This is a hugely enjoyable book, and it is strange I had never heard of it until I heard someone on the radio recommend it to someone who had never read Scott before. I had read, and enjoyed, two of his novels before, but I had not a clue what this might be about. It turns out it is set in Scott's own times (the only such one he wrote?) and there is none of the preliminary fictitous manuscripts or "sources" of the story. It is just the author writing the tale. There seems to be a lot of autobiography in the (affectionately but comically portrayed) Antiquary - obsessed with books and collecting (and being easily fooled by frausters) along with ancient ruins (getting things hilariously wrong). To this is added the laird (Scott the longing after an ancient name, the recounting so vividly the horrors of debt). This story must have been the model for all subsequent saga novels, the plot proceeding at a stately pace as all sorts of interesting events - some astoundingly dramatic, some extraorinarliy comic, one or two very poignant indeed, are recounted on the way. I think the Bluecoat begger, as a sort of latter day Minstrel, is a brilliant device, pulling all this together. The end is never really in doubt, though its final resolution is a bit complicated (or you could say too simple). 20th Century democrats might have been put off by Scott's romantic semi-feudalism, so apparent in this post-Napoleonic tale, but he tells it with such ironic self-awareness, such comic observation and such narrative drive that you would need the heart of Tommy Sheridan to .....well, it is just so enjoyable, well structured, well written, full of contemporary and autobiographic detail, that I am totally surprised I had never heard of it.