CC Spin #36: Rob Roy

 Success!  I had a little trouble with this one, because I was trying to read it on my phone, and that was just not working very well.  I was less than halfway through and March was looming, but a nice Penguin copy came across the donation table and I took it home.  After that, it was easy to read 50 pages a day and zoom through...

Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott

When I read The Heart of Mid-Lothian, I was surprised that it wasn't about Jacobites adventuring all over the highlands, but that turns out to be Rob Roy.  Honestly I preferred Jeanie Deans, but this was quite fun.  I can see why stay-at-home English folks of the mid 1800s loved reading this!

It's 1715, and our narrator is Frank Osbaldistone, whose father is a London businessman.  Young Frank prefers art and poetry to accounting (and doesn't quite see why he should work hard when his dad has plenty of money), and his exasperated dad sends him off to cousins in Northumberland, pointing out that he who does not work does not get to spend his dad's hard-earned money.  In fact, it's Frank's job to hand his place in the family over to the best-qualified cousin -- but Dad shook the family dust off his feet long ago in a quarrel, and hasn't seen his brother, much less any of the sons, in many years.  They are all stereotypical 18th-century squires, only interested in horses, dogs, and drink -- except the youngest, Rashleigh, who is extremely clever, but diabolically so.  As Frank happily and cluelessly hangs out with his lovely and interesting distant cousin Diana, Rashleigh heads off to London.

It takes some time, but Frank eventually starts wondering why he's never heard from his father, and he starts hearing news from London that worries him.  Rashleigh has been up to no good, and has managed to convince the English government that Frank is a Jacobite and highwayman who stole government funds, and also to disappear with valuable papers in his possession.  Frank's father will be ruined and bankrupt, and Frank will be executed for treason, unless he goes off to Glasgow and finds help.

Much Jacobite adventuring ensues, as Frank heads into the highlands and enlists the help of Rob Roy, a real historical personage and a MacGregor.  He's a fugitive from the law, because he's of course all for the Jacobite cause, and also he's been making his living by running a protection racket on most of his neighbors.  But he's a good upright fellow for all that, and he's taken to Frank, who has no idea what he's gotten himself into.  Their adventure culminates on the eve of the 1715 uprising.

So that was fun!  Frank is a nice young fellow, and realistically stubborn and clueless.  Rob Roy steals the show, even to the point of grabbing the title for himself (it's a much better title than "Frank Osbaldistone and his Rotten Cousin"), though his wife is just as good a character.  She is described by a servant: “The wife, man—the wife,—an awfu' wife she is. She downa bide the sight o' a kindly Scot, if he come frae the Lowlands, far less of an Inglisher, and she'll be keen for a' that can set up King James, and ding down King George.”  When we meet her, she does not disappoint.  (And come to think of it -- if you don't want to deal with lots of Scots dialect, forget this book.)

My e-copy, on my phone, had a lengthy introduction on the life of Rob Roy, and had a fabulous anecdote about a time when he went and stayed with a distant law-abiding cousin, who showed him great hospitality.  To show his appreciation, Rob wanted to take the cousin's little boy (who liked reading) and bring him up to be a proper man instead of being ruined by all this book-learning nonsense.  The cousin had a hard time wiggling out of that one, but suggested that since the boy was delicate after a long illness, perhaps Rob could come get him in a year or so.

I think this will pretty much do it for me and Sir Walter Scott, unless anybody has a recommendation for an unmissable novel.  I've read three, and I'm satisfied.  Heart of Mid-Lothian is the best one!


  1. I love Sir Walter Scott, but must admit Rob Roy was not my favourite! Your recap of events was good because I swear I wouldn't have the first recollection of what it was about. I have vague impression of the lady disappearing from a tower, but that's about it. Perhaps I should watch the Liam Neeson movie and see if that refreshes my interest...

    I've read a lot of Scott's Waverley novels, and definitely have my favourites. Which other one besides this and Heart of Mid-Lothian have you read?

    1. Just Ivanhoe, so all together that's not much!

  2. I have to look up what "Jacobite adventuring" means. I confess I missed a lot of US History, too. I think I spent all high school in a fog.

    Here is my Spin classic: OLD MAN AND THE SEA

    1. I am terrible at US history! And Scottish as well.


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