Book launch of Frolics in the Face of Europe Sir Walter Scott, Continental Travel, and the Tradition of the Grand Tour by Dr Iain Gordon Brown on the occasion of the commemoration of Sir Walter Scott 250th birth anniversary in 2021.
A webinar with Iain Gordon Brown and Joseph Farrell
Introduced by Katia Pizzi, Director, ICI London
Sir Walter Scott wrote a great deal about his theoretical wish to travel extensively in Europe. In fact, he made only three Continental ventures. Whereas so many of his friends undertook versions of the traditional Grand Tour, Scott was largely content to read widely of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany: to imagine scenes others wanted to experience in reality. But in the last year of his life, he did eventually see the shores of the Mediterranean for himself. Worn out by illness and over-work, he was persuaded to accept the British Admiralty’s offer of free passage in a warship to Malta and Naples. After four months there, he went on to Rome for some weeks, and then journeyed homeward via the cities of Northern Italy. Scott was feted wherever he went. But he was too ill to appreciate much; and his brief encounter with something of the later Grand Tour spirit showed how little such cultural travel actually meant to him. He would, frankly, much rather have remained in his native Scotland. Constant comparisons with the familiar scenery and history of Scotland were made in the beautiful country round Naples; his abiding interest in the Jacobites was nurtured in Rome and at Frascati. But his late discovery of what so many of his contemporaries had enjoyed at a much earlier stage of life left him otherwise largely unmoved. Nevertheless, Walter Scott’s Italian journey is fascinating in its own way: it is, undeniably, a deeply affecting episode in the long story of the British connection with the warm south.
Dr Iain Gordon Brown, a graduate of the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, has written widely on Walter Scott and (quite separately) on the Grand Tour. Indeed, these two subjects have been pillars of his scholarly life. In his new book Frolics in the Face of Europe: Sir Walter Scott, Continental Travel and the Tradition of the Grand Tour, both areas of research are happily united. He is author or editor of fourteen other books and monographs, and has written some three hundred essays, articles and reviews in academic journals. Until his retirement he was Principal Curator of Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland, where he is now an Honorary Fellow. He has been President of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club and is a Curatorial Adviser to the Abbotsford Trust. He has held the elected office of Curator of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and is currently Consultant to the Adam Drawings Project at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.
Joseph Farrell is Professor Emeritus of Italian at the University of Strathclyde. He has also been translator of film scripts, novels and plays, theatre reviewer, and author of several works including a study of Leonardo Sciascia, a travelogue on Sicily, a biography of Dario Fo and Franca Rame as well as the biographical study, Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa. His next work Honour and the Sword, a study of duelling, is due to be published in late May.
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