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The Antiquary

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Wikipedia article

'The Antiquary' (1816) is a novel by Sir Walter Scott about several characters including an antiquary: an amateur historian, archaeologist and collector of items of dubious antiquity. Although he is the eponymous character, he is not necessarily the hero, as many of the characters around him undergo far more significant journeys or change. Instead, he provides a central figure (and location) for other more exciting characters and events - on which he provides a sardonic commentary. The book is written in the third person so even the narrative does not remain with the antiquary.

This is Scott's gothic novel, redolent with family secrets, stories of hidden treasure and hopeless love, with a mysterious, handsome, young man, benighted aristocracy and a night-time funeral procession to a ruined abbey, no less. But the romance and mystery is counterpoised by some of Scott's more down-to-earth characters, and grittily unromantic events.

Plot summary

At the opening of the story, Lovel meets Oldbuck while taking a coach from Edinburgh. Oldbuck, interested as he is in antiquities, has with him Gordon's 'Itinerarium', a book about Roman ruins. The book interests Lovel, to the surprise of Oldbuck and by their shared interest the two become friends. Oldbuck invites Lovel to come to Monkbarns and takes the opportunity of a willing listener to divulge his ancient knowledge. In the process of which, Oldbuck shows Lovel a plot of land he purchased at great personal cost which bears the inscription "A.D.L.L", which Oldbuck takes to mean "'Agricola Dicavit Libens Lubens'". Edie Ochiltree shows up to dispute the antiquary's history, in one of the more amusing scenes of the story (see image at left).

Oldbuck decides to introduce Lovel to his good friend, Sir Arthur Wardour. When Sir Arthur arrives, Lovel meets Arthur's daughter, Isabella and the two realize they have seen each other before. Because Lovel is illegitimate, she knows her father would not approve of a marriage between them. When she sees Lovel standing in the road waiting to talk to her, she convinces her father to take the long way home, walking down to the beach. Luckily, Edie Ochiltree, having the insight that someone may be trapped on the beach not knowing that the tide was coming in, finds the Wardours and helps them escape the rising waters. Then, Lovel appears and gets them to relative safety, huddling on the side of a rocky cliff. Finally, Oldbuck arranges a team with a lift system to pull the four up over the cliff to safety.

A while later, Oldbuck takes Lovel, the Wardours, his niece and nephew, Douster-swivel and a priest to the ancient ruins of Saint Ruth on Sir Arthur's property. While exploring the property, they discuss an ancient treasure that they believe to be buried at the ruins. Captain M'Intyre dominates Isabella's attention, which she leaves in favor of Lovel's to the dismay of M'Intyre. M'Intyre, angered at this slight, discovers that Lovel is in the military, but realizes he knows of no one named Lovel in his division and calls him out upon the topic. They agree to a duel and return to the scene to fight for their individual honor. Lovel's bullet strikes best and leaves M'Intyre bleeding on the ground, when Lovel flees with Edie to avoid a potential arrest. In their hiding, Edie and Lovel see Douster-swivel and Sir Arthur return to the ruins, looking for treasure. They see Douster-swivel attempting to convince Sir Arthur of his magical abilities to find gold and he does conveniently find a small bag under a stone. After they leave, Lovel boards a military ship and departs.

Oldbuck, understanding Douster-swivel's knavery, confronts him about his cons and takes Sir Arthur back to the ruins to look for treasure without Douster-swivel's magical intervention. Digging further under the same stone under which Douster-swivel had previously found treasure, they discover a chest full of silver, which Sir Arthur promptly takes back home. Edie hangs behind and whispers for Douster-swivel to join him. Then, showing the con artist the lid to the chest, with the phrase "Search 1" written on it. Edie convinces the German mage that this phrase means there is a second chest nearby, this time full of gold. They return at night and dig, but cannot find another chest. Just as Douster-swivel is starting to realize that Edie is mocking him, Steenie Mucklebackit jumps from the shadows and knocks Douster-swivel unconscious.

Steenie and Edie flee to Steenie's house, where Steenie shows him Douster-swivel's pocketbook, accidentally picked up during the excitement. Edie makes him promise to return the pocketbook and then leaves. Alas, Steenie is not long for this world and dies in a fishing accident the next day. As the family is in mourning, Elspeth, Steenie's grandmother, comes out of a long senility to tell Edie to take a ring and a message to Lord Glenallan. Oldbuck, whose land the Mucklebackits occupy, comes to help carry the casket and pay his respects, to the awe and thanks of the family.

Edie meets Lord Glenallan and gives him the ring and tells him to go visit Elspeth. Glenallan does and learns from her his own history. He had married a woman named Eveline Neville, who his mother helped convince was his sister after she had already become pregnant. Eveline attempts to commit suicide by jumping into the sea. She is taken from the water barely alive and dies after giving birth. The child is taken by another maid named Theresa and is raised by Glenallen's younger brother as his own illegitimate son. Glenallen does not know this. Glenallan never recovers from believing that he committed a violation of nature. Elspeth tells him that Eveline was not his sister and that his marriage with her was perfectly legitimate. It relieves his mind and he desires to find his son.

Meanwhile, Edie is arrested for attacking Douster-swivel. Oldbuck proves that Douster-swivel is merely a thief and frees Edie, who immediately goes upon a mission. Oldbuck then receives word that Sir Arthur, who has been heavily in debt, is under arrest and has the valuables of his home being taken. Edie returns with money sent by Wardour's son and an order to stop the arrest.

Finally, a mistake causes the national warning systema series of towers with fires that can be lit to warn of invasionto be lit and everyone believes the French are invading. Oldbuck dons his sword and travels to town to help with defence along with his nephew, who promptly assumes the role of a commander. As they prepare for the defence, Lord Glenallan comes in with his highland troops. Finally, Lovel and Captain Wardour arrive to take command of the defence and it is revealed that Lovel is actually Major Neville. Further, Oldbuck realizes that Major Neville is Glenallan's son and the two are reunited. Major Neville becomes the next Lord Glenallen and is now free to marry Isabella Wardour.


* Mr William Lovel, afterwards Lord Geraldin, Earl of Glenallan

* Mrs Macleuchar, proprietress of the Edinburgh-Queensferry diligence

* Mr Jonathan Old(en)buck, of Monkbarns, an Antiquary

* Miss Griselda Old(en)buck, his sister

* Captain Hector M'Intyre, their nephew

* Miss Mary M'Intyre, their niece

* Caxon, a barber

* Jenny, his daughter

* Lieutenant Taffril, her lover

* Edie Ochiltree, a licensed mendicant or gaberlunzie

* Sir Arthur Wardour, of Knockwinnock Castle, a friend of Oldbuck

* Captain Reginald Wardour, his son

* Isabella Wardour, his daughter

* Herman Dousterswivel, a charlatan professor

* Mrs Mailsetter, postmistress of Fairport

* Rev Doctor Blattergowl, minister of Trotcosey

* Miss Rebecca Blattergowl, his sister

* Elspeth, of the Craigburnfoot

* Saunders Mucklebackit, her son, a fisherman

* The Countess of Glenallan

* The Earl, her son

* Eveline Neville, his betrothed

* Bailie Littlejohn

* Messrs Greenhorn and Grinderson, Writers to the Signet




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