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Gladstone and Scott: Family, identity, and nation

Windscheffel, R. (2007). Gladstone and Scott: Family, identity, and nation. Scottish Historical Review, 86(1), pp. 69-95. doi: 10.3366/shr.2007.0054


In the 175 years since his death, Walter Scott has regularly been hailed as an influence by politicians. Amongst the poet-novelist's nineteenth-century political admirers, William Ewart Gladstone was possibly the most ardent, genuine, and significant. Scott's poems and novels were amongst the earliest texts Gladstone read; he read no works (in English), except the Bible, so consistently or completely over such a length of time. They offered him a plethora of inspirations, ideas, and language, which he imbibed and appropriated into his public and private lives. His concept of self, his understanding of family, and his sense of home, were all forged and conducted within a Scottian frame of reference. Scott's life and works also crucially influenced Gladstone's political understanding of the Scottish nation and its people, and his conception of how he could best serve their political interests. This article casts new light on an important and influential relationship in Gladstone's life, establishing that it was neither the superficial and recreational association some have described, nor simply a ploy of an astute politician. The article falls into three parts. The first elucidates how Gladstone's consumption of Scott's writings was seminal in the formation of his private identity, both individual and familial. The second explains how Gladstone's readings of Scott fitted into the specific and serious character of his other reading and knowledge-gathering, and the third shows how the details of Gladstone's response to Scott related to the broader intellectual and cultural context of his public life. By placing Gladstone within his Scottish context, this article shows how frequently and significantly his private and public worlds intersected.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in Scottish Historical Review.
Departments: Professional Services > Learning, Enhancement and Development
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