James Chandlеr. Romantic Historicism and Nation State…
Romantic Historicism and Nation State: Time-Place Definitions
Do narratives of the modern nation assume any particular temporal-spatial form? Do they shape their worlds in mutually recognizable ways? Is there a «chronotope» that might be identified with the modern nation state? These questions are indeed complex. They may be unanswerable, or may be answerable only in the negative. But to the extent that they are worth posing at all, I suggest they call for attention to the formal properties of one of the literary narrative genres most closely associated with the rise of nineteenth-century nationalism, the historical novel—a genre generally (and for the most part correctly) taken to be have been consolidated, if not quite invented, by Sir Walter Scott. And I suggest further that to understand the spatial-temporal structure of the historical novel as an emergent, and then quickly dominant, form in the early nineteeth century, we need to come to terms with the vexed question of «historicism» in the Romantic era.
To consult the critical literature on the history of historicism in post-Enlightenment Europe is, indeed, to confront an oddly sorted range of opinion. The oddity is that, while commentators are quite unanimous in the judgment that European intellectual culture underwent radical historiographical transformation between, say, 1770 and 1830, they are quite divided about what that transformation actually amounts to: there is more agreement, for example, about the claim that the concept of contemporaneity undergoes major changes in this period than there is about what it means to make such a claim. No doubt, from commentators as diverse as Friedrich Meinecke, R.G. Collingwood, Georg Lukacs, Hannah Arendt, Louis Althusser, Reinhart Koselleck, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, J.G.A. Pocock, Hans Blumenberg, Tzvetan Todorov, and Benedict Anderson, one could hardly expect full unanimity. Yet each locates a fundamental change in the recognition and representation of historical time in a time that is either called "Romantic" or dated to a period (roughly 1770—1830) that we otherwise associate with the advent of Romanticism in its early (i.e., British) phase.
One might, for example, compare two of the most provocative and influential recent commentators on the subject: Reinhart Koselleck, in the series of essays collected as Futures Past (1979; English trans. 1985), and Benedict Anderson, in Imagined Communities (1983). Neither of these writers takes note of the other's work, and this is unfortunate, in view of the overlap and apparent tension between certain aspects of their arguments. Like most other writers on the subject, they agree in dating the transformation in question to the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What is more, they employ terminology’s that seem to resemble each other: where Anderson addresses himself to typification, simultaneity, and temporal homogeneity, Koselleck discusses exemplarity, contemporaneity, and temporal neutrality. Their ways of putting these terms into play, however, suggests some interesting discrepancies.
Working from categories that Walter Benjamin sketched in the "Theses on History", Anderson attempts, in a now well-known argument, to represent the emergence of the concept of homogeneous, empty time as participating in a large-scale shift of paradigms from the medieval dynastic order to the order of the modern nation-state: "The idea of a sociological organism moving calendrically through homogeneous, empty time is a precise analogue of the idea of the nation, which also is conceived as a solid community moving steadily down (or up) history".1 Anderson goes back to Erich Auerbach's account of temporal representation in the Bible to argue that the notion of simultaneity in question there "views time as something close to what Benjamin calls Messianic time, a simultaneity of past and future in an instantaneous present".2 In such a view, adds Anderson, "the word 'meanwhile' cannot be of real significance "for it acquires meaning only in the temporal regime that replaces that of the dynastic "simultaneity along time" — i.e., an order centered in Benjamin's "idea of 'homogeneous, empty time', in which simultaneity is, as it were, transverse, cross-time, marked not by prefiguring and fulfillment, but by temporal coincidence, and measured by the clock and calendar".3 There is a problem here in Anderson's attempt to narrate as a sequence Benjamin's distinction between opposed historical procedures, but the main tendencies of the scheme become clearer in juxtaposition with Koselleck's account.
When Koselleck speaks of what happens in this (for him) equally crucial period in the history of historical temporality, he puts similar terms into play, but with an apparently different conclusion in view. Koselleck attempts to describe the "epochal threshold" that he explicitly locates between 1770 and 1830 and that with some hesitation he describes as a temporalization of history.4 The "new dynamism" of the history in this period demands what Koselleck calls "temporal categories of movement "and hence the "excessive use of the term Zeit, beginning around 1800, to gain insight or power or both within the turmoil of social and political movement".5 One can see the close proximity of this argument to Anderson's in, for example, Koselleck's assertion that, by virtue of this temporalization, "providential anticipation and the exemplarity of ancient histories fade away" or his comment about the "homogenization" of experience that occurs in the new time (p. 253). For Koselleck, however, this new time also involves an important process of differentiation precisely involving "theoretically enriched concepts of time"; this was a history whose "new dynamism demanded temporal categories of movement" (p. 256—57). Once in play, such concepts contain "structural potential … which cannot be reduced to the pure temporal succession of history" (p. 113). Thus, whereas Koselleck posits a new "homogenization of experience" for the decades around 1800 in western Europe, pointing to the development of the new temporal concepts that involve this complex structural potential, Anderson uses similar terms to make a rather different claim. He suggests that homogeneity of experience is a feature closely associated with what he calls "pure temporal succession" but seems to enclose this kind of homogeneous or pure temporality within the respective communal imaginaries of particular nation states. A further problem, internal to Anderson's influential and suggestive account, has to do with the respective roles played by these temporal categories in shaping the story that Anderson tells. In Anderson, though not in Benjamin, the question arises but remains unaddressed: in what temporality is the shift from messianic to homogeneous empty time being recounted?
I suggest we return to the phrase that descends to us as one of the most self-consciously novel and distinctive coinages of that period, the term it seems to have coined precisely to identify its own novelty and distinction: "the spirit of the age". The extent of the obsession with this concept by 1830 was testily attested in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine at the end of that year in an anonymously published letter "On the Spirit of the Age": "That which, in the slang of faction, is called the Spirit of the Age, absorbs, at present, the attention of the world".6 It was in the following year that John Stuart Mill published his famous series of seven articles on the same subject, partly in response to Robinson, and (conveniently for our purposes) took a stab at dating the new obsession with dates: "The "spirit of the age" is in some measure a novel expression. I do not believe that it is to be met with in any work exceeding fifty years in antiquity. … The idea of comparing one's own age with former ages, or with our notion of those which are yet to come, had occurred to philosophers; but it never before was itself the dominant idea of any age".7 The dominance of this "idea", I now want to suggest, can be reformulated in terms of a concern with anachronism — or, perhaps I should say, with the emergence of a new conception of anachronism, now understood as a measurable form of dislocation.8
Anachronism is not, like the term "the spirit of the age "a coinage of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (it can be dated to the seventeenth century).9 However, a related term, "anatopism", which appears to be a back formation from "anachronism", not only dates to the period of the spirit of the age but also helps to illuminate it. Thomas De Quincey actually sounds as if he thinks he is coining this term in 1850 when he refers to "geographical blunders, or what might he called anatopisms", but it is in fact already recorded in the writings of his mentor Coleridge. In arranging certain books, Coleridge wrote in 1812, "the puzzled librarian must commit anachronism in order to avoid anatopism". The either/or of Coleridge's formulation suggests that the analogy of anachronism and anatopism can assume the character of an inverted mirror structure or chiasmus. Something in its place can be understood as metaphorically out of its time, Coleridge implies; and something in its time, presumably, can be understood as metaphorically out of its place.
This chiastic figure helped to make it possible to conceptualize culture as a shared object of study for the fields of history and ethnography, as the link that has bound those fields in so intimate and uneasy a relationship for more than two centuries. In the literature of this period, one can see a new preoccupation with the dating of the cultural place, the locating of the cultural moment. Some such conception underlies the opening line from L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there".10 It is the second part of the quotation that tells you that the concept of culture is at stake: they do [the present tense is important] things differently, they do things in a different manner, they have different manners, different moeurs, different norms.
In a book that takes its title from Hartley's declaration, David Lowenthal has argued that the perspective that inheres in the metaphor of the past as a foreign country, the one which Lowenthal regards as making possible "the awareness of anachronism", is of relatively recent vintage; he explicitly assigns the date of this awareness to "the late eighteenth century" in Europe.11 It is roughly this same sense in which Georg Lukacs argues that Scott's Waverley novels need to be understood in relation to a notion of "necessary anachronism" that is absolutely crucial to their construction.12
Extending the claims of Lukacs and Lowenthal, then, I want to argue that both the specifying of historical cultures in relation to the question of anachronism and the conceptualizing of that question in terms of the mutual fit between anachronism and anatopism became the major preoccupation of the wide range of writing in British Romanticism.
The crucial element in this new Scottish-Enlightenment (and proto-Romantic) sense of history, and perhaps implicit as well in the depiction of Romantic historicism in many of the retrospective twentieth-century accounts, is a dialectical sense of periodization in which particular "societies" or "nations", newly theorized as such by just these writers, are recognized as existing in "states" that belong at once to two different, and to some extent competing, orders of temporality. On the one hand, each society is theorized as moving stepwise through a series of stages sequenced in an order that is more-or-less autonomous and stable. Insofar as the stages are also "ages", these sequencings can be said to constitute temporal orders. On the other hand, this same historiographical discourse always implies a second temporality, one in which these different national times can be correlated and calendrically dated in respect to each other.
When this scheme is appropriated by the Germans, especially by Hegel, the larger order is understood to have its own developmental sequence, but this is not necessarily so for the Scottish-Enlightenment writers and their later disciples. In the Scottish-Enlightenment accounts, the emphasis is not on the universal progress of spirit but rather on measurement, comparison, and explanation: rates of historical change are measurable by comparing the progress of different societies with one another and are to some degree explicable by relating the state of a society with the "state of the world" at that same moment. To locate a given state of society within a given state of the world is to establish its age or epoch in a more complete sense and thus to establish a more thorough understanding of it as a culture. When one begins to locate a state of society within a given state of the world, one produces a "historical situation" for the actions of those who inhabit it. However familiar such a concept may be to us in our recent "return to history", its novelty in the discourse of Romantic historicism is what I seek to establish here.
This relational paradigm can be briefly illustrated in John Millar's early study of class and gender, The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks in Society (1771). When Millar discusses the "state" of some society, he normally locates that state, explicitly or implicitly, in a sequence of the sort: barbaric, pastoral, agricultural, commercial. Each state, in Millar's account, has its attendant "systems of manners," as is also ostentatiously the case in the apparatus for Hume's History of England.13 Millar is equally concerned, however, with the larger state of things in and to which the society's successive cultural states are related. This latter relationship proves absolutely crucial in Millar's typical form of analysis, though it is not always made explicit there. Consider how implicit it remains, for example, in the following passage from Millar's introduction: "When we survey the present state of the globe, we find that, in many parts of it, the inhabitants are so destitute of culture, as to appear little above the condition of brute animals; and even when we peruse the remote history of polished nations, we have seldom any difficulty in tracing them to a state of the same rudeness and barbarism" (p. 2—3). In such a framework, one can describe peoples of two different historical moments as belonging to the same state of civilization: in this case the same state of "rudeness and barbarism". Nonetheless, being in the state of barbarism in the present "state of the globe" and being in the state of barbarism in some past "state of the globe" will not be quite "the same", in Millar's analysis, because of the different global circumstances of such states of a nation — what was also called, in Scottish Enlightenment idiom, the "situation of the world" at the time of a given society's having reached a given social stage.14
Indeed, one could not in the same sense even speak of the "state of the globe" in relation to the barbaric state of existing polished nations. The "globe" would signify differently in different times. It likewise matters for Millar whether a certain society reaches the commercial age, for example, in late antiquity, the Renaissance, or the eighteenth century or whether it has not yet reached it at all by the time of his writing.15 As theories of national development, with the relevant concepts of "backwardness" and "forwardness" begin to become more and more fine grained about the texture and sequence of cultural states, the chronologies become better and better calibrated within the increasingly fined-tuned sense of time and timing of the bourgeois public sphere. This was a public sphere progressively articulated in variously scaled chronologies, a domain of proliferating periodicals measuring out the years and months and weeks in the collective lives of a widening readership.16
In social theory such as Millar's we have the basis for what would come to be known in the Marxian tradition as the principle of Ungleichzeitichkeit — or "uneven development.17 It is, roughly, the principle that Leon Trotsky famously used in The History of the Russian Revolution (1931) to explain how it is that the most "backward" country in Europe managed successfully to stage the world's first proletarian revolution in 1917. Trotsky derives his version of this principle by considering the impact of capitalism on the older understanding of the repetition of historical cycles. "Unevenness", which he calls the most general law of the historical process, is most visible in the case of backward countries. It means that "under the whip of external necessity", the "backward culture" of less advanced countries "is compelled to make leaps". "Externality", in this context, can be understood to refer roughly to what Millar calls the relation of the state of society to "the state of the globe". In Trotsky's terms, the unevenness of the relation of internal to external states constitutes "the privilege of historical backwardness" by virtue of which the backward nation is permitted, sometimes even compelled, to adopt "whatever is ready in advance of any specified date".18
In various prefatory commentaries on his historical novels, Scott produced an implicit narrative of Scottish development in the eighteenth century very much in terms of what Scotland was permitted or compelled to adopt by its more economically advanced neighbor to the south.19 That is logic of uneven development had indeed structured Scott’s fiction from his first great experiment had been acknowledged in the final chapter of Waverley, "A Postscript, Which Should Have Been a Preface", where Scott famously attempts to situate his project in Scottish intellectual and material history: "There is no European nation which, within the course of half a century, or little more, has undergone so complete a change as this kingdom of Scotland. The effects of the insurrection of 1745, — the destruction of the patriarchal power of the Highland chiefs, — the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions of the Lowland nobility and barons, — the total eradication of the Jacobite party, which, averse to intermingle with the English, or adopt their customs, long continued to pride themselves upon maintaining ancient Scottish manners and customs — commenced this innovation. The gradual influx of wealth, and extension of commerce, have since united to render the present people of Scotland a class of beings as different from their grandfathers, as the existing English are from those of Queen Elizabeth's time".
"Queen Elizabeth's time" is comprehended within the time of England. England's "progress" through the stages or states of society had, until the eighteenth century, been unrivaled in Europe for the speed of its acceleration, but that rate of progress had been utterly outstripped by the acceleration of Scottish development in the century since the Union of 1707. In Scott's reckoning, the time of Scotland, at least in the period we date to the eighteenth century, moves faster than the time of England by a ratio of more than a century to a generation. Elizabeth reigned from 1558 to 1603, and Scott follows the recently standardized sense of a generation as thirty years in making the generation of the grandfathers that of 1745, the date he stresses in the subtitle ("Tis Sixty Years Since") of the narrative explicitly dated to 1805 in Waverley. In each instance — "1745", "the last twenty or twenty-five years of the eighteenth century", "1805" — the calendrical chronology functions as the medium in which different times-in-temporalities can been merged in a yet-higher-order calculus, a historian's code.20
Scott offered the most extensive account of his new historiographical form, the closest he came to formulating a theory of the genre, in the Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe, which he composed just in time to get the novel into press by the end of 1819. Lukacs made this text appropriately central in his own theoretical remarks on Scott's contribution to nineteenth-century realism in The Historical novel, where he was eager to assimilate Scott's project to such Hegelian paradigms as "necessary anachronism".21 Of course, in view of how the operations of changing times and changing places are mutually defined in the framework of Romantic historicism, it makes sense that Scott should have produced this, his fullest articulation of the temporality of the project, in accounting for the first novel he wrote that was not on a Scottish subject. In other words, shifting geographical ground with Ivanhoe prompted Scott to reexplore the historical ground, and to reestablish the historiographical basis, of Waverley itself.22
The fact that the "Postscript" to Waverley appears as the last numbered chapter of the novel, along with other markers, identifies the author of the Postscript to Waverley as the "Author of Waverley" (to use the phrase that would become famous in the anonymity discussions). By 1819, when Ivanhoe was composed, Scott's authorship of Waverley and its sequels, though still officially secret, was widely known. The three series of "Tales of My Landlord" (1816—19) had invented a new authorial fiction, that of an editor, Jedediah Cleishbotham, who brings forth narratives of Scottish history, mainly from the 1640s to the 1740s, which had been collected and redacted by Peter Pattieson, a deceased schoolteacher from the Scottish lowlands. An altogether different authorial fiction is developed for Scott's novel of medieval England. The Dedicatory Epistle to Ivanhoe offers Scott's novel as though from one "Lawrence Templeton," who turns out to be a character from the world of the Waverley novels themselves. He is an English antiquary and a friend of the Scotsman Jonathan Oldbuck, title character of The Antiquary (1816), the Scottish novel with the most recent setting (the late 1790s) of any he had published at that point.
The fictional dedicatee of the Epistle is an English antiquary and acquaintance of both Templeton and Oldbuck, one Dr. Jonas Dryasdust, whose name of course became synonymous (such was the influence of Ivanhoe and its epistle), with the very project of antiquarianism in the nineteenth century.23 Its discussion employs the convention of the modest author's apology for offering so unworthy a book to so worthy a person. It is introduced by Templeton's reminder of an earlier conversation in which the two men are supposed to have discussed the Waverley novels — "that class of productions, in one of which the private and family affairs of your learned northern friend Mr Oldbuck of Monkbarns, were so unjustifiably exposed to the public" (Iv, Ded. Ep.). In spite of Dryasdust's criticisms of these novels as having been written "in violation of every rule assigned to the epopeia" and as having succeeded by virtue only of the rich antiquarian stores of which the author had availed himself, Templeton had suggested that such a novel might be written about the English past (Ded. Ep.). The body of the Epistle is taken up with the meeting of objections that Dryasdust is supposed to have raised against such an enterprise.
One of Dryasdust's contemptuous characterizations of the Waverley novels seems to have been especially provocative. Templeton reminds him of his charge that the popular success of these novels stemmed largely from the fact that the "unknown author" had appropriated "real characters" and "real names" from the past — that he had, in short, simply "availed himself, like a second McPherson, of the stores of antiquity which lay scattered around him, supplying his own indolence or poverty of invention, by the incidents which had actually taken place in his country at no distant period" (Ded. Ep.). Templeton's response to this criticism indicates just how crucially the logic of uneven development figures in Scott's conception of his project: "It was not above sixty or seventy years [i.e., since 1739 or 1749), you observed, that the whole north of Scotland was under a state of government nearly as simple and as patriarchal as those of our good allies the Mohawks and Iroquois. Admitting that the author cannot himself be supposed to have witnessed these times, he must have lived, you observed, among persons who had acted and suffered in them; and even within these thirty years [since 1789 infinite change has taken place in the manners of Scotland, that men look back upon their fathers' habits of society, as we do on those of the reign of Queen Anne [1701-13]. Having thus materials of every kind lying strewed around him, there was little, you observed, to embarrass the author, but the facility of choice". (Ded. Ep.) [dates are my interpolations]
The calibration of uneven temporalities plays yet a larger role here than in the postscript to Waverley in that it is both more fully elaborated and more central to the very conception of the project. Further, there is more than one calibration to attend to here, and more than one set of relations in play. Not only are time-place definitions mutually worked out between Scotland and England, but Scotland itself is divided into two "chronotopic" zones: "the whole north of Scotland" and (by extrapolation) the whole south. Dryasdust suggests an equivalence between the development of manners and habits in the Scotland of 1789 ("within these last thirty years") and that of the England of the first thirteen years of the eighteenth century ("the reign of Queen Anne"). This assignment of an English equivalent (i.e., something over a century) for a Scottish generation (say, thirty years) is broadly consistent with the claim in the Waverley Postscript that two generations had been equivalent to roughly two centuries of English development. Finally, as for the suggestion that the Highland clan societies of 1745 approached in degree of antiquity to the contemporary societies of the Mohawks and the Iroquois of North America ("our good allies"), it must be said that that comparison had been functional for practical decision making in Lowlands institutional contexts since before the time of the Seven Years' War (when the "alliance" in question was solidified). For it was in that period that William Robertson, who would become the great philosophic historian of the Scottish Enlightenment, noted that Scotland's Society for the Propagation of Christianity, in which he was active, was going to add to its ongoing mission of converting Scottish Highlanders to Presbyterianism a parallel mission to the tribal inhabitants of North America, where the threat of Catholicism, as in the Highlands, was likewise perceived as both a religious and a political menace. A savage is a savage, but a Catholic savage is a potential ally to the enemy in France. In Robertson's two great and influential histories, respectively, of Scotland and America, the paradigmatic characterizations of the Highland clansmen in the former and the Native Americans in the latter suggest a similarly parallel relation.24
Readers of Lukacs's The Historical Novel will recall that the problem of how to make an earlier culture intelligible to a later one is the very problem that he identifies as central to the Ivanhoe "Epistle", though he does so only to assimilate it to the discussion of "necessary anachronism" in Hegel's Aesthetics. In the "Epistle", this problem arises when Templeton fends off Dryasdust's second major objection to his project: that, as an antiquary, Templeton should not stoop to the rhetorical tricks of novelists. Templeton cites the precedents of Horace Walpole and George Ellis to suggest that antiquarian subject matter can be made "interesting" to readers of fiction but worries that such a project runs the risk of creating anachronism along with the "interest". The question then becomes how, without distortion or invention, can the daily life, or "vie privee", of an anterior society, if it belongs to an alien or outdated system of manners, be made "intelligible" to those who can have had no first-hand experience of it? "It is necessary", Templeton insists, "for exciting interest of any kind, that the subject assumed should be, as it were, translated into the manners, as well as the language, of the age we live in" (Iv, Ded. Ep.). And the illustrative analogy, suggestively, is to a handling of that largest of cultural divides available to Scott's imagination, that between "West" and "East" in Galland's Arabian Nights Tales.
In developing this analogy — east is to west as past is to present — Scott's persona claims that Galland succeeded because he was able to retain both the splendor of eastern costume and the wildness of eastern fiction, while "mixing with these just so much ordinary feeling and expression as rendered them interesting and intelligible" (Iv, Ded. Ep.). Operating in the analogous divide between national antiquity and national modernity, Templeton produces an analogous solution: "I have so far explained our ancient manners in modern language, and so far detailed the characters and sentiments of my persons, that the modern reader will not find himself… trammelled by the repulsive dryness of mere antiquity" (Iv, Ded. Ep.). The "translation" of one culture or system of manners into another, therefore, comes in the form of "explanation" and of giving detail of "characters and sentiments". But it is important to ask at this point just how the difference in manners is supposed to render the action of the Oriental tale or the medieval romance unintelligible to the modern reader of stories in English. Conversely, what kind of "explanation" is required to cast ancient manners in modern language? How is the mixing in of "ordinary feeling and expression" analogous to detailing the "characters and sentiments of my persons"?
Scott introduces the framework for solving these problems when he turns to the negative example of Joseph Strutt's failed historical romance of 1805, Queen-Hoo Hall. According to Templeton, the problem with this book, whose posthumous completion and publication were undertaken largely through Scott's good offices, was that it proceeded on the opposite principle from the one followed by Galland. In "distinguishing between what was ancient and modern "Strutt forgot "that extensive neutral ground" that links them, and "in this manner, a man of talent, and of great antiquarian erudition, limited the popularity of his work by excluding from it everything which was not sufficiently obsolete to be altogether forgotten and unintelligible" (Ded. Ep.). This metaphor of the neutral ground between the ancient and modern presides over the rest of Scott's analysis. That it will not be a fully satisfactory solution seems already apparent in Templeton’s elaboration of his meaning. He defines this "neutral ground" as "the large proportion ... of manners and sentiments which are common to us and to our ancestors, which have been handed down unaltered from them to us, or which, arising out of the principles of our common nature, must have existed alike in either state of society" (Ded. Ep.). The metaphor of neutral ground figures here as the insistence on "the principles of our common nature". Common nature makes for common ground, ground shared in a spirit of neutrality. This metaphor is supplemented, however, with the traditionalist metaphor: "what has been handed down unaltered". The tensions between the two metaphors are not sorted out, and Templeton fails, in the end, to provide the warrant for the historical novelist's "license" to translate the manners of one state of society into those of another.
Nor, by the same token, does Scott's persona succeed in providing a fully coherent account of how this license can be held within what he calls "legitimate bounds". It is in explaining just these bounds and the problems they create that Templeton arrives at what he calls "the most difficult part of my task": "However far [the historical novelist] may venture in a more full detail of passions and feelings, than is to be found in the ancient compositions which he imitates, he must introduce nothing inconsistent with the manners of the age; his knights, squires, grooms, and yeomen, may be more fully drawn than the hard, dry delineations of an ancient illuminated manuscript, but the character and costume of the age must remain inviolate; they must be the same figures, drawn by a better pencil, or to speak more modestly, executed in an age when the principles of art were better understood" (Ded. Ep.). The "difficulty" of both Templeton's "task" and his analysis has to do with a distinction that comes in and out of focus between the kind of text that a system of manners amounts to and the kind of text in which it is represented. To rephrase the distinction in Scott's own complex paranomasia, it is between manner as style (mode of textual treatment) and manners as subject (text to be treated). The license of the historical novelist lies primarily at the level of treatment, what Templeton calls "a more full detail of passions and feelings than is to be found in the ancient compositions which he imitates" (Ded. Ep.). The restriction the historical novelist respects lies primarily at the level of subject; however drawn, they "must be the same figures". The problem is that the account figures "figure" both at the level of style and subject matter, trope and topos. The historical novelist, one might say, is not only using ancient subjects but also imitating ancient compositions on those subjects. That is, if he is "copying ancient manners", as he sometimes puts it, his sources for these manners represent them in a manner — that is, an ancient manner — that leaves them unintelligible. The further step required, therefore, is to copy ancient manners in the modern manner. This is the manner that allows for a fuller treatment of the passions and feelings of the characters involved in the chivalric system of manners. Since the modern manner of representation is to be found most characteristically in the modern mode of romance, which is to say in the novel, the historical novel has to be, in a strict sense, postmodern.
To appreciate this point it is important to see how Templeton locates his work in relation to the prior postmodern form of fiction: Horace Walpole’s Gothic novel. Walpole described his aim in The Castle of Otranto as an effort to blend ancient and modern romance, explaining that in "the former, all was imagination and improbability; in the latter, nature is always intended to be, and sometimes has been, copied with success".25 In hoping "to reconcile the two kinds", Walpole couches his program in aesthetic or formalist terms: "Desirous of leaving the powers of fancy at liberty to expatiate through the boundless realms of invention … he wished to conduct the mortal agents in his drama according to the rules of probability".26 Scott's recasting of this language in his critical essay on Walpole is telling: "in The Castle of Otranto, it was his object to unite the marvelous turn of incident, and imposing tone of chivalry, exhibited in the ancient romance, with that accurate display of human character, and contrast of feelings and passions, which is, or ought to be, delineated in the modern novel".27 The signal difference from Walpole is that Scott, following his Scottish-Enlightenment mentors, links romance not with a state of mind but with a state of society: the one made intelligible by virtue of the chivalric code.
Scott merely hints at this link in the Dedicatory Epistle, but he elaborates it quite eloquently in his paired Encyclopedia Britannica articles on Chivalry and Romance, especially in that section of the latter where he seeks "to explain the history of Romance".28 The starting point of the analysis is the observation that the representations of Romance were taken seriously as part of the historical past in the chivalric period itself. And the evidence for this claim is that romances were themselves adduced as evidence. "The fabulous knights of Romance were so completely identified with those of real history", writes Scott, "that graver historians quote the actions of the former in illustration of, and as a corollary to, the real events which they narrate".29 The puzzle that Scott poses is how Romance's claim to historicality sorted with its apparently outlandish moral code. The answer, which is intricate, begins by recognizing that the "virtues recommended in Romance", though apparently outlandish, were "only of that overstrained and extravagant cast which consisted with the spirit of chivalry": "Great bodily strength, and perfection in all martial exercises, was the universal accomplishment inalienable from the character of the hero, and which each romancer had it in his power to confer. It was easily in the composer's power to devise dangers, and to free his hero from them by the exertion of valour equally extravagant. But it was more difficult to frame a story which should illustrate the manners as well as the feats of Chivalry; or to devise the means of evincing that devotion to duty, and that disinterested desire to sacrifice all to faith and … which form, perhaps the fairest side of the system under which the noble youths of the middle ages were trained up. The sentiments of Chivalry … were founded on the most pure and honourable principles, but unfortunately carried into hyperbole and extravagance; until the religion of it’s professors approached to fanaticism, their valour to frenzy, their ideas of honour to absurdity, their spirit of enterprise to extravagance, and their respect for the female sex to a sort of idolatry. All those extravagant feelings, which really existed in the society of the middle ages, were magnified and exaggerated by the writers and reciters of Romance; and resemblances of actual manners, became, in their turn, the glass by which the youth of the age dressed themselves".30
Some practitioners of contemporary American cultural studies believe that the only relation literature as such has to culture as such is that it is part of it. For Scott, and I suspect for many of us, this is an unacceptable reduction. Literature, on our view, figures in at least two relations to culture — as a reflection of it and a part of it, both mimesis and synecdoche, and therein lie the complications. The manner of representation implicit in a given literary form — Romance, for example — is also a part of the manners that the form takes as its object.
In the thoroughgoing mutuality of this dialectic, Scott explains, "the spirit of Chivalry and Romance thus gradually threw light on and enhanced each other" until it was possible to take the one as a reflective index of the other, as "evidence" in the works of those "graver historians". It could thus ultimately be said, with real warrant, that medieval romances "exhibited the same system of manners which existed in the nobles of the age": "The character of a true son of chivalry was raised to such a pitch of ideal and impossible perfection, that those who emulated such renown were usually contented to stop far short of the mark. The most adventurous and unshaken valour, a mind capable of the highest nights of romantic generosity, a heart which was devoted to the will of some fair idol … these were the attributes which all aspired to exhibit who sought to rank high in the annals of chivalry; and such were the virtues which the minstrels celebrated. But, like the temper of a tamed lion, the fierce and dissolute spirit of the age often showed itself through the fair varnish of this artificial system of manners. The valour of the hero was often stained by acts of cruelty, or freaks of rash desperation; his courtesy and munificence became solemn foppery and wild profusion; his love to his lady often demanded and received a requital inconsistent with the honour of the object; and those who affected to found (heir attachment on the purest and most delicate metaphysical principles, carried on their actual intercourse with a license altogether inconsistent with their sublime pretensions. Such were the real manners of the middle ages, and we find them so depicted in these ancient legends".31
What Chivalry and Romance share, if I may venture a paraphrase, is the principle of extravagance. A system of manners forms at once part of a society and part of its means of self-representation and thus self-perpetuation. The Chivalric system, according to Scott, offered an extravagant self-representation of medieval society as a culture of perfection. On this view, Romance seems to be nothing more than the set of literary conventions in which this self-representation — the code of Chivalry — is itself encoded. The age's manner of representation is therefore a function of the self-representation of the age through its manners. In this case, the artificialities of Romance are just a function of the difference between what Scott, somewhat confusingly, distinguishes as the artificial system of manners of the period and its real manners. Chivalry-and-Romance, now understood as hyphenated, is an elaborate form of well-meaning social self-deception on a massive scale.32
Scott emphasizes that a less extravagant program for achieving the kind of refinement that led the system of chivalry into self-deception and even violence was indeed on the horizon. It arrives, he says, with the advent of the system of modern manners predicated on the systems of commerce and jurisprudence.33 Such manners are less pure in principle than the chivalric system of manners but also less barbaric than the actual manners of the age. What characterizes modern manners for Scott, indeed, is the closing of the gap between the actual state of things and the manner of their self-representation. The literary form that corresponds to and participates in the modern system of manners is what Scott alternatively called the modern romance and "the novel". Scott's most explicit definition of the novel suggests a deep agreement with Ian Watt's account of "the rise of the novel" in the age of commerce. Taking issue with Dr. Johnson's formulation — "a smooth tale, generally of love" — Scott defined the novel in the Essay on Romance as "a fictitious narrative, differing from the Romance, because the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events, and the modern state of society".34
Glossing the Dedicatory Epistle for Ivanhoe with the analyses of the Essays on Chivalry and Romance, then, one might say that the historical novel is not only a form that attempts to fictionalize the past as it really was, but also a form self-aware of its own historicity along two axes: its participation in a contemporary and historically specific system of manners — the manners of commercial society — and in a generic evolution of narrative modes that in turn participated in their own, now residual, systems of manners. This account of the historical novel is complicated, I believe, in just the way that the "historian s code" that it articulates is complicated. And while Lukacs is eager, like many modern commentators, to assimilate such texts to Hegelian paradigms, I have been emphasizing their place within a specifically British (and, more specifically, Scottish-Enlightenment) intellectual tradition.
To hold, then, that manners themselves of a past state of society may or must be translated for reception in a later one is to take those manners as a "system," an object of potential intelligibility, a kind of text. It is also, as we have begun to see, to raise questions about cultural representation in this discourse of Romantic historicism that are going to require some further study: questions about the relations between cultural mimesis (representation as a mirror of the whole) and cultural synecdoche (representation as a part of the whole), between cultural specificity and cultural specimen, between culture-produced-as-text and the texts that a culture produces. One question that remains for this phase of the discussion, however, has to do with the sites where the cultural differences coded and recoded in these acts of translation are understood to operate. Where is culture bred and where does it do its breeding?
We are considering a question about what Homi Bhabha calls "the location of culture." To address it well we must recognize the real force in the discourses of historicism, old and new, carried by such terms as private life, vie privee, domesticity, "privateness-oriented-toward-an-audience", and various other names for ordinary practices so taken for granted that, as Scott suggests, they become visible in the documents of the past only by a hermeneutic exercise of reading between the lines. In recent cultural theory, this category or function is variously labeled: Bourdieu names it "the habitus", and Lefevre "everyday life". In cultural historiography associated with his own work and that of Natalie Zemon Davis, identifies it by means of synecdoche as "an interest not only with the deeds of Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Nero or Caligula … but also with scenes from the private life of Arnaud du Tilh, called Pansette, of Martin Guerre, and his wife Bertrande".35 Ginzburg explicitly associates his and Davis's new brand of history to the nineteenth-century historical novel, although in tracing this genealogy Ginzburg overlooks the achievements of Scott's fiction, of historicism in Britain more generally, and certainly of the those underlying theories of Scottish-Enlightenment figures such as Millar, Robertson, Ferguson, or Dugald Stewart.
Nor does Ginzburg note the congruence between the terms in which he lays out the project of the new historians and those which the twenty-eight-year-old Thomas Babington Macaulay employed in the prospectus he published in Francis Jeffrey s Edinburgh Review in 1828 for his own massive project. Macaulay cited the novels of Scott as showing how to make narrative use of "those fragments of truth which historians have scornfully thrown behind them".36 Macaulay, himself, the English-born son of a Highlander, praises Scott for having "constructed out of their gleanings works which, even considered as histories, are scarcely less valuable than theirs", but at the same time he urges historians to "reclaim those materials which the novelist has appropriated". Redeploying the ever-strengthening analogy between historiography and ethnography, Macaulay distinguishes the old from the new student of history by differentiating two ways of metaphorical travel to the foreign country that is the past.
The basis of the analogy between the two modes of historiography and the two modes of travel would have been quite familiar by this time to any reader conversant with the previous decades of theory in Jeffrey's Edinburgh: it is that in either mode, the student of history, "like the tourist, is transported into a new state of society. He sees new fashions. He hears new modes of expression. His mind is enlarged by contemplating the wide diversities of laws, of morals, and of manners".37 The equally important distinction Macaulay wants to make, however, has to do with exactly how the tourist or history student focuses the powers of attention.
In explaining how it is possible to travel without learning, to move without being moved, Macaulay's own prose seeks at once to teach and to move its readers:
"[M]en may travel far, and return with minds as contracted as if they had never stirred from their own market-town. In the same manner, men may know the fates of many battles and the genealogies of many royal houses, and yet be no wiser. Most people look at past times as princes look at foreign countries. More than one illustrious stranger has landed on our island amidst the shouts of a mob, has dined with the King, has hunted with the master of the stag-hounds, has seen the guards reviewed, and knight of the garter installed; has cantered along Regent Street, has visited St. Paul's, and noted down its dimensions; and has then departed, thinking that he has seen England. He has, in fact, seen a few public buildings, public men, and public ceremonies. But of the vast and complex system of society, of the fine shades of national character, of the practical operation of government and laws, he knows nothing. He who would understand these things rightly must not confine his observations to palaces on solemn days. He must see ordinary men as they appear in their ordinary business and in their ordinary pleasures. He must mingle in the crowds of the exchange and the coffee-house. He must obtain admittance to the convivial table and the domestic hearth. He must bear with vulgar expressions. He must not shrink from exploring even the retreats of misery. He who wishes to understand the condition of mankind in former ages must proceed on the same principle".38
The substance of these remarks by Macaulay has, it seems, uncannily been repeated in the new historiography of our time. In the complex relations of cultural text and cultural texture that structure this discourse, the importance of the sphere Macaulay outlines — the sphere of ordinary business, ordinary pleasures, the convivial table, and the domestic hearth — lies in its functioning as the site where one can see how (to reinvoke Lukacs's phrase for identifying the "specifically historical" element in the historical novel) the individuality of character is derived from the historical peculiarity of the age.
What Scott called "la vie privée of our forefathers" comes in his own time to be understood as the site where historical-cultural difference is inscribed, where it becomes "character". Hence, the emphasis in Habermas's account of privacy/publicity in eighteenth-century Britain on "the sphere of the patriarchal conjugal family" as the literal "home" of the new forms of "specific subjectivity" in that period.39 Hence the emerging importance of childhood as a topic for social theory in the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and indeed, as Carolyn Steedman has suggested, for the new conception of an interior life that lies hidden in a past.40 In Waverley, Scott traces the historical "derivation" of the eponymous hero as the passage of an uncharactered character — a kind of cipher — through various forms of inscription: romance, highland oral song, newspaper report, courtroom argument, and so on. Each is associated with a specific social-historical manner of representation. What the dating system adds to all this – Scott's coding of one culture as equivalent to another – is a second-order code, a method of translation from one textually constituted culture/character into another, a way of showing correspondences between "specific subjectivities" formed in different historical states.
What this suggests, then, is that the genre of the historical novel, which perhaps offers the best clue to the time-place construction of modern nationalist narrative, can be grasped in terms of a kind of mapping or coding of the new concept of the «historical situation.» The cultural logic of the new nation state offered a sense of «historical situation» in the strong form, the form in which one might—one must—imagine human subjects undergoing significantly different developmental experiences in various historical and geographical contexts. It was this new form of historical situation that made it possible to imagine further a new kind of situational or «case» thinking in which the state of the nation was confronted by and through a «casuistry of the general will»—a consideration of how to transform «things as they are» in society (to use a phrase of the day) into things as they might be in some future state. A future state imagine not as the heavenly hereafter, but rather, as the poet Wordsworth said, in this world in which we find our happiness or not at all.
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