Words I Learned from Sir Walter Scott

Just after Christmas, I started reading Waverley—the very first historical novel, which was authored by Sir Walter Scott and published in 1814.

I have made it to the end of Chapter X, and I now present below the words, phases, and allusions—hitherto unknown to me—that I have learned so far from my new friend, Sir Walter Scott.

Click the highlighted link to see the definition of each word or phase. And, then, go get a copy of Waverley (and a couple of English, French, Latin, and legal dictionaries) and find out what happens next!

“The list of the beauties who displayed their hebdomadal finery at the parish church at Waverley was neither numerous nor select.”

“I know not whether it was by the ‘merest accident in the world,’ a phase which, from female lips, does not always exclude malice prepense, or whether it was from a conformity of taste, that Miss Cecilia more than once crossed Edward in his favourite walks through Waverley-Chase.”

“The doctor, who was a believer in all poetry which was composed by his friends, and written out in fair straight lines, with a capital at the beginning of each, communicated this treasure to Aunt Rachel, who, with her spectacles dimmed with tears, transferred them to her commonplace book, among choice receipts for cookery and medicine, favourite texts, and portions from High-Church divines, and a few songs, amatory and Jacobitical, which she had carolled in her younger days, from whence her nephew’s poetical tentamina were extracted when the volume itself, with other authentic records of the Waverley family, were exposed to the inspection of the unworthy editor of this memorable history.”

“[I]t is a melancholy fact, that my history here must take leave of the fair Cecilia, who, like many a daughter of Eve, after the departure of Edward, and the dissipation of certain idle visions which she had adopted, quietly contented herself with a pisaller, and gave her hand, at the distance of six months, to the aforementioned Jonas, son of the Baronet’s steward, and heir (no unfertile prospect) to a steward’s fortune, besides the snug probability of succeeding to his father’s office.”

“After inspecting the cavalry, Sir Everard again conducted his nephew to the library, where he produced a letter, carefully folded, surrounded by a little stripe of flox-silk, according to ancient form, and sealed with an accurate impression of the Waverley coat-of-arms.”

“He was, besides, himself a special admirer of the old Patavinian [Titus Livius], …”

“The Baron of Bradwardine, for he was generally so called in Scotland (although his intimates, from his place of residence, used to denominate him Tully-Veolan, or more familiarly, Tully), no sooner stood rectus in curia than he posted down to pay his respects and make his acknowledgements at Waverley-Honour.”

“[A] French tourist … has recorded, as one of the memorabilia of Caledonia, that the state maintained, in each village a relay of curs, called collies, whose duty it was to chase the chevaux de poste (too starved and exhausted to move without such a stimulous) from one hamlet to another, till their annoying convoy drove them to the end of their stage.”

“The broken ground on which the village was built had never been levelled; so that these inclosures presented declivities of every degree, here rising like terraces, there sinking like tan-pits.”

“There were loop-holes for musketry, and iron stanchions on the lower windows, probably to repel any roving band of gypsies, or resist a predatory visit from the caterans of the neighbouring Highlands.”

“This dove-cot, or columbarium, as the owner called it, was no small resource to a Scottish laird of that period, …”

“The scene, though pleasing, was not quite equal to the gardens of Alcina; …”

“It must not be forgotten, that all sorts of bears, small and large, demi or in full proportion, were carved over the windows, upon the ends of the gables, terminated the spouts, and supported the turrets, with the ancient family motto, ‘Beware the Bear’, cut under each hyperborean form.”

“A strange guide, thought Edward, and not much unlike one of Shakespeare’s roynish clowns.”

“After his demele with the law of high treason in 1715, he had lived in retirement, conversing almost entirely with those of his own principles in the vicinage.”

“—but this Bullsegg, being portly and comely of aspect, intermarried with the lady dowager, who was young and amorous, and possessed himself of the estate, which devolved on this unhappy woman by a settlement of her umwhile husband, in direct contravention of an unrecorded tallie, and to the prejudice of the disponer’s own flesh and blood, …”

“He was a confessor in her cause in 1715, when a Whiggish mob destroyed his meeting-house, tore his surplice, and plundered his dwelling-house of four silver spoons, intromitting also with his mart and his mealark, and with two barrels, one of single and one of double ale, besides three bottles of brandy.”

Beware Titus Andronicus! Shakespeare on Facebook

During my long project (2 years, 9 months, 18 days) to read the complete works of William Shakespeare, I made frequent comments about him and his works on Facebook.

Because I just had to share the fun.

From May to November, the saga of the Kings Henry was my literary prime-time drama:

Facebook post about Shakespeare's King Henry plays

And then came Richard, that mesmeric villain.

Facebook post about Shakespeare Richard III play

February can be a depressing month.

Facebook post quoting Shakespeare

Those tragedies always end badly!

Facebook post about Shakespeare tragedies

In which I am warned away from Titus Andronicus.

Facebook post about Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus play

Simple, Clear Purpose

Back in March, I came across this quotation by American businessman Dee Hock:

Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.

In this book:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen

And I fell in love with it.

I used the quotation in an out-of-office email signature while I was away on vacation during the summer, and when I returned, I saw it posted on a coworker’s wall.

(I also highly recommend the Getting Things Done book. The GTD method helped me look at my list-making and organization in a refreshing and helpful new way.)

How Now, Mad Wag!

So, it took me 2 years, 9 months, and 18 days to read the complete works of William Shakespeare.

A little more than a year into my reading, my thoughts about Shakespeare started to show up on Facebook.

It was inevitable.

This was the first indication on my Facebook wall that I had Shakespeare on the brain.

"The Hokey Pokey" written in Shakespearean style

You all remember that catchy song from the musical Kiss Me, Kate, right?

Facebook post about brushing up your Shakespeare

There is no brown cow in Shakespeare, but there is a rat and a mad wag.

Facebook post quoting Shakespeare

After I finished reading the comedies, I looked ahead, and all I could see were Henrys ad infinitum. But it was all good because they were all good.

Facebook post about all the King Henrys in Shakespeare