated on the verge of the Highlands, Dunbartonshire maintains its peaceful exterior by a combination of strategies that includes relying on Argyle's protection, paying blackmail to the surrounding Highland chiefs, and turning a blind eye to the ceaseless smuggling by which some of its inhabitants make their living. The ubiquitous presence of the Captain of Knockdunder reinforces the final volume's stress on historically motivated, economic modes of circulation, rather than the sympathetic economies highlighted in the novel's earlier volumes. (27) Indeed, it is Knockdunder's machiavellian realpolitik, not Jeanie's sympathetic mediation, that maintains order in the parish. After being served contraband tea and coffee for breakfast, Butler inquires about the presence of smuggling, to which Knockdunder replies, in his comic accent, "The Duke, Mr. Putler, has gien nae orders concerning the putting of it down" (430). Later, it becomes clear that the magistrate allows the black market to operate while benefiting from the occasional seizures he makes to maintain his authority. Sympathetic relations in the final volume are relentlessly revealed to be underwritten by economically contingent ones. To overlook this worldly corruption--to imagine that Scott portrays his "Highland Arcadia" as free from such historical forces--is to ignore what even David Deans is forced to concede: that "the glen of Knocktarlitie, like the rest of the world, was haunted by its own special subjects of regret and discontent" (438).
Pursuing the charge that Scott pays little attention to real history in the "Highland Arcadia," critics have frequently noted the absence of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion from the novel's final volume; whereas in Waverley Scott makes the '45 into the crucible of the consolidation of Britishness, in The Heart of Midlothian he dispatches the rebellion in a single sentence (462). Yet the year of Culloden becomes significant when we learn that the parish books of Butler's church go mysteriously missing: "they were destroyed in the year 1746, by one Donacha Dhu na Dunaigh, at this instance, it was said, or at least by the connivance, of the gracious Duncan of Knock[dunder], who had a desire to obliterate the recorded foibles of a certain Kate Finlayson" (438). As one of the Highland marauders living on the outskirts of Knocktarlitie, Donacha Chu, or Black Duncan, is Knockdunder's nemesis, yet there is an outspoken agreement between outlaw and lawman: "All were convinced that Duncan of Knock could have put down his namesake Donacha any morning he had a mind," but since the marauder is not brought to justice, "it was generally supposed that Donacha had found out the mode of conciliating [Knockdunder's] favour" (463). This is confirmed when the minister's cattle is stolen, but Jeanie's father's herd, technically the Duke's property, is untouched. The illusion of the "Highland Arcadia" is made possible only because Jeanie and her family are intricately involved in webs of illicit circulation that guarantee their privileged social and economic status.
This illusion is finally shattered after Staunton is accidentally murdered by his own son, the "savage" known only as the Whistler. Like Madge Wildfire, Effie and Staunton's child, taken at birth by Meg, grows up to be a criminal without a "proper" name. Madge herself has a "real" surname, of course, but she has trouble remembering it when the village beadle turns her out (312). Moreover, before entering Staunton's father's church, Madge threatens and lectures Jeanie about the impoliteness of asking about people's real names: "Never ask folk's names, Jeanie--it's no civil" (300). Madge's taboo on the proper name, and the violence she offers Jeanie when asked about Staunton's real name, suggests the violence of "the proper" itself The realm of the proper--of property, civility, and proper names--is exposed as a regulatory regime in which characters who obey the laws, like Jeanie, are rewarded, while those who threaten the sanctity of society and its boundaries, like Madge and the Whistler, are punished and excluded. The latter's name, indeed, denotes his almost complete lack of access to the realm of signification. Revising his earlier optimistic pairing of Englishman and Scotswoman at the end of Waverley, here Scott has the barbarous offspring of an illicit international affair return to wreak unknowing vengeance on his parents.
The true climax of The Heart of Midlothian, however, occurs in the wake of Staunton's murder. Like his mother Effie before him, the Whistler is condemned to execution; again, Jeanie feels compelled to intervene, this time in the role of Queen rather than supplicant. At night, she enters the room where the Whistler is held captive, hoping that a sympathetic approach may once more yield fruit: "how could she refuse compassion to a creature so young and so wretched" (504)? Covered in his father's blood, he ravenously eats the food Jeanie offers him, then takes advantage of her sympathy. When asked if his bondage is painful, he answers affirmatively; after Jeanie inquires whether he would hurt her if she freed him, he tells her "No, I would not--you never harmed me or mine" (505). When Jeanie cuts his bonds, however, he immediately leaps up and, in an act reminiscent of the symbolic dangers of Madge Wildfire, sets the house on fire and escapes. Jeanie, aware of her complicity with the Whistler's escape, keeps another guilty secret and remains silent. Her last act, far from redeeming the discourse of sympathy, quietly articulates its final failure as a practical facilitator of social, much less national, harmony. The Whistler's freedom, in turn, becomes his entrapment in the networks of illicit exchange--smuggling, slave trading, murder--that already underpin Jeanie's own household and parish. (28) History, in the form of capitalist and imperialist economies, ultimately eclipses the economy of sympathy.
The seeming plenitude of the final volume of The Heart of Midlothian is finally founded on lack. Jeanie's deceptions, the missing names from the Parish registry, and the orphaned offspring of an unhappy Scottish and English union, combined with the sympathetic misunderstandings of the earlier volumes, successively undercut the ideal of sympathetic Britishness. Sympathy is supposed to promote wholeness on individual, communal, and finally national levels, but the "elect" community of Roseneath is not only dependent upon the circulation of wealth rather than sympathy, but upon psychic loss rather than wholeness. Predicated on difference and absence rather than sameness and presence, the seemingly happy community of the final volume thus corresponds with Jean-Luc Nancy's theoretical model of modern community. Ideally, "community is not only intimate communication between its members, but also its organic communion with its own essence ... it is made up principally of the sharing, diffusion, or impregnation of an identity by a plurality wherein each member identifies himself ... with the living body of the community." But, as Nancy warns, we must "become suspicious of the retrospective consciousness of the lost community and its identity." That image is always a retrojection:
community has never taken place along the lines of our projections of it.... No Gesellschaft has come along to help the State, industry, and capital dissolve a prior Gemeinschaft. It would undoubtedly be more accurate to say ... that Gesellschaft--"society," the dissociating association of forces, needs, and signs--has taken the place of something for which we have no name or concept.... So that community, far from being what society has crushed or lost, is what happens to us--question, waiting, event, imperative in the wake of society.
The ideal of the unblemished, organic, self-sufficient and self-present community is always a retrospective illusion, one that Nancy believes we must learn to do without if we wish to work toward a future society free from "the phantasms of the lost community." (29)
Writing at the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century about the decades following the Union, Scott initially appears to present the perfect gemeinschaft in the final volume of The Heart: a post-Union community that could be the sympathetic model for a post-Waterloo Britain in dire need of ideological unity. As the conclusion unfolds, however, it becomes clear that the imagined community of Roseneath does not precede the gesellschaft of Britain, in which the mediated relations of capital and imperial expansion take precedence over the exchange of sympathetic feelings; instead, Jeanie's world is already thoroughly modern. Her "Highland Arcadia" is thus a mise en abyme of Scott's Britain, seeking simultaneously to construct the myth of its innocent origins and to mourn the loss of that innocence in the inevitable progress of history. As if to acknowledge this state of affairs, Scott extends The Heart of Midlothian's final volume until its sympathetic discourse is revealed as an untenable ideological formation.
Read in this light, the novel's carefully crafted frame narrative confirms this unraveling of the sympathetic ideal. When the conversation between Pattieson and the lawyers first turns to the Edinburgh prison, the reader is treated to a series of riddles that quickly becomes a chain of sliding signifiers:
'Then the Tolbooth of Edinburgh is called the Heart of Midlothian?' said I.
'So termed and reputed, I assure you.'
'I think,' said I, with the bashful diffidence with which a man lets slip a pun in presence of his superiors, 'the metropolitan county may, in that case, be said to have a sad heart.'
'Right as my glove, Mr Pattieson,' added Mr Hardie; 'and a close heart, and a hard heart--Keep it up, Jack.'
'And a wicked heart, and a poor heart,' answered Halkit, doing his best.
'And yet it may be called in some sort a strong heart, and a high heart,' rejoined the advocate. 'You see I can put you both out of heart.'
'I have played all my hearts,' said the younger gentleman.
'Then we'll have another lead,' answered his companion. (20)
What begins as a factual naming of the prison quickly spirals into a free-associative play on the variety of metaphorical applications of the language of feeling available to the citizens of post-Union Britain. By putting so many meanings of the heart into circulation simultaneously, Scott seems to be preparing readers for the debunking of sympathetic discourse that eventually follows. Even the novel's title contributes to the uncertainty surrounding sympathy's efficacy. Its duplicity is telling: like the subject in Scott's journal entry who is at once himself and someone else, the "Heart of Midlothian" signifies both the Edinburgh Tolbooth and Jeanie Deans herself. But the novel's title is doubled again. The heart is a figure for stability, the principle that contains the essence of personal and national identity, and yet it is simultaneously implicated in processes of circulation; in Derridean terms, it is "the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality ... The center is not the center." (30) Scott recognizes this too: the figure of the decentered heart appears not only in the lawyers' introductory discourse, discussed above, but also in the humorous afterword narrated by Jedediah Cleishbotham. Admitting that "The Heart of Mid-Lothian is now no more, or rather it is transferred to the extreme side of the city," Cleishbotham apologizes with an allusion to a comedy by Moliere, Le Medecin Malgre lui, "where the simulated doctor wittily replieth to a charge, that he had placed the heart on the right side, instead of the left, 'Cela etoit autrefois ainsi, main nous avons change tout cela'" (508). (31) Unwilling to abandon the language of the heart altogether, Scott leaves its final location in suspension, thus suspending a final decision on sympathy's efficacy as a discourse of national identity. Still fascinated by the idea that one could be another and yet the same, Scott's staging of the failure of sympathetic Britishness opens up the equally unsettling possibility that, on the level of national identity, one is always an Other and not the same.
3. From Sameness to Difference: The Ends of Sympathy in the Letters of Malachi Malagrowther
Almost a decade after The Heart of Midlothian, Scott published his most definitive intervention into contemporary British politics: the Letters of Malachi Malagrowther. Struggling with yet another downturn in the economy, the Westminster government had proposed to bar Scottish banks from issuing small notes, despite the fact that the only banks to have gone under in 1825-26 were English (Sutherland 305). Dismayed by the ramifications of London's proposal, Scott responded with a series of three public letters nominally penned by the ancestor of a character from his earlier novel, The Fortunes of Nigel (1822). In this work, Sir Mungo Malagrowther spends his childhood as--literally--the whipping boy of James VI of Scotland, only to become a mean-spirited old Scotsman sponging from James' English court. (32) Written in the first person and sent directly to the Edinburgh Weekly Review for immediate publication, the Malagrowther letters can be seen as an attempt to reclaim writing as a sympathetic medium: composed in direct response to a crisis, and directed at a known audience, the Letters have an oratorical quality designed to make readers feel as though they are in the presence of a true-hearted defender of Scotland's national rights. Like Jeanie's passionate speech to the Queen, Scott's fiery prose does its best to evoke sympathy for his cause.
Initially, that cause seems to be the support of the Union at whatever cost: "We had better remain in union with England, even at the risk of becoming a subordinate species of Northumberland, as far as national consequence is concerned, than remedy ourselves by even hinting the possibility of rupture." (33) The very disavowal of "the possibility of rupture," however, "hint[s]" at its potential. Accordingly, Scott is adamant that the Union will never succeed if the centralized British regime attempts to administer every aspect of government from the capital: "Is any real power derived by centering the immediate and direct control of everything in London? Far from it. On the contrary, that great metropolis is already a head too bulky for the empire, and should it take a vertigo, the limbs would be unable to support it" (142). Here, Scott deploys another metaphor of the body politic, a trope familiar to eighteenth-century writers, who often sought to "wield the image of the disfigured, overloaded body apotropaically, aiming to reinforce ostensibly natural proportions between land and money and between labor and commodities" or, in this case, between the admittedly central British nation, England, and its outlying Celtic partners. (34)
While the Letters does not hesitate to deploy the vocabulary of sympathy to forward Scott's ongoing project of uniting the nation, it does so with a difference. After arguing that the English must learn to respect Scottish identity on the national as well as individual level, Scott has Malagrowther pull out all his rhetorical stops:
Lastly, I would say a word in behalf of the people of Scotland, merely as human beings, and entitled to consideration as such.... My countrymen have their faults, and I am well aware of them.... Poor as the inhabitants are, the wants of the Highlanders are limited to their circumstances; and they have enjoyments which make amends, in their own way of reckoning, for deprivations which they do not greatly feel. Their land is to them a land of many recollections. I will not dwell on that subject, lest I be thought fantastic in harping on a tune so obsolete. But every heart must feel some sympathy when I say, they love their country, rude as it is, because it holds the churches where their fathers worshipped, and the churchyards where their bones are laid. (175-76)
Scott appeals to the nostalgic ideal of aboriginal connection to the land that we have come to associate with the promotion of romantic nationalism. While the sympathy which "every heart" is said to be capable of feeling for its fellow nationals is once more recommended as the mechanism by which the cohesion of the Union can be maintained, however, Scott's injunction now carries the important qualification that such sympathy involves recognizing the Otherness of one's fellow nationals. (35) The English should not be too quick to assume that the Scots feel the same things, in the same ways, that they do; Highlanders, for example, "do not greatly feel" the so-called "deprivations" others imagine they would feel were they in the same position. However pernicious this claim might be--some of Scott's closest friends were highly involved in the infamous Highland Clearances taking place throughout the first decades of the nineteenth century--it reflects Scott's growing recognition that the discourse of sympathy may be deployed in the service of difference rather than sameness. (36)
Moreover, what sets the Letters even further apart from The Heart of Midlothian is that this vocabulary of sympathy is now used in tandem with a vocabulary of political economy. Describing how the Scottish system of issuing small bills is more secure than its English counterpart, Scott maintains that
the intimate connexion between the Bankers who grant, and the respectable individuals who hold cash-credits ... tends greatly to the security of the former. These customers, of whom each thriving Bank possesses many, are the chief holders and disposers of notes; and, linked as they are with the Banks who grant the accommodation, by mutual advantage, they have both the interest and credit necessary to quash any unreasonable alarm ... of the people. (100)
Here, the discourses of sympathetic and commercial economies are combined to highlight their mutual imbrication, rather than their exclusivity: both promote the "intimate connexion" of "respectable individuals," and both encourage the "mutual advantage" of individuals as well as nations. The seeming binary opposition between the gemeinschaft of the Scottish sympathetic economy, and the gesellschaft of the British commercial economy, is successfully resolved. This resolution can perhaps been seen most clearly in Scott's plea for diversity within unity: "For God's sake, sir, let us remain as Nature made us, Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen, with something like the impress of our several countries upon each! We would not become better subjects, or more valuable members of the common empire, if we all resembled each other like so many smooth shillings" (143). The metaphor of coinage is apt, since Scott is arguing that Scotland must be allowed to control its own system of currency. It would not do, he says, to have the marks of difference of the various members of the Union rubbed away in a vain effort to enforce uniformity, for then they would have no value whatsoever. Instead, difference and sameness must be held in equilibrium in order to ensure that "Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen" can retain their distinctive characteristics, while still circulating within "the common empire." In the Letters, unlike in Midlothian, circulation and value are finally recognized as mutually productive.
If The Heart of Midlothian suggests the impossibility of deploying sympathy as a mechanism of national unity without also bringing into play its problematic supplements of writing, history, and the exchange economy, The Letters of Malachi Malagrowther represents a compromise formation insofar as the discourse of sympathy and identity are mobilized with, not against, the vocabulary of capitalism. At the same time, in its explicit defense of the place of Scottish identity within the larger totality of Britishness, the Letters suggests Scott's recognition that being an Other and not the same may actually be desirable. In this way, the Letters looks forward to a more modern phase of British nationalism, when Britishness not only becomes indissolubly intertwined with imperial and commercial expansion, but also turns away from the ideal of sympathetic identification within the nation, toward a model of national identity increasingly dependent on antithetical disidentification with the colonial Other.
Oregon State University
(1.) The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. W. E. K. Anderson (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 1998) 41, 63.
(2.) See Alexander Welsh, The Hero of the Waverley Novels: With New Essays on Scott (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992).
(3.) John Sutherland, The Life of Walter Scott (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995) 172-73.
(4.) Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (London: Vintage, 1996) 338-42. For an extended consideration of the effects of the crises of the Waterloo era on British literary culture, see James Chandler, England in 1819: The Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998).
(5.) See Ian Duncan, Ann Rowland, and Charles Snodgrass' "Introduction" to SiR's recent special issue on "Scott, Scotland, and Romantic Nationalism," in which they warn against the "drastic foreshortening of the Waverley novels around Waverley itself" (SiR 40 : 5).
(6.) "Romancing the Nation-State: The Poetics of Romantic Nationalism," in Macropolitics of Nineteenth-Century Literature: Nationalism, Exoticism, Imperialism, ed. Jonathan Arac and Harriet Ritvo (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1991) 56.
(7.) See Benedict Anderson's influential linkage of the rise of print capitalism, mass literacy, and modern nationalism in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 2nd ed. (New York: Verso, 1991.
(8.) Yoon Sun Lee, "A Divided Inheritance: Scott's Antiquarian Novel and the British Nation," ELH 64 (1997): 563.
(9.) Walter Scott, "General Preface," in Waverley, ed. Claire Lamont (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986) 352-53.
(10.) For more on Scott's relationship to the Scottish Enlightenment, see Duncan Forbes, "The Rationalism of Sir Walter Scott," The Cambridge Journal 7 (1953): 20--35; Peter Garside, "Scott and the 'Philosophical' Historians, 'Journal of the History of Ideas 36 (1975): 497-512.
(11.) A Treatise of Human Nature, 2nd ed., ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge and P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1978) 316.
(12.) John Dwyer, "Enlightened Spectators and Classical Moralists: Sympathetic Relations in Eighteenth-Century Scotland," in Sentiment and Sociability in Eighteenth Century Scotland, ed. John Dwyer and Richard Sher (Edinburgh: Mercat P, 1993) 102; Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984) 10.
(13.) Janet Sorensen, The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-Century British Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000) 96.
(14.) Reflections on the Revolution in France (Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books, 1961) 59.
(15.) Ina Ferris, The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History, and the Waverley Novels (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1991) 93.
(16.) James Kerr, "Scott's Fable of Regeneration: The Heart of Midlothian," ELH 53 (1986): 801. On Scott's novelistic ability to treat past and present concerns simultaneously, see Richard Maxwell, "Inundations of Time: A Definition of Scott's Originality," ELH 68 (2001): 419-68. Quotations from The Heart of Midlothian are cited from the Oxford UP edition of 1982, ed. Claire Lamont.
(17.) While Scott disapprovingly imbues his crowd scenes with tinges of unmistakably Jacobinical enthusiasm, they nevertheless support his vision of sympathetic national character insofar as they are simultaneously "public expression[s] of the collective Scottish 'national spirit'" (Andrew Lincoln, "Conciliation, Resistance and the Unspeakable in The Heart of Mid-Lothian," Philological Quarterly 79 : 76).
(18.) Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976) 173.
(19.) For a fascinating account of The Heart of Midlothian as a renegotiation of specifically Smithian sympathy vis-a-vis the discourse of casuistry, see Chandler 312-20.
(20.) Caroline McCracken-Flesher, "A Wo/Man For 'A That?: Subverted Sex and Perverted Politics in The Heart of Midlothian" in Scott in Carnival: Selected Papers from the Fourth International Scott Conference, ed. J. H. Alexander and David Hewitt (Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1993) 237.
(21.) Penny Fielding, Writing and Orality: Nationality, Culture, and Nineteenth-Century Scottish Fiction (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996) 26.
(22.) The father of Madge's dead infant is, of course, Staunton; thus, Madge is Effie's uncanny doppelganger and, by extension, Jeanie's troubling alter ego as well.
(23.) In his early poetry, however, Scott was certainly fond of promoting an idealized image of Britain's pre-modern minstrels as bearers of an oral tradition endangered by modern developments in printing and literacy; see Marion B. Ross, "Scott's Chivalric Pose: The Function of Metrical Romance in the Romantic Period," Genre 18 (1986): 267-97.
(24.) Quoted in Scott: The Critical Heritage, ed. John O. Hayden (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1970) 169; Claire Lamont, "Introduction" to Waverley xviii.
(25.) Kerr 818; Ian Duncan, Modern Romana, and Transformations of the Novel: The Gothic, Scott, Dickens (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992) 167-68; Jane Millgate, Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1984) 164.
(26.) "Home and Nation in The Heart of Midlothian," Studies in English Literature 40 (2000): 621-34.
(27.) As several critics have noted, Knockdunder's mixed mode of dress--half English, half Scottish--parodies the possibility of synthesis between national cultures. See Duncan 171-72.
(28.) My reading is productively at odds with Austin's, who finds Jeanie's release of the Whistler "a moral act that reverses her failure of sympathy for Madge and Scotland's dispossessed." Calling Whistler's escape "a springboard to freedom" (633), however, ignores how he is sold into slavery to live (and presumably die) among the wild American Indians, thus misrecognizing the novel's final problematization of the discourse of sympathy.
(29.) "The Inoperative Community," trans Peter Connor, in The Inoperative Community, ed. Peter Connor (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991) 9-12.
(30.) "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1978) 279. See also Andrea Henderson's brilliant account of The Heart of Midlothian's obsession with circulation in Romantic Identities: Varieties of Subjectivity, 1774-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996) 130-66. Despite its unique qualities, Henderson's reading finally concurs with previous interpretations insofar as it finds the "Highland Arcadia" enacting a containment, rather than a historicization, of "circulatory energy" (131).
(31.) "That may be how it was in the past, but we've changed all that."
(32.) McCracken-Flesher provides a thorough analysis of Malagrowther's political character in "Speaking the Colonized Subject in Walter Scott's Malachi Malagrowther Letters," Studies in Scottish Literature 19 (1996): 73-84.
(33.) The Letters of Malachi Malagrowther, ed. P. H. Scott (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1981) 17.
(34.) Deidre Shauna Lynch, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998) 25
(35.) Focusing on Scott's use of metrical material in the Letters, Jack Kerkering reaches a similar conclusion in "'We are Five-and-Forty': Meter and National Identity in Sir Walter Scott," SiR 40 (2001): 85-98.
(36.) Scott's response to the Highland Clearances is critiqued by Saree Makdisi, Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998) 70-99.
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|Publication:||Studies in Romanticism|
|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2004|
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