Fittingly given its (at the time anonymous) author Ivanhoe was published first in Edinburgh, London waiting another two weeks for copies of the book because a storm delayed the ship bringing them.
Walter Scott as novelist is sometimes derided as a ‘mere’ storyteller, but Ivanhoe was a seminal work in several ways, not least because of its subtext of the subjugation of one people - in the book’s case the Saxon English – by another, the Normans, reflecting views held by some north of the border about the Act of Union.
In wider cultural terms the novel is notable for its depiction of anti-Semitism through the sympathetic and attractive character of the young Jewish woman Rebecca; and also for its importance in our image of Robin Hood, a significant actor in the drama: he is vivacious, good humoured and patriotic, his association with Locksley cemented by the novelist. It helped fix Robin Hood’s traditional territory of Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire in the national consciousness, Ashby-de-la-Zouch and Conisbrough both major settings within the work.
Ivanhoe is credited too with awakening an interest in things medieval in the British, influencing art and literature alike as the 19th century continued, its romantic (and inaccurate) view of Richard I still part of our popular history.
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