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Walter Scott's Romantic Archaeology: New/Old Abbotsford and The Antiquary.

All changes round us, past, present, and to come; that which was history yesterday becomes fable to-day, and the truth of to-day is hatched into a lie by to-morrow.(1)

The past is recovered as private estate.(2)

A WATERSHED DATE IN THE HISTORY OF ARCHAEOLOGY IN SCOTLAND IS 1851. In this year, Daniel Wilson introduced the term "prehistory" into the English language with the publication of Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, the first systematic application in the United Kingdom of the relative dating system of prehistoric artifacts into stone, bronze, and iron epochs developed by Danish archaeologists C. J. Thomsen and J. J. A. Worsaae. In the same year, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, under Wilson's secretariship, donated its entire collection for the establishment of a National Archaeological Museum. Herald of a dawning scientific consciousness in Scotland, Wilson asserts in the preface to Prehistoric Annals that archaeology had outstripped the "laborious trifling" of the amateur antiquary and had joined "the circle of the sciences."(3) The national museum was to play a fundamental role in these shifting sensibilities. In the first volume of the Society's revamped Proceedings, Wilson argues that government sponsorship was needed "to secure the advancement of Archaeological science" by providing funds for proper housing and management of the collection. Within the public sphere of the museum, then, Wilson's professional motives are allied to more democratic principles: in the archaeologist's words, "to promote popular education, and to excite a national interest in the preservation of the monuments of early art and ancient civilization" (2-3).(4) Wilson thus roots the origins of Scottish archaeology within a curious paradox. Having on one hand raised archaeology above the enthusiasms of amateur antiquarianism, Wilson on the other grounds prospects for scientific archaeology within the popular emotive appeal of backward-looking heritage.

Antithetical to "objective" scientific archaeology, heritage assembles objects within a discourse of national identity and educational entertainment, attractions that inevitably transform objects through desire for particular pasts. Peering into his disciplinary crystal ball, Wilson searches for a professional pedigree saturated in cultural value. Promoting amongst the Scots a possessive attitude toward the material past, Wilson, furthermore, locates archaeological origins in a more recent heritage site. In the preface to Prehistoric Annals, the archaeologist asserts that the
 zeal for Archaeological investigation which has recently manifested itself
 in nearly every country in Europe, has been traced, not without reason, to
 the impulse which proceeded from Abbotsford. Though such is not exactly the
 source which we might expect to give birth to the transition from
 profitless dilettantism to the intelligent spirit of scientific
 investigation, yet it is unquestionable that Sir Walter Scott was the first
 of modern writers `to teach all men this truth, which looks like a truism,
 and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others, till so
 taught,--that the bygone ages of the world were actually filled with living
 men.' (xvii)(5)

Lingering at disciplinary crossroads, Wilson distances scientific archaeology from the "profitless dilettantism" of text-based antiquarianism, yet he draws Scott's (and Carlyle's) humanistic history along with him. Wilson translates for his professional audience the study of material history within a mode of storytelling that takes the place of, or is a substitute for, the objective history the archaeologist claims to represent. Quoting Carlyle's encomium to Scott, Wilson writes Scottish prehistory as ontological narrative. Indeed, Scott's own heritage claims within historical romance--the preservation of "ancient manners," as he states baldly in the "Postscript" to Waverley--encode the affective nature of archaeological discourse that Wilson attaches to the origins of his profession. For Wilson, subjective valuation of the material past rises from a quasi-mythic source antedating the controlled environment of the museum: the popular imagination that Scott helped shape for the tourist/reader of material culture.

In 1884, another Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, J. Romilly Allen, published a similar "state-of-the-profession" address, "The Past, Present, and Future of Archaeology." Allen traces the two "great causes" that have "operated to raise archaeology in the present century from the level of a learned pastime to that of an exact science." These are the Oxford Movement, which "was to revive the study of Gothic architecture, and thus indirectly to influence archaeology generally," and geology, which had begun to "overthrow all previous ideas as to the time during which man had existed on the earth."(6) While Allen was certainly more accurate in the latter attribution (for geological principles of stratification and relative dating were the methodological and hermeneutic cornerstones of prehistoric archaeology), his vague evocation of the religious antiquarianism of the Oxford Movement underscores an emotional and moral valuation of material history. Through ecclesiology (exemplified by the Oxford Society for Promoting the Study of Gothic Architecture and the Cambridge Camden Society) the medieval past was being renovated physically and ideologically within the heritage and aesthetic demands of Anglicanism. Like Wilson, Allen grounds the origins and attributes of archaeology within desire.

Allen likewise contends that professional development was predicated by the "impulse from Abbotsford." Scott is both a mythic character in, and ur-narrator of, the archaeological "story." The two "great causes," states Allen, "were preceded by Sir Walter Scott's novels, which by the descriptions of old buildings contained in them tended to popularize national architecture" (234). Wilson's and Allen's conflation of historical romance with scientific investigation emphasizes that an archaeological imagination--the firm grasp of the object past on the subject or subjective present--humanizes archaeological discourse, and assumes a faith in a recognizable humanity across time, a kinship with even prehistoric peoples. Scientific authority absorbs Carlyle's position that a meaningful past reconstructs identity from stones, material traces, and fragments. The root of archaeological science, then, emerges from the narrative totalities of the Waverley novels, their manipulation of material history for the delineation of authentic manners. Locating Scott at the beginning of their originary stories, the archaeologists, presumably unconsciously, foreground narrative and historical embellishment as part of the archaeological project, one that structures knowledge as romance not only for the heritage demands of the museum, but for their own mythic professional identity. The motivating ideologies of Scott's literary antiquarianism are, it seems, coherent with those of mid to late nineteenth-century "scientific" archaeology in Scotland: the recovery of, in Ian Duncan's words, a "symbolic form prior to itself" (11).

Allen's reference to Scott's popularizing "national architecture" and Wilson's allusion to the archaeological "impulse" arising from Abbotsford suggest, moreover, that temporality has a local habitation in architecture. The "Author of Waverley" and the "Laird of Abbotsford" occupy common structural and mythopoeic space. Scott's correspondence indicates that he was certainly sensitive to the symbiotic relationship between romance and architecture as decidedly discursive structures. Not entirely glib when referring several times in his letters to Abbotsford as a "romance of a house"(7) Scott foregrounds a symbolic exchange between his mode of historical narrative and his domestic life. His anachronistic baronial mansion is a metonymy for historical romance. The composition of the Abbotsford "story" suggests, moreover, a way of reading the "materiality" of Scott's historical fiction. For Wilson and Allen, the "impulse" from Abbotsford blurs distinction between material history and historical narrativity.

If I seem to be confusing materiality with textuality, I defer to archaeological precedent. In the last 15 years or so there has been a movement towards "theoretical" archaeology, fostered by poststructuralist linguistic theory and postmodernist questioning of scientific positivism, essentialist meta-narratives, and pretences of institutional and disciplinary authority. This loosely-knotted school of thought is united in a reaction against "processual" archaeology, which structures human activity on natural processes, and bases interpretation on models of subsistence and environmental evolution. "Post-processualists," suspicious of these hermeneutic constraints, are examining the textuality of archaeological discourse itself and its role in the production of history: or, rather, the structuring of their own historical narratives and ideologies. Treating archaeological materials as objects of representation (within both their original context and the present "archaeological" context), these theorists are, they contend, more sensitive to the multiplicity of "meaning" and the subjectivity of their "readings" and "writings" of the past. The central motivation behind this paradigm shift is a fundamental revaluation of the nature of archaeology as an interpretive medium.(8) Archaeological inference operates within the signifying systems of texts themselves. Indeed, it is fashionable to refer to material culture as structured and operating like text: a shift from the notion of the archaeological "record" (a fossil imprint of the past that needs to be read properly) to a polysemic composition of "material symbols" created within subjective cultural and behavioral contexts.(9) The archaeological "text" thus opens itself to multiple readings in a hermeneutic circle involving objects, archaeologists, institutional affiliation, education, publications, training, museums, funding, and so on.

Christopher Tilley, an energetic prophet of postmodern archaeology, states in an exploration of the practices and aims of his profession that "archaeology has for some time been uncovering its unconscious: rhetoric."(10) Michael Shanks further argues that archaeologists must observe within disciplinary writing a "poetics of the past,"(11) the subjective experiences emplotted into archaeological stories. In the transmogrification of material remains into material culture, the past signifies within present cultural formations. Narrative, as a basic component of identity, features prominently in nationalist and heritage appropriations of the archaeological past. One of the major narratives of archaeological writing, and one that is often associated with identity and heritage, is the story of origins, as in the origins of the state, the origins of agriculture, the origins of language. Post-processualists have criticized the hegemony of the origin narrative, because, written in the present, it authorizes certain pasts, fabricating a false sense of continuity with material culture under investigation. In narrative terms, the past needs a beginning. Post-processualists argue that this rhetorical origin begins and ends in the present moment when it is fixed as origin.

Emphasizing hermeneutic practices buried in text, post-processual theory is fertile ground for literary criticism. The third novel in the Waverley series, The Antiquary (1816), is a meta-archaeological novel that explores the epistemic relations of materials to historical story-telling. As an antiquary himself, Scott undoubtedly would have been flattered by his preeminent role in Wilson's and Allen's originary tales; as an antiquarian novelist, however, Scott recognized the past's resistance to narrative assimilation. Swathing his antiquarian romances in emotional appeals to Scottish and personal heritage, he clearly understood--and certainly capitalized on--the psychology of historical desire. The anachronisms of Scott's "historical fiction" have in fact been the focus of much recent literary criticism. Fiona Robertson, Ina Ferris, Diane Elam, and Ian Duncan(12) all examine the status and value of historical representation repeatedly raised within the Waverley novels themselves. As Robertson claims, "Scott's readers may have smoothed over the joins between history and fiction in these novels, but Scott himself seems to be more interested in drawing attention to them" (7)- Elam similarly asserts that Scott's novels question "the validity of `historical' knowledge by confronting historical narrative with its own `literary' tendency, its tendency to become indistinguishable from the very romance from which it attempts to distance itself" (15). Post-processualist theory likewise confronts Scott's antiquarian historiography with its own narrativity. Indeed, the pluralities, limitations, and malleability of material history as narrative is a major theme of The Antiquary. The seed of the archaeological trope is buried in the Abbotsford text.


How are we, then, to read Abbotsford? What kinds of stories does the "Abbotsford Romance" tell? How was Abbotsford composed?

Critics and biographers since Lockhart have embraced a quasi-mythic intermingling of Abbotsford, Scott, the Border, Scotland. Abbotsford is a foundation myth. In a recent and compelling reading of Abbotsford, Stephan Bann lands the novelist amongst the ruins and graves of his ancestors. Situated in the Tweed Valley adjacent to Dryburgh Abbey, on property once owned and lost by Scott's maternal forebears, the Haliburtons, Abbotsford represents a consolatory effort to amend his progenitors' financial mismanagement and to reassert familial claims on the region. Employing a psychoanalytic reading, Bann, focusing on the architectonics of nostalgia, concludes that "Scott's maternal inheritance, concretized in the new Abbotsford, was also the inheritance of history, reestablished in its continuity through the massive effort of reconstruction which was to be Scott's whole creative life."(13) While the image of Scott seeking a tradition for himself and his family is firmly established in criticism (even Sutherland's 1995 biography desires to place "Scott among the Scotts"(14)), an important structural feature of this genealogical narrative that has been largely passed over is archaeological discourse operating within--indeed as--historical romance. Abbotsford and The Antiquary share a tropic relationship between genealogy and archaeology: in romance, be it linguistic or architectural, identity, too, is "concretized" by assembling heritage objects in a particular location and ideological context.

Yet Scott was also suspicious of terms like "concretized," "inheritance," and "continuity" applied to "history." In his correspondence, Scott meditates on--and jokes about--the underlying paradox of his own historical identity at Abbotsford as a romance. With their often comic frankness, the letters are an illuminating medium through which to read Scott the architect, antiquary, and novelist composing his ironic heritage: and the genealogical implications of romantic archaeology in The Antiquary.

While Scott seems to have located himself in the Border countryside with all the fervor of a disenfranchised heir, he did so with remarkable sensitivity to his own role as a bourgeois latecomer buying up his inheritance in piecemeal fashion. With Abbotsford mortgaged to cover bonds taken to buy land, Scott, on the eve of the financial crash of 1826, remarks with more than a touch of irony that building the house and buying up the surrounding land is "the surest way of settling a family, if one can do without borrowing money or receiving interest" (Letters 8: 129). While literary romance was lucrative enough to float, for a time, the historical fantasy of Abbotsford, his "Delilah"(15) typifies the stiff ideological prices at the heritage market, of which Scott the antiquary, romance writer, and architect was a broker. Scott's peculiar and expensive aesthetics immerse his genealogical feelings in a particular rhetorical construction. Readers of Scott will be familiar with the antiquarian stylistics of Abbotsford, the historical montage of carved stone, niches, gothic molds--the "fragments of ancient splendour" (Letters 4: 543)--foraged from ruined edifices of the district.(16) Two moments in the construction project (that occupied Scott from 1811 to 1825) will serve to illustrate Scott's architectural preoccupations with gothic romance, antiquarianism, and genealogy: the building of two, as he says, "new old" structures.

A curious outbuilding in the early phase of renovation sets the ironic tone of architectural and archaeological wish-fulfillment. Scott writes in 1812 that his
 present work is building up [a] well with some debris from [Melrose] Abbey.
 We shall make but a botch job of it, especially as our materials are of a
 very miscellaneous complexion. The worst of all is, that while my trees
 grow and my fountain fills, my purse, in an inverse ratio, sinks to zero.
 (Letters 3: 154)

Scott articulates a three-fold relationship that surfaces in The Antiquary: antiquarianism, historical re-creation, and capital. The "new old" gothic well (Letters 3: 223) represents desire for physical and ideological possession of the past. Raiding Melrose rescues its debris from the midden heap, from contextual silence. The antiquarian salvage operation "concretizes" medieval associations within modern Abbotsford, a re-contextualization that rememorializes Melrose on Scott's estate, reclaimed vocatively as "Abbots' Ford" from its traditional epithet "Clarty Hole," which, as James Hogg informs us, means "Dirty Puddle" in Scots dialect.(17) Scott is laying down roots--the trees, his own--as he taps the well at this "new old" site, creating organic connection between edifice and soil. Digging arouses feelings of deep belonging to the ground he cultivates, renovates, and repossesses. Like the image of the tree, the well taps to the root of genealogical sources; like the well-managed designer landscape, the gothic well connotes a feudal relationship between the horticulturist and the natural world.

But this particular past is expensive, financially and ideologically. Five years after the purchase of Abbotsford, Scott writes, "I have done what man may. I have planted a good many acres--I have built a well about 400 years old--I have enclosed--I have gardened and to sum the whole half ruined myself" (Lockhart 3: 233). Scott's pun on "ruin" situates the past in a capitalist relationship to the present. Ruins are commodities that can cause ruination (a prescient joke in light of the financial burdens incurred by Abbotsford). Writing himself as Laird of Abbotsford, Scott recasts the material past. But fortunes and buildings are lost in the bargain, and historical truth converges with the market demands for heritage, an industry fostered by Scott and practiced today at the Abbotsford Museum (although the well is no longer a historical monument per se, as the gardeners now use it as a compost bin).

Scott's slightly embarrassed epistolary confessions of willful anachronism emphasize that the venerable Abbey stones, refitted as plumbing, belong neither to their own past nor to the present: but to the past Scott fabricates and fetishizes in the present. He writes, "as there was moss put between the junctions of the stones and the lime was carefully blackened it will not have a modern appearance in the least" (Letters 3: 174). Conjuring illusions of temporal seamlessness, Scott creates tactile history out of garbage, one that preserves historical objects, but dismantles and redeploys them as personal property, erasing not so much their original context, but the otherness of the past. In Ruskin's words, "Scott reverences Melrose, yet casts one of its piscinas, puts a modern steel grate into it, and makes it his fireplace."(18) The new old gothic well is a fetishization, a metonymic reduction of both Melrose Abbey and Abbotsford, signifying beyond itself in a complex web of relations within what we might call Scott's archaeological imagination. Scott's "new old" formula connotes an antiquarian attitude to the past: collection preserves, but it also destroys meaning through narratives of heritage, aesthetics, and ownership. Rifling through the middens of the past, Scott seems to be looking for his likeness in stones. As Christopher Tilley states, "writing the past is drawing it into the present, re-inscribing it into the face of the present."(19) Cast in gothic imagery, the new old well "draws" deep sources of identification to the surface for the edification of the newly-landed Laird of Abbotsford. But he also draws attention to the artifice of historical composition.

Another "new old" structure in the Abbotsford story bears similar artifactual continuities between Scottish medievalism and Scott's ancestry. By 1824 Abbotsford was rapacious. Consuming the original "Old Cottage," Abbotsford exploded in a welter of antiquarian activity designed to amass material history within its "battlement and bartisan" and "turrets and queer old fashioned architecture" (Letters 7: 297). In this year, Scott refers in his correspondence to a "new old entrance hall hung about with armour and knickknacks" (Letters 8: 271). The "new old" formula again denotes conscious tampering with historical materials, recasting them into present frames. He writes,
 the interior of the hall is finished with escutcheons, sixteen of which,
 running along [the rooftree], I intend to paint with my own quarterings....
 The escutcheons on the cornice I propose to charge with the blazonry of all
 the Border clans, eighteen in number, and so many of the great families,
 not clans, as will occupy the others. The windows are to be painted with
 the different bearings of different families of the clan of Scott, which,
 with their quarterings and impalings, will make a pretty display. (Letters
 8: 112-13)

The new old hall is the threshold to Scott's reclaimed genealogy. The "pretty" heraldic display and medieval iconography are suffused with the textual excesses of antiquarianism. Objects displayed in the "Abbotsford Museum" are not simply "quotations" within Scott's historical novels. They are a treasure hoard through which Scott "re-members" himself and his characters on the "borders" of time and politics. Enacted within the gothic imagery of the new old hall are battles of succession, personal, familial, tribal, national (see cover of SiR).

If Abbotsford is a metonymy of Laird Scott, then Scott the middle-class lawyer and novelist must traverse the tenuous rift between present structure and historical revisionism, must negotiate the silences of his own past. In fact, Scott's genealogical presentation was incomplete. Two quarterings were lost on his mother's side (Letters 8: 6-9, 112, 232-33), which, in heraldic terms, approximates illegitimacy, as sixteen quarterings distinguish a pure bloodline. Scott painted the two irrecoverable fields with clouds; clouds of forgetfulness mar genealogical integrity. He admits to his publisher, Archibald Constable, that these "things are trifles when correct but very absurd and contemptible if otherwise" (Letters 8: 234). Abbotsford as a museum of Scottish history and showcase for his genealogy actually emphasizes that Scott is very much a frustrated latecomer to the aristocratic world that he seeks to preserve, perpetuate, and identify with.

The ironic tone of his epistles reveals two seemingly contrary responses to his home. His self deprecation may distance the author from his new old creation, but it masks desires running much deeper than aesthetics. In effect, he apologizes for Abbotsford as a romance, as a story of which he is author and protagonist. Genealogical motifs and antiquarian montage are bound by the discursive epoxy of romance, joining stone to stone, present to past, reader to object, and object to narrative: the rhetoric, in short, of the Waverley project itself. At the well and entrance hall the legitimizing trope of archaeology represents a yearning for a verifiable past in the midst of loss. These constructions make the past legible, give it symbolic form through edifices that belong neither to the past nor to the present, but to the atemporality of story itself. As lan Duncan suggests, romance and history "name either side of a common border, the site of narrative experience, where identities become legible" (60). Romance remembers the past, establishes legendary origins, and emplots desire for being in time.

In Romancing the Postmodern, Diane Elam states that "Romance is never `pure' in the generic sense," for "it always becomes contaminated with historical discourse. Likewise, within postmodernity, history becomes contaminated with the excesses of romance" (14). Authoring meta-history throughout the Waverley novels in the form of marginalia, footnotes, and parodic scholarship, Scott is, in Elam's estimation, a decidedly postmodern writer. That Scott needs to be reclaimed as a postmodernist is certainly disputable, yet the Author of Waverley has enjoyed revitalization within the postmodern examination of meta-history inaugurated by Hayden White. This sensitivity to the textual production of history embraces what Christopher Tilley calls the "archaeological pursuit of signs" (Material Culture 73). As Ian Duncan intimates in his study of gothic romance, objects signify within the symbolic field of romance: "historical being can only be rationally possessed, recognized, as romance--as private aesthetic property, in the imagination, materially signified by the book we are holding" (61). I would further suggest that historical being is formulated through romantic configurations of material culture, which distance objects in time, cloak them in unfamiliarity, and write and recast them as old and otherly. The representation of the material present as historical is thus inherently ironic: the past is always, we learn from Scott, new old. Writing the past engenders, as Elam asserts, "an ironic coexistence of temporalities" (13). The genealogical motivation driving material signification within "the house of romance" epitomizes the anachronistic nature of Scott's literary archaeology. The Antiquary, Scott's "chief favourite among all his novels" (Lockhart 5: 104), is a meta-archaeological romance that explores, like Scott's epistolary representation of Abbotsford, the genealogical pursuit of object history within the anachronistic textuality of antiquarianism.


Like Abbotsford, The Antiquary is fundamentally concerned with "settling a family" by affirming its protagonist's hereditary connection to land, title, and fortune. The Antiquary displaces the redemptive capacity of the romance hero from the field of action to the field of antiquarian study. With the aid of the novel's cast of antiquaries, the bastard Edward Lovel, estranged from historical narrative, dis-covers the secret of his true birth buried within gothic ruins and, moreover, gothic stories. In The Antiquary, historical identity merges with cultural formations of gothic at a specific location: the archaeological palimpsest of St. Ruth's Priory. If, as Linda Patrik and other "theoretical" archaeologists maintain, material history is a polysemic text, then this archaeological site--the genius loci of Lovel's identity--is a source of citation. Like Scott writing his material inheritance at Abbotsford within the historical romance conventions he pioneered, Lovel's history is inscribed in the romantic text of St. Ruth's authored by the novel's antiquaries. The novel enacts the genealogical impulses of Scott the antiquarian; it also underscores the inescapable textuality of material history and the romance of historical identity.

Taking place in the late 1790s, the historical setting of living memory is not the stage upon which romance is dramatized. Romance, rather, is a decidedly modern vehicle for iterating the deeper past. In this multi-generic novel, which threads the realistic story of Scottish provincial life with the gothic narrative of the Glenallans, Scott explores epistemic relations between the culture of antiquarianism--the domain of The Antiquary, Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns--and romance. As in the genealogical romance of Abbotsford, archaeology, when linked to heredity and heritage, can ride roughshod over the very history it pursues. Like Scott's location of himself in new old Abbotsford, the archaeological recapitulation of the ancient is engendered in the hidden or latent discourse of capitalism. History is recovered as private estate. At the Priory of St. Ruth's antiquarian exercise and treasure-hunting dovetail.

The image of the pedantic, slightly crusty, though ultimately good-natured Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns as a gentle parody of his antiquary-creator is a familiar one in Scott criticism (e.g. Lockhart 5: 105, Ruskin 5: 337, 34: 303, Piggot 133, Sutherland 190-91, Millgate(20)). Indeed, Scott himself promoted this allusion by titling his unfinished catalogue of books and antiques Reliquiae Trottscosienses, or the Gabions of Jonathan Oldbuck (Lockhart 5: 105). While the Bannatyne Club published the catalogue of Scott's library under the less tumid title Catalogue of the Library of Abbotsford (1838), Scott's identification of his antiquarian life with his literary fabrication suggests more than a playful in-joke for this possible self-image. "Trottcosiensis" is derived within the novel from Oldbuck's association with the Abbot of Trotcosey, whose estate was purchased by the antiquary's burgher ancestor. The association of Abbots-ford and Monkbarns suggests shared genealogical anxieties within post-feudal Scotland. The realities of Oldbuck's "mechanical descent" (41)(21) demonstrate that ideological claims to a noble past are only as tight as his purse-strings. The capitalistic recovery of material history--the ownership and monetary valuation of the past based on rarity and absence--locates objects marked as "historical" within the professional and genealogical consciousness of those who own and, in Scott's case, write them.

The opening scenes of the novel set up the ironic figure of the antiquary within historical fissures of possession and capital, genealogy and romance. The hold Oldbuck has over the object past can only be appreciated, in the most derisive sense, as "antiquarian." Oldbuck commodities while collecting the past. Concealing a hand "trembling with pleasure" (24-25), he spirits away rare tomes from unsuspecting book dealers. His study--his "sanctum sanctorum" as he ennobles it--is a dusty, cluttered museum, a treasure hoard morbidly cut off from the history he preserves: "it would have been as impossible to find any individual article wanted, as to put it to any use when discovered" (22). As Shanks points out, the "figure of the antiquary is not a popular one in archaeology. Their concern is with objects stripped of their context, or at least those contexts which the archaeologist values--the object's place in the ground, its identity in situ" (99). Objects are collected into systems of value and meaning according to principles of authenticity and originality. The archaeological past secured by Oldbuck legitimates the burgher's descent as Laird of Monkbarns, Lord of"parchments, books, and nondescript trinkets and gewgaws, which seemed to have little to recommend them, besides rust and the antiquity which it indicates" (22). Scott may have been mocking himself in Oldbuck, but this characterization nevertheless questions the rhetorical immediacy of material history, and the limits and aims of antiquarianism as it subsumes objects within market demands for heritage. Can history--and its attendant pleasures--have any objective "meaning"? Oldbuck's decidedly mercantile interest in the past controls its narration, but only as much as Scott lets him. Historical meaningfulness is generated from a dialectic between a past that can be owned, and thereby turned into ideological profit as genealogy and inheritance, and that which remains common property, thereby subject to democratic debate.

The validity of historical possession is problematized early in the novel on the Kaim of Kinprunes. On this sterile tract of land, which Oldbuck acquires by trading "acre for acre ... good corn land" (29), three historical truths converge. The antiquary contends that his property is the "local situation of the final conflict between [Roman general Julius] Agricola and the Caledonians" (28). Oldbuck, the authority on faint and nearly illegible traces, reads an "indistinct" inscription "A.D.L.L." as "Agricola Dicavit Libens Lubens" (29). Another historical agent in the novel reads it differently. The mendicant Edie Ochiltree, the "news-carrier, the minstrel, and sometimes the historian of the district" (33), interrupts, in Judith Wilt's words, the "ecstasy" of this scene (157), declaiming "I mind the bigging [building] o't" (30). The stone bearing the inscription and a carving of a "sacrificing vessel" (29) marks the location of a shed Edie helped to construct for a bachelor party twenty years previously. The stone is a memorial to "Aiken Drum's Lang Ladle" (31). Two stories meet. So which is true? Most critics have privileged Edie's testimony over Oldbuck's,(22) a reading supported by the "playful" figure of antiquarian mismanagement in Oldbuck. But Edie is himself a historical artifact fabricated within the antiquarian discourse of the novel and, moreover, by the Antiquary Scott in the Magnum Opus introduction. Created from ballads, musty books, and even Treasury reports (reprinted "for those whose taste is akin to that of Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns"(23) Scott animates Edie as a historical actor and agent through paratextual antiquarian matter. Exhumed textually, Edie, the last of the King's Blue Gowns, is a semi-tragic, semi-comic anachronism, a rhetorically reconstituted medieval relic. And he is himself an antiquarian figure, who knows the hiding places where history waits to develop its consciousness, as well as the past's susceptibility to meddling.

But does this para- and intertextual matter necessarily give Edie, who is also a trickster figure, absolute authority on historical matters? Oldbuck is only half-convinced of Edie's eye-witness account. As Wilt argues in her reading of this disjunction, while the scene reveals Oldbuck's "eternal capacity" for self-deception, it dramatizes "the real paradoxes and imponderables of history itself" (159). Indeed, Oldbuck even questions the very text upon whose authority he establishes this "national concern" (29) on his property. He proposes that Lovel write an epic, to be entitled "The Caledonian: Or Invasion Repelled," for which Oldbuck will supply critical and historical notes. On the authority of Tacitus, Lovel, astonished, interjects, "But the invasion of Agricola was not repelled." Oldbuck assumes a conciliatory stance: "I dare say, ye may unwittingly speak most correct truth in both instances, in despite of the toga of the historian, and the blue gown of the mendicant" (107). On this barren, tract(less) land, indistinct traces signify many historical conditions, many "correct truths." Oldbuck's epic (or is it romance?), Edie's folk wisdom, and Lovel's ancient history are mutually exclusive readings of the past, yet, unresolved in the novel, they have the integrity of co-existence in the narrative present.

The elastic historicism of Kinprunes reverberates in the antiquarian activities among the ruins of St. Ruth's Priory, which are located at the crossroads of the novel's antiquarian community. The secret of Lovel's birth is here encrypted in the relics of feudal Scotland and, moreover, the many versions of history--ancient and recent--that lie buried, barely legible. The ruin is a stratified site upon which is inscribed battles of succession that are exhumed under the threat of historical erasure, the disinheritance of Lovel that threatens the extinction of the ancient Glenallan line and the venerable House of Wardour. The antiquaries, moreover, read genealogical motifs through a mode of literature at the height of its popularity in the era of the novel's setting: the gothic romance. As Fiona Robertson states, "Styles of literature and styles of appropriating the past are a constant focus of interest and discussion in The Antiquary" (197). The resolution of the lost heir plot weaves the antiquarian culture depicted in the opening scenes with the literary culture of gothic romance.

Early in the novel, Scott establishes the priory as a location of antiquarian sport and a place for the district's antiquaries and their families and friends to gather for Sunday excursions. The ruins are the site of quite ordinary antiquarian occupations evocative of the localism and religious flavor of amateur county antiquarian societies in the nineteenth century.(24) As on the Kaim of Kinprunes, private interests in the site beget heated contestation over the right to narrative control. The patriarchs Oldbuck, Sir Arthur Wardour, and Reverend Blattergowl squabble in a learned and territorial display before their "instructees," Isabella Wardour, Mary MacIntyre, and Beckie Blattergowl. Isabella interrupts by introducing an object of some antiquarian interest to the elders, her transcription of a folk tale, "The Fortunes of Martin Waldeck." The long digression, related by Lovel, soothes the bilious rivalry, but, at a deeper level, insinuates into "disinterested" antiquarian investigation a gothic mode of storytelling. And Isabella's dart hits closer to the "truth" of the ruins than the canon of antiquarian knowledge. For the tale, cast in gothic imagery, is that of its reader.

Martin Waldeck, having struck a deal with a demonic spirit for a buried treasure, purchases a patent of nobility and a castle and retainers to defend it. Undone in the end by his own capricious greed, he is forced by the hereditary peerage to forfeit his estate and to retire to a convent (137-46). The set piece reflects motifs and themes developing in the novel: the earth as a source of value, imaged as buried treasure, and the illusion of heredity claims to the earth founded on new wealth. In a novel that, as Robertson points out, "refers particularly frequently to the fashion for Gothic and for ballads and histories of the wonderful and supernatural" (197), antiquarian historicism and gothic stoW telling co-habitate, though obviously in no easy nor equal relationship. Oldbuck turns his nose up at the story (146), but Wardour needs Waldeck's kind of fast cash to save his heavily indentured estate. The story is certainly a warning to Wardour, who has taken into his confidence the Rosicrucian adept, Herman Dousterswivel, who leads his dim patron on midnight treasure hunts among the ruins of St. Ruth's with the intent of cheating him out of the remainder of limited resources. While Isabella's narrative adds both relief from antiquarian hobby-horsing and a touch of spookiness to the setting, the gothic culture she introduces foreshadows the ironic truth that hereditary succession presumes a healthy pocketbook. Antiquarian and gothic cultures fuse in the character of Lovel, who unwittingly reads in the tale his own story, hidden from himself, but waiting to develop consciousness among other gothic stories buried--and planted amongst--the priory ruins.

Wardour does, however, find a modicum of financial relief in the graves of St. Ruth's. His house is secured temporarily from the sheriff by a quantity of silver stashed in the priory by Edie and Lovel in a location rich with genealogical signification for Wardour. Edie and Lovel hit upon the grave of Malcolm Misticot, or Malcolm the Misbegot (by two first cousins), the semi-mythic twelfth-century usurper of Wardour's hereditary home, Knockwinnock Castle. The story of Waldeck is, in a sense, the legend of Misticot. Vanquished from Knockwinnock, Misticot sought the sanctuary of St. Ruth's, where he "died soon after ... of pure despite and vexation" (200). But, like Waldeck, legend relates that he took his fortune with him to the grave, dispersing it amongst the priory tombs in the vain hope of using it to "secure the succession of' [his] house in the lands of Knockwinnock" (200). Edie completes the genealogical chimera by citing a folklore prophecy: "whenever Misticot's grave was found out, the estate of Knockwinnock should be lost and won" (200). The faint survival of medieval history within gothic tales thus engages present (capitalist) battles of succession. Wardour, looking into the tomb that houses the effigy and coat of arms of the Misbegot, traces to the very spot "that horror and antipathy to defiled blood and illegitimacy, which has been handed down to me from my respected ancestry" (99). These historically-based fears deny Lovel's suit for Isabella, but this is ironically the site in which saving fortunes are recovered.

The "salted mine of history," to employ Wilt's image (158--61), has ironic truth in, and imaginative hold over, the economy of' heritage and genealogical continuity. Edie, as an antiquary, tampers with history. But saltings and spurious digs initiate redemptive exhumations of history. In fact, the irony of capitalist antiquarianism is thicker the deeper in time the antiquaries dig. Looking into this grave, Oldbuck recognizes Lovel's features on the effigy of Misticot. The double-irony of this historical doppelganging is that the misbegotten Lovel saves with his own money--his patrimony of plate melted into bullion that erases his arms and the secret of his noble parentage--the House of Knockwinnock. As Judith Wilt points out, "Lovel is the very image of Malcolm the Misbegot, resurrected and cleansed, just in the nick of time, of the bar sinister" (160). The past is a site of manipulations, but gothic narratives drawn from gothic remains retain their cultural currency. In the tomb-text of St. Ruth's, material history and gothic history lie indistinguishably together.

Recent history is buried, furthermore, in the priory ruins with the midnight internment of the Countess of Glenallan on the night that Edie tricks Dousterswivel into returning to hunt for more of Misticot's silver. Edie's manipulation of gothic conventions and legendary history to ameliorate Wardour's economic crises and to preserve him from Dousterswivel's Rosicrucian chicanery merges with the veritable gothic Glenallan narrative. The mixed generic identity of the concentrated gothic narrative within a story of provincial life "force[s] the recognition that," as Robertson asserts, "Scott's novels are not seamless endorsements of the rational and the normative but experimental, questioning, and aesthetically disruptive" (204). With the entombment of the Countess the mystery of the blood-stained Glenallan past, imbued with gothic atmosphere of secrecy and terror, is exhumed to be redeemed with the reinstatement of Lovel to the family. Alienated from the community, Countess Glenallan and the Earl, her son, eke out a Havishamesque existence within the mental and physical prison of crypt-like Glenallan House, ornamented with somber Rembrandt portraiture and gloomy Catholic iconography. They serve this hard penance for tampering with the laws of primogeniture: the Countess meddles with genealogy by convincing her son that his pregnant wife, Eveline Neville, whom she despises, is his half-sister. Falsifying history sets off a series of tragedies, resulting in the suicide of Eveline, the unmitigated despair and seclusion of the Earl, and the estrangement of their son, the benighted Lovel who, unbeknownst to the Earl, survived and was spirited away to England (to be raised by his uncle, a Protestant, and ignorant of his noble birth). The Glenallans are thus trapped within a crippling historical moment. Without issue, they are themselves living ruins within a gothic tale orchestrated by the Countess. The author takes her awful secret to the grave.

With her burial, living ruin mingles with the gothic fragments of St. Ruth's. Deposited here, she too becomes the subject of antiquarian investigation. The key to the story--to the buried treasure of Lovel's birthright--is locked within the memory of the Countess' now aged servant and partner-in-crime, Elspeth Mucklebackit. To Oldbuck, Elspeth is a relic from the "traditional" past, a repository of ballads and folk history that he tries to collect through eavesdropping and surreptitious copying of her songs (310). After the Countess' death, the antiquary is retained by the Earl to take Elspeth's testimony of the events leading to Eveline's suicide, and to attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of his lost heir. Antiquarianism becomes detective work, recreating the crime from physical evidence. Indeed, Oldbuck cannot distinguish between his offices as antiquary and Justice of the Peace. He assures the Earl that "If you want an affair of consequence properly managed, put it into the hands of an antiquary; for, as they are eternally exercising their genius and research upon trifles, it is impossible they can be baffled in affairs of importance" (282). The pivotal evidence is Elspeth herself: she is a fragment rising out of the antiquarian culture of the novel and the gothic culture of the moribund Glenallans. "Elspeth's entire psychology," Robertson states, "is a kind of gothic ruin" (201). As Edie says
 auld Elspat is like some of the ancient ruind strengths and castles that
 ane sees amang the hills. There are mony parts of her mind that appear, as
 I may say, laid waste and decayed, but then there's parts that look the
 steerer, and the stronger, and the grander, because they are rising just
 like to fragments amang the ruins o' the rest--She's an awesome woman.

The novel's concluding action is set among physical and mental graves. Sworn to secrecy for her role in the crime, Elspeth, in her guilt, has herself collapsed into a gothic pile. But, as we know from Edie, ruins are sibylline. Imaged also in Egyptological terms, Elspeth, "like a mummy animated by some wandering spirit into a temporary resurrection" (218), "unlades [her] mind" (218). Surfacing from the dark ruins of her mind to the light of narrative, Elspeth's underground story pieces together the genealogical fragments scattered among the crypts and legends of the priory. The truth unveiled, Lovel is restored to his proper role as Lord Glenallan. Continuity with history reasserted, the estates of Glenallan and (through marriage to Isabella) Knockwinnock are "lost and won." The revitalized families join the present on sound genealogical and economic footing.

If the novel retires to the relatively safe areas of recent history, the underlying historical constructions of identity are, like Scott's new old well, drawn from deep sources, albeit through manipulations and misinterpretations of material remains of the long-buried past along the way. With its insistence on hermeneutic playfulness within antiquarian and heritage claims on the past, the novel's pluralism--of synchronous stories held in synchronous and ironic truthfulness--thematizes the limitations of ideological closure on the past, as well as the narrative vitality of archaeology as it sustains romantic constructions of self and mythic familial identity. Symbolic exchanges between artifact and viewer are effected through representations of the past, the inevitably piecemeal, fragmented signs that appeal to cultural memory through spectacles of recovery and possession within spectacular modes of historical emplotment. The narrative tensions between past and present can at best be suspended within the kind of moral and evaluative setting that the gothic romance provides: a setting that, as Abbotsford attests, is constructed out of all the disruptions to "real" history.

In The Antiquary and Abbotsford gothic stories within stories house genealogical information needed to render the past into redeeming and consoling narratives. As Scott's correspondence intimates, the historical pastiche of "new old" Abbotsford is iconic of the inherent contradictions and shortcomings of reclaiming the past for identification and edification. Both The Antiquary and Abbotsford are extensions of Scott's antiquarian passions, yet with antiquarian paraphernalia from dismantled legitimate buildings and antique iconography, Scott systematically imposes a mythological identity of himself as a landed aristocrat. The middle-class professional in fact buys back what is his (and his spurs are spuriously won by the success of the Waverley novels). The Abbotsford project is carefully constructed wish-fulfillment through the authenticating aegis of antiquarianism. Viewed this way, the genealogical and antiquarian action of The Antiquary serves as a counterpoint to the ideological foundations upon which Abbotsford is built. Lovel is Scott's alter ego. Lovel's inheritance is secured through antiquarian investigation, but, unlike Scott, he is the true heir to a feudal patrimony. Lovel literally stumbles upon his own treasure and identity in the graves of St. Ruth's, while Scott's middle-class expropriation of antiquity to satisfy feudal and social longings paradoxically links him to his Scottish heritage in the face of capitalistic development in which he himself participates as a lawyer and novelist. Reading the genealogical story of Abbotsford in light of The Antiquary suggests that Scott, while sympathetic to Oldbuck as an antiquarian fabricator of genealogy, wishes to discover that he, too, is the lost heir.

(1.) Introductory Epistle, The Monastery, ed. Penny Fielding (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2000).

(2.) Ian Duncan, Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel: The Gothic, Scott, Dickens (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992) 26.

(3.) Daniel Wilson, The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, 1851. Second ed. (Edinburgh: Macmillan, 1863) xviii.

(4.) Cf. R. B. K. Stevenson, "The Museum, its Beginnings and its Development ... to 1858," in A. S. Bell, ed., The Scottish Antiquarian Tradition: Essays to Mark the Bicentenary of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and its Museum, 1780-1980 (Edinburgh: Donald, 1981) 31-85.

(5.) Quoting Thomas Carlyle, "Sir Walter Scott," Carlyle's Works, 17 vols., Ashburton ed. (London: Chapman, 1889-1894) 17: 165-224.

(6.) J. Romilly Allen, "Past, Present, and Future of Archaeology," Archaeologia Cambrensis 5 (1884): 234.

(7.) The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. H. J. C. Grierson, 12 vols. (London: Constable, 1932-37) 7: 100, 111, 282; 2: 129.

(8.) The titles of recent books on archaeological theory reflect these shifting values. Among them are Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, Re-constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, r996); Ian Bapty and Tim Yates, Archaeology After Structuralism: Post-Structuralism and the Practice of Archaeology (New York: Routledge, 1990); Ian Hodder, Reading the Past: Current Interpretive Archaeology (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986); Ian Hodder et al, Interpreting Archaeology: Finding Meaning in the Past (New York: Routledge, 1995); Christopher Tilley, ed., Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics, and Post-Structuralism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990); and Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, Social Theory and Archaeology (Cambridge: Polity, 1987).

(9.) Linda Patrik, "Is There an Archaeological Record?" in Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, ed. M. B. Shiffer (London: Academic, 1985) 64. Cf. Ian Hodder, "This is Not an Article about Material Culture as Text," Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 8 (1989): 250-69.

(10.) Christopher Tilley, ed., Interpretative Archaeology (London: Berg, 1993) 8.

(11.) Michael Shanks, Experiencing the Past: On the Character of Archaeology (London: Routledge, 1992) 12.

(12.) Fiona Robertson, Legitimate Histories: Scott, Gothic, and the Authorities of Fiction (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994); Ina Ferris, The Achievement of Literary Authority: Gender, History, and the Waverley Novels (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1991); Diane Elam, Romancing the Postmodern (New York: Routledge, 1992).

(13.) Stephen Bann, The Clothing of Clio: A Study of the Representation of History in Nineteenth-Century Britain and France (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984) 110. Cf. David Daiches, "Scott's Achievement as a Novelist," in Literary Essays (Edinburgh: Oliver, 1956) 103 and Stuart Piggott, Ruins in a Landscape: Essays in Antiquarianism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1976) 135.

(14.) John Sutherland, The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995).

(15.) The Journal of Sir Walter Scott (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972) 39.

(16.) See Grierson's annotations to the letters.

(17.) John Gibson Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart, 10 vols. (Toronto: Morang, 1901) 3: 233.

(18.) John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, 39 vols, eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (London: Allen, 1903-1912) 5: 338.

(19.) Material Culture and Text: The Art of Ambiguity (London: Routledge, 1991) 74.

(20.) Jane Millgate, Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1984) 88.

(21.) The Antiquary, ed. David Hewitt, Vol. 3 of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1995).

(22.) See Judith Wilt, Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985) 223n.

(23.) The Antiquary, vols. 5 and 6 of The Waverley Novels, 48 vols. (Ediburgh: Black, 1865-1868) 5-5.

(24.) See Philippa Levine, The Amateur and the Professional: Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England, 1836--1886 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986) 13-23.
Bishop's University, Canada

SHAWN MALLEY teaches literary theory and 18th and 19th century literature at Bishop's University. Among his current research interests is an interdisciplinary study of the diverse cultural responses to the excavation of Ninevah by Austen Henry Layard in the mid-nineteenth century.
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Publication:Studies in Romanticism
Article Type:Critical Essay
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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