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Woodstock opens in farce, yet it is one of Scott's darkest novels. It deals with revolution, to Scott the most disturbing of all subjects: 'it appears that every step we made towards liberty, has but brought us in view of more terrific perils'. Written during the financial crisis which led to his insolvency in January 1826, the novel, Scott feared, 'would not stand the test'. Yet it does: it is set in England in 1651 as Parliamentary forces hunt the fugitive Charles Stewart who days previously had been defeated at Worcester. In the superb portrait of Cromwell we see a self-torturing despot who attempts to be in full control in the name of religion; in the rakish Charles we see a man without self-reflection whose own libertarianism after his restoration to the English throne in 1660 permitted a great burgeoning in scientific enquiry and the arts. This edition of Woodstock is based on the first, but emended in the light of readings in the manuscript and proofs that were misread, and at times deliberately suppressed, as Scott's own hand-written words were turned into a printed book.
Edinburgh University Press
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