Home > Uncategorized > Walter Scott: The worst sort of frenzy, military frenzy, hath possessed man, woman and child

Walter Scott: The worst sort of frenzy, military frenzy, hath possessed man, woman and child

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Walter Scott: Fighting

Walter Scott: War’s cannibal priest, druid red from his human sacrifice

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Walter Scott
From The Antiquary

“Why,” would he say, “did the boy, Tam Rintherout, whom, at my wise sister’s instigation, I, with equal wisdom, took upon trial – why did he pilfer apples, take birds’ nests, break glasses, and ultimately steal my spectacles, except that he felt that noble emulation which swells in the bosom of the masculine sex, which has conducted him to Flanders with a musket on his shoulder, and doubtless will promote him to a glorious halbert, or even to the gallows?”

***

“And what news do you bring us from Edinburgh, Monkbarns?” said Sir Arthur; “how wags the world in Auld Reekie?”

“Mad, Sir Arthur, mad – irretrievably frantic – far beyond dipping in the sea, shaving the crown, or drinking hellebore. The worst sort of frenzy, a military frenzy, hath possessed man, woman, and child.”

***

“And yet, with all my courage, Mr. Oldbuck, I am glad to hear our people are getting under arms.”

“Under arms, Lord love thee!…My own vision in Edinburgh has been something similar. I called to consult my lawyer; he was clothed in a dragoon’s dress, belted and casqued, and about to mount a charger, which his writing-clerk (habited as a sharp-shooter) walked to and fro before his door. I went to scold my agent for having sent me to advise with a madman; he had stuck into his head the plume, which in more sober days he wielded between his fingers, and figured as an artillery officer. My mercer had his spontoon in his hand, as if he measured his cloth by that implement, instead of a legitimate yard. The banker’s clerk, who was directed to sum my cash-account, blundered it three times, being disordered by the recollection of his military tellings-off at the morning-drill. I was ill, and sent for a surgeon –

He came – but valour so had fired his eye,
And such a falchion glittered on his thigh,
That, by the gods, with such a load of steel,
I thought he came to murder, – not to heal.

I had recourse to a physician, but he also was practising a more wholesale mode of slaughter than that which his profession had been supposed at all times to open to him. And now, since I have returned here, even our wise neighbours of Fairport have caught the same valiant humour. I hate a gun like a hurt wild duck – I detest a drum like a quaker; – and they thunder and rattle out yonder upon the town’s common, so that every volley and roll goes to my very heart.”


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