Walter Scott: Old Mortality

(2146 words)
  • Nathan Uglow (Trinity All Saints, Leeds)

In August 1815, just two months after the Duke of Wellington had defeated Napoleon on the killing-fields of Waterloo, Walter Scott visited the battle-site and found himself horrified by the gruesome accounts of carnage that his guides gave him. The Tale of Old Mortality, written a year later (published in December 1816), betrays his morbid fascination with the savage ferocity of modern (post-chivalric) war. The novel's most sympathetic characters advocate justice and conciliation as ways of preventing war, and when forced into conflict so as to enforce compromise and just settlement, they take control to minimise casualties and to save lives from the bloodlust of the mob or individual zealots.

Old Mortality was …

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Uglow, Nathan. "Old Mortality". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 March 2002
[, accessed 06 October 2015.]