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Old Mortality (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 28 May 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199555303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199555307
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 3 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 342,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's only recently that I discovered Scott, but the more novels by him I read the better I like them it seems. Having finished Waverley; or 'Tis Sixty Years Since (Oxford World's Classics) and The Antiquary (Oxford World's Classics) (which so far is still my personal favorite) I started 'Old Mortality' with high hopes, and was not disappointed.

The story/plot is 'classic Scott' so to speak: a young man (Henry Morton) finds himself - at first willy nilly - caught up in a major conflict in Scottish history, the 'Killing Time' of the 1670s when the Covenanters of the Scottish Lowlands rose in rebellion against what they felt to be religious oppression by Charles II's government. But he is torn between the two sides: Morton himself is no religious fanatic (on the contrary, he is if anything anachronistically liberal) nor does he want to overthrow Charles II, but rather joins the Covenanters as such seems the only way to end the English oppression. But he is also in love with Edith Bellenden, granddaughter of a Royalist noble family, whom in turn is courted by the (royalist) young Lord Evandale...

Complications enough there, and Scott - as I've grown to expect from him - makes full use of them, and keeps the story moving forward at a good speed so I never stopped reading late at night (which was hard, even then) without wondering what would happen next and eagerly looking forward to my next opportunity to read on. And, as usual also, there's a good amount of 'comic relief' as well amidst the pitched battles, pursuits and intrigues.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the best of Scott's novels. This is my fourth copy, its predecessors having fallen to bits like Betteredge's copies of Robinson Crusoe and for the same reason.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Masterful Synthesis 21 Mar. 2013
By Brent Hightower - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The impression many readers have of Walter Scott is that he is a dull writer; and it's true that his prose seems at first unapproachable for those used to twentieth and post-twentieth-century fiction. That is why I would recommend Old Mortality as an introduction to any reader unfamiliar with his work. It is a flat-out barn burning adventure story, really thrilling to read, and as is much of Scott's work also a vivid window into history - the history in this case fascinating for both its foreignness from our times (far greater than one might suppose reading a book about such a relatively recent era in Scotland), and also for its stark, even frightening, similarity to our times.

It is set in the late seventeenth-century, in a nation still in the throes of a decaying feudal system, beset by religious warfare and corresponding conflict between the impulses of modernity and reaction; and this feeling of both closeness and contrast to modern times holds one of the book's fascinations.

The setting is of course also memorable, and finely drawn. What better scene could there be than this brooding landscape of castles and mists - rugged coastlines and crags - carved everywhere by ever-flowing water? Something about that land seems to endow all human action with an epic grandeur, and the undoubtedly epic action of the book is enhanced by that backdrop and finally by another of Scott's great strengths - the brilliance of his characters. Every character in this novel rings true to life, but particularly the mad, indomitable, religious-zealot at the center of the action. He is a man one cannot like (or at least I cannot) but whom I found fascinating and came to have a grudging admiration for, if only in the manner one admires a sheer force of nature!

And finally, Scott had a mastery of the structural architecture of the novel. This intense, complexly interwoven story of a love torn apart by differing visions of life is rendered seamlessly and with vividly clarity, so that in the end one feels they have not only read a ripping adventure story, but also seen a brilliant picture of a very remote world, vivid enough to afford a new perspective on the meaning of our current age.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Perfect Introduction to the First Historical Novel 30 May 2015
By James M. Rawley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm reviewing the Oxford World's Classics edition of OLD MORTALITY, edited by Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson.

This may be the best annotated edition of a classic I've ever seen. And OLD MORTALITY may be Walter Scott's best book.

It's not widely known, but Scott fans in the nineteenth century, when Scott was much more popular than he is now, favored his first three novels after WAVERLEY over all the others he wrote later. These three books were GUY MANNERING, THE ANTIQUARY, and OLD MORTALITY -- books we hear a lot less of today than IVANHOE and QUENTIN DURWARD.

But the fact is, Scott always wrote fast and easily, and the books that were closest to his heart were the ones that he wrote first, books about Scotland, his home, and the various characters he encountered in it. OLD MORTALITY was his first real historical novel, taking place in the 1600s, a hundred fifty years before Scott started writing it, and dealing with murderous religious conflict between Scottish Presbyterians and English Anglicans.

Scott took a nineteenth century liberal view of the conflict, portraying Scottish Protestant rebels as fanatics -- but these fanatics were in Scott's own ancestry, and he makes them more powerful and respectable than he might even have wanted to. Meanwhile his "common-sensical" hero and heroine are a little dull, and very much in the wrong time period. It's not so easy to be sensible when a war is actually going on.

All this and more is explained in the brilliant introduction and excellent notes of the editors. And Scott survives notes way better than most authors. Until the twenty-first century, readers had access only to later versions of novels like OLD MORTALITY, versions that Scott had added long notes and longer introductions to, in order to double his own sales and explain things better to his readers. Even without these notes (which Stevenson and Davidson explain in their own notes) Scott's writing style is professorial in its own right -- so much so that it's surprising how wonderfully he handles fast action and tense dramatic scenes.

So here was a topic dear to his heart. Here was the inventor of the historical novel writing his first historical novel, the one whose topic he cared most about. Here was a clever shading of historical figures so that his lead characters expressed not a seventeenth century, but a nineteenth century view of what was right for Scotland. And here is an annotated edition that explains the shadings, shows where Scott changed history and why, and lets the reader follow better than ever before what the real historical situation was, what Scott made of it, and where all the real and fictional excitement comes from.

Even in Scott's own time, living Presbyterians were politically enraged with what Scott had done. Nowadays, we are as likely to think of Muslim terrorists as of Presbyterian assassins when we read OLD MORTALITY. But we'll never read it with such wonderful help as we get in this Oxford edition.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Old Mortality 4 Feb. 2011
By Stephen Quinn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm slowly working my way through Scott. He doesn't disappoint. His Scottish dialect is frustraing but spot on--try reading it aloud. The framing of the story was a bit confusing, but the story was exciting, the language and settings fantastic, and the action thrilling. Can't wait to read the next Waverly volume!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Page Turner 30 Jan. 2010
By Richard Bailey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read four of Scotts'novels and this was my favorite.The first several chapters were alittle slow, but the rest were full speed ahead. Scott is a master of language and ideas.
A ripping good story 24 Mar. 2015
By annie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This classical book is a wonderful,lively story of the 17th century and later violent suppression of Calvinists in Scotland by the English . It gives very funny examples of Scots prisoners preaching to the English soldiers herding them along and horrific battles and other violence. All the characters come alive. The Scots dialect can be understood generally by reading it phonetically
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