Anne, Aughrim, Boyne, Catriona, Charles II, Culloden, Elizabeth II, Falkirk, George I, George II, Glenshiel, Highlanders, Jacobites, James II, James III, Kidnapped, Killiecrankie, Lowlanders, Mary and William, N.C. Wyeth, Prestonpans, Prince Charles, Requiem, Robert Louis Stevenson, Scotland, Sir Walter Scott, The Black Arrow, The Old Pretender, Treasure Island, Underwoods, War of Austrian Succession, Waverly, Young Folks
Dear Readers, welcome, as always.
We’re taking a break from JRRT in this posting and looking at another favorite, Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel, Kidnapped,
which was first serialized in what must have been a remarkable Victorian children’s magazine, Young Folks (1871-1897, with various titles), as it featured Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1881-1882) and The Black Arrow (1883), as well.
It has been published and republished numerous times since its original appearance (just google the title), but, if you read us regularly, you’ll already know our favorite edition is that published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1913 and illustrated by N. C. Wyeth (although we agree with the critics that his Treasure Island, 1911, is even better). Here are a few of the illustrations to give you an idea—these are much moodier than those for Treasure Island, we think.
The actual title is based upon 18th-century models, where a great deal of the plot may be teasingly outlined beforehand. We won’t give it all to you, but it begins: Kidnapped Being the Memoirs of David Balfour in the Year 1751 How He Was Kidnapped and Cast Away; His Sufferings in a Desert Isle; His Journey in the Wild Highlands; His Acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and Other Notorious Highland Jacobites…
“Jacobites” if you are not acquainted with the term, means “followers of/those loyal to Jacob (that is, James)” and the Jacob/James story marks a turning point in the history of the British Isles.
The story begins when Charles II of England dies in 1685 without leaving a legitimate heir.
The throne then goes to his younger brother, James II.
James was a very unpopular king, for some very complicated reasons, and he was driven from the throne in 1688 by a conspiracy which included members of Parliament, some of his army, and his daughter, Mary, as well as his son-in-law, William the Stadthoulder of the Netherlands.
James didn’t go very easily and there was war in the British Isles from 1689 to 1692, with three major battles, Killiecrankie in Scotland (1689),
the Boyne, 1690,
and Aughrim, 1691, both in Ireland.
Although James II’s forces lost, that did not end the matter, however. James II died in exile in 1701, but his son, the potential James III (called by his enemies “The Old Pretender”, meaning “claimant to the throne”), continued the struggle, being involved in three major attempts at taking back the monarchy.
In the meantime, Mary and William had both died and Mary’s younger sister, Anne,
who succeeded them, as well. To keep both religious and family continuity, it had been agreed that, since Anne had no surviving heirs, her second-cousin, George, the Elector of Hanover (a country in what is now western Germany) and his family would inherit the throne, which George did, in 1714, as George I of England.
That continuity worked so well, in fact, that he is the direct ancestor of the present queen, Elizabeth II,
(We just couldn’t resist including this– even royalty don’t take reigning totally seriously, it seems!)
Not a year later, there was a plan to take the throne by invading Scotland, raising an army of Lowlanders and Highlanders alike, and marching on London. There was one inconclusive battle, at Sherriffmuir, in 1715,
but, even with the arrival of James-the-possible-third,
the whole thing fell apart. And something similar happened with the next attempt, in 1719. Modest Spanish support was not enough and the Jacobite army failed at Glenshiel
and things subsided into a cold war until 1745. During the intervening years, the struggle between Britain and France, begun in the days of Louis XIV (ruled 1661-1715) had intensified, with France supporting James II and his son as proxies. In 1745, the latest war, the so-called “War of the Austrian Succession”, had been going on since 1740. This was a much more complex pan-European war, but, with Britain and France backing different candidates for the throne, there was a good opportunity for a further attempt on the part of France to destabilize her old opponent. Thus, when it was proposed that the dashing young son of James, Prince Charles (1720-1788),
backed by a small French army
(with another waiting in the wings for an invasion of southern England), should land in Scotland and raise the country against the government of George II, the Old Pretender agreed.
Unfortunately for their cause, this ended as the other attempts had, in failure—and this was the final failure. After one great victory, at Prestonpans in 1745,
and a smaller one at Falkirk, in early 1746,
the plan failed at Culloden in April, 1746,
and this was the last grand attempt. As the inspiration for literature in the romantic period, however, it was extremely successful, beginning with Sir Walter Scott’s
Waverley, published anonymously in 1814.
Regularly regarded as the first great historical novel, it was the beginning of great commercial success for Scott, as well as the beginning of a process which turned Scotland’s past into the basis of an entire cultural industry, of which Kidnapped (1886) and its sequel, Catriona (1893) formed a small, but prominent part and is still with us today in the US (and elsewhere) in Scottish festivals and bumperstickers.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
We can’t conclude without including Stevenson’s “Requiem” (from his collection Underwoods, 1887),
which we’ve always admired and which is on his tomb in Samoa, where he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1894.