A RomanceBook - 2001
In the twelfth century, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe returns home to England from the Third Crusade to claim his inheritance and the love of the lady Rowena. The heroic adventures of this noble Saxon knight involve him in the struggle between Richard the Lion-Hearted and his malignant brother John: a conflict that brings Ivanhoe into alliance with the mysterious outlaw Robin Hood and his legendary fight for the forces of good.
'Scott's characters, like Shakespeare's and Jane Austen's, have the seed of life in them,' observed Virginia Woolf. 'The emotions in which Scott excels are not those of human beings pitted against other human beings, but of man pitted against Nature, of man in relation to fate. His romance is the romance of hunted men hiding in woods at night; of brigs standing out to sea; of waves breaking in the moonlight; of solitary sands and distant horsemen; of violence and suspense.' For Henry James, 'Scott was a born storyteller. . . . Since Shakespeare, no writer has created so immense a gallery of portraits.'
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On the books' influence: "With Scott's 'Ivanhoe,' issued among the Waverleys for a variation in setting, if not in theme, an idyll of sentimental feudalism was taken up in the antebellum South as a blueprint and a benediction for a civilization already divided into landed fiefdoms and fully regulated by caste. Out of the novel's high-colored Arthurian cloth was fashioned, in and for the states of the future Confederacy, a self-conscious and elaborately archaizing cult of courtliness (the leading planters even dubbing themselves 'The Chivalry'), complete with tournaments and duels and, above all, a prodigiously exaggerated attachment to the chastity and honor of women, who were reared and cultivated accordingly."
--Claudia Roth Pierpont, "A Study in Scarlett," The New Yorker (Aug. 31, 1992), p. 90.
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