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Chapter Four Scott Comes to France 0 n November 1, 1826, readers of the Journal de Paris learned that fifteen ships had entered the port of Calais carrying 379 passengers "among whom could be seen the famous Sir Walter Scott making his way to Paris." The object of scrutiny from the moment he stepped off the boat, Scott remained in the public eye for his entire twoweek stay in the French capital. Articles in the press commented on how little the historical novelist resembled his published portraits, while crowds of fans struggled to get a glimpse of the famous Scotsman for themselves.1 Although the author who had published his first novels anonymously in order to keep his identity a secret pretended to shun the attention-Scott complained of his hordes of French admirers2-the degree of his displeasure caused some doubt in observers at the time. One account of his visit suggested that he disguised himself so well "that at the theater or while out walking, everyone recognizes and follows him."3 But if Scott attracted all eyes, so too did his works; thanks to his innovations, the historical novel itself had become a spectacle. r. A notice in Le Globe during Scott's visit to Paris commented: "Now is your chance to catch a glimpse of the illustrious novelist! [ ... ] According to the portraits we had seen of Sir Walter Scott, we pictured him to look like someone from the Franche-Comte, well built, with a large belly, and a full and smiling face; ah, well! He is nothing like that." "Sir Walter Scott," Le Globe, November 4, 1826, 191. 2. John Sutherland, The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 310. 3· Le Bibliophile Jacob [Paul Lacroix], Les soirees de Walter Scott aParis (Paris: Eugene Renduel, 1829), 18. In the introduction to this compendium of historical short fiction, Lacroix purports merely to have transcribed tales told by Scott during his visit to Paris. The stories were in fact written by Lacroix. r 52 The Spectacular Past Scholars have long seen the arrival in France of Scott's works-if not of his person-as a vital moment in literary history. The two major early theorists of the historical novel, Louis Maigron and Georg Lukacs, both point to ways in which Scott influenced the future development of French fiction , laying the groundwork for both Romanticism and Realism.4 But although helpful in showing Scott's influence on authors later considered canonical, their studies overlook how Scott's novels intersected with larger trends in historical representation at the time of their initial publication. As I show, Scott's visual poetics made the Romantic historical novel complicit in the spectacular historical culture of early nineteenth-century France. Unlike other historical spectacles, such as the panorama, illustrated historiography , or the plays about Napoleon, the novels of Scott and his French followers were not literally visual. But like the picturesque school of Romantic historiography that they influenced, Scott's novels attempted to cross the line between word and image. Through the introduction of a new technique of historical ekphrasis, a mode of literary description that encourages readers to form mental images of people, places, and things from the past, structured according to the logic of painting, Scott's novels simulated the process of looking at visual representations; contemporary critics described how Scott's novels made them feel as if they were seeing a painting, a wax display, or a panorama of the past. When illustrations eventually came to adorn Scottian historical novels, they thus did not so much supplement the fiction with a visual mode of representation as give physical form to the mental pictures already generated by the text. The transformation of historical fiction into a visual medium meant significant changes both in the novel's form and in its function. The French historical novel, in its post-Scott incarnation, ceased to serve primarily as a guide to ethical conduct written by and for women and became instead a historical spectacle-a form of entertainment as well as a tool for the production of a new national identity. Moreover, in the hands of Scott and his French imitators of the r82os, r83os, and r84os, the novel became a commodity to be consumed by readers of both genders. This chapter explores the nature of Scott's transformation of the historical novel in France, pro4 · The classic studies of Scott's influence on the French novel are Louis Maigron, Le roman...


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