The Antiquary is the most humorous historical fiction in the Waverley series that I’ve read so far. Sir Walter Scott pens a satirical story on superstition and deeply rooted absurd conventions entertained in Scotland in the 18th century. Unlike in most of Scott’s novels, this one centers on the titular character, the Antiquary, an amateur historian, archeologist, and a collector of antiques who brings much interest and comicality to the story.
The Antiquary is an unusual hero for a historical fiction, being someone past his prime of life and eccentric. But he was the most entertaining character of the story. He was closely followed by Sir Arthur Wardour, a baronet of ancient descent. However, the comicality is balanced off with some pathos by the story of Major Neville (alias Lovel), a young and promising officer in the army whose love for Miss Isabel Wardour is marred by his questionable birth.
If you look at this novel as a story to delve in, I’d say there isn’t much. Except for the thematic touch on possible illegitimacy and its consequences, the story is more of a commentary on the general life and beliefs of the last decade of the 18th century in which time it is set. But what lacks in the story is made up by the characters, for Sir Walter Scott has brought some interesting characters to entertain the readers. There wasn’t a single character that I disliked. Even the villain Dousterswivel I found to be entertaining. 🙂
Here too as always, Sir Scott transports the reader to the Scottish setting with its beautiful landscape and its diverse inhabitants. This mixture of nature and diversity of class always connects the reader to the novel so that despite what faults the reader may find in it, he never loses interest in the story. Although, except for Ivanhoe I’ve only read novels in the Waverley series, I can safely say that Sir Walter Scott’s historical fictions are quite entertaining. And The Antiquary is the most entertaining that I’ve so far read.